Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Fish Wrap


Al Quada, Non-partisan in American Election

Al Qaeda is trying its best this Halloween to be non-partisan, according to a recent Reuters report.

“’O God, humiliate Bush and his party, O Lord of the Worlds, degrade and defy him,’ Abu Yahya al-Libi said at the end of sermon marking the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr, in a video posted on the Internet.

“Libi, a top al Qaeda commander believed to be living in Afghanistan or Pakistan, called for God's wrath to be brought against Bush equating him with past tyrants in history.”

For months, militants on al Qaeda-linked websites have been debating the significance of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama or Republican John McCain, but the politically savvy leadership has been careful not to be as partisan as, say, CNN.

Why the reticence?

"To support a particular candidate,” wrote Rita Katz, the director of SITE Intelligent Group, a terrorist monitor, “would debase al-Qaeda's long-standing argument that the United States government is a corrupt institution no matter who is at the helm.”

Apparently, not everyone has been fooled by Sen. Barack Obama’s mantra of hope and change.

The Difference Between Kentucky and California

According to an Associated Press report, two string’em’ups in Lexington Kentucky, “a University of Kentucky student and another man,” were arrested for hanging an effigy of Democrat presidential candidate U.S. Senator Barack Omaba form a tree on campus.

The two --Joe Fischer, 22, a UK student, and Hunter Bush, 21, both of Lexington – “told detectives they decided to hang the effigy after seeing media reports about a Sarah Palin effigy in California.”

The two were repentant; never-the-less they were charged with disorderly conduct related to the hanging of the effigy, as well as burglary and theft for having pilfered the materials used from a frat house.

The two pranksters who hung Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in effigy from their domicile in California are still on the loose. However, following a discussion with the mayor of West Hollywood, they have agreed to unhang Palin.

The Californians claim their effigy was an exercise in performance art.

Lots of that going around in the art community.

Another artist, the androgynous disco diva Grace Jones, faulted Palin on her sense of humor.

Jones told German magazine TV Spielfilm, “I can't stand Sarah Palin. I bet a woman like that has no sense of humor."

Although Jones had “fallen afoul of feminists for stunts such as appearing naked in a cage,” she manfully insisted she had the right “to determine what was artistic or simply exploitative,” the magazine reported.

"I believe a woman can present herself as a sex object if she has fun doing it," Jones said.

All's well in the world, as long as one preserves one’s sense of humor, but one cannot help but wonder what the sermonizing al-Libi would make of Jones.

Palin's Clothes

This just in: Omaba spent $700,000 for stage lighting in his Berlin appearance. Now, back to Sarah Palin's clothes...

Fear Of Jonging


Erica Jong, author of "Fear of Flying, " is in Italy, pulsing with nervousness.

"My friends Ken Follett and Susan Cheever are extremely worried. Naomi Wolf calls me every day. Yesterday, Jane Fonda sent me an email to tell me that she cried all night and can't cure her ailing back for all the stress that has
reduces her to a bundle of nerves."

"My back is also suffering from spasms, so much so that I had to see an
acupuncturist and get prescriptions for Valium."

"After having stolen the last two elections, the Republican Mafia…"

"If Obama loses it will spark the second American Civil War. Blood will
run in the streets, believe me. And it's not a coincidence that President Bush recalled soldiers from Iraq for Dick Cheney to lead against American citizens in the streets."

Why Connecticut Needs a Constitutional Convention

A new UConn poll from the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut shows that 50 percent of voters support a constitutional convention to amend the state constitution, while 39 percent oppose the measure. Even more dramatically, the poll shows that sixty-five percent of voters support citizen ballot initiative, always an admission that state legislators, the prisoners of special interests, no longer represent the will of the people.

According to the poll’s director, Christine Kraus, "The constitutional convention question appears to be a referendum on the performance of the General Assembly."

A ballot initiative would, in essence, transform the entire population into a citizens’ action group. It is for that reason opposed by – guess who? – Tom Swan, the executive director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group, among others. Swan, Ned Lamont’s campaign guru, fears that a convention might propose a direct initiative ballot that will tamper with campaign finance reforms he supports. Special interests will always oppose the general interest, and use the organs of government to effect its purposes.

Opponents of the convention – the usual crop of government dependent pensioners -- have flooded the state with expensive ads suggesting that such a convention might spell the end of representative government as we know it. The politics of fear in Connecticut is very much alive.

Spokeswoman for the anti-convention coalition Peggy Shorey said, "I think there is a greater understanding now we're voting on whether we should open up the entire constitution to potentially a radical overhaul.” One newspaper correspondent feared that a run-away convention might possibly repeal the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Newspapers in the state that oppose such interventions have not scrupled to fan the flames of such fanciful musings.

Connecticut survived such threats in 1965 when, during the state’s last constitutional convention, delegates elected by the people proposed that voters should be asked once every 20 years if they should convene constitutional conventions. The people of the state voted to affirm the measure, which only then became a part of the constitution.

It should be noted the convention delegates managed to restrain themselves from repealing the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The convention itself was an exercise in representative democracy, and those involved in arranging the convention, the very pillars of the economic and political culture of their time, approached their work with craftsman-like precision.

While it is technically possible for a constitutional convention to “radically overhaul” state government, this is unlikely for three reasons: 1) members of the convention may, if the legislature so wishes, be selected by the state legislature, which has not in the past been over eager to radically overhaul state government; 2) the last constitutional convention, whose delegates were popularly elected, was measured and responsible; and 3) any measure passed by the convention will be subject to ratification by the entire state population.

Citizens in Connecticut, as suggested by the poll, are leaning towards ballot initiative and referendum. Ballot initiative, it has been said, will deprive the legislature of its traditional representative roll. This may be true only under one narrow set of circumstances. An initiative may repeal the general sense of the legislature on a specific issue only when the sense of the legislature is not representative of the general will of the people – in which case the ballot initiative will serve as a corrective to a legislature that is non-representative.

Instances such as this have arisen in municipalities during fiscal budget battles. Budget referenda questions that appear on ballots in Connecticut municipalities, where they are allowed, are initiative ballots in this sense: They direct representatives of the people in the towns to submit lower budget and reduce spending.

The social architects among us who hope to effect national change this year will resist to the death any successful attempt made by taxpayers to keep the money they earn from the sweat of their brows in their own treasuries, when such funds could be used to promote special interests dear to their hearts – the very definition of an arrogant selfishness that despoils the wealth of individuals, states and nations.

This moment – this precious moment that will allow the citizens of Connecticut to wrest their future from special interests and a bought political establishment – will not come again for twenty years.

The Doninger Case

The Avery Doninger case has now reached the courts, which means that it likely will be settled on legal grounds. But, as we all know, legal settlements are not always compatible with common sense.

Common sense would have settled this issue long ago.

Doninger is the student – now famous or infamous, depending on one’s point of view – who called the arrogant administrators in her school “douchbags,” not the politest of terms. But she had, as the lawyers might say, cause.

The precipitating cause of Doninger’s outburst, in an e-mail message to her friends, was frustration; it happens to the best of us.

Those details are described at considerable length, and in luminous prose, by Jon Schoenhorn in his brief on Doninger’s behalf and in a series of posts written by Andy Thibault, who maintains a site called, modestly enough, The Cool Justice Report, the nearest thing we have in the state to Nat Hentoff’s hard hitting reportage.

Tibault is the natural born enemy of pomposity wherever it shows its wrinkled brow. You just knew that when the word “douchbag” trickled down from Doninger’s computer to the courts and hearings Thibault has faithfully attended, it would be sounded a thousand times, as crisply as the shot heard round the world at Lexington and Concord.

For a Tom Paineian addicted to common sense, it’s difficult to understand how things got to this point.

Having now reviewed the brief by Schoenhorn and at least half a dozen shouts heard round the world by Thibault, I am hear to tell you that Doninger’s salty epithet is a Hemmingwayesque understatement.

These administrators would try the patience of a saint.

Two points ought to be made: 1) On the face of it, the notion that discipline in school requires the disciplinarian to suspend First Amendment rights is patently absurd; and 2) We are told that schools, in the absence of parents, should act in locus parentis. Schools and school administrators need not act in the place of parents when their charges are at home with the parents. Place and circumstance matter, or should matter. School discipline should terminate at the doors of the school. Messages send on computers, however objectionable, should be answered in the same way – not by the imposition of silly authoritarian shows of power.

But there is more to this case than that. It’s pretty clear that school administrators were trimming the truth in many of their dealings with Doninger. That might pass muster in school hallways; but not in courts of law.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dodd, Lieberman and Buyer’s Remorse

The poll numbers on the public’s dissatisfaction with Connecticut’s two US senators, Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman, suggest something is rotten in Denmark.

The approval ratings of both senators dipped below 40 percent in October, according to a recent poll commissioned by the Hartford Courant from the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut.

The dip is regarded as especially troublesome for Dodd, who is up for re-election in 2010; Lieberman will not face the firing squad until 2012.

