Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dodd and Big Pharma


Don Michak, a reporter for the Journal Inquirer, asks “If it looks like a campaign contribution and acts like a campaign contribution, is it still a campaign contribution?”

He’s referring to what can only be regarded as a piece of campaign literature supporting Sen. Chris Dodd. A fine line in the in the slick brochure reads “Paid for by America’s Pharmaceutical Research Companies and FamiliesUSA.”

Since Edward Kennedy’s brain tumor had incapacitated Massachusetts’ longs serving U.S. Sen., Dodd, a good friend, was more or less delegated by the senator to press forward Kennedy’s health reform bill, a piece of legislation that many on the right consider a first step toward universal health care.

According to Michak:

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a trade group whose 30 members include some of the nation’s biggest drug companies, and Families USA, a liberal health care advocacy organization, are sponsoring a glitzy television and direct mail campaign lauding the five-term incumbent for making health care "more affordable for the people of Connecticut."

The costly campaign features both a television commercial and a four-color flier mailed to state residents proclaiming that "On The Issues That Matter Most To Connecticut Families, Chris Dodd Has Been There For Us."

The flier also urges Dodd’s constituents to call him in Washington and "tell him thanks for standing up for us."

The trade group’s members include three Connecticut-based companies: Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals of West Haven, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals of Ridgefield, and Purdue Pharma LP of Stamford.

A spokesman for the trade group was not immediately available for comment.
But Ron Pollack, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Families USA, said Friday that his organization had joined with the trade group to promote affordable health care coverage, especially for the uninsured and underinsured.

While acknowledging that the two groups are "strange bedfellows," Pollack said that they agreed that "Senator Dodd’s work that related to these affordability questions has been unusually and very noteworthy.


Very noteworthy indeed.

Monday, June 29, 2009

HEALTHCARE, CAP & TRADE

Last week by a thread, President Obama and Speaker Pelosi won their Climate-Change Cap-and-Trade bill, by 2l9 to 212. The bill was designed to decrease Greenhouse gas emissions and promote renewable energy. Eight Republicans voted for it, 44 Democrats voted against it. (All five Connecticut representatives voted for it.) One hundred amendments were submitted, only one was allowed. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Misnamed “American Clean Energy and Security Act,” HR 2454 is about four words, announced Nancy Pelosi celebrating the victory, “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.” But it is not a green jobs bill. Millions of additional jobs will be lost, according to the Heritage Foundation: In an average year, 844,000 jobs will be lost. In a peak year two million jobs will be lost.

Over 1,000 pages long, HR 2454 has another 300 pages in an amendment drafted overnight and submitted Friday morning at 3:09 a.m. Minority Leader John Boehner for an hour read aloud from it on the House floor. To be understood, the amendment’s provisions have to be integrated with the 1,000-paged text which nobody had time or opportunity to do.

Less revolutionary, perhaps nearly as important to Mr. Obama, is the health-care bill. At the health-care gathering at the White House on June 24, expert Gail Wilensky asked the President how he expected to pay for it.

He gave a non-answer. The American people are up to it, he said. There is not a challenge we have not been up to. We will not spend money we do not have, he added. It will be deficit-neutral. Previously he has said he would decrease spending on Medicare (and Medicaid?) by $313 billion (and adding another new $643 billion.) An elderly needing costly surgery might needt to settle for a “painkiller,” he implied.

The easiest way to pay the ballooning cost it is the way Canada and England do it, by rationing. People die or travel to another country rather than waiting for appointments. Commissions take a long time to make decisions. Even in the U.S., appeals to Medicare took 21 months on average in 2003.

If you like your insurance, nobody is going to take it away from you, says Mr. Obama. Several times as a candidate he said that we should have what he as a Senator has. He meant the FEHBP, Federal Employee Health Benefit Program, available to congressmen and present and past federal employees, who can make their choice among 290 separate plans. (Sections 3101 and 277 of Senator Kennedy’s bill, which requires everyone have health-care insurance, offer a wide range of choices, but if you do not enroll, you can be fined.)

But that is not what Mr. Obama means when he says “public option.” He might mean a separate parallel program. The uninstructed public may think that’s a good thing especially if it is public. Our Congressman Christopher Murphy on the floor of the House cited one (flawed) poll indicating that the public prefers public to private.

Unfortunately, a public option will drive out private insurers. Since it can call upon the Congress for more funds and the Treasury for bailouts, it will undercut private insurance. Millions will drop their private policies, which will drive out private insurers.

Supporters of public option make several claims: It will be efficiently administered. Like the post office and the IRS? That it will offer competition, but there are 1,300 private companies offering competition. It does not need to make a profit, but there are non-profit insurers all competing.

Particularly where the public-option company is also the referee, a public option does not level the field. And it leads to single payer. Canada and England, single payers, are widely known (or should be) for unsatisfactory quality and quantity of care.

It is often claimed that single-payers cost less than the U.S. But spending among countries is not comparable that ignores differences in drugs, protocols, and equipment. Our drugs are the newest and finest available; theirs, we will have replaced for our newest. Between 1998 and 2002, twice as many new drugs were created in the U.S. as in Europe.

The Obama Team argues that “expanding health-care will bring down the cost.” How, adding 47 million enrollees will lower cost, is baffling. Peter Oszac says spending can be “moderated” if “diffusion of existing costly services were slowed.” Medicare has already curtailed use of “virtual colonoscopies, certain would-healing devices, and even a branded asthma drug.” The Medical Advisory Council or Federal Health Board, will let them know.

A great deal can be done to lower spending on health-care. A new revolutionary structure is not needed. Its spending will rise, its quality will fall. Finally, one might ask, is it constitutional? Does any of this violate the “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” of the Constitution? Do the Leaders care?

While the House will shortly be debating the health-care bill, the Senate will be facing the Cap and Trade-Climate Change-Energy bill. The consensus on global warming is breaking up. Support for Climate Change has stopped in New Zealand and slowed in Australia, Japan, and parts of Europe. In the U.S., an EPA report, hitherto concealed, weakens EPA support. In the Senate, this green energy bill will be a hard sell.

By Natalie Sirkin
c2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

Soaked Rich Swim to Safety in Maryland, Picasso's Budget

Maryland tried to soak the rich, but they swam off.

Trying to settle what liberals here in Connecticut call “a revenue problem,” a cash shortage in their budget, Maryland legislators enacted a higher tax bracket for “millionaires.” Here in the land of steady bad habits, Democrats are seeking to plunder “millionaires” who earn more than $750,000; call them mini-millionaires.

Democrats hope to raise $1.5 billion in increased income taxes and $125 million in new fee increases to pay for their improvident spending. The Democrat plan, almost certain to face a gubernatorial veto, would raise the state income tax on couples earning more than &170,000 by 7.5%, a 50 percent rate increase.

Maryland boosted its top bracket to 6.25 percent.

Result?

One third of Maryland’s “millionaires” disappeared from the tax roles and took up residence in Virginia, Delaware and Florida, all less tax punishing states.

And now, even though Maryland is colleting more money from its vanishing “millionaires,” it is hauling in $100 million less a year from the mobile rich.

National Review, an oasis of good sense in a nation of thoughtless liberals, reasons: “Capital is mobile. So are capitalists.”

The more Connecticut's governor talks about state finances, the more she begins to sound like Thomas Paine – or Margaret Thatcher, giving the evil eye to political wastrels.

