Saturday, January 31, 2009

Driving Tom Daschle

Big oops!

Like any washed up politician Tom Daschle cashed in after his term of service was over and joined gold plated money making machine InterMedia Advisors of Englewood, Colorado, which hired him to sooth their clients. Daschle is a limited partner and chairman of that firm's executive advisory board, and is also an independent consultant to InterMedia Advisors LLP of New York City.

The job also came with a car and a private chauffer; so Daschle thought.

But it turned out that Daschle was supposed to have been paying taxes on the service and didn’t, which put him in arrears to the US treasury for about three years.

When Treasury thugs came looking for him, shortly after the new Health and Human Services Secretary was plucked from obscurity by the Obama administration to socialize the nation’s health system, he and his accountant “fixed” the oversight.

Daschle failed to report income from the use of a car service in the amounts of $73,031 in 2005, $89,129 in 2006 and $93,096 in 2007. He failed to report consulting income of $83,333 in 2007. Add to the sum his failure to report adjusted reductions in charitable contributions, and Daschle adds a total of $353,552 in additional income and reduced donations, meaning an additional tax payment of $128,203, in addition to $11,964 in interest.

Politico is reporting that Daschle’s patron, Leo Hindery , the Democratic fundraiser who provided the free car and driver to Daschle and the founder of InterMedia Advisors, paid Daschle at a rate of $1 million a year as a consultant: “Hindery was an economic consultant to Obama during the campaign and was believed at one point to have been under consideration for the Commerce secretary post.”

John Hinderlake of Powerline finds a silver lining in all this subterfuge: “One good thing about electing a Democrat as President is that, as he nominates fellow Democrats to senior positions in the Executive Branch, millions of dollars in unpaid tax liabilities come to light and are belatedly paid to the IRS, with interest. It is, perhaps, the most tangible advantage of electing Democrats to office.”

Daschle is the second tax scofflaw in the new Obama administration to be examined by the congress, which must pass on the acceptability nominees before they assume office.

Tim Geithner, Obama’s Treasury Secretary precedes him. Since Democrats this year are in command of the White House and congress, not too much ado was made about this “nothing.”

Republicans on the verge of being Democrats -- Mike Crapo, Orrin Hatch, John Cornyn, Olympia Snowe and John Ensign -- voted the goof ball into his position.

The usual Democrat culprits winked.

On the Way to the Poor House

Mark Steyn says we’re on our way to Europe, a trip he’d rather avoid.

But why not have a few laughs along the route to utterly predictable ruin?

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, is on TV explaining the (at this point the congregation shall fall to its knees and prostrate itself) "stimulus." "How," asks the lady from CBS, "does $335 million in STD [Sexually Transmitted Disease] prevention stimulate the economy?"

"I'll tell you how," says Speaker Pelosi. "I'm a big believer in prevention. And we have, er… there is a part of the bill on the House side that is about prevention. It's about it being less expensive to the states to do these measures."

Makes a lot of sense. If we have more STD prevention, it will be safer for loose women to go into bars and pick up feckless men, thus stimulating the critical beer and nuts and jukebox industries. To do this, we need trillion-dollar deficits, which our children and grandchildren will have to pay off, but, with sufficient investment in prevention measures, there won't be any children or grandchildren, so there's that problem solved.


And in an illuminating piece in National Review, Jonah Goldberg traces the dissolution of merry old England: “Meanwhile, a new study has found that in much of England, 60 percent to 70 percent of economic output comes directly from the government.”

Goldberg confesses to getting a twinge up his leg when stimulants are mention but cautions: “… the prospect of borrowing money we don’t have to buy what we don’t need, in order to make America more like what I don’t want, makes me grateful that at least America’s conservative party has finally remembered how to say ‘no.’”

Friday, January 30, 2009

In Locus Parenti

Courts have often recognized that the first amendment rights of students in public schools are "are not automatically coextensive with the rights of adults in other settings" -- Bethel School Dist. No. 403 v. Fraser.

Indeed, first amendment rights are not automatically coextensive with the rights of adults in a home environment; just try calling your Mom a “douchbag” and applying to a court afterwards on the grounds that your Mom, in punishing you, had violated your first amendment rights.

One of the reasons schools may on occasion and with good reason abridge the first amendment rights of children is because, in the absence of parents, school official act in locus parenti, on behalf of parents. The locus is important in deciding just how far a school may go in trimming constitutional rights. The authority of a school to abridge a fundamental right in law is related to the place at which the offense occurs, because the authority of school administrators lapses when their charges are in “other settings.”

Had Avery Doninger used in connection with her parent the offensive word she used to characterize certain school administrators, she might have received a condign punishment from her parent. Had she used the word in school in connection with an administrator who was charged by law with acting in locus parenti, possibly no one, least of all her parent, would have objected to a just punishment.

But Doninger used the word at home, while she was under the direction of her parent, about a school administrator who was not operating in locus parenti; she was punished by the school, which stripped her of an elected position as junior class secretary; she sued, and her case was decided in favor of the school administrator who assigned the punishment.

The case raises the question: Does the authority of school administrators reach into the home when the administrators are not acting in locus parenti?

At least one legislator, Gary LeBeau, a retired High School teacher from East Hartford who co-chairs the General Assembly’s Commerce Committee, thinks the answer to that question should be “No.”

In a perfect society, every adult would act towards a child as a parent in the absence of a parent. But it is an affront to human nature and common sense to behave in such a way when the parent is present. The authority that teachers have over children is one surrendered by the parent to the teacher; the parent delegates the authority even as he retains title to it.

“I strongly believe in the First Amendment,” LeBeau said. “And after what school administrators did in the Doninger case, what’s needed is a bright line of where the state — since the school was acting on behalf of the state — can impinge on the rights of individuals. I think they overstepped in this case."

LeBeau has introduced a bill that would re-assert the authority of parents over their children when they are exercising their rights at home or “in other settings” in which schools are not acting in place of parents.

According to a story in the Journal Inquirer, “LeBeau’s single-paragraph measure would specifically amend the law ‘to prohibit school authorities from punishing students for the content of electronic correspondence transmitted outside of school facilities or with school equipment, provided that such content is not a threat to students, personnel, or the school.’”

LeBeau's legislation is a sensible measure that would incur no costs. The legislature ought to pass it for two reasons: The dispensation of power the court in its decision gave to the administrators of schools is in this particular situation an authority they do not need to maintain order in their schools; and that power invested in administrators properly belongs to parents when the school is not called upon to act in their behalf.

Iran and Obama: What Would Lincoln Do?


In the first few weeks of his presidency, Barack Obama has been, true to his word, an active president.

He produced a “stimulus package” that represents a massive intrusion of the federal government into the private market place, an extension of a program hastily developed during the last frenetic days of the Bush administration. He has taken steps to keep his campaign promise to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, though it is still undecided what do with “detainees” such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attack on New York. The President has sent former diplomatic wunderkind George Mitchell to the Middle East to broker a peace between warring factions in Israel. And he has shown that his Middle East policy prescriptions during the campaign were serious by opening an entente with the Arab World.

Iran, very much a part of that world, promises to be his stone of stumbling.

The US-based International Institute for Strategic Studies on Wednesday concluded in a report that Iran will have a sufficient quantity of highly enriched uranium to make an atomic bomb in a matter of months. In view of Iran’s repeated threats to obliterate Israel, this does not seem to allow much time for Mitchell to work his Middle East diplomatic magic.

But time is not the only enemy of peace in the Middle East. In addition to being the principal sponsor of the global jihad -- Hizbullah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are all instruments of Iran’s will to dominate the area – Iran has called for the destruction of both Israel and the United States. Having incited terrorists trained on its own soil to overthrow governments in Egypt and Jordan, it is the single greatest source of instability in the Middle East. Iran is also busily working in South and Central America, with a recent assist from the former Soviet Union, to destabilize the Americas.

And then there is Iran’s obduracy to contend with.

While President Obama has foresworn preconditions for direct talks with Iran, Mahmoud Amadinijad, invited multiple times to speak at the United Nations, apparently without conditions, has laid down, shortly after President Obama’s interview with al-Arabiya pan-Arabic television network, his conditions for talks with the United States.

He has demanded that the United States must empty the Middle East of its military forces or, as he put it, "keep its interventions within its own country's borders." The United States must end its support for Israel and withdraw its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan or, in his words, "In the sensitive Middle East region... the expectation is that the unjust actions [by the United States] of the past 60 years [during which Israel was established] will give way to a policy encouraging the full rights of all nations, especially the oppressed nations of Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan."

