Monday, May 31, 2010

PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE, THE CASE AGAINST

In the past 150 years (at least since Marx), the socialists have been very effectively destroying human freedom under humane and compassionate slogans, such as caring for man, ensuring social equality, and fostering social welfare. The environmentalists are doing the same under equally noble-minded slogans, expressing concern about nature more than about people (recall their radical motto “Earth First!”). In both cases, the slogans have been (and still are) just a smokescreen. In both cases, the movements have been (and are) completely about power . . . -- Vaclav Klaus, 2007

“Take no chances.” “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” “Better safe than sorry.” “Look before you leap.” These aphorisms are the common currency of the call for the precautionary principle.

The precautionary principle holds that precautionary action should be taken to avoid irreparable harm to the environment and to human health. Even though scientific proof is lacking that harm has been caused or is being caused, the practice must be prevented.

That is a commonly accepted definition. It appears explicitly in numerous agreements, laws, and treaties. For example, the European Union law requires that the precautionary principle be applied.

The argument is used by environmentalists to justify any kind of regulatory intervention. “All they need to implement such regulations—once the imminent catastrophe is sufficiently described—is simply moralizing, noble preaching about the future, and demonstrating their ‘concern’ about humankind . . . ‘If something can cause damage, let’s stop it,’ they say.” So summarized economist Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic.

On the basis of the precautionary principle, Rachel Carson attacked DDT and EPA Administrator Ruckelshaus banned it. The precautionary principle is advocated in commercialization of genetically modified foods, in the use of growth-hormones in cattle-raising, in health claims linked to BPA (Bisphenol-A), and in numerous other issues.

The precautionary principle implies willingness to take action even before there is scientific proof of the need for the action. The rationale is that a delay will be costly. Mercury in thermometers is an example.

It is used by environmentalists to justify a ban or any kind of regulation. If the advice of Al Gore is not taken, says Bjorn Lomborg, “[T]he people onshore in Bangladesh will drown not in 2105 but in 2100 if today’s catastrophic environmentalist scenarios come true!”

What public official wants to be accused of not caring for the health of his constituents, asks Aaron Wildavsky, a precautionary-principle sceptic. Thus Arthur Fleming, Secretary of health, Education, and Welfare, had to ban cranberries in the cranberry scare of 1959.

Precautionary principle, wrote Wildavsky around 1995, is a “marvelous piece of rhetoric.” It treats opponents as hostile or indifferent to the public’s health. It assumes there are no health detriments from the regulation. It suggests health with no loss whatever. It assumes what should be proved, that the health effects of the action are superior to the alternative.

Economist Vaclav Klaus added cost-benefit analysis to be “factored into the opportunity cost of not acting.” His point is illustrated by Lomborg: Some 20 people die of cancer in the U.S. because of pesticide residues in groceries. Banning the pesticides would save 20 lives a year. However, the ban would raise the price of fruits and vegetables, lowering their consumption by 10 to 15 percent, with the result that some 26,000 people would die a year. 20/26,000?

A second illustration comes from an estimate of the number of people in Great Britain who die from the heat, which could increase to 2,000 a year (by 2050); but the number who would not die from the cold is estimated at 20,000. 2,000/20,000?

A similar illustration comes from Indur Goklany, who pointed out that from 1979 to 2002, 8,589 people in the U.S. died from extreme heat, whereas 16,313 died from extreme cold. A slight increase in temperature would be helpful.

Those examples are offered by Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic, in his monograph Blue Planet in Green Shackles, What Is Endangered: Climate or Freedom? (2008). Waiting for further information before acting, is a valuable option which should be added into the calculation, he believes.

Wildavsky asks whether the health benefits from the regulation are greater than the health costs of the regulation. This information must be known. It must be demonstrated. Precautionary-principle advocates who argue that we should “take no chances” must offer empirical evidence, says Wildavsky in “Conclusion: Rejecting the Precautionary Principle,” appended to his book, But Is It True? A Citizen’s Guide to Environmental Health and Safety Issues (1995).

“And preponderant evidence is against the proposition that health would be improved or maintained by regulating miniscule amounts of chemicals or withdrawing huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the economy,” adds Wildavsky.

Wildavsky’s further objection is moral. He asserts that emphasizing a single value, to which all others must be subordinated, is “a sign of fanaticism.” What happened to other values? How much is a marginal gain in health worth compared to other values like freedom, justice, and excellence? He adds:

My main objection, however, is not that small gains in health are coming at the expense of other valued qualities. My great objection is that overall there are no health benefits from regulation of small, intermittent exposures to chemicals.

By Natalie Sirkin
c2010
gnsirkin@charter.net

Jake

Jake is – I will postpone speaking of him in the past tense for a moment– my wife Andree’s Fidelco guide dog. He came into our house fourteen years ago, as a two year old pup, at Christmas.

And never was there such a Christmas. His markings are extraordinary. He is a Shepherd’s Shepherd, beloved of flight stewards, a magnet at the nation’s Capitol in Washington D.C. for young boys and girls obediently trailing a matronly teacher who, wide-eyed, watched her entire class descend on Jake as he moved under the rotunda, the much petted pup of San Francisco who, taking his morning constitutional from our hotel to the green, drew out from doorways and dark corners the lonely souls of the streets, the city’s unsmiling off-scourings, whose faces were transformed at his appearance.

Perhaps they had a boyhood dog. And now here was Jake, a vehicle carrying them back to a time when they knew heaven must be full of dogs. And not just any dogs but their dogs.

Jake transformed everything – first of all us, and then everyone he touched.

Those who have read these columns over the years will not have seen “I” in many of them. I (there I go again) must make an exception just this once, because it is not possible to properly celebrate a great blessing without being in some sense shamelessly focused on one’s trivial concerns.

As everyone who has had a Shepherd knows, they are one person dogs, fiercely loyal and brilliant. Jake was loyal, regally loyal, to my wife, even more so because he was a service dog. And the service he rendered liberated Andrée from, among other annoyances, me.

I still recall a phone call I received from her a few years ago past midnight, when I was watching one of the late night comics (I had insomnia). Andrée was on a business trip.

“Guess where Jake and I went today after the business meeting?”

“I give up.”

“We were on the roof of the tallest building in Cincinnati .”

Well now – Cincinatti.

The news was not balm to my insomnia. But I knew my wife would be safe with Jake, who always reminded me, for some odd reason, of the omni-efficient butler in the P. G. Wodehouse stories. The hero of these novels was always astonished, and somewhat intimidated, by the marvels Jeeves could perform. This perfectly describes my own relationship with Jake, because I was a secondary character in the great story of our time together. Andrée was the lead. And where ever Andrée was – on a plane traveling to Cincinnati, at home and at ease, or at her desk at work, visited frequently by many of the men in her building for whom Jake was an emotional touchstone reaching back into the green sun filled days of their young years – there was home for Jake, always in his business attire, waiting for the subtlest motion from her to spring into action.

We got home from Arizona at one o’clock in the morning. Jake was to be with us the following day. A retired gent, he had spent a week with friends of ours, who had taken great care of him.

I spent part of Memorial Day in Arizona watching archival footage of the Pacific war, a bloody horror relieved in part by the presence, for a fleeting moment, of a German Shepherd in a shot with a haggard soldier, its sorrowful eyes made tragic perhaps by the black and tan markings suggesting the synchronization of pain between the soldier and his dog. It passed through my mind that these Shepherds could not understand the holiday, or the part they have played in so many wars. Shepherds never stand on ceremony. Their one longing is for the word of command. But the soldier would understand the Shepherd, and the Shepherd would understand the soldier. And that would be enough for both.

The note on the door said that whatever time we arrived home, we were to go immediately to the veterinary clinic.

Jake was a dog full of years – fourteen years of blessings, every one of which we will count in remembrance of the joy he was.

Our friends had taken him to the clinic at 7:00 o’clock . His brave heart had stopped beating, but the doctors revived him. Our friends and Jake, breathing heavily, waited five hours until we arrived. And then quietly Jake unobtrusively left us.

Valliant and honorable to the end, my wife is certain Jake waited for the touch of her hand.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Don’t Worry

Eddie, Dick And The Etiquette Of Misspeak

On June 27, 2007, Inspector Michael Sullivan received a report that Mayor Eddie Perez had some work done in his house by a contractor appointed to do a major job for the city of Hartford. The information supplied to him tickled his worry wart, and Sullivan arranged a meeting with Perez the following day.

A record of the meeting was made. Sullivan asked Perez whether people who were doing work for the city also had done work on his house.

Perez answered yes.

Did the mayor pay for the work, and did he receive a cost reduction?

Perez said he paid the market price for the housework done by Carlos Costa in the amount of $20,000 a year and a half earlier. There was no contract involved; the work was done by verbal agreement. Sullivan asked for a copy of Perez’s cancelled check. Perez said he would be happy to furnish a copy of the check. There was no check. Payment on the work – minus a 50% discount, according to the contractor -- was made a year and a half after the work had been completed.

After this stressful meeting, Perez suddenly felt the need of a lawyer and betook himself to Huber Santos, who requested and was permitted a meeting with Perez’s prosecutor, Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane.

Santos corrected the record, telling Kane that the mayor had earlier “misspoke.” In fact, he had not paid the bill. However, an invoice existed, and the mayor would be paying the bill shortly. According to Santos, he told Kane that Perez “misspoke” because John Rose, the city’s lawyer, was present at the meeting and Rose was unaware of the home renovation work.