Connecticut does not have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem. And its spending problem has been caused by Democrat legislatures and Republican governors that together have been folding billion dollar surpluses into the state budget ever since former Gov. Lowell Weicker, who some disgruntled Republicans consider a menace, muscled the legislature into passing an income tax. All that excess money was spent and it bloated future budgets. Now we have a $37 billion fat-boy budget on our hands, and Democrats still insist the state has no spending problem. It has, the Democrat caucus iterates in unison, a revenue problem – which means this: “The proposed two year [Democrat] budget,” the Harford Courant reported, “calls for 2.5 billion in tax increases and about $1 billion in spending cuts…”

As my old Aunt Lena once said, looking somewhat abstractedly at Picasso’s “Portrait De Femme” – “As a portrait of a lady, it’s a failure because the proportions are wrong; as a painting, it’s a failure, because it lacks beauty.”



The recently proposed Democrat budget – these guys had months to bring forth this improvident mouse – is both unlovely and an insult to the laws of economics, one of which is: When you find yourself in an economic hole, stop digging.

"The Democrats' budget,” Rell said according to a story in the Republican American, “goes in precisely the wrong direction at precisely the wrong time. It is neither balanced nor remotely realistic ... It contains so many holes — together with unachievable spending cuts — that new and higher taxes would be needed each and every year for years to come,"

Taking the long view, Rell is most interested in positioning her state so that, when good times return, Connecticut will not be, shall we say, another Maryland.

Republicans have been somewhat shocked at Rell’s steely resolve. Other Republican governors, including Rell herself, have taken bows in the direction of fiscal responsibility, only to surrender later in budget negotiations to importunate Democrat leaders. You say “no, no” with your lips, but your eyes say “yes, yes.” It is all part of the budget mating game.

In past times, when Connecticut was flush with surpluses, no one much cared that the state was even then digging itself into a hole. But now, waist deep in red ink, some politicians are seriously engaged in political reform, and wouldn’t it be refreshing to count Rell among their number when the saints come marching in?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Big Pharma And Dodd

Who Paid For This Dodd Ad?

Dodd’s Way

What percentage of the Connecticut Congressional delegation is Catholic?

Some orthodox Catholics would say zero percent. To turn a phrase, it depends on what you mean by Catholic.”

Sen. Chris Dodd is a well known Catholic.

At least, he was baptized into the Catholic Church. His immediate family – Sen. Tom Dodd and his mother Grace – were indisputably Catholic. We all were in the early 40s when baby Dodd was received into the Catholic communion.

But there is a question mark hanging like a Damoclean sword over Chris Dodd’s head. Being Catholic is similar to but not exactly the same as being a member of the Democrat Party.

Catholics have a thing called communion which, in addition to being a sacrament, also points to the unity of the church. In fact the words “unity of the church” are pronounced in the liturgy when the faithful take communion. And if you are not in doctrinal unity with the faith, you ought not to take the sacrament which, in any case, will not be efficacious.

Sometimes when public Catholics are visibly and ostentatiously not in communion with the Catholic Church, they are denied communion by the heads of their church. About a year ago, a great stir was created in the media when some Catholic bishops threatened to excommunicate a few senators who vigorously supported abortion. There are a few reasons for this, the most important of which is that the Catholic senators had advertised themselves as being Catholic. Leading Catholics are supposed to lead by example, to use a much abused expression.

Some would say Dodd is a poor example of a Catholic, one who is not in communion with his church on matters considered important to the church.

Think of it this way: Dodd is a liberal Democrat. Let’s suppose that tomorrow he were to reject the progressive income tax as incompatible with good government and come out in favor of a flat tax –publicly, volubly, boastfully.

Under those circumstances, befuddled Democrats would question both Dodd’s sanity, his standing within the Democrat Party and his political acumen, since most voters in Connecticut are Democrats who hold the Democrat line on the question of the progressive income tax. We should not be surprised in such a case if leading Democrats in his party rail against him. Among them there would be not a few who would be calling for his ouster from the Democrat Party on the grounds that he had converted to a heretical form of Republicanism. No one would be the surprised at any of this.

When Sen. Joe Lieberman jumped ship – actually he was forced to walk the plank by certain disgruntled Democrats who supported Ned Lamont in a fractious primary – by supporting Sen. John McCain rather than Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. Hillary Clinton for president in the last campaign, there were calls that the party’s doors should be bolted shut against him. No one was surprised at this, least of all Sen. Lieberman, who had already made a graceful exit by running for re-election to the senate as an independent.

Why should we deny to the Catholic Church a similar means of purgation thought to be therapeutic in political circumstance?

Dodd and other Catholic politicians who are not in communion with their church are bad examples.

This much obvious in matters of abortion and gay marriage: Dodd should not be permitted to get within ten feet of a catechumen, at least on the point of abortion and, lately, gay marriage.

Dodd’s position on this issue – if he can be said to have a position – is, from a Catholic point of view, simply incredible. It lacks credibility. People who make up a kind of synthetic religion as they go along will find it satisfactory. Because that is what Dodd has done: He is making it up as he goes along, as many politicians do.

Here is what Dodd said: “While I’ve long been for extending every benefit of marriage to same-sex couples, I have in the past drawn a distinction between a marriage-like status (“civil unions”) and full marriage rights.

“The reason was simple: I was raised to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. And as many other Americans have realized as they’ve struggled to reconcile the principle of fairness with the lessons they learned early in life, that’s not an easy thing to overcome.”

Such beliefs, common in benighted Catholic households when Dodd was received into the church, are subject to revision by ambitious public figures, increasingly at the whim of the revisionist.

“I believe that effective leaders must be able and willing to grow and change over their service. I certainly have during mine – and so has the world. Thirty-five years ago, who could have imagined that we’d have an African-American President of the United States?”

So, Dodd has grown up, after having had a conversation with some gay rights activists. Would his growth have been any different if he had had a conversation with his priest?

Probably not.

The reasoning here is just silly: I believed A when I was a thoughtless child; I have grown up; now I believe not-A.” This is a radical reversion of Paul’s declaration, “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” Paul had a reason. Dodd had a political opportunity to put himself in the good graces of yet another liberal constituency at a time when he has been weakened by political controversies.

There are different kinds of growth. It was Cardinal Newman who said that to become perfect is to have changed often. But Dodd’s “growth” is a radical departure from the theology of his church, one which, if persisted in, will and should leave him outside the church doors. He is “growing” out of his faith, and if he continues on this path, he should have the decency to leave his church and join a syncretistic faith more to his liking.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Paper Reports Obama Administration Sent Letter to Khamenei Prior to Election


In a recent sermon (read: potboiler political address), Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei made an oblique reference to a letter sent to him before the elections in Iran by President Barack Obama, according to a report in the Washington American Spectator.

Khamenei said, misquoting the American president, "The American president was quoted as saying that he expected the people of Iran to take to the streets. On the one hand, they [the Obama administration] write a letter to us to express their respect for the Islamic Republic and for re-establishment of ties, and on the other hand they make these remarks. Which one of these remarks are we supposed to believe? Inside the country, their agents were activated. Vandalism started. Sabotaging and setting fires on the streets started. Some shops were looted. They wanted to create chaos. Public security was violated. The violators are not the public or the supporters of the candidates. They are the ill-wishers, mercenaries and agents of the Western intelligence services and the Zionists."

Obama never said he expected Iranians to take to the street, but the letter does much to explain Obama’s awkward silence once the Iranian government began to crack the heads of peaceful protesters.

Obama Finds His Tongue


Better late than never, but the extended pause that preceded President Obama’s statement during his last news conference suggests a compromised will. The next time Amadinijad appears anywhere in the West, he should be greeted with protestors bearing aloft the word “Neda” — that’s all, just that. We can no longer depend on presidents and White Houses anxious to rub noses with murderers to represent the best in us.

