Wednesday, December 31, 2008

McEnroe RIP

Colin McEnroe – radio talk show host, columnist, former religious reporter for the Hartford Courant, and a member of the illuminati – is now off the air, and there are grumblings right and left.

A fan writes in the Courant:

"I am inexpressibly SHATTERED by the unforeseen and unforgivable loss of Colin. What is wrong with those MORONS at WTIC? Can they not recognize the sublime genius and JOY that is Colin? Please, oh please, BARRAGE them with "Bring Back Colin" missives to: 10 Executive Drive, Farmington, CT 06032.
Talent of his caliber does NOT come along very often in one lifetime, and I deplore and despair loosing this tremendously precious human being.
Say it ain't so...SCREAM it ain't so…God Help Us...And GOOD RIDDANCE to STUPID, BORING, and TRAGICALLY MYOPIC WTIC."


The contras were legion, brief, brutal and short.

But Colin’s talents cannot be denied. He has flair with the language and a ready wit. And then, of course, there is his saving friendship with Bill Curry, Connecticut’s version of Adlai Stevenson.

The Colin McEnroe show was better than most liberal offerings and lasted longer than most. Why people make the decisions they do in talk radio and television are often inscrutable, but McEnroe’s leave-taking probably had something to do with ratings, the bane of artists everywhere.

The grand-daddy of talk show hosts is, of course, Rush Limbaugh, who established the talk show template decades ago. Everyone on the left who has attempted to follow that template has suffered the fate of McEnroe, who was best when he was not talking directly about religion of politics, all of which suggests that liberals, to be successful in talk-show land, should create their own templates. The Limbaugh template succeeded, in part, because it was a refreshing change from the same old, same old liberal commentary one finds in the now much despised Main Stream Media.

What a successful liberal radio talk show template would look like is anybody’s guess. It could not be an echo chamber of the incoming liberal Obama administration. The president elect has his own abundant cheering section, and talk show banter is most effective when it is not upholding the current regime.

When he was not sitting across the phone with a conservative or libertarian, McEnroe was a fine interviewer. He was not able to handle his opposite numbers with the flair of, say, a Bill Buckley, perhaps the best interviewer since Socrates. In the age of angry bloggers and half mad radio talk show hosts, perhaps the Buckley template is something of an artifact.

In any case, it is to be hoped that McEnroe does not deflate altogether. There is a place for such, somewhere, in Media Land.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Blago’s Choice

"Please don't allow the allegations against me to taint this good and honest man," Governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich said, and with that he announced his appointment of former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris as his choice to fill President-elect Barack Obama’s senatorial seat.

Some people, among them the man whose seat Burris is to fill, were not amused.

Said the president-elect, "Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant, but the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat. I agree with their decision, and it is extremely disappointing that Governor Blagojevich has chosen to ignore it. I believe the best resolution would be for the Governor to resign his office and allow a lawful and appropriate process of succession to take place. While Governor Blagojevich is entitled to his day in court, the people of Illinois are entitled to a functioning government and major decisions free of taint and controversy."

If the tainted and controversial governor, who is by law solely responsible for making such appointments, were to appoint St. Francis of Assisi to fill Obama’s senatorial shoes, the objections issuing from his administration – it is not too soon to begin to speak of an Obama administration – would remain the same.

In fact, Blagojevich’s appointment is probably freer of taint and controversy than Obama’s choice of Eric Holder as US Attorney General. Burris cannot be accused of facilitating pardons for convicted Cuban trained terrorists, and he does not even have a nodding acquaintance with Mark Rich, contributor to former President Bill Clinton’s campaigns and still, possibly, the largest tax defrauder in US history.

No one seems to be too mush affrighted by that taint and stink of corruption.

US Attorney General-elect Eric Holder Was Not Straight With Congress

At the time president Bill Clinton pardoned a wealthy contributor to his campaigns, Mark Rich, Attorney General-designate Eric Holder was the number 2 man in the Justice Department. Clinton had fired all the US attorneys connected with the previous administration and appointed new faces in the department.

At the time of the pardon, Rich was the largest tax defrauder in the United States. In sworn testimoney before Congress, Holder claimed he had “only a passing familiarity" with the case against Rich.

The Washington Times is now reporting:

“Correspondence with the Justice Department and testimony secured by Congress from other witnesses show that 15 months before the pardon, Mr. Holder met privately with Mr. Rich's attorney and received a presentation about what Mr. Rich's defense believed were flaws in the government's case.

"Mr. Holder, then serving as the No. 2 official in the Clinton Justice Department, later took the rare step of contacting federal prosecutors handling Mr. Rich's case in New York and, according to his own testimony, tried to "facilitate" a meeting with the defense.

“The Republican lawmaker who investigated the controversial Rich pardon told The Washington Times that evidence documenting the 1999 contacts conflicts with Mr. Holder's testimony and that he has forwarded information he has on the subject to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will examine President-elect Barack Obama's choice for attorney general.

“Mr. Holder ‘certainly had more than a passing familiarity with this case,’ said Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, who oversaw the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee when it investigated the Rich pardon in 2001.

"’I know human beings are fallible and they make mistakes, but making statements that are not accurate while under oath before a congressional committee goes beyond the pale,’ he said. ‘Sure as the dickens, he was not straight with our committee.’"

Thus far, none of the members of Connecticut’s all-Democrat congressional delegation -- US senators Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman and US Reps. John Larson, Joe Courtney, hris Murphy and Rosa Delauro -- have yet offered substantial comments on President-elect Obama’s choice of Holder as Attorney General.

And out own usually voluable Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has preserved a dignified silence.

Will someone please wake Connecticut’s congressional delegation up.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The US Attorney General-elect and the Terrorists


In 1983, a gang of criminals trained in Cuba under the enlightened administration of Fidel Castro, pictured to the left schmoozing with a well known US senator and sometime later the governor of Connecticut, knocked over a Wells Fargo office in West Hartford and absconded to Cuba with $7.2 million.

Following a 1986 visit to Cuba, Weicker told The Village Voice that Castro was "a man of enormous intellect and idealism. Castro has been known to snow people but he didn't snow me. We flew all over the place and I saw what he has done with my own eyes. By Caribbean standards, it's Park Avenue."

It is not known whether during his brief visit Weicker asked Castro to turn over Wells Fargo robbers to his custody.

All were members of a Puerto Rican terrorist gang called Los Macheteros, a group affiliated with the Armed Forces of National Liberation linked to 130 bombings, a few murders and about a dozen robberies. According to the FBI, Los Macheteros, among other radical Indepenentistas, were the vanguard of the often violent Puerto Rican independence movement and one of the nation's foremost domestic terror threats.

Hartford native Victor M. Gerena, an inside man who directed the robbery, sought and received protection from Cuba's terrorist facilitators, but a number of Cuban trained bank robbers and terrorists were apprehended, tried and convicted of their crimes.

And then, as the lame duck Clinton administration trailed of into irrelevancy, clemency was offered to 16 radical Independentistas. The bank robbers and terrorists, all affiliated with the Armed Forces of National Liberation, were awarded with sentence reductions or remissions of fines, though none of them had applied personally for clemency.

The clemency process was highly irregular. Juan Enrique Segarra-Palmer, 55-year sentence was cut by about half and in three other cases fines of either $100,000 or $50,000 were forgiven. None of the convicted criminals awarded clemency were pressured by the Justice Department to give information concerning the location of the unrecovered money or the three participants in the robbery, one of whom was Gerena. Pressure of this kind brought to bear against criminals and their willingness to disgorge such information is common in clemency cases.

None of the groups opposed to the Puerto Rico clemency were consulted, as is usual in such cases. However, The Hartford Courant reported, “records show that Holder and other top Justice and White House officials met at least nine times with advocates for the prisoners. Notes of those meetings led congressional critics to complain that the officials advised the prisoner advocates how to craft correspondence to support the case for clemency.”

Eric Holder, the No. 2 man in the Clinton administration Justice Department from 1997 to 2001 recently nominated by president-elect Barack Obama as the new administration’s attorney general, directed the federal Office of the Pardon Attorney, the office responsible for investigating and issuing recommendations on executive clemency applications.

“As a result,” the paper reported, “he had a decisive role in controversial Clinton-era pardons, including that of billionaire Mark Rich, a fugitive tax cheat whose case has dominated discussion of Holder's nomination and is expected to be topic No. 1 at the confirmation hearings.”

Topic No. 2 doubtless will be the role played by Obama’s choice of attorney general in the highly unorthodox proceedings that awarded the Cuban trained terrorists with reduced sentences and fine reductions.

As Ricky Ricardo might say, Holder's got a lot of ‘splaining to do.

Others who may have a lot of explaining to do are Hillary Clinton, president-elect Obama's choice as Secretary of State, and US senators such as Chris Dodd.
In the past, Doidd has had a touchy-feely relationship with some undemocratic Latin American regimes that have sponsored terrorism. It should be interesting to hear the embattled Dodd's take on Obama's choice of the Clinton era pardoner-in-chief as attorney general, assuming any reporter bothers to ask him.