Following the second day of the Perez corruption trial, a Hartford paper summarized these events under a blaring first page caption -- “PEREZ OFFERS REASON HE LIED.” It was a pull no punches title, forthright and unsubtle, that quickly brushed aside any notion of misspeaking.

Below three paragraphs of the front page story, the paper printed a useful index of single line teasers under the title – “CAUGHT ON TAPE.”

Hope springing eternal, one may hope in the near future to read in a Connecticut paper some such caption as this – “BLUMENTHAL OFFERS REASON HE LIED.

Before Blumenthal had been chosen by acclamation at the Democratic Party’s nominating convention for U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s seat, the attorney general had been exposed to an unremitting barrage of criticism from all quarters by people, not all of then reliable Democrats, who did not hesitate to use the “L” word in connection with Blumenthal’s serpentine evasions concerning his non-service in Vietnam.

The joke most often told by Blumenthal’s Republican opponents following a press conference in the course of which Blumenthal claimed to have misspoken was that Hanoi Jane Fonda had spent more time in Vietnam than the attorney general, now the choice of his party as U.S. Senator.

At the convention, his harshest Democratic critic, Merrick Alpert, was rolled over by reality and endorsed Blumenthal’s nomination as inevitable, after which he disappeared into the political woodwork. But before the convention, the “L” word was almost as ubiquitous in print as the attorney general himself, possibly the most often quoted Connecticut politician in the last twenty years.

The forbidding Chris Mathews, host of “Hardball” and certainly not a reflexive Republican kept pet, called Blumenthal a liar several times in two separate broadcasts. Democratic operative Paul Begala nuzzled up to the word in one interview and was dismayed by the attorney general’s inability to offer an honest apology to Vietnam vets Blumenthal dishonored by flitching their glory. Having attacked the initial New York Times story probing Blumenthal’s misspeakings, Colin McEnroe, a leftist columnist for the Hartford Courant and the host of his own program on Connecticut Public Broadcasting appeared, in a subsequent posting on his blog site “To Wit,” to slip-slide away from the possibility that Blumenthal was not lying about his non-service in Vietnam; this after the Hearst newspapers in Connecticut, scouring their archives, produced other fatal Blumenthal quotes falsely proclaiming that he had served in Vietnam.

Blumenthal has not fully and frankly apologized for his LIES. His method when faced with searing public criticism, both as attorney general and now as the nominee of his party of the U.S. Congress, has been to hunker down and wait for the war to pass over his placid head, barely denting his halo.

After Blumenthal’s coronation, his supporters were regaled by the Tom Petty song “I won’t back down:”

“Well, I won’t back down. No, I won’t back down
You could stand me up at the Gates of Hell
And I won’t back down.”

The convention itself seemed to be unaware that the song, in the Johnny Cash version below, is a tribute to men who have seen action in battle, an unexpectedly ironic commentary on Blumenthal’s several LIES.




With the indispensable righteous wind of Connecticut politics at his back, an adulatory media, Blumenthal may not have to worry overmuch about the kind of headlines bearing the “L” word that are rasping Perez, who will quietly – very quietly, one may be sure – support Blumenthal’s candidacy. Ned Lamont, who wants to govern both the state and its national guard, is already on board.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dump Dick?

Managing Editor of the Journal Inquirer and columnist Chris Powell says the provenance of the story in the New York Time concerning Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s non-service in Vietnam is unimportant:


“Blumenthal's defenders also argue that the Times' reporting about his misrepresentations is compromised because it originated with information provided by the campaign of a Republican candidate for senator, wrestling entrepreneur Linda McMahon. But of course everyone in public life feeds and tries to spin the press, the attorney general himself most of all -- which may explain some of the excuses being made for him in the press.

“McMahon's campaign and that of her rival for the Republican Senate nomination, former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, long have been feeding the press uncomplimentary information about the other, and now that Blumenthal has lost his big lead and no longer can ignore the opposition, his campaign soon will be doing the same to whoever runs closest to him. A good story will remain a good story no matter where it came from.”

And then he drops the 800 pound gorilla on Blumenthal:

“But the big issue on the eve of the Democratic state convention is not whether the Times story was perfectly fair or whether the enormous damage it has done to Blumenthal's candidacy can be mitigated but rather whether Blumenthal and his party will put at grave risk what ordinarily would be a safe Democratic seat in the Senate by continuing with his candidacy.”

Another Embarrasing Video

A clip, courtesy of News Channel 8, shows a mano e mano between Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo and Merrick Alpert, who met unarmed in a Hallway to discuss democracy.

Blumenthal Plants A Flag

In addition to being compendiums of facts, news reports are a series of embedded impressions. Some politicians call the practice of leading by impressions "planting the flag."

In the matter of embedding impressions, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is a rather artful flag planter. As attorney general, Blumenthal has had a good deal of practice, mostly through press releases, of convincing reporters that those people he has targeted for prosecution are guilty of the charges he has brought against them, the reporters being temptingly spurred on by the lurid charges he dangles before them like battle flags.

The reporters who receive these impressionistic press releases generally print them in full and then wait until the litigatory process has been completed, at which point they are certain to receive from Blumenthal yet another summary press release that they obligingly print, usually in full.

But the real story often lies outside the press releases, curled like some fugitive small animal amid a welter of affidavits, depositions and court documents that reporters, especially here in Connecticut, rarely consult. For them, the bookends of Blumenthal’s press releases are quite enough.

One of Blumenthal’s prosecutions is discussed in some detail here.

And here.

And here.

Blumenthal plants his flag, gets the prospective criminal – by any means necessary – and walks off, trailing after himself streams of glory.

He is not alone. Most successful attorneys general in the United States follow the same battle plan.

Blumenthal Misspeaks

At the beginning of a speech  before a group of veterans, Blumenthal told an appreciative crowd that he "served in the military during the Vietnam era.” Towards the end of his speech, he said, "We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam."

There were few or no reporters at the event. But an attendee recorded the proceedings for posterity and later, after Blumenthal had announced his candidacy for a U.S. Senate seat, her video surfaced in a New York Times report.

The question before the house is this: If we string both statements together so – I "served in the military during the Vietnam era. We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam’ -- are we left with the impression that Blumenthal did NOT serve in Vietnam? Is it not a virtual certainty that the people who heard the whole package would conclude the speaker DID serve in Vietnam?

The answer to the question is as unambiguously clear as Blumenthal’s second statement: “We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam.”

Having been more or less caught with his pants down on the question of his service in Vietnam -- the attorney general remained stateside during the war -- the Blumenthal camp now is attempting to replant its flag, which pushes to the fore yet another question: Assuming Blumenthal’s audience, including reporters, had over a period of years been laboring under the misapprehension that Blumenthal DID serve in Vietnam, is it Blumenthal’s responsibility to correct the record?

The answer to that question is “Yes.” The primary responsibility for correcting the record rests with Blumenthal.

Blumenthal sought four or five draft deferments. When Lyndon Johnson came into office and threatened to make such deferments less likely, he voluntarily joined a military group that kept him out of the rice patties.

Now, by itself, there is nothing wrong with all this. But one need not rely on a Times news report to conclude that Blumenthal was successful in his attempts to avoid active service in Vietnam. One does not need to read a news report to conclude that Blumenthal knew he did not serve in Vietnam, having made such strenuous efforts to avoid doing so.

So, it is a settled matter that HE KNEW HE DID NOT SERVE IN VIETNAM.

No one has yet questioned the veracity of Blumenthal’s statement, made on video, that he DID serve in Vietnam. And the province of the tape does not change the assertion.

It may surprise the general public – but it will not surprise reporters at all – that many stories about candidate A come from opposition candidate B, who would dearly like to see candidate A hung on a scaffold in front of the Old State House in Hartford, sentiments usually returned in full, in due order, by candidate B whenever the opportunity presents itself.

This is how stories are made in the journalistic sausage factory.

In any case, it has been established, whatever the province of the data that : 1) Blumenthal did not serve in Vietnam; 2) Blumenthal knew he did not serve in Vietnam; 3) Blumenthal said he served in Vietnam.

According to a survey of some prominent Connecticut reporters made by Colin McEnroe on his blog site “To Wit,” most Connecticut news reporters cannot recall Blumenthal saying that he served in Vietnam. There is in this crowd, as usual, the noxious exception. The assertions on the tape were not made by Blumenthal to Connecticut reporters. But why would McEnroe or any of the news people whose responses he has collected suppose that Blumenthal would make such assertions to people who had the wherewithal to fact check those assertions, when (see above) HE KNEW HE DID NOT SERVE IN VIETNAM ?

There is no political profit in that, and Blumenthal is a man who has learned in the course of his twenty years as attorney general how to wring a profit from a reporter.

The fact that Blumenthal did not share the clear assertion he made on the compromising tape with the reporters McEnroe mentioned obviously does not mean that Blumenthal did not make the assertion to others. Proof of this is – IN THE TAPE, right there, in front of the noses of the reporters McEnroe surveyed.

Those who have eyes to see will see. Those who have ears to hear will hear. Two days after McEnroe's critical examination of the Times report, Greenwich Time, Blumenthal's hometown media ran a new report detailing other occassions during which Blumenthal claimed to have served in Vietnam.

Unless, for some reason, they don’t want to see or hear. Among these may be numbered Blumenthal as a party, one hopes, of one.

Other Connecticut reporters are now being invited to join that party. They should resist the invitation.

