Sunday, March 30, 2008

Let the Bad Times Roll


Good times and bad times, as we all know, are determined by state budget crunchers.

A good time is one in which the state – here defined as state legislators, mostly Democrats – are wallowing in surpluses. A surplus is an excess of treasury money, here defined as the amount of money that legislators have overtaxed the citizenry.

In good times, these overcharges are not returned to taxpayers. They are sometimes used to pay off debts incurred by legislators, mostly Democrats, who have not kept up payments on their obligations. To pick but one example, state teacher pensions are languishing because the state has used surpluses for purposes other than to meet its obligations to teachers. The state has not used its surpluses to pay off bonding debt because legislators know that they can fool most of the people all of the time into thinking that state bonding does not create debt. In fact, bonding creates debt – but, as we have seen, no obligation to pay it off – and overspending also creates debt because it boosts costs.

A bad time is one in which the state -- here defined as state legislators, mostly Democrats – must make a pretense that they are cutting costs. There is but one way to cut costs, and that is by cutting spending.

The cost of government, as we all know, has risen precipitously since the state instituted a state income tax at the beginning of the Weicker administration. The last pre-income tax budget was, in round numbers, about $7.5 billion. The current budget bottom line is more than $15 billion, a 50% increase, not counting proportional increases in Connecticut’s bonding package, its so-called “credit card.”

This year, having fallen on bad times – a recession is looming – state legislators, mostly Democrats, have decided to put forward what they call a “no frills budget.” The legislature, mostly Democrats, has determined, among other things, to cut costs by reneging on an agreement with the governor to provide a tax cut to state businesses, an unnecessary frill.

The legislature, mostly Democrats, also will reduce expenditures by giving less money to outside contractors, another frill. An outside contractor is a group of people who provide a service to the state at what some people, mostly non-unionized folk, would consider a reduced cost. The Democrat idea is to transfer such jobs to union workers at what some people, non-union workers mostly, would consider an increased cost, a penny wise pond foolish piece of mischief.

During good times, you eat out the wealth of citizens through over taxation; during bad times, you advance a “no frills” spending plan. A no frills budget is one that does not spend the overcharged surplus, largely because there is no overcharged surplus. It’s the Democrat way.

And why is there no surplus, no overcharge? There are two reasons. First, the surplus has disappeared because it has been spent, the unhappy fate of all previous surpluses. This helps to explain how Connecticut has more than doubled its budget within the administrations of three governors. You spend the surpluses, the cost of government rises proportionally and, once the wheels of government are caught in a recession, the surplus disappears. Now that bad times are rolling in and we have a recession, it’s time to cut any proposed tax cuts.

The Democrat method may be reduced to the following proposition: “You cannot cut taxes when the state reaps surpluses; and you cannot cut taxes, to spur business activity, when the state enters a recessionary period – ergo, you may never cut taxes.”

Apart from the hot air of spendthrift politicians and their bankrupted enablers in the mainstream media, a tax is the only thing that goes up and never comes down. That is because in the most heavily taxed state in the union, a dubious “first,” spending unvaryingly goes up and never comes down.

Operating in the legislature under the regime of reality deniers is a little bit like living in Prospero’s castle in the Edgar Allen Poe story “The Masque of the Red Death.” Inside the castle, life goes merrily forward while, in the countryside outside the castle, a plague menaces the people. One day a stranger penetrates the castle, life suddenly becomes serious, and the fun stops

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Incestuous Non-Prosecution Of Elliot Spitzer


According to an AP report, former Attorney General and Governor of New York Elliot Spitzer was hoisted by his own petard because the so called “dirty tricks” commonly employed by attorney generals in this the land of the free and home of the brave were not transferable once Spitzer had become governor of New York.

The canary who sang to Albany County District Attorney P. David Soares was Spitzer’s former communication director Darren Dopp.

Before Dopp began his employment with then Attorney General Spitzer, he was a reporter for the Associated Press. In his previous capacity, Dopp likely would have gone to jail to protect his source. As communications director for Governor Spitzer, Dopp was just a yeoman functionary attempting to burnish the public persona of his boss. He was successful in this possibly because he had friends in high places within the journalistic community. When Dopp was threatened with jail, he began to sing.

Dopp told Soares that Spitzer had “directly ordered him in a profanity-laced exchange to give a reporter records regarding Senate Republican leader Joseph Bruno's use of state aircraft on days he attended Republican fundraisers,” according to the AP report.

Sores procured the information from Dopp in the time honored manner: He threatened to prosecute Dopp unless the chatty former communications director spilled the beans. In the post Omerta age, when even hardboiled Mafia hit men can be induced to rat on Da’Boss, such squealing is common. Then the carrot and stick DA offered Dopp immunity from prosecution if he would agree to sing, an offer Dopp could not refuse.

Senate Republican leader Joseph Bruno, the object of Spitzer’s spitballs, now claims that Soares’ report furnishes “proof that Spitzer lied to the public and was obsessed with a ‘political hit job’ on him. ‘The scandal was a blatant abuse of government power,’ he said.”

Alas, too true.

Soares (pronounced “Sorry” with an “s”) prosecuted neither Dopp, who faced a possible perjury charge, nor Spitzer. Dopp unclenched himself from Soares’ iron grip in return for his canary’s song, and Spitzer escaped prosecution by vacating his office.

It may strike some as disappointing that, under Soares’ supervision, Spitzer’s smear job was headed for the usual political resolution. Spitzer blamed the leaked information regarding Bruno’s purported misuse of travel funds on his exuberant aides, some of whom he had carried with him into the governor’s office from his former gig as attorney general. One of the aides Spitzer threw down the manhole was former AP reporter Dopp. Spitzer then apologized to Bruno.

Both Spitzer and Soares are Democrats. So is the present Attorney General of New York, Andrew Cuomo, who ratted out the two Spitzer aides that misused state police to compile records of Bruno's use of state aircraft.

All very incestuous, which is to say, all very political.

According to the AP report, Soares had already brushed off the case: “In September, Soares issued a report saying no one in the Spitzer administration acted improperly and that there was no evidence of a plot to discredit Bruno.”

Soares decided to “revisited the case,” according to the AP report, “after a statement provided for him by Spitzer administration lawyers seemed to conflict with Dopp's testimony to the state Public Integrity Commission, which is also investigating. Dopp was questioned by Soares during the second investigation.”

At which point, canaries sang and deals were arranged -- no prosecution of Dopp, the former AP reporter who served Spitzer for eight years when he was New York Attorney General; and no prosecution of Spitzer.

Soares used Dopp’s testimony to threaten Spitzer with prosecution. The testimony incontrovertibly implicated Spitzer:

“Friday's report said that at first, in May 2007, Spitzer just wanted to ‘monitor the situation’ after Dopp said a reporter asked for Bruno's flight records. But in June, when Bruno was blocking Spitzer's initiatives in the Legislature, top Spitzer aides discussed providing the flight records to "the feds" after they read in the newspaper that Bruno was being investigated by the FBI for business dealings.

“Dopp said that on June 25 or June 26, governor's Secretary Rich Baum told him, ‘Eliot wants you to release the records.’

“Dopp said he went into Spitzer's office to make sure. ‘According to Dopp, the governor replied, “Yeah, do it,”’ the Soares report said.

“Dopp asked Spitzer: ‘Are you sure?'" noting Bruno would be angry.

“Dopp said Spitzer then used vulgarities to describe Bruno and ordered Dopp to ‘shove it up his (expletive) with a red-hot poker.’

“’He was drinking a cup of coffee,’ Dopp told investigators, ‘as he was saying it, he was like spitting a little bit. He was spitting mad.’

“The report stated: ‘When asked whether he considered the governor telling him to release the records was a directive, Dopp stated that, “You couldn't mistake that based upon the words that were used.””


On the basis of the “discrepancies” between testimony given by Spitzer and Dopp, Soares easily could have prosecuted Spitzer on a charge of obstruction of justice, even thought Spitzer had not testified under oath. Public officials in New York are bound by a statute that requires them to answer questions truthfully or face a charge of obstructing justice. Spitzer had not done this.

Happily – for Spitzer, Soares and Cuomo, all Democrats – the prostitution ring scandal soon enveloped Spitzer, and he was persuaded to retire, making any prosecution moot. The statute allowing prosecution applies only to those holding office, and Spitzer had retired from office.

All very incestuous.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Limits of Democracy

Arnaud de Borchgrave of the Washington Times has been exploring in his columns the limits of democracy in the Middle East, and what he has to say about democracy in Pakistan is, well, bracing:

“Washington's Pakistan kibitzers will soon rue the day they squeezed President Pervez Musharraf to restore democracy."Demonocracy" is what has now emerged, or an unholy alliance of long-time America-haters, including the MMA coalition of six politico-religious extremist parties that lost the Feb. 18 elections, plus a gaggle of former generals and admirals against Mr. Musharraf, and friends and admirers of Dr. A.Q. Khan, the man who ran a nuclear "Wal-Mart" for the benefit of America's enemies (North Korea and Iran).”