While critical of the pardons when they were issued, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont has styled Holder "uniquely qualified" to end the political meddling he said occurred in the Justice Department under former Bush administration Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

However, ranking Republican on the committee Sen. Arlen Specter has said on the floor of the senate, “I don't think it is useful to get into the specifics as to the precise concerns which I raised and his precise answers, But by analogy to the Gonzales tenure, I think it is imperative we be sure the attorney general of the United States does not bend his views to accommodate his appointer; that the attorney general does not bend his views in any way which is partisan or political, to serve any interest other than the interests of justice.”

The bending of the usual rules of the clemency process in the case of the convicted Cuban trained robbers and terrorists suggest the office of pardons, under the direction of Holder, was more than happy to engage in political meddling.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Palin-Kennedy Revisited

Andrew Sullivan, no Republican Party stooge, compares Caroline Kennedy, the presumptive senator from New York, and Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, finding one of them wanting:

“I was struck by this story in the NYT this morning:

“As the day wore on, the carefully maintained silence surrounding her campaign-that-isn’t cracked, then shattered under the weight of the intense public interest her bid has drawn. She declined any questions in Syracuse, grudgingly answered a few in Rochester, and then gave what almost felt like — but was not — a full-fledged news conference in Buffalo, joined by the mayor there, Byron W. Brown.

"Remind you of anyone?

"In fact, Sarah Palin was more qualified to be vice-president than Caroline Kennedy is to be a Senator. Both are celebrities, but Palin made her own way herself, winning election as mayor and governor without the kind of raw nepotism now on display in New York State. The model now, of course, is similar - finding a way to get elected without actually exposing your inadequacies. Hence the press shutdown. But Kennedy's self-defense is even more painful than Palin's:

“’I just hope everybody understands that it is not a campaign but that I have a lifelong devotion to public service,’ Ms. Kennedy said as she left the office of the Monroe County Democratic Committee in Rochester. ‘I’ve written books on the Constitution and the importance of individual participation. And I’ve raised my family.’

“Good for you. But so have millions of others. And why do you get to parachute in to the Senate? Who do you think you are, a Clinton?”

Meanwhile, progressives are either swallowing their tongues or befuddled. A search on Colin McEnroe’s site, “To Wit," reveals only one snarky comment on sweet Caroline. McEnroe has written voluminously on the question of Palin’s fitness to serve as Vice President, a largely ceremonial position the importance of which is perfectly captured in John “Cactus Jack” Garner’s description of the office as not being worth “a warm pitcher of piss.” Garner was FDR’s Vice President.

There are some who argue that the vice presidency under Dick Cheney was very influential, but it is the president who decides these matters. Constitutionally, the vice presidency requires far less executive experience than does a position of senator, particularly from New York. Palin beat both Obama and certainly Caroline Kennedy in this regard.

McEnroe, in fact, is one of Sullivan's most fervent fans: “So I just wrote an embarrassingly breathless fan letter to Andrew Sullivan, who appeared with Bill Moyers at the Connecticut Forum last night.

“Sullivan has one of those minds... It's like a light saber in a Jedi's hands, to continue the Lucas analogies. It's just fun watching him take apart a problem, any problem, whether you agree with his solution or not. Global warming, Islamic fundamentalism, Christian conservatives, science, faith, AIDS, sexuality. He was leaping all over the Bushnell stage without ever leaving his seat.”

But this time, maybe no so much.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Bush Legacy, a Prequel

Kevin Hassett of Bloomberg News has offered a prequel of the Bush legacy, and it doesn’t look good for the Bush beaters. Historians usually are not quite so tempermental as bloggers, commentators and compromised reporters.

On the Iraq war:
“The argument for his eventual vindication is stronger than many might expect.

“On foreign policy, Bush emphasizes that he pursued a “freedom agenda” and spread freedom to Iraq. While the Iraqi future is far from clear, it is possible that the country becomes a democracy and a reliable ally of the U.S. If that transformation is completed, then it could well be viewed as a turning point in the war on terror.
“On the home front, to virtually everyone’s surprise, we’ve avoided a terrorist attack since Sept. 11.”

On the body blow to the economy:
“We are in the midst of the worst recession of our generation, yet it is hard to attribute this crisis to anything that Bush actively did. If his large deficits produced skyrocketing interest rates that crushed the economy, then the argument that Bush caused the mess we’re in might hold water. If he was the one who deregulated the financial sector, then we could justifiably blame him for our predicament.

“Instead, the forces that allowed the financial sector to blow up -- deregulation, for example -- were in place when he took office. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who failed to stem the crisis, was inherited from the previous president. Bush even tried to avert the crisis early and often in his presidency, as he sought strict limits on the actions of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage-finance companies that were at ground zero of the crisis.”

Monday, December 22, 2008

Absolution for Obama: Who Knew What, and When Did They Know It?

Rham Emmanuel, the numero uno aide in the incoming Obama administration, has now been offered absolution of any wrong doing in any connection he or the Obama administration may have had with media tainted Governor of Chicago Rod Blagojevich by 1) the Obama administration (in a report the administration soon will released) and 2) host of ABC’s “This Week,” George Stephanopoulos, to whom the report was released early. It's who you know that counts in political reporting.

That should satisfy the the complaisant Main Stream Media, as well as President-elect Barack Omaha’s other adoring fans.

“I have been briefed on the review that Obama has done,” Stephanopoulos said. “The sources I talked to say that what it will show is there were actually far less contacts than we had heard – that Rahm Emanuel only had one phone call with Governor Blagojevich. It wasn’t even really about the Senate seat.”

The New York Times is reporting that "lawyers who compiled the Obama review did not have access to wiretapped telephone conversations between Obama aides and the governor’s office." The report itself is "a product of cooperation from the office of Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, who is leading the federal investigation into Mr. Blagojevich." Upon its release, Obama will not answer any questions relating to it.

Cynics – there can never be too many of them, though they do seem to scatter at the mention of Obama’s name – may continue to have reservations. Stephanopoulos is a man of the left, bubbling with good will. And although the report concludes, according to Stephanopoulos’ interpretation, that Emmanuel has had only one direct phone conversation with Blagojevich, Obama's chief has had numerous conversations with Blagojevich's chief aide John Harris – aide to aide communications.

It would be very odd indeed if Obama's caretakers were to permit a direct contact between their chief and the soiled Blagojevich; and it was politically astute for Emmanuel to maintain a discrete distance. The Obama administration likely was kept informed of prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation, through discrete third parties.

ABC’s Cokie Roberts thought: “It would be political malpractice if somebody from the Obama had not talked to the governor.” The same may be said of the Fitzgerald investigation, which exculpated the president-elect -- and only the president-elect -- very early on, without releasing transcripts of the conversations.

Jesse Jackson Jr. has been a prosecutorial informant long before Blagojevich was served with Fitzgerald’s letter of accusation. Obama, Jackson and Emmanuel are old Chicago political intimates. Obama cannot say of any of them, as was the case with Bill Ayres, the sixties terrorist, that they were guys he knew in the neighborhood. Is it plausible to think that the left hand never knew what the right hand was doing -- in Chicago politics?

Who knows what Fitzgerald folks have caught on tape, certainly not Stephanopoulos or his intimates. An honorable cynic would suppose that we’ll find out around the time Obama’s second term runs out – assuming there is not a deep throat in the mix somewhere.

One used to seek absolution from priests, Rabbis and ministers. Now it is dispensed by Cokie and George, the commentary cops. Nothing here -- move on please.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Environmental Defense Fund Burries DDT

With the help of Environmental Protection Agency’s Administrator, William Ruckelshaus, the media, and environmental organizations, DDT today is as rare as Mercurochrome. Article after article discusses the decades-long efforts to develop a malarial vaccine, mentioning the unsatisfactory measures in use, but omits the efficacious DDT—the greatest, the cheapest.

Yet the manufacturers of DDT were among the first lawsuits targeted by the infant Environmental Defense Fund, then three guys and a clipboard. One of the three, Victor John Yannacone, Jr., spoke of those early days at the paper industry’s luncheon meeting on May 20, 1970. (We have a transcript.)

Yannacone’s credentials: “I think I ought to disabuse you all, at the beginning, of some basic prejudices. . . . I have no undergraduate degree, and for those of you who wonder about my legal talents . . ., you ought to know that I have the lowest average of anybody who ever graduated in the entire history of Brooklyn Law School , which is not a law school of the first rank.”

Yannacone’s association with EDF: “I’m no longer associated with the Environmental Defense Fund . . . If you haven’t already done your public relations homework, this will come as something of a surprise. We formed the Environmental Defense Fund in 1967, to take direct legal action in matters of environmental crisis where there was a substantial dispute as to the facts, and where there was no forum for the orderly confrontation of experts with their divergent opinions. This accounts for why we picked DDT as a pesticide and Hoerner Waldorf as a paper company. Now you’ve all heard the DDT stories . . .”

[Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, Silent Spring, was a devastating attack on pesticides that brought DDT world-wide concerns.]

Yannacone’s background of lawsuit: “In 1969, in August, there was a great conflict among the amalgamated bird watchers of the world over whether or not DDT should be further attacked, or whether we were beating a dead horse. And the conflict was basically over birds or people. . . . We [old civil rights lawyers] . . . sort of drifted into the environmental field by simply making the analogy that the right to the cleanest air and the cleanest water that the existing state-of-the-art in pollution control technology . . . can give us is . . . another fundamental human right.. That’s the . . . argument we advanced in the anti-trust suit against the manufacturers of DDT.