This week, Amadinijad sharpened conditions made earlier in the state controlled media. Iran, Amadinijad said at a political rally, will engage Washington only if two conditions are met. First, the United States must abandon its alliance with Israel or, as he plainly put it, “"stop supporting the Zionists, outlaws and criminals.” The second condition, laid down in November in the state run media and repeated on Wednesday by Aliakbar Javanfekr, Amadinijad’s advisor, is that Iran should be allowed to pursue its nuclear activities.

Given the time frame involved for diplomacy to take root in this uninviting ground and bearing in mind that in a month or more, according to some calculations, Iran will have in its hands a nuclear weapon it may then diplomatically use to exact concessions from its diplomatic opponents in the United States and in nascent democracies in the Middle East, is it possible to speculate what Thomas Jefferson, who showed a mailed fist to the Barbary Pirates, James Monroe, the architect of the Monroe Doctrine, which forbade foreign meddling in the Americas, Abraham Lincoln, who violate the constitution numerous times to win a war, or Harry Truman, under whose administration the state of Israel was created, would have done under similar circumstances?

Update: Amadinajad says nyet.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Drip, Drip, Drip…

A minute by minute account of the impeachment of now former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

We Have Nothing to Fear But The Fear of Global Warming Itself

It’s a tangled affair, but John Coleman has written the best short history of the global warming poofery.

“The key players are now all in place in Washington and in state governments across America to officially label carbon dioxide as a pollutant and enact laws that tax we citizens for our carbon footprints. Only two details stand in the way, the faltering economic times and a dramatic turn toward a colder climate. The last two bitter winters have lead to a rise in public awareness that CO2 is not a pollutant and is not a significant greenhouse gas that is triggering runaway global warming.

“How did we ever get to this point where bad science is driving big government we have to struggle so to stop it?”

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Democrat’s Earmark Stimulus Plan

Writing in Politico, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, reveals that only 7% of the so-called American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will be “injected into the economy by the end of fiscal year 2009. More than $200 billion of “stimulus” funds will be spent between fiscal year 2010 and fiscal year 2019 — long after the recession is projected to be over.”

“Instead of injecting new life into the economy, we’re seeing a massive expansion of government. The bill by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey contains $137 billion for the creation of 32 new programs — that’s 38 percent of all spending in the current bill. Seventeen of these new programs have never been authorized by the Congress. This is on top of the $76 billion being spent to expand 60 existing government programs — 19 of which have been described as ‘ineffective’ or ‘results not demonstrated’ by the Office of Management and Budget. It’s just another example of good money after bad.

The proposed Pelosi-Obey $825 billion economic stimulus is nothing more than an $825 billion earmark that will do little but expand the federal government at the expense of America’s long-term economic health.”

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Che Disses But Does Not Shoot Reporters


Actor Benicio del Toro, who plays Che Guevara in an upcoming film called “Che,” walked out on reporters who questioned him a little too closely on the real Che.

"I'm getting uncomfortable," Benicio del Toro said after fielding a question about his new movie's portrayal of the Bolivian and Cuban revolutions. "I'm done. I'm done, I hope you write whatever you want. I don't give a damn,” The Washington Times reports.

The reviews in Castro’s Cuba were more soothing: “'Del Toro is spectacular in the role of Che, not only in his physical resemblance but also in his brilliant interpretation,' wrote Granma, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party. 'After more than five hours of screening, the Cuban public gave its endorsement with a strong ovation.'”

The good news is that Che – the actor, not the real McCoy – executed no reporters. Che's preference -- the real Che, not the actor -- was a bullet to the back of the head, a grace he dispensed almost routinely on enemies of the revolution.

Senators Dodd, Lieberman Vote to Install Tax Scofflaw as Treasury Secretary; Perez to Answer Charges




In a 60-30 roll call vote, the Senate has confirmed Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary.

According to an Associated Press report:

“On this vote, a ‘yes’ vote was a vote to confirm and a ‘no’ vote was a vote against confirmation.

“Voting ‘yes’ were 49 Democrats, 10 Republicans and 1 independent.

“Voting ‘no’ were 3 Democrats, 30 Republicans and 1 independent.”

On Jan 23, the Hartford Courant reported:
“The [Finance] committee vote [in the US Senate] came a day after Geithner appeared before the panel to apologize for what he called 'careless mistakes' in failing to pay $34,000 in taxes earlier in the decade, when he worked at the International Monetary Fund.

Geithner paid the back taxes plus interest for the years 2003 and 2004 after being audited by the Internal Revenue Service. But he did not pay taxes he owed for 2001 and 2002, even though he had made the same mistakes for those years, until shortly before he was nominated by Obama last November to be treasury secretary.”

Sen. Joe Lieberman was not among the independents voting “no.” Lieberman, along with Sen. Chris Dodd, voted in the affirmative. If either senator has been asked to justify his vote, their responses have not received prominent notice in Connecticut newspapers.

Elsewhere on the scofflaw front, Mayor of Hartford Eddie Perez “will walk into a state police barracks this morning and surrender himself on bribery charges, a dramatic step in the corruption probe that has hung over the city and his administration for nearly two years,” according to a story in the Hartford Courant.

A friendly contractor who had received business from Perez’s office, Carlos Costa, also worked on the mayor’s Bloomfield Avenue house without having obtained the proper permits, and some of the work was done by an unlicensed contractor. Although the work was completed in 2006, Perez neglected to pay for it until 2007, after stories concerning the incidents had appeared in the media.

Facing charges of bribery, fabricating evidence and conspiracy to fabricate evidence when he is arrested at the Troop H barracks in Hartford, Perez contends that the whole affair, a mere slip up, is overblown.

The good news is that, unlike the new Treasury Secretary, Perez has not been accused – yet -- of seeking to cheat on his taxes.

Monday, January 26, 2009

HEALTH CARE AND THE FEDERAL HEALTH BOARD

The new Administration had not yet begun when a bill to enlarge SCHILD, an insurance plan supposedly for children and twice previously vetoed by President Bush, was passed by the House with no amendments allowed. One significant change is that new immigrants no longer have to verify their status to qualify for inclusion. This quasi invitation to free health care is an incentive to Mexican residents to move to the United States.

Still unveiled is Senator Kennedy’s task force, which he, long determined to play a major role in health care, organized to write the health-care bill.

Still another player is President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Daschle, former Senate Majority Leader. Simultaneously approved by the President is Daschle’s new Federal Health Board (FHB). He will head it. Its members will be named by President Obama with the consent of the Senate.

The FHB, which Daschle likens to the Federal Reserve Board, will make decisions in health care as does the Fed in monetary policy. As the Fed indirectly sets the interest rate, the FHB will indirectly set the prices of drugs and medical procedures. The FHB, an additional bureaucracy, will centralize a fragmented administration and could save us $85 billion a year if we could match the efficiency level of France , Finland , and Japan , says Daschle..

With the new Secretary comes his new book, What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis, with his name on the cover with two others’ below (in smaller type) who are experienced in health care, Scott S.Greenberger and Jeanne M.Lambrew. In this book we learn about how Secretary Daschle intends to coordinate or transform our fragmented—some say “broken”— health-care system into a central planning agency for health care.

The FHB will not be a free-market system. Its bureaucrats can deny coverage of “unproven or ineffective treatments and procedures.” It will, perhaps indirectly, set prices of drugs and procedures. The Bush Administration adopted a coding system that doctors and hospitals will use to bill insurers, which will increase the number of codes hospitals and doctors use to describe diagnoses to 68,000 from 13,000. Hospitals will have 87,000 codes to describe procedures, up from 3,000.

The FHB will block expansion of specialty hospitals like doctors’ hospitals. The FHB will stop duplication of equipment by hospitals and doctors.

The FHB will control the introduction of new technology. “Many patients with insurance want any care that might do some good, and plenty of doctors will oblige them. Sometimes doctors do things they don’t believe are medically necessary because they want to defend themselves against lawsuits,” observes Daschle. (But the cause, hyperactivity of tort lawyers, is not mentioned.)

Some commentators may question whether central planning of the health-care industry will lower costs. It might raise them and create shortages as of doctors.

The FHB will apply as well to a new type of Medicare that will parallel the FEHBP, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, says Daschle. The FEHBP is open to present and former Federal employees and Members of Congress, who have their choice in over 200 private plans. The federal government subsidizes FEHBP enrollees.

