Tuesday, March 30, 2010

IS EDUCATION IMPROVING?

Learning in K-12 is not improving. Announced last week are the latest NAEP reading scores for 4th grade--they remain unchanged—and for the 8th grade—up only one point in a year. For both subjects, scores are up only 4 points since 1992. The scores are bad news for the long-term growth of our economy.

Learning is not going up but spending is. Education spending in the U.S. on K-12 has gone up from $375 per pupil to $9,305 between 1960 to 2005.

It has been established for decades that more money does not mean more learning. More money is also not the solution for poor-performing schools. In the Kansas City District, judicial mandates forced Missouri state taxpayers to finance the schools well above the national average. There were Olympic-size swimming pools, Montessori schools, and performing arts schools to attract students from the suburbs.

But in ten years enrollment was down by half as 18,000 students dropped out for charter schools and the suburbs. The buildings are half empty. Less than a fourth of the students are proficient at grade level, and there is no machinery for intervention when students fail.

There has been poor governance. Two dozen superintendents have served in 30 years. The District annually runs a $50-million deficit in a budget of $300 million. Community organizers have run the dysfunctional District.

Kansas City District was an experiment in generous spending as a way to improve performance, and it failed. Last week the board of education voted to close nearly half the District schools, 28 of 61.

In Providence, the Central Valley High School, one of the five worst in Rhode Island, was closed and everyone was fired reports the Providence Journal. Every teacher, principal, even the superintendent, was fired by the State Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education by a vote of 5-2. Also in danger of being closed down is the Vaux High School in Philadelphia, where 90% of 11th graders cannot read or do math at grade level.

In New York City, a judge has blocked the closing of 19 schools that the education officials say “have failed to advance student learning.” Since 2002, the school chancellor has closed 90 schools and replaced them with smaller schools reported to be working well. The Obama administration favors closing 5% of the bottom schools but supports reopening them—a practice that research indicates does not work.

While it is clear from decades of research that more money does not improve learning, the plaintiff in the long-running education lawsuit against the state of Connecticut, the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, believes one or two million dollars more for Connecticut public schools are essential. This lawsuit started out as Sheff v. O’Neill.

The Connecticut Supreme Court on March 22 announced its 4-3 decision. It agreed that the State is required by the Connecticut Constitution to provide reasonably adequate education to prepare the children for careers or higher education and “to participate fully in democratic institutions, such as jury service and voting.” The Coalition quotes 13 inputs it claims are essential including “suitably run extracurricular activities.”

The Coalition points out that in the Lincoln Elementary School in New Britain, none of the computers “are high or moderate powered, in comparison to the statewide average of 63%” and “68% of the teachers have an MA in comparison to 80% statewide.” At the K-8 Roosevelt School in Bridgeport, similar comparisons exist. In addition, “the library does not subscribe to any periodicals, while the average” K-8 “subscribes to 15 periodicals.” At the Plainfield High School, students took the advance placement tests in only five courses, while the statewide average was nearly ten.

The Court recognizes that school resources vary in availability and quality across the state but observes that the State cannot remedy all social problems including those not caused by education. Has the State provided the students with a constitutionally adequate education? The Court leaves the question to the legislature or the next court to decide.

Connecticut could have more educational opportunity for all children by permitting charter schools, of which it has only 19. Its charter-school law is ranked 6th weakest of the nation’s 40 with an overall grade of D by the Center for Educational Reform.

While Connecticut and the nation are mired in unsatisfactory educational accomplishments, attention has turned to teachers as a solution. Economist Eric A. Hanushek asks, “How much progress in student achievement could be accomplished by instituting a program of removing, or deselecting, the least effective teachers?”

Hanushek, professor of economics at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, argues that a small group of teachers is able to compete with teachers anywhere in the world. Yet these effective teachers are lumped in with a small group of ineffective teachers.

In analyzing teacher quality, Hanushek finds that differences in annual achievement-growth between an average and a good teacher in math are at least 0.11 of student achievement. Actually, he concludes, that's conservative. If a student had a good teacher for four or five years in a row, "the increased learning would be sufficient to close entirely the average gap between a typical low-income student . . . and the average student."

If the ineffective teachers are allowed to remain in the classroom, the students are harmed. If the bottom end of the teacher force cannot be improved through remediation, the alternative is more active deselection, which trims off the least effective teachers. Relatively modest changes in the bottom end of the distribution have huge implications. Hanushek calculates that eliminating the least effective 9% to10% of teachers would bring student achievement up to the level of Canada, which was 6th in math in 2003.

Hanushek summarizes:

The bottom end of the teacher-force is harming students. Allowing ineffective teachers to remain in the classroom is dragging down the nation.


By Natalie Sirkin
c2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010

What? Me Worry?

How worried should politicians be over the Tea Party Patriot movement?

They should worry.

Critics of the movement tend to focus on the theatrics involved: the signs the crowds, the UTube clips. But this is a genuine grass roots movement. And, of course, the object of any movement is to move things, to effect change. Sober politicians would do well to take note. It’s a movement still in its early stages, unattached to particular persons. That does not mean that it is a disorganized movement. Not to make any direct comparisons, but the original Boston tea party sprang from a sense of frustrated helplessness. And before what later came to be called the American Revolution took shape, the resistance was an emotive idea that burned in the brains of Sam Adams and others like him.

The movement is being pushing forward by a settled sense that principles to which most Americans have given their internal asset are being violated with impunity.

One principle is that power should not overflow its proper boundaries as set, for example, by the U.S. Constitution. Tea Party Patriots see the Constitution as a real bar to the political aggrandizement of power; others see it as a paper barrier. There is a great deal of dissatisfaction out there with the notion that the executive, legislative and judicial powers are commingling, when they ought to be separate.

Another principle is the notion of representation itself. This is not an elliptical movement; it is a movement that seeks a return to strongly felt and distinctively American ideas. The general sense among people who actively participate in the Tea Party Patriot movement is that the center must be made to hold; otherwise precious rights spin off into anarchic chaos. Tea Party Patriots believe in ordered liberty. They believe, along with George Washington, that “government is force.” Because it is force, government should be modest in its exercise of power, frugal and mindful of its own destructive capabilities. All these idea nestle in the hearts and minds of Tea Party Patriots. What moves them is the possibility of a rebirth of these distinctively American ideas. They want a small “r” republican restoration.

There are many Democrats dissatisfied with the direction of the country. They perceive that the modern legislators in their party want to move the nation back to President Teddy Roosevelt’s progressive administration. Tea Party Patriots would move it back further – to the founding of the country. And while it is true one cannot return to a vanished past, it is also true that every step forward is directed by the past, except in the cases of those who will not learn from the past and unwittingly repeat its mistakes.

If the Tea Party movement is politically unorganized, some ask, why should incumbent politicians pay it any mind?

Some groups in some states are organizing, if by organizing is meant engaging in direct political action: getting people elected, working to disturb the election prospects of targeted politicians, promoting for office candidates within the Tea Party Patriot movement, that sort of thing.

But surely not here in true blue Connecticut, the land of steady habits?

Even here.

And why should that be surprising? We are the Constitution State as well. We are the Provision State. Connecticut was the Provision State for Washington’s army during the American Revolution. It provided munitions and armaments in both World Wars. A recent declaration by some principals of UTC that in coming years Pratt&Whitney will lose jobs destined for other places is not happy news.

We used to be the insurance capital of the world as well. But with the advent of insurance reform uniformly pushed by Connecticut’s Democratic U.S. congressional delegation, that too may change. Insurance reforms pressed upon insurance companies by the Democratic controlled national congress will cause Connecticut companies to cut their costs in some manner, because the reforms will force companies to provide their products to people who cannot afford them.

It all sounds eerily familiar. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac provided housing financing for people who could not afford to purchase homes, with predictable results. There are people who believe the housing crash was made in Washington. Many voters in Connecticut were poised to vote against U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, one of the beltway architects of the housing collapse. He declined to run again, and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal now has stepped into his shoes. Blumenthal thinks his many suits against Connecticut companies actually create jobs.

Politics this election season will be played out against a dark background. The near past is reaching for our throats. Connecticut has the largest per capita debt in the nation. Connecticut is the most heavily taxed state in the nation. Connecticut is bleeding jobs. Young people are pulling up their roots and moving to greener pastures elsewhere. It is foolish to expect that all this – and much more – will have no effect on the upcoming elections. The state legislature has proven itself unable to discharge a lingering deficit of nearly half billion dollars through spending cuts, and coming around the corner is a deficit of some four to six billion.

People are in a throw-the bums-out-mood. The Tea Party movement, a semi-organized opposition to a hollowed out future, is part of all this. And its unremitting opposition to that dismal future is one of the more hopeful signs on the horizon.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The View From Cuba

Retired Cuban dictator Fidel Castro issued a report card of sorts on the administration of President Barack Obama from his perch in the state controlled media where he maintains a column.

Sad to say, relations between Cuba and the United States have soured – again – after an impertinent American bureaucrat announced the United States was alarmed by Cuba’s treatment of its prisoners, one of whom died in February after a long hunger strike.

Castro and Cuba, a distinction without a difference, were irked when Cuba was included earlier in the year on a list of countries the United States considers state sponsors of terrorism.

In an essay at the end of March, Castro characterized Obama as a "fanatic believer in capitalist imperialism" but Castro folded a few sweets into his column, praising Obama "unquestionably intelligent. I hope that the stupid things he sometimes says about Cuba don't cloud over that intelligence.”

