Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Consultant Campaign

Christine Stuart of CTNewsJunkie continues to turn out prose that is readable and pertinent.

In “Lamont’s Latest Ad: Risky Or Smart?” she lifts the covers on some Democratic gubernatorial supporters, which include some old Democratic political hands: Jonathan Pelto, now in the consulting business; Bill Curry, slowly working his way out of the closet as a Ned Lamont groupie; and Roy Occhiogrosso, attached to the Dan Malloy campaign as a consultant.

The boys are cutting the cards on a new Ned Lamont ad in which Ned claims the independent mantle and even – the man’s courage knows no bounds – appropriates for himself in the ad a signature adage that once belonged to ex-senator, governor and self described “turd in the Republican Party punch bowl” Lowell Weicker.

One of the pledges Ned is making to the people of Connecticut is – “I’m going to be no man but yours.”

Not to be overly subtle, the ad is titled “Independent.” It worked for Sen. Joe Lieberman.



Good ad? Bad ad? What?

Good, says Curry: “It’s a smart ad. He’s doing the insider, outsider thing with Malloy.”

Drawing upon his own political experience – what else? -- Curry termed Weicker's slogan one of the best in Connecticut history. “Do not overestimate party loyalty,” said Curry, “who lost the Democratic Party’s endorsement for governor in 1994, then won the nomination in a primary, with a similar independence theme,” Stuart notes.

It was, in fact, a politically opportune slogan for Weicker, since Democrats, then and now, far outnumbered Republicans in a state awash in Blue minded journalists. Chris Powell, one of the most “independent” newsmen in the business, then and now, was among the first to recognized that a post Watergate Weicker, while senator, had long been using his own party as a foil to curry (no pun intended) votes and favors from majority Democrats. When the Weicker-Democratic romance went a little too far, domesticated and abused Republicans revolted and put an end to their quarrelsome marriage. Democrats such as Chris Dodd – now about to exit the U.S. Senate before he turns into congressional dust – mourned the loss, but state Republicans were quite cheery about it.

The political calculus in Lamont’s case is a bit different. Unlike Weicker, Lamont is not a minority Republican but a Democratic insurgent, more independent of party politics than his primary opponent Dan Malloy. However, in order effectively to address a budget hole that has made even Weicker gag, Lamont will have to be more than independent: He will have to put himself in opposition to the spending machine that has created the largest per capita debt in the nation. And that will entail, at a minimum, a life and death struggle with unions, in Connecticut a third rail of politics that even “no man but yours” Weicker shrank from touching.

Powell, by the way, is convinced that none of the Democratic gubernatorial contenders are interested in cutting spending; certainly, party leaders in the legislature, notorious among them Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, once a union steward, are singularly uninterested in calling unions to heel. If Powell is right -- and he has been wrong far less often than Curry -- all the chatter among Democrats concerning responsible deficit reductions and permanent curbs on spending is not worth a bucket full of spit.

But the independent feint may profitably be used campaign fodder to beguile increasingly indigent taxpayers, many of whom, even establishment Democrats might agree, are in open rebellion against party power brokers.

The most amusing line on the new Lamont ad comes from Occhiogrosso, who makes no attempt to conceal his affection for Malloy: “Ned Lamont still apparently doesn’t know who he is. Now he’s trying to be Lowell Weicker. He’s fundamentally wrong in his belief the state should be run like a business. And no 60-second ad is going to change that.”

But of course!

Gubernatorial hopefuls such as Tom Foley, presently leading the Republican primary field, may think that the business of government is business, to quote President Cal Coolidge. But most Democrats in the state – quite unaware that Will Rogers was grinding his teeth when he said “The business of government is to keep government out of business, unless business needs government aid” – have long operated on the principle that the business of Democratic government is politics.

And they are very good at it.

Blumenthal’s Two Hats, Two Heads And Two Faces

Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy, clearly a partisan, has called upon Attorney General and Democratic Party nominee for the U.S. Senate Richard Blumenthal to surrender his position as attorney general, the sooner the better.

Healy makes the following points in a press release:

1) “It is clear that Dick Blumenthal wants the taxpayers to subsidize his campaign strategy, thereby hiding from reporters and voters with legitimate questions on his policy positions and record, while issuing press releases from his AG’s office to sue entities that suit politically. If you notice, many of these suits provide him with national and state media exposure.”

2) The attorney general’s office has become something of a shield, protecting the prospective U.S. Senator from exposure to media scrutiny: “A series of missteps, evasions of his record and bad publicity has caused Blumenthal to hunker down in his office, rarely appearing before microphones after nearly 20 years of being a ubiquitous media machine. Dick Blumenthal is now in a taxpayer financed secure location. If he wants to be the U.S. Senator for Connecticut, he should step out in the light and make his case, not pretend that his work is so important that the professional staff at his office couldn’t cover for him.”
3) The attorney general’s office has become highly politicized under the last two occupants of that office, first current U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman and, following him, prospective U.S. Senator Blumenthal. Therefore, Healy says, “It is fair to suggest that every time the Attorney General’s media machine kicks in from its perch, one should ask whether it’s for the betterment of Connecticut or Dick Blumenthal’s Senate campaign. Dick Blumenthal should leave no doubt about this conflict and either step down or respond to questions from voters – who pay his salary – and his opponents.”
The attorney general – or is it the prospective U.S. senator? -- recently came under fire from Connecticut’s Media on a few counts: He had lied several times concerning his service during the Vietnam war. That issue, driven by an out of state media, has been fairly ventilated. But the lashes Blumenthal had received by the national press had forced the attorney general – or is it the prospective U.S. senator? -- to take refuge from the slings and arrows hurled at him by absenting himself from media opportunities.

Once ubiquitous, writes award winning journalist Ken Dixon, Blumenthal has now disappeared into a hidey-hole: “Such is the new Dick Blumenthal. Formerly laughably ubiquitous and always available for a quote, he is now in the bunker officially. Having just called his attorney general office, where he supposedly works for the people paying his six-figure salary, the Blogster was told to await a news release. Beautiful. Such high stakes, such official reticence. Who’s the Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate? Some write-in candidate named Jeff Russell. Maybe he’d like to comment on the US Supreme Court decision today on the Chicago hand gun ban. Of course, it was Blumenthal, not Russell, who successfully argued the ban in state court and in the state Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the ban nearly 15 years ago.”

Now, the obvious question to put to prospective U.S. Senator Blumenthal is whether he would, as a U.S. senator, support the Chicago gun ban. The problem is that the head that answers the question sits on the shoulders of Attorney General Blumenthal, and it may not be convenient for the attorney general to answer the question. To what extent will assertions made by prospective U.S. Senator Blumenthal screw up, so to speak, his status as attorney general?

When former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez was about to be brought into court on charges that could carry a 50 year prison sentence, Attorney General Blumenthal was cordially invited to repudiate his old friend and political stalwart. He declined, grievously disappointing Courant columnist, blogger and Connecticut Public Broadcasting Newtwork talk show host Colin McEnroe, who wrote: “I think it's fair to ask Richard Blumenthal, who has announced his intention to use the fairly new pension and benefits law against Perez, why he saw fit to endorse Perez in 2007 when the basic facts of the renovations case against Perez were a matter of record? These facts haven't changed much at all from then until yesterday, when they were good enough to make six people return guilty verdicts. Why weren't they good enough to make Blumenthal withhold his endorsement?”

After Perez’s conviction, Blumenthal eagerly and quickly pointed out it was he who pressed upon the legislature the statute that now allows him to revoke Perez’s pension. Hours after the conviction, Attorney General Blumenthal was writing to Chief Stare’s Attorney Kevin Kane, “I intend, at the earliest possible time and in consultation with your office, to seek an order revoking his pension.”

The obvious question to put to prospective U.S. senator Blumenthal is this: As U.S. senator, would the present attorney general, who has vowed to give up his position after the general election in November, press his fellow senators in the U.S. congress to pass a similar federal law? The journalist who put that question to Attorney General Blumenthal is still awaiting an answer from prospective U.S. senator Blumenthal.

It has become very difficult to get honest answers from the elusive Blumenthal lately.

Is Blumenthal hiding from Connecticut’s media? You betcha. Are the two highly politicized positions he is juggling incompatible? You betcha.

Should Blumenthal resign his attorney general position while running for the U.S, senate?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Blumenthal Moves To Revoke Perez’s Pension

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has written to Kevin Kane to advise him that Connecticut’s “Pension Revocation Statute” requires him to notify the Chief State’s Attorney of the “possibility that any fine, restitution or any other monetary order of the criminal court” may be paid from the pension of Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez.

Blumenthal, according to the attorney general’s press spokesman, both proposed and pressed the legislature to adopt the statute under which pensions could be revoked.

“Mr. Perez’s conviction,” Blumenthal noted in his letter dated June 29,2010, “ reflects significant violations of public trust and misuse of office. Accordingly, I intend, at the earliest possible time and in consultation with your office, to seek an order revoking his pension.”