Richard Hanley, a journalism professor at Quinnipiac, whose comment appeared in the commentary section of "The Connecticut Mirror" got it exactly right, and Connecticut media, massaged so lovingly by Blumenthal, should pay heed:

“The Connecticut press corps did not notice Blumenthal's occasional inconsistencies with his own record as it raced to reproduce news releases trumpeting victories over Big Tobacco and MySpace, among many others, on behalf of Connecticut citizens. To be sure, the dispersed locations of the remark, generally offered during rubber-chicken-and-cold-peas talks around a state with one hundred and sixty nine towns covered less and less by statewide media, made it difficult to detect moments when Blumenthal strayed from his record. Still, the media needed to be as aggressive with Blumenthal as they ordinarily are when covering other elected officials.”

Beyond this suppurating mess, lies the question whether the same standards used by Blumenthal in his many prosecutions should apply to the prosecutor himself. That question is intelligently presented here under the headline “Why Should Anyone Give Blumenthal A Break?”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Blumenthal Dips in Polls

Since he used (misused?) a Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) hall in West Hartford to answer charges that he falsely claimed to have served in Vietnam, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has been given a thumbs down by:

1) Rob Simmons, a four year veteran of the war. Mr. Simmons told Politico, “He's not a veteran of foreign wars,” said Simmons, who is a VFW member. “He should not be a member of the VFW, and I find it offensive that he's still wrapping himself in the veteran flag of those of us who served in Vietnam."

2) Vets for Freedom, the largest group of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans:

“After the New York Times exposed his real service record, Mr. Blumenthal remained defiant at his rebuttal press conference, saying he takes ‘full responsibility’ for the statements, yet refuses to apologize,” said Pete Hegseth, an Iraq war veteran and the group’s executive director, in a statement. “Mr. Blumenthal also claims he merely ‘misspoke’ on a few occasions, and did so unknowingly. As a combat veteran of Iraq, I find this very hard to believe. All veterans know what they did and where they were. There’s a big difference between the battlefield and your hometown.”
3) Richard DiFederico, The commander of Connecticut’s Veterans of Foreign Wars:

“Mr. Blumenthal was considered one of the best friends a veteran could have in Connecticut. It is a true shame that he let a false claim of Vietnam service change that. Those who served in uniform during the Vietnam era also deserve our gratitude, which makes Mr. Blumenthal's claim to be something he is not so outrageous.”
And Linda McMahon, credited by Hartford Courant columnist Kevin Rennie with providing the spark that lit the bonfire at the New York Times, is now in a virtual dead heat with Blumenthal, according to the most recent Rassmussen Poll:

“The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Connecticut finds Blumenthal with just a three-point advantage over Linda McMahon, 48% to 45%. Two weeks ago, he led the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment by 13 percentage points. The New York Times story broke late Monday; the survey was taken Tuesday evening.”

And Rob Simmons is creeping up on Blumenthal’s Achille’s heel:

“When matched against former GOP Congressman Rob Simmons, Blumenthal leads by 11 - 50% to 39%. Two weeks ago, the longtime state attorney general held a 23-point lead over Simmons.”

On the upside, Daniela Altimari of the Hartford Courant is reporting that two prominent Democrats have rushed to Blumenthal’s support.

Dan Malloy, running as a Democrat for governor, said of Blumenthal, “"He said he misspoke several times, and that he regrets it. I believe when the people of Connecticut measure his entire body of work against these misstatements they will put them in the proper context and move on. I look forward to working with him when I'm Governor and he's a U.S. Senator."

And U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, who is planning to end his long career in the U.S. Senate at the expiration of his term, said that Blumenthal is “"an honorable man who has served his state and country proudly. He is a terrific Attorney General and he will be a great United States Senator."

Blumenthal And The Blame Game

A bingo moment occurred in a stinging rebuke to modern journalism written by Richard Hanley, a journalism professor at Quinnipiac, printed in the commentary section of "The Connecticut Mirror":

“The Connecticut press corps did not notice Blumenthal's occasional inconsistencies with his own record as it raced to reproduce news releases trumpeting victories over Big Tobacco and MySpace, among many others, on behalf of Connecticut citizens. To be sure, the dispersed locations of the remark, generally offered during rubber-chicken-and-cold-peas talks around a state with one hundred and sixty nine towns covered less and less by statewide media, made it difficult to detect moments when Blumenthal strayed from his record. Still, the media needed to be as aggressive with Blumenthal as they ordinarily are when covering other elected officials.”

Connecticut’s press has for a long time been drugged on Blumenthal’s press releases, spectacularly failing to exert what some critics of politicians call “due diligence.”

Bob Woodward of Watergate fame made a similar point on MSNBC’s Morning Joe” program hours before Blumenthal appeared in a presser to answer the charge made in a New York Times front page story in which Blumenthal said – unambiguously, plainly, proudly – that he had served in Vietnam.

Not true.

Why, oh why, Woodward wondered, had Blumenthal’s misspeaks and clever deceptions not been noticed by a print media that traditionally was used to fact checking every utterance of politicians, including pedestrian claims such as the politician’s middle name, the name of his wife, and whether or not he served in Vietnam.

The most plausible answer to the question is the old, safe retort: How could we be expected to know? If Blumenthal knew he did not serve in Vietnam – and he certainly must have known this -- why would he not be excessively cautious to avoid saying in the presence of Woodward’s fact checking reporters that he did serve in Vietnam?

The damaging claims were not made in editorial conferences with editorial board members who were intimately familiar with Blumenthal’s sterling record as an attorney general, as represented in his frequent press releases, many of them printed almost verbatim as they were submitted by Blumenthal without burrowing too deeply into court records, affidavits and depositions.

It is not possible to make a “mistake” about service in Vietnam. It may be possible to misspeak, Blumenthal’s alibi. But even in that case, why, oh why, would Blumenthal, or the keepers of his public persona, not be anxious to correct reports that just might, way on down the line, positively harm one’s future political prospects?

Does anyone doubt that Blumenthal’s claim of service in Vietnam, embarrassingly caught on tape, has put his reputation in harm’s way?

The jokes are just beginning. Best line so far is from Howie Carr: "...even Jane Fonda spent more time in Vietnam than he did."

At the same time Blumenthal appeared at a noonday presser along with his decorative background of supportive veterans, the state Supreme Court ruled that Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz did not meet statutory requirements to run for attorney general, effectively ending her bid. A finding is still pending concerning a notorious list compiled by Bysiewicz that might show the secretary of state had used her office for questionable political purposes. That finding will be made by Blumenthal, whose judgment has now been seriously compromised. A caller to the Dan Lavallo’s “talk of Connecticut” radio show speculated that Bysiewicz might usefully replace Blumenthal in his bid for U.S. Senator Chris Dodd’s seat because “she’s now available.” It’s only a matter of time before the comedy is picked up by faux news shows and late night comedians.

The psychology lying behind Blumenthal’s messy affair is puzzling. Why dance so merrily on the edge of the volcano?

Why do they do it? Had the press been a little more vigilant, catching Blumenthal’s misspeakings, the attorney general might have had a more peaceful night’s rest on Tuesday – two days before the opening of the Democratic nominating convention.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Blumie Takes A hit

Here is Kevin Rennie’s response to a stunning disclosure made by the New York Times, on the front page no less, concerning Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s non-service in Vietnam:

“Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s campaign for the United States Senate has been holed below the waterline by a devastating New York Times expose of Blumenthal’s false claims to have served in Vietnam. The piece, fed to the paper by the Linda McMahon Seante campaign, is accompanied by a chilling 2008 video of Blumenthal blithely making the false claim. The ‘brilliant’ Blumenthal provides a stunningly inadequate response, with the universal weasel word ‘misspoken’ appearing in the piece. It’s followed by a non-sequitur quote: ‘My intention has always been to be completely clear and accurate and straightforward, out of respect to the veterans who served in Vietnam,’ he said.”

And the story arrives on the equivalent of today’s breakfast table, a packed e-mail cache, with a video showing the U.S. senate wannabe declaiming on his service in Vietnam.

Rennie’s blog is accompanied with a photo showing the Titanic – or is it the Andrea Doria? – slipping below the waves, swallowed up in a tragic black night, light a’beaming, party goers, one supposes, deprived by the sinking of the ship of their revelry, their hour of joy.

Vietnam – or more precisely, the false claim to have served in Vietnam – is still claiming its casualties.

The man Blumenthal hopes to replace in the senate, Chris Dodd, spent his Vietnam years serving in the Peace Corp in the Dominican Republic in the 60's, a few miles from Fidel Castro’s festive paradise; but Dodd never claimed to served in Vietnam, while Blumenthal indisputably did.

President Clinton, who clearly avoided the draft, after sticking his toe in the anti-war movement and then wraping himself in a Rhode’s scholarship in England where, safe from whizzing bullets, he protested the war, never claimed to have served in Vietnam, while Blumenthal indisputably did.

Others on this route have found the door opening to a bright political future tightly shut against them.

Blumenthal plans later today to hold a news conference, with veterans serving as a patriotic and decorative backdrop. His most recent claim the New York Times story is an outrageous distortion is itself 1) outrageous and 2) a distortion.

MSNBC’s Morning Joe discusses the issue here.

Famed Watergate reporter Bob Woodward weighs in here.

The question that hangs like a Damoclean sword above Blumenthal’s head this morning is: Will Blumenthal have a future in the US senate? Has the fat lady sung?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Fedele Chooses Boughton As His Running Mate

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton announced yesterday that he would be running for Lieutenant Governor with Mike Fedele, the present Lieutenant Governor running for governor as a Republican.