“Now, during August, 1969, I made a public statement to some representatives of the National Agricultural Chemicals Association, saying that if we had a rational pesticide policy in 1946, we could still be using DDT . . . [and] the other chlorinated hydro-carbons in limited quantities because we wouldn’t have 120 million tons of this material circulating around the world. And that what we should be driving at is a rational policy with respect to long-term environmental toxicants. . . . Well, this statement was considered a sell-out to the industry.”

Yannacone’s dispute on tactics: “Well, Dr. Wurster, who was then the leader of [the] scientific team in the DDT fight, decided that we should hire a public relations firm, call a press conference, announce that DDT causes cancer, and demand, under the Delaney Amendment, that the FDA-USDA cancel the use of DDT immediately. I then told Charley [Wurster] that we’ve gone along for two and a half years without ever calling a press conference. We got . . . 19,000 column inches . . . and much more in magazines. . . .by saying what had to be said in a forum where the statements could be tested . . .

“Dr. Wurster then decided that I had finally sold out to industry and that as long as it was DDT we were talking about, the end justifies the means and he was going to have his press conference. That’s when the basic split began in the Environmental Defense Fund.”

“Another widening of the split occurred when a reporter asked the same Dr. Wurster whether or not the ban on the use of DDT wouldn’t encourage further use of the very toxic materials, Parathione, Azodrin and Methyparathione, the organo-phosphates, nerve gas derivatives. And he said ‘Probably.’ The reporter than asked him if these organo-phosphates didn’t have a long record of killing people. And Dr. Wurster, reflecting the views of a number of other scientists, said ‘So what. People are the cause of all the problems; we have too many of them; we need to get rid of some of them; and this is as good a way as any.’ That’s not a random opinion. . . . You’ll hear scientists all over the country now on the population bandwagon talking like that. . . . I’m listening to the same stuff I read a very famous world leader say in the period 1933 to 1936, only in those days he was talking about non-[A]ryans. . . . “

“But, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the next statement . . . ‘Well, doctor, how do you square this killing of people with the mere loss of some birds?’ And this very eminent, very well-meaning scientist said, ‘It doesn’t really make a lot of difference because the organo-phosphates act locally and only kill farm workers and most of them are Mexicans and Negroes.’ . . .

“ [I]t suddenly dawned on me that I was in the wrong group. . . .”

How stands the case? The EDF prospers, and malaria flourishes. DDT was found to be no threat to humans or wildlilfe by the EPA hearing commissioner. EDF appealed to Administrator Ruckelshaus to overturn that decision. Ruckelshaus did.

By Natalie Sirkin
c2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Name Four Ways to Cut Spending

Shelly Sindland, the affable host of “The Real Story,” a Fox news production, had on her program three guests: Chris Healy, the chairman of the state Republican Party, Roy Occhiogrosso, a principal with Global Strategy Group, and Kevin Rennie, once a Republican state Rep. and now a commentator for the Hartford Courant.

Mrs. Sindland asked of her guests a question that reporters should not fail to ask of legislators as the state attempts to discharge a $6 billion biennial budget deficit: How do we cut spending?

At first there was some palaver about tolls, selling Bradley Field and selling off portions of state highways to private firms for maintenance, while politely asking the UConn Health Center to return some of the money lavished upon it by past legislatures.

Then Mrs. Sindland offered an idea of how to pump money back into the economy:

“I have a great idea. A congressman from Texas on the federal level is proposing to suspend the income tax and the social security tax for two months at a cost of $350 million dollars. Why not let people keep their money and let people figure out for themselves how to pump money back into the economy?”

Healy, conversant with conservative ideas, began to bobble his head. “I’m all for that,” he said. One of Healy’s conservative heroes is the late Bill Buckley who, tracing the course of a dollar to Washington and back again in the form of a federal grant, professed his dismay at the willingness of taxpayers to let go of the dollar in the first place. To quote Mrs. Sindland, why not let them keep it; why the unnecessary and costly trip to Washington, where every bureaucrat in the land is permitted to take a bite of it as if it were a wee bannock?

Occhiogrosso said, “I’m all for people keeping more of their money and spending it here in Connecticut,” forgetting for the moment that the lifeblood of spendthrift legislatures depends upon the willingness of the great unwashed to send a dollar to Washington and get back 50 cents in return.

Sage Rennie nodded in agreement, and later burst into song: “We need immediate solutions. The legislature, when it met last month, could not cut $100 million dollars from an $18 billion dollar budget. That’s what’s ahead. .. It’s maddening. No one wants to talk [about] what we’re to do. There’s $3 billion dollars this year, $3 billion dollars next year, and they’re shrugging. They’re averting their gaze. We’re led by crazy people,” a golden perception one hopes Rennie will share with his readers at the Courant, perhaps in a future column.

In the meantime, outside the citadel of the legislature, the Red Death of Allen Edgar Poe’s short story, prowls along the castle walls looking for a breach.

We all remember the story from English class.

The Red Death has carried off thousands of victims in the countryside. Prince Prospero decides to ignore all this distasteful nonsense and throws a masque ball in his secure castle. In their blissful ignorance, the revelers dance and play, oblivious to the terror outside the walls of the castle – until one day, a stranger appears, dressed in red, the color of blood and revolution. Prospero, his sword drawn, pursues the stranger through seven rooms, determined to avenge himself upon the impertinent gate crasher. And in the seventh room, the Red Death unmasks himself. At the sight of the Red Death, Prospero falls dead. The story ends when the rest of the revelers rush into the room.

If anyone wants to see a mad legislator run from the death room, he has only to be asked to cite four ways of cutting the budget.

But that is exactly the question that ought to be put to all state politicians seeking office. So far, entropy is Lord Prospero; what we have done before – raise taxes, move money from account to account, plague the citizenry with niggling little taxes -- we are tempted to do again. This time, it won’t work.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Immanuel’s Involvement with Blagojevich Deeper Than First Reported

The Chicago Sun Times is reporting that “President-elect Barack Obama's incoming chief of staff Rahm Emanuel had a deeper involvement in pressing for a U.S. Senate seat appointment than previously reported... Emanuel had direct discussions about the seat with Gov. Blagojevich, who is is accused of trying to auction it to the highest bidder.”

Update:

Citing unnamed sources, George Stephanopoulos of ABC News is reporting that Rham Emmanuel has had only one direct conversation with Blagojevich. Immanuel had four conversations with Blagojevich chief aide John Harris:

“The sources add that the report will show Emanuel also had four phone calls with Blagojevich Chief of Staff John Harris. During those conversations, the Senate seat was discussed. The pros and cons of various candidates were reviewed, and the sources say that Emanuel repeatedly reminded Harris that Blagojevich should focus on the message the pick would send about the governor and his administration.

“Sources also confirm that Emanuel made the case for picking Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett during at least one of the conversations. In the course of that conversation, Harris asked if in return for picking Jarrett, "all we get is appreciation, right?" "Right," Emanuel responded.

“Bottom line: these sources say that Obama's report, which is expected to be released this week, will confirm what Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and President-Elect Obama have said -- and what Governor Blagojevich clearly believed: that Obama officials were not open to any kind of deal for the Obama Senate seat.”
A week earlier, Obama said that he found it “a little bit frustrating” that the report had not yet been released.

It is uncertain whether the sources cited in Stephanopoulos' report have seen the unreleased report or, indeed, whether the sources are connected with prosecutor Fitzgerald's office.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Did BOA Write Dodd’s Bill?

Did Bank of America write Dodd’s Housing Bail Out Bill? The scoop was not, as may be expected. Provided by Connecticut’s main stream press.

"Some journalists and Republican lawmakers are asking if Countrywide bought a bailout bill with its VIP loans to Dodd, who is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. But when asking cui bono? about Dodd's bill, we need to look to Bank of America.

"Bank of America agreed in January to buy Countrywide, and the deal is near completion. House and Senate staffers opposing the measure say Bank of America operatives wrote that chamber's version of the bailout.

"One Senate staffer was told by a lobbyist, 'the bailout section is exactly what Bank of America and Countrywide wanted.' The Senate staffer added 'its obvious they got what they asked for.'"

These stories exist, when they exist at all, in out of the way places, though the Los Angeles Times did consent to notice back in June.

Confused?

Connecticut’s Congressional delegation, all Democrats now that Rep. Chris Shays has been defeated by Jim Himes, have written to president-elect Barack Obama to suggest that he appoint as leader of the Peace Corp soon to be former Rep. Chris Shays, a maverick Republican.

Déjà vu All Over Again

It’s always worth while having a look back before stumbling forward into a precarious future.

Those who have memories will remember that moment, just before Connecticut’s state income tax became a reality, when arguments were being made in various quarters in favor of the income tax.

The pro-tax folk had three sharp arrows in their quiver.

The primary tax revenue engine, the sales tax, was said to be subject to the vagaries of the market place. In good times, the sales tax flooded state coffers with the mother’s milk of politics, money. But in bad times, the flood dwindled to a trickle, leaving legislators in the unenviable position of having to settle upon spending cut, never a bright prospect for those legislators who wish to be all things to all men. This budgetary punning was something the two most well known Democrat governors, Ella Grasso and William O’Neill, did with glum pusses. It was a time when the income tax was but a glint in former senator and governor Lowell Weicker’s eye. The last pre-income tax budget was, relatively speaking, a modest $7.5 billion, give or take half a billion. In those halcyon days of yore, it was thought prudent to cut spending to balance budgets, and the prospect of budget cuts was held over legislator’s heads like a damoclean sword to dampen their itch for spending.

