Friday, February 26, 2010

The Malloy Box

Dan Malloy, the former Mayor of Stamford presently exploring a run for governor on the Democratic ticket, appeared before a group of Rotarians in Westport at the end of February and was asked how he might apply his mayoralty experience as governor.

Exploratory candidates have to be careful in answering such questions. Should the candidate slip and fall into a recognizable gubernatorial campaign mode, he would risk losing a great deal of money. Campaign contributors are permitted to give more money to those “exploring” a candidacy for public office in Connecticut than they might give to declared gubernatorial candidates.

Prompted by a questioner how he might turn his mayoral experiences to use as governor, Malloy answered, “The root of the trouble in stumbling Connecticut is a divided legislature incapable of producing a good government. We have to recognize that a divided legislature cannot produce good government."

Malloy added that the Democratic Party, though dominant, was unwilling to do heavy-lifting and the Republican Party was “paralyzed." He continued, “"I say shame on both the Democrats and the Republicans in the legislature.”

Just a quibble: If the state legislature is dominated by Democrats, in what sense can it be said to be “divided?” Any Democratic legislative majority can easily thwart the opposition of the minority party and end ineffective opposition with a snap of the fingers. As a matter of fact, the “division” presented by “paralyzed” Republicans in the legislature had little effect on budgetary outcomes during the last fiscal year. For the most part, on every issue of importance to Democrats in the legislature, the dominant party simply rolled over paralyzed Republicans.

To be sure, Republicans, sometimes in concert with the Republican governor, did put up an ineffective resistance. But the substance, size, shape, texture and color of the budget should be watermarked “made in the Democratic caucus.”

Could it not be possible that Malloy meant to say: “Look, if Connecticut citizens would reduce the token Republican opposition in the legislature to zero and then in their wisdom elect a Democratic governor, we easily could rid ourselves of both a “paralyzed” Republican minority in the legislature and this crippling “division” in the state that has prevented us from adequately addressing the crushing weight of pension liabilities, not to mention a $3 to $4 billion hole in future budgets?”

The answer to that question is “no.”

Malloy could not have said such things to the Rotarians in Westport without running afoul of people whose business it is to keep “explorers” on the straight and narrow path that may or may not lead to the gubernatorial office. The "explorer" option is a box that allows Malloy to accumulate more funds for a gubernatorial run while, at the same time, preventing him from responding to any hard questions -- both a blessing and a curse.

The truth is that Connecticut is not so much “paralyzed” as it is broke, out of options that would raise sufficient revenue through increased taxes alone, the preferred option in the past for Democrats, and dominated by Democrats in the legislature that have shown themselves to be indifferent to real bi-partisan solutions http://donpesci.blogspot.com/2010/02/i-donovan.html that would settle a recurring, long term problem – which is this: The state has spent its way into penury. Connecticut’s dilemma is the same as our national dilemma on a smaller and, one hopes, more manageable scale.

The state’s problems are those associated with a one party governmental apparatus at the beck and call of special interest groups that, for all practical purposes, are the real authors of state budgets. The bulk of the state’s budget is devoted to untouchable dedicated funding. And Connecticut will not be free to chart its own course in the swelling seas ahead unless those funds are brought once again under the democratic thumb of a free and economically responsible legislature.

No Democrat or Republican in the state running for governor, announced or in an exploratory mode, has yet touched this third rail of our discontent.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Democrats on the nuclear option

The most florid arguments against the so called “nuclear option,” now widely considered as a measure that might be useful in passing the health care initiatives of President Barack Obama, Chris Dodd, Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid and the better angels of Hillary Clinton’s nature were made in 2005 by the Democratic politicians mentioned above.






A stern warning issued at the time by present Vice President Joe Biden was especially bracing.

In 2005, confronting an assault on the Republic by Republicans who were attempting to end a Democratic filibuster by employing the nuclear option, present Vice President Joe Biden said:

“I say to my friends on the Republican side: You may have the field right now, but you won’t have it forever. And I pray God: When the Democrats take back control, we don’t make the kind of naked power grab you are doing…”

Sen. Chris Dodd, who for more than 30 years had honed his oratory in the senate, rose to the occasion with a speech that even Sen. Robert Byrd, often complimented by Dodd as a rhetorician of great merit, might have found exemplary.

“I’ve never passed a single bill,” Dodd said of himself, “worth talking about that did not have as a lead co-sponsor a Republican, and I don’t know of any single piece of legislation that’s been adopted here that didn’t have a Republican and a Democrat in the lead. That’s because we need to sit down and work with each other. The rules of this institution have required that. That’s why we exist. Why have a bicameral legislative body? Why have two chambers? What were the framers thinking about 218 years ago? They understood, Mr. President, that there is a tyranny of the majority…”

Other Democratic senators, most notably Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton, also spoke darkly about the tyranny of the majority. Pointing to Republican bad manners, Schumer intoned that Republicans were not above changing the nearly sacred rules of the senate to gain a temporary benefit. Pounding the podium for effect and brandishing a closed fist, Schumer said, “They want their way every time (pound). And they will change the rules (pound), break the rules (pound), misread the Constitution, so they will get their way.”

Led by an alluring candidate whose executive experience was more deficient than that of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, Democrats did manage a little more than a year ago to gain control of both houses of congress.

Vice President Biden – who had prayed to God that Democrats, once having moved into the majority, would have the strength of character to avoid the near occasion of sin that Dodd also had condemned – is no doubt secretly disappointed that some or all of the orators of his party are not pledged to live up to his expectations.

The Democrats, for some time wielding a veto proof majority in both houses of congress, are now poised to pull the trigger on their very own nuclear option.

Perhaps Biden’s God will wink at their veniality.

And Dodd?

News Channel 8 reports on Dodd’s surprising conversion.

“We did it on the Bush tax cuts, for instance,” said Dodd, “which was a major issue a few years ago. I’m not in favor of doing it on health care, but I also believe the issue is so important that I think the issue trumps the process.”


And Dodd, who bowed out of a defense of his seat this year, proffered some useful advice to his fellow Democrats seeking election: “You get blamed for having tried and you get blamed for having failed. I think you better go home and say; ‘we got something done.’ Let the other side be critical. Talk about the things we did that people like.”

In an attempt to declare his independence of both the left wing of his party and the Obama administration, senatorial hopeful Attorney General Richard Blumenthal seems to be carving out a middle way for himself. He has, for instance, supported Obama’s aggressive war in Afghanistan and yet has differed with the president on the question of civil trials for the terrorists involved in the destruction of the World Trade Center Towers in New York. But as yet, no one has asked the man who hopes to replace Dodd in the senate whether he agrees with the sentiments flourished by Dodd in the Bush administration or those recently unveiled by the outgoing senator in the post Bush era.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tea Party Patriots, Who They Are

Shortly after a Kamikaze pilot in Texas drove his plane into building occupied by the Internal Revenue Service, leftist bloggers began to speculate, on very slender evidence, that the pilot may have been connected with Tea Party protestors. His obvious preference for communism over capitalism in a sign off letter he left behind soon spoiled that hastily constructed thesis. But the faulty thesis begs the question: Who are these people who call themselves Tea Party Patriots.

In an effort to arrive at an answered to that question, the National Review Institute commissioned McLaughlin & Associates to study two separate groups of Tea Party Patriots: the “6 percent of the 1,000 likely voters polled in mid-January who told McLaughlin that they had participated in tea-party rallies and the additional 47 percent who said they ‘have not participated in a tea party protest but . . . generally agree with the reasons for those protests.’”

The results of the study are certain to disappoint those on the left who feel constrained to demonize the group as a negligible fringe phenomenon.

The study demonstrates that tea partiers are not driven by racial animus. One third of the group who participated in the rallies said they approved of Obama’s performance in office, and a fifth of the group said they voted for him in 2008. Of this group 5 percent were black, 11 percent Hispanic. Neither are the tea partiers unpopular. While most voters do not consider themselves well informed about tea party groups, they have a favorable view of them.