Lieberman’s unpopularity may be traced to his attempt at rebranding. A liberal Democrat for most of his political career, Lieberman jumped the Democrat Party fence more than two years ago when he was challenged and defeated in a primary by Ned Lamont, a wealthy but politically undistinguished anti-Iraq war candidate from Greenwich, Connecticut. Lamont’s candidacy was supported by former governor and senator Lowell Weicker, whom Lieberman had earlier defeated in a bitter senate race, an anti-war faction of the Democrat Party in full rebellion against Democrat war hawks and, after the primary, many well known politicians, including Dodd and former president Bill Clinton.

Since then, Lieberman has further antagonized the Eugene McCarthy wing of the Democrat Party by supporting the presidential candidacy of Sen. John McCain over that of Sen. Barack Obama, who is leading McCain in the polls, though indicators show a drop off in support for Obama as the presidential race nears the finishing line.

The Iraq war has been defused as a Democrat campaign pry-bar used to wedge Republican supporters of the war from their congressional seats because, under a new war strategy adopted more than two years ago, prospects have dramatically improved in Iraq.

The Wall Street collapse has buoyed many Democrat candidates, including Obama – but not Dodd.

Nothing in Dodd’s recent past suggests that he will any time soon bolt the Democrat Party and join Lieberman in a centrist revolt against the left wing of his party; but then, Dodd has never been successfully challenged and defeated in a primary.
Dodd’s problem arises from a perceived stench of corruption.

The media campaign against corruption in Connecticut reached its Thermador – the tipping point of the French Revolution -- during the corruption trial of former Governor John Rowland. Pressures from all corners – ethicists, the media, which was eager to rend a politician perceived to be corrupt, political opponents, state legislators who had begun and then aborted an impeachment process, federal agents armed with RICO statutes -- were brought to bear against Rowland, who finally reached a deal with prosecutor that involved pleading guilty to a single charge of corruption and spending a year in prison.

The heat from that Thermador now threatens to blast the political career of Dodd, who now faces an ethics inquiry over charges that he received preferential treatment on two mortgages from Countrywide Financial, whose president has afforded Dodd special favors.

Lieberman stands in the dock accused of, at worst, traitorous acts towards a party from which he has already disassociated himself. While Lieberman remains a registered Democrat and while he still caucuses with the Democrats in congress, except during political strategy meetings, the possibility that Lieberman will run for re-election in 2012 on the Democrat Party line is laughably remote. Dodd, should he choose to run for re-election to the senate, will be supported by his party; and Dodd stands in the dock accused of corruption, a horse of a different color.

This means that while people seem to be equally dissatisfied with both senators, they are dissatisfied for different reasons.

Before the firing squads cock their rifles, there will be time, to quote the poet T. S. Elliot, “for a hundred visions and revisions that time will soon erase.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Time and Old Wounds: Dr. Petit's Strikes


There are some wounds time won’t heal. Such is the murder of three members of Dr. William Petit’s household.

The household -- Dr. Petit, his wife and two daughters – was attacked by two career criminals, Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky, both on parole.

A recent news story – “Second look, A Year After Cheshire Home Invasion, William Petit Speaks Up For Tougher Crime Laws” – pithily describes what happened: “On a July night in 2007, intruders clubbed and trussed Petit at his home in Cheshire, the start of an ordeal that ended with the deaths of his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and their daughters, Hayley, 17, and 12-year-old Michaela.

“Hawke-Petit and Michaela were raped. The mother was strangled. Both daughters were left bound in their beds, the house doused with gasoline and set afire.”

The scene of the crime has since disappeared. Where before there was a house and a family, now there is nothing. The erasure process, sometimes confused with a healing process, has now begun. It is as if Huns had appeared out of the black night, destroyed a village, burnt it to the ground and sowed the scene of the devastation with salt, so that not even the memory of the village would survive.

Since the commission of the crime, Dr. Petit has given up his practice and devoted himself to a worthy cause: He has become, according to one news story, “an activist now, willing to stand with any candidate who pledges to support a mandatory life sentence on violent three-time felons.”

"I support the Three Strikes Now Coalition and the concept because I feel it's the government's first duty to protect its citizens," Petit said. "I'm not sure we need much government if the government can't protect us."

The two vandals will be prosecuted under Connecticut’s Rube Goldberg-like death penalty process, and by the time justice is finally served, there will be, it may be safely predicted, dozens of “second looks.” Dr. Petit, the sole survivor of the murder of his family, will have miles to go before he sleeps. Ahead of him lies the trial of the two career criminals, a series of appeals, a mandatory sentencing, common in death penalty cases, trial appeals, sentencing hearing appeals, and finally, at the end of a seemingly interminable string of trials, re-trials, hearings, rehearings, appeals and unexpected interventions, Dr. Petit may, if he is not by that time spiritually exhausted, receive an approximation of justice.

We have seen this process in play during the trial and execution of Michael Ross, a legally twisted affair in which a judge philosophically opposed to the death penalty intervened in the case at the last moment and bullied Ross’ lawyer with the suspension of his law license until he agreed to yet another death penalty hearing. Even Ross, by this time, was exhausted: He wanted the death penalty imposed, if only to spare the families of his eight victims further unnecessary emotional suffering.

One of the fathers of the last 14 year-old girl murdered by Ross weathered all the media hoopla, all the trials and hearings, many more than three, and after Ross’ execution was delayed once again by the intervening judge, some solicitous reporter stuck a mic in his face and asked him for his “reaction.”

The face that looked out at the camera was spiritually wasted.

“Everything has been said.”

The dogged reporter asked him again for his reaction, and she was greeted with an exhausted silence.

No one was counting the number of strikes, many more than three, the man had been lashed with.

The Ross trial now has become a distant memory. It will appear in reports during the Hayes and Komisarjevsky trial as a piquant statistic.

"Even now,” Dr Petit said in a recent interview, “you feel like you are being abused. Somebody murders your family in 2007, and they tell you they're going to go to trial in 2010. Wow, what a great system we have."

What Bias?

A compelling report by a seasoned reporter on media bias in the age of Obama.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hitchens and the Greenspan Spanking

This is why Christopher Hitchens is such a lovable atheist:

Asserting in Vanity Fair that the United States now has entered it’s “banana republic” phase, Hitchens writes, “And am I the only one who finds it distinctly weird to reflect that the last head of the Federal Reserve and the current head of the Treasury, Alan Greenspan and Hank “The Hammer” Paulson, should be respectively the votaries of the cults of Ayn Rand and Mary Baker Eddy, two of the battiest females ever to have infested the American scene? That Paulson should have gone down on one knee to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as if prayer and beseechment might get the job done, strikes me as further evidence that sheer superstition and incantation have played their part in all this. Remember the scene at the end of Peter Pan, where the children are told that, if they don’t shout out aloud that they all believe in fairies, then Tinker Bell’s gonna fucking die? That’s what the fall of 2008 was like, and quite a fall it was, at that.”

Actually, Hitchens is not first out of the gate with the observation on Greenspan.

Christopher Buckley’s father, William Buckley, peppered both Rand and Greenspan in his novel “Getting It Right.”

The two Christophers are collaborators in their recent endorsements of Sen. Barack Obama as President.

The lede to Hitchens’ piece in Vanity Fair, which may or may not have been written by Hitchens, also includes a broad swipe at Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, among other banana republics: “The ongoing financial meltdown is just the latest example of a disturbing trend that, to this adoptive American, threatens to put the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave on a par with Zimbabwe, Venezuela, and Equatorial Guinea.”

All of which raises two interesting questions: Should the two Christophers' perferred candidate, Barack Obama, prove to be the next president of the new US bannana republic, does Hitchens propose that a banner should be strung around the White House welcoming the new Randian to his new home -- “Welcome to Venezula?”

And will Christoper Buckley aide in stringing a net around the fourth floor of the office building where his dad’s magazine is produced?

The Righteous Wind


On the campaign trail, after examining polls that show him far ahead of Sen. John McCain, Sen. Barack Obama said the felt “a righteous wind at his back.”

Over in Evian, France, Jesse Jackson felt the same wind lifting his sails.

According to Amir Taheri, a New York Post opinion columnist, the message Jackson conveyed in the first World Policy Forum in France was: Prepare for a new day.

He promised "fundamental changes" in US foreign policy - saying America must "heal wounds" it has caused to other nations, revive its alliances and apologize for the "arrogance of the Bush administration."

The most important change would occur in the Middle East, where "decades of putting Israel's interests first" would end.

Jackson believes that, although "Zionists who have controlled American policy for decades" remain strong, they'll lose a great deal of their clout when Barack Obama enters the White House.

Is it possible that Jackson has seen the top secret Kalidi tape that the New York Times and the L.A. Times will not bring to public notice? "Why is the Los Angeles Times sitting on a videotape of the 2003 farewell bash in Chicago at which Barack Obama lavished praise on the guest of honor, Rashid Khalidi — former mouthpiece for master terrorist Yasser Arafat?" asks Andrew McCarthy in National Review OInline.