Mayor Perez resigned from office after he had been found guilty, according to a Hartford Courant report of “receiving a bribe, fabricating evidence, accessory to the fabrication of evidence, conspiracy to fabricate evidence, conspiracy to commit first-degree larceny by extortion and criminal attempt to commit first-degree larceny by extortion in the trial that began May 12. The only charge Perez was not convicted of is fabricating evidence.”

The mayor, who could receive a maxim sentence of up to 50 years, intends to appeal. He is due to be sentenced on Sept 10.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Don’t Tread On Dick

According to a report in the Hartford Courant, a group of “former Marines” -- actually, there is no such thing as a “former” Marine -- are attempting to tease Attorney General Dick Blumenthal, formerly called “Richard,” from his hidey-hole, where he has been hanging out since it had been revealed by a New York newspaper that Blumenthal had lied several times concerning his Marine service, or non-service, in Vietnam.

"’As a former Marine, and as the Attorney General,” the group declared, “he had an obligation to direct the Capitol Police to follow existing state policy. The existing state policy allows the Gadsden flag to fly,’’ attorney and activist Deborah G. Stevenson said in an email sent late Sunday. Stevenson is involved in the Connecticut Grassroots Alliance, a group affiliated with the Tea Party movement in the state.”

Capitol Police earlier disagreed and banned the flying of the Gadsden flag over the state Capitol. Apparently, the Capitol Police miss-identified the flag exclusively with Tea Party protestors and refused to allow it to be shown at the top of the Capitol where an assortment of other flags, a gay rights flag, among them, had freely flapped in the breeze while protestors and celebrants at the Capitol conducted their political business below.

The Capitol police first agreed to allow the flying of the flag but then rescinded their decision, following which State Rep. Michael Lawlor, co-chair of the judiciary committee, was reported to have said in a news account,“Generally speaking, most people would agree the top of the Capitol is not the place for partisan political flags.”

Benjamin Franklin, among other patriots, would disagree with Lawlor and the Capitol Police that the flag is identified exclusively with modern tea party patriots and constitutionalists exercising their First Amendment right of assembly at State Capitols all across the fruited plains.

The flag has a long and glorious history that precedes the attempt of Connecticut Tea Party Patriots to achieve parity with gay rights activists and members of the Communist Party USA.

Franklin, an early American humorist, in 1751 wrote a satire in the Pennsylvania Gazette in which he suggested that Americans should send rattlesnakes to Britain as a token of thanks for the British policy of sending convicted felons to America. The satire was accompanied by America’s first newspaper cartoon, designed by Franklin, showing a segmented rattle snake over the words “Join or die.”




The gadsden insignia, showing a rattlesnake joined with the legend “Don’t Tread on Me” appeared first on drums, noticed by An American Guesser,” supposed to be Frankin, who wrote in the Pennsylvania Journal in 1775:

"I observed on one of the drums belonging to the marines now raising, there was painted a Rattle-Snake, with this modest motto under it, 'Don't tread on me.' As I know it is the custom to have some device on the arms of every country, I supposed this may have been intended for the arms of America.”
Commenting on the rattlesnake, the Guesser went on to say that the rattlesnake, “found in no other quarter of the world but America,” having sharp eyes, “may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance.”

And sounding a note he had struck before, Franklin went on to observe:

"I confess I was wholly at a loss what to make of the rattles, 'till I went back and counted them and found them just thirteen, exactly the number of the Colonies united in America; and I recollected too that this was the only part of the Snake which increased in numbers. ...

“'Tis curious and amazing to observe how distinct and independent of each other the rattles of this animal are, and yet how firmly they are united together, so as never to be separated but by breaking them to pieces. One of those rattles singly, is incapable of producing sound, but the ringing of thirteen together, is sufficient to alarm the boldest man living."
This is the emblem that brashly declared on the Gadsen flag: “Don’t tread on Me.”



It was this flag the Capitol Police banned from the top of the state Capitol.

It would take but a minute for Blumenthal, himself a Marine, to emerge from his hidey-hole to join in solidarity with other Marines in protesting the slight to a well known Marine flag.

Long may she wave.

UPDATE

ON JUNE 29, BLUMENTHAL RELEASED THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT:

"I have no control or authority over flag-flying policies or practices of the legislature, which is a separate and distinct branch of government. Nor do I have authority to issue any formal opinions unless requested by specific state officials -- such as legislative leaders or executive state agency heads, according to state statute. My office has received no request from an authorized official to issue an opinion concerning the state policy for flying flags over the state capitol building. If my office receives a request from an authorized state official to issue a legal opinion on this policy, I will review it and respond appropriately."

It might be interesting were the Marines to request Mike Lawlor, or some other patriotic and conscientious legislator, to ask the attorney general for a formal opinion on the matter. The attorney general, a highly patriotic promoter of Marine causes, sounds from his press release as if he is chomping at the bit to set this matter right.

UPDATE  2

Blumenthal now has in hand his formal request:

Text of letter to Attorney General Blumenthal, from Sam's State Senate office:


Dear Attorney General Blumenthal:

I write to request that you issue a formal opinion on whether the decision made by the Capitol Police not to allow the Gadsden Flag to fly over the Capitol Building is consistent with the flag-flying policies currently in effect in the Legislature.

As I stated in my letter to Legislative Management on April 9, I believe that the Chief of Police’s original decision to permit the Connecticut Tea Party Patriots to fly the Gadsden Flag was correct under our rules, and I was disappointed when he rescinded his decision on the grounds that the flag raising was to be part of a political event. The Connecticut Tea Party Patriots are not alone in coming here to pursue their political agenda. Denying them the right to fly this particular flag, an historic military flag that can be flown over the State Capitol under our existing rules, because they are ‘practicing politics’ is wrong. “Practicing politics” is a fundamental constitutional right of all Americans.

I respectfully request that your ruling be made expeditiously, as there is a pending request to fly the Gadsden Flag over the Capitol on July 4th.

Thank you,

Sam S.F. Caligiuri

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Perez Falls Down: Blumenthal Falls Up

That racket on the stairs was the body of now former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez tumbling down. There seems to be little doubt that his demise as mayor was a form of suicide rather than manslaughter.

Perez’s appointed end had been visible to most political watchers soon after stories began to surface in the press concerning favors done by contractor Carlos Costa for Perez at a time when the memory of similar favors conferred upon former Governor John Rowland were still fresh in the mind of everyone but partisan Democratic politicians who had supported the Hartford mayor over the years.

Democratic politicians were a little slow on the uptake. After Perez’s verdict was read out by the jury – the Mayor is facing a possible 50 year sentence – one columnist noted that Attorney General Richard Blumenthal was somewhat laggard in this regard: “I think it's fair to ask Richard Blumenthal, who has announced his intention to use the fairly new pension and benefits law against Perez, why he saw fit to endorse Perez in 2007 when the basic facts of the renovations case against Perez were a matter of record? These facts haven't changed much at all from then until yesterday, when they were good enough to make six people return guilty verdicts. Why weren't they good enough to make Blumenthal withhold his endorsement?”

Of course, Blumenthal has not been out and about in the public arena since his numerous lies concerning his military service in Vietnam surfaced weeks ago, and so he is unlikely to face a firing squad of journalists any time soon.

And indeed, why should Blumenthal submit to the indignity of media questioning: He is 20 points ahead in the polls? The usual dog-eared political playbook recommends a low profile for prospective U.S. senators who are that far ahead of their competitors six months before an election. And it has been agreed by a majority of Connecticut reporters and commentators that the attorney general has over a period of more than 20 years accumulated enough wish-you-well points to survive even stolen valor charges, a fatal banana peel for politicians less happily situated than Blumenthal.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Gore Gores Masseuse

The masseuse who was manhandled by Earth Father Al Gore speaks at length about her ordeal.

"PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Portland Police Bureau has released an audio recording of the interview between a detective and the massage therapist who accused former Vice President Al Gore of groping her in 2006. The woman spoke with Detective Molly Daul in January 2009 - two years after she canceled three appointments to meet with investigators. During the interview, the massage therapist describes Gore as a "crazed sex poodle" as she details the moves he made during a late-night appointment at a downtown Portland hotel. Police declined to file charges against Gore, saying there was insufficient evidence."

Foley's Campaign Arrested By Reports Of Arrests

Tom Foley, the Republican Party nominee for governor, went to bed on Thursday thinking well of himself and woke up on Friday a near criminal. Two of his Republican primary opponents have called upon him in tones once used by James Cagney to “come clean” and release his arrest records.

According to a story written by Jon Lender, a superb digger and investigative reporter at the Hartford Courant, Foley was arrested 29 years ago for having bumped a car with his car. Foley was charged with first-degree attempted assault for having “rammed a vehicle, placing the occupants in fear of serious physical injury,” according to a July 2, 1981 story in the Southampton Press newspaper. The charges were later dropped.