According to the study, those in the Tea Party movement are not irrational proto-Nazis. When likely voters were asked which characterization of the tea party movement they leaned towards – an “anti-government, fringe organization that is driven by anger” or a group of “citizens concerned about the country’s economic future” – a 57 percent majority chose the less severe characterization; only 19 percent disagreed. A majority of self-identified liberals chose the more favorable characterization.

The study showed that while tea party supporters were concerned with the deficit, they did not favor defense budget cuts. A small majority, 52 percent, believed taxes should be cut to spur growth; only 37 percent agreed that the deficit made tax cuts unaffordable; and a mere sliver, 7 percent, wanted tax increases to reduce the deficit.

It has been said that tea partiers are populists hostile to Wall Street and Big Business. It is undoubtedly true they oppose the bailouts of financial firms. However, when likely voters were asked whether a new tax should be “imposed on banks because they have benefited so much from bailouts and need to be reined in,” or whether they thought “bank customers would end up paying the tax and the economy would suffer,” anti-taxers proved to be a majority in the poll by 52-38 percent. Both tea-party participants and tea-party sympathizers fell on the anti-tax side by even greater numbers.

In some polls, the tea party movement, unstructured and unorganized, is more popular than either of the two major parties, cause for alarm among some that a new spoiler party may arise from the inchoate Tea Party upsurge. That is what happened just prior to the Civil War, when the Whig Party of Henry Clay was replaced by the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln. However, the McLaughlin poll confirms that only a minority of tea party participants and sympathizers would vote for a tea party candidate, while a plurality would back Republicans. If tea partiers were to put up a candidate, the polling demonstrates, Republicans would suffer the loss, and the resulting division in Tea Party ranks would harm its cause – smaller more accountable national and state governments.

Accountability is the first unbreakable commandment of tea partiers, a group that reacts favorably to authenticity and judges politicians not on their words but on their deeds. Fool the tea partiers twice and they will shame you -- publicly.

None of this is surprising, the National Review piece observes, because:

“The tea partiers are, for the most part, Republicans. Specifically, they are a highly engaged, but not highly partisan, segment of the party. A majority self-identify as Republicans and as conservatives. A full 68 percent of tea-party sympathizers voted for John McCain in 2008 — which was, it need hardly be noted, low tide for the GOP. Some of the tea-party activists take pride in their movement’s independence from the Republican Party, and Republicans reaching out to them need to be mindful of that fact. But it’s also true that they’re not going to have to reach very far.

“The tea partiers are already part of the Republican party, and all they want is its recommitment to its own cause of reducing the size and scope of the federal government. They are not unpopular and their views are not extreme.”
John Larson, a Democratic U.S. Rep. in the impregnable 1st District caught a whiff of the animating spirit that has given rise to the Tea Party movement when he visited a group of seniors recently at the Berlin Community Center

Scott Whipple of the New Britain Herald recorded the bruising but telling moment for posterity.

“It may not have helped,” Whipple noted, “that he was late for his 1:45 p.m. meeting, detained by an interview with radio host Colin McEnroe.


“A group of 30 retirees cross-examined Larson about “Congressional dealing,” health insurance coverage, doctors’ reluctance to accept Medicare patients, the president’s apparent lack of veracity in dealing with the public and more.

“At one point in the session, John O’Brien, 62 and out of work, observed that, ‘(Harry) Reed and (Nancy ) Pelosi tried to push their policies behind closed doors. That’s why we have the tea parties.’"


Larson, perhaps catching the whiff of grapeshot in the wind, replied, “I think the tea parties are doing a great service to the country.”

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Primer On The Role of Money in Politics

Money is important in political campaigns because it buys face time. Most incumbents have face time in abundance. They also collect political contributions in abundance, some of it donated by groups the incumbent is supposed to be regulating.

That was the case with Chris Dodd, the favorite candidate of every Republican running against him. As head of the Banking Committee, Dodd was supposed to be regulating big banks and financial institutions. When the Journal Inquirer publicized the role played by Dodd in the termination of the Glass-Steagall Act, the skids were greased and Dodd found himself on the wrong side of an accepted political narrative: that campaign contributions corrupt, and big campaign contributions corrupt absolutely.

This is the dark side of political contributions: They are swords that may cut both ways.

Self financed campaigns are a different kettle of fish. Self financing gets rid of toxic middle men. The self-financer can only corrupt himself. There is no ticking time bomb that connects him with obvious influence peddlers. He falls outside the destructive narrative that hung like a millstone around Dodd’s neck.

The nature of corruption changes depending upon whether Republicans, assumed to favor business interests, or Democrats, assumed to favor unions interests or the interests of other organizations that make their money off businesses, are in the ascendancy. What is the danger, after all, that a Republican who does favor the claims of businesses over unions will be corrupted by campaign contributions made by union stewards?

Not so much.

Dodd was and still is a liberal of long standing. He received generous campaign contributions from businesses that did his bidding, when it was in their interests to do so. As a general rule, one may expect the business community to make campaign contributions to incumbents, whatever their standing on the political spectrum, provided the campaign contribution recipient is not wholly oppose to business interests – and even sometimes when he is; that is why Lenin predicted the bourgeois would sell revolutionists the rope they would dangle from once the revolution had been accomplished. Corporate campaign contributions are divided almost evenly between Republicans and Democrats. Since 1990, corporations have almost evenly divided their contributions, 49.4 percent toward Democrats and 50.6 percent toward Republicans. Union political spending is far more party focused. In the same period, labor unions gave 92 percent of donations to Democrats, while just 8 percent went to Republicans.

Perhaps the titans of industry overvalue the influence of money in politics. There are ideological sons of thunder in politics whom no dollar can buy. Chris Dodd thought himself such, but some media people were not buying the narrative.

In any case, there is no direct connection between money and politics such that we can be absolutely certain that the politician who accepts campaign funds from - -- to pick at random one interest group – lawyers will invariably do the political bidding of lawyers. Even so, when a money connection has been established, it would be foolish not to suspect the money may have bought more than the politician’s ear. Such ears are the real windows to the soul.

Money is, after all, a means of exchange. Congressional bills may also serve as a means of exchange.

In the absence of some certifiable quid pro quo, there is no dirty money in politics. In seeking to pin a charge of corruption on a politician, benefits must be examined: Qui bono – Who benefits? -- is the single most important political question to consider when corruption is suspected. In this regard, one is more likely to be unwittingly betrayed by friends than enemies. In the political theatre, money is not the only means of exchange. What the money buys, more often than not, is some twist in the law that benefits contributors.

The Democratic Majority in Congress just now is attempting to overturn a Supreme Court decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal that will, should they be successful, open wide the door to frivolous lawsuits against small businesses and law enforcement officials. The two bills, introduced by Sen. Arlen Specter (D-R-D-PA.) in the Senate and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) in the House, prohibit federal judges from dismissing a case unless “it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the claim which would entitle the plaintiff to relief.”

That standard is considerably less rigorous than the standard the bill seeks to overthrow. In Ashcroft v. Iqbal the Supreme Court said plaintiffs must include in their initial pleadings substantial, not "threadbare," factual assertions that give "facial plausibility" to their claims -- a major shift from the tradition of "notice pleading," which required only a simple statement of the case against the defendant. The Supreme Court ruling provided a benefit to many innocent defendants attacked by unscrupulous trial lawyers with frivolous lawsuits trying to get quick and rich settlements.

If the qui bono question is put here, the answer to it is plain: lawyers who tie up their targets in expensive litigation in hopes of settlements clearly are the beneficiaries of these pending bills, and the U.S. Congress, full to the brim with lawyers, is their chief facilitator, a connection so insidiously subtle it may not be noticed at all.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Miss Me Yet?