"Obama is about change," Jackson told Taheri in a wide-ranging conversation. "And the change that Obama promises is not limited to what we do in America itself. It is a change of the way America looks at the world and its place in it."

Jackson warns that he isn't an Obama confidant or adviser, "just a supporter." But he adds that Obama has been "a neighbor or, better still, a member of the family." Jackson's son has been a close friend of Obama for years, and Jackson's daughter went to school with Obama's wife Michelle.

"We helped him start his career," says Jackson. "And then we were always there to help him move ahead. He is the continuation of our struggle for justice not only for the black people but also for all those who have been wronged."

That caused something of a stir in the Obama camp.

Jackson promptly issued a non-denial denial.

The Rev. Jackson did not dispute the quotes. He did, however, accuse Tahiri, the author of an upcoming book, “The Persian Night: Iran Under the Khomeinist Revolution,” of “selectively imposing his own point of view and distorting mine" in the column.

Shelly Davis, a spokeswoman for Jackson issued the following press release:

"Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.
Responds to Distortions in NY Post Column
-For Immediate Release-

"Contact: Butch Wing, 510-701-8955
Shelley Davis, 773-490-8665
October 14, 2008

"The recent column in no way represents my views on Middle East peace and security. The writer is selectively imposing his own point of view, and distorting mine.

"I have a long held position of a two state solution to achieve peace in the Middle East. I stand forthrightly for the security and stability of Israel, its protection from any form of hostility, and a peaceful, non-violent resolution to co-existing with its Palestinian neighbors. I have advocated for peaceful, non-violent negotiation. This is a framework that all people who pursue peace and reconciliation embrace. Both presidential candidates embrace this approach to advance Middle East negotiations and the peace process. It is our national policy.

"The slant of this writer’s article is designed to incite fear and division. It must not be allowed to divert our focus away from the substantative and sensitive debate around the critical foreign policy and domestic economic issues in this critical region of the world.

"Reverend Jackson is not a representative of Senator Obama. He has never had a conversation with Senator Obama about Israel or the Middle East, and was not characterizing his views on these issues."

The Obama camp sent out its usual form reply to those whom the righteous wind has blown in an unfavorable direction: “Obama's national security spokeswoman, Wendy Morigi, said Jackson does not advise Obama.”

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Courant Endorsement of Obama and Comments

A few comments on the Hartford Courant’s endorsement of Democrat presidential nominee Barack Obama:

“Today we endorse a second Democrat, Sen. Barack Obama, with the hope that if elected, he governs from the middle as Mr. Clinton did.”

Hope must be based on something more firm than pious wishes, and there is no reason to suppose that, on important matters, Obama will govern from the middle. When has Obama ever crossed the liberals in his own party? Answer: never. Just as Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain is not President George Bush, so Obama is not former President Bill Clinton. During the primaries, Sen. Hillary Clinton thought she saw some differences between the two, and so did the Courant, which endorsed Mrs. Clinton as the presidential nominee of her party.

“Mr. Obama must resist serving only his party's interests and instead serve the greater interests of a worried nation.”

Oh? Must he indeed? If the Democrats garner enough seats to establish a veto-proof congress, why shouldn’t Obama serve his party’s interest, especially if he believes they are congruent with national and even global interests?

“America is starved for a leader who can restore pride and once again make the nation a beacon for the world, or in the words of Massachusetts Gov. John Winthrop in 1630, ‘a city on a hill — with the eyes of all people upon us.’”

The line from Winthrop, wretched out of context, is often quoted but little understood. The full quote reads: “For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken… we shall be made a story and a by-word throughout the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God… We shall shame the faces of many of God's worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us til we be consumed out of the good land whither we are a-going.” Winthrop was a Puritan, rather fussy in his moral habits, a strict constructionist of scripture and an unapologetic theist. It is difficult, even at this remove, imagining him favoring gay marriage, partial birth abortion or the black power theology of the Rev, Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s chosen pastor for many years.

“Mr. Obama has the right qualities of leadership, the elevating, can-do message that ‘we are the ones we have been waiting for’ and the calm temperament for these anxious times.”

Perhaps the sharpest comment concerning Obama’s “We are the ones…” statement is to be found in the most recent issue of National Review. Other commentators think it highly narssisistic and bristling with hubris. Michael Knox Beran writes concerning a similar sentiment ("As long as iI live, I will never forget that in no other country on earth is my story even possible") that "The worthiness of the conviction is tempered by its narcissim. It is as though Perricles, in his funeral oration, offered as proof of the greatness of Athens the fact that it had made his own story possible." Other than soaring rhetoric, what are those qualities of leadership that have sent a tingle up the legs of the Courant’s editorial board? Obama’s sole executive experience has been working with former Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayres on the Annenberg Challenge.

“Mr. Obama is a transformative figure, as Mr. Powell has said. He would be the first African American president if elected.”

The bloody pages of history are full of transformative figures, some of whom – Hitler, Stalin, Ghengis Kahn, Bill Ayres, not an exhaustive list -- the editorial page editors of the Courant would not wish to associate with. But when someone tells the American public that a president will be “transformative,” they naturally wish to know what is being transformed into what.

“The times cry out for a leader of Mr. Obama's mettle. Americans have suffered through years of losses, from the nearly 3,000 people who died on Sept. 11, 2001, through the more than 4,000 American troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and the tens of thousands wounded. More than a million people have lost their homes through foreclosure. Economists are warning that the United States is facing the gravest economic threat since the Great Depression.”

The 9/11 losses, occurred during the second bombing of the World Trade Center towers in New York, are irrecoverable. The troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan died in the service of their country. Early in his presidency, George Bush and his associates mismanaged the war; any unnecessary deaths should weigh heavily on their consciences. Two years ago, the Bush administration adopted measures long before supported by Republican nominee for President Sen. John McCain. Since adopting those measures, al-Qaeda in Iraq has been driven from the country; the Iraqi army, trained by the American military, has been successful in pacifying provinces once controlled by terrorists; and Iraqi citizens and tribal leaders have turned against the terrorists. If Obama’s council had been followed more than two years ago and American troops had been withdrawn from the field of battle, Iraq right now would resemble Mogadishu, in the opinion of Christopher Hitchens, a hawkish commentator who, along with his friend Christopher Buckley, recently endorsed the candidacy of Obama. Under such circumstances, the troops who had died in Iraq all would have died in vain. This is not the way troops are honored. It is not the way wars are won. The serious economic threats now plaguing the country would become considerably graver if, during a recession, a president and a veto-proof congress were to punish entrepreneurial capital by taxing it or moving capital from business developers to tax consumers, which is what Obama is proposing. That way will deepen and prolong the recession. It will also assure more foreclosures because, believe it or not, mortgage payments are drawn from pay checks; paychecks are drawn from the profits of employers; and if you tax profits, paychecks diminish in proportion to the diminishment of jobs. It’s all wondrously connected.

The soundest brief commentary on Obama’s tax plans is to be found, as usual, in the Wall street Journal. According to the WSJ, Obama has not proposed tax cuts but tax credits, not the same thing: “Mr. Obama would roll back the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for taxpayers in the top two brackets, raising the top two marginal rates of income tax to 36% and 39.6% from 33% and 35%. The 33% rate begins to hit this year at incomes of $164,550 for an individual and $200,300 for joint filers. Mr. Obama claims no "working families" earning less than $250,000 would pay more in taxes, but that's because he defines income more broadly than the taxable income line on the IRS form. If you're an individual with taxable income of $164,550, you will pay more taxes.

"The Democrat would also reinstate the phaseout of the personal exemptions and itemized deductions for married couples making more than $250,000 a year. Those phaseouts would raise the top marginal tax rate for millions of taxpayers by another 1.5 percentage points.”

"Most worrisome, however, is Mr. McCain's choice of a running mate, Sarah Palin, who is not yet ready for prime time. With so many capable people to choose from, Mr. McCain's pick of a governor with such a thin resume was disappointing."

But Palin’s executive experience, however thin, is thicker than Obama’s. To repeat, Obama’s only executive experience was acquired as the distributor of grant money in connection with the Annenberg Challenge.

“It's a wonder how Mr. McCain can make his Democratic rival out to be too green to be commander-in-chief when his Republican running mate is so vulnerable on that point.”

But compared to McCain’s breath of experience, Obama is green. The Courant and other commentators sometime forget that the presidential candidates in the race are Obama, whose executive experience is thinner than that of Palin, and McCain. Lofty rhetoric aside, Bush, the object of much of Obama’s attacks, will not be running for president next term.

“If he uses his tremendous talents wisely, he offers the best hope to make America once again, in the eyes of the world, that ‘city on a hill.’”

If…

And if I had two pieces of bread, I’d have a baloney sandwich – if I had baloney.

If…

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Buckley, Hitchens Defections to Obama

There have been in recent days two notable defections to the Obama camp. Christopher Buckley crossed over in a piece he wrote for National Review, the conservative journal of opinion founded by his late father, William F. Buckley Jr.