The Boughton announcement follows announcements by both Democratic candidates running for governor, former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy and Ned Lamont, that they had selected running mates for lieutenant governor.

The specs for the job, Boughton declared, will be different should Mike Fedele become governor.

Fedele, Boughton said, had been underutilized in the Rell administration:

"We've made a commitment that we'll never run the lieutenant governor's office like that again. You'll be hearing from me. I'll be vocal, and I'll be Mike's full partner in managing this state. ... The bottom line is this will be much, much more than a ceremonial post. And I think the taxpayers deserve more, for $110,000 [per year in salary], than somebody that cuts ribbons and kisses babies.''

The Lieutenant Governor has attributed his supposed underutilization to “a difference in style” between himself and Rell.

Rell has relied most heavily during her administration on her chief of staff, Lisa Moody.

The Lieutenant Governor position, like the Vice Presidential position in national politics, traditionally has been a ceremonial slot famously described by Franklin Roosevelt’s Vice President, John Nance Garner, as “not worth a warm bucket of spit,” a turn of phrase here purged of its scatological overtones so as not to alienate the parents of young children.

The nature of the national office changed during the Bush II administration, when the redoubtable Dick Cheney, viewed by some querulous Democrats as the president’s Svengalli, assumed the post.

Fedele’s problem all along has been his inability, while lieutenant governor, to achieve an identity separate from the governor, a problem that will become more acute as his campaign unfolds – unless Fedele begins to strike out on his own and present himself to voters as someone other than the governor’s bucket holder.

How to do this without alienating the affections of a governor still held in high esteem by many voters is a delicate enterprise.

And, to complicate matters further, Republican gubernatorial hopeful Tom Foley announced just moments ago that should the nominating convention choose Boughton as lieutenant governor, the choice of the convention would be acceptable to him as well.

Not to but too fine a point on it, the Republican nominating convention will be more exciting than its Democratic counterpart.

True, the Democrats will wrangle in choosing between Lamont and Malloy for the U.S. senate, but Attorney General Richard Blumenthal will be crowned without much opposition from a marginalized Merrick Alpert; and Malloy, rather than Lamont may walk off with the gubernatorial laurel – assuming the delegates at the convention really do believe in campaign finance reform. Unlike Lamont, Foley and Linda McMahon, running as a Republican for Dodd’s soon to be vacant seat, Malloy is not a self-financer.

Nor is he a millionaire.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Dodd’s Bailout Bill

Those who have not read U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s regulatory bill need not avoid commenting upon it.

The U.S. Congress has demonstrated it is not necessary to read a bill prior to an up or down vote on it. And Dodd’s bill is long, in excess of a thousand pages. Lately, Congress seems to be interested in writing epics where a poem might do, and the average senator’s eyes glaze over after ten pages.

By way of example, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, whose staff is capable of engorging itself on thousand page bills and spitting out digestible briefing memos, claims not to have read a ten page Arizona bill he disapproved of publicly – very likely because his staff had already worked up a narrative in conflict with the factual substance of the bill.

Holder also implausibly claimed he was not briefed on the Arizona bill. It would have been impossible for the attorney general to denounce a piece of legislation as possibly racist when he knew the legislation did no more than pattern itself after federal policies that, as attorney general, he is sworn to uphold. In any case, when Holder claimed not to have read the bill before commenting on it, the national news media promptly fell asleep and snored loudly.

Dodd’s massively intrusive bill imposes on banks and financial institutions a regulatory scheme that will be observed only by small lending institutions and financial houses that cannot afford to send to Washington lobbyists charged with persuading powerful regulators to carve out preferments and exemptions. The too big to fail non-banking behemoths, when they do fail, will be bailed out. The Dodd bill institutionalizes bailouts for companies that in the ordinary scheme of things would be thrown into a bankruptcy court and reorganized or dissolved.

In a bankruptcy proceeding, a judge, far removed from partisan politics and campaign cash, considers the claims make upon the company, satisfies the claimants and either dismantles the company or imposes a reorganization upon it. Usually, the assets are parceled out to successful competitors, CEOs are fired and the loss is absorbed by investors.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government supported entities (GSEs) that forever will be associated with Dodd & Frank (Barney, U.S. Rep.), should have been declared bankrupt. But the two GSEs were bailed out instead, and when their predictable failure produced a national calamity, they were taken over by their government supporter, the Democratic administration of President Barack Obama. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are now owned by the U.S. government; which is to say, their continuing failure will be supported through Main Street tax dollars rather than Wall Street investments.

GSEs are congressional creations. If the GSE fails, its failure is supported by tax bailouts, an arrangement that necessarily creates what economists call “moral hazard.” If a company cannot fail -- and how could any company fail that is supported by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government? -- those who run the company will take risks they might otherwise avoid like the plague.

The possibility of failure, like the possibility of execution in the morning, clears the mind wonderfully, which is why Bill Buckley, addressing students at the Cornell University Graduate School of Business in 1981 said: "I desire, perversely, to sing a song of praise to failure; as well as, of course, to success; and to urge that we reappraise the dialectical voltage generated by these two polarities… Public policy must tolerate, indeed anticipate, economic failure (italics original).”

It should be obvious, both to those who have read Dodd's bill and those who have not, that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are government supported failures; and to the extent that the government continues to support mortgage lenders that surrender tax dollars to people who cannot afford to pay their mortgages, the government has institutionalized failure.

There is a good deal of speculation that Dodd’s bill will institutionalize massive failure, transform businesses regulated by it into potential GSEs, and exponentially increase the continuing politicalization of business activity in the United States.

The Dodd bill would create a $50 billion fund that would allow the government to bail out non-bank creditors. The bill invests the FDIC with the authority to offer loan guarantees during a crisis while accepting as collateral dubious assets such as assets such as subprime-mortgage-backed securities. This, according to National Review “is the architecture of a permanent bailout authority, and it needs to be dismantled. If the power to offer such extraordinary assistance is truly necessary in the event of a liquidity crisis, regulators should have little trouble convincing Congress to give it to them. But Congress should not preemptively hand the keys to the fisc to a group of unelected officials who, though well-meaning, have precious little incentive to look out for the taxpayers’ best interest when they believe the sky to be falling”

The Dodd bill, some think, will invite corruption on a massive scale. When investment dollars are allocated by politicians rather than conscientious businessmen through a free market that punishes moral hazard through failure, corruption becomes inevitable. Every regulation is in effect a tax on business that re-directs market forces and reallocates investment dollars. Presently, lobbyists in Washington buy the ears of politicians through campaign contributions. But when the large businesses affected by Dodd’s bill become GSEs, their campaign contributions will buy more than ears: Politicians and political departments in charge of regulations leading to massive reallocations of dollars will be up for sale to the highest bidder.

Presently, lobbyists in Washington buy the ears of politicians through campaign contributions. But when all large businesses become GSEs, their campaign contributions will buy more than ears; they will be buying a fail safe economy doomed to fail massively.

Dodd’s bill should be opposed for these reasons.

Boughton To Primary

The Danbury News Times is reporting that Mayor Mark Boughton of Danbury is preparing to primary Republicans.

Boughton claims to have secured the votes of 15% of the nominating convention delegates, enough to force a primary. He discloses that his goal all along was to qualify for a gubernatorial primary.

The same paper reports that Dick Morris, once a pollster to President Bill Clinton and now a conservative columnist and author, finds nominating conventions abhorrent and needlessly expensive.

"Candidates spend a great deal of time and resources romancing party people who have no connection to the electorate," Morris said.

"It has nothing to do with your ability to win a primary or, for that matter, the general election. It diverts money needed to win an election, and that's a mistake."

Instead, Morris said, candidates should be able to pay a $5 fee to get on a primary ballot.

"Give anyone who wants to run access to the ballot and let them fight it out," he said.

Friday, May 14, 2010

DESELECTION, WAY TO IMPROVE STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT

In 1983, we were warned that we were “A Nation at Risk. Our once unchallenged preeminence in commerce, industry, science, and technological innovation is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world.”

When the Governors met in 1989, they resolved that they would combat the “rising tide of mediocrity” by our being first internationally in math and science by 2000. Many ways to improve student learning have been tried: smaller class size, smaller pupil-teacher ratios, increased teacher experience, increased teacher graduate degrees, and programs galore. Nothing has worked. “What was unimaginable a generation ago, has begun to occur—others are matching and surpassing our educational attainments,” the Governors were warned.

Since the Governors’ 1989 conference, the focus has been on improving teacher effectiveness as the “only viable way to accomplish the governors’ goals.

But how? Teacher hiring and retraining have not worked, in that they have not improved student achievement. “Some teachers do a very poor job, and few people believe that the worst teachers can be transformed into good teachers,” observes economist Eric A. Hanushek, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, who has undertaken to find a solution to this problem. An alternative approach, he suggests, is to remove or “deselect” inefficient teachers.

“How much progress in student achievement could be accomplished by instituting a program for removing, or deselecting, the least-effective teachers?” Hanushek asks.

There is now considerable interest in tying teachers’ salaries to student achievement. Indeed Hanushek, who specializes in the economics of education, goes further. He finds a mathematical relationship between effective teachers and student achievement. It is the subject of his essay, “Teacher Deselection.”

The answer is half-a-standard-deviation (0.5 sd), according to his calculation. (A standard deviation is a measure of the spread of the data from its mean or center. One standard deviation on either side of the mean, above it and below it, includes 68 percent of the cases in a normal distribution of data.)