It was said at the time by the pro-tax crowd that an income tax would provide “the state” – or that portion of it charged with spending money – with a more reliable revenue stream. No more sharp ups and downs; the post income tax road would be a broad straight way. Those arguing against the tax pointed out at the time that the revenue tide would ebb and flow in accordance with the prosperity, or lack of it, in the financial sector. And what do you mean, they asked at the time, by “the state?” Clearly, an income tax would settle a nasty political problem for legislators, but would it be, in the long run, a benefit for the state, i.e. people who pay taxes and create wealth? Some Connecticut voices asked such questions at the time.

The second arrow in the quiver concerned “niggling taxes.” We were all being bitten to death, said the pro-income tax crowd, by lots of small, perhaps dispensable, niggling taxes. An income tax might make it possible to dispense with these tortures.

The third arrow in the quiver was then Governor Lowell Weicker. By some weird conflation Weicker had become the state. He rode into the governorship on a promise – some might call it an intimation – that the state budget deficit would be settled without recourse to an income tax. Bill Cibes, whom Weicker chose as his Office of Policy Maintenance budget chief, ran for governor and lost on a pledge to establish an income tax. When these guys wrapped their hand around the tiller of state government, they soon set the ship of state on an income tax course. And after breaking some bones and twisting some arms, they got one.

So much for the look back. Where are we now?

We are being bitten to death by niggling little taxes, alas still with us. The income tax, as a reliable revenue stream, has flopped because the financial sector has taken a bath, and Main Street Connecticut is heavily reliant on the prosperity of Wall Street. The bottom line of the last budget was double and perhaps triple, if one takes into account state bonding, the modest numbers during the O’Neil and Grasso administrations. The income tax has consistently produced surpluses that might have been returned to “the state” – that is to say, to the people of the state from whom all good things come, including tax revenue. But governors and legislators – those people who vainly imagine they are the state – swallowed down all the surpluses, and the additional revenue hiked up successive budgetary bottom lines.

Finally, Weicker – who was to Connecticut what Oliver Cromwell was to the English Parliament – is retired, thank God for small favors; the Republican Party is a nullity, thanks to Weicker, among others; and we are awash in red ink to the tune of $6 billion, so far.

The question “Where do we go from here?” is easily answered, though getting to the future may require strenuous efforts on the part of legislators who produced this laughable mess and who never have accepted responsibility for any of it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Kennedy vs. Palin

The New York Times has now weighed in on Caroline Kennedy’s fitness to serve as senator from New York. According to a lede from a recent story, even the true blue New York Times is having a problem wrapping its headlines around the idea:

“She has not held a full-time job in years, has not run for even the lowliest office, and has promoted such noncontroversial causes as patriotism, poetry and public service. Yet Caroline Kennedy’s decision to ask Gov. David A. Paterson to appoint her to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Senate seat suggests that she believes she is as well prepared as anyone to serve as the next senator from New York — and is ready to throw her famously publicity-averse self into the challenge of winning back-to-back elections in 2010 and 2012.

Already, some columnists, bloggers and even potential colleagues in Congress have begun asking if she would be taken seriously if not for her surname. Representative Gary Ackerman, a Queens Democrat, told a radio host on Wednesday that he did not know what Ms. Kennedy’s qualifications were, “except that she has name recognition — but so does J. Lo.”

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Harry Reid Opens a Vein

A distressed Harry Reid, the Democrat US Senate Majority Leader, opened a vein in the well of the senate a few days ago. Pity and concern for the auto workers' union poured out.

The bloodletting on behalf of the Big 3 auto makers was, as it turned out, an entirely useless gesture, because soon to be ex-President George Bush a day later hinted he would give the auto workers everything they wanted – and then some.

Congressmen and others allied with the auto workers' union wanted a no strings attached bridge loan of $14 billion to tide the Big 3 over until a new administration, possibly more accommodating, was installed in Washington. More responsible legislators wanted either a) the Big 3 to declare bankruptcy so that the companies could trim the fat from their paunches, reorganize their business practices and emerge from the process leaner and more prosperous, or b) to assign a “car czar” to oversee the process or reorganization before bail out loans were made. The bridge loan is the equivalent of an economic “bridge to nowhere.” Some analysts are suggesting that the $14 billion won’t last but a few months.

The lame duck president cannot run for office again, thanks to term limits and whatever parsimonious deity looks after the economic affairs of the country.

By the time he leaves office, Bush, who ran for president during his first term as a tight fisted conservative not overly concerned with foreign affairs, will have in concert with the congress expropriated from US taxpayers around a few trillion, leaving behind in his wake two hot wars, one winding down in Iraq and another heating up in Afghanistan.

As Reid was bleeding on the floor of the Senate and speculating that the Wall Street roller coaster would be taking a nose dive the next day, owing to the parsimony of senate Republicans who nixed the bridge loan, the lame duck president undercut his forces in the senate, such as they were, who had finally said “No” to indiscriminant bail outs.

Bush said he would make an effort to find the $16 billion somewhere, probably in US Sen. Chris Dodd’s pants. When it seemed likely the unions would get their no strings attached bridge loan, Reid stopped bleating and bleeding, Dodd stopped caterwauling, and everyone went home to enjoy their Christmas turkey.

The Christmas holiday could not have come at a more propitious time. While the congress is adjourned, beleaguered tax payers may enjoy in peace and quiet a few bill free days and contemplate such discussions as Reid recently had with Jan Helfeld, who was trying to get the Senate Majority Leader to acknowledge that tax contributions were forced and not discretionary.

Reid: I don’t accept your phraseology. I don’t think we force people [to pay taxes].

Helfeld: Taxation is not forceful? It’s voluntary?

Reid: No, in fact, quite the contrary. Our system of government is a voluntary system.

Helfeld: Oh? If you don’t want to pay your taxes, you don’t have to?

Reid: Oh, for sure you have to pay your taxes…

Helfeld: Or the government will force you to pay, or they’ll fine you or imprison you.

Reid: We have a voluntary system.

More on point and much more brief, brevity being the soul of wit, is Mark Twain’s remark: "The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin."

The telling interview with Reid has made the rounds far less frequently than a newer YouTube video showing an enraged Iraqi reporter throwing his shoes at a visiting Bush and gleefully reproduced on blog sites managed by the kind of people who can listen to the Reid interview without unlacing their shoes.

It is indeed a topsy-turvy world. The speaker of the greatest deliberative body on earth can insist in an interview that the tax money now being shoveled in the direction of the Big 3 auto makers is voluntarily contributed, and there is not a smile in the house. But let an enraged journalist throw a shoe at a president and we cackle ourselves hoarse. Would it be out of place to suggest that some Iraqi customs should be adopted to protest the idiocies of those who authorize the tax man to strip us even of our skins?

The Fishwrap


Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. Liberal heartthrob Ned Lamont, the Greenwich millionaire who, hand in hand with agents of Lowell Weicker, tried and failed to off Sen. Joe Lieberman, has written in The Hartford Courant a “Recovery” opinion that contains the following sentiment: “But every state is lining up to sit on the lap of the federal Santa Claus and say whether they've been naughty or nice. So, Connecticut better be prepared to explain how our projects can put people to work in year one, how they make us more competitive in the long term, and how we can pay our share of the cost.” The subliminal message of Lamont’s lucubration is: “We’re broke, let’s spend money in the expectation of a gift from Santa.” Jodi Rell sat on Santa’s lap during this year’s governor’s conference and found it cushy. The occasion was celebrated in a Courant editorial: “Mr. Obama singled out Republican governors, whose number includes Mrs. Rell, in extending ‘the hand of friendship’ on Tuesday. His Lincolnesque mercy is noble but also practical: To punish his political enemies would wound his friends as well. Connecticut's governor may be Republican, but this state went solidly blue in November's presidential election.” In a new, book Courant columnist Susan Campbell continues to re-invent fundamentalism, though the ritualistic denunciations of the creed – too anti-feminist, too ridgid, too unbelievably silly – do not carry the oomph of a Christopher Hitchens blast. Hitchens is the atheist who wrote a book on Mother Teresa called “The Missionary Position,” though the fiery atheist preacher warmed to her at last when he discovered that, passing through a dark night of the soul, she had serious doubts about her faith. The French are being French again. President of France Nicholas Sarkozy, a gigantic personality in a diminutive body and said by some to be suffering from a Napoleonic complex, first ordered his energy czar to analyze the usefulness of pollution free electric cars and then – when the report did not affirm environmental prejudices – yanked it from publication. Rod Blagojevich (pronounced Rod), the erstwhile governor of Chicago – not, as some people suppose the most corrupt state in the union – continues to suffer from the opposite of media neglect. The governor – He could have been the Serbian Obama – has multiple problems. A prosecutor is breathing down his neck; friendly relations with the Obama camp appear to have suffered a reversal; and a perhaps prejudicial press has put him into an enclosure that the French (see Sarkozy above) used to call “the little ease,” a cell exquisitely fashioned in such a way that the occupant can neither stand nor sit nor lay down. Blagojevich (pronounced Rod), it is said by prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, was in the process of auctioning off President elect Barack Obama vacant seat in the US senate in return for the usual favors when his designs were interrupted by Fitzgerald, who had caught the governor in a recording that he generously shared with the media. The governor is now being called upon to resign, but there is a hitch. He does not wish to resign. What to do? He can be impeached, but that takes awhile, and it is feared the governor, in the meanwhile, may possibly hire the now esteemed professor and flag stomper Bill Ayres to blow up some buildings and off the pigs who are tormenting him. This seems a little hysterical. Possibly the anti-Blagojevich (pronounced Rod) forces are concerned that the governor may make a judicious choice in his appointment for President elect Obama’s seat and so bring to naught the charges against him. We do not pretend familiarity with the Byzantine ways of Chicago politics, but insist, along with Lamont, that Santa Claus is not implicated in the treachery. US Rep. Chris Shays is not certain that there is life after congressional death, but he still hopes Santa will make a spot for him in the Obama administration. John Rowland appeared on the Mike Huckabee show and made oceans of sense.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

France Spikes Politically Inconvenient Report on Electric Cars

Some months ago, Nicholas Sarkozy’s government commissioned one of Frances most respected energy regulators, Jean Syrota, to draw up a report analyzing all options towards building cleaner, more efficient cars by 2030.