The second arrest involved a dispute with his wife during what is described as a messy divorce. In politics, divorces are a dime a dozen, though not always messy. Senator and Governor Lowell Weicker, for instance, shed about half as many wives as Henry VIII, apparently without incident. U.S. Senators Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman were both divorced and re-married. Unlucky in divorce, if not in love – Foley and his second wife are expecting the birth of a child soon – the gubernatorial hopeful found himself, one day nearly three decades ago, remonstrating with his soon to be divorced wife over their son. Both were arrested. The charges later were dropped.

Unlike other Connecticut pols who spent a good amount of time in the slammer – Phil Giordano, the mayor of Waterbury who molested young girls in his office, or Joe Ganim, the mayor of Bridgeport, who was remunerated for political favors, or state senator Ernest Newton, convicted of receiving a bribe and using campaign contributions as a private piggy bank, or Governor John Rowland, who sold his office for a mess of pottage – Foley cooled his heels in jail for only one night while awaiting the arrival of a lawyer next day. Both his arrests were the result of personal rather than political misbehavior.

There are as yet two unanswered questions: 1) Should Foley release to the media his arrest records? He should, unless the release of the records will disturb other legal arrangements he has made with his former wife. Why bait the sharks if there is no harmful skeleton locked away in the records? And 2) Did the information received by Lender come from some other politician who has an interest in the gubernatorial race?

Lender offers a tantalizing tidbit concerning the provenance of the story. The records obtained by the Courant were not given to the paper by Foley’s ex-wife. They were included in a mass of documents assembled during the administration of former governor Rowland – and were ferried from the gubernatorial office by whom?

We may never know, even if Foley does arrange to release the arrest records, as has been suggested by nearly every contender for the gubernatorial slot, all of whom would stand to benefit from the release.

A few weeks ago, a damaging report published by the New York Times concerning Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s fraudulent claims of service in Vietnam were partially softened by reports in the media that some of the information had been shuttled to the Times by the Linda McMahon campaign. Apparently the provenance of information sometimes matters, at least when the reports tell against Democrats favored by Connecticut’s liberal media.

Those who stand to benefit immediately from the release of the records are present Lieutenant Governor Mike Fedele and Oz Griebel, both running for governor as Republicans. Waiting in the wings ready to pounce are Dan Malloy and Ned Lamont, Democrat gubernatorial hopefuls. Foley has characterized the Lender story as fair, well written and comprehensive. No other vital information, he insists, would be forthcoming from a release of the arrect reports. So far, Foley has told his political opponents to go take a hike, but the clamor for the release of the documents is still in its larval stage.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Mr. Green Breaks Open a Vein

On Friday, June 25, Courant columnist Rick Green shot his bolt at Republican nominee for attorney general Martha Dean. His column was entitled, “Martha Dean, A Candidate Who Shoots From The Hip.”

Mr. Green was responding to a speech Mrs. Dean had given to a group of people he doubtless would consider gun-nuts, the members of Connecticut Citizens Defense League.

The day was blustery, Mr. Green reports, but not quite as blustery as Mr. Green’s overheated rhetoric.

Mr. Green quotes “the heat-seeking Republican missile” – that would be the affable, eminently rational Mrs. Dean – to this effect: “’Our rights,’ the heat-seeking Republican missile told a Connecticut Citizens Defense League rally, ‘… were created by our creator.’

“Dean, now the party-endorsed candidate, marched on, promising she would ‘protect and affirm the individual right to bear arms.’’

Elsewhere in his column the metaphor toting Mr. Green refers to Mrs. Dean as “the blonde gunslinger,” promising to “saddle up” and “protect and affirm the individual right to bear arms.” In the manner of a man who feels slighted in the presence of an intelligent woman, Mr. Green thinks it necessary to dehumanize his subject, and so he refers to the “cyborg-like quality to Dean's tractor-beam blue eyes.”

We may pause here to note that it is not only blondes who in Mr. Green’s judgment sometime are given to hysterical and thoughtless comments; Mr. Green’s hair is brown, and his commentary, which contains more allusions per square inch than a poem by Ezra Pound, is a bit over the edge; but edgy commentary, as opposed to reflective commentary, these days appears to be a staple at the Hartford Courant.

Clearly, Mr. Green’s intemperate language, were he running for office, might have lost the votes of a) blonde women, who rightly resent the imputation that they are hysterical-dumb, and b) the esteemed members of the U.S. Supreme Court, who decided in a recent decision that the second amendment did not confer a right to bear arm on state militias but rather on individual less hysterical than Mr. Green who own firearms, some of whom may belong to groups like the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, who on that blustery day were applauding Mrs. Dean’s understanding of the founders understanding of the U.S. Constitution.

After all, the shot heard round the world was fired in defense of old English rights later subsumed in the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution. And that shot did not come out of the barrel of a ball point pen. It was fired by men who thought they had a right to bear arms in defense of their God-given liberties, a point touched upon by the affable Mrs. Dean in her remarks, and misconstrued by Mr. Green, one hopes not purposely.

The people who wrote the Constitution, even the Deists among them, were natural law philosophers; and natural rights come from nature’s God, which is why they are inprescriptable. What God hath given, no man may proscribe.

Mrs. Dean hinted strongly at that notion on the blustery day of her speech before the Connecticut Citizens Defense League. She touched upon it more fully in her announcement for attorney general, which is available to Mr. Green and other commentators on the internet.

Perhaps the wind blew the subtler of Mrs. Dean’s remarks out of Mr. Green’s hearing. Or perhaps he was not present on that blustery day. It is possible Mr. Green picked up Mrs. Dean’s remarks from some video clip, the better to edit out the overarching references that give body to her thoughts. It is possible he picked up the thoughtless prejudices displayed so shamelessly in his column from others of his like-minded comrades at the Courant. One likes to be sociable; one likes to be liked, a natural law, probably God-given for those who believe in God, not mentioned in the first Ten Amendments to the Constitution.

The right to bear arms -- celebrated by Mrs. Dean on that blustery, windswept day cited in Mr. Greens blustery, overwrought, metaphorically impacted column -- IS mentioned in the second amendment.

The harem-scarem false notions surrounding that amendment and the natural rights protected by it – such as the right to self defense -- might possibly be routed by either a course in constitutional interpretation, a course in the founding father’s interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, or a course in right reasoning. Mr. Green would benefit from all three. Mrs. Dean apparently has already taken the courses.

Mr. Green is not the most accomplished logic chopper on the block. For instance, he quotes the “heat seeking Republican missile,” the affable Mrs. Dean: “I will oppose all efforts to create nonsensical distinctions — that are nowhere supported by our constitutions — between different types of firearms." And then Mr. Green, skipping lightly over the word “nonsensical” supplies the following gloss: “That would be, say, machine guns.”

Why not howitzers?

Actually, no. Prohibiting machine guns very well could be a “sensible” rather than a nonsensical distinction. And prohibiting metaphorical machine guns from falling into the hands of Mr. Green might be useful, provided no one argues that the constitution warrants it.

Mrs. Dean’s proposal that as attorney general she would advocate “firearms training for boys and girls in school, in scouts, at camp and elsewhere” is for Mr. Green the “coup de’grace,” a species of “atavistic rhetoric” that should have nothing to do “with becoming attorney general in politically moderate New England.”

Mr. Green, rather than making wild suppositions, should have sought some clarity on the point from Mrs. Dean. There are phones, one presumes, at the Courant. Presumably, Mrs. Dean would not, as attorney general, force school systems to teach gun safety to students precisely in the way that present Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, now running as a Democrat for the U.S. congress, did attempt by a suit to force fruit loops makers from beguiling small children to consume sugary cereal. Presumably, Mrs. Dean would be an advocate for the Second Amendment in the way that Mr. Green is an advocate for the First Amendment, or at least that portion of it that gives him the right to heap ridicule on Republican nominees for attorney general.

The question whether children – especially children in Hartford and other Connecticut cities long regarded as a shooting galleries – should be given the opportunity to be taught about responsible gun use has now been put on the table. Presumably, such a course would include, in vivid detail, what may await children and others who do not use guns legally and responsibly. The pros and cons of that proposal merit sober discussion, not the sort of claptrap employed by partisans to defame their opponents. Perhaps someone could arrange for a civil debate between Mrs. Dean, Mr. Green and/or other contestants for the position of attorney general on the following resolution – Resolved: Gun safety programs in schools would make cities safer.

I’d be perfectly willing to offer myself as a moderator of such a debate, on the sole condition that Mr. Green agrees before the debate commences that the Second Amendment, which gives individuals the right to bear arms -- even here in moderate Connecticut – does not compel them to shoot each other at debates.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

McMahon And Blumenthal

Linda McMahon, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, presents a problem for her opponents, both those within the Blumenthal campaign and their sympathizers in the media.