In time, it is likely though not explicit that the trend will be towards increasing public and decreasing private health care, as “average Americans would gain the security that comes with stable, quality coverage,” comments Daschle. One may question it, since the FHB “will have to reduce or deny payment for new drugs and procedures that aren’t as effective as current ones. Doing so will rankle powerful interest groups, such as drug manufacturers. Who will benefit? Average Americans . . .“

But suppose average Americans need a drug or procedure which the FHB declares they do not need. Many are the Canadians who come to the U.S. for the drug or procedure their socialist universal system has denied them.

Not mentioned in the book are Health Savings Accounts, or malpractice litigation expenses. Autism has been denied.

Meanwhile states have been creative. A recent referendum in Arizona would have made it impossible to force residents into a government-monopoly system like Canada ’s or a private system. The referendum failed by a very small margin. Massachusetts has a universal system and is now encountering a shortage of doctors.

In Louisiana , Governor Jindal, who believes government-run health care is inherently flawed, proposes to move people from state-run Medicaid, which is becoming very expensive, to private health plans. Medicaid recipients would be able to choose among several privately-run plans. His proposal acknowledges key concepts of reform: “accountability, consumer choice, cost efficiency, marketplace competition, and transparency.” Enrollees would pay a flat-rate monthly fee, which would vary with enrollees’ health and risk. Jindal would negotiate reimbursement fees with hospitals, providers, and pharmacies. Administrators would coordinate patient care within the network. Jindal is trying out his proposal in four Louisiana cities.

Daschle sees it differently:

The goal is a Board that is a standard setter that allows a private delivery system to operate within a public framework. A highly regulatory approach is unlikely to succeed.


By Natalie Sirkin
c2009
gnsirkin@aol.com

Birth Control Equals Spending control, the Pelosi Way


Here’s hoping that the next time Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi goes to confession – the lady confesses to being a Catholic – the priest in the confessional box has the presence of mind to have an economist seated beside him.

Pelosi believes that contraception and other family planning services, among which must abortion must be included, “help states meet their financial needs” and ultimately reduce costs.

This sunburst came during a confab with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.”

STEPHANOPOULOS: Hundreds of millions of dollars to expand family planning services. How is that stimulus?

PELOSI: Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children's health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those - one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So no apologies for that?

PELOSI: No apologies. No. we have to deal with the consequences of the downturn in our economy.

Fewer children means less money the states must churn out for schools.

When Pelosi told Tom Brocaw that the Catholic Church’s view on the impermissibility of abortion was of recent vintage, she was corrected by every Catholic theologian from sea to shining sea. Bishop Charles Chaput of Denver gave Pelosi an “F” in Catholic theology: “Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is a gifted public servant of strong convictions and many professional skills. Regrettably, knowledge of Catholic history and teaching does not seem to be one of them.” Apart from Pelosi’s crooked theology, her economics is also a bit screwy.

Apart from Pelosi’s crooked theology, her economics is also a bit screwy.

It is true that fewer children mean fewer schools. It is also true that fewer schools mean fewer teachers, school administrators, principals, superintendents and other unionized workers, most of whom, even the Catholics among them, voted for Peolosi. So, the upside for Republicans and the Pope, neither of whom favor the Americanization of foreign attitudes on abortion, is that more family planning and more abortions ultimately reduce the number of voters who would be inclined to vote for such as Pelosi.

The news for Pelosi is not good on the tax revenue side either.

While it is true that in the short run fewer births, now controlled by the US Congress, might lead to less money shelled out by the states for such expenses as education, it is also true that in the long run fewer births also result in fewer taxpayers – and less money for such as Nancy Pelosi to spend wildly propping up Main Street and Wall Street.

And fewer children mean, another upside for Republicans and the Pope, fewer potential voters who can be bewitched by politicians, like Pelosi, who claim that they are passing legislation that benefits children.

One would never guess from all this talk about birth controlling and aborting future Democrat voters that the United States is dangerously close to joining much of Europe in the family planning downslide. In Europe, birth has been so controlled that many countries cannot produce enough children to replace the dying population.

France is the exception.

Why? Because France, determined not to disappear any time soon, pays families – in tax refunds – to have more than 2.5 children, the rate at which the population increases.

This too is birth control. But it is the kind of control that will assure the nation that its debts will ultimately be paid by a growing population. It has often been said by pay-as-you go Democrats in the congress that national debts are the unwanted legacy the present generation leaves to future generations. Less generation leads inexorably to lesser generations.

And wouldn’t it be nice, when the country’s multi-trillion dollar bill comes due, to have someone at the end of the line pay for it?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Blumenthal, the Nation’s Worst Attorney General


In 2007, the Competitive Enterprise Institute compiled a report titled “The Nation’s Top Ten Worst State Attorneys General.” Topping the list at number one was Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal; Elliot Spitzer, drummed out of office by a sex scandal, was third.

Bill Lockyer, number two in the 2007 listing, has since been elevated to State Treasurer of California, which is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

If Blumenthal does decide to run for governor, there are ten other “worst” attorneys general who will be vying for the first position.

“Over the past decade,” said Hans Bader, Counsel for Special Projects at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, “attorneys general have increasingly usurped the role of state legislatures and Congress by using litigation to impose interstate and national regulations and to extract money from out-of-state defendants. The worst offenders flaunt such abuse of power, with the most notorious of the lot … boasting that he ‘has redefined the role of Attorney General,’”

Blumenthal continues to redefined his role, recently as the new CEO wannabe of AT&T.

"There's a rumor going around that the AG doesn't like AT&T,” Blumenthal said at an anti-AT&T union rally. “Well, I love AT&T. And when they start paying fair wages, when they start keeping jobs here, when they start playing by the rules, Connecticut will love AT&T."

The AT&T workers, according to one report, surrounded Blumenthal and chanted, “Governor Blumenthal.”

Power wise, election to the gubernatorial chair would be a step down for the nations “worst” attorney general.

In response to a shift in business from land line operations to wireless service, AT&T has announced that it is cutting its Connecticut workforce of 6,800 employees by 400 jobs; the company also will transfer another 60 jobs to Michigan. AT&T's landline voice service was down 8 percent in 2008, while its wireless service was up 15 percent.

The day after the news broke, Blumenthal was on the protest line with AT&T workers expressing the conditions under which he would be prepared to love AT&T.

And, of course, Blumenthal’s affection is tied to the power of his office, so unrestrained by judges as to propel him into the number one spot as CEI’s worst attorney general.

Naturally, AT&T is not willing to assume the prone position so that the attorney general may more easily grind its face in the dirt.

"This is not about AT&T. This is not about Blumenthal. This is about the kind of message Connecticut is sending to business — a state that has no positive job growth and] people who are falling over themselves to prove that they're pro-consumer by showing they're anti-business," said AT&T spokesman Dave Mancuso. Look at the states where companies are investing and I think you'll see very different dynamics."

To which independent telecom analyst Jeff Kagan of Atlanta adds, “All of a sudden, they're going to take a big, strong company, and they're going to squeeze it dry. If every state tried to exercise the same control, this company would be doomed. It wouldn't have any control over its future or any control over being competitive."

Blumenthal has asked the state’s Department of Public Utility Control to block the layoffs.

Blumenthal likes to boast that he earns for the state $14 for every dollar spent by his office in producing legislation and filing suits. But that accounting is questionable. We do not know how much in business taxes Blumenthal has cost the state in jobs and business lost through his punitive suits and questionable legislation.

The message Blumenthal is sending out to current Connecticut businesses and prospective business may be more costly than is generally supposed by adulatory commentators, timid governors and supine judges.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Taxes Going Up

There are signs in the wind, Managing Editor of the Journal Inquirer Chris Powell writes in one of his columns, that the powers that be in state government are in the process of reverting to the usual template now that the economy has tanked in Connecticut.

That template involves lots of talking the talk about spending cuts. But when push comes to shove, the ladies and gents in state government ultimately reach an accord that allows for tax increases.

“It may be easiest for Rell to start conceding by agreeing with Democratic legislators to increase the state income tax on the rich. A tax system's progressivity is usually a fair issue. But the degree of progressivity should be fixed as a general rule and determined on its own merits, not adjusted opportunistically whenever, as now, the government class wants to fend off pressure to restore some relationship between the government's income and the public's.

“Of course no one advocating raising taxes on the rich in Connecticut is seeking a revenue-neutral progressivity. No, as usual raising taxes on the rich is being advocated only to reduce interest in examining all the special-interest elements of spending policy. In effect the tax-the-rich-more folks are saying: Don't worry about the waste, failure, and extravagance of government, for we'll get the money from someone else.