Buckley’s spot in the magazine thereafter disappeared. According to Buckley, he though it better to remove himself; he was not kicked to the curb. Such things do not happen at National Review, a genteel publication with a stiletto in its belt.

The second notable defection is that of Christopher Hitchens, a friend of Buckley’s. It is not known at this point whether both agreed to jump into the fire together or whether their joint defections were serindipidous.

Hitchens is a little hard to pigeonhole. At various points in his pilgrim’s progress through this veil of tears, he has been a Trotskyite, a far left writer for The Nation magazine, not generally regarded as a conservative publication, an atheist and an ardent supporter of the war in Iraq.

Here Hitchens disputes with Eric Alterman of the Nation:



Here is Hitchens locking horns with Laura Ingraham on the question of his recent defection:




Hitchens is a bit over talked here, but his argument reduces to this: Obama is more teachable than McCain, who is ossifying. In important respects, Obama is evolving. Hitchens cites Obama’s hard position on the matter of Pakistan. Obama has been willing to invade Pakistan unilaterally to rid the world of Osama bin Ladin and other al-Qaeda terrorists, whereas McCain has been more cautious.

The problem with this line of reasoning is that, given Obama’s disposition to change positions on a whole series of issues, one never knows at what point the disposition will kick in. Might he not change his position on the unilateral invasion of a soverigh country if, after having been installed in the White House, he finds it useful to do so? Obama became Sen. Hillary Clinton in order to defeat Clinton in the Democrat primaries; he has now become McCain to defeat McCain in the general election. He is a disturbing question mark.

Buckley has not fleshed out his reasons for defecting, but one supposes they have something to do with malleability.

Succession Worries, Palin, McCain, Lieberman, Four Reporters in Five Acts


Most reporters in Connecticut appear to think that John McCain, should he buck the odds and become president, will die in office approximately 30 seconds after he has been sworn in, leaving Vice President Sarah Palin to discharge the awesome duties of the presidency.

They speculate that she will not be up to the task, and four of them, according to a report in the Hartford Courant by Mark Pazniokas, have brought their worries to Sen. Joe Lieberman, a McCain supporter.

Lieberman consulted some actuaries and told the reporters that reports of McCain’s imminent demise, to paraphrase Mark Twain, have been greatly exaggerated.

Naturally, this did not convince the reporters.


“Lieberman initially sidestepped a question about Palin's readiness to be president on day one.

"’She's not going to have to be president from day one because McCain is going to be alive and well. I've been talking to actuaries and doctors,’ Lieberman said. ‘He can be expected to live to his mid-80s and probably longer.’

“When pressed about when she would be ready, Lieberman replied, ‘Well, let's hope she never has to be ready.’

“He laughed, then quickly added, ‘Because we hope McCain is elected and lives out his term.’”


Historians might tend to agree with Lieberman.

Here is a list of US Presidents who have died in office, what they died of, and their ages at the time of their demise:


William Henry Harrison -- Pneumonia and Pleurisy -- age 68

Zachary Taylor -- Bad cherries and milk – age 65

Abraham Lincoln -- Assassinated by John Wilkes Booth – age 56

James A. Garfield -- Assassinated by Charles Julius Guiteau -- age 49

William McKinley -- Assassinated by Leon Frank Czolgosz -- age 58

Warren G. Harding -- Heart attack, some speculation of murder age 57

Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- Cerebral hemorrhage age 63

John Fitzgerald Kennedy -- Assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald – age 46

Everything of course is relative, but most of the presidents whose terms in office were interrupted by death were, relatively speaking, young. In every case, the Vice presidents had some time in office to prepare themselves for their presidential journeys.

The dream of the anti-Palin crowd that McCain, upon assuming office, will take his leave in so short a time that Palin will not be able to assume office and discharge her responsibilities with the same energy and dispatch as, say, Harry Truman, is pretty far fetched. Actuaries would bet against it.

Yet his notion has become standard fare among reporters who want Democrat presidential nominee Barrack Obama as president and who are unwilling to examine the possibility that Obama – verily a heart beat from the presidency – may not be ready to assume these grave responsibilities at such a dangerous moment in US history.

Which is, come to think of it, is precisely the argument Lieberman presented to the four reporters of the apocalypse, whose names, for some unaccountable reason, Pazniokas does not mention in his story.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bill Ayers’ Skeletons


Billy Ayers keeps coming up, like a baby’s warm spittle, over the shoulder of US Sen. and Democrat Party presidential nominee Barack Obama. In the meantime, the diggers, among them blogger ZombieTime, keep digging.

Everything you wanted to know about the saintly professor Ayres but were afraid to ask is here: William Ayers' forgotten communist manifesto: Prairie Fire.

An excerpt from the manifesto:

“We are a guerrilla organization. We are communist women and men, underground in the United States for more than four years… We need a revolutionist communist party to lead the struggle, give coherence and direction to the fight, seize power and build a new society… We have only just begun. At this time, the unity and consolidation of anti imperialist forces is an urgent and pressing strategic necessity. PRAIRIE FIRE is offered as a contribution to this unity of action and purpose. Now it is in your hands.

Bernadine Dhorn
Jeff Jones
Billy Ayres
Cecilia Sojourn

For The Weather Underground


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Obama, Putting on Ayres


CNN, not noted for supporting the McCain candidacy, has now completed its investigatory report on the Ayres/Obama connection. The bottom line of the report: Obama’s claim that his connection with Ayres was casual is what Mark Twain might have called “a stretcher.”

Bill Ayres is the now well known “unrepentant terrorist” who, along with his present wife Bernardine Dohrn, was in the silly sixties one of the founders of The Weather Underground, an anti-Vietnam group that turned to terrorism as a means of self expression.

The Weather Underground bombed the Capitol in Washington DC and Congress, a distinction they share, as conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh never hesitates to point out, with the 9/11 bombers.

Ayres apparently was given numerous occasions to repent of his past terrorist activity but politely declined. He said he and his wife “had not done enough” during their bombing spree in the sixties to turn the country against the war. Ayres is now a pedagogue at University of Illinois.

Obama and his propagandists have suggested that his link with Ayres was casual and fleeting.

Here is the CNN report:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Where’s the Surplus?

For those who can’t live without graphs, here are four from Eric Rall writing in Dean’s World showing that: “Even with the tax cuts, and even with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush would have reduced the national debt by nearly half a trillion dollars if he’d kept domestic spending under control. Instead, he did just the opposite: the Medicare drug benefit, No Child Left Behind, and dozens of smaller new spending programs he pushed through a reluctant congress. And the national debt went up by $1.3 trillion.”

When equal isn’t equal

Michael Calderone of Politico reports that the media coverage of Republican presidential nominee John McCain and Democrat presidential nominee Barack Obama is now even. Up to this point, Obama was far ahead. That’s the good news.

The bad news for McCain is that the Republican’s coverage is way negative:

“Just 14 percent of the stories about John McCain, from the conventions through the final presidential debate, were positive in tone, according to a study released today, while nearly 60 percent were negative — the least favorable coverage of any of the four candidates on the two tickets.

“The study, by The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, a nonpartisan journalism watchdog organization, examined 2,412 stories from 43 newspapers and cable news shows in the six-week period beginning just after the conventions and ending with the final presidential debate.”

And you thought perhaps that the media was non-partisan. Ha!

An Interview With The Pakistani Spectator

Dear and respected , thanks a lot for your consent. Here are the questions for the interview. Please also send us a brief bio of yourself, and URL of your site. Please send the answers at your earliest convenience.

Here are the questions please:


Would you please tell us something about you and your site?


I had written a political column for a few newspapers in Connecticut before I began the blog, “Connecticut Commentary: Red Notes from a Blue State,” a few years ago. The blog and the columns are devoted mostly to Connecticut politics, but I also touch on national politics and social questions. At the beginning, I thought to keep a blog so that, over a period of time, I could discover a narrative within the blog itself. I was curious what this narrative would be like. It was an experiment of sorts.


Do you feel that you continue to grow in your writing the longer you write? Why is that important to you?

Every little bit helps. Writing is like maintaining a foreign language: If you don’t use it, you lose it. And then, of course, there is always this dire warning from Danish philosopher Soren Kierkaggard: “There are some thoughts that come but once in a lifetime.” Re-thinking and re-writing is very important to me.


I'm wondering what some of your memorable experiences are with blogging?

I don’t want to be too obscure in answering this one. There are two things: Knowing, and knowing that you know. The second is the deeper kind of knowledge. Blogging helps you to know that you know. Some turns of phrase, some analytical observations always come as a pleasant surprise to me. I was interviewed by the BBC on their radio program as a result of blogs on the senate race between current Sen. Joe Lieberman and Democrat primary winner Ned Lamont. That was exhilarating.


What do you do in order to keep up your communication with other bloggers?