How bad are American students? HongKong, at the top of the 40-country ranking of Program for International Student Achievement (PISA), is 2/3 of a standard deviation ahead of the average American student. An improvement of half-a-standard-deviation (0.5 sd), calculates Professor Hanushek, would put American students close to the top, on a level with Canadian students who in 2003 were just behind the Netherlands and Japan.

And an increase of half-a-standard-deviation would dramatically grow the U.S. economy, helping to regain our preeminence in commerce, industry, science, and technology, which are closely associated with student achievement.

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 sd 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 average learning-growth is one grade level, the least effective five percent of teachers achieves 2/3 of a grade-level annually. The bottom one percent of teachers achieves ½ of a grade level annually, which, measured from the center or mean, is the 84th percentile.

In a school of 30 teachers, “eliminating the least effective six to ten percent of the teachers would bring student achievement up by 0.5 sd.” Eliminating the bottom two or three teachers would bring the average up to Canada’s students, who are high up on the PISA scale. Several evaluations of high-performing school systems around the world find that “the best schools do not allow ineffective teachers to remain in the classroom for long,” observes Hanushek.

What are the implications for the U.S. economy, asks Hanushek. “Had these policies been in effect in 1989 at the time of the governors’ conference, we would be reaping gains in the national economy; and the gains to Gross Domestic Product would be enough to cover all our spending on K-12 schooling,” he answers.

Presently the Colorado state legislature has passed a bill to tie teacher-tenure in to student achievement, but without being aware of the improvement in student achievement and economic growth which are achievable should the tenure bill pass. The bill provides that new teachers can only be retained if their students have achieved three years in a row. Tenured teachers could lose job-protection if they are deemed “ineffective” in two straight years. Supported by one teachers’ union and opposed by the other, the bill has passed the Senate and the House on Wednesday, and is ready for the Governor’s signature.

Unfortunately escaping the attention of the Colorado Legislature is Hanushek’s 18-paged essay, “Teacher Deselection,” which is Chapter 8 in Creating a New Teaching Profession, edited by Dan Goldhaber and Jane Hannaway (Washington, D.C., The Urban Institute Press, 2009).


By Natalie Sirkin
C2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010

McMahon Hits Blumenthal In Radio Ad

Politico reports that U.S. senatorial hopeful Linda McMahon is launching a radio spot against Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, the likely Democratic nominee vying for U.S. Senator Chris Dodd’s seat.

“The spot features a man and woman discussing Blumenthal's decision to accept money from political action committees for his Senate campaign. Says the man: ‘Dick Blumenthal, the guy that rejected all special interest money and said he’s never taken PAC money, is now taking special interest PAC money. Over $200,000 of it already.’ The woman replies: ‘You know, every day Dick Blumenthal sounds more and more like a career politician.’ The narrator jumps in: ‘Dick Blumenthal must think Washington can never have enough career politicians that say one thing then do another.’ And scene.
Blumenthal, the perennial favorite among Democrats for governor or U.S. senator for nearly as long as he has been attorney general, surprised no one when he leapt into the breech soon to be left vacant by Dodd.

In a debate with Democrat Merrick Alpert, Blumenthal appeared to show a few rust spots in his delivery. Asked by Alpert how his many suits brought against Connecticut businesses helped to generate jobs by leveling the playing field.

Attacking Blumenthal just before the Republican nominating convention will send a positive signal to delegates who will be asked to choose between McMahon and Rob Simmons, a Republican also vying for the seat.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lady Bysiewicz’s Ambition

It has been rumored that Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, very likely the Democratic nominee for attorney general, really has her eyes on a different prize. Some say she would treat the attorney general office as a jumping off place for a senatorial run against Sen. Joe Lieberman at the expiration of his term.

In the video clip below, Bysiewicz is given ample opportunity to answer this charge by a patient reporter who asks her three times whether she intends to serve out her term as attorney general, should the citizens of the state vote her into office.

Her answer is here:



Consider the lot of the poor reporter. He is given an assignment by his editor:

“Listen up here. Bysiewicz has a presser today. I’ve prepared a question for you, crisp and unambiguous. This is it: Will you serve out your term as attorney general, assuming you win the post? That’s it. We need an answer by deadline for tomorrow’s run. We need a “Yes” or “No” answer. Go get’er.”

The reporter sets out with trembling knees, his editor’s question tucked into his LL Bean shirt pocket. On the way to the presser, in the car, he rehearses the question several times, fully aware that Bysiewicz -- whose experience in running the AG’s office has been the subject of news stories, stinging commentary, a challenge from the head of the Republican Party and a court appearance from which Bysiewicz emerged a bit tattered around the edges but unbowed – is one slippery customer.

Ambitious too.

At the presser, the reporter fires off the question without a slip, putting his own construction on it:

“Your opponent said he has pledged to serve a full four year term as attorney general and has asked you to match that pledge. Will you do so?”

Batting her eye several times – first her right eye, then her left eye, then both eyes, then jutting out her well formed chin, Bysiewicz responds, or rather chooses not to respond, by mentioning she will take the same pledge generously offered by the sainted Attorney General Richard Blumenthal when he ran for office in 2006.

“And that is this: that I will be relentless, and that I will work very hard to be the best attorney general that I can be.”

To which the disappointed reporter, for the moment equally relentless, responds: “Will you serve your entire term as attorney general, or will you consider running for another office during your term, as Joe Lieberman did?”

The reporter, growing impatient, is under orders from his editor to dispel this nasty rumor.

Bysiewicz responds: “I pledge to work very vigorously to win a primary for attorney general, if there is one. I pledge to work very hard to win the attorney general election. And if I am privileged to be the holder of that office, I pledge to work very, very, hard to be the best attorney general I can be.”

Working very, very hard to bring back to the shop an unambiguous answer, the reporter makes one last desperate stab: “So, that’s a no then?”

Ah, but “Yes” and “No” are the Scylla and Charybdis of many a politician’s ship. Still, when Bysiewicz adds her final note, it is possible to detect in it a show of mercy. She must know the editor will beat up the reporter if he does not return with the journalistic bacon.

“I will work very hard…”

“Yes, I know… You’ve said that three times. I’m just asking you -- Yes or No -- will you remain in that office…

“One thing… one thing… I have learned about politics is never to speculate about the future because one never knows what the future will bring.”

A plain “Yes” to the question – “Yes, I do plan to serve out my term as attorney general, understanding that my answer precludes me from leaving the office prematurely to run for U.S. Senator – would be dreadfully inconvenient to Bysiewicz’s ambition; and, so far, nothing survivable has got between the lady and her ambition.

Attorney General Blumenthal’s ambition, with his 36,495 case backlog, certainly bears a striking resemblance to that of Mr. Macbeth. It would appear that Lady Macbeth understands Mr. Macbeth’s vaulting ambition well because she is, after all, made of the same stern stuff:

I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself,
And falls on th'other…

The reporter’s editor would understand.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

This is a hold-up, Governor – Your money or your judges!

Better a little late than never: In one of it stinging editorials, The Hartford Courant has noticed that Judiciary co-chairmen Rep. Michael Lawlor, and Sen. Andrew McDonald had, with an assist from bandito President Pro Tem of the Senate Don Williams held up the state’s coach, driven by outgoing Gov. Jodi Rell.

“Court funding in exchange for judgeships. That was the condition leaders of the General Assembly's Judiciary Committee set for Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

“She accepted.

“Then the ante went up: The $19.1 billion state budget for those judgeships.

“She accepted again.”

The hold-up was “disappointing and infuriating,” the paper noted.

The paper did not mention the name of stage coach robber Williams in its editorial.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Blumenthal And The Gentle Art Of Selective Prosecution


"Here we are 90 days later, and Dick Blumenthal has issued 64 press releases but still no answer on Susan Bysiewicz's intelligence files. Three months is more than enough time to find out whether Bysiewicz illegally used state resources for political purposes. … He's got 200 lawyers over there, and he can't get to the bottom of this very serious allegation?"
So said Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy concerning Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s slow boil investigation of Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz.

When it was revealed that Bysiewicz may have lacked the requisite experience to run for Blumenthal’s position as attorney general, the attorney general punted the problem to the Superior Court Judge Michael Sheldon, who promised – and delivered -- an expedited decision.

The question concerning possible misuse of a data base assembled by Bysiewicz’s office arose at the same time. The problematic data base containing 36,000 names, the existence of which became known in February, included persons who had contacted the secretary of state’s office on matters of business. Appended to the names were notes that, some believe, would undoubtedly prove useful to Bysiewicz in her campaigns. The notorious list, for instance, included 2,500 people who in the past had been selected as Democratic nominating convention delegates. Bysiewicz’s campaign committee in 2009 had obtained a copy of the database through a legal Freedom of Information Act request.

"She worked on his [Blumenthal’s] campaign,” Healy pointed out. “They're fellow Democrats, fellow constitutional officers and fellow statewide office-seekers. He hasn't said anything about the progress of that investigation. Has she been interviewed? Have any files been examined? What's the timeline for action?"

Indicating the case involves possible potential violations of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act provisions as well as charges that Bysiewicz may have used her office to accommodate her campaign needs, an exasperated Healy said, “If it was a Republican secretary of the state, they'd be boiling a 50-gallon drum of oil right now."

Blumenthal promised a thorough, presumably non-expedited, investigation that very likely will run well beyond the upcoming Democratic nomination convention on May 12-22.