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Modest Suggestion: End the Agita Now!




Here is a transcript of US Sen. Chris Dodd’s interview with the National Journal:

Q: As I mentioned earlier, you were the General Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Now, you know that a lot of Democrats feel that this increasingly bitter race between Obama and Clinton is hurting the party. First of all, do you think that is true, and secondly, if you were in charge, what would you do?

Dodd: Well, I think it is hurting. Look, we’ve got five more months to go before the Democratic Convention at the end of August and, candidly, we cannot go five more months with the kind of daily sniping that’s going on and have a candidate emerge in that convention. My hope is that it will be Barack Obama, but if it’s Hillary Clinton, she too will suffer, in my view, from this kind of a campaign that I think is undermining the credibility and the quality of the two candidates that we have. We have two very strong candidates. So I’m worried about this going on endlessly and to a large extent, Linda, the media, a lot of these cable networks, are enjoying this. It’s what is keeping them alive financially. The fact that this thing is going on forever, back and forth every day, all night — I don’t think it’s really helping the candidates or the political institutions.

Q: What’s the solution?

Dodd: Well, the solution is, look, we’ve got a contest coming up in Pennsylvania and one in North Carolina and Indiana very quickly afterwards. In my view, the outcome of those three races will determine — I think the race has been determined, anyway, at this point. I think it’s very difficult to imagine how anyone can believe that Barack Obama can’t be the nominee of the party. I think that’s a foregone conclusion, in my view, at this juncture given where things are. But certainly over the next couple of weeks, as we get into April, it seems to me then, that the national leadership of this party has to stand up and reach a conclusion. And in the absence of doing that — and that’s not easy and I realize it’s painful — but the alternative, allowing this sort of to fester over the months of June, and July and August, I think are irresponsible. I think you have to make a decision, and hopefully the candidates will respect it and people will rally behind a nominee that, I think, emerges from these contests over the next month. That’s my suggestion, that’s what I would do.

Q: So you’re talking about putting together, what, a committee of elders? What do you mean, exactly?

Dodd: Well, again, I think you are looking at people who are already in positions of leadership in the Congress– Governors, Senators, and others, the leadership of the DNC, whatever it is. It seems to me you’ve got to have an issue here that transcends your favorite candidate and decide whether or not the best candidate we have to win this election, to bring our country together and to get behind that choice, instead of having this sort of drip on for the next five months — that is devastating in my view. I think it hurts our candidate at a time when the country is looking for an alternative choice, I think we have an opportunity to do that. So I would advocate that we try and let this run out for the next few weeks, but then consolidate behind that candidate that’s clearly the choice and will win the nomination.

Q: So you go to the person who seems to be the winner after these most recent contests and you tell the other person to drop out? Is that, essentially, what you are saying?

Dodd: Well, it’s more deciding who the winner of this is — I mean, if a person wants to stay in the race, stay in the race. But if you have enough people rallying behind what appears to be the likely choice, and I believe the choice is Barack Obama, and I believe that will be the choice over the next several weeks. Then I think you have to step up to the plate and say, enough is enough. We want this to be over with. We want to get behind this candidate, and we want people to pull together to win that election in November — to build those majorities in the House and the Senate if we can, and then start doing the work on health care and Iraq and all these other issues that demand our attention.


The agita among Democrats may be easily settled. Let the party move the nominating convention to, say, April 1, an ironically fitting date. Any date short of chaos will due.

All the states will send delegates to the convention at that point, all primaries having been suspended.

The delegate will vote on a candidate, and the embarrassing farce will end.

The Democrats are headed to a brokered convention anyway. Just schedule it earlier.

Moral Reprobation and the Art of Branding



The press today – and by that I suppose we shall have to include such organs of the media as YouTube and MyLeftNutmeg – is exceedingly concerned with moral reprobation. For those who do not know, MyLeftNutmeg is a hard hitting leftist blog site in Connecticut. It’s good to be hard, bad to be soft. I do not mean to single out my honorable brothers on the left here for… well… moral reprobation; all this is merely by way of example.

MyLeftNutmeg receives the bulk of its political ethic, such as it is, from other blog sites, MoveOn.org and the Huffington Post, for example; proving, once and for all, that the press – or the media, as some would prefer – is 10% thought and 90% repetition.

It is important not to underestimate the power of repetition -- as a propaganda tool. Lenin said that if you label something effectively, you do not have to argue with it; this includes both people and propositions.

People who have been labeled effectively within the past month include the not-so Reverend Jeremiah Wright (bigot), Elliot Spitzer (moral degenerate) and, President George Bush (monumental liar).

Bush’s moral posturing has made him a handy target of the left; enough moral discourtesy has been heaped upon this dead horse over the last year to sink the Titanic.

Labeling things effectively seems to have been a specialty of the Rev. Wright. He has labeled the enemies of Sen. Barack Obama, particularly Sen. Hillary Clinton, as insufficiently black, this despite the fact that Toni Morrison, the black poet, once labeled the senator’s husband, former president Bill Clinton, as “the first black president,” which would make Mrs. Clinton, should she succeed in recapturing the White House for her clan, the admittedly “white” wife of the nation’s first black “First Husband.”

Got that?

The Rev. Wright met his Waterloo, so to speak, when he dammed America, fled to Africa to escape the media hammering and then, no student of subtleties, accused Italian Americans, the “garlic nosed” sons of Amerigo Vespucci after whom the country he denigrated was named, of being insufficiently black and therefore incapable of appreciating fully the black experience in the nation he unreservedly damned.

Elliot Spitzer, who, as it turned out, had a not uncommon problem in his nether regions, was roundly condemned by the press not so much for being insufficiently chaste as for being a hypocrite – than which no greater sin can be conceived. Moderns hate chastity, on principle. They also hate hypocrisy, a reflex action.

In fact, hypocrisy is the only sin the press regularly deplores. It is the first and only commandment of a media that depends on (if the synthetic word may be forgiven) “truthiness.”

The media’s product is facts, more adorned than unadorned these days. Lying distorts facts. Hypocrisy is a species of lying. While others may consider hypocrisy to be the compliment vice pays to virtue, hypocrisy remains the original sin of an institution that cannot see any virtue in virtue. If the press, declaiming against one of its usual targets, sometimes speaks in the accents of an unforgiving Puritan, it is because it sees no virtue in hypocrisy – only vice. Mercy understands hypocrisy; justice does not. Mercy understands that men may fall away from the virtue they never-the-less approve. The glowering Puritan, on evidence of a single instance of hypocrisy, will deny the reprobate ever loved virtue. The Puritan’s problem is that he does not believe in a hierarchy of virtue – or sin; every sin is a descent into Hell, and every sin obliterates the possibility of virtue.

When the Puritan in the politician begins to fume and rage, the average American (named, it cannot often enough be recalled, after the great Florentine) can almost be certain that that the rage is supported by some nefarious, possibly hypocritical political purpose.

Having invested a great deal of emotional and psychic energy in her quest for the presidency, Hillary Clinton, sometimes compared unfavorably to Lady Macbeth, naturally wishes to be president.

Ditto Obama.

That such grand desires may sometimes get in the way of truthiness is to be expected in frail, stumbling humans such the wife of the first black president, and we ought not to be surprised that Obama, possibly the nation’s second black president, should also be subject to all the frailties flesh is heir to, despite his current standing in the nation’s press as a kind of secular messiah fully capable of delivering the rest of us from the stain of racism, if not hypocrisy.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

More Taxes Please



Four big city mayors in Connecticut, hungry for tax dollars, got together and decided it might be a good idea if shoppers in their area would spend 16% more in sales tax for items bought in their cities.

And no, this is not the beginning of a joke.

This push to increase urban taxes produced a mini brouhaha in one newspaper that ran the item. It was the closest thing to a tax revolt seen in the state since former Governor Lowell Weicker, by political chicanery, imposed an income tax on his beloved state. Weicker has since moved to Virginia, his new beloved state.

“Great idea guys,” said “Snaggletooth,” his tongue buried deep in his cheek. “Also you should consider a tax on office rents and tolls on the roads into towns. Perhaps a special tax on food at restaurants and maybe a higher gas tax. That'll help.”

“When will Democrats learn,” asked “Tax This,” from New York, “that cutting taxes stimulates economic activity and in turn raises the revenues that government receives for their idiotic socialist giveaways? It saddens me that our leaders are this stupid. Teach Economics in the schools so we don't have another generation of economic illiterates like we do now...”