“If the status quo of public expenditure in Connecticut could be protected by imposing a special tax on the poor, then most advocates of taxing the rich more, being members of the government class themselves, would be perfectly satisfied, as they were perfectly satisfied when the state income tax was enacted in 1991, the product of a deal between the rich and the government class, whereby the state capital gains and dividends taxes then paid by the rich were largely subsumed into their new general state income tax payments and the middle class suddenly had to pay a lot more on its wages.

“The campaign for more progressivity is conducted in the name of helping the poor by employing an ever-larger government class. Yet this campaign never notes the long failure of poverty policy. As Ronald Reagan joked, the country had a "war on poverty" and poverty won. It's still winning, especially in places like Hartford, Bridgeport, and New Haven. But Connecticut's advocates of more progressive taxation couldn't care less.

“A reasonable progressivity in taxation is good not only for raising revenue but also for democracy, for keeping the rich from becoming too powerful, a means of social control. Indeed, on the federal level, where the government issues irredeemable money -- money backed not by any commodity, such as gold and silver in olden times, but backed only by the government's power to require its acceptance "for all debts, public and private" -- social control is really the only purpose of taxation. But if taxation is too progressive and not broad enough, it can destroy civic virtue, which is exactly what Connecticut's advocates of greater progressivity mean to do.

“For American government has become a massive, cynical, and convoluted scheme of cost shifting, what the French economist Frederic Bastiat called "the great fiction by which everybody tries to live at the expense of everybody else." When people realize that they can use the government to vote themselves more and more benefits for which they don't have to pay, they lose incentive to pay attention to government generally. Just to maintain their attention and their civic virtue and to maintain the government's own virtue, all but the destitute should have to pay a clearly identifiable tax that is large enough to be felt, and resented when it's wasted.”

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Draft Order Closing Guantánamo Bay

EXECUTIVE ORDER
- - - - - - -
REVIEW AND DISPOSITION OF INDIVIDUALS DETAINED AT THE GUANTÁNAMO BAY NAVAL BASE AND CLOSURE OF DETENTION FACILITIES


By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, in order to effect the appropriate disposition of individuals currently detained by the Department of Defense at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base (“Guantánamo”) and promptly to close the detention facilities at Guantánamo, consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice, I hereby order as follows:
Section 1. Definitions. As used in this order:

(a) “Common Article 3” means Article 3 of each of the Geneva Conventions.

(b) “Geneva Conventions” means:

(i) the Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, Aug. 12, 1949 (6 UST 3114);

(ii) the Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea, Aug. 12, 1949 (6 UST 3217);

(iii) the Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Aug. 12, 1949 (6 UST 3316); and

(iv) the Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Aug. 12, 1949 (6 UST 3516).

(c) “Individuals currently detained at Guantánamo” and “individuals covered by this order” mean individuals currently detained by the Department of Defense in facilities at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base whom the Department of Defense has ever determined to be or treated as enemy combatants.

Sec. 2. Findings.

(a) Over the past seven years, approximately 800 individuals whom the Federal Government has identified as enemy combatants have been detained at Guantánamo. The Federal Government has moved more than 500 such detainees from Guantánamo, either by returning them to their home country or by releasing or transferring them to a third country. The Department of Defense has determined that a number of the individuals currently detained at Guantánamo are eligible for such transfer or release.

(b) Some individuals currently detained at Guantánamo have been there for more than six years, and most have been detained for at least four years. In view of the significant concerns raised by these detentions, both within the United States and internationally, prompt and appropriate disposition of the individuals currently detained at Guantánamo and closure of the facility would further the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice. Merely closing the facility without promptly determining the appropriate disposition of the individuals detained would not adequately serve those interests. To the extent practicable, the prompt and appropriate disposition of the individuals detained at Guantanamo should precede the closure of the detention facilities at Guantanamo.

(c) The individuals currently detained at Guantánamo have the constitutional privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. Most of those individuals have filed petitions for a writ of habeas corpus in Federal court challenging the lawfulness of their detention.

(d) It is in the interests of the United States that the Administration undertake a prompt and thorough review of the factual and legal bases for the continued detention of all individuals currently held at Guantánamo, and of whether their continued detention is in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and in the interests of justice. The unusual circumstances associated with detentions at Guantánamo require a comprehensive interagency review.

(e) New diplomatic efforts may result in an appropriate disposition of a substantial number of individuals currently detained at Guantánamo.

(f) Some individuals currently detained at Guantánamo may have committed offenses for which they should be prosecuted. It is in the interests of the United States to review whether and how any such individuals can and should be prosecuted.

(g) It is in the interests of the United States that the Administration conduct a prompt and thorough review of the circumstances of the individuals currently detained at Guantánamo who have been charged with offenses before military commissions pursuant to the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Public Law 109-366, as well as of the military commission process more generally.

Sec. 3. Closure of Detention Facilities at Guantánamo.

The detention facilities at Guantánamo for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than one year from the date of this order. If any individuals covered by this order remain in detention at Guantánamo at the time of closure of those detention facilities, they shall be returned to their home country, released, transferred to a third country, or transferred to another United States detention facility in a manner consistent with law and the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States.

Sec. 4. Immediate Review of All Guantánamo Detentions.

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(a) Scope and Timing of Review. A review of the status of each individual currently detained at Guantánamo (“Review”) shall commence immediately.

(b) Review Participants. The Review shall be conducted with the full cooperation and participation of the following officials:

(1) the Attorney General, who shall coordinate the Review;
(2) the Secretary of Defense;
(3) the Secretary of State;
(4) the Secretary of Homeland Security;
(5) the Director of National Intelligence;
(6) the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and
(7) other officers or full-time or permanent part-time employees of the United States, including employees with intelligence, counterterrorism, military, and legal expertise, as determined by the Attorney General, with the concurrence of the head of the department or agency concerned.

(c) Operation of Review. The duties of the Review participants shall include the following:

(1) Consolidation of Detainee Information. The Attorney General shall, to the extent reasonably practicable, and in coordination with the other Review participants, assemble all information in the possession of the Federal Government that pertains to any individual currently detained at Guantánamo and that is relevant to determining the proper disposition of any such individual. All executive branch departments and agencies shall promptly comply with any request of the Attorney General to provide information in their possession or control pertaining to any such individual. The Attorney General may seek further information relevant to the Review from any source.

(2) Determination of Transfer. The Review shall determine, on a rolling basis and as promptly as possible with respect to each individual currently detained at Guantánamo, whether it is possible to transfer or release the individuals consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and, if so, whether and how the Secretary of Defense may effect their transfer or release on appropriate terms and conditions. The Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, and, as appropriate, other Review participants shall work to effect promptly the release or transfer of all individuals for whom release or transfer is possible on such terms and conditions.

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(3) Determination of Prosecution. In accordance with United States law, the cases of individuals detained at Guantánamo not approved for release or transfer shall be evaluated to determine whether the Federal Government should seek to prosecute the detained individuals for any offenses they may have committed, including whether it is feasible to prosecute such individuals before a court established pursuant to Article III of the United States Constitution, and the Review participants shall in turn take the necessary and appropriate steps based on such determinations.

(4) Determination of Other Disposition. With respect to any individuals currently detained at Guantánamo whose disposition is not achieved under subsections (c)(2) or (c)(3) of this section, the Review shall select lawful means, consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice, for the disposition of such individuals. The appropriate authorities shall promptly implement such dispositions.

(5) Consideration of Issues Relating to Transfer to United States. The Review shall identify and consider legal, logistical, and security issues relating to the potential transfer of individuals currently detained at Guantánamo to facilities within the United States and the review participants shall work with Congress on any legislation that may be appropriate.

Sec. 5. Diplomatic Efforts.

The Secretary of State shall expeditiously pursue and direct such negotiations and diplomatic efforts with foreign governments as are necessary and appropriate to implement this order.

Sec. 6. Humane Standards of Confinement.

No individual currently detained at Guantánamo shall be held in the custody or under the effective control of any officer, employee, or other agent of the United States Government, or at a facility owned, operated, or controlled by a department or agency of the United States, except in conformity with all applicable laws governing the conditions of such confinement, including Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. The Secretary of Defense shall immediately undertake a review of the conditions of detention at Guantánamo to ensure full compliance with this directive. Such review shall be completed within 30 days and any necessary corrections implemented immediately thereafter.

Sec. 7. Military Commissions.

The Secretary of Defense shall immediately take steps sufficient to ensure that during the pendency of the Review described in section 4 of this order no charges are sworn, or referred to a military commission, under the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Pub. L. 109-366, and the Rules thereto, and that all proceedings of such military commissions to which charges have been referred but in which no judgment has been rendered, and all proceedings pending in the United States Court of Military Commission Review, are halted.