In the matter of timely investigations and prosecutions, Mr. Blumenthal is an artist of rare accomplishments. A recent Waterbury Republican American editorial noted that Blumenthal’s office had backlog of an astonishing 36,495 cases pending at the end of 2008-09, a 40 percent increase over 1995-96:

"For two decades, Connecticut has exported jobs and imported social-service clients because its business and regulatory climate, as personified by Mr. Blumenthal, has been so hostile. That reality is omnipresent, even in his own annual reports. His most recent one shows his office had 36,495 cases pending at the end of 2008-09, a 40 percent increase over 1995-96."

And, of course, one of the joys of the office is that the attorney general decides who he will investigate and when the subsequent prosecution will end.

Blumenthal is an old hand in selective prosecution.

In what Blumenthal described as a “virtually unprecedented” action, the attorney general and State Treasurer Denise Nappier sued investment firm Forstmann Little in Feb., 2002 for losing more than $125 million in state worker pension funds. What made the case unprecedented was that seven of Forstmann Little’s general partners – with one notable exception -- were separately named as individual defendants. The sloppy seven were thus put personally on the hook for any resulting liability for making lousy investments that tanked.

The missing exception, according to Joel Mowbray, writing in National Review at the time, was Erskine Bowles, “the multimillionaire former chief of staff for Bill Clinton and current Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat now held by the retiring Sen. Jesse Helms (R., N.C.)”

Blumenthal’s suit was well founded, since Connecticut had stipulated that it did not intend its investment to be involved in high risk ventures, but the exclusion of Bowles was highly irregular:

“Connecticut alleges a bait-and-switch: that it signed on for the old, stodgy strategy, but that it got the new, risky plan without its knowledge or permission. Connecticut's suit primarily charges that Forstmann Little and its partners violated the investment contract and significantly misrepresented the worth and type of investments made in XO and McLeod… Given his [Bowles'] status as a general partner during most of the relevant time covered by the Connecticut lawsuit — he arrived in January 1999, and departed in October 2001 — Bowles' exclusion from the list of named defendants is curious, to say the least. He joined Forstmann Little eight months before the McLeod investment, and was a partner for almost the entire XO disaster, exiting only one month before Connecticut's stake in XO was completely wiped out…”

“State treasurer Denise Nappier has said that Bowles was on the original list of defendants, but his name was dropped by the outside counsel working with her office because of a lack of direct involvement in wrongdoing. But Bowles clearly had more involvement in McLeod than the five partners who are named defendants, but did not sit on the telecom's board of directors. And named defendants Klinsky and Holmes were not even partners when the investments were made, yet Bowles was.

“His luck, of course, is pure politics. Neither Klinsky nor Holmes had the good sense to run for statewide office as Democrats this year. They have both been dragged into the lawsuit, despite having far less involvement in the ill-fated investments than Bowles. Who needs Lady Luck when you have fellow Democrats calling the shots?”
Unlike Caesars wife, the highly partisan Blumenthal is not, in matters of political opportunism, above suspicion.

Oddly, the selective prosecution in the Forstmann Little case was raised as a campaign issue in 2002 by then Republican Party candidate for attorney general Martha Dean, a Republican presently running for the same office but, as sometimes happens in campaigns, Blumenthal managed to survive the issue.

So did Erskine Bowles, appointed in 2010 to co-chair President Barack Obama's fiscal commission with Alan K. Simpson.

Democrats, especially in Connecticut, have a way of overcoming such calamities.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

The Budget Reviews Are In

Courant: Bad Deal

The Hartford Courant turned up its collective nose at Connecticut’s budget, a compromise deal hammered out between the dominant veto proof Democratic legislature and Gov. Jodi Rell, a lame duck Republican.

Once the state’s tax and spend plan had been inked, Democratic legislative leaders labeled it a “bi-partisan” budget, seemingly unaware that one robin doth not a summer make. The Republicans, minus Rell, firmly denounced the budget for all the right reasons and then took a very visible hike.

The short legislative session was “a big letdown,” said the Courant:

“The pact, however, avoids most of the tough choices that would put the state on sounder financial footing as it braces for a budget shortfall projected at $3.8 billion in fiscal 2012, which starts in just 14 months.

“The budget agreement reached this week would cover half the fiscal 2011 deficit with federal stimulus funds — which won't be there this time next year.

“The state would also raid funds for energy conservation and other worthy causes — and borrow $955 million, to be paid off by extending part of a surcharge on monthly electric bills that was to expire soon. Connecticut's electric rates are already among the highest in the nation. Businesses, particularly manufacturers, will take note.”
The paper closed its editorial with a wistful glace back at balmier days: “Connecticut needed at least one strong leader to make tough and unpopular choices — someone with the backbone of former Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. That leader was missing this session.”

Weicker, it will be recalled, gave us the income tax, which produced repeated budget surpluses, aggravated spending and made Connecticut’s government too big to fail. It failed anyway, and now those responsible for the failure are looking for bailouts from wealthy millionaires like the guy with the backbone.

Journal Inquirer: Same Deal

Chris Powell is the Managing Editor of the Journal Inquirer and the paper’s chief political columnist.

Unlike some in Connecticut’s migratory press, Powell has been with the paper for many years. A thoughtful commentator, over a period of time he has worked out for himself several state saving measures, chief among them ending binding arbitration for state employees, a notion that operates on the collective unconscious of union owned legislators the way water affected the Wicked Witch Of The West in the Wizard Of Oz.

Torpedoes away:

“Maybe what's most remarkable about the new state budget is that it took so long, three months, to put together so little. The budget spends a bit more than the last budget, makes no serious changes in spending policy, and covers the awful decline in state revenue by borrowing more than 5 percent of expenditures, raiding the state pension fund again, emptying dedicated funds, taxing electricity, and covering hundreds of millions of dollars of recurring costs with one-time federal "stimulus" funds.

“The budget is thus a colossal abdication, something any drug addict could have accomplished in 10 minutes before shooting up and nodding off…

“The failure to try to economize by questioning a few premises amid a near-depression is the responsibility of everyone at the Capitol, but it is mostly the governor's responsibility. Rather than agreeing with the Democrats to borrow 5 percent of spending and to take budget gimmickry to new lows, the governor could have used her veto to insist that the legislature face reality and require some sacrifice from the government class so that things might get better. Instead they now are certain to get worse.

“Since it would take a long time for the legislature's Democratic majority, in thrall to special interests, to begin to perceive a public interest, the governor would have had to be ready to govern indefinitely by executive order without a budget. That would have been work. Instead she joined the Democrats in default, leaving her successor a legacy of disaster.”
Waterbury Republican American: Raw Deal

The Waterbury Republican American is a small but far reaching epicenter of conservative thought and opinion in a state that warmly embraces Jacob Javitts Republicans like Weicker while strangling promising conservative babes in their cribs.

No fair deal, the paper intoned:

“Ignoring the coming catastrophe, they produced a "balanced budget" for 2011 that wishes, pretty-please, for $366 million more from the federal "stimulus" and $270 million in revenue growth; relies on a quarter-billion in unspecified spending reductions; loots $100 million from the dangerously underfunded pension fund; runs through this year's bogus $140 million "surplus"; and deficit-spends nearly $1 billion more. They even purloined $6 million from programs for the mentally retarded so they could show a $4.9 million "surplus."

“If you ran your household this way, you'd be bankrupt. If you ran a business this way, you'd be imprisoned.”

Outrageous Deal

The Day of New London was outraged at the deal.

“You want to know the definition of outrageous? How about this? Increase the state budget during the most serious fiscal crisis in state history. To make it "balance," raid a state workers' pension fund that is already grossly underfunded. Borrow, yet again, to pay for current expenses. In the process, leave a $3.4 billion projected deficit for the next governor and legislature to deal with.

“Then declare it a success.

"’For the last few weeks we have worked together in a respectful and productive manner to address Connecticut's unprecedented challenges. We are pleased to announce we have reached an agreement …’

“So read the joint statement issued by the Republican governor, M. Jodi Rell, and the legislature's Democratic leaders, Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr. of Brooklyn and House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan of Meriden.

“Now that's outrageous.”

If there are any Fair Deal editorials out there praising the highly partisan Democrats and the governor for their courage, sagacity and economic acumen, we have not been able to locate them.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Are We France Or Greece?

A little of both, according to the indispensable Waterbury Republican American:

“With the 2010 legislative session mercifully over, Connecticut finds itself looking much more like Europe. On the budget, it resembles Greece, which is teetering on insolvency because of the effects of socialism, unionism, environmentalism, cronyism and other isms. Faced with record deficits for years to come, your Democratic legislative supermajority and Gov. M. Jodi Rell did what they have done for three years running: kicked the can down the road.”

What the Tea Party Movement Needs To Know

By Sean Murphy

The Tea Party Movement is an anomaly in politics. There have been two major political movements in the past thirty years: President Reagan’s and the Contract with America in 1994, both of which started within the political structure of the Republican Party. This is significant for those who want real change from the Republican Party.

The problem within the Republican Party is the intentions of many within the establishment. While the majority of the country is right of center (anywhere from 55 to 60%, depending on the poll questions), the interests of the political elite do not correlate with the figures. The primary job of party chairmen is to see that Republicans are elected; they are not necessarily interested in advancing a conservative agenda.

In order to align the Republican Party with the values of the nation, those who wish to do so must understand how to win within the system. This issue has not come up because past conservative movements have started within the party. Once the Contract with America was released to the public, the war within had been won.

In the 2010 elections, conservatives do not have clear choices for the Republican nomination in many seats. The key seats are governor, US Senate, the 4th and 5th Congressional races. Some seats are more easily winnable than others, largely owing to politically gerrymandered districts such as the 1st or the 3rd.