Cafe Press, according to CBS News, is doing a booming business in this:


"There were no Obama-themed designs on the list," a company spokeswoman said. "Bush has stolen the political spotlight, just like Sarah Palin did the week before when she re-surfaced with crib notes written in her palm."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lamont To The Rescue


Today, Connecticut finds itself facing immense fiscal challenges — as our working families and small businesses continue to bear the brunt of the economic downturn.

After years of unfocused leadership, our state is sorely in need of a chief executive who will focus like a laser on creating jobs and getting our economy back on trackNed Lamont

If you unpack “economic downturn,” you will find that the “burden borne by working families and small businesses” is related to high spending priorities in the Democratic dominated legislature, an unfriendly tax environment and excessive liabilities. A chief executive who focused like a laser on “creating jobs and getting our economy on track” would sturdily resist a legislature now spending beyond its means by, in round figures, about $3 billion.

One can only hope the next governor will direct his or her well focused laser at legislative leaders such as Speaker of the House Chris Donovan and President Pro Tem of the Senate Don Williams, both of whom have shown themselves to be resistant to spending cuts. Donovan especially prefers “revenue enhancements” over cuts that may disturb his principal political supporters, union workers.
A Democratic hand on the tiller, it is tempting to think, may have a firmer grip on the direction of the ship of state than any of the previous three Connecticut governors, two of them Republicans, and a third, Lowell Weicker, who assisted Mr. Lamont in his failed senate campaign against present U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, a faux Republican who once identified himself, correctly, as “a turd in the Republican Party punchbowl.”

For the first time since former Gov. William O’Neill left office, the gubernatorial plum lies within reach of Democratic fingers, now that Gov. Jodi Rell has bowed out of the gubernatorial contest, and a government wholly captured by Democrats would be a “no excuse” government.

Lamont, best known for his ardent opposition to a war policy in Iraq that pretty much everyone agrees has accomplished the goals of ex-President George Bush, is beginning to sound like every other Democratic gubernatorial job growth candidate. Indeed there is no one in either the Democratic or Republican camps who would not, were he a governor armed with a magic wand, wave it over brutalized Connecticut and instantly produce the jobs without which the state cannot recover from its economic doldrums, closely related these day to legislative doldrums.

The legislature has reached the bottom of its revenue barrel. Its off budget credit card has been maxed out. Mommy, in the form of Moody’s rating service, already has rapped its knuckles and warned that the state’s bond rating will further deteriorate unless the legislature minds its economic matters by reducing both spending and its long term liabilities.

The state’s pantry is empty but for one remaining golden goose, Connecticut’s millionaires and mini-millionaires. Eager fingers are now reaching for the state’s last untapped revenue source, hoping the goose does not take flight and move to Texas, a state that has no income tax and is better positioned than others to recover from what promises to be, especially here in Connecticut, a long, painful convalescence.

When he threw his hat in the gubernatorial ring Tuesday at the old State House, Lamont mentioned Texas in connection with job production:

“I was talking with a manufacturer the other day, and he told me about a guy named Rick. ‘He kept calling to tell me that I should move my company to Austin, Texas -- lots of other manufacturers like me in Austin, he said -- in fact, he’d fly me down to take a look. I said no thanks, Rick, I’ve always been a New Britain guy, so I’m not inclined to move -- and he said ‘Oh, come on -- take a look.’

“That’s Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas... and Connecticut needs a governor who picks up the phone, beats the pavement, who puts us back on the offense.”
If the governor of Texas has been successfully poaching companies from Connecticut, it is likely that Texas has a better product to offer.

Whether the next governor will be able to change the getting and spending environment in Connecticut so that its sales pitch to companies on wheels will be more alluring than at present is a consummation devoutly to be wished. Phone calls are all very well and good; one supposes that the Rell administration made calls. But bringing to the surface a state that has the largest per capita debt in the nation is going to take a little more in the way of blood sweat and tears than is apparent in Lamont’s gubernatorial announcement.

Monday, February 15, 2010

CORRUPTION IS CAPTURING SCIENCE

We have long been accustomed to believe that science is absolutely truthful. In little more than half a century, that is changed. As everyone knows, a hacker broke into the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia and distributed thousands of e-mails indicating blatant attempts by the Global Warming professors to cook the books.
There’s more. We learn that 5,428 Global Warming articles in Wikipedia have been rewritten. (Click on Lawrence Solomon; read his article, “How Wikipedia’s green doctor rewrote 5,428 climate articles," published originally in the Financial Post of December 19, 2009.) That’s not all. Another 500 articles were deleted, reports Solomon.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) activists were involved. There was a Medieval Warm Period around 1000 AD to 1400 AD, which was warmer than today. It was not caused by humans. The existence of that Medieval Warm Period is fatal to the Global Warming activists, such that they have been induced to erase the record.

They present their hypotheses as facts. Real scientists are silent. The IPCC has a website for attacking articles that disagree with their position: http://www.realclimate.org/

(Late news: Professor Phil Jones, lately resigned-head of CRU, now admits there were warmer periods than at present.)

Physicist Steven Chu, the Secretary of Energy, gave the commencement lecture last year at the California Institute of Technology, “during which he grossly misrepresented climate science and lied outright about the sea-level experimental data,” charges Dr. Arthur Robinson, editor of Access To Energy in its December issue. When three eminent alumni, one a Nobel Prize winner, offered to give a seminar, the university said No.

Caltech used to boast that “The Truth Shall Make You Free.” In 1974, physicist Richard Feynman warned in a commencement address at Caltech that scientists are losing their freedom to be truthful; his speech was abridged to remove Climate Change and other concerns to Government.

The seeds of corruption in science were planted in World War II, when our country was at war and the Government was there to finance a Manhattan Project. The war over, universities and national laboratories, which had expanded with buildings and staff, needed continued government funding to support their expansion. Meanwhile, activists in the scientific community saw a role for Government to continue its largess. If Government could conquer such a problem as financing a war, it could conquer non-science problems like cancer.

Thus the idea gained currency that Government support should continue. Government became a generous source of grants and contracts. (In the 1950s, I often wondered why the Cowles Foundation for Research in Economic at Yale University, where I was working, had a contract with the U.S. Navy. What could Cowles economists be doing that was of interest to the Navy? Now finally I know. Possibly nothing. The Navy was helping spread government contracts to academic institutions.)

As universities and national laboratories expanded through government grants and contracts, the idea took hold that recipients of government funds should be careful to not offend Government. In benefited institutions, scientists let their non-science colleagues know that they should not partake in discussions of issues of concern to Government.

There are true scientists and others “in the business of science.” True scientists think about science all the time, even when asleep, according to Dr. Arthur Robinson in Access To Energy. (Scientist Feynman in his autobiography describes how he trained himself to concentrate, upon falling asleep, on what he was thinking.)

The increase in funding was an incentive for students to move into various branches of science. They became pseudoscientists in a “welfare program for scientists,” as Access To Energy calls it in a review of the subject which has been the source for this column. With a new Administration in the White House, there has been a further increase in funds for science.

As government funds increased, private funds decreased. In the process, the political conservatism which had dominated scientists withered away. Scientists and academic institutions became liberal, some ultra-liberal.

Thus from World War II to the present, there have been profound change in research, from important subjects to trendy subjects; and a deep diffusion of science by pseudo scientists.

Have these change perhaps been a good thing?

No, says scientist Dr. Robinson, and his examples are many. Tax-funded activities are used by media, politicians, and business interests to mislead the public. Example: Al Gore’s movie, “An Inconvenient Truth,” “is filled with numerous outright lies about climate science, with almost no response from academic scientists.”

Example: The IPCC has billions for research but no experimental or observational facts—only computer models—supporting its hypothesis that human beings cause climate change.

Example: Dr. Craig Venter with a private non-government team solved the human genome, spending less than five percent of the amount Government was prepared to give to an academic team.

Example: Scientific journals now have pseudo scientists on their staffs who use the journals to advance their agenda (American Physical Society, Chemical and Engineering News).