Of course, “Tax This” is right. The cities are not suffering from low taxes; they are suffering from a shrinking tax base, which will only shrink further as taxes in cities rise relative to taxes in the suburbs. Like water, people and businesses both flow from high tax ground to low tax ground. Regulations, like taxes, force businesses to raise the cost of their products. Realizing that they are competing in a world market and seeking to recover such costs, businesses will flee to states where taxes and the cost of labor are less punishing. When they flee, businesses take jobs, opportunities and tax revenue with them, leaving high regulatory, high tax states like Connecticut holding a mostly empty bag.

Indeed, the exodus already has begun. People in Connecticut this year cut their Easter hams and broke bread across a table that included many young nephews, brothers or sisters who had fled the state looking for greener, unparched pastures. The young people are getting out while the getting is still good. With the harebrained schemes offered by Connecticut’s urban mayors, the getting, for them, is certain to get better.

It is almost impossible to believe that the mayors – and the legislators who will seriously consider their proposal – are so dead to elemental laws of finance that they do not know what is happening in their state.

They know.

The proposal probably has been brought forward to advance goals other than prosperity. Democrats, having reached for the last jar of peanut butter in an empty kitchen cabinet, have been looking for some time to other untapped sources of revenue, without which they will not be able to continue a spending spree that began with the institution of a state inc0me tax.

They cannot reduce spending without alienating those battalions in the Democrat barracks they have in the past called upon for votes and political succor. Other “gimme more” groupies – Connecticut’s crying mayors conspicuous among them – are working the same corner of the barracks. A good many Republicans share the same objective, which may be summed up in Huey Long’s immortal phrase, “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax the guy behind the tree.”

Connecticut is running out of trees.

The mayors proposal is designed to discomfort the comfortable, one sortie in a never ending battle to find someone else to pay for improvident spending. Quasi-socialist Mayor John DeStefano has his eyes squarely fixed on the prize -- the bulging pockets of the state’s Gold Coast millionaires. What the boys want is a steeply progressive millionaire’s tax, so that more money can be shuttled to interests that support them.

But millionaires outside the state, entrepreneurs looking for low tax, low regulatory states – who might invest in a state that has not doubled its tax burden within the space of three governors, two of them Republicans and the third now a citizen of Virginia – are not likely to be mesmerized by the scam. They will continue to settle in the green pastures of South Carolina, to mention just one low regulatory state, where labor is less expensive, the attorney general is not considered a revenue producing official for a state close to beggary and the skies are not cloudy all day.

Monday, March 24, 2008

HUMOR FROM HEAVEN

Gerald Sirkin died a year and a day ago. Amongst his files are Cartoon Ideas, Commonplace Book, and Speeches.. Here is a sampling:


Letter to Joan D of May 27, 1975, referring to her circular pinned to the door of the Store, on the subject of male bread bakers for Naromi Land Trust:


Dear Joan: It was kind of you to include me among Sherman ’s Foremost Bakers, especially after my confession that my only credential is that I have never tried baking bread and therefore have never had a failure. However, I have a recipe from my grandmother (renowned in our family as Lead-Bread Sirkin) and I have a month to practice, so we will see what emerges. If successful, I shall deliver it to the Store. If not, I shall deliver it to Kenny Grant for use in road repairs. Come what may, something in Sherman will gain. I hope it will be Naromi—a kneady cause.

Yours, Jerry Sirkin

______________________________________


NS: I’ve got a 41-year-old husband.

GS: Oh yes, but still almost as good as new. Practically no depreciation.


______________________________________


At a dinner party in honor of Harry M and wife given by the Ks, we all, some 28 of us, sat around the room and Mrs. M explained the complex rules of a parlor game she proposed we play. Harry tried to help by giving a simpler, clearer explanation, but she stopped him. She did not want his help. Finally she seemed to be finished. Dead silence, broken by

GS: “Well, that was fun! Now what shall we play?”

Peter W came in. He looked down at Natalie’s feet. She was wearing no shoes, and one white sock and one gray sock.

GS: “She has another pair just like that.”

______________________________________


Stigler in review of Heller, New Directions of Political Economy: “If fiscal policy proves to have been a minor force [in maintaining our recent prosperity], the new economics will have been an awful failure.”

GS: “And if the world is flat, we will fall off if we walk too far.”

______________________________________


Senator McGovern has charisma,” says his campaign manager.

GS: Is he taking anything for it?

_______________________________________


NS: “In the latest Economic Weekly, the reviewer of Taya Zinkin’s new book referred to a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago who disparaged Indian dance without knowing enough about it to distinguish the main types.”

GS: “Ah well. I don’t know all the different kinds of diseases but I don’t like any of them.”

_______________________________________


(In Ghent ) Shop advertises “real Bengali tea.”

GS: “It has twigs and stones in it.”

______________________________________

GS: “Your hair doesn’t need a washing so much as it needs a pressing.”


______________________________________


At a New Year’s Eve party, GS suddenly announced that everyone was required to speak for five minutes on a topic which each would draw by lot. The topics which he provided included:

The State of Medical Science Under the Caliphate of Cordoba
The Piltdown Man, a Nasty Case of Skullduggery
Municipal Administration in Corsica , 1919-1939
Cultural Integrative Forces Among the Amazon Tribes
Lafcadio Hearn, Genius or Charlatan?
The Use of Death Symbols in Iclandic Sagas
Migratory Birds of Sierra Leone
What Do Ichthyologists Really Know?
Elements of Platonism in the Works of John Ruskin
Great Moments in Numismatics
Fungi in a Changing World
Harmonic Systems Before Monteverdi


______________________________________


NS: When you laugh, you have rings under your eyes.

GS: I’ve been thinking of giving up laughing.

______________________________________


We were driving. Someone said as we were passing cows in a field, “When they face east, it is going to rain.”

GS: “When they face west, it is not going to rain. They are facing both ways. There will be scattered showers.”


______________________________________


The others had just left murmuring “baby-sitter.” As we started leaving, Neil said, “You don’t have a baby-sitter. You don’t have to go.”

GS: “Our doorman’s waiting up for us. He’s very young. He’s only nine years old.”


______________________________________


The elementary economics examination was given this morning in the gymnasium. GS was a proctor. On the gym’s bulletin board appears a notice of students’ grades in aquatics. No one got below a C.

GS: “To flunk aquatics, you have to drown.”


______________________________________


James Mill says Sir William Jones says Hindoos boast of three inventions: chess, decimal, and “the method of instruction by apologues.”

NS: What’s that?

GS: You give them an apple if they get it right and hit them over the head with a log if they get it wrong.

______________________________________


Sirkin’s Law: If you have to lie to make your point, you don’t have a point. This Law is found in the penumbra formed by emanations from the ten commandments.


______________________________________


A newspaper announces that the Netherlands is giving Harvard $200,000 for a chair in Dutch culture.

GS: It takes $500,000 to establish a chair. $200,000 will only be enough for a stool.


______________________________________


Sis—Boom—Bomb

Or The New College Jeerleader (l969
)


We’ll burn the place down, says the militant,
If you don’t make the courses more relevant.
Just scrap the old studies
And we can be buddies
Though we’ll still burn it down for the helluvit.


_____________________________________


Cartoon Ideas

Man saying to attorney, “I want a will in which I take it all with me.”


------------------------------------------------------

A group of dinosaurs and other huge beasts walking into a building which has a large sign, MONSTER RALLY.


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Radio news commentator reading his broadcast from a newspaper. He is saying, “A special bulletin has just been handed to me.”


-----------------------------------------------------


Woman in shop selling “Lifetime” pens, pens guaranteed for 20 years, etc. Woman is saying to clerk, “Don’t you have something for a very old man?”


-----------------------------------------------------


Series of pictures. 1, Man putting towels marked “Hotel Rumsey” in suitcase. 2, At door, he sees sign reading “Have you forgotten anything?” 3, Man pulling bedspread off bed and stuffing it in suitcase.


By Natalie Sirkin
c2008

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Pope Baptizes Prominent Italian Muslim



During the Easter Vigil, the pope baptized and received into the Catholic faith “Italy's most prominent Muslim, an iconoclastic writer who condemned Islamic extremism and defended Israel…”

This is not an unusual occurrence. While attending Easter Vigil at St. Mary’s church in Coventry, my wife and I witnessed several men and women being received into communion by Father Victor Chaker and Father Ray Introvigne.

The Egyptian born Madgi Allam explained why he had titled his recent book "Viva Israele.” He had received death threats from Hamas, and “Having been condemned to death, I have reflected a long time on the value of life. And I discovered that behind the origin of the ideology of hatred, violence and death is the discrimination against Israel. Everyone has the right to exist except for the Jewish state and its inhabitants. Today, Israel is the paradigm of the right to life."