I read what they write. In many cases, my bog appears in their blog rolls, and this gives their readers an opportunity to view my blog if they wish. There are e-mails constantly going back and forth, and the commentary section on my blog, a regular feature of most blogs, gives everyone an opportunity to comment or offer a new perspective.


What do you think is the most exciting or most innovative use of technology in politics right now?


In the United States, some partisan blogs have been used to generate funds for candidates. Sen. Barack Obama has received a good portion of his individual campaign contributions in this way. Political parties used to be the money factories in American politics, but they have been hamstrung in this regard by changes in campaign finance laws. Funds collected by blogs for specific candidates are not regulated. Some blog commentaries have affected news reports as well.


Do you think that these new technologies are effective in making people more responsive?

Not sure. People ultimately should respond to the truth, which sometimes gets buried in a mountain of white noise.


What do you think sets Your site apart from others?

Its focus. Connecticut is what we call a “blue state,” inordinately liberal. My blog cuts against that grain.


If you could choose one characteristic you have that brought you success in life, what would it be?

My marriage to a good woman; my parents who worked hard and always wanted the best for me; committed teachers and other people for whom a moral and good life was not just a pious wish. Added to all this, I have some writing talent, developed over a long period of time. God does not leave us without defenses in a sometimes indifferent world.


What was the happiest and gloomiest moment of your life?

The death of my parents, uncles and aunts, all within the same time period was very depressing. One of the happiest moments was when Jake, my wife’s guide dog, came into our lives. I had arranged with Fidelco, a service that provides guide dogs to the blind here in Connecticut, to have the dog in our home on Christmas twelve years ago. He has been a blessing ever since.


If you could pick a travel destination, anywhere in the world, with no worries about how it's paid for - what would your top 3 choices be?


Italy, there to see the ancestral village of my father; Saudi Arabia, to visit my cousin, who has been living there these past three decades; and Paris, still the city of lights.


What is your favorite book and why?

I re-read books these days. I am re-reading Albert Camus’ “The Rebel” just now. I read to AndrĂ©e, my wife, at night. We’ve just finished a biography of Dostoyevsky. I don’t really have a favorite book, but I find myself drawn to certain authors.


What's the first thing you notice about a person (whether you know them or not)?


Their faces; the face is the most expressive part of the body, a story-board in fact.


Is there anyone from your past that once told you you couldn't write?

No.


How bloggers can benefit from blogs financially?


Ah, but man does not live by finance alone, my friend. There are riches other than money one should hoard. Some blog sites generate money through ads posted on the site.


Is it true that who has a successful blog has an awful lot of time on their hands?

No. William Faulkner used to say that if you wanted to get something done, “Ask a busy woman.” The best blogs are written by people who are otherwise busy.


What role can bloggers of the world play to make this world more friendlier and less hostile?

I don’t know. The world is a very messy place. Perhaps the best we can do is to try and say the truth that, all of us hope, will make us free. But freedom is also is messy.


Who are your top five favourite bloggers?

For purely selfish reasons, I find myself reading state newspapers and local bloggers who write about questions I wish to address in my blog. Christopher Hitchens, for stylistic reasons, is one of my favorite atheist bloggers, though we part on the question of theism. These are some blog sites I return to often:

BlogNetNews Connecticut; a collection of all significant political bloggers in Connecticut -- http://www.blognetnews.com/Connecticut/

Connecticut Local Politics; contributions from Connecticut residents --http://www.ctlocalpolitics.net/

Politico; a site for national news -- http://www.politico.com/

Real Clear Politics, national news -- http://www.realclearpolitics.com/

Dean Ismay, Dean’s World; discusses everything remarkably well -- http://www.deanesmay.com/


Is there one observation or column or post that has gotten the most powerful reaction from people?

At the moment, a series of blogs on the Wall Street collapse.


What is your perception about Pakistan and its people?


The Pakistanis I know personally are intelligent, curious, modest, spiritually developed and partially Westernized. I regret I haven’t been to Pakistan. People in the US are likely to “know” it through news reports, which certainly will give them little indication of what the people in the country are like.


Have you ever become stunned by the uniqueness of any blogger?

Bill Buckley, the conservative columnist and author, was consistently stunning. Before he died, his column ran regularly on NRO (National Review on line) He was also a friend. I like Mark Steyn, but he has temporarily given up blogging.


What is the most striking difference between a developed country and a developing country?

The availability of credit, technological proficiency, efficient government, and higher education facilities are some of the marks of developed countries. All this has its downside as well. Undeveloped countries are those, the avatars of developed countries tell us, that are moving in the direction of progress and self sufficiency. Developed countries are, some people think, spiritually impoverished.


What is the future of blogging?

It tends to make monks of us or, even worse, preachers. On the bright side, the internet is a vast resource of knowledge, some of it useful.


You have also got a blogging life, how has it directly affected both your personal and professional life?

It’s a time eater. Someone once asked Oscar Wilde why he had not devoted more time to a serious study of socialism. He said something like: Because there are only so many hours in the day – meaning he wanted to devote his leisure time to more enjoyable pursuits: chats with friends, the opera, writing delightful little stories. At least he had those priorities straight.


What are your future plans?

To observe scrupulously Hillare Belloc’s advice to the rich (though I am not rich): “Get to know something about the internal combustion engine, and remember that soon you will die.”


Any Message you want to give to the readers of The Pakistani Spectator?


Improve the world from the inside out: First work on yourself, then your family, then your neighborhood, your province, your nation and lastly the world. If you have accomplished all this, your goodness will radiate outward to the world like a bright sun.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Fishwrap


Soon to be Vice President Joe Biden has warned, while Barack Obama is performing his victory dance in the red states, that the new president and Vice President will be “tested” shortly after they are sworn in to office. Will they meet the test?

You’betcha!

For the second time (perhaps the third time; who’s keeping count?) unindicted co-conspirator in the ABSCAM flapdoodle U.S. Rep. John Murtha is, according to Pittsburg WTAE.TV Channel 4, “calling many of the people who put him in office ‘rednecks.’ The news comes one week after Murtha claimed the area is racist, then apologized for that comment.”

Who does this gaffer think he is – Joe Biden?

According to the authoritative National Review Online, votive candles bearing the image of the sainted Obama have begun to appear at a street fair at Hayes and Octavia in San Francisco.

The Madonna divorce continues to wend its way through the press. Soon to be former Mr. Madonna Guy Ritchie thinks his soon to be former wife is spying on him.

The Sun reports, “He has even compared her approach to their split as being like ‘something concocted by the KGB,’ raging at her: ‘This is a divorce, not the Cold War.’”

Just you wait Ritchie. Hell hath no fury like a Madonna scorned.

And Connecticut’s everywhere-all-the-time Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has “suggested” to a legislative panel that the Department of Children and Youth Services should be “broken up.” Apparently DCYF has not yielded to every demand made by the attorney general over the years.

A story in the Hartford Courant suggests Blumenthal’s recommendation is a rhetorical ploy. If someone, somewhere doesn’t pay attention to him, he likes to break things up, stamp his feet, get his mug in the paper.

Child Advocate Jeanne Milstein, Tonto to Blumenthal’s Lone Ranger, has suggested a study. Wonderful! Another study; this is the way the legislature usually washes its hands of persistent problems.

But Milstein also said, “I, for the record, believe the agency should remain intact.” She thinks new administrators are necessary.

Most of the persistent problems at DCS can be traced back to dysfunctional “families.” Short of shot gun weddings, Blumenthal doesn’t know what to do, and his flopping around on the sea shore of departmental studies suggests that he just doesn’t care to propose a workable solution to the problem.

The breakup of the Madonna marriage suggests a partial solution that may possibly pass muster with the soon to be new occupants in the White House: Break up the Madonna fortune and redistribute it among those suffering at the hand of an unfeeling DCFY; move everybody into one of the Madonna mansions that now dot the English countryside. They soon will be vacant; Madonna, it is rumored, is moving back to New York, where she is now starring in her “Sticky and Sweet” tour.

And will someone please shove a sock in Blumenthal’s mouth, before he breaks something valuable.

Time out for you Blumie; no mug shots for a month.

NATIONALIZING HEALTH-CARE



Without the ability to filibuster, the Senate would become like the House, able to pass whatever the majority wants.

The threat of 41 committed Senators can cause the House to modify its desires even before legislation comes to a vote. Without that restraining power, all of the following have very good chances of becoming law in 2009 or 2010.

Medicare for all
-- Wall Street J., “A Liberal Supermajority,” October 17, 2008

If Obama wins with veto-proof majorities in both Senate and House, doubts and discussions about health-care will be ended. We will have "Hillary Health Care" with minor revisions to mold it to Obama health-care. That means universal health-care with a single payer as in Canada , where it is widely recognized as a failure but never changed.

Obama wants employers to provide health-care insurance -- many now do -- for all their employees, or pay a fine. A parallel system, probably government-run, would arise for workers in firms that do not provide insurance. That is what Obama wants. He also wants the same type of insurance as is available to Congressmen and federal employees. That alternative would be good but unlikely. He has never given it more than ten words.