In a call for freedom for scientific integrity, Feynman concluded his 1974 commencement address:

So I have just one wish for you—the good luck to be somewhere where you are free to maintain the kind of integrity I have described, and where you do not feel forced by a need to maintain your position in the organization, or financial support, or so on, to lose your integrity. May you have that freedom.

Br Natalie Sirkin
C2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Courant Gets Sick Of Sick Days

A Sunday Hartford Courant editorial opposing proposed legislation by state Sen. Edith Prague that would require ailing Connecticut businesses to provide workers with paid sick days for employees was accompanied by a, Englehart cartoon showing Prague as a vampire about to sink her fangs into the soft neck of a businessman.
And in case Prague didn’t get the point, the Courant editorialized, “It simply courts trouble to create another mandate that could pile more costs on employers trying to keep workers on the payroll during a recession.

“Gov. M. Jodi Rell has opposed the sick-day mandate in the past. We hope she remains steadfast.”

Rell has gone a bit wobbly since she announced she did not want to be governor anymore. The budget she is writing for the new legislative session, outlined in a recent state of the state message, is long on short fixes and short on spending cuts.

Democratic vampires over at the legislature likely will not have much to fear either from the Courant or Englehart.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Left and Blumenthal

Whoa!

Mr. Gregg Levine of FireDogLake has launched several rhetorical missiles at the highly partisan Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat now running for Chris Dodd’s seat in the U.S. Senate:

“Those who know Dick tell me that he is the quintessential finger-in-the-wind politician. Hell, just listening to this short interview on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show, I got the image of some classic Hollywood film caricature of the blowhard, entrenched, do nothing, say anything gasbag. So, what struck me while listening was which way this weathervane thought the wind was blowing.”

Mr. Levine is disappointed both with Blumenthal’s hawkish view on President Barack Obama’s war in Afghanistan and the attorney general’s public disagreement with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder concerning the proposed trial of terrorist Kahlid Sheik Mohammed in a civilian court.

Mr. Levine quotes an offending passage from Blumenthal’s interview:

“I am determined to chart my own course in Washington, different in many respects from the Administration. I’ve taken the position that the trial of Khalid Sheik Mohammed should be in a military tribunal away from the United States, or, I’m sorry, away from New York and New Haven, and on a number of other issues, for example opposing the reconfirmation of Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve, I have charted my own course, I’m prepared to do it, and issue-by-issue debate either side in what I think is the right thing to do."
“Drivel,” says Mr. Levine.

He then tears into Blumenthal with a meat axe.

Obama, Mr. Levine notes, is still popular in Connecticut, “a very blue state.” And yet in this and other interviews, the Democratic senatorial hopeful has gone to some pains to disavow Obama’s publicly declared position, admittedly now in flux, on no fewer than three important issues: the trial of terrorists in civilian courts; the reappointment of Ben Bernanke as Fed Chair; and the Mirandizing of terrorist suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

On the Mirandizing of terrorists, Blumenthal fails to satisfy Mr Levine, who once again quotes Blumenthal in the interview:
“Let’s talk in real terms about what Mirandizing means. It means reading somebody their rights as opposed to simply interrogating them. I think there’s a general consensus now that in that instance there may have been no real need to read Miranda rights before some interrogation took place. And, in my view, with a terrorist, with our nation potentially at risk, interrogation should be pursued, and the consequences may be that some evidence may be inadmissible, but there is obviously in that case, overwhelming evidence without whatever may be gained or gleaned from the interrogation. So, bottom line, interrogation should have been pursued by a specially trained group of agents without necessarily a lawyer being present, and if at some point there was diminished usefulness to the interrogation, other criminal interrogation should have been applied perhaps by other authorities.”
“Utter garbage,” observes Mr. Levine.

And when Blumenthal is not spewing garbage, he is spouting “inaccuracies” and “inanities” such as this:

“Very often the reading of rights diminishes the usefulness of subsequent interrogation, the reason being simply that the defendant chooses to have a lawyer present, or chooses to cease talking. And I would have pursued the interrogation without the Miranda rights because I believe that the usefulness of learning about contacts from Yemen and elsewhere in the world and potential immediate attacks that may be known to this individual outweigh the benefits of having that at the trial.”
Not only are such sentiments “stupid” in Mr. Levine's view but they are “completely counter to the position of the administration of a president still thought popular in Dick’s state.”

On the whole, Mr. Levine’s is not a positive review thus far of Blumenthal’s positions on matters of importance to the left. Indeed, at this rate, it will be difficult for Blumenthal to avoid the charge over at FireDogLake that the attorney general is beginning to sound like his likely Republican opponents or, at worse, Dick Cheney.

Local leftist have not yet weighed in on Mr. Levine’s trenchant analysis.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Points Of Interest: Phone Taps; Taxes; Iraq, Obama Sucess Story

Obama Administration Favors Phone Taps

On Friday, a federal appeals court considered a case that involves wireless phone tapping. The money graph is here in a story that appeared in CNET News:

“In that case, the Obama administration has argued that warrantless tracking is permitted because Americans enjoy no "reasonable expectation of privacy" in their--or at least their cell phones'--whereabouts. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers say that "a customer's Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the phone company reveals to the government its own records" that show where a mobile device placed and received calls.”

Will Consider Taxing Households Making Less Than $250,000

Business Week reports that the Obama Administration will consider taxing households that make less than $250,00 per year:

“Obama, in a Feb. 9 Oval Office interview, said that a presidential commission on the budget needs to consider all options for reducing the deficit, including tax increases and cuts in spending on entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

“’The whole point of it is to make sure that all ideas are on the table,’ the president said in the interview with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which will appear on newsstands Friday. ‘So what I want to do is to be completely agnostic, in terms of solutions.’”

On improved conditions in Iraq

Then:




Now:

Vice President Joe Biden on the Larry King Show:

Biden: "I am very optimistic about -- about Iraq. I mean, this could be one of the great achievements of this administration. You're going to see 90,000 American troops come marching home by the end of the summer. You're going to see a stable government in Iraq that is actually moving toward a representative government.

"I spent -- I've been there 17 times now. I go about every two months -- three months. I know every one of the major players in all of the segments of that society. It's impressed me. I've been impressed how they have been deciding to use the political process rather than guns to settle their differences."

Amann Calls It Quits

Former Speaker of the state House Jim Amann, the Wicked Stepmother to Gov. Jodi Rell’s Snow White, has decided he would rather not be governor. The road to this decision for Amann has been a winding one. As Speaker Amann was regarded by some as a “fiscal conservative,” a vanishing breed within the Democratic Party. He stepped out of the House in favor of the present Speaker, Chris Donovan, once and forever a union leader and not, even his most ardent admirers may admit, a conservative anything.

"I'm just a beach kid from Milford, Connecticut,'' Amann told the crowd that saw him off. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could run for governor.''

A dwindling number of moderates in the Democratic Party regarded Amann, a plainspoken man, as a Harry Truman type. Truman was, of course, the Stalin bashing president who launched the United States on the road to containment of the Soviet Union, a steadfast course pursued by several presidents whose determination was rewarded when the Berlin Wall, and the Soviet Empire, collapsed.

By all accounts, Amann certainly was  blunt, plainspoken, and occasionally concerned with the spending extravagances of his colleagues in the House. He was said to be kind and good to his staff. For these reasons, he will be missed.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dean Cuffs Blumenthal

Martha Dean challenged present Attorney General and heir apparent to U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s seat on the Democratic ticket way back in 2002. She lost in part because the money cards were stacked against her by Blumenthal.

Weeks before the election, Dean discovered from a fellow attorney who wished to contribute to her campaign that he could not do so. The attorney supplied Dean with a copy of a contract between his firm and the state containing language that prevented him -- as well as all the lawyers in his firm and all their spouses and legal staff -- from voting with his dollars for Dean.

Dean said she was “stunned’ by the prohibition. She called Blumenthal’s office. The gang there confirmed that the provision, considered by some a violation of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Buckley v. Valeo, had been inserted for the first time by Mr. Blumenthal into state contracts with law firms in 1996. “Mr. Blumenthal,” Dean said “refused to release potential contributors from the ban.”