Politico reports: “Obama borrowed language from struggles throughout history against oppressive governments to condemn the efforts by Iran’s rulers to crush dissent in the wake of June 12 presidential elections. Citing the searing video circulated worldwide of the apparent shooting death of Neda Agha Soltan, a 26-year-old young woman who bled to death in a Tehran street and now is a powerful symbol for the demonstrators, Obama said flatly that human rights violations were taking place.

“‘No iron fist is strong enough to shut off the world from bearing witness to peaceful protests of justice,’ he said during a nearly hour long White House news conference dominated by the unrest in Iran. “Those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history.’”

Yes -- bearing witness, preferably silently, so as not to disturb future negociations with the Iron Fist.

It may be expecting too much to expect presidents to do more than “bear witness” passively.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Revolution This Time


President Obama’s muffled response to the revolution in Iran -- and it is a revolution – is due to his perception that Iran might possibly use strong statements supporting those who resist oppression in that country, mostly Western oriented young people and intellectuals, to effect its own purposes: He does not wish, by imprudent statements, to allow the United States to become “a foil” used by oppressors to snuff out the resistance.

There is a serious objection to this diplomatic nonsense: The oppressors in Iran – and they are oppressors – will seize on any pretext to accomplish their purposes. Even Secretary General of the UN Ban Ki-moon’s mild retorts, paralleling those of Obama, have been used by the oppressor regime to suppress the revolution. To the oppressors in Iran, all words are fighting words. All words are foils.

Obama’s excessive caution is a double-edged sword. It is also used by the oppressor regime as a permission to commit violence on the resistance.

When a victorious Janos Kadar said, following the suppression of the Hungarian revolt in 1957, that there could be no counterrevolution in Hungary, Albert Camus, the apostle of liberty in France at the time, replied that Kadar was right – because his was the counterrevolution, a betrayal of the liberty of Hungarians.

We need clear voices like this in the White House. The revolution in Iran, were it to succeed, would secure the promise of the more democratic Iran that was betrayed by Amidinajad and his overlords in Iran. That was the counterrevolution. This is the revolution.

Towards the 4th of July


According to an AFP report, State Department spokesperson Ian Kelly said earlier this month the United States “would invite Iran to US embassy barbecues for the national holiday for the first time since the two nations severed relations following the 1979 Islamic revolution.

"’There's no thought to rescinding the invitations to Iranian diplomats,’ State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters.

"’We have made a strategic decision to engage on a number of fronts with Iran,’ Kelly said. ‘We tried many years of isolation, and we're pursuing a different path now.’

Why let a bloody revolution get in the way of “hot dog diplomacy?”

No Meddling Please, The Iranian Revolution

It is uncertain at this point whether President Barack Obama would subscribe to Iran’s official assessment of Ban Ki-moon, the United Nation’s Secretary General.

On Monday, Ban called on the Iranian authorities to stop resorting to arrests, threats and the use of force against civilians in the post-election unrest that has gripped the country for more than 10 days, to which ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi responded, “Ban Ki-moon has damaged his credibility in the eyes of independent countries by ignorantly following some domineering powers which have a long record of uncalled-for interference in other countries internal affairs and colonisation.”

The overlords in Freedom loving Iran have not been entirely successful in smothering the revolution in silence. The truth continues to trickle out in bloody streams that soon may be staunched with the complicity of those who do not wish to interfere in Iran’s domestic affairs.

Obama Zeros Out


The latest Rasmussen Daily Presidential Tracking Poll shows President Barack Obama zeroing out:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows that 33% of the nation's voters now Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Thirty-three percent (33%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of 0 (see trends).

The number of respondents who blame former President George Bush for the dismal economy has fallen 8 points to 54%, and a growing number say it’s Obama’ economy now.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Friends Of Dodd (FOD) To The Rescue


The Hartford Courant, assaulted by the paper's columnist and ex-radio talk show host Colin McEnroe as being insufficiently empathetic to Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, invited Friends of Dodd (FOD) to weigh in on the senator’s sterling virtues.

The shade of former Gov. John Rowland, towards whom all the commentators celebrating Dodd’s spotless career in the U.S. Senate were insufficiently empathetic, hovered over the whole enterprise like Banquo’s ghost.

McEnroe wrote that the Courant had “engaged in an unattractive feeding frenzy,” displaying “a tabloid-style headline that was so garishly loaded as to constitute a real lapse in journalistic standards.” The “political establishment, with one or two exceptions, has shown itself to be utterly without spine.” They have repaid the kindnesses shown them “by treating him like a pin pulled hand-grenade. They stand 80 yards from the blast site feebly waving.”

A lament for Connecticut's beleaguered ex-governor perhaps?

Nope. It’s Dodd being roughly handled by putative ungrateful liberals that has aroused McEnroe’s ire.

Bill Curry lamented that “one columnist” – presumably Kevin Rennie of the Courant – “can still lay siege to a good man’s reputation and turn a modern state into a latter day Salem.”

Rowland being savaged by Curry’s friend McEnroe? By Curry himself? By the whole journalistic brass band that brought Rowland down?

Nope. It’s Dodd, this year’s saintly liberal martyr, being hacked to pieces by renegade Rennie that has engaged the solicitude of Curry and McEnroe.

Lowell Weicker very likely would be incapable of writing about anything at all if some imp were to steal the capital “I” from his keyboard. His generous appraisal of Dodd contains a brief 13 lines, 12 of which are studded with “I.” Weicker – a self described “turd in the Republican punchbowl” –unsurprisingly has a soft spot in his heart for Dodd.

Weicker’s plaint begins: “In 1970, I made my first run for the U.S. Senate. It was a unique event in that I was pitted against a Democrat, Joe Duffy (sic), and an Independent, Tom Dodd — a beginning for me but an end to the distinguished career of Sen. Dodd. Though happy to win, I wasn't particularly proud of the tough verbiage I had landed on Dodd.”

Macbeth lamenting the murder of Banquo?

Well, sort of.

We discover, after all these years, that Weicker has been suffering from a bad conscience. Was he not at least partially responsible for having ended the long and lustrous career of Tom Dodd, the senator's father?

“Though happy to win,” Weicker wrote, “I wasn't particularly proud of the tough verbiage I had landed on Dodd.” Not to mention the blows to the solar plexus he delivered to Joe Duffey, a forthright anti-Vietnam war protestor running for senator along side Tom Dodd and Weicker. These days, Weicker credits Dodd with his “opposition to the war in Iraq. While other Democrats were too afraid to speak up — or worse, were doing their own saber-rattling — Sen. Dodd spoke out loud and clear against this travesty of money spent and lives lost.”

Fortune favoring the brave, the war lamented by Weicker was won by the good guys, a victory that has permitted President Barack Obama to commit additional needed troops to Afghanistan. No doubt there will be casualties in future battles mourned by all. Weicker and Dodd, however, have been unusually silent on the wisdom of the most recent military build up promoted by the Democrat president.