None of this, one supposes, will be received in a spirit of good will in the badlands of Pakistan, where Osama bin Landin has been hunkered down issuing threats against the Pope and Europe. But then, with the exception of a few Danish cartoonists, the Pope and Allam very well may be the last two living men in Europe.

More Than A month Of Sundays

The good news is that Bill Curry, a liberal columnist and former counselor to former President Bill Clinton who now writes for the Hartford Courant, does not think the videos many of us have seen of Sen. Barack Obama’s pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, are "very pretty.”

“Wright has some odious opinions,” Curry writes, “ — America brought 9/11 on itself; the government may have given black men AIDS — which he shouts with a fervor hard to find in, say, a mostly white Congregationalist church.”

Curry thinks that candidates ought not to be held responsible for their pastor’s opinions and wonders why Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, is not held to the same standard as Obama: “Meanwhile John McCain solicits support from the likes of televangelist John Hagee, who accuses the Catholic Church of spreading 'a theology of hate.' This is the same guy who said Hurricane Katrina was how God punished New Orleans for granting a permit to organizers of a gay pride parade.

“For those who don't know much about Christianity, that isn't the Gospels, it's hate speech. Will TV be as tough on McCain and his political ally as it was on Obama and his minister? You bet it won't. Can you think of a good reason why not?”

If we can't hold Obama or McCain responsible for Wright or Hagee, that pretty much lets eveyone off the hook, but aren’t we – just a wee bit – comparing apples and oranges here?

There are some important differences between Wright and Hagee. Wright was Obama’s pastor for twenty years. Hagee is not McCain’s pastor. Hagee has not been McCain’s spiritual advisor, the man who, in Obama’s words, “led him to Christianity” or, as Curry would prefer, “hate speech.” Twenty years of Sundays is more than a thousand Sundays. Obama’s familiarity and intimacy with his pastor makes the comparison with McCain a bit far fetched. How many of McCain’s children did Hagee baptize? How many of a thousand Sundays did McCain sit at Hagee’s feet relishing his anti-Catholic “hate speech?”

Curry hints that the media’s velvet glove treatment of McCain, as against its harsh treatment of Obama, may be due to a lingering mental racism: “But might it be race? Not in an evil or even conscious way, but in the way, after centuries, it still infects our brains.”

Well, polls measuring Sen. Chris Dodd's popularity as a president fell far short of the number of votes presently collected by Obama, mostly from white admirers, some of whom are media people. Not even Obama has suggested that he had come under critical hatchets because racism unconsciously has affected the judgment of his critics. That notion, considering his popularity, would have been decried by the same critics as highly implausible.

McCain has repudiated Hagee’s anti-catholic bigotry. Had he not done so, he would have been set upon by other non-anti-Catholic bigots, some of whom are Catholics.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Kill Bill

Smarties – Connecticut is filled with them – will not be surprised to hear that there is more than one way to kill a bill in the legislature. Not everything, or every one, in that august body is straightforward. Sometimes the trek of truth is a tortuous way. Just as there’s more than one way to skin a cat – though, why would anyone want to do that? – so there is more than one way to kill a bill.

The honest and straightforward way to defeat a bill is to allow it to go to the floor, have a robust debate in the course of which the bill’s merits and demerits would be fully explored, and vote it up or down.

In this way, the extravagant claims made for representative government by our sainted forefathers would be vindicated. Once the bill was passed into law or defeated, the people of Connecticut, depending on their wants and desires, would similarly be able to vote in or out of office those who voted on the bill.

This is raw democracy and representative government at its most elemental. Thomas Jefferson, as well as other heroes of the glorious revolution, had something like this in mind when he sang the praises of representative democracy. Unfortunately, Tom was unfamiliar with the methods commonly employed by Connecticut’s Judiciary Committee, the honorable Rep. Michael Lawlor presiding.

As the chairman of the committee and chief obstructionist, Lawlor, a smartie lawyer, is the guy who gets to decide whether a bill is reported out of committee to the floor. The bills he and his caucus disapprove of are quietly – and sometimes not so quietly – aborted or strangled at birth.

A caucus, as the smarties well know, an is organized conspiracy against the laity designed to fulfill Henry Mencken’s definition of democracy: Democracy is that theory of government which holds that people deserve to get what they want (heh!) good and hard.

What many people wanted after two petty criminals invaded a doctor’s house in Cheshire several months back, beat the doctor with a baseball bat, raped the doctor’s wife and daughter, set the house on fire, murdering all within, the doctor alone having escaped to tell the tale, was a quick but just trial, followed by a quick but just conviction, followed by a quick but just execution of the two rapists, arsonists and murderers.

What they got was… (and this ellipsis really should be as long as the circumference of the earth) Connecticut’s terminally incapacitated judicial system.

Following the Cheshire murders, no one called for mob justice, but in an attempt to prod the judicial system forward, some people impertinently began to demand a so-called “three strikes and you’re out” measure, assuring that in the future criminals with long rap sheets would, after their third serious felony, be put away in a highly regimented repository for the rest of their lives without possibility of parole, safe from the vengeful and howling mob outside their cells. Illuminations were festooned all over Cheshire as an indication of the community’s support.

It had been pointed out that such a law would not have prevented the Cheshire murders, an iffy proposition that is little more than a debating point offered by those for whom a twelve strikes and you’re out bill would be an impertinent intrusion on the discretion of judges. But in those grief filled days following the murders, when everyone was busy empathizing with the lone survivor of the murdered family, legislators were not yet prepared to sacrifice the good to the perfect.
The stricken doctor, later addressing the legislature, was able to build a fire under the feet of the Lawlorites, now backsliding into their old comfortable ways.

This is what should happen: The legislature should be shamed into passing a three strikes and you’re out law, a difficult chore because some of the smarties over at the legislature, now poised to cover themselves in glory by pardoning witches hung centuries ago for witchcraft, just don’t have their priorities straight. The people who strung illuminations for miles in Cheshire to show sympathy for a family that had been savagely murdered should bring their illuminations to the Capitol and ring the entire place with candles that will be tended and not extinguished until the law they deserve has been passed. In addition, perhaps a Wiccan purgation ceremony might clear some heads over there; it can’t hurt.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Retroactive Legislation Violates The Rule Of Law

The clash between Democrats and Republicans on the question of ethics reform is not at all surprising.

Even now, one imagines campaign strategists sifting through the rubble in search of campaign fodder.

Democrats and Republicans on the government administration and elections committee “clashed,” as one newspaper reported over the question of retroactive punishments.

It had been proposed to allow Superior Court judges to revoke retroactively the pensions of state officials convicted of crimes. The target of the proposal was, of course, former Governor John Rowland and a handful of former legislative villains.

Two ethics bills, both of which included 10-year retroactive measures to revoke the pensions of public officials convicted in state or federal court, were reported out of committee over the objections of Republicans.

High ranking Republicans on the committee Rep. John W. Hetherington of New Canaan and Sen. Judith G. Freedman of Westport objected to the bill but voted in the affirmative to send it to a vote in the legislature because they did not wish to obstruct a broader consideration of the measure.

One wide awake Democrat, Rep. Thomas Drew, a lawyer who represents Fairfield demurred. "I question the constitutionality of it,” Drew said, “I'm not sure the idea is within the spirit of the Constitution.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the punitive legislation, first introduced by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal in January 2004, violates not merely state and federal constitution; it violates what some Superior Court justices not lost in their cups would consider the Rule of Law itself, the body of legal prescriptions that shapes all laws.

Nullum crimen, nulla poena sine praevia lege poenali means no crime (can be committed), no punishment (can be imposed) without (having been prescribed by) a previous penal law). This basic tenet of the rule of law undergirds all laws, both statutory and constitutional.

People ought to be able to direct their lives with reference to legal strictures that do not punish them for comporting themselves in a legal manner. If no law prohibits an action, that action is permissible, and those who engage in it ought not to suffer penalties. The legislation presented by Blumenthal for consideration and several times rebuffed by the legislature violates the principles of statutory, natural and constitutional law because it assigns punishments for behavior that was retrospectively legal.

Try to imagine the great stir among the populous that would occur were the legislature to create a new law imposing higher penalties for traffic violations -- applying the new sanctions and penalties retroactively to anyone who had received a traffic ticket within the last ten years. Try to imagine the upheaval that would occur in the lives of every citizen in Connecticut if its legislature were to adopt the principle of retroactivity in the making of every law.

The legislature is the supreme authority in Connecticut, and it may write whatever new laws it sees fit, but it may not apply those laws retroactively without violating the Rule of Law itself, and it may not construct laws that do not have a general application without violating the Rule of Law. Attorneys general who have a problem advancing the Rule of Law ought to be booted from office at the first opportunity.