It is very difficult, for various reasons, for them to plot an effective campaign of attack. Politically, McMahon has no past. She is a tabula rossa, unlike Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who has a record in office, a highly flattering account written mostly by himself, with the help and concurrence of much of Connecticut’s media. Lately, Blumenthal has taken some wacks concerning his fictitious and highly romanticized record of service in the Marine Corp. Many of the people writing about Blumenthal more or less concede that the attorney general will weather a storm that has caused other politicians to loose their positions. There is little security in stealing the valor of heroic Marines. But according to the prevailing calculus, Blumenthal has, over a period of 20 years, accumulated favors enough to overcome such demerits.

When Richard Hine, who had worked in the attorney general’s office for more than 23 years, publicly accused the attorney general of having lied about his service in the Marines, it was hinted that Hine was an ingrate. Hine’s letter begins by commending Blumenthal for having offered to help him and his daughter during a period of great difficulty. Soon to be divorced and facing the prospect of being shipped off to the Persian Gulf, Blumenthal had generously offered his private phone number to Hine’s daughter should she need advise or consolation. At almost the same time, Blumenthal told the USMC Judge Advocate that he would not have as difficult a time as the attorney general -- who had served in Vietnam. Hine knew this to be untrue. He kept silent about the matter from a sense of obligation. But when Blumenthal finely was caught by the New York Times in what Hine knew to be a lie, competing obligations came to the fore, and he tried to release to the press a letter in which he apologized for the attorney general on the part of marines whose valor Blumenthal had stolen. Hine recalled that the attorney general had made the false claim at various venues on about five different occasions.

Hine’s charge, by this time, simply confirmed other reports that Blumenthal had padded his service record. Three or four commentators, some of whom had in the past warmed up to the attorney general journalistically and were not given to exploring the psychology involved in Blumenthal’s several “misspeakings,” both defended the attorney general, whose account by then had been thoroughly discredited, while attacking the Times and Hine. The Hine narrative, one journalist commented, seemed strange, very odd. Why had Hine not maintained the stoic silence he had preserved for 20 years? Why speak out now? A report that Hine had been written up by Blumenthal’s office years earlier suggested a possible motive: A disgruntled employee saw Connecticut’s Achilles hobbling about with an arrow piercing his heel and thought – strike now!

Hine said he had just gotten fed up with Blumenthal’s artful lies. The time had come to pull the burr from beneath his saddle: Enough was enough! And Hine pointed out that he had been promoted after his write-up, disarming suggested motives of vengeance.

Blumenthal has yet to deny Hine’s narrative.

Most of the arrows aimed at McMahon thus far relate to her activity as a former CEO of World Wide Entertainment.

Wrestling is not everyone’s cup of tea, and some of the narratives constructed by McMahon’s husband and daughter would make a saint blush. Besides, the visuals – men built like monster-trucks stomping other men; hints of betrayal and skullduggery within the McMahon clan; intimations of sadomasochism and worse -- though certainly not as distasteful as Madonna videos, were perfect as campaign slings and arrows. That old campaigner and destructor-elect Lenin use to say that if you could discredit an argument, or by extension a political opponent, it was not necessary to dispute it. And here was putative proof at hand -- UTube clips no less -- showing that McMahon was not, as was her worthy opponent, a saint George, lance in hand, rushing upon greedy capitalistic dragons and running them through. A public gooder only in the sense that she had provided employment for the valiant soldiers of WWE and other collateral enterprises, surely refined Republicans in this bluest of blue state would not choose McMahon as their nominee to the U.S. Senate?

They would, and did.

Following the Republican nominating convention, the leftward leaning media was grievously distressed.

McManon’s latest ad – She has lots of money to sink into ads – opens with a scene showing a caped monster-truck man about to descend on a prostrate victim, followed by McMahon’s dulcet voice, a hint in it of a mint-juliped Old South, saying she had a regular job as CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment before she entered politics: “Okay, maybe not a regular job… a soap opera that entertains millions each year. That isn’t real, but our problems are…”

La, la,la…The lady is not going to get pushed over by larval Leninists hoping to discredit her by means no more real than WWE ads, themselves unreal.

So far, McMahon’s in the running, still brushing up against the commoners, some of whom watch wrestling, while St. George appears to be hiding under his bed, not a proper posture for a prospective U.S. Senator.

Real Valor

Looking at the flag around the 4th of July, beer can in hand, we sometimes forget that the red in the flag is a sign of blood. The flag, incidentally, is not, as is commonly thought, a symbol. It is a sign – which is to say it IS the thing it signifies. One stops for a stop sign; one need not stop for a stop symbol. Those who know what the flag signifies will place their hand over their hearts when it passes by in a parade, a sign of affection and respect we do not extend to symbols. Those who have shed blood for the country will understand the difference. It was a sign to the joyful and generally peaceful heart of America when the flag was unfurled at Iwo Jima. The sign signified an impending victory, followed by a long and lasting peace.

Tech Sgt. Matthew Slaydon has more than a notional understanding of the flag’s color scheme.

"The blast blew off my left arm, crushed my face in, destroyed my left eye completely -- left eye is a prosthetic -- and blinded my right eye. I honestly wished I had died for a very long time," Slaydon said.

During his long convalesence in various hospitals, where he was recovering from injuries suffered from an IED that had exploded a foot from his face, Sgt. Slaydon drifted in and out of consciousness, but he remembers his “steely eyed wife” telling him of the extent of his injuries. Annette had been told by a nurse that she could not give into her grief in her husband’s presence; she would have to be “steely eyed.” And she played the part with great courage, abandoning herself to grief only when she was alone.

Slowly, Sgt. Slaydon came to understand that he would have to live with his injuries. The quotes below were pulled from the U.S. Department of Defense site, “Wounded Warriors Diary”:

“I woke up three and a half weeks after my incident. I was unconscious through, I think, the traumatic brain injury, and also by being on very heavy pain killers. The hardest was, I think, when I woke up. The first thing I remember was Annette’s voice, and she was asking me if I wanted to know what my injuries were. And, as you can image, it took me a little while to really understand what was happening. And I feel for Annette because, as it turns out in hindsight, she actually had to tell me what my injuries were multiple times, because I would forget, due to the traumatic injuries, the TBI. I remember her telling me that my left arm had been traumatically amputated – and I knew what that meant, I knew what that meant – and that my left eye had been removed, and they were trying to save the vision in my right eye. And that’s when I started to figure out that I couldn’t see; that I’m like okay, it’s not dark; I don’t, I mean, I have bandages on my eyes, but that’s not why I can’t see anything. I can’t see anything because I’m blind. And that’s when reality slowly started – I mean, a little bit of it was crashing, but then I’d wake up, and I wouldn’t understand, or they’d give me a heavy dose of sedatives and, you know, it would take me a little while to figure out where I was again. So that was the hardest part, I think, was the initial awakening. My wife, Annette, took the bull by the horns when it came to my medical care. And anything they would let her do, she did. And, you know, you can imagine, I was just physically and emotionally and mentally, just wrecked – devastated. And I knew I was going to be safe, though, when I felt her hands on me.”

Sgt. Slaydon and his wife were remarried on April 13, 2008, a date, Annette says, that now marks their real wedding anniversary:

“We are celebrating the beginning of a new life together. And it’s certainly not the life we thought we were going to have, I can tell you that. But what we have realized is that we’re still going to have a fantastic life together, and we’re both dedicated to making sure that happens. It’s just going to be different than what we thought it was going to be… When Senator [John] McCain was giving his speech at the Republican convention, he said something that really hit very close to my heart, and I hope he will forgive me if I borrow a phrase from him. But he said he had been ‘blessed by misfortune.’ And I felt like he was talking to me when he said that – because though I would give everything for my husband to have his vision back, so that he can continue his career, we have been blessed by the love and caring of so many people. It’s been a positive experience, and we’ve both grown a great deal. We have made life long friends… When we renewed out wedding vows, he said something – I’m sorry, I’m going to cry – but he told me that it was all worth it, what he’s gone through, for us to have this love and everything at that moment; he felt it was all worth it.”

With some assistance from a Connecticut company, the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, Sgt. Slaydon, an Arizona resident, will be able to return to school and get his doctorate in psychology.

A few days ago, Robbie Kaman, co-founder of Fidelco with her husband Charlie Kaman, died after a painful illness. She was a hands-on owner, as anyone blessed with of a Fidelco guide dog can testify. It seems somehow appropriate that Kaman is defense related.

As the Fourth of July approaches – a day, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail, that “ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other..." – we should be mindful of the true valor of soldiers, and in our joyous illuminations we should see tokens of the love poured out for them by their families and others, such as Robbie Kaman, whose touch heals the deepest wounds.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Weicker’s Clanking Balls

Polls consistently show the media is in disfavor with most Americans. In fact, if the tribunes of the people were to appear in a modern revised Roman Coliseum replete with lions, tigers and bears, most of them would not survive the thumbs down of the attending crowd. The same may be said for the representatives of the people, viewed by many as accomplished smooth talking liars and sycophants.The approval poll of the average congressman is a little bit above that of Satan, and the media is little more than a rung higher.

Last week, an aging Lowell Weicker appeared before the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, a lobbying group of town officials gently referred to by their prickly natural enemies as the Conference of Crying Mayors, there to deliver his verdict on state government.