In his lengthy piece, Castro praised Obama for having pushed his health care plan through a bitterly divided congress. The reform, Castro thought was a “miracle” and victory for the Obama presidency.

And then, spreading ashes over the compliments, the self congratulatory Castro found the Unites States wanting in a comparison with his own utopia.

"It is really incredible that 234 years after the Declaration of Independence ... the government of that country has approved medical attention for the majority of its citizens, something that Cuba was able to do half a century ago," Castro wrote…

And on, and on, and on...

Actuarial tables give the United States some reason to believe that the Cuban people – minus the protestor who was permitted to starve himself to death – will in the near future be rid of this useless, tyrannical bore.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Expropriations Committee

Those hands you feel in your pocket are attached to the arms of Toni Harp and John Geragosian, co-chairs of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee that, in view of the debt the state of Connecticut now is carrying, one wag suggested should be re-named the Expropriations Committee.

Responding to Gov. M. Jodi Rell's budget, Democratic legislators voted Thursday to increase spending by $373 million in the fiscal year beginning July 1.”

Senate GOP leader John McKinney’s brain was boggled by the news.

“They actually increase spending. It's mind-boggling. This budget is dead on arrival,” news of a demise that well might be premature.

Republicans said the spending boost was irresponsible in view of projected deficits of more than $350 million in the current fiscal year and an estimated $700 million in the next fiscal year.

If there is any lingering doubt that the state legislature rather than the governor shapes the budget, this highly irresponsible move by a spending addicted Democratic legislature should settle the question: In budgetary matters, the governor proposes but the legislature disposes. This time, Democrats who have controlled the legislature – and therefore budgets -- for the last few decades quickly disposed of the governor’s feeble efforts at spending control, after which they boosted spending.

On the vote to increase spending, some Democrats holding precarious seats dropped out of the usual caucus line and voted against the measure.

Having facilitated reckless spending almost as long as he has been in office, much of the time directing Democrats as co-chair of the judiciary committee,
Sen. Andrew McDonald of Stamford was abashed and said, “It spends too much. If I'm one of the players, I'm walking away from this ball field.”

McDonald’s cohorts threw the judiciary co-chair and other Democrats a curve ball when they proposed saving $22 million by eliminating 390 positions from state prisons and reducing the number of inmates through early releases, a move that would trigger layoffs for union workers who did not agree to concessions made last year by some state employees.

A handful of Democrats joined McDonald, shaking their heads in dismay.

House Republican leader Larry Cafero pointed out that Democrats seemed interested in plugging budget gaps only by shifting funds, borrowing money and holding out a tin cup to beltway patrons, themselves heavily in dept. Calling for serious spending cuts, he warned, "We are heading down this road on a train, heading for a brick wall. Now, we're on a suicide mission. ... Now, this is dangerous.”

Some few Democratic stragglers who had send a letter to their leaders demanding more spending cuts appeared to agree with Cafero, who remarked that the budget presented by the expropriations committee showed they concerns had “zero juice.”

Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington was troubled by the budget projections. “We’re driving over a cliff,” said Maynard, a faithful foot soldier. “I’m willing to do what’s fiscally unpopular, but I’m not willing to do the fiscally irresponsible,” a distinction not entirely lost on moderate Democrats in unsafe seats. But moderate Democrats, the Spix Macaws and the Jamaica Petrels of the Democratic aviary, have for some time been an endangered species.

After having been pelted by commentators for having a tin ear, Democrats quickly adjusted their plan but met an immovable object in Rell, who sent the lads and ladies a veto postcard from Colorado: "In essence,” the governor wrote, “this Democrat deficit mitigation plan raises taxes by $180 million, cuts spending by a paltry $65 million and relies on $175 million in other revenue, creative accounting and blithe assumptions to make up the difference.”

"As usual, the Democrats give short shrift to spending cuts and high priority to increasing taxes and other revenue - just at the time when Connecticut's families and employers can least afford it. The Democrats' meager spending cuts will do nothing to solve the long-term structural problems within our budget and the unaffordability of state government. It is time that our elected officials stood up and did what is right for the taxpayer.”

Democrats have a 114-37 majority in the House and a 24-12 majority in the Senate. To even the political see-saw, Republicans would have to pick up 39 seats in the House and 7 in the Senate.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Just Shut Up

Rick Green, a Hartford Courant columnist and blogger, reports on his blog CTConfidential that “Rowdy students prevented New Canaan's Ann Coulter from speaking in Ottawa” Canada, and he added “That will stop her” in apparent approval.

Closer to home, UConn students successfully blocked Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton  from speaking on campus.

Coulter said later that the Canadian university that scheduled her to speak was a second rate institution, and Boughton, who is running for governor on the Republican ticket this year, politely protested his exclusion from a law school panel before which he had been invited to speak. Boughten did not characterize UConn as a second rate college.


Canada, more or less patterned after European models, has no First Amendment rights. Mark Steyn, a Canadian writer much published here in the land of Jefferson and Madison, has had a tougher time of it in Canada, where a quasi governmental agency – the amusingly miss-named Canadian Human Rights Commission -- a couple of years ago subjected Steyn to a lengthy and costly investigation following a complaint received by the commission from the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC). The CIC objected to a magazine in Canada that printed excerpts from Steyn’s book “America Alone.”

In Connecticut, whenever assaults are made on First Amendments rights, the air is usually thick with recriminations: commentary articles in newspapers, marches and assemblies, editorial protests and other healthy effusions. But let a Connecticut native be hooted down in Canada or a candidate for governor in the state be pressured out of a speaking engagement by law school students at a tax supported university and you get – a silence so think you can mould it into a brick and throw it at the head of any target disserving of liberal displeasure.

Neither the Canadian brown shirts nor the UConn group was associated with Tea Party Patriots.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Healy Calls Upon Blumenthal To Join Suit Against Health Care Bill

Republican Party Chairmen Chris Healy has challenged Attorney General Richard Blumenthal to join other attorneys general in Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Nebraska, Texas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, Utah, North Dakota, and South Dakota in a federal law suit to prevent the implementation of the health care reform bill to be signed into law Tuesday by President Barack Obama.

Healy said the bulky and costly bill, which bears a $2 trillion price tag, would greatly impact Connecticut’s financial ability to meet its requirements. Additional, Healy said, the bill is in sharp conflict with the tenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which provides that “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

“Where is Dick Blumenthal when we need him?” asked Healy in a press release. “Our attorney general should put partisan politics aside and protect our rights as patients and tax payers. This legislation is the broadest grab of federal power over the states ever and our elected leaders should resist it with all legal weapons available.”

Healy is not alone in regarding the bill’s key provision, which requires all Americans to purchase health insurance, as violating the commerce clause of the Constitution. He also argues that some of the bills provisions, such as its exemption from liability for Nebraska’s Medicaid costs, will harm Connecticut.

Nebraska has agreed to join the suit.

Throwing down the gauntlet to Blumenthal, Healy said, “Dick Blumenthal always says he wants to protect and fight for consumers. Now is the time to fight for Connecticut’s rights as consumers and taxpayers. This health care bill is an assault on freedom and it interferes with the state’s ability to provide services in an equitable manner.”

The Health Care Vote, One giant Step for Medical Central Planning

The partisan vote on the Obama-Pelosi healthcare bill was, to borrow an out of space analogy, one small step for health care, one giant step for universal health care coverage.

Two of Connecticut’s U.S. House Reps. secure in their sinecures -- John Larson of the impregnable 1st District and Rosa DeLauro of the 3rd District, both Democratic bastions -- sensed as much as the vote drew to a close.

DeLauro was especially ebullient, jumping up and down, flashing that world conquering smile of her’s, her noggin spinning with the heady perfume of victory. Larson, about to burst into song – Happy Days Are Hear Again – contended himself with “We are happy warriors!”

President Barrack Obama and his Chicago gang – one of whom is shown above in a suggestive pose – watched the vote countdown from the Roosevelt Room in the White House. When the vote total hit 216, there were, according to propaganda chief Robert Gibbs, "cheers and clapping ... high five for Rahm, hugs all around."

The measure passed by means of a legislative gerrymander in which the senate bill was routed through the House, accompanied by amendments to “fix” the senate bill and then signed into law by the president. Notable holdouts such as Bart Stupack and his handful of abortion conscious congressmen were bought off by assurances from the White House that abortion funding would not find its way into the final product. He would be advised not to bet the House on it.

Republicans gnashed their teeth, certain that the political jihad would lead, eventually, to a Republican resurgence at the polls. They may be right. The content of the bill, as well as the Democrat's inattention to proper protocol and constitutional niceties very well may permanently alienate an aggressive opposition.

In Connecticut, Republicans were not mute. Sam Caliguri, who along with Justin Bernier is vying for Chris Murphy's seat in the 5th U.S. House District, immediately challenged Murphy to a mano a mano debate on the virtues of the Pelosi-Obama health care bill. Connecticut’s congressional delegation, solidly Democratic, voted in lockstep in favor of the bill.

The most serious objection to health care central planning will not fit on a bumper sticker.

In a free market, individuals who make their own spending choices reveal the aggregate value they place on goods and services. Markets draw on this critical mass composed of individuals spending their own money to allocate resources productively and efficiently.