Clash number two was vastly amusing. It involved the usually humorless Danton of the state legislature, Rep. Chris Caruso, who was rebuked, as the newspaper put “by his fellow Democrats in an 8-4 vote against prohibiting lobbyists from serving on boards and agencies such as the Metropolitan District Commission, the state's regional water and sewer authority. Caruso had pushed for a measure barring lobbyists from all state boards, but he said it would also lead to the ouster of former Senate Majority Leader William A. DiBella from his position as the controversial chairman of the [Metropolitan District Commission]."

More person specific laws in the hopper.

At one point in the deliberations, it was thought that Caruso’s person specific legislation -- aimed at ousting people targeted by Caruso for punishment -- would prevent anti-war protestor Tom Swan, who managed Ned Lamont’s unsuccessful bid to unseat Sen. Joe Lieberman, from accepting a position as co-chairman of the HealthFirst Connecticut Authority, a group that is trying to create a plan for universal health care by November.

Swan is also The Connecticut Citizen Action Group director, and he’s angling for a national position in the anti-war movement. Swan said he would be happy to bump himself off and forgo some positions if it would help rid the state of lobbying influence at the Capitol, and never mind that the constitution provides cover for lobbyists in the clause that gives all citizens the right to petition their government for a redress of grievances – usually caused by Dantons and Robespierres such as Caruso and Swan.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Petting the Dragon



Some sensible people who labeled Sen. Barack Obama very early on in his campaign a “post-racial” candidate are beginning to have second thoughts.

At the beginning of Obama’s carefully crafted campaign, George Will, the conservative commentator, was not yet among them, but the influence on Obama’s campaign of the Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., pastor of Mr. Obama's Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, is giving rise to profound doubts.

Back in December, Will and Shelby Steele, touched lances on the question of race transcendence in the Obama campaign.

Will summarized a short book by Steele of Stanford's Hoover Institution on Obama, "A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win," and then disagreed with Steele's major premise that Obama had embraced the social determinism and identity politics of post-'60s black dogmas.

“Since the 1960s,” Will wrote, “the prevailing dogma of black identity has, Steele believes, required blacks to adopt a morally stunting stance of accusation against white society. Whites eagerly embraced a transaction: Blacks insist that their progress depends on whites' acknowledging through uplifting actions their obligations of guilt to blacks; in exchange, whites get absolution as their guilt is expunged.

“Since the 1960s, to ‘be black’ has, Steele says, required blacks to embrace ‘a deterministic explanation of black difficulty,’ a determinism that ‘automatically blames and obligates white power for black problems.’ It is, Steele charges, condescending of Obama not to use himself, and especially ‘his exposure from infancy on to mainstream culture,’ as ‘a measure of black possibility.’

“This, says Steele, could be Obama's ‘Promethean fire, his special gift to his times.’ But ‘thus far, Obama is the very opposite of a Reaganlike conviction politician.’ This is because Obama has chosen to resolve his ambiguous racial identity by embracing the social determinism and identity politics of post-'60s black dogmas. Hence he is a ‘bound man.’ He is ‘bound against himself’ because he ‘has fit himself into the world by often taking his experience out of account.’”


Into this arena, bristling with bad faith, now comes the Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., pastor of Obama's Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, truly a hot blast from the past, a combination of Malcolm X before his pilgrimage to Mecca in 1964, and Louis Farrakhan, the fake Islamic firebrand who has acknowledged complicity in the assassination of Malcolm X.

Wright’s appearance, throws all thoughts of transcendence on the ash heap of a smoldering, racially divisive campaign.

The first instinct of the seasoned politician is to have his cake and eat it too -- to court Farrakhan and Wright, and then with placid denials also to round up the votes of blacks and whites who genuinely want to see in the White House a St. George who has slain the dragon of racism.

That is impossible.

Obama’s promise as a politician who transcends the outworn dogmas of the 60’s will be wasted if he cannot bring himself to disappoint such as the Rev. Wright, who fancies himself a modern Jeremiah calling upon sinful whites to repent of their racism. There is need for a voice of his kind; nations cannot too often be reminded of the sins of their fathers. But in a post-racist period, when the dragon of racism lies prostrate at our feet, we should not be feeding and petting it. It needs a lance in its side, and someone who will push the lance through to the heart, so that the intimation of Malcolm X on his return from Mecca that even racism may be burnt up in the Godly fire of faith will be true for us, as it was for him.

The moral to this tale of possible lost causes could not be plainer: You can either pet the dragon or slay it.

You can’t do both.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Amoral Editorial Reaction to Spitzer

USA Today has provided some chop quotes from various news outlets commenting upon the Spitzer mess.

Most of the commentators have been so scrupulous in avoiding all talk of the sanctity of marriage that they have fallen headlong into a vat of secular verbiage. This avoidance is the obverse of sanctimony, but it really amounts to the same thing. Even atheists can be sanctimonious, and Spitzer fell from grace this time because he was not sanctimonious.

The Daily News allowed that Spitzer’s fall from grace chipped away at his “moral authority.” Character and honesty are important, and “his blithe willingness to order up a hooker by telephone revealed an abysmal and disqualifying lack of judgment.”

Ah, so that’s what it was, a lack of judgment. Only in the age of Madonna -- no, not that one -- can you have moral authority without having morals.

Spitzer also lacked “perspective,” which “cast him into a freefall in the polls.” He showed his “dark side” to an ever recoiling New York. The paper body-checked Spitzer on “recklessness and hypocrisy of such magnitude that you had to question his sanity.” It is not eros that makes men mad; it is madness that makes men erotic.

The San Francisco Chronicle cautioned politicians to beware of “sanctimony,” Spitzer’s undoing. It is nearly impossible to discover from the reference what the paper finds repulsive in sanctimony, the sanctity or the lack of it.

“Some politicians,” the lead on its editorial began, “might have been able to survive a scandal involving close encounters with a prostitution ring. Gov. Eliot Spitzer of New York will not, and should not.”

What it was that made Spitzer’s offense more condemnable than, say, that of New York Rep. Barney Frank was the issue of – You guessed it – “righteousness.” No one has ever accused Frank of righteousness.

An openly gay legislator from Massachussetts, Frank also solicited sex from a prostitute on the quiet, but recovered from the media flogging, if we are to believe the Chronicle, because Frank thoughtfully spared the rest of us his unseemly righteousness. Spitzer’s adventure in the skin trade and Sen. Larry Craig’s bathroom adventures were equally odious, the paper thought,“But Spitzer does not win this game by being no worse than the common politician. He cast himself as superior - and proved himself uncommonly smarmy."

Smarminess is the second deadly sin, lagging behind hypocrisy.

Linda Hirshman flogged Spitzer at the blog, Slate this time, and advised women like Mrs. Spitzer not to give up their day jobs. One may ask of Spitzer and his wife, of the sinner and the sinned against, did they fall asleep at Harvard Law school when their professors touched upon “reasoning by analogy?” Ms. Hirshman’s blog is blessedly free of moral unction. Perhaps she read the Chronicle editorial and did not wish to appear sanctimonious.

It’s not about the sex, the Philadelphia Inquirer proclaimed, for sex is a matter best left to Spitzer and his wife. No, it’s about the “betrayal of the public trust.” The man New Yorkers thought honest when they elected him governor “is a liar.” Such liars erode “public confidence.” How does the saying go: When people tell you it’s not about the money, IT’S ABOUT THE MONEY? Likewise, when people tell you it’s not about sex and marital infidelity, it’s about …

The Nation speculated that some of the mud kicked up by Spitzer may splash upon Sen. Hillary Clinton’s virginal countenance, soiling it. She wanted Spitzer’s endorsement for president, got it, and now the lady has an awful headache.

Clinton very shortly “will be answering breathless questions about all her governor's troubles, about whether he should resign and, of course, about her impressions of what it means when prominent political players -- like governors or, say, presidents in the 1990s -- get wrapped up in sex scandals.

“Double ouch!”

We have come a long way since the days of Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards, both of whom would have reached into their religious thesauruses to condemn the disgraced governor. Edwards, perhaps the most brilliant theologian Connecticut produced, lost his parish for insisting that some boys had besmirched the honor of God when they had passed around a medical text that Edwards considered prurient.

In the modern period, it is considered backward to object on religious grounds to a governor patronizing whores. How much safer it is to bring them up on charges of hypocrisy, the only “sin” -- sin itself being an antique and outmoded notion – that secularists will allow. To them, lying and hypocrisy are never in fashion.