Weicker did not disappoint. He said what the group expected him to say and was rewarded by several standing ovations: Politicians were cowards and spendthrifts; the state budget was a mess; Jodi Rell, Connecticut’s much beloved governor, failed to put up a stiff resistance to a veto-proof Democratic majority in the legislature; spending was out of control.

No, said the father of Connecticut’s income tax, he would not support tax increases. Given the state’s parlous condition, a tax boost at this point – Weicker was careful not to say – would be like pouring gasoline on a fire. And yes, he would shift school payments from municipalities to the state, a proposal that garnered sustained applause among cash poor municipal leaders.

It is instructive to ask why the fervent approval?

Whenever Weicker presents a platform for reform, one always wants to look for the trap door. As a matter of fact and record, the municipal referendum has been the single most effective restraint on spending since Weicker poured gas on Connecticut’s economy in the early 90’s through the institution of an income tax.

The so called “cap” on spending -- included in Weicker’s income tax proposal to make the idea palatable to wavering, pragmatic Republicans and Democrats – never capped spending. The same folk who voted for the income tax purposely neglected to pass enabling legislation for the now pointless cap. A state budget referendum permitting voters to reject budgets that were in the opinion of tax suppliers excessive would, on the other hand, be effective in tamping down spending. But such a proposal would never have aroused applause among the Conference Of Crying Mayors, a lobbying group that, like others rooting in the public trough, dearly would like the guy behind the tree to pay for increased taxes.

Since there is no state budget referendum, shifting payments for education from municipalities to the state – which, under Weicker’s proposal, would assume 100% of the spiraling cost of education – is simply an effective means of evading municipal referendums, the most effective restraint on spending,

Big trap door.

Weicker’s appearance was preceded by encomiums in the media. One commentator said the former governor’s “balls clanked when he walked” – presumably a good thing -- and it was generally agreed by the Connecticut’s overwhelmingly liberal media that someone like Weicker would be necessary to right the ship of state.

Ned Lamont, a Greenwich millionaire running this year for governor as a Democrat, immediately applied for the position. Lamont’s prior association with Weicker is a matter of record: The two conspired to make a primary grab for U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman’s seat, knocking the reliably Democratic Lieberman into a successful independent run for senator. Lieberman, it will be recalled, was the guy who deprived Weicker of a lifetime sinecure in the senate, and Weicker, predictably does not consider Lieberman a “real” independent like his truly. Oz Griebel, running in a Republican primary for governor, quickly characterized himself as a cross between Weicker and Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, a union crown of thorns who almost certainly would have earned Weicker’s contempt back in the day when Weicker was senator and dependant, as are all the members of Connecticut’s present Democratic U.S. delegation, upon union support for re-election to office.

Democrats over in Manchester meanwhile, having seen the future, are valiantly attempting to make it work. Manchester’s wide awake Board of Directors, operating under the Damoclean sword of a town referendum and certain they cannot rely on a indigent state government for succor, have managed to extract a series of concession from unions, which include unpaid furlough days and delayed raises.

Foreshadowing a potential paralysis of will, the Connecticut Education Association, 40,000 strong, has announced its political support for Lamont, who recently boasted on the hustings that he, like Weicker, is “no man but yours” – a sentiment likely to be interpreted by the CEA as “no man but ours.”

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mother Teresa Impaled By Empire State: Can Blumie Help?

A little pillow talk between Attorney General and prospective U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and his lovely wife Cynthia might help.

Some Catholics, among them the prickly head of the Catholic League, Bill Donohue, are hoping that a decision made by those who control the iconic Empire State Building is not written in proverbial stone.

A rally, Donohue reports in his widely read newsletter Catalyst, is in process. On day 29 of the protest campaign in behalf of Mother Teresa, Donohue dashed off a letter to every Latino lay Catholic group in the New York Tri-State area.

“Today I am writing to every Latino lay Catholic group in the New York Tri-State area informing them of our protest demonstration on August 26 outside the Empire State Building on 34th Street and 5th Avenue.

“The rally is being held to protest the decision by Anthony Malkin, the owner of the storied building, to deny a tribute to Mother Teresa: our request to have the towers shine blue and white, the colors of her congregation, on August 26th, the 100th anniversary of her birthday, was originally denied without explanation, and was later denied on appeal by invoking a "policy" that prohibits honoring religious individuals or institutions. If this were in fact true, then (a) they would have said so from the beginning (instead they told me the application looked fine), and (b) they would not have honored Cardinal O'Connor when he died; Pope John Paul II when he died; the Salvation Army; and Rev. Martin Luther King.

“Yet the same persons who chose to stiff Mother Teresa decided to honor the Chinese Communist revolution last year, even though 77 million innocent men, women and children were murdered under Mao Zedong. By contrast, the U.S. Postal Service is honoring Mother Teresa with a commemorative stamp.

“Everyone is being asked to pass the word about our demonstration and to join us on August 26. They are also being asked to write to Anthony Malkin. His address is Malkin Properties, One Grand Central Place 60, E. 42nd St., NY, NY 10165”

Donohue has already sent a similar mailing to German Catholics in the Tri-town area. That area presumably includes lower Connecticut, which long ago suceeded, politically and culturally, from the rest of the state. The people in the Gold Coast, save for Blumenthal and other interested politicos, spend much of their time in a sort of cultural-political bubble that serves as a prophylactic, preventing them from fully participating in the political life of our pleasant though bankrupted state.

A news report in the indispensable CTMirror advises that much of Blumenthal’s vast wealth – more abundant than Peter Schiff’s but considerably less than Linda McMahon’s  – derives from “Cynthia Blumenthal's holdings; the assets held by him individually or jointly with his wife totaled less than $2 million. The daughter of Peter Malkin, a New York real estate magnate who heads an investment group that owns the Empire State Building and other properties, Cynthia Blumenthal's personal assets were worth at least $55 million and as much as $107 million in 2009.”

Money talks, and surely Anthony and Cynthia are on speaking terms.

After midnight, a bedroom in Greenwich at the beginning of a long, hot summer

Attorney General And Prospective U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (AGAPUSSRB): Cynthia, I can’t sleep.

Cynthia: What now?

AGAPUSSRB: Maybe you can have a word with him.

Cynthia: We’ve been through this.

AGAPUSSRB: But I can’t sleep. It would take no more than a whisper in his ear. Really, to deny a prospective saint an honor that has been conferred upon a communist mass murderer – listen to this: “Yet the same persons who chose to stiff Mother Teresa decided to honor the Chinese Communist revolution last year, even though 77 million innocent men, women and children were murdered under Mao Zedong. By contrast, the U.S. Postal Service is honoring Mother Teresa with a commemorative stamp” – it’s not politically useful.

Cynthia: The family doesn't follow politics, Dick.

AGAPUSSRB: But Cynthia, it’s right there (points to a spot just before him) I have it nearly in my grasp, and really, Cynthia, REALLY, I can taste the sweet air of congress on my tongue, and REALLY – this is not helpful. She’s almost a saint! And REALLY, it’s just a bunch of lights! What about that mediator who settled the tousle between your dad and Queen of Mean Leona Helmsley over ownership of the building? What’s his phone number? Surely, negotiation with Donohue is possible.

Some sweet pillow talk like this might do much to defang Catalyst, not to speak of the Germans, the Latinos and other catholic-Catholics in Connecticut pondering whether to vote for Blumenthal.

UPDATE

According to a recent story in the Greenwich Times: “Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal is siding with thousands of Catholics protesting the apparent snub of Mother Teresa by the Empire State Building, which is owned by his father-in-law, Peter Malkin.”

Friday, June 18, 2010

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall -- Weicker Is The Fairest Of Them All

In honor of former Senator and Governor Lowell Weicker’s recent surfacing at the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities gathering in Cromwell, there to give an address on the state's faltering economy, Connecticut Commentary is reprinting Chris Powell’s review of Weicker’s autobiography,“Maverick," the best single snapshot of the man in full.


Weicker, it is said, received numerous standing ovations from an organization called by its critics The Connecticut Conference Of Crying Mayors.


Powell’s applause was more circumspect.

MISTER BLUSTER SAVES THE WORLD

Weicker's Memoir Is Breathtaking for Self-Contradiction and Omission

By CHRIS POWELL

Legend has it that the ancient Athenian statesman Aristides was stopped in the street by an uneducated man who didn't recognize him and who asked for help in writing Aristides' own name on a ballot in an election to decide who among the nation's leaders would be banished. The man is said to have explained that he didn't know Aristides at all but was simply sick and tired of hearing him called "the Just."

It may be impossible to get far into Lowell P. Weicker Jr.'s autobiography, "Maverick: A Life in Politics" (Little, Brown, & Co., $22.95), without understanding exactly how that disgruntled voter felt.