Eye gouging in what appears on the surface to be an upright campaign is nothing new for an attorney general who has not scrupled to make use of defective affidavits to seize the property of his prosecutorial victims.

Faced with a frontal attack on her civil and constitutional rights, Dean did what any self respecting lawyer would have done in similar circumstances. She sued for a redress of grievances, the portion of the constitution guaranteeing that right not yet having been subverted by the ambitious ear-biting Blumenthal.

"It has been crystal clear since Buckley v. Valeo,” Dean now says, “the landmark campaign finance case decided more than 30 years ago, that candidates have constitutionally-protected rights to raise and spend campaign funds. After throwing off the King of England, our founders believed that the ability of a candidate to mount an effective campaign to challenge entrenched, corrupt or disinterested officials was one of the most fundamental rights enjoyed by the people in the new democracy, and so they ensured that it was enshrined in our constitution, where no person – no matter how powerful – can subvert it.”

Filed in 2002, it has taken eight years for the suit – Dean vs. Blumenthal -- to reach the Supreme Court. It’s been a long eight years.

Attorney Robert Farr, Blumenthal’s 2006 Republican challenger, joined Dean’s suit after learning that Blumenthal’s contractual ban on contributions – the attorney general’s very own answer to “corrupt” campaign contributions -- prevented Farr’s own wife, a partner at one of the law firms under state contract, from contributing to her husband’s campaign.

Asserting it was not “clearly established” in 2002 that Dean and other candidates had a First Amendment right to raise campaign funds, an appellate court held that Blumenthal therefore was entitled to qualified immunity for his actions. Before and after 2002, the high court has asserted that fundraising falls under the protective umbrella of the First Amendment.

In a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari filed with the high court Dean is asking the Supreme Court to decide three points: whether candidates have a First Amendment right to raise campaign funds free from improper government interference; 2) whether Blumenthal’s ban was improper; and 3) whether Dean is entitled to damages. To be a valid exercise of his authority, Dean says, Blumenthal must show that his ban serves a compelling state interest and that it is narrowly tailored. "Mr. Blumenthal has no authority," Dean asserts, "to decide what is a compelling state interest or to go off on his own and write campaign finance laws into state contracts.”

Indeed, a rank whiff of contractual corruption was emitted from the attorney general’s own office when Blumenthal awarded a portion of a $900 million tobacco litigation contract to his former law partner and his law partner’s wife. The other two firms involved were the Waterbury firm that represented former Gov, John Rowland, Carmody & Torrance, and an anti trust firm in Philadelphia, Berger &Montague, apparently not politically connected to Blumenthal’s share the wealth pipeline.

Dean points out in her petition, “Since the alleged corruption involved in the tobacco contract awarded to his former partner and partner’s wife was not connected to a quid pro quo arrangement involving campaign contributions, Mr. Blumenthal’s ban cannot be said to have been designed to stop this type of gross impropriety.”

Addenda

Update

WDRC Dan Lovallo's interview with Martha Dean may be accessed here: http://www.talkofconnecticut.com/includes/news_items/12/832/marthadean.mp3

The following column written by Mrs. Dean appeared in the Republican American on Feb 21, 2010

Mr. Blumenthal’s self-serving power abuse

BY MARTHA DEAN

Republican-American

02/21/2010

This month, in Dean vs. Blumenthal, I filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s little-known actions trampling his opponents’ First Amendment rights over the past 14 years. The case stems from my discovery in 2002, as the Republican challenger to Mr. Blumenthal, of what few people in Connecticut know even today: that he has imposed on his own, since 1996, in virtual secrecy, without the legislature’s involvement, a ban on any campaign contributions to his election opponents.

It was in response to this discovery that I filed my lawsuit. In 2006, Republican attorney general candidate Bob Farr joined as a co-plaintiff when he learned his own wife was banned from contributing to his campaign.

If the U.S. Supreme Court were to take up my petition and overturn the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, it would be the second time within short order the Supreme Court would have found it necessary to do so in the area of campaign financing. In 2006, the Supreme Court held the low limits Vermont placed on candidates were unconstitutional.

Surprisingly, in Dean vs. Blumenthal, this same appellate court held Mr. Blumenthal is immune from paying damages because in 2002 (and even today, under the court’s analysis) it was not “clearly established” that candidates have a First Amendment right to raise campaign funds. Yet, the right to mount an effective campaign always has been protected by the First Amendment under the rights of freedom of speech and freedom of association. Our founders recognized the importance of ensuring the ability to campaign effectively to challenge entrenched, corrupt or disinterested officials and enshrined these rights in our Constitution.

For more than 30 years, since the landmark campaign-finance case Buckley vs. Valeo, it has been known candidates have constitutionally protected rights covering the entire area of campaign conduct. Recently, 91 former attorneys general filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court asserting, without need of citation, the First Amendment right of candidates to raise campaign funds.

Today, the same appellate court that upheld the unconstitutional Vermont election law and Mr. Blumenthal’s unilateral ban on contributions is on the eve of issuing a decision on the constitutionality of Connecticut ’s public financing of elections statute. Mr. Blumenthal has asserted repeatedly this questionable statute replaces his own ban.

Mr. Blumenthal’s self-styled ban, which he interpreted to apply to thousands of lawyers, their spouses, and legal staff at some of the largest firms in Connecticut and New York , did not originate in any law. It was created by Mr. Blumenthal, alone, in virtual secrecy. Mr. Blumenthal simply inserted the language into state contracts as they crossed his desk, knowing he had devised the perfect scheme. No candidate, he believed, would challenge his ban and risk being cast as being “in favor of corruption.” In this way, he ensured lopsided victories against Republican challengers, reelection after reelection.

Mr. Blumenthal’s claim that his ban safeguarded the integrity in the attorney general’s office is transparently disingenuous: 1) it was not instituted in response to any corruption of the type it claimed to eliminate; 2) Mr. Blumenthal accepted contributions from the banned firms to get elected in 1990; and 3) while his ban was in place, Mr. Blumenthal failed to gather information needed to know whether contributions he accepted were banned.

As in many other areas of our society, superficially appealing and seemingly well-intended regulatory efforts to protect us actually protect political and corporate insiders. This is the strongest reason for timely and repeated high court review of each new type of restraint on the ability of challengers to mount effective campaigns.

It will be a sunny morning in Connecticut when the days of “Corrupticut” are brought to a full close. The Supreme Court’s review of the constitutionality of Mr. Blumenthal’s actions against opponents would be an important step in this direction.

Martha Dean is a lawyer from Avon who ran for attorney general in 2002.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Murtha RIP

Rep. John Murtha, known affectionately as the earmark king, has died. Toward the end, he lost the ability to count heads and apparently was deaf as a door nail.

OMG, Yankee Did It!

The Yankee Institute, the premier conservative-libertarian think tank in Connecticut, has provided a new tool – a web Sherlock Holmes that allows political watchdogs to monitor spending in the state – that will make it less possible for entrenched politicians to fool all the people all the time.

The website, titled appropriately CTSunlight.org , is “an electronic tool constructed by the Yankee Institute for Public Policy – so that the citizens of Connecticut can look at every line item of state government spending and discover how OUR tax dollars are being spent by the people in Hartford.”

The site provides three windows – Payroll, Pensions, and Checks to Businesses & People – that allows concerned citizens, reporters and politicians to view every dollar spent by state taxing authorities in Connecticut.

And, yes, you can find out how much Joe Blow, now retired from Three Rivers Community College, makes per year in his retirement pension, or how much Jim Amann (“position not disclosed”) makes in annual salary.




Why shouldn't you know? They're YOUR tax dollars.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Bysiewicz And The Narrative Trap

Everyone very likely will recall the Moody-Rell-Arts And Tourism incident, then Gov. Jodi Rell’s Teapot Dome scandal.