In government controlled markets, agents of the state decide which goods and services are to be purchased and at what price. In such an allocation system, aggregate individual price signals are missing, and because of this, central planners cannot know what consumers value most. It does not matter in the least what the product or service is, whether it be widgets or health care.

Health care planners will insist they can use cost benefit or comparative effective analysis to determine what patients should receive which treatments. In any economic transaction, someone must determine which product or service is worth paying for. When central planners pick up the tab, market allocations are distorted. Seeking to provide all benefits to all patients – or, in the health care utopia envisioned by legislators who enthusiastically voted for a trimmed back version of Obamacare, moving resources from each according to his means to each according to his needs – central planners usually end up bankrupting the public treasury.

The Obama administration plans to address these allocation difficulties though a clumsy Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute and a Medicare Committee founded on the astoundingly absurd premise that every patient is average. In the central planning model, analysis takes the place aggregate individual price signals, and the distribution is made not by buyers and sellers in the market but by proficiency experts – very proficient in capturing monetary resources and far less efficient in allocating goods and services.

The central premise of the central planner is deficient. In health care, clinical research supporting allocation decisions is conducted on patients who are as much alike as possible; but in the real world, outside research institutes and Medicaid committees, patients respond differently to different treatments.

In the short run, patients serviced by number crunching bureaucrats will not receive appropriate treatments. In the long run, expenditures determined by bureaucrats will fatally distort medical innovation, because research and development activities will no loner be responsive to individual price signals generated by a free market but only to “needs” deemed appropriate for the median voter by highly politicized superintending governmental agencies.

These objections will not make DeLauro less effervescent or Larson, before entering public service the co-owner of an insurance agency in a state that used to be called the insurance capital of the world, less of a bantam rooster spouting campaign talking points.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Martha Dean Launches Bid For Attorney General

Attorney Martha Dean, running for attorney general on the Republican ticket this year, realizes that the office is not, and cannot be, an island unto itself.

Unlike Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, against whom she ran and lost in 2003, Dean feels that the attorney general operation has evolved into a shapeless island unto itself whose punitive litigation deeply affects the mainland.

During a recent televised debate with Blumenthal, Merrick Alpert – a Democrat who apparently has been banned from speaking to some town committees from fear that his message will damage Blumenthal’s prospects – pointedly asked Blumenthal “How many jobs have your suits created?” to which Blumenthal responded, “Our law suits, our legal actions, actually create jobs, because businesses actually welcome competition and a level playing field.”

A request from the judicial department detailing companies sued by Blumenthal during the past four years produced a list containing 900 entries of corporations in which the plaintiff has had an AG appearance. Companies on the list that had more than one AG appearance appeared more than once under different court docket numbers. But the list does put a rather dramatic number to the legal actions that Blumenthal thinks were responsible for creating jobs in Connecticut.

Pointing to Connecticut’s leadership crisis, Dean remarked in her opening campaign announcement: “Here in Connecticut, there is little leadership at the top. While the Secretary of State uses our money to compile “the list” of the personal features and proclivities of all who deal with her office, the legislative majority renders the Governor impotent – forcing her to try to deal with the crisis alone, all while the Attorney General continues to bully, grandstand against, and intimidate law-abiding businesses in Connecticut to the point where they, in many cases, give up and close down or depart…”

Secretary of state Susan Bysiewicz is running for attorney general on the Democratic ticket.

“There is no delicate way to say that the so-called 'leadership' in the current legislative majority is directly to blame for Connecticut’s economic predicament,” Dean said.

And, firing a shot over the bow of the Democratic majority in the legislature, she emphasized that in the absence of “a fundamental change in the legislative majority, the new Governor – of either party – will be unable to bring about the critical changes needed immediately in this State. The majority in charge of the legislature must be voted out now…”

It is obvious from Dean’s remarks that she had given a great deal of thought to what makes a society prosperous. Governments may facilitate prosperity; they cannot create it through impediments to prosperity:

“To succeed and become prosperous, a society must provide a meaningful opportunity for individuals to create, own, grow, and personally reap the financial rewards of their successful business enterprises free from undue government interference. Without this promise, and its reality as enforced by law, the best and brightest --those who know how to create wealth through successful enterprises – will not choose to locate or remain here…

“Such an opportunity depends on freedom and predictability – the exact opposite of the unwieldy, burdensome, complex, political and irrational business environment that exists today in this state.”
Freedom is one of the pillars of Deans campaign, and she defines freedom as “Freedom from improper, or excessive, or unnecessary government interference with our Constitutionally-guaranteed rights. I will protect property rights, economic liberties, and the rights guarantee under the U.S. Constitution, including under the First Amendment, Second Amendment, and Tenth Amendment, among all the other.”

An indispensable condition of a free and limited government, the The U.S. and state constitutions set the limits of government intrusion into private and corporate life. As attorney general, Dean would make it her first duty to “oppose all efforts to diminish or interfere with the Constitutional rights of Connecticut’s citizens,” as well as vigorously opposing “excessive, improper or unnecessary government mandates and regulations that burden business without proper constitutional justification.”

She would strive to make law enforcement fair and just, while insuring compliance with the law: “…no more politicized lawsuits or grandstanding against companies.” Rather than resorting to “gotcha law suits,” she would “focus on prevention of unintentional unlawful conduct through education.”

And in a stinging rebuke to Blumenthal in particular, she would “end the current Attorney General’s so-called ‘moneymaking’ function for the AG’s office. An Attorney General’s office should never be under pressure to sue and hold-up companies or use extortion to generate a so-called ‘revenue stream’ for a State. This is the behavior of a bank robber – ‘your money or your life’ – and it must end.”

Dean would cut costs and abuses in one of Connecticut’s most insular agency by reducing the number of lawyers in the attorney’s general office: “Just as corporations do, I will look into expanding the use of outside counsel, negotiating new contracts with them yearly to reflect changing market conditions.”

Dean’s is a big reform plate, and she’s put a lot on it. But the reforms she suggests are both salubrious and necessary.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Democratic Caucus: What To Do?

Either one of the flies on the wall of the Democratic caucus is “deep throat” or the caucus is cautiously leaking information so as to test the viability of its proposals among voters who this year are in a throw-the-bums-out mood, probably the latter.

The Democratic caucus is that institution in Connecticut that, in the absence of a strong Republican governor, is the real author of the state’s unbalanced budgets.

“In a closed-door meeting,” CTMirror reports, “the 114-member caucus came down strongly against any deep cuts in spending, particularly those aimed at social services and health care, caucus leaders said. But with the exception of an estate tax hike worth about $70 million annually, House Democrats were equally reluctant to sign onto further tax increases.

"’I don't think the stomach is there for taxes,’ one caucus member said privately. But the stomach isn't there for cuts, either, the member said. ‘We're stuck.’

"’I think people realize we need to do something,’ said Rep. Christopher L. Caruso, D-Bridgeport. ‘But what that something is, I don't know.’"

The Bysiewicz Bout, Dean Announces

Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz continues to be roughly handled by… pretty much everyone.

The latest round concerns the now infamous “list” of persons seeking help of one kind or another from the secretary of state. Bysiewicz shared her list with people on her campaign committee who might have used it, were they so disposed, to solicit contributions for their boss.

Investigative journalist for the Harford Courant Jon Lender asked in a Sunday story “Why No Republican Delegates On Bysiewicz List?”

One reasonable answer would appear to be: Republicans are not disposed to surrender campaign contributions to Democrats – unless they are un-protesting Republican state union workers a portion of whose dues generally go to Democratic candidates or RINO Republicans who, for all practical purposes, are indistinguishable from their Democratic confreres.

State judiciary committee co-chairman Michael Lawlor, who along with his confrere Andrew McDonald a year ago attempted to pass legislation that would have impaired the apostolic structure of the Catholic Church in Connecticut, has examined the database compiled by Bysiewicz. Lawlor said the now notorious date base looks alarmingly like “a campaign caller list, a list to go down to make calls from. It's got the notations, and everything you'd need to know. All I can say is: if I asked one of my staff to do such a thing, I would expect to be led out of my office in handcuffs if someone found it."

Lawlor said he would be supporting the candidacy of either Rep. Cameron Staples or former chairman of the state Democratic Party George Jepsen, whose name appears on the Bysiewicz list in some of the “special notes” overlaid on the database. The note “Friend of Jepsen” appeared over two person’s names; yet another “loves George Jepsen”; still another “likes Jepsen”; and a third “went to Harvard Law with Jepsen.”

Since Jepsen is also an announced candidate for attorney general on the Democratic ticket, one does not expect those on Bysiewicz’s edited data base enamored of him to receive donation requests from the secretary of state’s campaign committee.

Kevin Rennie of the Courant, who likes fairy tales, mentioned “Flying Monkeys” twice in connection with Bysiewicz:

“The whirlwind that Bysiewicz touched off when she jumped into the race for attorney general and declined to rule out a bid for the U.S. Senate in 2012 has invoked the political rule of the Flying Monkeys… Now that Bysiewicz might not be in high office, grudging supporters have become delighted detractors, much like the Flying Monkeys in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ upon Dorothy's liquidation of that green-faced crone, the Wicked Witch of the West. They are free to acknowledge what they've long known and the database confirms: Bysiewicz turned the Office of Secretary of the State into a campaign headquarters. In the office of the late Ella Grasso, the office-seeking never stops.”