The governorship is a key position and eminently winnable because most people know that spending must be cut significantly and the Democrats, politically tied to unionized state workers, are loathed to do this. The current budget “compromise between the Republican governor and the dominant Democratic legislature is imprinted with the union label.

The 4th Congressional is a likely flip back to Republican hands. Jim Himes has been repeatedly voting against the interests of his district. Residents of Fairfield County have been targets of the Democrats. The US Senate race and 5th Congressional races are potential GOP take backs. Richard Blumenthal has name recognition, but a lot of baggage has yet to be brought out, and the media is now beginning to take note of his long terrorist reign as attorney general. Blumenthal has approval ratings in the 70%, but can only muster 55% in polls.

Congressman Chris Murphy (5th District) will be hard to defeat, but he is very far left and there is more than one good Republican candidate vying against him.

All this being said, the problem is the party establishment will likely determine these slots. Money is key: Thank you McCain/Finegold! Big money donors are massaged by GOP insiders and guarded like Fort Knox. Whether people like it or not, conservatives have to work within these parameters, while understanding victory may come another day.

How to get conservative candidates the GOP nomination and funded

In Connecticut, everything starts at the town committee level. Each Republican Town Committee (RTC) has its own political narrative. Most RTCs consist of people who are interested in power or getting something out of the process. There are too few Republican conservatives who understand that the political ladder starts at these lower rungs.

The first major step to a nomination is the nominating convention. Every RTC is given a specified number of delegates for all state and national offices: Governor, Lt. Governor, Treasurer, Secretary of State, US Senate, and US House, along with the State Rep and State Senate.

Primary process

• If a candidate wins at the nominating convention and no one initiates a primary, he or she will be the sole party candidate on the ballot.

• If a candidate does not get 15%, they have to sign up a small percentage of registered party voters within the district.

• If a candidate does not get 15%, they have to sign up a small percentage of registered party voters within the district.
It is very hard for a candidate not winning the convention to win a primary, even if the candidate qualifies for one.

Party insiders regard primaries as damaging to general election prospects. This may not be true in all cases, and such important choices should not be left to the political elite, whose selkections are not always best in the long run for the welfare of the party. Voters in the Republican Party should be able to choose candidates, not the party establishment.

Taking back the Republican Party

Every even year in the spring, there are new town committee elections. A caucus is held where all registered Republicans can vote to determine who the new RTC is. In many cases, installing a handful of RTC members is all that is needed to gain control of the town committee.

In addition to the delegate process, the town committees get to vote for state central committee members. Unlike elected office, the delegates are solely chosen by the town committee. The State Central Committee is the board of directors of the party. Each state senate district gets two representatives, for a total of 72. The SCC votes for the officers of the party. The SCC has been very weak recently.

For 2010, attempt to get the conservative candidate the nomination and defeat the Democrat or win the open seat.

For 2011, start showing up to your local Republican Town Committee. Learn what goes on and identify those who need to be removed.

For 2012, take over Republican Town Committees. Every RTC has members whose time has passed or does not espouse the conservative principles Republicans need to win.

Mr Murphy is a Tea Party Patriot organizer.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Weicker At UConn Law

Ex-Governor and Senator Lowell Weicker appeared at the UConn Law School and gave a talk that touched on a number of subjects: health care, beltway manners, and bill paying averse legislators at the state capitol among them.

Weicker on his reluctance to run for governor, as reported by Jeff Cohen of WNPR: "Somebody asked me, when I came on campus, wouldn't you like to be governor....Helloooo????"

This as our tax belabored state is poised to celebrate the upcoming 20th anniversary of the Axe The Tax rally in Hartford. It seems like only yesterday, except for the many UConn students too young to have a personal memory of the event.



All the spirits that hovered around Weicker on that grand day are very much in the air we breathe. Joe Markley -- who, along with Tom Scott, was responsible for the anti-tax rally in Hartford – is once again running for his old seat in the state senate, and he has a righteous wind at his back.

The Weicker tax, as it was designed to do, made life very easy indeed for tax and spend state legislators. The highly regressive income tax – most of which comes out of the pockets of millionaires, some of whom live in Weicker’s old digs in Greenwich, Connecticut – has contributed billions of dollars in surpluses that should have been returned by the spendthrift legislature to the little folk living on Main Street, who now are having some difficulty sending their children to UConn Law.

One of the signs at the Axe The Tax rally 20 years ago was a very modest, hand written one emblazoned with the legend: “Hartford Tea Party.”

Lately, the tea parties have gown in size and strength in direct proportion to the ill conceived Weicker tax and its inevitable consequence: a budget that has grown, since Weicker introduced his tax, from 7 to 14 billion.

Weicker on health care:
“When Weicker got to the heart of his talk, he said that preventing illness is cheaper than treating it and it's better for patients. And now that the nation has a new health care law, Weicker says it's time to make it better.

"’The time has come now to move on past all the rhetoric and do the right thing. Repealing healthcare it isn't going to happen. I don't care who's in power. To be in pain or in fear of death with nowhere to go is not something that I would wish on anyone.’"
Weicker on beltway habits:

"The last several months of public discourse have marked a low point as to how we treat and view each others as Americans. The debate has been just as bad on the floor of the house and the senate as it has on the streets of America,” a rather prissy attitude for someone who once described himself as a “turd in the Republican Party punchbowl.”

And touching upon flabby spines state legislators, Weicker managed to sound like a cross between Billy Graham and Zarathustra:

“And, speaking of political will, he had a few words after his speech was over for leaders at the state capitol, as this year's legislative session wound to a close with an apparent one-year budget fix.

"’The time has come to pay the bill here in the State of Connecticut and you can't kick it down the road. I pray for a little steel up the spine. This is the moment that they're elected for.’

“Because, Weicker said, a solution that lasts just 365 days isn't much of a solution at all.”
When Wicker made his remarks, he was well outside the epicenter of the implosion at the state capitol, where spineless legislators decided to burry their heads in red ink.

Weicker has not said whether he would prefer to liquidate the state’s ever growing debt through spending reductions or tax hikes, though if personal history is any predictor of behavior, one supposes he would prefer to raise the income tax he bestowed upon us, lo those many years ago.

Calling for specific tax hikes – or perhaps spending cuts that might make the dean of UConn Law a bit queasy – would take some courage.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Judge Gives Bysiewicz The Green Light

Superior Court Judge Michael Sheldon has taken the monkey off Secretary State Susan Bysiewicz’ back.

In a 93-page ruling, the judge found:

“On the basis of the foregoing findings of fact and conclusions of law, the Court hereby finds, and thus enters judgment in this action to declare, that the plaintiff, as a Connecticut attorney-at-law since 1986 who performed the above-described duties of her office as Connecticut's Secretary of the State since 1999, has engaged in active practice at the bar of this state, within the meaning of General Statutes § 3-124, for at least ten years."
Given the finding he made, judge Sheldon ruled it was not necessary to address the constitutionality of the statute requiring 10 years active service as a lawyer as a prerequisite for office of attorney general. The state constitution lists only an age requirement to attain the office, which would seem to conflict with the statute requiring 10 years active service as a lawyer.

As a default position, Bysiewicz claimed in court that the provision requiring 10 year’s active service was unconstitutional.

"So finding and declaring,” Shelton wrote in his decision, “the Court has no occasion to reach and decide the plaintiff's alternative challenge to the constitutionality of (the constitutional provision).”

Ahead of Bysiewicz are dozens of UTube videos demonstrating her lack of experience culled from a damaging deposition that was filmed for posterity. Given her true grit, few among the delegates to the Democratic nominating convention will doubt she will be able to overcome such mini-spectacles.

Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here


All budgets are plans for the future. The budget worked out between Gov. Jodi Rell and the leaders of the dominant Democratic Party in Connecticut’s state legislature, principally Speaker of the House Chris Donovan and President Pro Tem of the Senate Don Williams, will go to press a little more than two weeks before the Democratic and Republican nominating conventions to be held in Hartford on May 21-22.

There are no surprises in the budget, which patterns, with almost ridged precision, the template of past budgets in which gapping holes were filled with chewing gum and hopeful views of the future.

Democrats, heedless of the warning signs everywhere apparent, are convinced that a rising tide will in the near future lift all the boats, Connecticut’s little bark among them. Collectively, the Democratic legislative caucus is Pangloss, drawing hope from the future rather than the past.

Pangloss was a character developed by Voltaire in Candide who, despite the horrors inflicted upon him by cruel fate, continued to believe that the world in which he lived was “the best of all possible worlds.” Earthquakes, revolutions, mass executions were unable to detach Pangloss, Candide’s philosophical tutor, from his inviolable optimism. The loss of his beloved to bandits who raped and mutilated her finally convinced a weary Candide that his philosophical tutor was a bit too optimistic for Candide’s own good.

Operating on the Panglossian notion that tomorrow will be the best of all possible worlds, state Democrats and Rell have now put forth a budget that optimistically looks past what some more worldly Republicans and a handful on unblinkered Democratic legislators regard as the coming train wreck.

Almost half of Connecticut’s budget crater is to be filled by contributions from an administration in Washington that has, in the two years it has been in office, tripled the national debt. The real cost of the new programs initiated by the president and the dominant Democratic congress have not yet registered on the national economic seismograph. Public debt as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product has increased fourfold during the current administration.

Tin cup in hand, Connecticut has now become a beggar state. It is not alone.