Lisa Moody, Rell’s chief aide, ordered that an address list of art and tourism organizations be put on a disk, which she then shared with Rell’s re-election campaign committee. It was assumed at the time, by very nearly everyone who had access to a computer keyboard, that the campaign committee would use the names to furnish funds for “Snow White.”

This mini-Teapot Dome affair was stopped in its tracks by a vigilant press.

The incident delighted anti-Rellites in both the opposition party and the media. Then Speaker of the House Jim Amann strummed the chord of corruption until the strings on his rhetorical harp broke, without once asking why Bill DiBella had not followed Ben Andrews to jail. And the media began humming “Schadenfreude, My Schadenfreude” in its sleep. The moral epigones guessed Moody was far more corrupt than U.S. Rep. John Murtha, the powerful Chairman of the House Appropriations Defense Committee and 1st District Rep. John Larson’s friend and mentor in the earmark dispensing business, and here was unimpeachable proof of it.

And now look what has happened. Running for state attorney general, Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz's foot has become entangled in the same bear trap, the old narrative snare. Reports indicate that Bysiewicz fashioned a disk of clients who had contacted her office for help and gave it to her election campaign so that those listed might be hit up for funding.

The Bysiewicz's business began when she decided she would rather be attorney general than governor, an understandable ambition.

Given the problems facing the next governor – a voracious tax hungry unionized wolf knocking at the door, an improvident legislature dominated by chronic big spenders, a media that thinks the bill writing Democratic sausage factory is in any sense under the direction of the Republican governor, a national recession worsened by a tin eared U.S. Congress and a chief executive whose administration is light on business acumen -- who would not rather be attorney general than governor?

The following graph, courtesy of Investor's Daily, shows presidential cabinets with private sector experience from Roosevelt I forward:



The AG spot, remarkably free from media criticism, has suited present Attorney General Richard Blumenthal well. Without surrendering his sinecure, saint Blumenthal is now running for the U.S. Senate, where his first order of business no doubt will be to loudly, persistently and publicly protest U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to try Sheik Kalid Mohammed in a civilian court. It is not known whether, once installed in the senate, Blumenthal will persuade some obliging Connecticut House mouse to open impeachment proceedings against Holder.

Bysiewicz has been in office long enough to know that politicians must not run afoul of settled political narratives.

The Corrupticut narrative began with ex-Gov. John Rowland; though, of course, corruption in office did not begin with this son of Satan. Having banged the ethical drums so loudly about corruption in the Rowland administration, it was not likely the media would mute its voice when other politicians showed signs they were reverting to business as usual. Assaults on the appearance of corruption must be applied indiscriminately; somewhat like God, the media advertises itself as no respecter of persons.

“There is but one way I know of conversing safely with all men,” Alexander Pope says, “that is, not by concealing what we say or do, but by saying or doing nothing that deserves to be concealed.”

That is how Bysiewicz became a target. The media had already expended a great deal of energy and ink deploring the shenanigans of Moody/Rell, and every word was a commitment. When the media stink was raised over Moody’s attempt to use lists to obtain campaign cash, Bysiewicz should have been paying attention.

Clearly, she was not.

DOESN’T THE LADY READ NEWSPAPERS?

To cap the farce, it was a whistleblower in Florida, a “birther’ according to one report, who turned the matter over to Blumenthal, both an attorney general and a candidate for congress. It would have been indelicate of the attorney general to refuse the whistleblower’s complaint simply because the object of the complaint was a fellow Democrat no less ambitious than he. So, he turned the matter over to a couple of assistant attorneys general for investigation. Bysiewicz, a friend of Blumenthal, feels certain her bid for Blumenthal’s seat will not suffer from the scrutiny, and no one should hold his breath waiting for the usual defamatory press release.

It was not for nothing that Pope called politics “The many-headed monster of the pit.”

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Waltzing Towards Bankruptcy

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

These lines from “The Road Less Taken,” a poem by Robert Frost, should be seriously studied by everyone in the state legislature as well as the new incoming governor, whoever it may be.

The outgoing Governor Jodi Rell’s State of the State address, followed by the usual accommodating do nothing solutions, was her way of saying to the opposition in the legislature: You’ve made your bed, now lay in it.

It is a bed of nails.

The best guess, from serious commentators on Connecticut politics, is that no one will heed the stern warning in the Frost poem. Some men and women learn by rigorous thought and precept. The heedless and inattentive, handed over to the rough and unforgiving hands of experience, are mauled.

They learn by their lumps.

The wayfarer in the Frost poem makes his choice and keeps in mind the path not chosen for another day:

“Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.”

Wise wayfarer.

Life imitates poetry: Some choices are serious and determine the path of men and states. It looks like the governor and the men and women in the legislature, as well as other important political actors, now have chosen their and our path.

It is a path leading to bankrupted California rather than Texas, a state whose future is considerably brighter. Both California and Texas are burdened with debt, largely because national legislators and presidents chose a path through a Beltway inspired recession that has led to massive taxpayer payouts, unsupportable deficits, chronic job losses and a potential crippling period of high inflation, still in the offing.

Texas may more easily survive the downturn than California because, among other reasons, it has a part time legislature, no income tax and has shown U.S. industries, international bankers and money movers that it “gets” the message in Frost’s poem.

Connecticut adopted in 1991 an income tax that legislators this year made more progressive. Like California, our legislators will be asking mini-millionaires to pay more of their “fair share.” Connecticut has the largest per capita debt in the country, larger than California, no rainy day fund -- we spent it all -- and a $500 million deficit carried over from the last budget fandango between the governor and a willfully blind and spendthrift legislature. The state’s unfunded liability is $57.8 billion, and coming round the corner at us is another deficit of about three billion.

The road Connecticut has taken through the darksome glen is the one more taken.

Responsible Democrats have said Connecticut’s debt is unsustainable. To meet the debt, Democrats in mid-January proposed a blue ribbon commission to suggest ways the legislature might crawl out of the deficit hole fashioned by legislative leaders Speaker of the House Chris Dovovan and President Pro Tem of the Senate Don Williams.

As a practical matter, the commission would increase from 2, the legislative “leaders” named above, to 45 the number of people who will decide to do little or nothing in the way of cutting state spending. There will be no diffident Republicans sitting on the Democratic Blue Ribbon Commission. The real purpose of the partisan commission is to provide cover to soften the boot in the bottom Dovovan and Williams so richly deserve from voters whose pockets soon will be empty.

Taking a leaf from the Democratic playbook, Rell has proposed her own commission, possibly less partisan. And this commission has been criticized by some Democrats as unnecessary, since the state has a brilliant legislature to make the hard choices.

So far, the hard choices made by Connecticut Democrats and the departing governor have entailed, depleting the rainy day fund, gratefully accepting so called “stimulus” funding plucked from the jobs tree the very nearly veto-proof national Democratic legislature has planted on the White House lawn, securitizing Connecticut’s debt through bonding anchored by a tax on electric energy consumption, and spurning spending cuts that might impact unionized state government workers who walk state Democratic leaders on a short leash every morning, afternoon and evening.

And so the fiddling goes, while Connecticut burns.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Nutty Feminists And Feminists

Sally Jenkens of the Washington Post reminds us that not all feminists are members in good standing of “the ‘Dwindling Organizations of Ladies in Lockstep, otherwise known as DOLL.”

Some are just plain feminists.

Among these are Jenkins and Pam Tebow, the mother of Heisman winner Tim Tebow, who appear in an ad that has sent NOW up the wall.

“I'm pro-choice, and Tebow clearly is not. But based on what I've heard in the past week, I'll take his side against the group-think, elitism and condescension of the "National Organization of Fewer and Fewer Women All The Time." For one thing, Tebow seems smarter than they do.