Just to keep the moving parts of Rennie’s extended metaphor straight: The “Flying Monkeys” represent those folk who grudgingly surrendered money for Bysiewicz’s shifting campaigns, some of whom, if such is to be believed, were cowed lawyers. Bysiewicz herself is the “green-faced crone.” And Ella Grasso, the subject of a book written by Bysiewicz, is made to dance somehow on the edge of the metaphor. Such flights of fancy are carried forward by tone, and Rennie here writes in a tone that, to quote Honore DeBalzac, “would have made an actor illustrious.”

Despite Bysiewicz’s self mutilations and the negative press they occasioned, the Secretary of State leads Jepsen among Democrats most likely to vote in a mid-March Quinnipiac University Poll 54% to 10%.

On the Republican side of the attorney general equation, Attorney Martha Dean has announced her candidacy. Dean last ran for the position in 2002 against present Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who has his eye and heart fixed on U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s seat. Dodd has abandoned any thought of re-election, and Blumenthal has said he will abandon his position as attorney general, an announcement that caused Bysiewicz and several other Democrats to salivate uncontrollably.

There were no Flying Monkeys flitting about Dean as she made her announcement from the North steps of Hartford’s state capitol. During her last bid for attorney general, Dean intimated that altering the statutory role of the attorney general as a lawyer defending state agencies into a consumer protection watchdog with subpoena and other extraordinary powers would bring the office to grief and disrepute, a prediction that in some cases has proven true,though reporters and commentators who spend their days reading and then publishing Blumenthal’s self effusions – the attorney general calls them “press releases” – have not yet plumed the depths of the grief and disrepute.

Monday, March 15, 2010

BPA, A CASUALTY OF THE WAR ON CHEMICALS

BPA, Bisphenol-A, is a chemical used in the manufacture of shatter-proof plastic in baby bottles and in resin coatings that protect canned food and vegetables. It is also used in eyeglass lenses, bike helmets, and electronic circuit boards. It is also present in dental fillings, CDs, Blackberries, cell phones, and medical devices. It is ubiquitous.

But it “may” harm human development, says the Environmental Working Group, which has directed a campaign against it since 2007. EWG claimed that the CDC, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found detectable levels of BPA in the urine of 93 % of Americans over the age of six.

But virtually every chemical can be detected in urine and blood, according to Dr. Gilbert Ross, Medical Director of ACSH, the American Council of Science and Health. That does not mean that they are harmful, says the CDC. And the levels that leach into food or drink are so incredibly small that they can barely be measured.

A study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that students had 69% more BPA in their urine after drinking liquids from BPA-based plastic bottles for a week, than students who did not drink primarily from them. All students’ levels were well below the Federal safety-standards limits.

Two Canadian activists have described how they ran a baby rally and a campaign with the help of the Canadian media to frighten soccer moms into petitioning the Government of Canada to ban BPA from babies’ bottles. Their good luck came when Dr. Mark Richardson, the head of Health Canada’s investigation of BPA, said in a speech to doctors in Arizona, that exposures to BPA “are so low as to be totally inconsequential, in my view.” To toxic terrorists, that was an opportunity. They demanded that Dr. Richardson be investigated for bias. He was immediately reassigned.

The Food and Drug Administration made a similar slip. The FDA had examined the safety of BPA in hundreds of studies as recently as 2008 and had found no significant health hazards. On June 2, 2009, Representatives Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg requesting another investigation of BPA.

The FDA re-investigated and in January issued its report indicating that BPA does not pose a risk at low levels of human exposure. But its report then went on for another 320 pages “to recommend ways to limit exposure.” Why, if no risk, activists asked.

To appease them, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is spending $30 million to research BPA’s health effects in behavior, obesity, diabetes, reproductive disorders, asthma, heart disease, etc. etc. etc. And the FDA has called for public comment in advance of a further reassessment.

Meanwhile, action was under way in Connecticut. Attorney General Blumenthal, with support from the attorneys general of New Jersey and Delaware, took up pollution by BPA . He announced a “major public health victory” when six companies that manufacture babies’ bottles volunteered to stop using BPA. He went further. “I am calling for a complete ban against BPA in baby products to stop this needless and negligent public health threat.” The FDA and its European counterpart, the European Food Safety Authority, have said BPA is safe in the amounts used in baby bottles.

Blumenthal last March went before the Connecticut state legislature to argue for a ban on BPA in babies’ bottles, infant-formula cans, baby food containers, and other food packaging and products marketed for infants and toddlers.. In the legislature, Blumenthal was opposed by several corporations using BPA-based baby bottles.

Not only did they not prevail, but Blumenthal called for a Richardson investigation of the motivation of Coca Cola, Del Monte, and other corporations for trying to stop the ban. The ban passed last summer.

Besides Canada and Connecticut, Minnesota has banned it, and it is pending in a larger bill for food safety in the House of Representatives. Chicago banned it from store shelves. It has not passed the California Assembly for two years, and the California Science Panel of seven doctors has turned it down. New York’s Suffolk County banned it. New Jersey and Delaware have not.

Three manufacturers and three retailers including Wal-Mart and Toys”R”Us have said they would discontinue sales of BPA’d plastic baby bottles, sippy cups, and other food containers.

Nevertheless, there is no evidence of harm from BPA, just as there was and is none from Alar on apples, or DDT or PCBs’ bans. “This is an irrational issue . . . fueled by fear,” according to Dr. Ross. There is not one shred of evidence that BPA has ever posed a health hazard.

Still another study of this best-tested chemical has appeared. Published on line on February 17, the study exposed pregnant rodents to a range of BPA dietary doses from low to high. It found that even low doses of BPA did not affect brain, reproduction, or development. It is reported in Toxicological Sciences.

And what is to be the replacement for BPA, and what is its safety profile? On these essential points, there is no interest among the Environmental Working Group, Attorney General Blumenthal, and the toxic terrorists.

By Natalie Sirkin
c2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dan And Ned

If by the intervention of heaven a Democrat becomes the next governor, he must not imagine that the problems besetting outgoing Governor Jodi Rell will magically disappear. They will not.

The legislature is dominated by Democrats. A Democratic governor will find himself surrounded by members of his own party who appear to be motivated by concerns that do not include, for instance, reducing state spending by 15%.

Here is a partial list of the past and immediate concerns of members of the Democratic dominated legislature:

• How do I get re-elected?

• How do I discharge a looming $6 to $8 billion state deficit, not to mention the state’s $ 56 billion debt in pension obligations, without inconveniencing state workers whose support is needed to accomplish my re-election?

• How do I fleece the remaining millionaires in the state without driving them to, say, Texas or Florida?

• Assuming Rell will be replaced by a Democrat with a heart of solid oak, who can I blame for the logical consequences of my votes in the legislature? Rell will be gone. George Bush II is fast vanishing into the near unremembered past, and Democratic President Barack Obama, having added mightily to the deficit, continues to press forward a war in Afghanistan that progressives such as Merrick Alpert consider pointless and expensive. Convenient scapegoats are fast disappearing.

• Will voters remain convinced that Connecticut, bleeding from the nose with exiting young entrepreneurs, is suffering from a revenue rather than a spending problem as our crippled state stumbles into a future laden with debt?

• How can I effectively counter Tea Party Patriots whose activism appears not to have been sufficiently blunted by politicians and members of the commentariat who feel the newbie protestors are, politically, below the salt?

At the portal to the gubernatorial race, Ned Lamont appeared to sense he might have some problems with his fellow Democrats in the legislature and told radio talk show host John Dankowsky, the news director of NPR’s “Where We Live,” he was “ready to go up to Hartford and bang some heads,” Lamont immediately repented of his harsh language and sheepishly walked back the remark.

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Dan Malloy officially announced his candidacy in mid-March. The ex-mayor of Stamford has much to boast about concerning his administrative abilities, which are considerable, but he appears to be operating on the assumption that both the outgoing governor and the going nowhere legislature were not motivated by ideological considerations but by poor policy differences. Malloy seems prepared to treat policy as if it were ideologically neutral. To put it in blunt language: The governor and the legislature, according to this view, probably had no clue how to manage state affairs. Malloy will be insisting for the duration of his campaign that he has lots of useful clues, some of which are spelled out in his new gubernatorial campaign site.

There are some difficulties with this view. It is true that neither Rell nor her predecessor, former Governor Rowland, nor his predecessor, former Governor Lowell Weicker, were virulent ideologues. Weicker was a Jacob Javitts Republican. His twin bete noirs were the late conservative man for all seasons William Buckley and former President Ronald Reagan, both unflinching conservatives. Rowland found the ideological bedrock of his party inhibiting and frequently negotiated legislative deals with leading Democrats over the sometimes heated objections of legislative Republicans. Rell rarely failed to put a ten foot pole between herself and national conservatives in her party, and she, too, frequently surrendered ideological ground to leading legislative Democrats.

Here is the problem: Most policy decisions are ideologically rooted. It would be absurd to say that the progressive income tax, a policy that taxes people at different levels, is not ideologically rooted. The policies politicians embrace are not self generating. They spring from an ideological nursery bed; or, if the word “ideological” is too toxic, they arise from political philosophies that, here in the United States, may be roughly denoted conservative or liberal. There is no such thing as a non-ideological, free floating political policy. There are no policies that are ideologically neutral. Even among pragmatists, there are two, and perhaps more, species: conservative pragmatists and liberal pragmatists.

In Connecticut, the whole political universe tends to be more pragmatic, in the best sense of the word, rather than strictly and unabashedly ideological – which means that Connecticut voters are disposed to judge a policy by its consequences rather than its philosophical provenance.