Sec. 8. General Provisions.

(a) Nothing in this order shall prejudice the authority of the Secretary of Defense to determine the disposition of any detainees not covered by this order.

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(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

[signed:] Barack Obama
THE WHITE HOUSE
January xx, 2009
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The Fishwrap


After an avalanche of criticism, former speaker of the State House Jim Amann has decided to look elsewhere for a job. He still wants to be governor. According to the Waterbury Republican American, “Former Republican Sen. David J. Cappiello, meanwhile, is the new senior policy adviser to super minority Senate Republicans. For $103,000 a year, he will tell them whether they should lay horizontally or vertically when Democrats steamroller them.” The ever gracious Nancy Pelosi took time in her busy schedule to bid former President George Bush farewell. His leave-taking, said the lady, "was like having a 10-ton anvil lifted from my shoulders," though it may be doubted whether such a cumbersome weight could fit on her slender and graceful shoulders. The new president, she confided to Bay area reporters, “will be great for California because he “has an entrepreneurial way of thinking, a fresh way of thinking, a commitment to the environment, a push for green jobs and reversing global warming, and that will help California.” California, teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, is holding out a rather large cup to the entrepreneurial Obama. One of the new president’s first acts in office was to issue a dictat closing GITMO. The administration is still struggling to find a less torcherous place in the universe to house such as Kalid Sheik Mohammed. As if all this were not problematic enough, Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, has written the president on a matter of grave importance relating to prisoners in Illinois, one of his home states. Morell wants Obama to “focus on a grave injustice taking place in the prisons of your home state, namely, a prison diet that is slowly killing the inmates assigned to the Illinois Department of Corrections. This is a diet based largely on soy protein powder and soy flour. As you stated on last night's 60 Minutes Program, America does not condone torture. I think you would agree that what is happening in the Illinois prisons is a form of torture.” And Governor Patterson of New York at last has settled upon someone to fill the departing Senator Hillary Clinton's large high heels. Unfortunately, it is not Caroline Kennedy. Kirsten Gillibrand is reputed to be a supporter of gun rights.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Steyn Pricks the Obamabubble

In a wonderfully literate preview of the Obama Era, Mark Steyn in National Review examines the pitfalls of Obamaism.

“And, whether or not we get a massive federal program of rural library construction, we seem certain to get an acceleration of the grim leftward ratchet effect:

“(a) more subordination of the dynamic part of the economy to arthritic government regulation;

“(b) more of the remorseless annexation of health care by government, until eventually the point about whether to move to a socialized system will be entirely moot;

“(c) more so-called tax cuts, a term the Democrats have successfully usurped to apply to nanny-state “credits” the government condescends to allow you in return for living your life the way they want you to;

“(d) federally funded preschool and a few other entitlements that will metastasize way beyond any attempted constraints and further deform the relationship between the citizen and the state;

“(e) continued incremental removal of citizens from the federal tax rolls, until round about 2012 a majority of American adults are paying no federal tax at all but are able to vote themselves more and more lollipops from the minority who do;

“(f ) a few small nothing peripheral Community Reinvestment Act–sized programs that nobody notices until, a decade or two and a couple of reforms later, they’ve mutated into a hideous wart-encrusted tail wagging an ever more tumor-ridden and cadaverous old pooch.”

Steyn reasons that what didn’t work for FDR will not work for Obama. It was the war, stupid, that ended the depression – all the hard cash we collected from our allies in return for armaments – not FDR’s spending spree.

Before the citizens of Lincoln's America shell out any more hard cash to the titians in congress, they should be forced to read, even at the point of a pistol, Steyn's "It's Raining Money."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Caroline Not The “It” Girl: Bet On It

The unfortunately named Fredrick Dicker has announced in his New Your Post column, days after announcing that Caroline Kennedy was a sure bet to fill the departing Senator Hillary Clinton’s rather large high heels, that “Caroline Kennedy tonight withdrew her name from consideration to replace Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate after learning that Gov. David Paterson wasn't going to choose her, The Post has learned.”

Referring to “unnamed sources, the authoritative Dicker writes, “Sources said the reason Paterson had decided not to tap the daughter of John F. Kennedy was her poor performances in media interviews and in private sessions with various officials.”

Dicker is now suggesting that Andrew Cuomo may be chosen by Governor Patterson to fill Hillary's high heels.

Governors Who Work

Progressive Connecticut is the Eden of the Obama era. Whatever President Barack Obama has or will propose in coming years, it can justly be said that Connecticut has been there, done that.

Does Washington have a Democrat controlled legislature? Been there, done that. Is the US treasury splashing around knee deep in debt? So are we. Does Washington believe that the nation does not have a spending problem, rather it has a revenue problem? That is and has been for decades the operative position of Connecticut Democrats in the legislature and their enablers in Connecticut ’s supportive media. Right on down the line, on nearly every important point in the Obama program, Connecticut has been tried in the fire. And we can report from Hell that few of the solutions to economic problems adopted by the Obama homunculi that populate our state legislature will work to enhance either our liberty or our prosperity.

It would be helpful if some champion of free enterprise in the state, perhaps our governor, took up this cause. Other governors have done so. The most recent state of the state address by a real activist Republican governor, Mark Sanford of South Carolina , includes these sentiments:

“We can't go on spending more than is coming in and be competitive.

“Sustainable spending matters because unsustainable spending means more private sector activity is crowded out of the economic mix in our state.

“It matters because it sets the stage for tax increases down the line that hurt individuals and businesses in their ability to compete in the global marketplace.

“It matters because it sets in motion a cycle of peaks and valleys in government spending that hurts the neediest of the needy in our state.

“To avoid each of these things it has been our contention that government shouldn't grow faster than the rate of growth of people's wallets and pocketbooks."

Given Connecticut ’s present economic plight, a deficit of $6 billion in a budget of $17 billion, these lines sound like a declaration of war on the present regime. And that is what Republicans should propose: a civil and polite war, but a war nonetheless, that will end with the overthrow of outmoded presumptions, the first of which is that Connecticut is suffering from diminished revenues. This state is suffering from an orgy of spending that began when Lowell Weicker of blessed memory muscled the legislature into accepting an income tax. We have lost control of the helm itself to what some have called the permanent government. Inertia is driving our ship. We do things in a certain way because we have always done them in a certain way, and we fear breaking the mold.

This fiscal year, Sanford presented to his legislature a budget containing a proposal for an optional flat tax of 3.65 percent paid for by an increase of 30 cents per pack in the cigarette tax, the elimination of sales tax holidays and a new landfill tipping fee. His long range ambition is to rid the state of all taxes but consumption taxes. His proposal is aimed, in his words, at “bettering South Carolina ’s competitive position when it comes to tax rates. The plan also recommends eliminating the state’s corporate income tax over a 10-year-time period, taking the rate from 5 percent to zero. The governor’s tax plan will move South Carolina ’s overall business climate ranking from 25th to 6th.”

Sanford does not like pork, except on pigs. And he is well known in South Carolina as a Republican who has fought with members of his own party and Democrats in the opposition party to resist Washington ’s pork filled Trojan Horses. The day after the Republican led House in South Carolina overrode 105 of the governor’s 106 budget vetoes, he brought live pigs into the House chambers as a protest against pork projects.

In the competition for jobs, as we move inexorably into the Obama era, is there any question which state will be attracting more business, allowing the state to increase its revenues without imposing undo hardships on its citizens – Connecticut or South Carolina ?

Monday, January 19, 2009

It’s Caroline: Bet On It

The unfortunately named Fredric Dicker, a scrivener who writes for the authoritative New York Post is asserting in his column that “ Despite claims that he's still undecided, Gov. Paterson is ‘certain’ to pick Caroline Kennedy to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton in the US Senate, several unhappy contenders for the job have told friends and associates in recent days. ‘

Why so?

Morose contenders, says Dicker, “based their conclusion on the view that Paterson, after nearly two months of indecision, would ‘greatly embarrass’ and 'entirely humiliate' Kennedy, anger her prominent political family and even offend President-elect Barack Obama by picking someone other than President John F. Kennedy's daughter.”

Corruption busting Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, viewed by some Democrat accomplices in the media as lacking the experience to preside over the sleep inducing senate as Vice President, no doubt is preparing a congratulatory note to the inexperienced Caroline.