The 129-page report, completed in September, possibly will never be published because it confirms some inconvenient truths the global warming crowd would sooner ignore.

The report concludes, according to the Financial Times, that electric powered cars are cultural and technological a cul de sac, to use a French term:

“Instead, it suggests that the traditional combustion engine powered by petrol, diesel, ethanol or new biofuels still offers the most realistic prospect of developing cleaner vehicles. Carbon emissions and fuel consumption could be cut by 30-40 per cent simply by improving the performance and efficiency of traditional engines and limiting the top speed to about 170km/hr. Even that is well above the average top speed restriction in Europe, with the notable exception of Germany. New so-called “stop and start” mechanisms can produce further 10 per cent reductions that can rise to 25-30 per cent in cities. Enhancements in car electronics as well as the development of more energy efficient tyres, such as Michelin’s new “energy saver” technology, are also expected to help reduce consumption and pollution.

“Overall, the Syrota report says that adapting and improving conventional engines could enhance their efficiency by an average of 50 per cent. It also argues that new-generation hybrid cars combining conventional engines with electric propulsion could provide an interesting future alternative.

“By combining electric batteries with conventional fuel-driven engines, cars could run on clean electricity for short urban trips while switching over to fuel on motorways. This would resolve one of the biggest problems facing all electric cars – the need to install costly battery recharging infrastructures. The report warns that the overall cost of an all-electric car remains unviable at around double that of a conventional vehicle. Battery technology is still unsatisfactory, severely limiting performance both in terms of range and speed. The electricity supply for these batteries would continue to come from mostly fossil sources.

“The misgivings over the future of the electric car may explain why the French government appears to have spiked the report. It probably considers it politically incorrect, especially when some of Mr Sarkozy’s big business chums such as Vincent Bolloré and Serge Dassault are developing either electric cars and lobbying hard. Renault too has struck a deal with Israel to jointly develop a mass-market electric vehicle. To paraphrase Al Gore’s documentary on climate change, Paris may feel it is not the best of times to publicize the inconvenient truth about electric cars.”

Friday, December 12, 2008

Emanuel Met with Blagojevich, Yammered

In the meantime, Fox News -- fair, balanced and unafraid, is reporting that Emanuel did have conversations with the black-souled Blagojevich.

Emanuel Stiffs Reporters: Dead Fish on the Way

Some people just say “no comment,” but President-elect Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is a little more inventive than that.

Staff reporters for the Chicago Sun Times, a pesky lot, caught up with Emanuel recently to ask him whether he was the Obama “advisor” named in the criminal complaint against Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Blagojevich himself once used a higher-up contact at the paper – not named in prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s complaint – to try to ward off pesky reporters from the Sun Times. Here in Connecticut, the guessing game as to who this might be has already begun. Real Estate magnate Sam Zell owns both papers. Under Zell's direction the Tribune Company is on the point of declariung bankruptcy; if the company had banking functions, it could apply to the Obama administration and the incoming Democrat controlled US legislature for a bailout loan.

The Sun Times noted that “Emanuel was uncharacteristically absent from Obama’s news conference this morning. He was spotted two hours later in the lobby of Chicago’s City Hall. He was there to listen to his two children performing in a concert with their school, Anshe Emet.”

But Emanuel was not forthcoming.

“’You’re wasting your time,’ Emanuel said. ‘I’m not going to say a word to you. I’m going to do this with my children. Don’t do that. I’m a father. I have two kids. I’m not going to do it.’

“Asked, ‘Can’t you do both?’ Emanuel replied, ‘I’m not as capable as you. I’m going to be a father. I’m allowed to be a father,’ and he pushed the reporter’s digital recorder away.”

The reporters might possibly expect a dead fish to arrive in the mail shortly. Emanuel in the past has mailed out such messages to abrasive people, a warning that Obama’s major domo is not above resorting to tactics described by Mario Puzo in The Godfather.

This is, after all, Chicago.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

For the Record, Blagojevich

For the record, here are some excerpts printed in the New York Times from a transcript of prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s news conference following the complaint issued against Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich:

Speakers:
Patrick Fitzgerald, United States attorney general for the Northern District of Illinois
Robert Grant, Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent in charge


Fitzgerald: In addition to the pay-to-play allegations, which are described in greater detail in the complaint, we also were surprised to learn of an extortionate attempt against the Chicago Tribune newspaper.

The Chicago Tribune had not been kind to Governor Blagojevich, had written editorials that called for his impeachment. And Governor Blagojevich and defendant Jonathan -- John Harris, his chief of staff, schemed to send a message to the Chicago Tribune that if the Tribune Company wanted to sell its ball field, Wrigley Field, in order to complete a business venture, the price of doing so was to fire certain editors, including one editor by name.

In the governor words -- governor's words, quote, "Fire all those bleeping people. Get them the bleep out of there. And get us some editorial support," close quote. And the bleeps are not really bleeps.

The defendant Harris tried to frame the message more subtly to get the point across to the Tribune that firing the editorial board members would be a good thing in terms of getting financing to allow the sale to go forward…

Grant: There is an editor that they'd like fired from the Tribune, and I laid awake at night, worried whether I'd read in the paper in the morning that when there were lay-offs, that we'd find out that that person was laid off.

The complaint -- the complaint lays out, in there in fact, when there were layoffs, there were conversations to find out whether the editor who should of -- they thought should be fired, and he wasn't. And the governor was asking whether there would be more layoffs. So we have a governor in this modern times, the only one who's looking for more layoffs. You take that, what's going on and add it to the fact that we have a Senate seat that seemed to be, as recently as days ago, auctioned off to, you know, to the highest bidder for campaign contributions. And Governor Blagojevich, own words, on the -- on the tape or the bug that set forth in the complaint, talked about selling this like a sports agent…

QUESTION: ... address one thing, and that is, when Rod Blagojevich walks out of here today, unless I'm mistaken about the constitution of Illinois, he will still be governor. He will still have the power to make the appointment to the Senate seat. He will still have the power whether or not he's going to sign the bill that you're concerned about.

Also, would you address the fact -- and I know you referred to this -- would you just address whether or not President-elect Obama was aware that any of these things were taking place?

MR. FITZGERALD: OK. I'm not going to speak for what the president- elect was aware of. We make no allegations that he's aware of anything. And that's as simply as I can put it…

I was not going to wait until March or April or May to get it all nice and tidy, and then bring charges, and then say, "By the way, all this bad stuff happened because no one was aware of it back in December."

I think that would be irresponsible.

(CROSSTALK)

So sometimes when there's ongoing criminal conduct, and this is a very different case than what we often see, we will expose the criminal conduct and bring charges to let people know we're on to it and to hopefully to put a stop to it.

QUESTION: Are you able to tell us if the Tribune scenario, it was the Tribune who came to you and said it's being extorted or you approaching the Tribune with this revelation?

MR. FITZGERALD: I don't -- that's not set forth in the complaint. What we can tell you is that that was conversations we intercepted on the governor's side, speaking to Mr. Harris about what they wanted to do.

QUESTION: So it's conceivable, then, that the Tribune at some level of management was considering -- a force to consider the governor's alleged extortion?

MR. GRANT: I'm not going to speak for the Tribune or what happened and what message got there. I think the complaint made clear that Governor Blagojevich, what he had in mind was basically a get rid of the editors for this.

The complaint also makes clear that Mr. Harris was one who wanted to be far more nuanced, and, basically, Governor Blagojevich delegated to him, "Well, you know what you got to do. Be careful."

So I can't describe to you what conversations Mr. Harris had, and I think it would be dangerous to do so. It goes to my point of -- it's one thing to attribute someone's own words to them. It would be another to attribute someone's own words to you.

And, you know, if I say something on tape, then I'm -- I'm charged with what I said. If someone says something on tape about me, that's a different story.

So I'm not going to speculate as to what, if any, conversations were had in the -- in the Tribune at this point. I don't think that be fair to them or anyone else, when we're just describing his mindset of what Governor Blagojevich wanted Mr. Harris to do. We're not describing what happened in the scheme beyond that…

QUESTION: (inaudible) when did you make the decision to actually arrest him rather than allow him to turn himself in, to sort of send a signal here?