But here’s the rub: For decades the state’s policies have been generated and implemented by legislative Democrats and too obliging Republican governors, all of whom consider themselves non-ideological pragmatists.

And here we are - another day older and deeper in debt.

A final judgment by voters of the state’s legislative and gubernatorial policies may not be long in coming.

Friday, March 12, 2010

UTC, Slip Sliding Away

The lede graph in a Hartford Courant story detailing a meeting held with Wall Street Journal analysts and leaders of United Technologies was not encouraging:

"’Anyplace outside of Connecticut is low-cost,’ United Technologies Corp.'s chief financial officer, Gregory Hayes, told Wall Street analysts -- paraphrasing previous remarks by another UTC executive, Jeff Pino, the president of Sikorsky Aircraft. ‘Even if work has to stay in the U.S., there are opportunities to reduce cost by moving out of those high-cost locations,’ Hayes said.”

UTC executives hosted the analysts at a meeting at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan devoted to the company’s business prospects in 2010.

Both the conversation with Wall Street analysts and UTC’s previous contacts with administration officials in Connecticut indicate the company may plan to shift jobs from Connecticut to lower cost facilities in both foreign ouptposts – India, Poland, China, Turkey, Istanbul, Singapore, Japan – and out of state facilities where labor costs are less, taxes are lower and state regulations less punishing.

Of UTC’s 205,000 global employees, 26,000 work in Connecticut, the majority of them at Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky and Hamilton Sundstrand. Employees at Pratt & Whitney have diminished over the past two decades from 15,000 to 3,700, and the company, presently locked in a litigatory struggle with union workers backed by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, plans to reduce its Connecticut work force even more.

State unionized workers supported by Blumenthal, who claimed in a recent debate with Democratic opponent Merrick Alpert that his suits increase business activity in the state, won pyrrhic victory recently when a court ruled that Pratt could not move jobs from Connecticut because a provision in a union contract that will soon elapse required the company to make strenuous efforts at negociations.

Healy said Democrats in the Legislature, in conjunction with union supporters have priced Connecticut out competition and that it is only a matter of time before UTC all but abandons the state, unless a radical change occurs in Hartford.

“The record is clear, anti-business legislation has its effects,” said Healy. “Democrats still don’t understand that businesses and available capital create jobs but that cannot occur if there are too many mandates and too many taxes.”

Legislative Democrats have not laid out a plan to cut the current deficit of $500 million for this fiscal year, but its leaders did support a bill that would require companies like UTC to provide seven sick days – another government cost that would add millions to the bottom line to hundreds of businesses.

“Democrats are divorced from reality,” said Healy. “Democrats continue to destroy what’s left of our economy through laws that will put everyone on permanent leave.”

Dean To Announce Candidacy For Attorney General

Attorney Martha Dean will launch her campaign for attorney general on March 16, 2010 from the state Capitol’s North steps at high noon.

Dean was the Republican nominee for attorney general in 2002 when she faced off against Richard Blumenthal.

“The state of Connecticut,” Dean said in a short pre-announcement release, “is entering a full-blown crisis. For the people of Connecticut, the scope of this crisis means that the quality of the people who we elect this year is more important than ever.

"We are in an economic crisis, a cultural crisis, and a leadership crisis. As attorney general of Connecticut, I promise to work with other state officials to take the legal steps necessary to save this great State and see it safely to the high ground of competitiveness and prosperity.”

On the Democratic side, there are numerous contenders for the position, which opened up after Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced he would abandon 20 year hold on the office after his term ended to run for the U.S. senate seat presently held by Chris Dodd.

Dodd earlier announced that he would not be defending his seat when his term ended.

The crisis in Connecticut to which Dean refers in her media release is now lapping at the heels of present Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, who announced her candidacy for attorney general on the Democratic ticket a few weeks ago.

Bysiewicz, the most promising of the Democratic candidates, first announced her availability for governor but thought better of it when Blumenthal, much to the delight of Democrats who for years had been cajoling him to run for governor or the U.S. senate, at long last agreed to venture out from his closely guarded bunker and slide into Dodd’s chair in Washington.

Dean’s practice is devoted to assisting clients in understanding and complying with complex regulatory schemes while furthering their state and federal constitutional economic and individual rights.

Dean is co-founder of the Hartford Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society for Law & Public Policy Studies, a national organization of law students, law professors, lawyers and judges who sponsor panel discussions and debates with leading scholars and authorities on important public policy issues of the day. She is a graduate of Wellesley College ‘82, and the University Of Connecticut School Of Law ‘86, where she was an editor on the Law Review. She is a member of the Connecticut Bar (1986), U.S. District Court (Connecticut) (1995), U.S. Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit) (2000), and the U.S. Supreme Court (2001).

______________________

This is a response to Anonymous comment below. I could not do justice to it an an abbreviated comment:

You write: “I guess that is just another one of those open ended investigations that will never end..."

I’m afraid it will continue to be that way so long as the media is content to a) report fully on press releases sent to them by the attorney general, and b) wait for a few concluding graphs from the attorney general once the case has been concluded.

The real play, of course, occurs in hearings and legal proceedings that fill the empty hours between a and b. It takes a little digging, but reporters would be surprise at the lumps of gold they would be able to unearth if they did no more than consult public records – which is what I did when writing about the Hoffman case and the NEP case.

Here is my note to Gombossy and his response:

1. George,

And the only interview he would grant was a limited telephone interview with him on a loudspeaker, surrounded by his top deputies and two media staffers listening, prepared to jump in to help their boss for some of the rougher questioning.”

I sent your piece to the lawyer who is defending Valerie Hoffman and the two owners of New England Pellet.

His response was joyous, if brief: “Wow! What a change! What would he say about NEP or Hoffman? What would he say about false affidavits made by assistant AG’s who have no personal knowledge of what they swear to?”

I told him I didn’t know but would find out.

I sent your piece as well to Martha Dean, who as you may know is running this year for attorney general on the Republican ticket. She ran against Attorney General Blumenthal in 2002 and lost.

It’s always a hard revelation when Janus [the two-faced Greek god of doorways] turns his second face to you and you begin to see a disturbing polarity. Which is the real face?

Here is an account of the NEP and Hoffman case: http://donpesci.blogspot.com/2010/01/blumenthal-devil-and-details.html

And here is a list of companies Blumenthal has sued: http://donpesci.blogspot.com/search?q=hoffman

Not too pretty.

Jim Oliver, Mrs. Hoffman’s lawyer, has been waiting a half dozen years for some digger in the media to unearth the facts that tell against Blumenthal, buried in plain sight for all to see in court documents that one consults; for, of course, the cases Blumenthal opens do not end with one of his press releases, which are as fraudulent as his affidavits.

I welcome your exposure; that really was a courageous piece. But (isn’t there always a “but?”) having begun a story, it is the responsibility of the journalist, not the attorney general, to follow it through its various permutations.

Had you done this with the Hoffman case or the NEP case, you would have clearly seen that Blumenthal has been successful in many of his cases for the same reason that card sharpers are successful – they cheat.
The card sharp wants your money or your life. Blumenthal, as you would undoubtedly gather from anyone he has cheated – by, for example, presenting fatally defective affidavits to unsuspecting judges who then, in ex parte proceedings, vest him with the authority to steal their property – just wants your life.

Glad you’re catching on.

By the way, Blumenthal walked away from the NEP case. It’s only a matter of time before he announces in one of his many press releases that the case has been settled and refunds may now begin to flow to the victims of NEP. None of it will be true. The Hoffman case is due for a very important presentation in Hartford Supreme Court at 11:00 this Thursday, the 18th.

You are cordially invited to attend.

Don


Reply
o George Gombossy says:
March 14, 2010 at 11:10 am

Don: thank you for your support and for taking the time to read my column and to respond. My column should not be taken as an indication that I object to his investigations. It should be clear that I support the vast majority – if not all – of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s investigations. My issue is with his policies on keeping the public informed AFTER he starts an investigation. This is not the first time I have written a critical column about our Attorney General. In fact on the issue you mention, I took Blumenthal to task for failing to be more active to protect the herbal company’s customers. And I have written many columns about how pellet stove owners were ripped off by the now bankrupt pellet company which collected deposits and pocketed the money instead of making good on all its promises.

George


Reply
1. Don Pesci says:
March 14, 2010 at 11:28 am
Read the links

Gombossy grouses that Blumenthal has not provided him with a summary report on Gina Malapanis’ Computers Plus Center Inc. case. But why wait on Blumenthal? Having reported initially on the press release sent to him by Blumenthal, it is his responsibility to report on that case’s many permutations. Had he done so, he would have seen the train wreck coming.

The Hoffman case is upcoming this Thursday in the Supreme Court.

How many reporters who received Blumenthal’s initial press release on the Hoffman case will be attending the proceedings?

This is a case in which it is claimed – on solid grounds – that the affidavit Blumenthal used to seize assets of the owner of the company, as well as the assets of her husband’s company, was fatally defective. That judgment has already been made by a court justice. One of Blumenthal’s assistant attorney general is being personally sued in the case. The case has been heard both in Maine and Connecticut. It is clear from Gombossy’s remarks that he has not followed the case beyond reporting on the initial Blumenthal press release.

He wants an interview with the attorney general. With enough pressure, he may get one, or not.