There are also emotional and aesthetic reasons why Paterson should choose Caroline, whose uncle, the renowned Sen. Ted Kennedy, will soon be begging admittance at Heaven’s gate: His soul will rest easy knowing that -- Camelot lives!

And Caroline's elevation to the US Senate will scotch forever the notion that one needs experience to be a US senator, good riddens to it.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Waiter, There’s an Hamas In My Soup!

The Herald Tribune is reporting that Ingrid Mattson, president of the Hartford based Islamic Society of North America and one of many religious leaders chosen to speak at Washington's National Cathedral as a part of President-elect Barrack Obama’s inauguration, has an Hamas connection through the Holy Land Foundation, a group that has contributed money to Hamas:
“Mattson has been the guest of honor at State Department dinners and has met with senior Pentagon officials during the Bush administration. She also spoke at a prayer service at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

“But in 2007 and as recently as last July, federal prosecutors in Dallas filed court documents linking the Hartford, Conn.-based Islamic society to the group Hamas, which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization.

"Neither Mattson nor her organization has been charged. But prosecutors wrote in July that they had "a wide array of testimonial and documentary evidence expressly linking" the group to Hamas and other radical groups."

On the other hand, attorneys for Mattson's group said in court documents they are not a subject or target of the Holy Land investigation. In e-mails filed in the court case, one prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks, said, "I am sorry for the problems for your clients. I hope to get something to you or file something with the court as soon as possible."

Connecticut papers have been diligent in reporting various objections registered by some groups to Obama’s choices of religious speakers connected with his inauguration.

But this one, not so much.

Although there is a local angle to the story -- the Islamic Society of North America is located in Hartford -- Mattson’s name is mention only in passing in an Associated Press story that ran in the Courant here. And in a second AP story that ran in the Courant, objections by gay rights activists to an invitation extended by Obama to Rev. Rick Warren are mentioned. The story also mentions that conservatives were “wringing their hands” at an invitation extended to gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson. Mattson is mention only in the following graph:

“A prayer will be offered at the National Cathedral by Ingrid Mattson, the first woman president of the Islamic Society of North America, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information. The Islamic Society, based in Indiana, is the nation's largest Muslim group.”

The Tribune reports that “Linda Douglass, a spokeswoman for Obama's inaugural committee, would not discuss the case or say whether the committee knew about it.”

Why all the muffled mouths? And how is it Dick Blumenthal does not have his oar in this water?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Amann Hired by Donovan: Is That Wrong?

The new Speaker of Connecticut’s House of Representatives, Chris Donovan, has hired as a senior advisor, at a salary of $120,000-per-year, the outgoing Speaker of the House, Jim Amann, who has thrown his hat into the gubernatorial ring. This has upset some pro-Donovan commentators.

One recalls the scene in “Sienfeld” in which Seinfeld’s buddy George, who finally gets a decent job, has sex with a cleaning lady on his desk. He is found out and called on the carpet by his new boss, who promptly fires him, eliciting the following response: “Was that wrong?”

"I am not a rich guy," Amann said. "I need to work to keep a roof over my head and take care of my wife."

Perhaps so, but the hiring puts a damper on Amann’s gubernatorial run and raises the interesting question: Is the run a cover for the job? How serious is Amann’s gubernatorial bid?

Bad Timing: Boy George’s Tribute to Obama

Put it down to a case of bad timing. Boy George, the hermaphroditic British singer, came out with a song tribute to President-elect Barack Obama, "Yes, We Can," just at the point when he was sentenced to 15 months in the slammer for having handcuffed a male escort to a wall, whom he then beat with a chain – no way to treat a lady, let alone a male escort.



According to Sky News:

“The former Culture Club frontman imprisoned Audun Carlsen during a drug-fuelled naked photoshoot at his flat in east London.

“Sentencing the musician - real name George O'Dowd - the judge at Snaresbrook Crown Court said he was guilty of "gratuitous violence".

“The judge also condemned his "premeditated", "callous", and "degrading" actions which "traumatised" his victim.

“Norwegian Mr Carlsen, 29, fled in his underpants and alerted police after the attack, in April 2007."

Mr. Carlsen escaped the flogging in his underwear. By Hollywood standards, it’s no big thing.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bring on the Revolution: No More F’n Taxes!!!


There are those of us old enough to remember Connecticut’s balmy pre-income tax days, when the state budget was a modest $7.5 billion and income tax proponents were muttering darkly about the many “niggling little taxes” in the state’s tax grab-bag that were supposed to have been replaced by the shiny new revenue vehicle trotted out by then Gov. Lowell Weicker. After all, the income tax was passed not very long ago in the early 90’s, well within the living memory of most voters in the state, during the contentious administration of the maverick governor.

Behold! Facing a budget deficit of some $6 billion, nearly the amount of the last Gov. William O’Neill pre-Maverick budget, the state legislature, according to a headline in the magisterial Hartford Courant, has now voted “To Seize Deposits” from unclaimed beer and soda pop cans. This is what bums do when they’re down on their luck, though it would be an insult to industrious bums to compare them with the robber barons in the state legislature and Governor Jodi Rell, appropriated as yet another string in the Democrat Party fiddle.

“Seize Deposits” is just about right, and it is a pleasure to announce that the Courant editor who assigns titles to stories has finally seen the light. Now, if he would only share his perceptions with the rest of the paper's dwindling staff.The appropriation from bottlers acts as a hidden tax they will recover by boosting their prices.

His compatriots at the Courant are late coming to the Mad-Hatter’s tea party. The Courant heartily approved Weicker’s income tax; in fact, the paper was one of the principle proponents of the tax without which the income tax might not have been passed. It was the chief ideological engine of the tax, and Charlie Morse, the paper’s chief political columnist who later left the Courant and went to work in the Weicker administration, was valuable in pumping up the silly notion that the more state government took from people, the better off the state would be. That didn’t work out – for very good reasons.

The government is a wealth consumer; working people in the state are wealth producers. The more that is consumed by government, the less is left to people who a) produce wealth and goods, and b) decide what enterprises in the state will succeed or fail by their consumption choices. To put it plainly: The richer the government, the poorer the people. This perception is as old as the revolt against the tyranny of kings, dictators, czars and grasping legislatures, and it is at the heart of every cleansing revolution in world history. It is the blade of the guillotine that literally separated the heads of state from the interests of the people.

So, the niggling taxes are back – with a vengeance.

The Ricarian spendthrift legislature has always been with us. Nearly two hundred years ago, classical economist David Ricardo argued against the creation of a slush fund to pay of Britain’s national debt by objecting that the purpose of the fund was irrelevant; politicians would spend it on whatever they wanted. This is what has happened to Connecticut’s collective slush funds, the many surpluses the state has garnered since passage of the income tax. Those many surpluses -- the money that the state had overtaxed its citizens, which should have been returned to them -- were simply plowed into the general fund and spent. This rampant spending ramped up the bottom line of Connecticut budgets, and now we have discovered the truth of Ricardo’s perception. We are wailing over a projected $6 billion dollar deficit.

This year Democrats proposed the transfer of millions of dollars from dedicated funds to the general fund. They will be spent.

The moment does not need clever heads proposing new ways to plunder the people of their wealth. That has been tried and failed. What the moment needs is a sharp guillotine – the political equivalent of a French Revolution.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rethinking Gitmo?

The Associated Press is reporting that “Sixty-one detainees who have been released from the U.S. Navy base prison in Cuba are believed to have rejoined the fight, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said. That's up from 37 previously… The new figures come as President-elect Barack Obama prepares to issue an executive order during his first week in office to close the controversial prison. It's unlikely, however, that the Guantanamo detention facility will be closed anytime soon as Obama weighs what to do with the estimated 250 al-Qaida, Taliban or other foreign fighter suspects who remain there.”

It’s going to be a little difficult for President-elect Barack Obama to turn around this particular fast moving train.

Even before it has been installed in office, the Obama administration “modified” several seemingly non-negotiable positions it affirmed during the lately concluded campaign.

Obama won quite a few votes, not to mention monetary pledges, on the left by stating early in his campaign that all troops should have been withdrawn from Iraq last April. Had anyone heeded his advice, Iraq would not now be largely pacified, a credit that the angels of Obama’s better nature no doubt would be willing to bestow upon the outgoing Bush administration.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Blumenthal’s Whimsy


Consider the strange case of Charles Klewin.

According to a story in the Hartford Courant written by Jon Lender, a reporter on the paper’s investigative desk who has written extensively about former Governor John Rowland, if Klewin had not hired Rowland “as a $5,000-a-month consultant in 2004 after Rowland had resigned while facing impeachment proceedings, Klewin’s construction company might be $1.2 million richer today.”