As for the rest of it – help yourself, but don’t get caught.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Spitzer, a Proletarian View


The question is: Now that former attorney general of New York and former governor the Big Apple Elliot Spitzer has suffered public humiliation, lost his job and his reputation and seen an earthquake size crack begin to form in what previously had been supposed to be an ideal if somewhat Hollywood-like marriage, where do we go from here?

Should Spitzer be prosecuted? In other words, now that the scourge of Wall Street has been flayed and executed, what do we do with the corpse?

Some few rotten businessmen at the receiving end of Spitzer’s lash and some few newspaper owners determined to show the world that, even though they are by profession and inclination conservative Republican slayers, they too can cry with the best of them “I’m fer’sticken his head on a pike and show’n it on Brooklyn bridge,” are for further prosecution.

My proletariat workmates watched the unmasking of Spitzer on television between lunch and coffee breaks.

Working folk are not quite as severe in these matters as ass bone wielding Samson-like journalists. But don’t for this reason think any of the proles were buying the pitch of the many psychoanalysts trotted out by faux news shows –headline services really – to account for Spitzer’s erratic and doubtless insane behavior.

We think Spitzer’s behavior was unusual for so saintly a man, if all the other reports about the white horse riding, ass bone wielding, selfless, dogged, prosecutorial machine portrayed by the tribunes of the people were true -- which they weren’t: The ego driven Spitzer was out for glory and a possible berth in the White House, God, his gubernatorial staff and his publicists willing.

There were loud guffaws in the employee’s cafeteria when one particularly sardonic daughter of Freud said it was impossible to talk of “responsible” behavior in Spitzer’s case because he was afflicted with a narcissistic syndrome that rendered all such moral claptrap pointless. If Spitzer’s errotomania was “irresistible,” the man obviously was blameless. He was sick, mentally. He needed a daughter of Freud to heal him and make him whole.

This loop carried us from lunch to coffee break: The psychoanalyst woman with unkempt hair, the unquestioning news analyst with perfect hair, slices of photographs showing Spitzer in his glory days, accompanied by his dear wife, now brokenhearted, more psychoanalysts, three of them, two women with a man for balance in the middle, like a psychoanalytic peanut butter sandwich –with nary a rabbi in sight.

“Aw, look at her,” said a maintenance lady, pointing to Spitzer’s wife, “she’s been crying all night.”

There was some division in the room between men and women. The women were prepared to kick Spitzer to the curb very early on in the controversy and thought no more of him. He was simply the occasion of Mrs. Spitzer’s present misery. They were, shall we say, not willing to give the benefit of psychological doubt to the third party in what the “news anchor” before them called the former attorney general’s “dalliance.” To them the dalliance was the point of the dagger in Mrs. Spitzer’s back. Their attention was fastened on the muscles of her face. Mr. Spitzer’s “toss in the hay” was a hard working prole afflicted with Madonna-like ambitions. “I’d do anything for my music,” said the trick-turner on her MySpace page.

Sympathy did not flow her way.

The men were thinking, and saying, would I be so stupid? They decided they wouldn’t. Their exasperation exploded often into the usual formulation, “Ya’know what I don’t understand,” followed by what they did not understand.

Why couldn’t Spitzer have been more careful, more French about all this stuff? The guy is shifting money around through accounts; this excites the interest of a sleuth in his local bank who supposes that someone may be bribing St. Spitzer; he or she contacts some glory hound at the SEC or FBI or whatever; and then the Spit asks his bank to REMOVE HIS NAME FROM THE TRANSACTIONS?

WHAT A (expletive deleted) JERK!

Both the men and the women, however, came to agreement on two points: First, that Spitzer, perhaps the most willful man in New York State, was responsible for every tear that coursed down Mrs. Spitzer’s cheek; and second, that future news loops about Spitzer should include his mother and his rabbi as authoritative “experts.”

No more psychoanalytic JERKS.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Joy of Schadenfreude

“Am I proud?
Yes, why should I not be,
When even men who do not fear God
Fear me?

Those few lines were written by Alexander Pope, an English poet and critic active in the early 1700’s, who had some reason to be proud. He was a fine poet and an even better journalist who delighted in pricking the airy balloons of the high and mighty of his time, sometimes anonymously. Prisons yawned in the 18th century to swallow libelers, and men kept their dueling pistols near at hand.

His biographer tells us that Pope’s physical defects – he was misshapen owing to a fall from a horse at an early age – “made him an easy target for heartless mockery.”

He also had a religious problem: “Pope's father, the son of an Anglican vicar, had converted to Catholicism, which caused the family many problems. At the time Catholics suffered from repressive legislation and prejudices - they were not allowed to enter any universities or hold public employment. Thus Pope had an uneven education, which was often interrupted. From Twyford School he was expelled after writing a satire on one of the teachers. At home, Pope's aunt taught him to read. Latin and Greek he learned from a local priest and later he acquired knowledge of French and Italian poetry. Pope also attended clandestine Catholic schools.”

Naturally, Pope did not apply to Catholics or dwarfs the stick that too often had been applied to his own humped back. But what he said of himself was true. Full of an effervescent schadenfreude, a German word that means delight in the downfall of the high and mighty, he was perhaps the best poet of the English Enlightenment. Tragedy elicits fear and pity in the breast of the audience; comedy produces guffaws and a shattering laugh behind the hand, a form of schadenfreude.

When Governor of New York Elliot Spitzer fell with a thud last week, some – most pitifully his wife and children -- felt the bite of tragedy; others laughed at the former attorney general behind their hands, proving, once and for all, that comedy is the tragedy that happens to our bothersome enemy.

And Spitzer was annoying, a little bit like Pope without the poetry or the thoughtful hesitation that a physical defect will cause in the critic. Spitzer prosecuted the evil geniuses of Wall Street and was, for this reason, called the “Elliot Ness” of Wall Street. In a recent report, the Competitive Enterprise Institute listed Spitzer third in a rundown of the worst attorneys general in the United States. Connecticut’s own Richard Blumenthal came in first. The beef against the attorneys general is that by combining cases they have frustrated the spirit if not the letter of state constitutions, which vest in the legislature, not runaway attorneys general, the authority to make laws and prescribe remedies for violations of the law.

When the man Elliot Ness had pursued so energetically, the notorious Al Capone, died in prison – from syphilis, as it turned out – no one was much surprised. Al had consorted with women of the street at least as often as Spitzer. Were he alive, Pope would say, chortling behind his hand, that Spitzer at least had avoided the syphilitic beast. The women of the Emperors Club VIP were well tested, a testament to the efficacy of modern medicine, if not modern morals, which holds that hypocrisy rather than infidelity to the marriage bed is the more wounding (What to call it?) … sin?

An AP story on Spitzer preferred to think of his lapse of judgment not as sin, but as a psychological infirmity. Why do those whom fortune has smiled upon sink to such levels. Narcissism perhaps?

Spitzer’s bank referred questionable wire transfers in a commercial account to IRS investigators because they supposed the money was being directed towards some dubious political purpose. Following the kind of investigation that Spitzer specialized in as attorney general, they discovered that Spitzer’s payments to QAT Consulting and OAT International was going to the hookers from the Emperors Club VIP, and the merry chase was on.

Ground up in the gears was Spitzer’s wife and children, any one of whom could have told him, had he bothered to ask, that commerce with prostitutes was a no, no. In the absence of children and wives, there is always Pope: “Amusement is the happiness of those who cannot think.”

Monday, March 10, 2008

WEIGEL VS MULTICULTURALISM AND PC

Western countries must rid themselves of multiculturallist delusions and take the assimilation of immigrants much more seriously than has been the case in recent decades. . . . Bringing immigrants from outside the civilizational orbit of the West to an appreciation of . . . civil society norms must be the task of civic education -- George Weigel


Jihadism is a mortal threat to the civilization of the West, writes George Weigel, Catholic theologian and member of the Ethics and Public Policy Center , in a fascinating short new book, Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism, A Call to Action. Unlike as in World War II, he says, we do not understand the motives of the global jihadists nor how to confront their danger.

“Jihadism is a religiously inspired ideology [which teaches] that it is the moral obligation of all Muslims to employ whatever means [are] necessary to compel the world’s submission to Islam,” is Richard John Neuhaus’s definition. Jihadism’s goal is a global Islamic state. Jihadists believe that murder of innocents is not simply OK but morally required.

Hassan Nasralla of Herzbollah put it clearly: "Let the entire world hear me. Our hostility to the Great Satan [U.S] is absolute. . . . Regardless of how the world has changed after 11 September, 'death to America' will remain our reverberating and powerful slogan: Death to America.'”

In September, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI gave a lecture at the University of Regensburg in which he discussed the theological roots of jihadism and presented an interreligious, ecumenical vocabulary by which people of all religions can engage in a genuine conversation about the threat from jihadism.