According to the legend, Aristides silently completed the man's ballot for him and was duly voted into exile, which is sort of where Weicker, Connecticut's former U.S. senator and governor, now finds himself politically. Unfortunately, while Weicker was at the center of great events both in Washington and in
Connecticut and has had the ghostwriting services of Barry Sussman of The Washington Post, this memoir is almost entirely without reflection even as it is often laughably and unintentionally ironic. Indeed, if there’s even one insight in "Maverick," it is lost under an avalanche of chest-thumping, self-congratulation, self-righteousness, and breathtaking self-contradiction and omission.

The self-contradiction begins right away, in Weicker's introduction, where he denies the grievance of many Republicans, to whose party he belonged throughout most of his political career, that he lurched to the left after he was elected to the Senate in 1970 with less than half the vote in a three-way race. He insists that it is the Republicans themselves who have moved so far to the right" since then.

But only a few paragraphs later Weicker acknowledges having been a Goldwater supporter who, during his single term in the U.S. House of Representatives,  endorsed a school prayer amendment to the Constitution and the impeachment of Justice William O. Douglas. In this paragraph Weicker writes that he "matured and changed," having just denied changing at all. And that is the extent of his explanation of his remarkable political metamorphosis. He doesn't deign to address the old suspicion that he mainly adapted himself to suit Connecticut's traditional Democratic leanings.

To explain his narrow loss to Democrat Joseph Lieberman in his bid for re-election to the Senate in 988, Weicker writes, "I had remained the same persistent figure, fighting with the Jesse Helmses of this world...." A few pages later he discloses not only that he, the great maverick, actually believed fervently in the Senate's seniority system but also that, in this belief, he supported the very same repugnant but duly senior Helms against the tolerable but junior Richard Lugar for chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"By 1988 Connecticut citizens were tiring of a senator who kept focusing on annoying issues like discrimination, separation of church and state, health care, and AIDS," Weicker writes, never mentioning the possibility that Connecticut also might have tired of a senator who was missing dozens of Senate votes to go out collecting a fortune in "speaking fees" from special interests on whose legislation he simultaneously was voting -- the issue that actually cost him the election. Nor does he explain how, if benighted Connecticut really was so indifferent to those annoying issues of his, it nevertheless elected him governor as an independent two years later.

FIRST CIVILITY, THEN NAME CALLING

Weicker laments the loss of civility in public life and complains that his political opponents over the years have been hateful and vicious. Having disposed of civility, a few pages later he calls them names like "slimeball," "chameleon," "ass," and "moralizing nuts."

He can relate a trivial anecdote about playing in a tennis match for charity with Vice President Spiro Agnew but recalls nothing about the speech Agnew gave soon after, in the last weeks of the 1970 Senate campaign, calling Weicker's Democratic opponent a communist -- a damaging attack whose immense political
profit was gratefully accepted by the fearless crusader for fair play.

Weicker calls former state Sen. Richard Bozzuto's endorsement of Lieberman in 1988 "a stunning act of disloyalty to the Republican Party." But Weicker neglects to mention his own frequent and stunning endorsement-like remarks from the Republican side in support of Connecticut Democrats in the thick of
campaigns over the years. How someone who was elevated by Connecticut's Republican Party and was never denied anything he sought from it and still sabotaged its candidates and then left it to deprive it of the governorship in 1990 can fault others for disloyalty is ... well, vintage Weicker. As he did in politics, in this book he simply waives all standards for himself, sometimes only moments after he articulates them for everyone else.

He praises his broadmindedness for having induced the party in Connecticut to open its primary elections to unaffiliated voters. But he fails to address the complaint that his underlying purpose was only to prevent Republicans even from having a party of their own in which they someday might have a primary Weicker himself might not win.

"DIALOGUE" OR BAITING THE CROWD?

Even advocates of progressive taxation may gag at Weicker's account of his imposition of the income tax on Connecticut soon after his inauguration as governor n 1991.

Weicker writes that he said during his campaign for governor that he "wouldn't rule out an income tax." ut in fact he did rule it out -- in general with his famous television commercial likening the tax to "pouring gasoline on a fire," a commercial responding directly to his Republican opponent's charge that Weicker did support an income ax; and specifically, in writing, with a pledge to oppose an income tax at least through his first year in office.

He writes that he waded into the crowd at the mass ally at the state Capitol protesting the tax because I wanted to keep up the dialogue." A few lines later he remarks that the insults hurled at him there were the kind of inanities you expect in that situation." So might he really not have sought "dialogue" at all
but rather an opportunity to taunt the protesters into discrediting their cause and to get himself on TV looking like a brave martyr to a mob?

This self-contradiction suggests as much, and sure enough, in the Weicker pattern, it is followed by an equivalent hypocrisy, when he condemns White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman for having done the same sort of thing, for having welcomed the chance that protesters would turn violent and obscene at a
campaign rally for Richard Nixon.

Weicker writes that he refused to give state legislators jobs in the executive branch in exchange for their votes for the income tax. But in fact a good number who voted for the tax did end up with such
jobs.

He writes that his income tax saved Connecticut. He doesn't mention the tax's cynical "Greenwich" nature, its replacement of capital gains and dividend taxes on his wealthy friends and neighbors with taxes on the ordinary earnings of the middle class. Nor does he mention that, whatever the cause, Connecticut remains severely depressed economically and has lost population every year since the income tax was passed, the only state in such a long downward trend.

WHO MANIPULATED WHOM?

Weicker denounces the manipulation and self-perpetuation of the two-party system and cites an example of it: the attempt of Democratic and Republican legislators who opposed the income tax to build support for their alternative tax proposals by promising not to nominate candidates against each
other in the next election. But then he boasts that he ot votes for the income tax by promising his third party's cross-endorsement to the same legislators, who, with that endorsement, survived to perpetuate the very system he just denounced.

He describes as his great personal victory the 1992 state legislative election, which returned to power the Democratic majority of the income-tax session, without mentioning the possible influence of the Democratic presidential landslide at the top of the ticket. He does not explain why he did not dare to seek re-election himself two years later.

To hear Weicker tell it, he didn't just end up on the right side of the Watergate drama but rather was its central figure. (Putting Nixon rather than Weicker himself on that postage stamp apparently should be considered doubly unjust.) Weicker didn't just work to clean up the oceans and integrate the disabled and
retarded into society and so forth. No, Mister Bluster single-handedly saved the world -- and in a mere 224 pages.

HE'S AGAINST THE WAR ... NOW

As he has been doing in speaking engagements for a few years now, Weicker blithely rewrites history here, portraying himself as the anti-Vietnam War candidate when, in both 1968 and 1970, his two congressional
elections during the war, he was entirely Nixon's candidate and supported Nixon administration war policy. He may be escaping exposure in this because most of those who supported the war don't want to have to account for it now and because most of those who opposed the war give him a free pass for having come over to their side on big issues since then.

Amid all these self-contradictions and omissions he writes that his "first truly hypocritical act in politics" was only to eulogize Malcolm Baldrige at the dedication of a research ship named for the late commerce secretary. According to Weicker, Baldrige's unforgivable sin was that he had tried to carry out the cuts proposed by his president, Ronald Reagan, in the budget for oceanic research. (Of course if Baldrige had resisted carrying out the will of his boss, Weicker now might be sneering at him as well as at Bozzuto for "a stunning act of disloyalty to the Republican Party.")

While his once having spoken a little too well of the dead is the most Weicker can fault himself for in "a life in politics," it was not policy or ideological disagreement but his making a whole career of flaming hypocrisy that created such apoplectic animosity toward him among certain political people in Connecticut. Indeed, here and there in this book he actually makes good if all-too-brief arguments for particular policies, like means-testing entitlements and relaxing the U.S. embargo against Castro's Cuba. But these are overwhelmed by the blustering pose that he has been so much better than all other politicians in methods, tactics, principle, and personal virtue.

NOT REALLY CANDID AT ALL

In fact Weicker regularly lowered himself with the worst of them. Maybe that is why there is no mention in this book either of his too-cozy relationship with the contrivance that calls itself the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, to which, by gubernatorial fiat, he rented a monopoly on casino gambling in Connecticut
and from which he received, seemingly in return, a $2 million contribution to a charity he chaired and controlled, the Special Olympics --which promptly provided many of his political cronies with cushy jobs and a comfortable place to land as his administration was coming to an end.

If Weicker's predecessor from the Democratic old guard, William A. O'Neill, had taken personal advantage of his office like that, Connecticut's largest newspaper, The Hartford Courant, would have led the state's press in demanding impeachment on grounds of corruption. But since their darling of political correctness did it, The Courant and most other Connecticut newspapers never even reported the connections.

Weicker has cultivated a reputation for candor, and the publicity for this book tries to perpetuate it. He has taken many forthright positions over the years and no one would accuse him of timidity, but, as this book inadvertently suggests, he may have been the least candid politician of his era in Connecticut, the
distinction between candor and mere bluster having been lost.

Weicker notes that he has been married three times and acknowledges shortchanging his family during his 30 years in politics. As he took this book on the road to receptions at bookstores last month, he said his family was the most important thing in his life now. A few days later came the announcement of his exploratory committee for an independent presidential campaign.