The tenacious Kewin, Lender tells us, almost had the money that was owed him in his hands, but it has been snatched away largely because of the efforts of the tenacious Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut's Attorney General and chief robber barron.

Klewin, according to Lender, “was never drawn into the criminal acts that landed Rowland in jail,” and both the state and Connecticut courts have acknowledged that the state owed Klewin $1.2 million for work he had done to expand the Manchester Community College Campus. Klewin claimed the state owed him $3 million or more on a $20 million contract for extra work his construction company had done on the project. The state agreed to settle the matter by paying Klewin $1.2 million in late 2004, and, according to Lender, “Gov. M. Jodi Rell and Blumenthal later authorized payment of the claim.”

“In November 2004,” according to Lender, “Rowland contacted a UConn official to settle a dispute over a different Klewin construction contract (italics mine) at UConn,” revelations that led to a hearing in May 2005 by a legislative committee “which said that the consulting deal might have violated the state’s revolving door law banning former officials from immediately going to work for companies hey dealt with in office.”

The committee issued subpoenas to compel testimony from Klewin executives about Rowland’s consulting work, but the executives chose instead to question the subpoenas in court. At this point, Blumenthal, who had authorized payment of the claim, requested that the unrelated payment be withheld.

Klewin then sued to compel payment. Superior Court Judge Joseph Shorthall ordered payment in September 2006. The judge said “Mr. Rowland had nothing whatever to do with” the settlement.

The state Supreme Court struck down Shorthall’s order in October 2007.

Klewin claimed that statutory law created “a mandatory duty in a department official to pay a settlement of a disputed claim.” The Supreme Court ruled that the statute under which Klewin sued for injunctive relief created no “mandatory duty in a department official to pay a settlement of a disputed claim.” Therefore, the court determined, state officials did not act in excess of their statutory authority when they failed to effect the payment to the plaintiff pursuant to the governor’s authorization, and the plaintiff’s claim does not fall within the exception to sovereign immunity.”

Klewin then re-sued the state, “claiming that it’s suit was permitted by a law specifically applying to public works construction. However, [Judge] Shapiro ruled Jan 2 that Klewin had not provided sufficient factual documentation of its claims that state public works officials had ‘badly designed and administered’ the Manchester project, causing delays and cost increases.”

In effect, the Supreme Court decided, on narrow legal grounds, that when the state agrees to pay a disputed claim – both the governor and the attorney general signed off on the claim – the state, asserting the right not to be sued under sovereign immunity, may cancel the payment because the statute under which Klewin had sued the state did not require the state to pay the agreed upon claims.

It would appear that Blumenthal withheld payment of a claim he had signed off on because the attorney general wished to force testimony from Klewin executives before a legislative committee investigating the business dealings of Rowland that, another judge had determined, were unrelated to the settlement.

So then, to recapitulate: There is not a court or an attorney general or a governor in the state of Connecticut that does not agree that the state owes Klewin $1.2 million for work he had done to expand the Manchester Community College Campus. Blumenthal wanted Klewin executives to testify under oath before a legislative committee on a matter that a judge had determined had nothing to do with the payment Blumenthal and the governor had agreed that the state owed to Klewin. Blumenthal then denied payment, it may be supposed, to compel testimony from Klewin executives. And Klewin cannot claim injunctive relief because the relevant statute, strictly interpreted, does not require that the state is mandated to make payments it has agreed to.

Very nice.

Other Connecticut and out-of-state businesses no doubt will want to take notice of the case when they enter into contracts to perform work on state projects. The statute that seems to assure businesses that the state will honorably pay its bills does not in fact require the state to do so. When the state whimsically stiffs a business and claims sovereign immunity, the business cannot expect state courts to remedy the injustice. The whimsy of the state's attorney general apparently is dispositive.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Fishwrap


It’s Sunday, January 29 of the New Year 2009 and former Governor John Rowland still had no plans to ask his friend, departing President George Bush, for a pardon, according to two scriveners for the Hartford Courant. And current senator-for-life Chris Dodd still has not released details concerning his sweetheart mortgage from the defunct Countrywide; maybe next year. Pravda is predicting an ice age. President-elect Barack Obama, no Andy Jackson he, got 90% 0f the dough for his lavish inaugural from what the Wall Street Journal is pleased to call “well heeled fundraisers.” The notorious Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, was finally impeached by the notorious state House of Representatives, and it is expected he will be tried in the senate and booted from office. Obama’s choice for attorney general, Eric Holter, has run into a buzzsaw, not that anyone noticed. Scorned Sen. Joe Lieberman is showing signs of rehabilitation, though he’s still on the outs with disgruntled bloggers. Colin McEnroe has left the building, and knockout Natalia Vodianova threatens to melt Al Gore's icicles. New Speaker of the state House Chris Donovan prefers to rule rather than debate. And the Bush presidency ends in a few days, whereupon Eden will descend upon us.

The Truth About Global Warming, Al Gore, More…


According to a meticulously researched article in Pravda (“Truth” in Russian), everyone including Al Gore, the prophet of Global Warming, should get ready for a new ice age. However, the threatend calamity is not likely to effect the promising modling career of Natalia Vodianova, show above, who has been known to melt glaciers.

Obama Inauguration Paid For By Wall Street

The authoritative Hartford Courant reports:“Obama set a cap of $50,000 on individual contributions and has refused to accept money from unions, corporations and lobbyists, although bundlers with ties to corporate America have kicked in $5.7 million of the $27 million raised thus far, according to a review by the nonpartisan group Public Citizen commissioned by The Wall Street Journal.”

That reference to the Wall Street Journal report is incomplete.

Although President-elect Barack Obama has banned corporations and big donors from contributing to his campaign, the Wall Street Journal, citing a report from Public Citizen, reported that fund raisers have collected $24.8 million of the $27.3 million reported by Obama through Jan 8. “But 90% of donations received so far,” the paper reported, “have been raised by well-heeled fund-raisers, including Wall Street executives whose companies have received billions of dollars in federal bailout money.’

Wall Street Journal employees as a group, the paper reported, “have been the biggest single source of these private donations, according to the analysis. Much of their donations -- $5.7 million total -- has been channeled through financial-services executives who each have bundled together donations worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Blogo Impeached, Dixon Indicted, Pirates Drown

Blago has been impeached. We can breath easier. And Baltimore Mayor Sheila A. Dixon today was charged with 12 counts of felony theft, perjury, fraud and misconduct in office, becoming the city's first sitting mayor to be criminally indicted, according to a report in the Baltimore Sun. Both Blago and Dixon are Democrats, not that there's anything wrong with that. In the meantime, the Somalian pirates have run into a bit of bad luck. According to an Associated Press report, "Five of the Somali pirates who released a hijacked oil-laden Saudi supertanker drowned with their share of a reported $3 million ransom after their small boat capsized, a pirate and a relative of one of the dead men said Saturday." Somalia has not yet requested funds that the US federal government has been doling out to hard luck cases, not that there's anything wrong with that.

No Pardon For Rowland, No Mention of Holter


The Hartford Courant is still fixated on former Governor John Rowland, and the paper was pleased to announce that there is little indication President George Bush intends to offer a pardon to Connecticut's once imprisoned governor.

The signed story, “Former Governor Says He Is Not Seeking A Presidential Pardon,” was written by Jon Lender, Dave Altimari and Edmund H. Mahoney, the three horsemen of Rowland’s apocalypse.

The story raises a number of interesting questions, the most important of which is this: When three reporters sign off on a story, does this mean that one writes the nouns, the second the verbs and the third the adjectives and adverbs?

The answer obviously is – yes.

Now, no story about presidential pardons would be complete without a passing reference to former president Bill Clinton, the mother of all presidential pardoners, and readers of the Courant will be pleased to note that either Jon or Dave or Edmund H. Mahoney did indeed mention Bill-The-Pardoner.

Bill is mentioned in these few graphs; that's journalese for paragraphs:


“President Bush has granted more than 190 pardons during his eight years in office, not a large number compared with past presidents. End-of-term pardons are often controversial — as former President Bill Clinton's were — and Bush last month took the unusual action of rescinding a New York developer's pardon.

“The developer — Isaac Robert Toussie, convicted of mail fraud and making false statements to federal housing officials — was among 19 people Bush pardoned on Dec. 23. Bush rescinded the pardon on Dec. 24, after newspapers revealed that Toussie's father had given a total of $40,000 over the course of a year to either the national Republican Party or GOP candidates.