Jihadists demanded his death. But within a month came a welcoming “Open Letter to Pope Benedict XVI” from 38 prominent Muslim leaders suggesting a follow-up. The letter rejected the mainstream Islamic interpretation of jihad as a holy war of conquest till Allah is acknowledged supreme by the whole world. Contrary to mainstream Islamic tradition, it said God cannot command the murder of innocents. The letter condemned the jihadist murderers. It did not condemn pathological anti-Senitism.

In his 2006 Christmas speech, the Pope said history has tasked the Islamic world to come to grips with the intellectual achievements of the Enlightenment. Islam should accept religious freedom. The interreligious dialogue should be based on where “faith meets reason.”

Weigel asks, are there themes in Islam theological self-understanding that would in time make fruitful an encounter with Western culture for both Islam and the modern world? An interreligious dialogue should focus on helping those Muslims willing to explore the possibility of an Islamic case for religious tolerance, social pluralism, and civil society.

Outsiders can help by not giving non-participants most-favored-dialogue-partner status if they cannot condemn jihadism or suicide bombing. “Public condemnation of jihadism ought to be the admission ticket required of any Islamic religious leader or scholar who seeks dialogue with Western intellectual institutions,” Weigel suggests. “It should go without saying that anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers are disqualified as dialogue partners.”

An example last week of who should not get an admission ticket is Harvard University . It granted a request by six Muslim women students to give women-only six hours a week access to the Quadrangle Recreational Athletic Center , to accommodate their religious customs. This latest politically correct concession was announced on March 6 by The Amboy Times.

Another example (Weigel mentions in a footnote) is that Melanie Phillips’s manuscript for her book Londonistan (about how British officials appease militant Muslims) was rejected by several mainstream UK publishers in yet another demonstration of “self-imposed dhimmitude.”

Dhimmitude is second-class status accepted by non-Muslims in their own country by accepting Islamist pressures. Under Shariya (Muslim) law, non-Muslims are free to practice their religion but are subject to humiliating regulations designed to enforce the Koran’s command that they FEEL inferior.

Non-acquiescence to Muslim pressures is not Islamophobia. Acquiescence should stop, declares Weigel. It is not Islamophobic to condemn violence in the name of God. And it would help if the western media that reach the Islamic world like CNN and BBC would call things by their right names: in Iraq , not insurgents but murderers and terrorists, not suicide bombers but homicide bombers.

Islam is in a “wrenching encounter with modernity.” Islam’s sense of self-sufficiency led to deterioration of its intellectual vitality. “As Bernard Lewis writes, “the Renaissance, the Reformation, the scientific revolution, and the Enlightenment . . . passed without effect in the Islamic world, without even being noticed.”

The only feasible answer is to focus on religious freedom, and the separation of spiritual and political authority in a just state. ”A West that does not take religious ideas seriously as a dynamic force in the world’s unfolding history is a West that will have disarmed itself, conceptually and imaginatively, in the face of war,” Weigel.comments.

There is no interreligious dialogue as yet, partly because of political correctness but also “because the dialogue partners have not yet developed a grammar that turns noise (or banality, which amounts to the same thing) into conversation,” Weigel concludes, adding that such a grammar would also aid the efforts of Islamic reformers in their struggle against the jihadists, who, they believe, have hijacked Islam. The war against Jihadism will last for generations.

Weigel has advice for civics teachers:

Civic education . . . is a crucial component of immigrant assimilation. Democratic citizens are made, not born. “Making citizens” is difficult enough in itself; the difficulties are compounded when it is thought that efforts to “make citizens” are either unnecessary, or an offense against others’ culture.

By Natalie Sirkin
c2008

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Science Of Plastic Bags

Science is sometimes like the giant in the fairy tale who, in pursuit of the princess, with one step far out paces her.

It turns out, according to a report in timesonline, that plastic bags pose only a minimal threat to marine animals: “Scientists and environmentalists have attacked a global campaign to ban plastic bags which they say is based on flawed science and exaggerated claims.”

Ah, so.

Does this mean that the plans afoot in the Connecticut legislature to scuttle plastic bags in favor of paper bags will be rethought?

Don’t bet on it. Connecticut’s legislature is not into re-thinking.

If they were, they would understand that business regulations – really, a tax on business operations – probably should be kept at a minimum in recessionary periods. States that pile on regulations lose businesses to other more accommodating states like ... well, name any state other than Connecticut, the highest taxed state in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Has The Fat Lady Sung?

Dick Morris, once an advisor to President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton, thinks so.

“The race is over,” Morris writes in his column, “The results are already clear. Obama will go to the Democratic Convention with a lead of between 100 and 200 elected delegates. The remaining question is: What will the superdelegates do then? But is that really a question? Will the leaders of the Democratic Party be complicit in its destruction? Will they really kindle a civil war by denying the nomination to the man who won the most elected delegates? No way. They well understand that to do so would be to throw away the party’s chances of victory and to stigmatize it among African-Americans and young people for the rest of their lives. The Democratic Party took 20 years to recover from the traumas of 1968 and it is not about to trigger a similar bloodletting this year.”

How does Sen. John McCain, the likely Republican nominee for president, fit into the mix?

He serves as a guarantor that the superdelegates will behave and not, as the Clinton camp hopes, throw the nomination her way. McCain would be a perfectly acceptable choice for Democrat voters should they think the nomination was gerrymandered by superdelegates pledged to Clinton.

Morris, usually a pretty good bean counter, suspects that Obama will retain his delegate lead through the remaining primaries, but even if it were possible that Clinton should narrow the gap, “The proportional representation system makes a knockout impossible and so mutes relatively narrow victories as to make them almost inconsequential.”

Even so, Morris predicts that Clinton will not give up the fight. Hubris becomes her.

McCain is no match, Morris thinks, for Barack Obama: “If Obama prevails, [McCain’s nomination] won’t be worth the paper on which it is written. The giant killer, Obama will have soared to new heights of popularity and McCain won’t be able to bring him back to Earth in the nine weeks that will remain.”

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Recession Anyone?

The wolf is at the door; good news, the New York Times says, for the Democrats.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Mobilize Dodd

Latin America is hotting up, owing mostly to the exertions of Hugo Chavez, the Marxist oil baron of Venezuela.

Columbia, under the American supported pro-democratic regime of Alvaro Uribe, has been fighting a battle against a drug smuggling, Marxist, Venezuelan and Ecuadorian protected, well equipped army of narco-terrorists for about forty years.

Last month, the Columbian army, its patience wearing thin, followed one particularly vicious thug, Raul Reyes, FARC's foreign minister, into Equador and bombed the stuffing out of his band of merry men, leaving Reyes at room temperature.

This did not please Chavez and his Charlie McCarthy puppet, Rafael Correa, the duly elected president of Ecuador.

The solution to all this nonsense is obvious: Mobilize U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd to remove the tax exemption granted by his comrades in the congress to Chavez. If taxes on energy production are good enough for Americans, they ought to be good enough for Reyes' patron. At the very least, the constitutional loving Dodd ought to be able to convince fellow Democrats in the U.S. House to support Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, a fellow democrat whose feelings towards Dodd’s country is less hostile than that of Castro wannabe Chavez.

Proportional Primaries: How Do You Like Me Now?


In choosing to embrace proportional rather than winner take all primaries, the Democrat Party, true to its nature, was being democratic. But, in fact, proportional primaries, in which delegates are assigned in proportion to the votes cast, this year have elongated the primary season.

For Republicans, the primary season was closed at the beginning of March. Democrats have miles to go before they sleep. The long Democrat primary season virtually assures a brokered convention, bruised egos and a disappointed Democrat electorate.

This is simply another way of saying that Democrats have shortened the time they may devote to the general election. Whether or not a shortened general election will prove to be a bust or boom for Democrats is very much an open question.

There are two schools of thought: One holds that the incessant squabbling between senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama during the duration of the Democrat primary will keep the two in the news, while Republican Sen. John McCain will suffer in obscurity. This theory is based on the dubious notion that even bad news is good news.

The other school of thought holds that primaries are, by their very nature, distortion mechanisms. Primary messages are directed to the left and right wings of the parties. During the primaries, we’ve seen Republican contestants feeding the beast on the right and Democrat contestants feeding the beast on the left. In general elections, however, the audience changes, and candidates modulate their views in an attempt to appeal to a wider voting group that may be less driven by ideology. The danger in protracted primaries is that party activists tend to push candidates to the ends of the ideological spectrum, a political territory that is but a hop, skip and a jump from the abyss.

A long primary season in which both Democrat candidates are pushed further left, each one trying to outbid the other by appealing to the left wing of the party, can only help McCain. A long primary season will shorten the less ideological general election season and entice both Democrat candidates to burn their moderate bridges behind them.