Dodd’s fall from grace includes the following lapses: As a “Friend of Angelo”(FOA) Mozilo, President of Countrywide, Dodd received special treatment from the now defunct mortgage lender. He bought a house in Ireland in tandem with William Kessinger, a business associate of Edward Downe, who was friendly with Dodd during the senator’s wild and wooly bachelor days. Dodd and Downe owned a Washington condominium together in 1986. Dodd later bought out his co-purchaser's share of the house in Ireland and has persistently under-reported the true value of the property on congressional financial forms. Dodd intervened successfully with former President Bill Clinton, who pardoned Downe, previously convicted of insider trading. Dodd has received in campaign contributions oodles of cash from financial companies he is supposed to be regulating as chairman of the senate banking committee. He worked hand and glove with the Obama administration to see to it that the AIG culprits who brought down the U.S. economy by peddling junk insurance were not penalized by a move to withdraw their bonuses. AIG contributed heavily to Dodd’s political campaigns, which included a fruitless run for the presidency.

Rowland, who had no friends in the media when he accepted a hot tub and other favors from the political cronies to whom he turned over his government, spent a year in jail. Dodd likely will seek and win office once again --memories are perishable -- retiring, far from the madding crowd, to his cottage in Ireland after a sterling career in the U.S. Congress .

He has plenty of friends in low places.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

North Korea to Fire Missile Towards Hawaii


According to a Japan news report, North Korea early in July “may fire a long-range ballistic missile toward Hawaii,” one of President Barack Obama’s hometowns.

But, not to worry, North Korean missiles won’t be striking the United States this Fourth of July: “U.S. officials have said the North has been preparing to fire a long-range missile capable of striking the western U.S. In Washington on Tuesday, Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it would take at least three to five years for North Korea to pose a real threat to the U.S. west coast.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Is anyone home?

The following video, which ought to outrage anyone who’s passed fourth grade math, answers the question: Who’s minding the federal store?

Answer: No one.

Amadinijad Had His Day Of Fear

Both the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post have published pictures that prompted President Barrack Obama to say he was disturbed by the violence in Iran.

The photo below shows a crowd of young Iranians bearing the bullet ridden body of a protestor.

When Iranian police elsewhere fired upon a crowd of protestors, the crowd began to chant in unison, “Don’t be scared. We’re all together.”

The president had been criticized as being tardy in his response to the Iranian election (read-- fraud).

On Sunday, according to a report in Politico, Vice President Joe Biden expressed “doubts” about the election, and on Monday, press secretary Robert Gibbs was battered by a reporter:

"... State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the U.S. is 'deeply troubled' by events in Iran but stopped short of condemning them.

“'I haven’t used that word, condemn,"' he [Gibbs] told the State Department press corps. 'We need to see how things unfold.'

“'You need to see more heads cracked in the middle of the street?' Fox News’ James Rosen shot back.

“'We need a deeper assessment of what’s going on,' Kelly said."

The Wall Street Journal reported that images from the protests and allegations of election fraud “drew stronger reactions around the world Monday, after an initially muted response from the West. Late Monday afternoon, President Barack Obama said he was ‘deeply troubled’ by the violence. ‘The democratic process, free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent -- all those are universal values and need to be respected,’ he said.”

In Europe now such remarks will be regarded as too little too late.

The Obama administration’s politicized response to the events in Iran was determined by two considerations: Administration officials recognized, according to Obama’s statement, that “It’s not productive, given the history of the U.S.-Iranian relationship, to be seen as meddling.” And the administration also feared that such meddlesome interference could fortify the anti-American Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and, according to a generally friendly but refreshingly critical Tribune newspaper report, “make things more difficult for Obama’s long promised diplomatic overture to Iran.”

In our cringing solicitude towards oppressors, we have strayed very far here from the words of former President John Kennedy, with whom Obama has often been compared: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

What we are witnessing in Iran is a full blown revolt, such as occurred in Hungary in 1956. And it is a revolt inspired and led by the youth of Iran and its intellectuals.

Much of Europe at the time of the Hungarian revolt against Soviet tyranny was slow to respond to the brutal suppression of the Hungarian patriots, but some pens were quicker than others.

Among these was Albert Camus, who wrote a piece that sings down the ages: “Kadar Had His Day Of Fear.” Kadar was an Hungarian Soviet pawn who facilitated the brutal suppression of the noble but doomed Hungarian revolt.

In 1951, Camus published what must be regarded as his Magnum Opus, “The Rebel,” the central tenet of which is that liberty and revolt are inseparable. A political system that denies either denies both. Camus was among the few anti-Stalinists in Europe who hated totalitarianism for the right reason.

Amadinijad now has had his day of fear.

After comparing the revolt among intellectuals and students in his country to the protests in a minor key that occurs in his country and Europe after soccer matches, several reports indicated that Amadinijad went to Russia "for a conference."

While there, perhaps his sponsors can dig up a copy of Camus timeless piece on revolt to share with their guest.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Etymology Updated

Your kids probably lost interest in etymology because they had the wrong teacher.

The word for the day is “Uncle”

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Their Constitution, And Ours


No doubt about it, the antics of the co-chairmen of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Michael Lawlor and Sen. Andrew McDonald, are enough to drive a saint to drink or, at the very least, to intemperate language.

Radio host and blogger Hal Turner clearly went over the edge when he said about the two, "It is our intent to foment direct action against these individuals personally. These beastly government officials should be made an example of as a warning to others in government: Obey the Constitution or die."

Exclamation point!

"Or die?" a Hartford paper remarks in an editorial. "Turner defends his passionate beliefs not with a copy of the Constitution, but with the promise of ‘bullets.’”

“That would be wrong at any time, but especially now, when hate speech, mostly from the far right, and incitements to violence are so prevalent.”

To these reasonable objections, one can only reply "Here, here" -- and then proceed to quibble with some minor reservations.

Turner, the paper advises, “had taken umbrage at a bill introduced earlier this year — and since withdrawn — that would have changed the way the Roman Catholic Church is governed, giving more authority to lay members. The controversy was rekindled recently when state ethics officials decided to investigate whether church officials violated lobbying laws by organizing a rally at the state Capitol to protest the measure.”

Some nuances are not sufficiently appreciated in this concision. Actually, the bill Lawlor and McDonald contrived to sneak past watchful eyes in their own Judiciary Committee was an attack upon the apostolic nature of the Catholic Church, and the nature of Raised Bill No. 1098 was itself masked by its innocuous description.

So damaging was Raised Bill No. 1098 to the structure of the Catholic Church that opposition to it – though, significantly, not from many editorialists and commentators -- was instantly mobilized.

A massive crowd numbering in the thousands showed up on the Capitol lawn to protest this egregious violation of the First Amendment provision in the U.S. Constitution that prohibits government from impeding "the free exercise" of religion.

The state's ubiquitous Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, significantly not an active participant at the rally, later insisted in his hometown newspaper that he had numerous times protested the constitutional irregularity of the bill.

Under such pressure, none of it brought to bear by editorialists usually alert to emasculating assaults on the First Amendment, the bill was hastily withdrawn and later killed.

Round two of the assault on both the Catholic Church and the First Amendment opened when the state’s ineptly named Ethics Committee determined that the rally at the Capital was not, as most disinterested observers had supposed, a robust exercise of First Amendment rights but an impermissible lobbying effort by the diocese of Bridgeport, which was responsible for mounting an effective response to the assault by the co-chairs of the Judiciary Committee on its imprescriptible constitutional rights.

It is here we see the chief difference between power brokers and friends of the constitution. Lawlor, McDonald, the members of the Ethics Committee and a vast silent majority of commentators – those who are interested in securing constitutional freedoms for themselves alone – do not view the constitution as a great charter of liberties artfully designed to protect and enhance those natural God given freedoms for which the founders of the country pledged their lives, their blood and their sacred honor.

No, these pinched souls, these little men of little consequence, see government, at best a necessary evil restrained by constitutional proscriptions, as a means of denying constitutional liberties to their enemies; just now the Catholic Church, but later their denials of rights may be expanded to include other distasteful citizens.