What does this mean? Individuals presently insured by private companies would shift to the government company, which, being subsidized, is cheaper. The number of insured would rise from 32 million to 52 million. The public would be insured against the diseases they don’t want and will never need, but which the government thinks it should have.

There will be huge waste and exorbitant overspending. The government will become the single payer. In time, taxes will have to rise or services be rationed or both. Our system be in the same position as the nationalized Canadian and European systems.

In an unexpected win by Senator McCain, not all those things will happen, as Senator McCain’s plan is not likely to be wholly embraced. He would like to shift from employers’ seeking an insurance policy for their employees, to the individual employees’ getting their own policies. They would select only what they want. McCain would subsidize everyone with an initial $2500 per individual or $5,000 per family, which individuals would use for their basic care, adding any extras out of their own pockets.

A basic difference in health-care plans is whether the emphasis is put on minimizing cost or maximizing coverage. Senator McCain’s focus is on cost. Obama’s focus and Hillary’s are on coverage. They want universal coverage, scarcely ever mentioning costs. Hillary would mandate everyone be included. Obama declares he would initially mandate all children and later “would expand the program” (to include adults).

If the nationalized Canadian and European systems are to be our model, Congress should recognize that they lead to shortages. There are over 825,000 Canadians on waiting lists for surgery and other treatments. There are one million Brits waiting to get into the hospital.

Should Congress require employers to provide health-care insurance for their employees? It is an anti-growth policy. Hiring a new employee who has a family is expensive so the requirement would militate against attracting new businesses or expanding existing businesses.

Employers can buy insurance cheaper than individuals because they can pay with tax-free funds. This unusual arrangement was created to get around President Roosevelt’s wage and price freeze. McCain’s approach is to require employees to pay with after-tax funds, to even-out the situation with non-employees. (That may be what Obama refers to when he accuses McCain of taxing employees for health insurance.)

It is often forgotten that nationalized health-care has been a failure wherever it has been adopted. Bureaucracy and irrationality combine with monopoly power to reach unhelpful decisions for patients. Besides long waits—time to die in—a monopolist is able to invent excuses for not paying claims. In England , a Yorkshire resident was refused the drug Avastin to fight her breast cancer because her house was in the wrong postal zone. When she volunteered to pay for Avastin herself, the National Health System threatened to bill her $30,000 for the treatments she had received.

York resident Leslie Howard, 77, has macular degeneration. The National Health Service said he could not have the drug to save his sight till his sight is permanently gone from his good eye.

In Australia , Nellie de Bomford has cataracts. One was removed in 2004. The other was scheduled for the 20-minute procedure in 2009.

In Newfoundland , a four-year-old had cancer of the kidney. The kidney was removed. The nationalized health service scheduled him for an MRI in 2 ½ years to see if the cancer has spread.

A Quebec resident had an appendicitis. Five hospitals, one after the other, were too busy to take him in.

The important criterion is, how well does nationalized health care serve the people? The average time for bypass surgery in New York City is 17 days; in the Netherlands, 72; in Sweden, 59. A study by the medical journal Lancet Oncology found that the U.S. has the highest five-year survival rate for 13 of the 16 most prominent cancers.

Such, such is nationalized health-care. The conclusion is inescapable. Shortage of doctors and hospitals is inevitable. Demand for doctors is increasing while supply of doctors is decreasing, as fewer young people are willing to go into nationalized health-care.

By Natalie Sirkin
c2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

Why Wall Street Crashed


In case there is anyone in the world other than Chris Dodd or Barney Frank who does not yet understand why Wall Street crashed, the Brits, as usual, can explain it all in five minutes and still leave you laughing.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dodd’s Dilemma


US Sen. Chris Dodd, whom the lustrous but air-headed Paris Hilton might well consider “a wrinkly white guy,” is still playing his seemingly nefarious connections to Countrywide close to his vest.

Wrinkly white guys sometimes wear vests, and in fact they are once again becoming popular among what used to be called the jet set.

Way back when Countrywide, the Robin Hood of mortgage lenders, was reeling from disclosures that it had lined the pockets of powerful politicians like Dodd with special discounts and rates, the media began sniffing around Dodd’s closet. Dodd was and is the chairman of the US Senate Banking committee, and as such became a magnet for funds freely given, no strings attached of course, by the financial wizards who even then were paving the way for the current Wall Street collapse.

What about this special treatment you have received from Angelo Mozilo, the serpentine head of Countrywide, the dogged media wanted to know?

The legislatively pampered Countrywide was not simply the first in a chain of financial dominoes that now lies flat; it was the moving finger that pushed the dominoes, the precipitating cause of the Wall Street meltdown.

Dodd as much as said – and the head of the banking committee is not to be quoted here – “Go fish. There’s nothing there.” Then he said he would disclose his dealings with Countrywide sometime in the future. Not now, said Dodd -- later. I’m busy putting Humpty Dumpty together again.

Well, the media went a’fishing. The media is becoming impatient. The media smells a mackerel stinking in the moonlight.

And so, this Sunday we have a few shotgun blasts at Dodd in the Hartford Courant, a paper that used to feel about Dodd the way the national media used to feel about Ms. Hilton’s “wrinkly white guy.”

John McCain, Mr. Wrinkly White Guy, was beloved of the guys and gals who buy ink by the barrel -- so long as he was an annoyance to a Republican Party right-winging it over the abyss. Then, McCain was a “maverick,” the highest accolade the critical media can bestow on a tolerable Republican.

Now? Not so much.

In a Sunday story, the Courant’s Mark Pazniokas noted that the usually garrulous Dodd answered questions concerning his delay in releasing documents he said he would release four months ago with “the inscrutability of a Zen philosopher.

"’I think it will become obvious at the time when it's the right time, and I'll explain that at the time when I do so,’ Dodd said Friday after a speech in Norwich.

“Confused? The senator refused to elaborate.

"’My answer is what it is, and in the right time, it will be there,’ Dodd said.”

Courant columnist Kevin Rennie wrote, “Dodd went from it's outrageous to think he would profit from his office, to he didn't know he got valuable special deals, to he thought everyone who refinanced with Countrywide got that kind of treatment. Those dizzying contradictions on the easy questions must have left Dodd cowering as he contemplated explaining documents that would show he knew what Countrywide was doing for him — each answer putting the lie to his past protestations.”

Left holding an empty promise, reporters, commentators and editorialists across Connecticut can only speculate what the hitch may be.

1) The records, once released, will show that Dodd knew from the first that he was receiving special treatment from his trainers at Countrywide.

2) Dodd is reluctant to release damaging information “at this time” because there is a good prospect that multiple investigations might be softened after Sen. Barack Obama occupies the White House, the Waterbury Republican American speculates.

3) Extra-legislative investigations may also be curtailed.

4) Dodd can’t talk about the records because a federal investigation by the FBI, employing RICO statutes to prosecute congressional malefactors, now is underway and his lawyers have advised the usual garrulous senator to button up his lips.

Perhaps the truth concerning Dodd’s tied tongue lies in a combination of all of the above.It will not be uncovered by assistant U.S. Attorney Nora Dannehy, former governor John Rowland’s prosecutor. She has been assigned elsewhere.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Shall There Be A Constitutional Convention?


The short and sweet answer to the question “Shall there be a constitutional convention?” ought to be a resounding “Yes!!!”

The question appears on ballots once every twenty years, with predictable results. This year the party of the status quo – all the special interests that for years have been suckling on the now withered breasts of Mother Government – is especially enraged by the idea, which was put into the state constitution by committed Jeffersonians.

It was Thomas Jefferson, a son of the enlightenment, who thought that the government of these states should participate in a bloody revolution every so often to clean the entrails of Mother Government of its detritus. After the French Revolution, Jefferson settled for constitutional change. The past, Jefferson thought, was younger than the present, because the past had not the advantage of current experience.

The forces in Connecticut that have conspired to obstruct the calling of a constitutional convention obviously disagree. By raising $830,000 so far -- a sum certain to increase -- to defeat the prospect through television ads and other propaganda, they now have put their pocket books where their intentions lie.

Ralph Waldo Emerson later summed up the entire American Experience from colonial days, through the revolution to his own contentious time in a single catch phrase: To become perfect is to have changed often.

But change – any change, even efficacious change – is the enemy of the permanent government, which is not always the elected government. The ruling estate is interested chiefly in nurturing the ruling estate. Any American worth his salt, in whom the promise of the American Revolution still beats like a tocsin and sounds like the trumpet of the last judgment, should be ashamed not to ally himself instinctively and temperamentally with efficacious change.

The best thing that can be said of John Woodcock, the Thomas Paine of the current movement to call a constitutional convention, is that the American experience, this very nearly religious faith in restorative change, is not dead in him.

There are two important possible changes that a Constitutional Convention may bring about. The “may” here is necessary because delegates to the convention will be selected by the current crop of legislators, many of whom are the high priests of the status quo.