MR. GRANT: It was exactly what Pat said earlier, and that was, we had a -- we have a lot of things we learned from the wiretap, a lot of things we learned from these microphones. There is a lot of investigation that still needs to be done. And there are critical interviews that we have to do and cooperation we need to get from different people.

So it wasn't about, as Pat said, tying this in a bow, waiting until spring, letting things be done that damaged the state of Illinois, damaged the United States Senate, hurt people.

It was about what is good for the investigation? What is good to find out the truth about what is going on? Because this goes beyond just the governor. It goes to other people who are involved in these schemes...

QUESTION: Mr. Fitzgerald, would you make clear just something about the timing here? When the Tribune ran its story a few days ago revealing that the governor was being taped, would you explain -- and I think some of this is laid out in the complaint -- did further taping take place or did that essentially terminate your ability to listen in?

MR. FITZGERALD: Well, what I would say is, to back up and to the extent that there have been articles, I'm not confirming or denying the accuracy of the articles. You can compare them against what happened.

I will say this, as you guys know, you guys are in the information business of getting it and publishing it, and we're in the information business of getting it and using it.

About eight weeks ago, before we had the bug installed and before we had the wiretap up, we were contacted by the Tribune to comment or confirm or deny on a story that they were going to run.

Had they ran that story, we thought we'd never have the opportunity to install the bug or place the telephone tap. And we made an urgent request for the Tribune not to publish that story.

That is a very rare thing for us to do and it's an even rarer thing for a newspaper to grant. We thought that the public interest required that the story not run.

It was a difficult conversation to have because we weren't allowed to describe what we doing, and I have to take my hat off that the Tribune withheld that story for a substantial period of time, which otherwise might have compromised the investigation for ever happening. And I think that's something that we should take note of.

And later, at a later point in time that story did run. I believe it ran on Friday morning. And we were recording after the story ran that said feds tape of Blagojevich, and as set forth in the complaint, days before, or even the day before that story ran, Governor Blagojevich was intercepted telling his fund-raiser to have that conversation about wanting to see campaign contributions up front and telling him to talk as if the whole world is listening; be careful, do it in person, not over the telephone.

And then, after the story ran, we got a different conversation the next day, which basically says, undo what you just did…

So it was clear that the reaction to the story was to think that they shouldn't proceed down that road. So to the extent that we had a number of weeks of interception (inaudible) the telephone, I do -- I do think we -- we ought to credit the Chicago Tribune that they agreed to that request…

QUESTION: You spoke before about if Senator -- you didn't know the awareness that Senator -- or President-elect Barack Obama knew about this. So is it safe to say he has not been briefed? And can you also tell us if any phone calls that were made to President-elect Obama that you intercepted, or to Rahm Emanuel?

MR. FITZGERALD: Anna, I'm not going to go down anything that's not in the complaint. And what I simply said before is, I'm not -- I have enough trouble speaking for myself, I'm never going to try to speak in the voice of a president or president-elect. So I simply pointed out that if you look at the complaint, there's no allegation that the president-elect -- there's no reference in the complaint to any conversation involving the president-elect or indicating that the president-elect was aware of it, and that's all I can say…

QUESTION: Mr. Fitzgerald, did you have a conversation with the attorney general or somebody close to him either regarding the ability for you to get the wiretaps (inaudible) on the home or is that the decision to file this complaint?

MR. FITZGERALD: I will say this. One, when it comes to wiretaps and bugs, I think the procedure we follow is a -- is well known. To file a wiretap, first of all, you need the FBI -- Boston, Chicago, whose people are doing all the work -- to be on board. You need my office to be on board. That gets you no where.

You got to go down to Washington to Office of Enforcement Operations, OEO. And you probably have never heard of OEO, and you'll see "CSI" on TV -- and the people in OEO do a fantastic job. They are the people who review, among other things, applications for wiretaps and bugs, and they scrub them. And they're very smart.

And what we like about OEO is they know how to say yes and they know how to say no. And if they don't think it meets the standards, they'll tell you that and you won't get your wiretap or bug. And they think it does, they'll say yes. And if it needs fixing, they fix it.

An effort is approved in the office of OEO. It then goes up through the chain to high-ranking officials in the criminal division who sign off on it. And once it's been signed off at main Justice which says you're allowed to go see it, you're still nowhere because you can't put a bug or a wiretap in without the approval of the chief judge in the district. So the chief judge takes an independent review and signs off on it.

We complied with all that, obviously. Beyond that, what I'll simply say is that no one -- the deputy attorney general, the FBI director or the attorney general -- aren't going to drop their coffee this morning to find out about this case for the first time. We've, obviously, kept them briefed and -- but beyond that, we'll -- we'll take responsibility for the decisions we made and leave it at that…

QUESTION: I got a question -- if you could also just clarify again, is discussing a quid pro quo where he, you know, acted criminally versus actually carrying out. I mean, if he's just having conversations about eliminating a member of the editorial board at the Chicago Tribune but nothing is actually carried out, how much of that is just someone trying to be a tough guy and how much of that is criminal behaviors?

MR. FITZGERALD: Well, you hit on two questions. One is a legal distinction. There is scheming or conspiracy to commit a crime and then there's a substantive crime. We've charged conspiracy or scheming in this complaint.

One of the things we want to do with this investigation is to track out the different schemes and conspiracies to find out which ones were carried out or not and who might be involved in that or not. And that's something we haven't done yet. Now that we've gone overt we'll be interviewing people and figuring that out.

But it is a crime in and of itself for people to scheme to violate the law. That's called conspiracy. Then there's a substantive crime.

As far as how much -- whether or not there people acting like a tough guy or not, I don't want to pre-try the case, but if you lean on someone and leave them to believe their bill is not getting signed unless they give you the money, that is what acting like a tough guy is, it's a crime.

And we can sort through it at any trial as to what was said, what was followed through, but it is a crime to conspire to shake someone down…

QUESTION: You talked about -- you talked about keeping your superiors informed as to what was going on, I'm assuming that means the attorney general.

In the briefings that President-elect Obama had had over the past week with various government departments, would it be possible for him to have been briefed on what was going on here with regard to this investigation?

MR. FITZGERALD: I -- I -- I -- I'm not going to comment on that. I'm not -- I'm not -- I'm not the briefer. I'm not at those meetings.

But I would simply say that this was very close hold in Washington, and on a need to know basis. So, I'm -- but I'm not going to -- I'm not the briefer, so I'm not going to represent what happens. But -- I'll leave it at that.

(CROSSTALK) …

QUESTION: This investigation has been going on for years now, (inaudible) -- what's been happening to the other lines of investigation (inaudible)?

MR. FITZGERALD: They will still be followed. If you look at the complaint, it cites back to wire-tapped conversations from the -- from the conversations we wire-tapped way back in 2004, and we've been filing charges based upon that wire-tap, up until quite recently. And we will take all the existing strands of the investigations that -- some of which you know about, some of which you don't, and we will take this and we will process it and figure out as much as we can. And what we'd really like to do is add a whole lot more information from the people out there who may know something...

QUESTION: (inaudible) matter of law, a question of law. If it's against the law to sell and trade a job or a contact, is it also against the law to try to buy one? In other words, if you're a politician offering the governor $500,000 in campaign cash in exchange for the Senate seat and discussing it, you might be willing to raise that kind of money (inaudible) -- are you culpable, or is that just horse-trading?

MR. FITZGERALD: I'm not -- I'm not...

QUESTION: Not mentioning names...

MR. FITZGERALD: ... OK. I'm not going to get into hypotheticals that you'll abstract from the complaint and start going down that road. I will say we charged Governor Blagojevich and Mr. Harris, that's all we're saying. And we'll do further investigation and we'll get behind what we can and different transactions, and I'm not going to prejudge any matter whatsoever…

QUESTION: I was just wondering if -- I haven't read the whole complaint either -- is Rezko -- is he going to be testifying in front of (inaudible) at all, and is -- is (inaudible)?

MR. FITZGERALD: I think there's a that Mr. Rezko, with a footnote, somewhere in the complaint, and I couldn't tell you the footnote number, but if you look there, there's a succinct summary of his status in that footnote that I won't try to repeat out loud.

And, yes, who's next?

Natasha?

QUESTION: (inaudible) talk about (inaudible) -- that you were checking it out and just trying to see what the status.

MR. FITZGERALD: And I think I'm not going to go beyond that footnote. We didn't rely upon his information in the complaint, but it doesn't -- give a definitive view on his status; it describes what his status is…

QUESTION: If a Tribune executive did agree to fire somebody in the editorial board as an exchange for this, would it be criminal behavior? And can you characterize at all how far the Tribune plot went?

MR. FITZGERALD: I'm not going to say how far the Tribute plot went, other than the person who was identified as a person to be fired was not fired and still works there today.

Beyond that, I'm not going to try and walk back where the -- where the scheme went, from a pretty explicit scheme by Governor Blagojevich, as described in the complaint, describing to Harris, and then Harris basically saying, I'm going to be more subtle about it, and Governor Blagojevich saying, well, do it -- do it the appropriate way.

We don't go beyond that. And I'm not going to opine on if, what and when, as to what happened once the conversation left the two people charged, Governor Blagojevich and Harris...