What the hapless Turner threatened to do with bullets they do by an abuse of a position of responsibility, by a telling silence – and no one calls them out on it.

Unmindful of Benjamin Franklin’s warning that our charter of liberty has given us a Republic – “if we can keep it” – these bullets aimed at our liberty are of no consequence to them. And newspapers use their language of oppression – the church that defended its constitutional rights is being investigated for violating “lobbying laws” – to assist in the assassination of constitutional rights.

Evelyn Beatrice Hall who wrote, summarizing a passage from Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” would have been abashed at such cowardice. And Voltaire would have used his pen to defame these men without chests as vampires of liberty.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Dodd Unconcerned With Housing Values


In a front page above the fold story, The Hartford Courant is reporting that Sen. Chris Dodd’s Irish Cottage on Inishee island in County Galway, a picture of which is here included, has jumped in value since Dodd reported it on previous financial disclosure forms.

The 1,200-square-foot cottage was valued at about $190,000 in 2002. The most recent appraisal placed the value of the cottage at $658,000. In annual Senate financial disclosures, Dodd claimed the value of the property at never more than $250,000, an undervaluation of $408,000.

Explaining the disparity in valuation, Dodd spokesman Bryan DeAngelis said, “The value of the cottage — or of Irish real estate, generally — isn't something that the Dodds have thought much about. However, questions have been raised and they recognize that it's important to make a good-faith effort at valuation for the Senate financial disclosures. Obviously, they [the senaor and his wife Jackie Klegg Dodd] have operated well within the Senate rules — the Senate Ethics Committee confirms that — but felt it was just time to update the appraisal. There's certainly no incentive whatsoever to lowball the valuation."

The Wall Street Journal reported that, "Mr. Dodd was so uninterested in the value of those 10 acres that he tried to subdivide the property in 1998 and put up another house. No doubt because he had no idea what it was, or would be, worth."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Iran elections, Hope, Change

For many years, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has presented the face of Iran to the world. That scowling, embittered face is little more than a pasteboard mask. The two clips from Christiane Amanpour of CNN below, not seen much here on American television, show the slumbering reality that lies beneath the mask. They show young Iranians, protesting against the grey beards and the socialist, command economy. This is the Iranian street:



Monday, June 08, 2009

HEALTH CARE BULLDOZED BY PUBLIC OPTION?

Not only will the new program become the default coverage for the uninsured, but Democrats intend to game the system to precipitate—or if need be, coerce—an exodus . . . of private insurance. Soon enough, that will be the only “option” left. -- The Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2009

A new report from the President’s Council of Economic Advisers warns that the increasing cost of health care is not sustainable. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that individual and corporate income taxes would have to rise through 2050 by 90 percent even without “public option,” the new middle-class entitlement.

The CEA Report, titled, The Economic Case for Health Care Reform, mentions among its solution: People should get used to less medical care. Betsy McCaughey, long-time critic, argues that a superior way is to reduce government’s share of the costs, which will not be done by ousting the private health-care insurers through the new radical public option.

President Obama wants the health-care insurance bill passed right away, and two bills are scheduled to be heard in the Senate this month. Unfortunately, that will give little time for readers to absorb The Wall Street Journal’s April 13 editorial, “The End of Private Health Insurance.”

The President and others argue illogically that health care will be less expensive if everyone is covered, an argument used to make the case for mandating health-care insurance. Massachusetts in 2006 adopted mandating. By nearly universal agreement, the law is a failure and not a good model for the country, though it is the model for Senator Kennedy’s bill.

High among the controversial issues list is single-payer. It is defined as a “single government-backed insurance plan that would pay for all Americans’ medical costs.” But suddenly, without warning, single-payer has been whisked off the table, to the consternation of supporters. The official reason? It’s “too radical.”

“This public option would be the most radical change in the way American health care is financed—and thus provided—in at least 44 years, and maybe ever,” says the WSJ.

Opponents see single-payer as a government bulldozer kicking private insurance companies out of the industry.

Another explosive issue is whether health-care insurance should be mandated. Massachusetts mandates “universal” health-care insurance for individuals, but it is universally seen as a failure, even though it is being used as the model in Senator Kennedy’s bill

Massachusetts’s mandate on individuals is a windfall for the insurance industry, which is “holding us hostage,” according to resident and single-payer proponent Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.

If there is mandating, it should be only a last resort, according to Professor Stuart Butler. He advocates starting out with “automatic enrollment,” where people are signed up unless they actively decline. Part B of Medicare is voluntary, and through automatic enrollment, about 96 percent of eligible seniors are enrolled. The point is to try individual responsibility as the default option before sending the cops around to enforce the mandate, urges Butler.

Programs that work, writes Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute, are incentive-based. She cites a survey by Deloitte’’s Center for Health Solutions that found that the cost of consumer-directed health plans increased by only 2.6% in 2006 among 152 major companies, which is one-third the rate of increase among traditional plans.

Senator Kennedy has his bill all ready for adoption. It creates the public option —the new government-sponsored health insurance plan -- which would compete with private insurers. It does not include cost estimates or discuss how to pay for the expansion.

Massachusetts had one of the highest rates of insured at the outset of the program, which is costing heavily. One problem is that Massachusetts kept in place the same expensive mandates that had made private coverage expensive.

Massachusetts’s universal health care was to insure everybody by forcing everybody into either private programs or expanded government programs, using both tax hikes and subsidies. Subsidies include families earning up to 500 percent of the poverty level or $110,000.

Opponents see the goal of public option as getting rid of the private insurance companies and putting the government as the single-payer in the position of command and control of the industry. Senator Bennett in an eloquent speech on the Senate floor last week pointed out that if a bill includes private as well as public insurers, it will be arranged so that ultimately the public will be the only player. Public option seems to be designed to rid the industry of its private companies.

What does the public think? One poll found the single-payer option last of eight choices, with 49 percent in favor, 47 percent against. One-third of those who favor public-payer would be against it if were the opening of a single-payer system.

The Wall Street Journal April 13 editorial concludes,

"Republicans, especially those in the Senate who want to cut a deal on health care, should understand that a public option is the beginning of the end of private health insurance."

By Natalie Sirkin
c2009

Lein on Kerry

The IRS has slapped a tax lein of $819,848 on Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, according to a report in the Boston Herald.

"We have made a demand for payment of this liability, but it remains unpaid," says the taxman.

Kerry has responded that it’s all a clerical error.

“The IRS contacted us last year about data they lost from the 2004 campaign," said Kerry spokeswoman Whitney Smith. "We gladly resubmitted all the forms needed to fill in the gaps, end of story."

Permanent Spending Cuts, Temporary Taxes

In adjourning without having submitted a budget to a legislature that technically could pass a budget over Gov. Jodi Rell’s veto, Democrat leaders of the state House and Senate were simply following Mark Twain’s axiom: Never put off until tomorrow what you can put off until the day after tomorrow.

The problem is: The day after tomorrow invariably arrives the day after tomorrow. And on that day, the problems you’ve bid goodbye to return, sometime with a vengeance.

Connecticut ’s problem is a massive 8 or 9 billion dollar deficit, but the problem is multi-faceted.

Now, there are three ways a government may discharge a deficit: It may raise taxes, cut spending or combine the two. Each of these methods of discharging deficits has consequences, some of which may worsen the economic condition in which we find ourselves.