“Tebow's 30-second ad hasn't even run yet, but it already has provoked 'The National Organization for Women Who Only Think Like Us' to reveal something important about themselves: They aren't actually "pro-choice" so much as they are pro-abortion. Pam Tebow has a genuine pro-choice story to tell. She got pregnant in 1987, post-Roe v. Wade, and while on a Christian mission in the Philippines, she contracted a tropical ailment. Doctors advised her the pregnancy could be dangerous, but she exercised her freedom of choice and now, 20-some years later, the outcome of that choice is her beauteous Heisman Trophy winner son, a chaste, proselytizing evangelical.”

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Democrats And Post Rell Republicans

The last time Gov. Jodi Rell attempted to placate unappeasable Democrats in the state legislature, the lads and ladies handed the obliging governor her head on a platter, and then began to chide her for having been inattentive to the state’s chronic problems.

Political observers liken it to witnessing a conversation between an arsonist and a fire chief in which the arsonist accuses the chief of responding too slowly to a fire he has set.

Republican governors in Connecticut have tended to negotiate with legislative Democrats for an assortment of reasons. Chief executives want to get the state’s business done; and to accomplish this purpose, it is necessary to give a little to get a little.

In the good old days, when party bosses ruled with iron fists, the negotiations occurred, usually out of public view, in smoke filled rooms. Presently, Democratic and Republican strategies are hammered out in smokeless caucus rooms. Budget compromises occur in closed meetings attended by the governor, the titular head of the Republican Party, Democratic legislative leaders and, if necessary, Republican legislative leaders.

During the last budget set-to between legislative Democratic leaders -- Speaker of the House Chris Dovovan and President Pro Tem of the Senate Don Williams -- and the governor, the two antagonists produced a budget that was about half a billion dollars short. The short budget included a new progressive feature to the income tax the governor said she had opposed, the total depletion of the state’s rainy day fund and spending decreases so slight they hardly registered on the “save our state” meter.

The governor had previously negotiated with state workers contracts that made it impossible for her to effectively trim spending when the wolf was howling at the door. She hoped to be able further to trim spending by using her line item veto but, alas, having permitted the budget to become law without signing it, she was unable to accomplish her purpose.

All the while, leaders in the Republican Party were offering a stiff resistance to the spending plans. Democrats, who wielded a veto proof majority in the legislature, ignored their protestations and – no pun intended – had their way with the governor, referred to routinely and contemptuously by former Speaker of the House Jim Amann as “Snow White.”

A new day is now upon us. This time around, the state is staring at a $3 billion dollar deficit for the coming fiscal year. Speaker of the House Chris Dovovan and President Pro Tem of the Senate Don Williams have proposed addressing the deficit by cutting spending far less than necessary. And Rell’s proposal, according to the Journal Inquirer, cuts about one tenth of one percent.

Rell, still in a compromising mode – after all that buffeting, too -- has sought to appease their voracious appetites by borrowing $1.5 billion and enticing gamblers to contribute to payment of the debt through a new gambling operation.

Even though Rell had numerous times in the past been had by the clever Speaker and the even cleverer President Pro Tem of the senate, the governor, before negotiations have begun, yet again has offered these two half a loaf and a peace pipe.

The betting among budget hawks is that Democrats soon will have about ten percent less than the whole loaf. And for the last time, Rell will have been had. The governor has announced she does not intend to run for another term. Those who thought she might not go gentle into that good night will be disappointed once again. The weakness of her negotiating posture and her willingness to lie unresisting in the fox’s mouth make her a dead rather than a lame duck.

Other members of her party are passing around a “Common Sense Commitment to Connecticut” whose signatories pledge to: Spend no more than you make; reduce spending; avoid assessing new taxes; borrow only what you can pay back; cap bonding levels resulting in a debt service to no more than 10% of the annual budget; limit borrowing only to public works projects; review state programs every two years and eliminate those that are non-performing while extending performing programs two years; consolidate services; focus on core programs; and – always a favorite of good government proponents (caps original) – “IF IT’S NOT BROKEN, DON’T FIX IT. BUT IF IT’S NOT WORKING, GET RID OF IT.”

It sounds like the beginning of a workable plan. However, the plans of mice and men, especially in legislatures, depend upon numbers, governors who are not disposed to sell the state to the highest bidder and politicians who have considerably more courage than the crew now running and ruining the state.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

FREE SPEECH AND THE SUPREME COURT: RANDOM REMARKS

It is fascinating that the First Amendment is of enormous concern today as it was to our Founding Fathers. It was not originally in the Constitution, which nearly prevented the Constitution from being ratified. Madison opposed adding it to the Constitution but in the end had to give way. To secure ratification, he had to promise that once the Constitution was ratified, it would be added, and so it was.

The Supreme Court on January 21 invalidated laws that made certain kinds of political speech by corporations a crime. Critics fear corporate corruption or a diminution of democracy or both. Thus:

"What a terrible day for American democracy. . . . [A] deeply divided Supreme Court has essentially given corporations free rein to drown out the voices of the American people, rejecting the secret democratic principle of 'one person, one vote.'"—Senator Dodd

"[W]e’re being told that an extremely vituperative expression of disdain for a candidate for president in America is criminal in America?"—Floyd Abrams

"The Supreme Court opinion refuses to acknowledge that opening the flood gates of political advertising money will skew the Congress toward obeying the narrow interests of today’s most powerful institutions: large corporations [whose impact (need we remind ourselves?) is already so large as to endanger our very planet’s financial and ecosystems]."—Paul Bernstein

Citizens United, an incorporated group, a non-profit, made a politically vituperative 90-minute film of Senator Hillary Clinton, then a presidential candidate. Citizens United wanted to promote the movie through video-on-demand by ads on TV. The Federal Elections Commission refused, and Citizens brought suit against the FEC.

The movie was vitriolic, but that’s exactly the sort of speech that is constitutionally protected, remarks First Amendment expert Floyd Abrams.

By a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission held that corporations and unions can spend without limit under the First Amendment on electioneering campaigns.

Columnist George Will says the decision, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, is a “landmark” decision. Columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. says it represents the “greed of the nation’s financial barons” and “an astonishing display of judicial arrogance, overreach and unjustified activism.”

Justice Stevens in a minority dissent sees corporate contributions as a threat to democracy. Treating companies and labor unions as if they are individuals, he asserts, violates the Founders’ intentions. Corporations are not people.

Justice Scalia rebuts, arguing that the word “people” is not here mentioned. The First Amendment says, “ Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.” Elsewhere in the First Amendment the word “people” is mentioned: “the right of the people to peaceably assemble.” “Omission of the word people must have been intentional,” writes Justice Scalia, “and therefore the Amendment must refer to groups,” e.g. craftsmen’s groups, business groups, social groups, church groups.

The New York Times argues that the Court’s “conservative majority has paved the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections and intimidate election officials into doing their bidding.” The Times is a media corporation that was exempt from the ban on corporations under the McCain-Feingold law, so it could participate in electioneering activities, but non-media corporations alike in every respect could not.

Most newspapers take the Times’s position, says attorney Abrams. They look to see whether “democracy” is vindicated.

The President took advantage of his State-of-the-Union address on Wednesday night to air his strong disapproval of oil companies, Wall Street, health-insurance companies, and other special interests (but not the unions). He assailed the justices sitting right in front of him for the edification of the Congress and the millions watching on television.

And he added foreign corporations to domestic corporations.

“Last week,” he said, “the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections.

He continued, “Well, I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, and, worse, by foreign entities.” Justice Alito shook his head and mouthed “not true” or “it is not true.” (Foreign corporations are not involved in this decision.)

Suddenly House Democrats, cabinet members, and Senator Schumer (D. NY) sitting right behind the Justices, rose and loudly applauded. The robed Justices sat stone-faced.

A Presidential exaggeration: It was two relatively recent, not centuries old, decisions the Court overturned. One was from 1990 and the other, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (McCain-Feingold) was overturned in part.