"Maverick" may be less an autobiography than a hasty and self-serving text for that campaign, establishing that its author isn't always wrong, just insufferable.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.

Blumenthal The Artful Dodger

Jack Schaeffer of Slate , generally not a scorpion's nest of Republican firebrands, reports on Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s early 70’s connections:

“The resourceful Blumenthal was nothing if not connected: When his student deferment clocked out, he got his draft board to give him a 2-A "occupational deferment" for his work as a special aide to Washington Post Publisher Katharine Graham, whom he met through her son Donald, a classmate at Harvard. The 2-A deferment was for jobs essential to the "national health, safety, and interest." (For the record, Donald Graham joined the Army and served in Vietnam, not that you'll ever hear him brag about it.)

“In 2008, Jack Shafer pondered Joe Biden's told grandiose lies. In 2004, Timothy Noah reported Dick Cheney's last ditch effort to duck the draft. Blumenthal's next stop was Richard Nixon's White House, where he secured yet another occupational deferment in 1970. But then Nixon began to replace the deferment hodge-podge with a draft lottery that would conscript young men no matter how noble their work or their student status. Blumenthal, who drew a very low number in the first lottery—virtually guaranteeing that he'd be drafted—made a desperate move while the clock was still running on his occupational deferment: He weaseled his way into the Marine Reserves, a branch that he correctly deduced would not be sent to Vietnam.”

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Backing Into The Porcupine: The Times Examines Blumenthal Deferments


In mid-June Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, the nominee of the Democratic Party for the U.S. Senate, popped out of his bunker long enough to give a brief interview to Mark Pazniokas. Formerly a state politics writer for the Hartford Courant who lost his job in a downsizing, Pazniokas, a veteran reporter of 25 years, now writes for the Connecticut Mirror (CTMirror).

Pazniokas sought to tease from Blumenthal a rough accounting of the number of times Blumenthal “misspoke” concerning his service in Vietnam.

Whether it was five, six or seven, Blumenthal remonstrated, “It was very limited… But whatever the number, I regret the mistakes. I'm sorry for them. I take full responsibility. I have been asked and I have answered questions about my service."

Blumenthal strongly suggested in the interview that he had exposed himself to a draft by joining the Marine Reserves: "I could have stayed in the White House and continued the deferment," Blumenthal said. "I did not want to avoid service. I did realize reservists could be called up, and that it was something I wanted to do."

When Pazniokas pressed lightly on the issue, Blumenthal appeared to wince and retreated to a stratagem familiar to most seasoned politicians. Pazniokas asked what had induced Blumenthal to join the reserves:

“’You know, I think I've said all I'm going to say about it. What was the impetus for it? It was a decision that I made. I'm not sure there was an impetus in the sense of, you know, an event or an external happening. I had to decide whether to stay at the White House and continue my deferment or leave the White House. And for various reasons I wanted to leave the White House, and I knew that I wanted to move on with my life.’

“He would not be pressed.

"’Well, I've answered these questions I've been asked,’ he said. ‘I've answered them. And frankly, I don't mean any disrespect to you, and I accept what you are doing, but that's about all I'm going to say about this episode.’"
Comes now Act II: “Blumenthal Comments Stir New Questions on Military Service,” by Raymond Hernandez, the New York Times reporter whose initial story induced some Connecticut newspapers to review old files in a search of other instances in which Blumenthal asserted he had served Vietnam.

Their labors were not in vain.

In his first story, Hernandez reported how Blumenthal was able to avoid the Vietnam draft by obtaining five deferments, enlisting eventually in the Marine Corp Reserves, “considered a haven from the war.”

In his follow-up story, Hernandez quoted Blumenthal’s assertion in the Pazniokas’ interview that “I did not want to avoid service… I did realize reservists could be called up, and that it was something that I wanted to do.”

Military experts, Hernandez noted in his report of the Pazniokas interview, disputed Blumenthal’s assertion:

“But military experts said there was no expectation that reserve units would be activated at the time Mr. Blumenthal enlisted, particularly given how drastically public opinion had turned against the war.

“In fact, President Richard M. Nixon had begun in 1969 to reduce the American troop presence in Vietnam and transfer more responsibility for fighting to the South Vietnamese, said James E. Westheider, a history professor at the Clermont College campus of the University of Cincinnati who has written about Vietnam.

“’By the time he was in the service, if he was in the Marine Reserves, he was not going to Vietnam,’ Mr. Westheider said.”
On the face of it, Blumenthal’s assertion that he did not want to avoid service is a bit hard to swallow. His five deferments, if nothing else, testify against him.

In his most recent story, Hernandez demonstrated the importance of the lottery number assigned to Blumenthal:

“His number in the December 1969 draft lottery, according to the Selective Service, was 152. People with numbers as high as 195 in that lottery were eligible to be drafted…

“David Curry, a professor at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, who is an expert on the Vietnam draft, said Mr. Blumenthal’s lottery number would have been cause for worry for someone who did not want to be drafted.”
Blumenthal asserted in the Pazniokas interview that while he did not remember his lottery number, he thought it was high enough to keep him from being drafted.

Not true, said Curry:

“’I’d say he had a medium-level lottery number,’ Mr. Curry said. ‘It’s not really a safe number. But once he joined the Reserves, he would not have been eligible for being drafted.’

“Mr. Curry, who served in Vietnam, also questioned how anyone could forget his draft number. ‘I find it hard to believe that anyone would forget their lottery number,’ he said. ‘I am betting if I call my colleagues who were in that same lottery,’ he said, ‘every one of them would know their draft number.’
The facts marshaled by Hernandez in two stories cast a doubtful shadow over Blumenthal’s assertions that in joining the Reserves he was not attempting to avoid a draft or that he was exposing himself to a draft.

Confronted with these disparities, Blumenthal responded through his spokesperson, Marla Romash, that he believed “as a reservist he could have been sent to Vietnam, but she declined to say what basis he had for that belief.

“Asked whether Mr. Blumenthal wanted to serve in Vietnam, Ms. Romash did not respond.”

Questions such as these do not magically flee the political stage when they are unaddressed. They wait patiently behind the curtain for an answer. Even those journalists friendly to Blumenthal, who criticized Hernandez for having given insufficient attention in his first story to assertions by Blumenthal in public addresses that he had served in the Reserves during the Vietnam War, may be growing impatient for an answer.

Gore Lore

The much respected New York Daily news, relying on a story in Star Magazine, reports that “Al Gore's surprising split from wife Tipper was prompted by an affair he was having with Larry David's environmental activist wife…

“David divorced her husband, the "Seinfeld" creator and star of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," in 2007 amid reports that she was cheating with the married caretaker of their Martha's Vineyard summer home…”

Speaking through a spokesperson, Gore refuses to comment on the “stream of stories about his separation,” which has opened the door to some wild speculation.

Al’s take is that his marriage went flat after four decades.

The split with Tipper is amiable and mutually beneficial: Apart from each other, the two can grow; and no one should have to tolerate a flat marriage any more than one should tolerate flat champagne.

Unsatisfied with this account, the Globe, a British organ, speculated that Gore has a gay monkey on his back, but you have to buy the nose rag to get the complete story. There is, however, a teaser:

“Former Vice President Al Gore is caught up in a sensational gay scandal after announcing he is divorcing Tipper, his wife of 40 years. In a must-read world exclusive, GLOBE rips the lid off all the eye-popping details that have Washington, D.C., insiders buzzing. Don't miss a single word.”
National Inquirer magazine, surprisingly accurate in the case of other political scandals, says – naugh!!!.

Actually, the problem is that Tipper has gone mad, possibly from reading accounts of Al’s sexual preferences in the Globe. Tipper is insanely jealous, says NI, and Al ain’t gonna take it any more.

What to make of all this?

Some provisional theories:

1) Ever since the Marilyn Monroe thing with John F. Kennedy more or less forced the news media to abandon ancient strictures that prevented the tribunes of the people from dilating on the eroto-political scene, it’s been a wild ride. And scandal sells. Hollywood is everywhere, most especially in the congress and the White House.

2) The breakdown of mores – the secular equivalent of morals – has let the erotic dogs out. Is it possible that the elimination of religious proscriptions, one of the consequences of the desacralization of Western culture, has had something to do with the near total breakdown of what G. K. Chesterton used to call the little battalions of democracy: church, home and neighborhood?

Ya think? If you do think, you are likely to be reviled with a velvet glove by the media folk who produce the Globe, the Daily News and even more respected organs of public propaganda such as the Hartford Courant.

3) In a neo-pagan universe, it should not be surprising that the inmates begin to behave like pagans. The problem is us, as Pogo says. Go to confession more often; repair the spiritual holes in your private universe with something other than neo-paganism. Repent, as Jeremiah says.

4) We are not neo-pagan enough. We have not fully embraced Wicca, Sadism, Earth Worship, Yoga, the Hollywood busting out in all our souls.