It is very much an open question whether one of these solutions, raising taxes, is possible without inducing something very much like a heart attack in the body politic. People pay taxes according to their means and, largely owing to a severe business contraction and chronic overspending on the part of the same legislators who last week applied Twain’s axiom to their budget, people are, shall we say, maxed out, the way over-strained credit cards become maxed out.

However, there are some among us who argue that not all means are created equal. The rich have more means than the rest of us; would it not be a good idea to plunder them, while the rest of us go about our daily business getting and spending and laying waste our powers, as the poet says?

There are a few problems with this solution. The rich – we need not feel too sorry for them – also have been hit by what some people in Washington persist in viewing as a mini-depression. Indeed, the 8 or 9 billion dollar deficit that now hangs over our heads like a Damoclean sword has been caused in part by the indigence of the rich who pay a large proportion of the state’s brand spanking new income tax, a gift from the astoundingly rich Senator Lowell Weicker, who has been dithering over what state he really wants to live in. There is a reason why Weicker is so mobile: He’s rich and can afford to escape unsavory circumstances by moving hither and yon. And this presents a problem for demagogues in the legislature who argue that citizens of Connecticut really can have their cake and eat it too simply through the expedient of getting the millionaires to pay for more cake. They can move and take their wealth with them to states less intent on plundering them.

But supposing we were able to pin them to our state the way butterfly collectors pin their prey to their boards; we should have to kill them first, of course, and you can’t get money from a dead butterfly. This still would not solve the problem. At best it would delay a solution, pretty much the way procrastinating legislators “solved” the problem of an 8 to 9 billion deficit by adjourning before they voted on a rational budget.

The rich ain’t gonna get us out of this ditch.

Here’s why: The real problem in Connecticut has been caused by accumulative excessive spending, a problem only a brave few in the legislature want to solve.

Prove it, doubters say. The proof is in the astounding growth of the bottom line of the budget. The 8 or 9 billion deficit yet to be discharged is larger that the last pre-income tax budget of a little less than two a decades ago. And the present budget is three times as large as that more modest $7.5 billion budget; that’s an increase of an entire budget for each of the three governors who followed the late Gov. William O’Neill into office. Collectively, these governors, and the legislators who during this period used budget surplus after budget surplus to increase spending, are the problem.

Republicans recently have been manfully but unsuccessfully resisting this road to perdition. But, heavily outnumbered, they will not succeed in preventing free spending Democrats from raising taxes on everybody, not just millionaires. However, the resistance can blunt the blow by insisting that any tax levied to expunge the deficit will be self terminating through an attachment to any tax increase of a statutory requirement that the tax increase should be eliminated when the debt has been discharged – so that when the good times return, the state will be positioned competitively with respect to other states and the tax succubus will be tolerable, temporary and equally shared by all the state’s “investors.”

Spending cuts should be permanent, tax increases temporary.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Switching Fates

President Barack Obama has now left a Europe that is becoming more conservative under the lash of the recent economic difficulties and returned home to change the economy of the United States so that it becomes more like the Europe now being rejected by voters.

According to an Associated Press report, conservatives are racing towards victory “in some of Europe’s largest economies Sunday as initial results and exit polls showed voters punishing left-leaning parties in European parliament elections in France, Germany and elsewhere.”

Not to worry, Europeans dissatisfied with Europe’s turn to the right can always move to the Unites States, the land of the subsidized and the home of bailed out.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Powell, Bastiat, a Republican Resurgence?


I have no idea how many editorials and columns were written by Chris Powell, Managing Editor and former Editorial Page Editor of the Journal Inquirer, during the course of his long and eventful career in journalism; certainly more than a thousand which, to date, is the number of blog entrees in Connecticut Commentary: Red Notes From A Blue State. Most of the entrees here were columns printed in one or another of Connecticut’s small but vigorous and independent minded papers.

Shortly after he started in the journalism business, Powell became the youngest Managing Editor in Connecticut. I can testify from my own personal experience that he is a) unflappable, b) very much the hound of heaven in pursuit of a story and c) of indeterminate political persuasion.

But Powell’s most endearing characteristic may be his jolly spite, which keeps him going to the office every day with a dagger in his hand and bounce in his step.

I suppose if one has to force Powell into a procrustean formulation, radical democrat (with a small “d”) might do. But I like to think of him as Fredrick Bastiat updated, with a touch of Bitter Bierce thrown in to spice the mix.

Bastiat was an economic journalist, a no nonsense free marketer, who loved a joust and had a devilish way with words.

Only 21 in 1846, Bastiat established the Association of Free Trade in Paris and started his own weekly newspaper to beat the hides of the socialist and protectionist phonies of his day.

Calling himself the French Cobden -- after Richard Cobden, an English pamphleteer who campaigned against the British Corn Laws -- Bastiat wrote “The Petition of Candlemakers,” a jewel of rakish commentary that begins:

“We are suffering from the ruinous competition of a foreign rival who apparently works under conditions so far superior to our own for the production of light, that he is flooding the domestic market with it at an incredibly low price.... This rival ... is none other than the sun....

‘We ask you to be so good as to pass a law requiring the closing of all windows, dormers, skylights, inside and outside shutters, curtains, casements, bull’s-eyes, deadlights and blinds; in short, all openings, holes, chinks, and fissures…”

Bastiat forever blew the dust off economic commentary, and there were few in France while he was writing who did not feel his lash.

In Connecticut, if you are of a certain temperament, there is always something to write about; the well never runs dry, though it does take a bit of courage to bring up the water and blow it in the faces of smug politicians-for-life-who have never been made uncomfortable by a critical word. The good journalist, if there is such a creature, is supposed to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. Here in Blueville, most of the comfortable are entrenched Democrats. Were Bastiat alive and writing today in this the land of steady bad habits, he would be a Republican journalist with a knife in his teeth. If the grain is Democrat, those who go against the grain must risk the charge of being thought too Republican.

It’s a small price to pay for liberty.

At one point, Powell ran for office on the Republican ticket against a popular Democratic Rep., now retired and living the good life as a fixture in one of the too many offices in state government where donkeys and elephants go to die.

Had he won, Powell very likely would have set Connecticut’s political house on fire; not hard to do, as there is much kindling in the legislature. But he lost, gave up his berth as Editorial Page Editor of the JI and then took up cudgels as the paper’s chief political columnist.

The Democrat Party this year has been pummeling the Republican governor for having underestimated the deficit. At the present time, Gov. Rell thinks the deficit is about 8 billion, while Democrat leaders insist it is 9 billion, if not more.

What’s a billion or two among friends?

The present deficit, if Democrat figures are right, is about one billion more than the state’s last pre-income tax budget, a whopper of a black hole, though not quite as crippling as California’s.

Faced with a gargantuan deficit, Democrats, who control both houses of the legislature by a veto-proof margin, this year punted on presenting a rational budget. Democrat leaders put forth a budget that fills the 8 or 9 billion gap by raising the business killing corporation tax 30%, a move that left Republicans scratching their heads and muttering darkly, “Corporations? We still have corporations in Connecticut?”

Bastiat, had he been alive, might have called the Democrat solution to the deficit politicide, state suicide.

However, before the legislature shook the dust of the Capitol from its feet, it passed, puffing out its collective chest as it did so, a bill apologizing for slavery, which provided Powell with a column titled, “Will a future legislature apologize for this one?”

Powell dove into this ironic compost pile with his usual alacrity.

“Shortly before the mandatory adjournment of the General Assembly's regular session,” Powell wrote, “the state Senate followed the House in approving a resolution apologizing for the days of slavery in Connecticut. Maybe in another century or two some future legislature will apologize for the failure of the current one to deal with the here and now by passing a state budget.