“Customarily, those seeking executive clemency apply to the White House but submit personal applications to the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of the Pardon Attorney. The pardon attorney initiates a review and, through the deputy attorney general, recommends to the president for or against clemency.

“In the past, the pardon attorney has followed a fairly rigid review process in accordance with federal rules, Justice Department regulations and past practice and tradition. But because final decisions ultimately rest with the president, there have been deviations from the traditional review process (italics mine).
En passant, as the French say – fleetingly, lightly, incompletely.

The careful reader will notice that there are no numerical comparisons between pardons offered by Bush and pardons offered by Clinton – nor will they be mentioned in this posting. The reader is invited to look up the numbers himself or, as the case may be, herself.

But there is something that is not mentioned, even en passant, even though Jon and Dave and Edmund H. Mahoney pointedly mentioned a Bush pardon of the notorious Isaac Robert Toussie, later withdrawn.

The number 2 pardoner during the Clinton administration was Eric Holter, recently tapped by President-elect Barack Obama to the next US Attorney General.

Here are a few graphs from a blog posting on Mr. Holter:

“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 testimony 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…”

It so happens that, in Mr. Holter's case, the pardon review process was a) not ridgid, b) not in accordance with federal rules and c) devient.

Even the fish will smell something fishy there. But in the Jon, Dave and Edmund H. Mahoney story, it is not even mentioned.

Is it not odd how incurious some reporters are about the new news when they fixate on the old news.

ADDENDUM

On January 18, the Courant ran an op-ed piece critical of Holter.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Donovan Says Nyet To Debate

President Pro Tem of the State Senate Don Williams said he was “strongly against” a move by Governor Jodi Rell to overturn an arbiter’s award to unionized prison guards that would provide them with a 3% wage increase. The increase for some workers could mount to 6.5% owing to annual increments and lump sum payments.

Williams believes union concessions may be needed in the future to close an expected budget deficit of $6 billion. Apparently, asking for contractual givebacks, according to Williams, would make the unions less amenable to concessions as Connecticut’s economy continues to tank.

William’s counterpart in the House, Speaker Chris Donovan, who has long labored in union vineyards, refused to say whether the House would debate the issue. “The unions didn’t create the problem,” Donovan told a reporter.

Maybe yes, maybe no. Donovan’s assertion is debatable. Deficits are caused by overspending, and in this regard Donovan is more responsible for them than the unions. What the Speaker is not saying is that unions, in part, may hold the cards for fixing the problem caused by Donovan and other free spenders in the legislature.

Is the Speaker really saying that he would not be willing to debate the issue because unions did not cause the deficit, even though everyone knows that the problem can only be solved if unions are willing to make concessions? That seems to be the guiding perception of William’s comment. Williams is afraid that contractual givebacks with jeopardize and future necessary concessions.

Why is Donovan unwilling to debate the issue in the legislature? And if a) it is inappropriate to ask unions to make concessions to ameliorate a situation for which they are not responsible, and b) unions are never responsible for state deficits, then it would never, at any point, be proper to ask unions to make concessions.

That is an argument perfectly proper for a union steward to make, even the truth of the statement were open to debate.

But Speaker Donovan is no longer a union representative – or is he?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Radical Reform for What Ails’ya

Incoming Speaker of the State House of Representatives Chris Donovan, “resisting a radical tag,” says about himself, “I’m a mainstream politician now.”

Indeed, a truer word was never spoken. For there is nothing Donovan would need to reform to bring the state in line with his paradisiacal notions of state government. His train has arrived. His eagle has landed. Progressive Democrats in the state have become the status quo, and a reformer is someone who sets his heart against the present system. The present system has been very good to Donovan; that is why he is the Speaker of the House.

But the state needs reformers. More, it needs radicals. A radical is someone who “goes to the root of things” in order to effect beneficial change.

What would a radical do in Connecticut? What would the radical be saying?

He might be saying that the accumulated budgets of the last two decades have bought the state -- at a dear price -- a $6 billion deficit.

During this time, the state has used successive surpluses to pad its bottom line budgets, and the result has been a ratcheting up of that bottom line. At the same time, the state has relied on a progressive feature in the tax system to boost spending. The current failure on Wall Street has diminished revenues, placing status quo politicians in somewhat of a quandary. Since the state is constitutionally obligated to pay its debts before the end of the fiscal year, unlike the federal government, which can print money to cover its arrears, state status quo politicians now are faced with a kind of Sophie’s Choice: They can either raise taxes to liquidate the debt, or radically cut costs, or do a bit of both.

The radical might note that the citizenry has become poorer in direct proportion as the state has become richer, as suggested by their inability to absorb ever-mounting increases in municipal budgets submitted to them in referendums. Inordinate municipal tax hikes have been rejected by towns that allow referendums because – big surprise here -- people cannot afford the tax increases. Increasing tax burdens and the inability to absorb more tax increases make spending reduction all the more imperative.

The radical would offer some radical ideas to ameliorate this situation, ideas that would really change things -- radically. Naturally these ideas would be resisted by status quo politicians. But that is all to the good, evidence that such ideas are truly radical.

What would those ideas look like?

Recognize the fact, plain as the nose on your face, that status quo politicians cannot control murderous incremental increases in spending and establish a state budget referendum, so that the citizenry can regain control of its own budgets.

Reform education by changing the way education is financed. Cap education budgets but allow principles and superintendents greater control over money dispersals. Money should be allocated to school projects that work and withheld from unsuccessful enterprises and teachers. End binding arbitration. Eliminate, as far as possible, state mandates on educational institutions. Close down schools that have shown they cannot perform effectively, dispersing funds and students to successful schools.

Establish a freeze on all state salary and benefit increases until the economy improves -- not anytime soon says President-elect Barack Obama.

Reduce payroll taxes whenever possible and increase use taxes commensurately so that the net increase will be zero.

Adopt a measure suggested by the Yankee Institute to set statutory limits on spending keyed to the increase in the rate of inflation and the growth of population.

As far as possible, try to resist spending your way out of recessions, even if the money is “borrowed” or given outright as a gift from the money tree that grows in back of the US Capitol. Such gifts arte highly inflationary, and states that cannot stand on their own two feet without crutches are bound to fall on their rumps when, as often happens, the crutch is pulled out from under them by mercurial presidents and congresses.

It’s a beginning.

Burris, The End Of The Affair: Kissy, Kissy

Even farces must come to an end.

So, there was Roland Burris, scorned by Speaker of the US House Harry Reid, sitting by Reid, wreathed in smiles and nodding to the cameras, a picture that spoke a thousand words. Between them was a painting of a stern looking Mark Twain. Hovering over Reid’s tuned head, the corner of the frame piercing his noggin, was a painting of an even sterner looking Andy Jackson, founder of the modern Democrat Party.

The two has reached an accommodation. Burris would be questioned under oath by the Illinois senate concerning any deal he might have made with Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. And after he had testified under oath, Reid and the No. 2 Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, would be happy to…

Reid said he had nothing against Burris “as an individual.” But there were these storm clouds racing around Burris’ head and, well… you know…

Judicial Watch said it was going to sue the senate if it did not accept Burris as a member because the US Constitution required the senate to do so.

The Black Caucaus was stamping its collective feet, and growing impatient. Reid’s enemies on the right were comparing him to George Wallace, the redneck segregationist who stood in a school doorway rather than allow some inoffensive African American girls and boys to intrude on a white-only school.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, a caucus member, said "This is a situation where we have a senator who has now missed out on his first day. It's only fair that he be sworn in immediately. This is a no-brainer."

Illinois state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, the chairwoman of Blago’s impeachment committee's said that people must "have a screw loose" to think Blagojevich offered improper deals after being arrested. Blago may be corrupt, but he’s not dumb.

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein weighed in: "The question is really one, in my view, of law. Does the governor have the power, under law, to make the appointment? And the answer is yes. Is the governor discredited? The answer is yes. Does that affect his appointment power? The answer is no, until certain things happen. Feinstein, earlier not consulted concerning President-elect Barack Obama’s appointment of Leon Panetta as the CIA Dirctor, pointed out that the failure to seat Burris "has ramifications for gubernatorial appointments all over America.” Apparently Reid believes that the rules of the US Senate club supercede those rights and obligations cited in the US Constitution.

And then Burris, a twinkle in his eye, said he should be able to join the Senate "very shortly."

No modern playwright could do justice to this farce. We should have to reincarnate Lucian (2nd century Roman playwright) to cover it, well… better than CNN.