Corporations are now, under Justice Kennedy’s majority decision, free to show pejorative videos and TV ads in political campaigns. So can unions, whose income, bankrolled by members’ dues, may be greater than corporations’, though no one inveighs against them. In one instance, in an Oregon referendum to raise income taxes, public employee unions (on the winning yes side) spent $6.5 million, $2 million more than corporations and taxpayer advocates. That’s only one case, but half the states allow state and local electioneering by unions and corporations, says attorney Abrams, and “[w]e haven’t seen any explosion of corporate domination or union domination of the political landscape.”

The mandatory disclosure-and-disclaimer regulations of the McCain-Feingold Act remains. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from the majority decision to the extent that it did not overturn that section, which invites threats and intimidation.


By Nattalie Sirkin
c2010

The Big Apple, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed And Mayor DeStefano

New York has turned its bloody thumbs down to the prospect of a civil trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) in the city he terrorized several years ago.

Attorney General Eric Holder, with a wink and a nod from President Barack Obama, wanted to try KSM in New York, but the city fathers nixed the deal, partially on grounds of traffic congestion. It seemed as if the New York venue was set, but late objections were raised by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Sen. Charles Schumer, among other Big Apple politicians, and the president, or perhaps Holder, relented and began to look around for venues on the United States mainland less congested than New York.

There were, of course, muted political reasons involved. Elections are looming in New York, as elsewhere in the country, and Obama’s notion that terrorists should be tried in civil rather than military courts is not quite as popular in the former home of the Twin Towers as it is with Holder or, for that matter, Mayor of New Haven John DeStefano.

According to a New Haven Registar report:

“Mayor John DeStefano Jr., whose City Hall office is next door to the federal courthouse on Church Street, was willing to consider the idea. ‘I wouldn’t preclude it if the federal government wanted to talk about it,’ he said. He said he hasn’t gotten a call, however.

“’I think there’s a civic responsibility to try these guys, they ought to be tried, and I think the community has some responsibility to assure a fair trial,' the mayor said.”
The patriotic sacrifices DeStefano is prepared to make on behalf of the citizens of New Haven called forth some spirited objections in the comment section of the paper. (I’ve corrected some minor errors in the texts. Passionate responses to a call for patriotic sacrifice are sometimes grammatically deficient.)

“Founding Father X” wrote, “President Obama and henchman Holder have actually stated publicly that the defendants are guilty and will be tried and convicted. It's unbelievable. Any defense attorney should be able to have all charges thrown out based on the Obama-provided sixth amendment protections. Like Obama says, the law is the law, and we are a nation of laws. IF we are, then release the innocent until proven guilty defendants...can't get a fair trial now. Too bad they didn't stick to the enemy combatant logic.”

“Mr. Cheech,” wrote, tongue in cheek, “New Haven would be an ideal location for a trial (of) terrorists. Violence occurs on a daily basis (in) a city open to illegal residents, a Mayor who is not concerned for its residents safety and police chiefs who only stay on the job part time. What else can expect? Terrorists would fit the mold perfectly and the Yale law school would aid their defense with vigor. Go for it, Mayor!”

And “Texjr,” who seems fond of capitalization, registered his profound disapproval: “Is Mayor CRAZY, or just seeking PR credits? THIS IS A DUMB IDEA; to have a civil trail (sic) that you know he isn't going to walk (to) and to have it in New Haven.... What ever happen to a midnight hanging in some remote area?”

While it is not evident from the monikers used by the commentators precisely how many are citizens of New Haven, not all of them, one supposes, are disgruntled Republicans hoping to capitalize on the mayor’s political bumbling.

New Haven, after all, is a fairly congested city, particularly around the area bordering on Yale University where such a trial might be held. Some Yalies, one imagines, would not wish to be disturbed in their studies by any ensuing collateral damage. In recent testimony before congress, top security heads, asked whether they thought an attempted attack on the mainland was possible, replied that it was “certain.”

Two other recent events are certain to disappoint DeStefano. Legislation supported by some prominent Democrats has surfaced that would deny the president funds to prosecute terrorists in civilian courts.

And Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a reliable partisan who has stood shoulder to shoulder with DeStefano on matters important to Democrats, now running for U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s seat, has issued a disappointing opinion on the matter: “My belief is that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed should be tried in a military tribunal. He is an enemy combatant who attacked our nation – a foreign national with training and direction by foreign terrorist groups, supported by foreign governments. The most important goal in his and every prosecution is to effectively try, convict and punish terrorists and enemy combatants, presumably by execution. Other reasons for using a military tribunal in this case relate to admissibility of evidence and protection of secret and valuable intelligence. His horrific terrorist attack – arguably a war crime – is clearly one appropriate for a military tribunal.”

DeStefano, no doubt, will survive these blows with his reputation intact.

Monday, February 01, 2010

I, Donovan

A Hartford Courant castoff, Mark Pazniokas, went out and got a real job after he had lost his position on the paper. Mr. Pazniokas now writes for a news site called ctmirror, which has just filed a stunning story, “Connecticut in the red on retiree pensions, benefits.”

The story includes a pie in the eye chart illustrating Connecticut’s unfunded liability debt, a massive $57.8 billion.




Such enormous debt is not likely figure in the calculations of Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, though the figure weighs heavily on the minds of some grown up Democrats.

"Our kids and our grandkids are the ones going to be paying for this," said state comptroller Nancy S. Wyman.

The state’s present $18.6 billion budget devotes one of every five dollars to pension contributions, health care funding for retirees and long term debt payments for schools and capital projects.

Wyman says, “"It's not sustainable."

The Waterbury Republican America, a sane whisper in the whirlwind, offered some painful solutions to Connecticut’s long term debt:

“Further union concessions — real ones, this time — and agency consolidations would help, but further 'revenue enhancements' would exacerbate Connecticut’s fiscal and economic crises. Binding-arbitration reform would provide needed long-term relief, but what’s really needed is tough love: privatize some government functions; close non-essential services and offices; eliminate sinecures and patronage jobs; suspend collective bargaining and rewrite labor contracts to bring salaries, benefits and retirement costs under control and into line with the private sector; shelve all those fanciful mass-transit projects; stop all borrowing unrelated to existing debt; relax regulatory restrictions that are choking the economy. And yes, cut taxes to get the economy going.”
Donovan, once a union leader, is concerned with more immediate problems – which, come to think of it, IS the problem: The legislature’s view of the future is tragically foreshortened. The boys and girls in Connecticut’s legislature, led by the indomitable Dovonan, appear to have adopted as their chief working proposition Mark Twain’s adage, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.”

After increasing both income taxes and the sort of nuisance taxes the income tax was supposed to replace, having spent all of the $1.4 billion in the rainy day fund and about $1.5 billion in federal stimulus funds, Donovan intends to close a $500 million fiscal deficit carried over from last year by – one would never guess -- postponing $76 million in cuts in estate tax cuts that he and other Democrats voted for.

And if the math is still out of balance, never you mind: Better times are a’coming.

Donovan is confident, a Hartford paper reports, that the economy is on the mend. And when the stock market rebounds, all those rich folk in what used to be called Connecticut's Gold Coast, now a rust belt for millionaires, once again will begin to pour millions into Donovan’s tin cup.

The optimistic Donovan says, “We can close it. I'm confident in closing that hole.''

All we have to do is to wait for the rising tide to lift Connecticut’s boats, which is what John Kennedy said would happen if Washington cut taxes.

But the Beltway redistributionists, having raised spending, will soon raise taxes and inflate the money supply to stuff depreciated dollars into their own multi-trillion deficit black hole, at which point all dollars, including those held by millionaires in Connecticut’s Gold Coast, will lose value, assuming the millionaires have not by that time moved off shore to Hong Kong, where regulations and taxes are less punishing than they are under Donovan’s regime.

It took Connecticut ten years to recover the jobs it had lost during the last recession. But the economic terra firma already has changed since those halcyon days. The magical money tree whose leaves dreamers use to pluck to pay for their improvident spending now has been replaced by an even more majical jobs tree. Illusion follows illusion, and under the Donovan Plan – cut nothing, tax everything -- recovering from this anemic economy may take some of us a lifetime.