In the meanwhile, no one, including Gombossy, has to wait on the attorney general to provide information about the Hoffman case. It’s on the public record, available to anyone who has a computer.

Gombossy probably could find out more about the case on which he has done minimal reporting by attending the Superior Court hearing on Thursday than would be the case if he were to wait for the attorney general's future self serving press release following its conclusion.

I would be happy if he attended. The invitation is open.

My best guess is he will not show.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rotation And Term Limits: Build Soil

We all know what happened last year: U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd moved out of his sinecure, for reasons he prefers to keep private, as a result of which a spot opened up, a breach in the political universe. Into this vacuum rushed a number of Republicans and Democrats, including Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, whom some thought immovable.

Democratic power brokers had for a number of years attempted to tempt Blumenthal from his seat, all without effect. They wanted him to run for governor. He gave off indications that this notion might be acceptable to him, always withdrawing at the last moment with a bow and an enigmatic smile: Thanks but no thanks. Reading his intentions was always a bit like interpreting the ambiguous oracle of Delphi which, depending upon one’s ambition and the bribe one could afford to pay the priestess in charge, could either mean declare war or sue for peace. U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman had been badly wounded in a primary skirmish with Ned Lamont, currently running for governor, and it was thought Blumenthal might run for Lieberman’s seat in a couple of years.

In the meanwhile, Dodd had slipped on blood. And when the senator made his announcement he would not defend his seat, Blumenthal leapt into the breach, a little too aggressively thought one commentator, Chris Powell of the Journal Inquirer. But at least the awkwardly ambitious leap gave everyone to understand that Blumenthal was not interested – perhaps never had been interested – in being governor of Connecticut, especially at this time, when the next governor, Republican or Democrat, must facedown a snarling tax prone legislature, a tool of special interests that seems determined to spend the state into bankruptcy.

Republican Gov. Jodi Rell also had declined to run for re-election, opening another fissure in Connecticut’s political universe. Into this gap, rushing where even angels feared to tread, Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz sped, but she soon had second thoughts. Following Blumenthal’s decision to run for Dodd’s seat, Bysiewicz decided she would rather be attorney general than governor.

Indeed, given the destitution of the state, who would not rather be attorney general than governor? The chief executive position is constitutionally hedged about by limited powers. The attorney general’s position is not. Recent practice suggests that the attorney general, far from being the people’s lawyer, is a freebooter, a sort of litigator-pirate on the high seas, blessedly free of the usual statutory and constitutional ties that bind mortal men to earth and set rational boundaries to their presumptions.

Bysiewicz’s shrewd move, political psychologists told us, was intended to position herself for a run against Lieberman. It worked for Blumenthal.

Now, all these open gaps raise interesting questions and give the lie to people who previously, objecting to term limits, had argued that term limitations would deprive institutions of important players. The fear concerning term limits, iterated ponderously in scores of editorials, was that institutions would lose precious intelligence in the offices abandoned.

And yet, look what has happened. It appears that politicians deprived of one office will seek out another. And – this is the neglected point – intelligence and experience are portable. Blumenthal, if he is successful in capturing Dodd’s seat, will carry with him into the senate the political acumen he has acquired as perhaps the most visible politician in the state but for the governor, whose leave taking has opened a position that will be filled by others, some of whom will carry their brains, private work experience and political experience into the new position they hope to occupy.

This puerile notion that term limits deprive the state of useful intelligence was always bogus. It is a point useful to kings and kingmakers but should have no place in a vibrant democracy. It is not only sunlight that keeps the crops from corrupting, but rotation as well. That frequent rotation in a democracy is essential will be obvious to anyone who has spent some time studying the founding documents of the country, not to mention the poems of Robert Frost:

Build soil. Turn the farm in upon itself
Until it can contain itself no more,
        But sweating-full, drips wine and oil a little.

A rotation that moves the political spheres may be hard on incumbents, some of whom imagine they may remain in office until the last trumpet sounds, but it is necessary in a free republic that politicians from time to time get plowed under.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bysiewicz Nota Bene

Following is an excerpt from a Hartford Courant story detailing politically useful notes that Susan Bysiewicz overlaid on her data base of business clients, innocent schleppers who wrote to Bysiewicz in her capacity as Secretary of State soliciting her help on various matters:

“It says Kevin Donohue of Columbia is ‘Bill Curry's Cousin; Influenced by Edith Prague; Works in Windham.' Curry is a former Democratic state comptroller who ran unsuccessfully for governor. Prague, a Democratic state senator from Columbia, when told of the notation Tuesday said, 'That's hysterical.’

“It contains this description of a now-dead Democrat who held municipal office in the Naugatuck River Valley: ‘White beard; Former teacher; Likes attention ...’

“It says former New Canaan Councilwoman Ruth Smithers ‘loves George Jepsen.’ Jepsen is now one of Bysiewicz's opponents for the Democratic nomination for attorney general — an office being vacated by Blumenthal, who is running for U.S. Senate.

“It says that a child of one politician ‘has issues’ — an apparent reference to problems with the law. It mentions a rabbi who ‘Doesn't shake hands he bows’ and ‘likes Blumenthal.’ It says a town selectman is a ‘Retired Teamster’ and ‘has had a kidney transplant.’

“It describes James J. Giulietti, a North Haven lawyer, as ‘influenced by Chris Duby; friend of Ganim; former town chair; 2003: Running for P & Z.’ A decade ago, Christopher Duby was chief of staff to Democratic Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim, who later went to prison.”

Bysiewicz is running for attorney general, a spot on the Democratic ticket left vacant by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, now running for U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s seat.

It took political adepts about three seconds to notice that the notes Bysiewicz appended to the names and addresses of people who had contacted the Secretary of State on official business were political in nature.

It did not helped that questions had earlier been raised concerning Bysiewicz's database following disclosures that the secretary of state had shared her 36,000-name database with her campaign committee, which then used it to send out e-mails to those listed soliciting campaign contributions and political support. When one of the recipients issued a complaint with state election officials, the matter was referred to Blumenthal for investigation.

Not only did the notes tickle Prague’s fancy,” they pointed in the direction of political skullduggery, according to some respected members of Connecticut’s commentariat.

Courant humorist and columnist Colin McEnroe noted on his blog that the Bysiewicz notes fell outside the secretary of state’s constitutional prerogatives but were “enormously helpful to a politician raising money.” Kevin Rennie, another Courant columnist, noted on his blog that the notes had little to do with the duties of Bysiewicz’s office and predicted further difficulties for Bysiewicz, “who’s known more for her ambition than her achievements. She’ll soon get to explain her public office political operation when she takes a star turn under oath in her court action seeking to have herself declared eligible to run for attorney general.”

Blumenthal, who has decided to maintain his present position while he runs for the U.S. Senate, has remained mum on the whole business, a posture that must be difficult for a man so used to issuing premature press releases detailing the failings of those he plans to sue. There are notches on the handle of Blumenthal’s pistol that would put Wyatt Earp to shame. Presently, Blumenthal is batting away charges that a claim he made in a recent debate is highly improbable. Blumenthal asserted in a debate with Merrick Alpert, spurned by some in the Democratic Party, that his many suits encouraged business growth in the state. Not so, the Waterbury Republican America, one of Blumenthal’s more persistant and effective gadflies, responded.

Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy, unfailingly humorous, concluded a review of the Bysiewicz soap opera by noting, "So, in essence, Bysiewicz is suing herself while she is being investigated by the man who has to defend her office in Hartford Superior Court so that she can succeed Blumenthal in his office." Republican candidates for attorney general are eupeptic. Every one of them would be wise to consider smuggling into all their campaign addresses and press opportunities the following laugh line: “I’m running for attorney general, and I wouldn’t know Kevin Donohue from a hole in the ground.”

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Penn Hearts Chavez

The political love affair between American actor Sean Penn and Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez continues apace.

Fox News reports that “If Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn had his way, any journalist who called Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez a dictator would quickly find himself behind bars.”

Pillow Talk, Rosa And Stan

A new poll released by The Democracy Corps-Third Way survey last Monday  finds that Americans think the standing of the United States has dropped during the first 13 months of Mr. Obama's presidency. The poll shows a drop of 10 points from 51 percent to 41 percent. The Democracy Corp was co-founded by Stanley B. Greenberg, U.S. Rep. Rosa Delauro’s husband, and James Carville.

The survey also notes with alarm the Democrat’s national security deficit figure is up.

“While ratings for the president may be softening, his party is facing an even more troubling trend. When the questions move beyond the president to Democrats generally, we see that the public once again has real and rising doubts about the Democrats’ handling of national security issues, as compared to their faith in Republicans. This security gap, which has roots stretching back to Vietnam, was as wide as 29 points earlier in the decade. The deficit began to close in 2006, with the Bush administration’s catastrophic mismanagement of Iraq and other national security challenges. As public hopes about the Obama presidency rose and peaked, the gap all but vanished. Last May, Democracy Corps found Democrats essentially tied with Republicans (41 to 43 percent) on the question of which party would do a better job on national security.

“But now the gap shows signs of re-opening, with Democrats trailing by 17 points, 33 to 50 percent on which party likely voters think would do the better job on national security. The erosion since May is especially strong among women, and among independents, who now favor Republicans on this question by a 56 to 20 percent margin.”

Some are wondering what the pillow talk at the Greenberg-DeLauro household is like these days.