QUESTION: You spoke very directly about why these indictments had to come now.

Conversely, given the fact that all this is now out in the open, is it possible that anyone appointed to the Senate seat by Governor Blagojevich could do so and take office without there being a cloud over his or her head?

MR. FITZGERALD: First of all, there's not an indictment, realize. It's a complaint. So I don't want people to understand it's an indictment. We filed a criminal complaint.

And I'm not getting into where things stand in the Senate seat, other than that we've -- there's an ugly episode that we've aired. We've brought charges, will proceed, and the public discourse will go its way without our guidance…

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Bush Busses Babs

The kiss heard round the world.

And in some corner of the universe, a puppet maker, alive to the irony of the situation, is hard at work immortalizing the moment in paper mache, the puppets to be towed around in a pick up truck and displayed at every future Streisand appearance.

Republicans and Rell

There will always be what the French call “frisson” between political parties and their nominal heads. In Connecticut, the nominal head of the Republican Party is Governor Jodi Rell. Foreground politics is different than background politics. At the end of November and the beginning of December, the background moved on stage, and for a brief moment one saw disquieting fissures.

The Republican Party in Connecticut must be something other than its nominal head. Political graveyards are populated with the brutalized corpses of leading politicians who had mistaken themselves for their parties. Politicians come and go, parties remain. They are intended to be the permanent structures in a politics of developmental change, though parties also are subject to an evolution that should enhance a deliverable message.

And here is where the trouble begins. Parties are like flags or constitutions. Armies gather under flags; countries move forward into uncertain futures on the wings of constitutions, written or graven in the history of the country.

A political party that seeks to form itself around a person rather than ideas, even though the person may be the temporary custodian of the ideas, is doomed to the ashcan. Strong party men like Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Jackson, considered the fathers respectively of the modern Republican and Democrat parties, knew this well. Lincoln was the custodian and grand articulator of his party’s core ideas, but he knew very well that those ideas, subject to modification, must continue into the future if the Republican Party was to survive as a going concern.

The Republican Party in Connecticut, it must be said, has not always been generously served by it nominal heads. Former senator and governor Lowell Weicker, the nominal head of his party as senator, was only nominally a Republican who occasionally referred to himself as the “turd in the Republican Party punchbowl.” He was regarded, touchingly by Republican Party opponents, as a maverick. Indeed his self serving autobiography is titled “Maverick.”

Governor John Rowland was less abrasive than Weicker. But he was not above whipping the troops into line to make awkward accommodations with leading liberal Democrats in the state legislature, to which some political watchers might respond, “Well, that is what governor’s do.”

True enough.

Which is why someone other than a governor of the state of Connecticut should lead the party. A strong party chairman – there used to be such creatures prowling the political precincts – would set both the tone and the course of the party. And occasionally that chairman would bump up against party accommodationists, insisting that the course of the ship should remain the same even if the captain must tack to the right or left to avoid treacherous shoals and hidden coral undercroppings.

Among Republicans, often stung by state governors, there is a strong suspicion that Governor Rell, under the direction of chief aide Lisa Moody, has been fiddling unnecessarily with the sheet anchor of the party. Parties, like governments, have their unwritten constitutions – their constituent elements which, altered for the sake of making accommodations, change both the journey of the party into the future and its essential message.

The governor was off message awhile back when she had proposed a tax increase to discharge a budget debt. That measure was manfully resisted by her party. The contretemps ruffled some feathers at the time, but apparently did not affect the governor or Moody, though the recent collapse of Wall Street, followed by the imminent collapse of Main Street – the two, despite Democrat rhetoric are intimately related -- appears to have stiffened some spines in the governor’s office.

Rob Simmons, a US Rep. from 2001 to 2007 and a faithful on deck marine in the Republican Party, was backstabbed by someone who, some Republican thinks, wanted to derail his future as possible gubernatorial threat.

Now, who ever could that be?

Fences have been broken; they ought to be repaired, if only for tactical reasons. And Republicans should not give up the ship to personality cultists. The port awaits the party that does not succumb to distractions or discouragements but presses on -- full speed ahead.

Monday, December 08, 2008

BREAST CANCER, ACTIVISTS, AND SCIENTISTS

Around the 1990s, some women who had developed breast cancer began wondering if there were some particular factor causing it. There were regional differences in the incidence of breast cancer. Certain areas were high risk: the Northeast, the San Francisco Bay area (even Sherman ’s Briggs Hill was added—briefly).

Risk factors were upper–income women, older than 50, Jewish, never had children or had first child at a later age, an early age at menarche, menopause at a late age, used hormone-replacement therapy, with (poor) diets rich in fats, and a family history of breast cancer..

Those were known high-risk factors. However, they could not be used to predict which women would get breast cancer nor could they be used for prevention. To those high-risk factors, alarmists added environmental pollution, with air-pollution still another factor (but small if at all).

Epidemiologist Geoffrey C. Kabat’s new book, Hyping Health Risks, Environmental Hazards in Daily Life and the Science of Epidemiology, tells the story of breast cancer in Long Island in fine, full, and meticulous detail. To it we now turn, following a discussion of this unusual book in our November 26 column.

Long Island had been growing rapidly in population. There was concern about environmental factors and a possible link to cancer. Long Island was an important agricultural region in the 1950s, and there was concern about DDT, other pesticides, and their possible link to cancer. In the 1960s there were additional concerns: landfills, incinerators, industrial sites, and heavy auto and air traffic. There were emissions of radionuclides from the Brookhaven National Laboratories’ nuclear reactor.

Breast-cancer activists took surveys in their neighborhoods and found “clusters” of breast cancer, which government was not explaining or investigating. Activists formed organizations. One, called “One In Nine,” wrongly gave the impression that women’s odds of getting breast cancer were as high as one in nine. But those odds were applicable to 80-year-olds and older who had not developed breast cancer. The odds of younger women’s getting breast cancer were smaller and varied with age.
Several towns had their own breast-cancer organizations. Activists founded the Long Island Breast Cancer Network. The women, well-informed, highly vocal, politically effective, joined with prominent scientists who were concerned with breast cancer. Together they demanded that government do something to find the cause. They lobbied politicians for funds for research. Out of their efforts came a congressional bill for a breast-cancer study on Long Island .

The study, mandated by Public Law 103-43, was passed in 1993. The law brought together science and politics. It surprisingly specified the type of study to be done—“a case-control study to assess biological markers of environmental and other potential risk factors contributing to the incidence of breast cancer” on Long Island.

The Law called for evaluation of exposure by monitoring and cumulative estimating of contaminated drinking water, indoor and outdoor air pollution, emissions from aircraft, electromagnetic fields, pesticides, hazardous waste, and other “appropriate” factors.

The law called for scientists to find “biological markers,” not the same thing as causes. The activists were looking for causes. Professor Kabat doubts that the scientists and politicians-activists ever actually understood the study in the same way. The study called for a high-powered “geographic information system,” which required long-run Long Island data on air, water, soil, and food, which were not available. (Ten years later, the original geographic information system was still being developed.) The study would give them not data but “biological markers,” which were not designed to elicit the cause—which the activists never quite understood.

Still another problem was that the law specified two counties, Schoharie in New York State and Tolland in Connecticut —to increase the political support for the bill in Congress. The latest available data showed those two counties as having the highest breast-cancer mortality in their states. But it was a mistake. Unfortunately, both counties have very small populations—too small to be usable for mortality purposes. The following up-to-date data showed Schoharie County as having fewer than a dozen breast-cancer cases, the lowest incidence in all 68 New York State counties.

Was the problem the result of combustion products (burning or charcoal-broiled) or organochlorine compounds including DDT and PCBs? Neither. And the togetherness of scientists and activists did not work. In fact, neither side quite understood the other side. That outcome does not preclude the possibility that there may be some environmental factor involved, but the contribution, according to Dr. Kabat, is likely to be small. Research could look into whether other factors might be involved: early events and exposures during and after puberty.

“This study is the envy of the nation. Every women’s group wants it, and Long Island has it,” remarked the lead researcher of the study.

But, concludes Professor Kabat, it was “a naïve expectation” that this one set of studies was going to deliver a break-through. “It was as if, in the flush of launching the study, both NCI [National Cancer Institute] and the researchers succumbed to the naïve expectations of the activists.”

By Natalie Sirkin
c2008

Sunday, December 07, 2008

No Time To Slash State Spending, a Commentary

A commentary on “Major Cuts, Tax Increases Will Only Accelerate Downturn,” by Demetrios Giannaros, D-Farmington, deputy speaker of the state House of Representatives and a professor of economics at the University of Hartford specializing in macroeconomics and public finance.

When your car is skidding on ice, the first reaction is to slam on the brakes. But experience tells us that a lighter touch will actually keep us from careening off the road. This is the dilemma facing state officials as they confront rising budget deficits and consider drastic spending cuts. I suggest we take a more deliberate approach to keep on course, avoid inflicting more pain on state residents and give us the best chance for economic recovery.


Connecticut legislators hadn’t considered a deliberate approach to spending control until right now. And now the fierce urgency of now is knocking at their door. In the past, free spending legislators slurped down surplus after surplus, thus adding to bottom line spending. The pain we are now feeling is directly related to their past indifference. Where was the gentle tapping on the break, one may ask Giannaros when the state needed it?