On the down side, McCain is likely to fade from the front pages of the newspapers. But McCain, viewed by many outside the party as a moderate Republican, can arrest the fade out by attacking, when appropriate, both Democrat candidates and a too partisan, log-jammed congress. The congress, whose committees are dominated by Democrats, has a popularity rating lower than that of President George Bush.

In the meantime, Democrat primary opponents are showing signs of self destruction. Obama, who prides himself on his early opposition to the war in Iraq -- a position that even some notable conservatives have seconded very late in the game -- has successfully pressured Clinton to agree to an entirely irresponsible withdrawal of troops.

McCain has carved out a much different position: The entrée into the war may have been ill advised; it certainly was botched, because too few troops were committed early on, and the war’s architects did not anticipate the desperate steadfastness of terrorists linked to Iran and Syria. But now that some provinces in Iraq, formerly terrorist havens, have been turned over to a more hardened Iraqi army, and able generals, led by General David Petraeus, have turned the tide of war in Iraq in our favor, a precipitous withdrawal would return the entire region to the ash heap of a history we cannot safely abide.

The real lesson of Vietnam may be that the Islamic terrorists are not the Viet Cong. Before the hotly despised Bush entered the White House hand in hand with the equally hotly despised Vice President Dick Cheney, sometimes supposed to be the president’s Machiavellian evil twin, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was hard at work murdering Americans.

McCain is uniquely situated to remind his fellow congressmen that while Americans prefer to speak softly and carry a big stick, neither do they like to lose struggles to terrorists like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who specialized in killing Americans and was dubbed by Osama bin Laden as “the lion of jihad” and “the prince of al Qaeda in Iraq."

Obama, who was unfamiliar with Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the organization started by al-Zarqawi, apparently hadn’t done his homework.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Rundown After The Runoff


Always gracious in victory, Sen. Hillary Clinton has hinted that she might be willing to offer phenom Sen. Barack Obama the coveted second spot on her ticket. "That may be where this is headed,” Clinton said on CBS’s “The Early Show after winning primaries in Rhode Island, Ohio and Texas, “but of course we have to decide who is on the top of ticket. I think the people of Ohio very clearly said that it should be me." It was John “Cactus Jack” Garner, Franklin Roosevelt’s VP, who once said of the office that it “wasn’t worth a warm bucket of spit.” Clinton’s primary and caucus haul after Second Super Tuesday is a piddling 13; Obama has won 28, giving him an insurmountable lead in pledged delegates. These numbers have led some number crunchers to determine that it would be more or less impossible for Clinton to win a sufficient number of delegates to cinch the nomination before the Democrat nominating convention. And has anyone seen Bill lately? It had been widely speculated before Second Super Tuesday that Bill’s efforts on his wife’ Hillary’s behalf were torpedoing her foundering campaign.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Victor David Hanson's Interview With Junge Freiheit

Victor David Hanson was interviewed recently by Junge Freiheit, a Swiss newspaper.

On Mexico, about which he’s written a book, “Mexifornia”, he said, “1)We are wide open to terrorist infiltration; 2) We privilege illegal immigration from Mexico, while penalizing and delaying legal immigration from Asia, Africa, and Europe; 3) We serve as a safety valve and enabler for Mexico, which therefore will never make needed reforms; 4) We are creating a chauvinistic tribalism, a race industry that tries to convert the presence of 15 million illegal aliens into some sort of political movement; 5) We use cheap illegal labor to ensure our own entry level workers cannot bargain or organize.”

Hanson was asked why the United States was permitting illegal immigration to happen. “The libertarian/corporate Right,” he said, “likes cheap, exploitable labor, while the identity-politics on the Left wants more constituents. And the majority in between was asleep at the wheel for thirty years, afraid to speak out lest they be called ‘protectionists’ and ‘nativists’ by elites who read the Wall Street Journal and ‘racists’ by the academic and political left.”

Hanson's solution to illegal immigration is comprehensive: “Fence the points of easiest transit; beef up security; provide a fool-proof ID; fine employers who hire illegals; do not provide public services in multiple languages; insist that newcomers are legal, and accept our language and protocols. Close the border and fine employers, and then the influx will stop — and the existing cohort of illegals will insidiously begin to assimilate and disappear as a distinct bloc.”

Any reasonable solution proposed by the Bush administration already has been effectively demonized: “The Left agrees with him, but nevertheless wants to see him fail for political purposes in the post-Iraq climate; the Right thinks he is a megaphone for Wall Street and privileges the employers’ concerns over the middle class’s anxieties. So his policies are orphaned and the debate has moved so far to the right that his moderate suggestions seem radically liberal in this new political landscape.”

The interview then turned to Europe, and Hanson, also the author of “A War Like No Other,” an account of the Peloponnesian war, bravely did not let up at all. If anything, the future of Europe, he said, looks more bleak and intractable than here in the United States.

Hanson was asked to dilate on the different approaches taken in Europe and the United States to similar problems.

“We will stop the influx soon and through our powers of assimilation and popular culture absorb those here; you may well not and thus are already seeing a tiny elite on top mouthing utopian leftwing bromides while a radical rightwing movement on bottom will grow, demanding xenophobic solutions.

“I am not confident in an easy solution for Europe, given its 20th-century past — whether confronting the specter of a Muslim Eurabia, or the counter-rightwing backlash that could get very ugly. You in Europe have little facility — socially, culturally, and politically — to absorb immigrants into full-fledged Europeans. We do (as Europe’s historic critiques of America as a mongrel nation attest) — if the numbers of new arrivals are reasonable, of diverse backgrounds, and of legal status.

“Officially Europe sounds more utopian, while in reality Europeans are clannish and reluctant to integrate and embrace; America sounds strident and angry, while Americans in their personal lives integrate, assimilate, and marry Mexican nationals who come here illegally — the tragedy being that if we just cut the numbers of new arrivals of illegals, the existing cohort would soon disappear through assimilation.”


The interview is on the whole not the sort one is likely to read in the too cautious press here in the United States, neither does one expect this level of discussion in the coming US general election.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Someone Up There Likes Him

The trial in Chicago of Barack Obama financial supporter Tony Rezko will begin on Monday, one day before Tuesday’s decisive Democrat primary elections. Good government types sometimes quarrel over which US city, New Orleans or Chicago, is the more corrupt.

What Makes Ralph Run?


Hostilities have commenced between Ralph “The Spoiler” Nader and U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, who put his presidential campaign to rest recently having garnered about 1% of his party’s vote in reliable Democrat presidential primary polls.

Commenting on Ralph Nader’s entrée into the presidential race, Dodd offered, “Eight years ago, obviously he cost Al Gore the election, in my view, no question about it. We've paid an awful price the last eight years because of one man's ego."

This caused an unamused Nader to respond, “Why are they so keen on denying voters the free choice of their candidates? Why don't they pick up these progressive issues? Running for office is free speech. It's the consummate expression of the First Amendment. I'm to blame for Kerry's loss?"

The notion that Nader lost the election for Gore is something of a red herring. Florida may have slipped away due to Nader, but Gore was unable to win his own state, Tennessee, Bill Clinton's state, Arkansas, or West Virginia, usually reliably Democratic. A win in any of these states might have put Gore in the White House.

The way to neuter spoilers, Nader said, is simple. Had Democrats favored the elimination of the electoral college, Gore today would have been president, because he led in the popular vote. And if the Democrats were concerned with spoilers, they could adopt an instant runoff system. Voters in such a system could rank their preferences; in the absence of a majority win, the second choice scheme would eliminate the possibility of spoilers.

In neither case would the reforms Nader favors have prevented a Nader candidacy. Spoilers generally enter the race at the primary level, and Nader has not yet suggested eliminating the practice by eliminating primaries, however “simple” such a reform may be.

This is classic Nader: Propose a “possibility” that has little chance of being adopted and then, when the tug of resistance sets in, you may accuse party leaders of being far less progressive than yourself.

"The Democrats,” Nader said, “have got to stop whining, stop scapegoating and look in the mirror and ask how they've continually lost instead of landsliding in election after election against the worst Republican Party in history.”

In fact, it is Nader’s bete noir, the two party system, that is the real spoiler, said the spoiler. "The two parties are so indentured to corporate power that they have turned corporations into our masters."

Should we eliminate corporations to eliminate their political influence? Ralph may have a simple way to do it. In the meantime, we might work at providing real competition in the market place by eliminating the grosser forms of political interference that causes corporations to hire lobbyists to insure their interests in a congress that has used regulations and burdensome taxes as campaign financing bargaining chips. If you get congressional politics out of the board room, you won't have so many paid corporate lobbiests in the political kitchen.