Friday, March 05, 2010

A Blumenthal-Schiff Cage Match

A debate card featuring Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, now running for the U.S. Senate seat Chris Dodd intends to vacate at the end of his term, and Peter Schiff, Connecticut’s economic Cassandra, would be far more interesting than the debate concluded March 1 between Blumenthal and incrementalist averse Merrick Alpert.

Debates that include candidates on fire always are spectacles worth our time. Americans, certainly more often than the British, tend to confuse passion with authenticity, and there is little doubt that Alpert was, in his debate with Blumenthal, a man aflame. Perhaps fortunately for the attorney general, Blumenthal may not have to debate Alpert again.

When the Republican debate rolled around at the university a day later, media adepts who had been expecting rhetorical fisticuffs between senatorial hopefuls Linda McMahon and Rob Simmons, both of whom had been peppering each other with e-mails and press releases, were disappointed and deflated. They had been expecting Thermopylae and got instead, as one commentator put it, “a snoozer of a debate.”

It was generally agreed by commentators who had packed away their telltale preferences for the duration of the debates that Alpert won his and Schiff won his, both having been pronounced more authentic than their plasticine opponents. One commentator, an ardent progressive, confessed he found Schiff’s honesty refreshing, though he was anguished by his message.

Schiff is a man on fire. The calculating Blumenthal is very much like Sen. Joe Lieberman, sometimes called the Hamlet of the U.S. Senate. Hamlet was thought to be too thoughtful for his own good. But in the end, not an advocate of incrementalism, he turned out to be a decisive man of action and an accomplished murderer.

In the presence of Schiff, and perhaps some other Republicans, Blumenthal would not be able to get away with asserting, as he did in the Merrick debate, that the litigatory actions of his office “actually create jobs, because businesses actually welcome competition and a level playing field.”

To pick up on just one point, it is folly to think that businesses would appreciate the way Blumenthal has used fatally defective affidavits to secure from judges in ex parte proceedings the authority to seize the business assets of companies that find themselves on the wrong end of Blumenthal’s constitutionally disruptive litigation. While Blumenthal’s senatorial narrative is centered on the black dealings of large, greedy, socially semi-conscious and unscrupulous companies, such as lung damaging tobacco giants, a partial listing of corporations in which the plaintiff has had an AG appearance from January 07 to the present  contains upwards of 900 entrees.

In the Merrick debate, Blumenthal intended to speak over the head of his opponent to an audience that would vote for him the general election. His narrative was carefully crafted to this purpose.

Merrick threw a wrench into the narrative by insisting that Blumenthal’s backing of President Barack Obama’s venture in Afghanistan was a) too expensive at a time when federal dollars might better be devoted to knotty domestic problems, and b) Bush-like in its wrong-headedness.

Blumenthal was flustered by Alpert's charge that he was a prevaricator at a time when the entire country was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, an accusation that easily could be launched at Blumenthal from the Republican side by Schiff, whose solutions to the malingering recession are, Schiff insists, painful but effective and necessary.

Like most regulators and redistributists, Blumenthal has a tough time wrapping his brain around the notion that an increase in distribution levels cannot occur in when the revenue to be distributed is on the downslide, usually the case in recessions and mini-depressions. When there is no soup in the soup kitchen, it is idle to speak of distributing soup to the poor – or to anyone else. Neither does Blumenthal understand that a complex ever changing regulatory apparatus introduces uncertainty into business activity that results in depressed markets, or he would not have insisted, laughably, that his suits have the effect of increasing business in the state.

This is the worst kind of hokum, far more dangerous in its effects than the peculations of politicians like Tammany Hall chief George Washington Plunkett or, coming closer to the heart of the 21st century, his modern equivalent, U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel, who appears to have received a temporary indulgence from madam Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.

A cage match between Schiff and Blumenthal might even wake up the commentators in Connecticut’s media who think wrestling matches are real rather than highly scripted staged events.

Blumenthal And The Farmer’s Rebellion

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who is also running for U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s seat in the congress, appears to be stepping away from a measure he supported banning wood furnaces following an announcement that The Connecticut Farm Bureau Association based in Windsor opposes the outright ban, according to a story in the Norwich Bulletin.

The Bulletin reported, “Blumenthal softened his stance after Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, who is vice chairman of the General Assembly’s Environment Committee, pledged to work for stricter regulations short of an outright ban.”

Members of the New London Farm Bureau Association, 691 strong, want bill 126, which they oppose, to be fast-tracked. The bureau feels that farmers, according to the story, “must defend the general public against economic hardship that would result from the bill’s enactment. The bill contains an exemption for farmers, but the farmers are fighting it anyway.”

It is doubtful that the farmers will march on the state Capitol armed with pitchforks to defend themselves from Connecticut’s quick on the draw attorney general and a usually obliging legislature.

However, stranger things have happened in times of overweening government. Farmers have long memories, and some still recall with pride the farmer’s rebellion led by Daniel Shays in western Massachussets.

A captain the the Revolutionary army, Shays led a march on the state supreme court in Springfied, preventing that august body from issuing foreclosures and debt collections. Shays later led a march of 1,200 men in an attack on the nearby federal arsenal that was repulsed by troops. As a result of Shay’s direct action, Massachussets enacted laws easing the economic condition of debtors.

It is supposed that in the present case such a rebellion will not be necessary to force Blumenthal, affectionately known among some of his critics as the Caligula of Connecticut , to beg off, leave the farmers alone and concentrate on his senatorial campaign.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Lamont To Accept Endorsement of Williams

According to reporter and blogger Brian Lockhart, Ned Lamont, a declared Democratic candidate for governor, will be in Putnam on Thursday to accept the endorsement of Senate President Donald Williams who, along with Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, presided over a budget negotiation last fiscal year that left the state about a half billion dollars in arrears.

Williams issued a statement:
“Ned has the experience, vision, and courage to hit the ground running on his first day as Governor. As a successful business owner, he’s got what it takes to bring stable, good-paying jobs back to the Quiet Corner and the rest of the state. And he’s proven he is capable of bringing people together to get the best results for Connecticut families. Ned built a thriving business from the ground up – he’s the one we need to generate economic expansion, create jobs and rebuild Connecticut.”

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Blumenthal’s Suits

Following Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s debate with Merrick Alpert at the University of Hartford, most press reports quoted Blumenthal on the role he claims to have played in facilitating business in Connecticut through suits:

Alpert: "… we have less jobs since he’s been in office. I would ask one question of the attorney general: How many jobs have your suits created?"

Blumenthal: "… Our law suits, our legal actions, actually create jobs, because businesses actually welcome competition and a level playing field.”

There follows a list of corporations in which the plaintiff has had an AG appearance. The list covers only the time from 1/1/07 to the present. The list includes, in this order: the company name, followed by the court docket number, followed by the case name.

A compehensive and readable list may be found here.

 The list is continued here.

Martha Dean Enters Race For Attorney General

Attorney Martha Dean, the Republican nominee for attorney general in 2002, will soon make a formal announcement that she has entered the race for attorney general.

Attorney Dean’s practice is devoted to assisting clients in understanding and complying with complex regulatory schemes while furthering their state and federal constitutional economic and individual rights.

Attorney Dean is co-founder of the Hartford Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society for Law & Public Policy Studies, a national organization of law students, law professors, lawyers and judges who sponsor panel discussions and debates with leading scholars and authorities on important public policy issues of the day. She is a graduate of Wellesley College ‘82, and the University Of Connecticut School Of Law ‘86, where she was an editor on the Law Review. She is a member of the Connecticut Bar (1986), U.S. District Court (Connecticut) (1995), U.S. Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit) (2000), and the U.S. Supreme Court (2001).

In connection with her 2002 election, attorney Dean filed in federal court a case --Dean v. Blumenthal -- that raises issues concening right of association and right of free speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Now on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the case challenges the constitutionality of an attorney general imposing a unilateral and stealth ban on potential contributions from thousands of lawyers, their spouses and their legal staff affecting the campaigns of his opponents over the years.

An active attorney of 22 years standing, attorney Dean said, "As attorney general, my plan for the State of Connecticut will be unlike that proposed by any other candidate in the attorney general race and very different from what I proposed in 2002."

According to Dean, "The State of Connecticut is entering a full-blown crisis. We can tread water and be swept over the falls, only to be crushed on the rocks, or we can take the emergency measures that are needed now.

"It will be my pleasure to work with whomever the people elect as their new Governor to take the legal steps necessary to save this great State and see it safely to the high ground of competitiveness and prosperity.”

Attorney Dean’s brief announcement is being made now in deference to Republican candidates vying for the senate who recently engaged in debate at the University of Hartford. A full statement will be made March 16, 2010 at noon in a location soon to be announced.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

PEOPLE BEFORE PROFITS

Private health-insurance companies, to be raising premiums by 39%? Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, gave the breaking news that WellPoint, which owns the Anthem Blue Cross of California, was rich. It made $2.7 billion in the last quarter of 2009, which could not, she asserted, “justify massive increases,” and she announced a hearing.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared it was “greedy insurance companies that care more about profits than people.” Representative Henry Waxman announced his own additional Federal investigation.

President Obama expanded. It’s a “portrait of the future if we don’t do something now.” (Or is it a portrait of the future if they pass ObamaCare?) The President’s proposal, revealed a few days later, would add a new bureaucracy to his administration, the Health Insurance Rate Agency (HIRE), to wrestle with corporate greed and stifle premiums. This was a welcome opportunity to control the insurance industry.