Our state, like the nation, is facing the greatest economic challenge since World War II. The major differences are that we are up to a year behind the national trends and we depend more extensively on the financial, insurance and export businesses. These private market sectors, combined with the severe contraction in construction, are undergoing further retrenchment, hurting our state's economic health. So, a smart state budget policy is to stimulate growth rather than contribute to the downturn, which causes increased unemployment and human suffering.


And, of course – read on – Giannaros does not quite see the necessity for significant cuts in state spending. There is in the state of Connecticut a direct correlation between the growth of government and the shrinking state economy, though one would never guess it by reading this piece.

Our state's budget has been stable in the last 15 years at approximately 11 percent of Connecticut's total economy. That means more than one in 10 dollars in overall spending relates to our state budget. Our private sector and exports drive our state economy. These economic components, however, are contracting. The private sector is slowly being crippled by fear, which, in turn, causes further contraction in spending and investment, a rise in unemployment, loss of income and loss of tax revenue resulting in increased deficits.


Eleven per cent is a little to high for comfort. Further on in his piece, Giannaros argues that the contracting private economy does not necessitate a corresponding contraction in the public sector. He has a few rabbits to pull out of his hat.

The state budget deficit widens with a reduction in spending and investment by either the government or the private sector. The greater the reductions, the faster our economy goes down. Then it is citizens who pay the ultimate price in lost jobs, salary reductions, loss of retirement funds and, perhaps, increased dependency on the state for survival.


Here we go: The private economy has shrunk. State revenue therefore has diminished, creating budget deficits. People become more needy. Previously relying on their own resources, now that their fortunes have diminished, they must turn to government for succor. And this means…

Because the state budget represents over one-tenth of the state economy, balancing the budget with either tax increases or spending decreases will worsen the state economy. These were policies applied in the 1930s by President Herbert Hoover, along with significantly tight bank credit, that brought us the worst U.S. economic disaster ever. Smart state budget actions would be to apply a simulative budget policy that assists in our economic recovery and prevents rising unemployment by doing the following:

Avoid tax increases and significant reductions in needed spending.


Behold -- the rabbit…

Expedite long-term public investment infrastructure projects that have been approved by the General Assembly for bonding, such as transportation, bridges, colleges, universities, schools, public safety and environmental protection projects, among others. This would activate the ailing construction-related industries and create employment and income, which encourages purchases and sales throughout the economy, results in higher tax collections and reduces the budget deficit.


Bonding, which creates a defict – an obligation to pay back a loan – is an off budget deficit, a charge to future taxpayers to pick up the tab. The beauty of bonding is that the deficit does not appear in the bi-annual budget, and so this deficit is not hemmed about by constitutional obligations to pay it off within a specified period of time. Accountants who read Giannaros’ recommendation will notice the sleight of hand immediately. If the economy is worsening, creating a shortage in revenue, how can legislators plausibly argue that spending should not be proportionally reduced to discharge the deficit? Remember, Giannaros does not want to cut spending severely or to increase taxes. Solution: Move spending from the bi-annual budget into the bonding budget. And hesto-presto, the miracle has been accomplished.

To solve the current fiscal year 2009 budget deficit problem, reduce spending where there is clearly waste. Use the $1.4 billion rainy day fund (our state's savings account for use in economic crises) to cover the rest of the deficit. These actions, with the expedited infrastructure investments, will help stabilize our state's economy, especially in coordination with the pending economic recovery stimulation actions to be taken by President-elect Barack Obama.


There is not too much waste around in state government, or surely legislators would have eliminated it by this time. All of the rainy day fund will not cover the biannual deficit, now approaching $6 billion. In fact, Giannaros’ plan covers the defict by charging a portion of it to our children through bonding and hoping that a generous President Barack Obama will foot the rest of the bill in the form of grants for expenditures on public works projects. These expectations are highly risible. Giannaros and other state officials traveling to Washington with their beggar bowls expect manna from Washington will settle their deficts. Connecticut’s economy is reliant on finance companies, not heavy industry.

Avoid actions that reduce the income sources of the poor and needy, for humanitarian reasons but also because they spend 100 percent of their available income. During a recession, a dollar taken from the poor reduces economic activity more than does a dollar taken from other income classes.


At bottom, this is an argument for increasing welfare, which no doubt would satisfy the public sector at the expense of the private sector. We’ve been here before, done this. Increased welfare roll create pathologies that can be very expensive.

For the 2010-11 biannual budget gaps, reduce future spending commitments — through things such as a more aggressive use of smart growth and regional government to take advantage of the economies of scale — and cover the difference through an "economic recovery bonded fund" financed by the federal government. This policy approach was applied during our last two recessions. As the economy recovered, it eventually created significant budget surpluses for five years in a row, allowing us to repay the economic recovery bonds ahead of maturity.


According to Donald Poland, executive director of Connecticut Partnership For Balanced Growth, so called “smart growth” is, in part, an attempt by a slew of special interests to stop growth in the suburbs in the hope that economic flower gardens will once again bloom in the cities. It won’t happen. What the Smart Growth folk call “sprawl” is, in fact, ex-urban expansion growth. Stop it and you will impoverish both the state and state coffers. “The problems facing Connecticut,” Poland says, “are not growth or sprawl. Lack of growth (economic and population) is a significant problem facing Connecticut, and this is compounded by efforts to combat the perceived ills of suburbanization.” Poland, by the way, is the one who first coined the term “smart growth,” which thereafter was hijacked by anti-growth pirates. He has abandoned the term as misleading and inappropriate. Mr. Poland’s site may be found here: Connecticut Partnership For Balanced Growth.

The legislature and the governor must work as a team for the common good. A prudent biannual budget and use of our rainy day fund, combined with significant immediate investments in infrastructure without tax increases, can work to avoid massive unemployment and human suffering.


“In the past Giannaros' "teamwork" has involved conspiratorial work on the part of Connecticut's governors and the legislature. The "work" more often has benefited special interests representted by both; if not, why would we now be be bathing in deficits? George Bernard Shaw’s warning should be kept in mind here: “Every profession is a conspiracy against the laity.” Giannaros and his friends are nothing if not “professional.” Democrats who dominate in the legislature are in thrall to powerful special interests. The expected incoming speaker of the House, Chris Donovan, is closely affiliated with the “rob Peter to pay Paul” ethos, and his Tonto, Deputy Speaker of the House Giannaros is but a baby step behind him on the latter of success in the state legislature. As we all climb aboud the greatest good for the greatest number express, we should bear in mind another Shavian apothegm: “Any government that robs Peter to pay Paul is bound to satisfy Paul.”

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Fishwrap


Let’s get the sex out of the way right off the bat: Here is the now notorious pic of Hillary Clinton being groped by President Elect Barack Obama’s communication director. Hillary’s response was amusing; she said she was happy that the offender was taking an interest in the Secretary of State’s office. Bill, one suspects, was not amused, but it’s wonderful that Hillary’s bruising primary and general election campaign has not dented her sense of humor. She’s gonna need it. OJ Simpson got tossed in the caboodle for attempting to recover some sports memorabilia, a fitting end, some thought, to Simpson’s eternal dance on the rim of a volcano. State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal was in the news multiple times this week; we forget what brought him before the cameras, possibly random speculation concerning his run for governor or for senator – in the event the star-crossed Sen. Chris Dodd finds himself in the calaboose along with OJ. “In the midst of the worst economic situation since the Great Depression it would be an unmitigated disaster,” said US Rep. Barney Frank, himself something of an unmitigated disaster, of the impending collapse of General Motors. Frank chairs the House Financial Services Committee, verily an unmitigated disaster, according to recent polls showing the US Congress badly trailing soon to be ex-President George Bush in popularity. Might it not be a good idea in these parlous times to rid the senate and House of its less than useful committees; a changeful thought Obama may want to chew on? Frank once let his consort run a gay bordello out of his apartment, and in the same spirit Boy George has been warned by a judge that he risks imprisonment for having beat a toyboy with chains as he tried to retreat from Boy George's attentions. Some in congress want the Big 3 auto makers to declare bankruptcy so that a rehabilitating reorganization may commence (change is good); others, Mr. Frank and Sen. Chris Dodd chief among them, want to throw money at the gaping wound in hopes the auto makers will recover from their swoon. And that 3AM call to the president featured in Clinton’s primary ads may involve Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Castro and his bro want to talk to Obama. But if the Castro brothers need a quick money fix – and who doesn’t? – they may find it more profitable to chat up Frank and Dodd. Madonna, now on her Sweet and Sticky tour in land of the free and the home of the brave, is still getting divorced. Rumor – false, of course – has it that the slutty pop icon has been playing ball with the aptly named A-Rod, who may pass muster as the next Mr. Madonna if he’s able to master the intricacies of Kabala. The final figures are in. According to a report by Channel 8, Obama spent $315 millon from Oct 15 to Nov. 24 while, during the same period McCain, who had accepted public financing was able to spend only $84 million. The moral of this story is: Future Republican presidential nominees had better foreswear public financing. And Governor Jodi Rell has put her foot down on tolls. Apparently, the Guv believes that as long as dominant Democrats in the legislature continue to contrive ways of increasing the tax burden on her fellow citizens, just so long will Rome continue to burn. However, some noodles are beginning to doubt her sincerity.