Somewhere up there between 1, 2, 3, and 4, lies the solution to our long winter of discontent.

Sometimes it helps to remember that it was not always like this.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Blumenthal Hits McMahon, Hides

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, secure in his bunker after it became known that he lied concerning his military service, has since ventured out briefly to attack Republican Party nominee Linda McMahon -- through a spokesperson.

McMahon, according to the title of a story written by Hartford Courant reporter Daniela Altimari, is really “Linda McBush”:

“Taking a page from the Democratic Party’s 2006 playbook, the Blumenthal campaign is looking to link Republican Linda McMahon with George Bush.

"’Linda McMahon paid a Bush economic advisor $20,000 to rewrite Bush's failed economic policies into her Back 2 Bush economic plan,'’ Mindy Myers, Richard Blumenthal's campaign manager, said in a press release this morning.

"’That means more runaway deficits, more corporate and special interest loopholes, and more tax breaks for people who don't need them, leaving working families paying the bill. I can tell you for free that there's nothing new about the Linda McBush plan. It isn't good for the people of Connecticut, it's good for her.’"

Should he succeed in replacing U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, Blumenthal will join a Democratic team that, far from solving the county’s solvency problems, has extended former President George Bush’s economic policy, adding to it new spending charges and programs that transfer jobs from the private to the public sector. When Bush retired from office, the national debt was $9.85 trillion, a great disappointment at the time to CBS news.

“On the day President Bush took office,’ the station noted at the tail end of the Bush administration, “the national debt stood at $5.727 trillion. The latest number from the Treasury Department shows the national debt now stands at more than $9.849 trillion. That's a 71.9 percent increase on Mr. Bush's watch.”

The federal debt has metastasized more rapidly under President Obama and the Pelosi congress. Obama’s legacy to Blumenthal’s prospective grandchildren is, in round numbers, a 14 trillion dollar unpaid bill.

The $14 trillion figure -- which represents the federal debt -- is only part of the national debt. State and local debt amounts to about $2.5 trillion, a good deal of it in pension funds owed to government workers, a pool of employees that has expanded greatly under the Obama-Pelosi economic prescriptions. Assuming reasonable investment returns, nearly half the nation’s state pension funds will be insolvent by 2025. The first city to run out of pension money for retirees, according to an eye-opening article in National Review, will be Springfield, Ill in 2018, a state that was the hotbed of much of the Obama administration. Pension funds in New Jersey, Indiana and Connecticut are expected to go belly up in 2019.

The Social Security “trust fund” (trust in God, all others pay cash) has no cash in it; which is to say, it is $106 trillion short. An 81 percent tax increase would be necessary to meet outstanding obligations. Add liabilities for the government’s guarantee of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac – Dodd and Rep. Barney Frank’s gift to Blumenthal’s grandchildren -- securities supported under the bailout plus state health care and other benefits, and the real national debt crests at about $130 trillion.

These are the kinds of figures that lend credence to Peter Schiff’s view that the solvency crisis in the United States has been caused by government meddling in a global economic market that is not free and rapidly losing its capitalistic characteristics.

Blumenthal may not be surprised to learn that corporate and special interest loopholes are likely to increase as the Dodd inspired national regulatory scheme rolls out into the future, because loopholes are inextricably tied to regulations, which have increased exponentially in the Obama administration. Blumenthal is no stranger to either regulations or special interests of a kind tolerable to Democrats.

Blumenthal has two immediate problems: 1) The comments here made by his campaign director suggest a basic misunderstanding of free market economics; and 2) the solvency problems besetting the United States are such as cannot be settled though methods usually employed by the attorney general. U.S. Senator Blumenthal, it may be assumed, would not be inclined to sue congresspersons, including Dodd, for having facilitated the fall of the housing market in the United States, a fate Canada escaped because its legislators refused to tinker with a market that even now closely resembles the U.S. housing market of years past, when bankers with standards lent money to prospective purchasers who could afford good faith down payments of up to 20 percent and whose incomes were such as to convince bankers that borrowers could afford to make monthly mortgage payments.

Now that Blumenthal has surfaced from his bunker, someone should try to arrange a debate between the three prospective U.S. senators – Blumenthal, McMahon and Schiff – centering on the question: Is the problem solvency, stupid?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Blumenthal to Courant: Bug Off!

John Lender, the Hartford Courant’s investigative reporter, caught a "mislead" on the part of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal in information he had provided for a biographical listing in the annual Martindale-Hubble Law Directory of attorneys at private law firms.

Summarizing his military service, Blumenthal offered: “With USMC [U.S. Marine Corp], active duty and reserve. 1970-1976.”

In Lender’s Sunday “Government Watch” column, an opinion on the misstatement was solicited from Randall Collins of Waterford, a Vet whose “active duty” included a stretch in Vietnam in the late 60’s.

"’I think [active duty] was probably put in there to be misleading, based on all these other things,’ said Randall H. Collins of Waterford, who served in Vietnam in the late 1960s in the U.S. Army military intelligence division. An unaffiliated voter, Collins, 65, who is Waterford's superintendent of schools, is in the Connecticut Veterans Hall of Fame, established in 2005 to honor those who served honorably and ‘continue to serve and inspire their fellow man.’

"’I was repulsed by his comments’ in the 2008 videotaped speech, said Collins. ‘I consider it a lie, not a misstatement.’

"As to the Martindale-Hubbell entry, he said: ‘I think it's both accurate and misleading: It's true that boot camp [training] is considered active duty,’ Collins said, ‘but when people think of active duty, they think of something longer than six months…. They think of a longer period of time’ of ‘full-time’ military service – not part-time reserve status in this country for six years with weekend duty once a month, and two-week drills in the summer.

"’It's hard to say it's not technically accurate,’ Collins said. ‘I really think it would be insignificant if it weren't for the comments he made publicly about his duty. But when you contextualize it in a pattern, it becomes a little more suspicious. Rightly or wrongly, you read into his motivation of why he put it there.’"
Lender’s report was what is called in the business “balanced.”

Another Vietnam vet, Jack Dougherty of Branford, was quoted in the report as saying:

“’At that time, the reservists and the guys who were going to be there forever and ever were side by side in the same, exact boot camp,’ said Dougherty, who works as a mechanical engineer and is an unaffiliated voter. Dougherty said that the reservists ‘served their active duty for six months. The balance would be … reserve status,’ with periodic activities such as drills.

“Asked what he thought of the recent disclosures about Blumenthal's misstatements, Doughterty said, ‘I'm not bent around the axle about it like some people are.’ He said, ‘I don't know if he misspoke in the past,’ but ‘my personal opinion is that he's a nice guy and does a great job in the category we find him in,’ as attorney general."
Another Marine, Bob Janick, was in a forgiving mood:

“Another member of the Veterans Hall of Fame, Marine Corps Vietnam veteran Bob Janicki of Guilford, said that he has ‘struggled for years with imposters,’ and noted that recently he'd said after Blumenthal's apology, ‘I don't forgive him.’

“But now, Janicki, 63, a Republican voter who works for the federal Veterans Administration, said he is writing a letter to newspaper editors about a conversation he had since then with Blumenthal. Part of it says: ‘Mr. Blumenthal shared with me his personal feelings on what he may have said over the years, and I truly feel that he was honestly sincere, and I believe him. Personally I am not about to go back in time and review every quote presented by the media. I will never trust them, to determine if they were in context or taken out of context.’"
Lender wanted to probe Blumenthal’s opinion on all this. In the past, Blumenthal never had been hesitant in sharing his opinion concerning cases he was prosecuting with the state’s media. In fact, his press releases over the 20 year period Blumenthal served as attorney general, bundled together, would make a hefty package that Blumenthal spokeswoman and advisor Marla Romash, who used to write for the Courant, would have a tough time bench pressing.

Romash brushed him off: “The Courant had asked to interview Blumenthal, but Romash returned the call and responded to questions, saying, ‘He's addressed all these issues.’"

Over in Torrington, the Torrington Register Citizen reports, Blumenthal left a public stage with his pants on fire rather than submitting to the indignity of a few questions.

And what was it, anyway, Lender wanted to ask the suddenly camera shy Blumenthal?

Lender, who does his homework, notes:

“The 1991 volume of the who's-who-style directory of lawyers in private practice was the last of seven or so annual editions covering Blumenthal's time from 1984 to 1990 as a partner in the Stamford law firm of Silver Golub & Teitell; that was his last job before winning the 1990 election for attorney general and assuming office in January 1991. Earlier editions of the directory worded Blumenthal's military history one word differently — with the word "in" instead of "and," as follows: ‘With USMC., active duty in reserve, 1970-1976.’ Romash had no explanation for that difference.”
Gotta watch those prepositions. Mark Twain used to say that “the difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between a lightning bug and a lightning bolt.”

It was not a lightning bug that struck Blumenthal when the said at least five times that he had served in Vietnam.

Twain, by the way, would have had no difficulty distinguishing between a lie and a misspeak. Pity he is not writing commentary for the Hartford Courant.