And it is only a matter of time before cash poor Washington begins to treat beggar states in the same way large beggar corporations have been treated., Uncle Sam, himself indebted to foreign states from which he is borrowing heavily to meet his own obligations, surely would not be willing to give alms to wealthy states like Connecticut in the absence of budgetary proof that the state has instituted cost saving measures. New Jersey’s legislature, prodded by a cost conscious governor, has offered some proof that it is serious about controlling future spending.

Connecticut has not

There are no serious costs saving measures in Connecticut’s new budget. It is a budget that will satisfy pressure groups that control powerful legislative leaders in the House and Senate. It is a budget that answers the unstated question roiling in the minds of wealth producing entrepreneurs who, following others gone before them, will vote with their feet by either leaving the state or refusing to come here.

In addition to providing a view to the future, Connecticut’s most recent budget is a reliable measure of the cowardice of politicians. Even New Jersey will offer greener pastures to wealth generators than Connecticut. The sign Dante pasted over his gates to Hell in the Divine Comedy read, “Abandon all hope ye who enter here,” a suitable greeting for those who will now avoid the state on their way to a Heaven elsewhere.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Blumenthal Closes NEP Case: Questions Remain Open


Three press accounts appeared over the weekend that had Attorney General Richard Blumenthal as their subject, two in the Journal Inquirer by reporter Alex Wood, and one in the Hartford Courant by Kevin Rennie, a political columnist.

One of the Journal Inquirer’s stories by Wood (available through subscription) is likely to generate some interest because it includes what may be called, loosely speaking, a rebuttal to a press release issued by Mr. Blumenthal following the “settlement” of a case against New England Pellet. The rebutter is Jim Oliver, the lawyer for New England Pellet.

The story involves an objection by Mr. Blumenthal to an assertion by Mr. Oliver that Mr. Blumenthal’s inspector, Patrick Ahlquist, used a defective affidavit in the case and later offered perjured testimony in a deposition.

The charge by Mr. Oliver that Mr. Ahlquist perjured himself in a sworn deposition has yet to be put before a judge. Such being the case, it is partly true, as Mr. Blumenthal asserts in the Wood story that “No court or other body has found that Mr. Ahlquist’s conduct was in any way inappropriate.” It would be equally true to say that no court has found Mr. Ahlquist’s conduct was appropriate.

But why in the world should Attorney General Richard Blumenthal wait upon a judge’s decision before he determines that one of his employees, Mr. Ahlquist, may have done something inappropriate?

In the affidavit, signed by Mr. Ahlquist and used by Mr. Blumenthal to impound the business machinery and other assets of New England Pellet, effectively putting the company out of business, Mr. Ahlquist swore under oath he had reason to believe that Mr. Zaczynski, one of the owners of New England Pellet, either had or was about to fraudulently transfer assets.

This was the sole charge on the basis of which a judge, in an ex parte proceeding, authorized Blumenthal to impound Mr. Zaczynski’s business equipment. An ex parte proceeding is one in which the accused party – in this case, Mr. Zaczynski -- is not present to answer charges made before a judge against him.

His business effectively destroyed by Mr. Blumenthal and his assets tied up in litigation, Mr. Zaczynski at that point was unable to supply refunds to his customers. Before Blumenthal’s suit, NEP, scrambling to make good on its obligations, had already refunded $140,000 to its customers and offered to put funds in escrow to insure that their customers received refunds. Despite these attempts to salvage their business, Blumenthal, making his usual rounds of the television stations, claimed NEP was not co-operating. In fact, after Blumenthal lept on the stage, NEP offered to put in escrow $200,000, more than enough money to satisfy ever complainant, an offer declined by Blumenthal.

During his deposition, Mr. Ahlquist swore on oath that he had examined none of the relevant bank records, an inspection that is necessary to determine whether Mr. Zaczynski had or was about to fraudulently transfer assets.

In his sworn deposition, Mr. Ahlquist said, again under oath, that he had never read Connecticut’s Fraudulent Transfer Act and, most damningly, that he never had reason to believe that Mr. Zaczynski either had or was about to fraudulently transfer assets.

Now, it would be very simple for someone, not necessarily a judge, laying side by side both statements – the affidavit on the one hand, and the sworn deposition on the other -- to conclude that either one or the other statement was false, since the sworn claims made in both documents contradicted each other. And Mr. Blumenthal, no ordinary man on the street, is Connecticut’s attorney general. One must assume, since those in the attorney general’s office under Mr. Blumenthal’s’ supervision have in the past made the claim in other affidavits that his targets have or were about to fraudulently transfer assets, that the attorney general has more than a nodding acquaintance with Connecticut’s Fraudulent Transfer Act.

So then, with the Fraudulent Transfer Act in one hand and in the other hand Mr. Ahlquist’s contradictory testimony in his affidavit and deposition, it should be a simple matter for someone as well versed in the law as the attorney general to tell Mr. Wood whether he thinks his “inspector” had perjured himself.

Why must Mr. Blumenthal wait upon a judge to decide the matter – especially when Mr. Blumenthal knows that the specific charge made by Mr. Ahlquist in his sworn affidavit had alone invested Mr. Blumenthal with the legal authority to put Mr. Zaczynski out of business, thus making the prosecution of Mr. Zaczynski easier and refunds from Mr. Zaczynski to his customers unlikely until any pending litigations had been completed?

Mr. Blumenthal, deciding the matter somewhat in advance of a judge, also claimed in the JI story that “The contention that Mr. Ahlquist’s affidavit was improper is without basis.”

Mr. Blumenthal need not wait upon a judge to tell him whether a matter is “improper’ and “without basis.” Anyone – but most especially he -- can decide whether an assertion is baseless. Were this not the case, it would be impossible for Mr. Blumenthal to dismiss an employee who had made, in Mr. Blumenthal’s best judgment, a charge that was recklessly inappropriate.

The paragraph that follows below is what Mr. Ahlquist wrote in his affidavit, though here one is tempted to quibble a bit with the word “his,” because in his deposition Ahlquist acknowledged that he was not the real author of the affidavit he signed -- in the sense that Samuel Clemens was the real author of Huckleberry Finn. Mr. Clemens, who wrote under the pseudonym Mark Twain, dictated parts of his books to a stenographer; but it was Twain, and not the stenographer, who was the real author of the titles appearing under that name. The assertions in the affidavit that Mr. Ahlquist acknowledged by his signature were his actually were authored by an assistant attorney general in Blumenthal’s office. Having done little or no investigating, Mr. Ahlquist signed off on the document, leaving everyone to supposed, since Mr. Ahlquist was after all Mr. Blumenthal’s investigator, that he had investigated the claims made in the affidavit. Neither did the attorney general who composed the affidavit in consultation with Mr. Ahlquist investigate Mr. Zaczynski’s bank records; perhaps he had supposed this little detail had been taken care of by Mr. Ahlquist.

This is Mr Ahlquist’s sworn statement in “his” affidavit: “Based upon the circumstances of this case, including, inter alia, the Defendant’s actions as set forth in this affidavit, there is reasonable likeihood that Defendant Zaczynski is about to fraudulently dispose, hide or withhold, or has fraudulently disposed, hidden, or withheld property money or effects which should be liable to the satisfaction of Defendants debts (emphasis mine).”

This is Mr. Ahlquist’s sworn statement in his deposition; “Q” is Mr. Oliver and “A” is Mr. Ahlquist:

“Q. Okay. Let me ask you this, right off the bat: Who drafted this affidavit? Did you draft it?

“A. No, sir…

“Q. Okay. I'd like to direct your attention to paragraph 22 of the complaint -- I'm sorry – the affidavit.

“A. Yes, sir.

“Q. It reads as follows: ‘Based upon the circumstances of this case, including inter alia, the actions as set forth in this affidavit, there is reasonable likelihood that the defendant Zaczynski is about to fraudulently dispose, hide, or withhold, or has fraudulently disposed, hidden, or withheld property, money, or effects, which should be liable to the satisfaction of defendant’s debts.’ Did I read that correctly?

“A. Yes, sir.

“Q. Okay. Based upon the investigation that you conducted prior to your leaving -- strike that. Prior to your signing this affidavit, what property did you identify that Mr. Zaczynski had fraudulently disposed of, hidden, or withheld?

“A. In the past tense, none.

“Q. You didn't find any? You weren't aware of any at the time you signed this affidavit, that Mr. Zaczynski had fraudulently disposed of, hidden, or withheld property; correct?

“A. (Examining document.) The only area I would point out is, in regards to hidden, would be the – I don’t know where the funds were to satisfy the consumers.

“Q. Did you have access to the bank records of Mr. Zaczynski or NEP at the time you signed this affidavit, to know how much funds they had in the account?

“A. No, sir.

“Q. So you didn't know whether they did or didn't have the funds to satisfy the consumers?

“A. I didn't know what their account balances were.

“Q. Okay. So as of the date you signed this affidavit, you had no evidence whatsoever that Mr. Zaczynski had fraudulently disposed of, hidden, or withheld property to the satisfaction of the defendants' debts; correct?

“A. Yes.”
Perhaps in his next press conference in defense of the assertions he made to Mr. Wood – should it ever come to that, which is doubtful – Mr. Blumenthal will favor the rest of us with an explanation of what an honest and disinterested reader might well consider perjured testimony. Most importantly, Mr. Blumenthal knows full well that if he suspects an affidavit is insufficient, he has a legal obligation to withdraw it – not to defend it through a series of obfuscations and legal wrangling designed to cover up the bloody body he has left on the floor.