“While the Democrats have a potentially veto-proof majority in both houses and while they proposed to raise taxes by any amount necessary to feed the ravenous machine of government, they declined to put their own budget to a vote. They wanted political cover by getting Governor Rell, a Republican, to agree to tax increases first.”

Among politicians and Mafiosi, this stratagem is called “dipping the handkerchief in blood.”

Whoever is involved in the crime owns the crime. In past times, Republican governors have been only too happy to implicate themselves in overspending. It was, after all, a former long time Republican, Lowell Weicker, who graced the state with its income tax, known in Republican quarters as “a license to spend.”

And spend the Democrats did, assisted by weak-kneed Republican governors. Throughout the administrations of one faux Republican governor, Weicker, and two moderate Republicans – John Rowland, whose peculations landed him in jail for a year, and Jodi Rell, demeaned by the Democrat loyal opposition as “Snow White” – the state budget nearly tripled.

And then something happened that helped to stiffen Connecticut Republican spines: The nation’s economic underpinnings collapsed; Democrats nationally and in-state captured political offices and a decisive fork appeared in the road. What might be called moderate Republicanism in the Northeast had been thoroughly routed with the loss of a seat held for many years by Rep. Chris Shays, Weicker lite.

Having hit bottom, some state Republicans decided there was no where to go but up.

They began to resist; blood once again began to course through palsied limbs.

This time around, Rell may offer something more than a token resistance to ruinous Democrat spending, though it is always possible that at the last moment she may surrender to her old habits, consort with her opposition and achieve yet another ruinous compromise that will contribute further to the beggaring of her state.

If that is the case, leading Republicans will and should bid her a fond farewell, and continue their course.

The slavery issue, as we all know, was decided ultimately in a brutal Civil War in the course of which Connecticut’s sons offered up that “last measure of devotion” that figures so prominently in Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.

Apology comes easy, Powell notes, to a generation oblivious of history and suckled on its own self importance.

“Of course apologizing for the offenses of people who are long gone and unable even to put themselves in the context of their times is a lot easier than writing a state budget. It is also wonderfully more self-righteous than acknowledging the apologies that were delivered by, say, the sacrifices of the 11th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Regiment at Antietam in 1862 or the state's ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865. It is also a lot easier than doing something about the grotesque racial disproportions in Connecticut's prison system.”

But the self-importance of a legislature that flees its responsibilities while patting itself on the back for its own historical rectitude does not end there.

“Another sin of the present for which an apology is being left to the future is the eagerness of this legislature to run everyone else's business while remaining oblivious to its own. This legislative session may be most celebrated for passing a bill to require certain restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus, on the premise that it is the people of Connecticut who are too fat, not their government.”

Are the priorities of the legislature in good order? It would seem not.

“Responding to the horrible incident in Stamford in February, the legislature outlawed making pets of large primates and other animals considered dangerous. But the legislature has yet to respond to the horrible incident in Cheshire two years ago, in which a woman and her two daughters were murdered, purportedly by two career criminals on parole. Not only did the legislature refuse again this year to pass a "three strikes" law or even a "20 strikes" law; it again declined to inquire into why the defendants in Connecticut's worst atrocity in living memory have not even been brought to trial after two years. Apparently it is enough that Connecticut is now a bit safer from rogue chimpanzees.”

In the absence of a new budget, Powell notes, “the legislature just appropriated $10 million to bail out insolvent dairy farms. The bailout will be financed with a $40 surcharge on municipal property record filing fees. What obliges property registrants particularly to underwrite dairy farms? Maybe only the absence of the real estate industry's lobbyist when the bill was voted on.”

And finally, with a curtsey to Bastiat: “Maybe most amazing about this session was that even with their supermajority the Democrats still could not pass most of their committee chairmen's important bills, which were delayed until the session's last day, when the mischievous Republican minority could run out the clock by prolonging debate. Having watched his own big bill, providing tax breaks for economic development near Bradley International Airport, die for lack of time, state Sen. Gary D. LeBeau, D-East Hartford, noted, ‘The governor says we are a do-nothing legislature -- and the Republicans are making sure we are one.’ But then the Democrats had found time for the calorie-counting bill. Maybe economic development just wasn't meddlesome enough.”

Not a bad pull at the udders of indifference, complacency, bad judgment and self promotion.

Bastiat would be proud.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Democrats to Rell –Jump!

The National Conference of State Legislatures’ report on how well drafters of state budgets read the recession’s economic tea-leaves is now in.

The results are dissappointing, according to a report in the New York Times.

“Thirty-one states said estimates about personal income taxes had been overly optimistic, and 25 said that all three major tax categories — sales taxes, personal income taxes and corporate taxes — were not keeping up with projections.

“Three states, for example — Alabama, Colorado and North Dakota — said personal income taxes were coming in higher than expected. But they said they had seen declines in other tax categories, like corporate taxes (down 33 percent in North Dakota), severance taxes from oil and gas (down 51.8 percent in Colorado) or sales tax (down 8.5 percent in Alabama.)

“Hardest hit on the income tax collection front was New York, where revenues were off 48.9 percent compared with the last fiscal year. Corporate income taxes plummeted most in Oregon, down 44 percent, while sales taxes fell most in Washington, down 14.1 percent.”

Connecticut, of course, is contiguous to New York. Gov. Jodi Rell recently cautioned Democrats in Connecticut’s hard-of-hearing legislature against raising corporate taxes – the Democrat controlled legislature wants to raise the state’s corporate tax a whopping 30 percent – because she thought that if her state could resist the temptation endemic in the North East to raise business taxes in order to plug holes in deficits, Connecticut might be well positioned to capture some businesses from New York.

It is also possible that Rell had chuckled over George Will’s line about governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger, about whom Will wrote that he was “the best governor the states contiguous to California ever had.”

So far, Rell has resisted California's’s leap into the void, but in the extended session now upon us, Democrats will be romancing Rell to defenestrate herself.

Though the numbers of seats captured in the last election by Democrats suggest otherwise, the party of Chris Dodd, who has half a dozen arrows piercing his Achilles heel, Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, who worked part time as a union organizer for the Congress of Connecticut Community Colleges and is presumed to be much further left on the political spectrum than his predecessor Jim Amann, and President Pro Tem of the Senate Don Williams is not prospering -- because Connecticut is not prospering. Indeed, it is the slow down in business activity that has blown a hole in budgets throughout the North East. Democrats in Connecticut hope to fill that hole with a thirty percent corporate tax increase on businesses that have no more money to surrender to a rapacious government.

You cannot make lemonade from lemons that have been squeezed dry.

The Donovan-Williams attempt to put the squeeze on Connecticut’s hard pressed businesses is likely to be met by the only possible response: Businesses that cannot afford the new imposition will go out of business, throwing their unemployed workers on the mercy of a state deeply in debt, and businesses that can afford to sidestep the pain by moving to greener pastures elsewhere will do so, diminishing the state’s already diminished revenue.

Bloomberg News recently reported that Steven Ballmer, Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft Corp., the largest software company in the United States, would move some employees offshore if the U.S. Congress enacts President Barack Obama’s plans to impose higher taxes on U.S. companies’ foreign profits.

“It makes U.S. jobs more expensive,” Ballmer said in an interview. “We’re better off taking lots of people and moving them out of the U.S. as opposed to keeping them inside the U.S.”