The convention may choose to enact ballot initiative. Ballot initiative allows “factions,” as the opposition calls them, to place on election ballots propositions that may be ratified by popular vote into law. No convention will allow the factions to determine the vote; a ballot initiative that is not ratified by a majority of citizens cannot pass into law. Ballot initiative, in other words, is a method of correcting measures that are unpopular with the people but popular with powerful “factions” that have persuaded the legislature to vote into law measures that serve their narrow special interests.

The convention may choose to enact referenda. Referenda will be familiar to townsfolk in Connecticut who have voted on municipal budgets they believe are extravagant. In budget referendums across the state, it is not a minority but a majority of town voters that decide budget referendum issues.

The argument usually brought against ballot initiative and referenda is that both are un-republican. In a republican form of government, it is said, the people elect representatives who then vote “their conscience” on bills presented before them. If those bills are unpopular, the people can then elect to change circumstances by voting out the unpopular representatives and by this means effect the changes they wish. This vision of things does not anticipate a compromised conscience or a bought legislature.

And this means of change is possible only in a system of government in which there is a healthy roll over in representatives. The dominance of a single party in the legislature, gerrymandered districts, the overwhelming advantages enjoyed by incumbents, a compromised media adverse to change, the evident capture of certain incumbents by permanent factions in the state; these are all signs that the democracy itself has been overcome by unrepresentative ruling forces that are perfectly willing to act athwart the will of the people, who are unorganized and rendered powerless.

Under these circumstances, initiative and referenda are aides to a more representative, less sclerotic government.

The question that lovers of liberty should be asking when they go to the polls to vote on the convening of a constitutional convention is this: What would Jefferson do?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Good Guys and The Bad Guys, a Satire


Here on the far left, there are two kinds of bad guys: good bad guys and bad bad guys.

Jesse James is an example of a good bad guy. Like US Rep. Barney Frank and US Sen. Chris Dodd, he had developed over a period of years the good bad habit of shaking down the Big Boys – large banks, trains full of wealthy commuters -- and distributing their ill gotten gains among the oppressed, some of whom were his friends.

Billy the Kid was a good bad guy. He shot up a lot of bullies, some of them sheriffs, was a true white knight toward the ladies and, a Byronic romantic, allied himself with what he thought was the honorable side in a violent range war. Bit of bad luck there.

Al Capone was a good bad guy: He rid Chicago of lots of bad bad guys, mostly by shooting them. He was anti-prohibitionist at a time when even FDR’s first Vice President, John Nance Garner, was tippling in the White House to protest temperance leagues. Like Charlie Rangle of New York, he was indifferent about paying taxes. In the course of his wanderings, he unfortunately contracted syphilis, dying from it in jail. A bit of bad luck there.

Robin Hood, the redistributionist, was a good bad guy.

The sheriff of Nottingham was a bad bad guy.

Joseph Stalin was widely regarded as a good bad guy, most touchingly by border-line socialist Henry Wallace, FDR’s second Vice President, and George Bernard Shaw, the Nietzschean playwright – until Papa Joe formed a pact with Adolph Hitler, the mesmerizing Fuehrer of Nazi Germany, who was a bad bad guy. Some demur and think there was a bright side even to Hitler; he was, after all, a pagan vegetarian who liked dogs. But anyone who has attempted to empathize with the vegetarian dog lover generally has been regarded as a bad bad guy.

However, some on the left are ambivelent towards people who feel warmly about Hitler’s final solution – for instance Mahmoud Amadinejad, the personable president of Iran, twice invited to enlighten the United Nations members in New York, the site of the terrorist bombing of the Twin Towers. Get the flakey Amadinejad off the point of the Zionist threat, and you may discover beneath the terrorist surface a tender, tolerable vegetarian, like Hitler, a charming bank robber, like Jesse James, and a mesmerizing speaker, like the next president of the United States, Barack Obama.

While examples of bad bad guys abound, it would seem that president George Bush -- who ought to be impeached, flayed alive and hung by his thumbs in the US Capitol rotunda while being forced to listen to the sonorous speeches of Robert Byrd – ranks among the highest order of bad bad guys.

First of all, he started a war on the false pretext that the honorable president of Iraq was concealing Weapons of Mass Destruction from Hans Blick, a UN WMD inspector who, some think, would have trouble finding Al Capone if he were hiding under his bed; then Bush deposed the honorable Saddam Hussein; then he diddled in the White House while Iraq descended into chaos, finally settling on a general who routed al-Qaeda in Iraq – when really he ought to have listened to the next president of the United States, Barack Obama, who has now pledged unilaterally to invade a sovereign state, Pakistan, for the purpose of seeking out and destroying Osama bin Ladin, the Al Capone of al-Qaeda, without so much as a nod in the direction of our allies, France and Germany. Bin Ladin may or may not be alive at this point, though almost everyone would agree that he is a weapon of mass destruction and ought to be destroyed.

Barack Obama is one of the good good guys. To be sure, there are some unsavory characters tucked into the dark recesses of his closet but, on the whole, he’s good, like Robin Hood. We are not quite sure why this is so – it may have something to do with his ideological compatibility with Henry Wallace, Chris Dodd and Barney Frank -- but we are certain it is so.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Toward a Politics of Principle

Republicans who lean to the right in Connecticut are used to running the knout. This is because the mainstream media in the state is 99 and 9/10 percent pure liberal or, as timid liberals now prefer to call themselves, progressive.

But there are two kinds of Republicans in Connecticut.

Among a certain kind of Republican, prolonged exposure to the knout produces an amused weariness best glimpsed in the famous Reagan remark, “There you go again.” Reagan ran the knout, put salve on his wounds and lived to fight another day. Battling made him more resolute because he was not entirely absorbed by political considerations alone. He had a life. He was amused by the opposition. He had a flag to defend, and he defended it stoutly. He could boast, along with other principled warriors, that there were no scars on his back, while his front was loaded with them.

For a host of reasons, there are very few Republicans of this kind in Connecticut. Politicians running for office really do, when all is said and done, want to hold on to office. The price of office in Connecticut, a state chock-a-block with liberals, is very dear. One is constantly forced to trim one’s principles to the prevailing wind, which invariably blows left.

The second kind of Republican is a man of no strong principle, the sort of fellow St. Thomas More had in mind when he called Cranmer a pragmatist. “What, Cranmer?” says More to his son-in-law Roper in Robert Bolt’s play A Man for All Seasons. “Pooh, he's a pragmatist -- and that's the only resemblance he has to the Devil, son Roper; a pragmatist, the merest plumber.”

But plumbers, as More soon discovered, know how to make a living at the expense of men of principle. The ever crafty Cranmer caught More in his net and lived for a season petted by the reigning prince, until the mercurial prince turned his face against him. Pragmatists first lose their heads in pursuit of success; then they lose their heads. More was not a man for all seasons because he trimmed his principles to the season. It would be truer to say that that he trimmed the passing seasons to his principles. More knew that nothing flees from a principle so fast as a faddist, unless it is a pragmatist.

Surveying the political terrain in Connecticut, one discovers that the legislature has been in Democrat hands for decades. The executive office has been held by Republican moderates, but they are a vanishing species. All the moderates, the middle of the roaders, the plumbers, the pragmatists, have been displaced by Democrats. And the Democrat Party, both state-wide and nationally, is lurching to the left. The lone exception is Chris Shays, the last so called “moderate,” bi-partisan US Republican congressman in New England.

Under attack in the age of Obama by a vigorous liberal, Shays will have a hard row to hoe. He cannot depend on a spirited Republican Party, because the state Republican Party, for years shaped and molded by an accommodationist ethic, is itself dispirited, though in some respects this seems to be changing. State Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy permits himself to be guided by an internal gyroscope, and the party leadership, the true agent of change in the state, is not at all unprincipled.

The new Republican Party is no longer plugged into an ethic or an economic disposition determined by the state’s power brokers. In the last few years, Republican leaders have politely detached themselves from the yoke placed about their necks by past and present Republican governors, who are of necessity more accomodationist than party activists. These are hopeful signs; they indicate the emergence of a politics of change that may more effectively challenge the status quo.

And the absence of indicators that measure of the health of a state – personal savings not eaten away by an increasingly incompetent bureaucracy, the ability of the state to retain and employ a talented entrepreneurial pool of young workers, a modest and efficient government that is not the servant of special interests, a healthy roll over in political offices, industries that are not looking for exit doors, a true non-partisan media unwilling to co-operate with the present regime – strongly suggests that changes in the status quo would be both liberating and necessary.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Revolutionary Frame of Mind


The time is coming when Governor Jodi Rell will no longer be able to address serious problems in Connecticut with the usual bromides.

Rell, as we all know, has been a caretaker governor ever since the jailer slammed the prison door shut on former Governor John Rowland, who was in many respects also a caretaker governor.

Caretaker governors are those that take care of the permanent government.