“The WellPoint Mugging” was The Wall Street Journal’s editorial of February 18, with explanations, but perhaps Obama-and-Friends had not read it.

The federal Cobra regulations require insurance companies to extend the policies for 18-36 months of those who have lost their jobs, and California regulations extend that extension. This is how WellPoint lost $58 million in 2009, which is why it had to raise premiums or be assailed by shareholders, or leave the region. In short, the high premium-hike was not WellPoint’s fault.

California like all states has its own state insurance commissioner whom California insurance firms must inform of their proposals to raise premiums. WellPoint had reported its proposed increase to the California State Insurance Commissioner three months earlier, but he had not responded. WellPoint had put off actually raising the premiums till May.

What will be the effect of ObamaCare and its mandates on premiums? That is the basic question. They will all be increased, the amount depending on the market and the region.

In the 14 states where WellPoint has subsidiaries and whose actuarial data it has scrutinized, premiums are likely to triple on account of ObamaCare. The premiums paid by the young will rise the most. In Columbus, Ohio, starting from $52 a month, the premium will rise to $79 (the same for all who apply), bringing the cost to $134. Add $17 for higher benefit levels required by ObamaCare. Add another $6 for policy-holders’ share of the tax on insurance companies. Look for a total of $157, a 199% increase for individuals.

For families of four, the increase is 122%.

The average small employer in New York City will find his premium increasing by 6%, but under the same employer it will increase by 94%  in Indianapolis, 91% in St. Louis, and 53% in Milwaukee.


A WellPoint hearing before Representative Bart Stupak’s Oversight subcommittee was held on February 25 and attended by WellPoint’s Chief Executive, an attractive young woman named Angela Braly, with the company’s head auditor. Three WellPoint policy-holders testified. They had complained to the company about their premium increases and were offered other less expensive policies, which, however, did not fit their needs.

CEO Braly explained that some rates were raised as high as 39% but the overall average was 25%. As for the profit of $2.7 billion for the fourth quarter of 2009, which had angered Secretary Sebelius, Braly attempted to explain that $2.2 billion of that was a one-time transaction for the sale of a subsidiary.

Four of the five committee members present in the sparsely attended hearing room were visibly hostile. Mr. Waxman called attention to WellPoint’s administrative costs as if somehow they were invented or at least exaggerated. He glared at a targeted profits figure of 7%, which the CEO said was actually 5%.

Profits for insurance companies are not popular. Senator Jay Rockefeller the following day at the White House Summit framed his views in an emotional excoriation of the insurance industry for putting profits ahead of people. In his opinion, the industry’s purpose was as a social-welfare agency, though he did not explicitly say so. Fifty years ago, all Economics 101 textbooks taught that the purpose of a corporation is “to maximize profits.” Say that today and you will be shunned as a spokesman for the oppressive capitalist system.

Angela Braly was asked how much she makes as CEO, which she answered precisely. It was a little over a million dollars a year. The Company had spent $3.7 million on a corporate retreat, to maintain relations with its customers, she said. She emphasized the company’s concern that premiums were so costly, pointing out that other branches of health-care were even-more-costly. She explained whenever she was allowed to, but time seemed short as were the tempers of four of her five interrogators.

She did not have an opportunity to give a comparison of WellPoint’s income with competitors’—not that that would have helped her case—but The Wall Street Journal did. WellPoint’s per-month per-member income compared with those of its two largest nonprofit competitors in California was $12.62, Blue Shield’s $13.22, and Kaiser’s $18.45. Miss Braly may or may not have a chance to make that point before the two hearings under Secretary Sebelius and Representative Waxman. The Sebelius hearing is scheduled for March 3.

WellPoint will show what may happen to the premiums of insurance companies if the ObamaCare bill should pass.

By Natalie Sirkin
c2010

the Alpert-Blumenthal Debate

Comments on the Alpert-Blumenthal debate at the University of Hartford are now dribbling in.

One money quote used in most press reports concerned the role played by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal in generating business for Connecticut:

“Alpert: … we have less jobs since he’s been in office. I would ask one question of the attorney general: How many jobs have your suits created?

“Blumenthal: … Our law suits, our legal actions, actually create jobs, because businesses actually welcome competition and a level playing field.”
Lori Perez of Fox 61 Live noted that, following the debate, “Richard Blumenthal… could not stay to talk to the press.” He was due at a money throwing gathering downstate.

Kevin Rennie, a Hartford Courant commentator was unimpressed by Blumenthal’s performance:

“Easy victories in 20 years of races for attorney general have taken a toll on Richard Blumenthal’s debating skills. There were moments in tonight’s Hartford Courant-Fox61 Democratic senate debate when the state’s chief lawyer could hardly make a coherent thought out of his sentence fragments. Health policy is not his m├ętier. And he’s not a natural talking about jobs…

“Blumenthal did provide some touching continuity in his closing biographical bit. He said his first job was shoveling manure for his grandfather and he showed the audience tonight how what he learned more than 50 years ago on a farm in Nebraska has stayed with him.”
Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy thought “Blumenthal's responses were pedestrian. His grasp of issues weak and some of his assertions simply wild exaggerations. He claimed (he) had 'law enforcement' duties when he doesn't; made an incoherent proposal on cutting payroll taxes without saying for how long or at what level of income, took credit for saving lives and said he had witnessed the direct effects of military action. On that last one, I would like to know what battlefield Blumenthal inspected."

Christine Stewart of Connecticut News Junkie noted Blumenthal absence from the post-game round-up:

“Longshot U.S. Senate candidate Merrick Alpert came out swinging Monday and at least appeared to have had frontrunner Attorney General Richard Blumenthal on the ropes during their first televised debate.
“From healthcare to the war in Afghanistan, Alpert presented himself as a change agent and painted Blumenthal as an 'incrementalist' who has contributed the state’s anti-business reputation with his lawsuits…

“After the debate there was an expectation that both Alpert and Blumenthal would be available for questions. With more than a dozen reporters present, however, Blumenthal bolted with his wife to a fundraiser at a private home in Fairfield County.

“State Comptroller Nancy Wyman offered to stand in for Blumenthal, who rarely turns down a chance to speak with members of the media.”

The Harford Courant noted Alpert’s earnest aggressiveness in the debate:

“Alpert came out swinging, repeatedly tagging Blumenthal, a 20-year incumbent, as a 'career politician' and accusing him of favoring ‘incrementalism’ instead of bold and decisive action."

The Day of New London remarked on Alpert’s invitation to Blumenthal to remove his hobnailed boot from the throats of entrepreneurs:

“Merrick Alpert ripped into his rival for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, in the first debate of the primary campaign.

“In an hour-long forum, Alpert returned again and again to his central charge against Blumenthal, who has served as attorney general for nearly 20 years and remains one of the most popular politicians in the state.

“The attorney general, said Alpert, is prone to ‘incrementalism,’ litigious to a fault, and too much of a ‘career politician’ to deliver the massive reforms needed in Washington…

"’Lawsuits don't create jobs, entrepreneurs do,’ the Mystic businessman said to Blumenthal, in arguing that a relaxation of regulation to ‘get government off the back of business’ in order to reverse job losses.

“That charge echoes longstanding Republican complaints that Blumenthal and his staff have been too aggressive in bringing legal actions against businesses in the state.

“Blumenthal retorted that his legal efforts have allowed for greater competition among businesses and also altered some of the factors that have damaged job growth in Connecticut, particularly his efforts to fight rising electricity costs.

"’We have helped, not hurt business in this state,’ Blumenthal said.
"But the argument returned again and again to questions of boldness. Blumenthal's support for health care reform was insufficiently aggressive, charged Alpert, who said he favored opening the Medicare program to every citizen, a radical reshaping of the status quo. While Blumenthal said he would support efforts to reform financial practices, including dividing brokerage from consumer banking functions, Alpert said the Congress should reinstate in full the Glass-Steagall Act, which was repealed under heavy lobbying from banking interests in 1999 and enabled investment and consumer banks to merge.”
An Associated press report in The Hour also reported on Alpert’s attack on Blumenthal’s penchant for suits:

“In a televised debate at the University of Hartford, Alpert accused Blumenthal of contributing to the state's antibusiness reputation with a bevy of lawsuits during his two decades as attorney general.

"’How many jobs have your lawsuits created?’ asked Alpert, a Mystic businessman and former Air Force officer who initially got into the race to challenge U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd before the state's senior senator announced his retirement Jan. 6.

“Blumenthal defended his activist role as attorney general, saying his legal actions create jobs by fighting corrupt business practices and making sure honest companies enjoy a level playing field.

“Blumenthal said he's also battled to lower electric rates in a state that ranks among the highest in utility costs and worked to lower health care costs.

"’We have helped, not hurt, business in this state,’ said Blumenthal, who acknowledged his Republican rivals will likely make similar criticisms about his record of numerous lawsuits during the campaign.
The Middletown Press reported that "Alpert came out aggressive, pointing out that health insurance has increased and jobs have been lost while Blumenthal has been attorney general."


And The CTMirror charged the attorney general with zestlessness:

“Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, already ordained by pollsters and party regulars as the Democratic candidate-in-waiting, responded with all the zest of man who had just been read his Miranda rights: He had a right to remain silent, and he knew that anything he said could and eventually would be used against him in the general election by the Republican nominee.

“Blumenthal stuck to well-trod ground. His only surprise came later on: He was a no-show at the post-debate press conference, a rarity for a man who does television interviews on vacation.”