Squeezed businesses, unlike squeezed lemons, have resources. The tendency of any business is to use its own resources to advance its real interests. Businesses that cannot make profits – newspapers lately have fallen into this unfortunate category – go out of business, at which point both employees and stockholders suffer the loss. Given the fact that stockholders and employees are bound together by the same fate, it is both errant nonsense and a false dichotomy to say that in punishing the stockholders we are not similarly punishing the employees.

Gov. Rell gets this. The Donovan-Williams combine does not.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

All The President’s Crises

Bob Woodward, author of “All the President’s Men” and several other political bodice rippers, is at work on a book about President Barack Obama. The White House, according to a story in the New Republic, is understandable nervous.

Why?

Well, because Woodward has been in the habit in a few of his books of introducing unverifiable dialogues and other Balzacian devises to pad his narratives.

Woodward’s books are only incidentally historical narratives. They are, in reality, narratives that prove a thesis, sometime foreshadowed in their titles – “slants,” in Emily Dickenson’s luminous phrase, that tell a poetic truth: Nixon was a crook; Bush was befuddled; Obama was...

Some in the Obama administration no doubt are thinking : Who needs this?

As we all know, the Obama administration has enough problems to contend with – what with the great mess he has inherited from former President George Bush: two wars , one of which, thanks to Bush, is winding down; a collapsed capitalist economy; ownership in huge chunks of what used to be called the free market; Israel’s refusal to be pushed into the sea by its enemies and its frigid response to friendly offers recently made by the friends of its enemies; a nut job in blacked-out North Korea who is in the process of building nuclear devises that could conceivable destroy Japan; Amadinejad over in Iran, waiting and plotting for the second coming of the Mahdi; the bibliophile in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, who has become Obama’s newest literary lion; Danny Ortega calling on the phone all the time...

All this and more – now Woodward enters the stage!

It is one thing not to let a crisis go to waste – and lordy knows, this is an administration that know how to make lemonade from lemons.

But to invite the crisis into your bosom may be more than Rham Emanuel, the Disraeli of the Obama administration, will be able to bear.

As Obama’s recent trip to Egypt demonstrates, this is an administration perfecting willing to bear and beat its breast in public -- in exchange for empathy, roughly understood as a willingness on the part of political business associates and enemies to walk a mile in your shoes. There are no permanent enemies in the Obama administration, other than the permanent opposition, programmatic conservatives and media gadflies such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

Woodward is not much in the habit of letting administrations write their own tickets: His book may not be about change, or hope or charity. He has a way of burrowing into the compost pile and coming out with the one pearl of price that defines administrations. Nixon was too crafty for his own good; former President Bill Clinton was too charming for his own good, an updated version of Hugh Long without the porcupine quills; former President George Bush was too much the pigheaded frat boy.

And Obama?

For all the braggadocio of the Obama administration, we are living in a time in which events are in the saddle and ride men. Europe is a spiritual wasteland; Russia is what Russia always was -- meddlesome; China is inscrutable; Latin America, when it is not under the fists of drug gangs, is in the grip of petty tyrants infested by outworn ideologies; the Middle East has been revisited by a resurgent jihadism, always running like a vein of fire through the Western World; and America is in a dangerous pause.

Obama’s apology tour through what is left of the Western World has not produced the response he would like. Europe will not send troops to Afghanistan. Neither is Europe convinced that a massive Euro-American stimulus will halt the financial meltdown. Castro, Chavez and Ortega are irredeemably obtuse. Putin has called for the end of the primacy of the dollar. Obama's speech in Cairo, however groveling, is not likely to win the affection of Iran or North Korea.

That is the real world. Whether any of it will figure in a book on the Obama administration written by Woodward is, some would say, highly doubtful.

Monday, June 01, 2009

IS RULE OF LAWYERS REPLACING RULE OF LAW?



I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male (as a jurist) who hasn’t lived that life -- Judge Sonia Sotomayor, 2001

Some decisions she’s made do raise questions about whether she will decide cases based on the law or her personal outlook and feelings and preconceived notions. We will want to examine that carefully, to make sure she will decide cases based on the law, not on how she feels about them -- Senator Jon Kyl

President Obama agrees with Judge Sotomayor’s judicial philosophy. He disagrees with Senator Kyl. He believes personal experience is a way of understanding what the world is like. He has criticized the Warren Supreme Court because it failed to do things for the disadvantaged like redistributing income. He believes the Supreme Court should be doing things for people and not just safeguarding them from negative things. There are disadvantaged classes, and the court should have empathy. That is his judicial philosophy, and Ms. Sotomayor’s.

As is well known, Sonia Sotomayor has been chosen by President Obama to fill the Souter vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. She is now on the Second Circuit (federal) Appeals Court. She has empathy. She has said that the circuit courts make (and should make) policy, knowing that the Constitution does not permit it.

What does a judge do? Chief Justice Roberts gave an analogy. The judge is an umpire. He calls the balls and strikes. He doesn’t design or change the rules of the game. That’s how it is supposed to work. The judge’s courtroom is a level playing field where even the visiting team can win if the law, the objective law, is on its side. Justice is blind. The umpire is there to see that justice is done, not made up.

The statue of Lady Justice has a blindfold over her eyes. Justice is and should be there for all. Justice governs by rule of law, not of men.

Rule of law was well understood by our Founding Fathers, who were educated in the classics. Two thousand years ago, Aristotle and Plato understood rule of law and espoused it. In 1215, when King John signed the Magna Carta, he adopted it for himself and perhaps for those who would rule after him. Thomas Paine, in 1776, during the War of Independence, wrote in Common Sense , “The law is King. For as in absolute governments [dictatorships], the king is law, so in free countries the law ought to be King, and there ought to be no other.”

Rule of law is weak in most of Asia but is fundamental to Western democracies. Or it has been till the last few decades when law schools have been teaching legal realism, the Obama-Sotomayor view. It was called “critical legal studies” or “critical race studies.”

Is the automobile industry being dealt with by the rule of law? The Constitution, Article I, Section 8, says that there shall be “uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies.”

But the Obama Administration has prescribed something different in the Chrysler bankruptcy. But bondholders are slated to be given only 10% of the value of the corporation, the union will get nearly 40%, and the Government will get 50%. The bondholders are the only secured creditors. They should come first but “have been browbeaten by an American president into accepting only 30 cents on the dollar of their claims. Meanwhile, the United Auto Workers union, holding junior creditor claims, will get about 50 cents on the dollar.” The Government will get the remaining 50%. The rights of senior creditors are plundered, benefiting junior creditors.

Besides bondholders, Chrysler dealers have been plundered, hundreds of them losing their dealerships, which will go to whom? No one knows. No one can find out. The Administration has not revealed the criteria for the losers and winners. Is this the rule of law or the rule of lawyers and politics?

A similar departure from the rule of law is likely to happen in the bankruptcy of General Motors, expected to commence June 1. Is the administration-dictated redistribution, like Chrysler’s, legal? How can this be? The President studied constitutional law, even taught it. Are we becoming “a rule of lawyers” as Andrew McCarthy maintains in National Review Online?

“We are a nation of laws, not of men.” We regularly reiterated it. Justice comes from rule of law. Times change. “Don’t tell me what the law is. Tell me who the judge is,” said Roy Cohn.

In the future, how eager will lenders be to lend money to the auto industry, or, say, another, the pharmaceutical industry, knowing its funds might be confiscated?—asks professor of law Todd Zywicki in The Wall Street Journal. Will the government confiscate a patent?

Thomas Jefferson lists in the Declaration of Independence inalienable Rights, among them Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. It concludes, "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal—that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government..."

By Natalie Sirkin
c2009