Rowland swept into office on a wave of intense anger mixed with contempt for the previous governor, Lowell Weicker, father of the state’s income tax, an incubus that Connecticut’s sister state, Massachusetts, soon may attempt to shed in a ballot initiative vote. In his first campaign, Rowland promised to axe the tax but eventually succumbed, as many unprincipled (read: pragmatic) politicians do, to power brokers, mostly Democrats, with whom he quickly came to terms.

The mutually beneficial deal Rowland struck with the prevailing power structure was this: There would be no serious spending or tax cuts; the Democrats could continue to preen before powerful liberal interest groups, while assuring them they would be well fed from the public trough; Rowland would put up a brave show of resistance -- One newspaper during the usual bi-annual budget farce denominated him a “firewall” -- but on the final day of budget negotiations, none of the swelling surpluses would be returned to taxpayers, and every succeeding budget would take a larger and larger bite from taxpayer resources.

We promise.

Rowland and Rell are Republicans; Weicker was a Republican with a bad conscience who had not the courage to leave his party and formally join the Democrats. Republicans in the state have yet to elect a bearish Republican. Neither money nor Ronald Reagan grows on trees. But this may change as the state tailspins into controlled chaos, forcing politicians, Rell included, to make serious choices. In a flat economy in which entrepreneurial talent and money flies to other states – Massachusetts here we come, provided you axe your income tax – nip and tuck won’t do.

Hard questions, one columnist wrote, “will grow more complicated as the scale of the state's troubles continues to reveal itself. The answers will show whether Rell can summon more than symbols.”

Here is a hard question: During the good times -- a good time being a budgeting point in which no one had to make hard choices because “the little engine that could” along the Gold Coast in Connecticut continued to haul money into the state’s coffers – it was easy to fool all the people all the time. But now that the Gold Cost engine has pooped out, the usual rhetoric will not wear well on taxpayers who have just bailed out bankers and Wall Street moguls to the tune of $700 billion, so far. Where will the state get the money to stuff into its budgetary hole? Answer: no where. It is no use going begging to Uncle Sam either. He has gone begging himself.

It looks like it’s budget cutting time.

There will be blood.

It is betrayals by the governing class that make revolutions. In a little more than two weeks, there also will be a ballot question allowing voters (read: taxpayers) to call a constitutional convention in the course of which voters may decide to institute referenda and ballot initiatives.

There is one serious objection usually put forward – as it happens, precisely by those in whose interest it is to co-operate with the present system – to sink the constitutional convention, which comes round once every twenty years.

Republican government, say some entrenched politicians, has no need of special devices such as referenda and ballot initiative to curtail the bad habits of entrenched politicians. The proper answer to this question is: Says who? Allowing a constitutional convention is a much more dangerous proposition than permitting referenda and ballot initiative. The idea of repetitive constitutional conventions is Jeffersonian in inspiration. Jefferson thought that the people should engage in revolution more often than would satisfy Connecticut’s present attorney general or its Democrat majority in the legislature. Budget referendums, common in municipalities, are not inherently un-republican. And while a so called “faction” may propose a ballot initiative, the initiative itself is disposed of by a majority of voters, presumably the same majority that continually elects to office the politicians who disapprove of ballot initiative.

When courts intervene to rearrange the pillars of society, the same folk who faint at the prospect of ballot initiate head for the hills.

So, what’s the problem?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Freddie, Fannie, Dodd and McCain


Sen. John McCain’s 2006 letter warning about Fannie and Freddie and GSE’s precedes Sen. Chris Dodd’s touching concern for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by a significant margin.

A late September story in the Hartford Courant noted that, “that although Dodd amassed a strong rhetorical record on the housing crisis, it was not until 10 months ago that he introduced legislation aimed squarely at the industry, with a bill banning practices that drove up fees for home buyers, providing millions for foreclosure counseling and strengthening the oversight of government-sponsored mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac>

By that time the walls of Jericho were already crumbling.

“At a hearing just seven months ago,” according to the Courant story, “Dodd deflected critics of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, saying the two firms remained healthy sources of credit, even as other mortgage firms collapsed.

“'The system is under siege,’ Dodd declared, ‘and it is the GSEs that are riding to the rescue,’’ an amusing notion, somewhat on a par with noting that cancer cells are riding to the rescue of the patient.

“At the same hearing,” the Courant story continues, “Dodd sent the message that he would be taking a cautious approach to reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, even as a House-passed bill to overhaul regulation of the firms had been languishing for eight months in his Senate committee.

"Let me be clear," he said. "I will not be the one to preside over a legislative process that dismantles this system. I will pursue GSE legislation, and I will do so aggressively, but I will not do anything that undermines the foundations of this highly beneficial system."


By way of contrast, here is a copy of a letter written by McCain in May of 2006 to the Majority Leader of the senate and the chairman of the Banking Housing and Urban Affairs Committee:

The letter begins, “We are concerned that if effective regulatory reform legislation for the housing-finance government sponsored enterprises (GSE’s) is not enacted this year, American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risks that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market, the overall financial system and the economy as a whole. Therefore we offer you our support in bringing the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act (S. 190) to the floor and allowing the Senate to debate the merits of this bill, which was passed by the senate Banking Committee…

The letter stated it was "...vitally important that Congress take the necessary steps to ensure that [Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac]...operate in a safe and sound manner.[and]..More importantly, Congress must ensure that the American taxpayer is protected in the event that either...should fail."

Sen. Obama did not sign the letter, nor did any other Democrat.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Supremes on Homosexual and Lesbian Marriage


Connecticut’s Supreme Court has decided, by judicial fiat, to ignore for purposes of law any differences between heterosexual and homosexual marriage. The court’s decision, which can be reversed only through a constitutional amendment, moves the state behind a bunker defended by only two other state supreme courts: Massachusetts and California.

As always, the dissenting opinions were the more interesting

Justice Peter T. Zarella denied there was a fundamental right to same-sex marriage and asserted the primacy of the legislature in deciding such issues. “The ancient definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman has its basis in biology, not bigotry,” he wrote. “If the state no longer has an interest in the regulation of procreation, then that is a decision for the legislature or the people of the state and not this court.”

The majority opinion, written by Judge Richard Palmer, is little more than juridical piddle, social engineering parading as judicial reasoning.

When the rhetorical fat is boiled out of Palmer’s decision, the majority decision will be found to rest upon the following hilarious judicial principle: justice requires judges to bend to powerful lobbies once the desires of those lobbies have been ratified by socially conscious judges.

Palmer’s decision is not subject to appeal. State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who once thought that Connecticut’s statutory law would serve as a breakwater against attempts such as those made in Massachusetts to subvert by judicial fiat the positive law of the states, now tells us, a little belatedly, that what the Connecticut Supreme Court has decided cannot be undone by the laws of God and man.

And no one need ask Blumenthal whether he personally would support the reversal of such judicial arrogance through a constitutional amendment, because the attorney general, concerned with maintaining himself in power and an ardent supporter of the present order of things, has already told us he would oppose the convening of a constitutional convention, an option offered to Connecticut citizens once every twenty years. The option will be on the ballot this November.

Put into the language of advertising and political campaigning, Palmer’s written decision amounts to little more than a revocation of one of the guiding principles of law: that justice requires unequal things to be treated unequally. There is no equivalence between homosexual and heterosexual marriage, and the decision reached by the court will make it nearly impossible logically to object to the sanctioning of other kinds of marriages that may be objectionable even to the fine sensibilities of the chairmen of the legislative committees that oversee laws relating to the courts, Rep. Michael Lawlor and state Sen. Andrew McDonald, both of whom are gay.

Chairman of the legislature's Judiciary Committee Lawlor believes that the legislature will be quickly brought to heel by the Supreme Court’s decision. “It's important," he said, “that both the legislature and the court weigh in. The court is saying that it's a constitutional requirement that marriage should be equally available to gays and straights and the legislature should weigh in saying whether or not it's constitutionally required, it's the right thing to do.”

In his position as Judiciary Chairman, Lawlor will see to it that right, as he understands it, is done.

Having decided to treat male/male and female/female marriages as being equal to heterosexual marriages, and having cut down the laws that obstruct the social mission of the state supreme court and gay lobbyists in the state, upon what legal principle will any of the state courts rely to deny other clamorous partners the questionable “right” to socially unacceptable arrangements? Polygamous marriages are certainly acceptable among Muslims, and they would seem to be sanctioned by a rigorous application of that clause in the First Amendment that prohibits the state from prohibiting the free exercise of religion. If Connecticut’s Supreme Court should choose to object to such arrangements, what principle will the court advance to prevent polygamy, especially since the practice is, and has been for centuries, socially acceptable among religious Muslims?

The quasi-legal principle upon which Palmer rested his reasoning -- that gay marriage is becoming more socially acceptable -- may be true among a handful of jurists in three states. The people in California, Massachusetts and now Connecticut have not instructed their legislators, either directly or through the ballot box, to write laws permitting homosexual and lesbian marriages, evidence, if any were necessary, of the justice of Barry Goldwater’s quip that if you lop off California and New England, you’ll have a pretty good country.