Friday, July 30, 2010

Dean And The Demagogues

It cannot be a surprise that those in Connecticut’s left of center community who secretly loathe Republicans not tucked within the Democratic Party heart of darkness continue to advance the political fortunes of so called “moderate” Republicans. They revere and praise ex-Senator and Governor Lowell Weicker at every opportunity and have supported him in the past because Weicker abhors and will not abide conservative Republicans. They urge other Republicans to vote in primaries for those candidates who show themselves willing to sell their birthright for a mess of moderate pottage, even though Democrats they enthusiastically support have driven Connecticut to the brink of bankruptcy.

According to this view of things, Weicker, scourge of the Republican Party, father of the state income tax – a levy that kept the heads of the solidly Democratic governing class above water, even as the drowning masses were blowing bubbles towards the unquiet surface – is the ideal Republican, a man who rubs noses with the Democratic Party elite, someone who is willing and anxious to break political bread with left of center Democrats such as U.S. Senators Chris Dodd and the late Edward Kennedy.

Other moderate Republicans also have received the energetic support of Connecticut’s left of center media. Former Rep. Chris Shays regularly was endorsed by the Hartford Courant until that dark day, a few years ago, when Shays had the effrontery to rebuff his handlers and vigorously support then President George Bush’s plan to overthrow Saddam Hussein, at which point the Hartford Courant threw its endorsement to Shays’ opponent. The last moderate U.S. representative in New England, Shays lost in a squeaker general election.

All this is understandable for ideological reasons. Viewed from left of center, any candidate whose propensities propel him to right of center is a threat to political comity, a disturber of a political peace arranged over the last 30 years in Connecticut by the dominant Democratic political class, which certainly includes large chunks of the state’s status quo media.

Consider Martha Dean, the Republican Party endorsed nominee for attorney general. When Dean launched her campaign last March, it was clear from her announcement that she was willing to present to voters her broad view of politics. All the usual masks were bravely cast off in her unusually literate announcement: She would be Republican Republican, not a pale imitation; she would respect and honor both state and federal constitutions; she would not be ashamed to promote business in the state. Dean put herself forward as a politician willing to be guided by state and federal constitutions rather than the perishable political fads of the moment.



It did not take the liberal rattlesnake long to uncoil and strike. In the blink of an eye, Rick Green of the Courant was referring to Dean’s “cyborg blue eyes.”

Liberals at the paper took issue with her remark that the legislature should consider drug legalization, a political position long embraced by liberals and others who even now wince when they consider that prisons are bursting at the seams with people arrested for relatively minor drug offenses. It has been years since conservative economist Milton Friedman plausibly argued that the legalization of some drugs would relieve social problems. More than seven years ago, Bill Buckley shocked his brethren by agitating for the legalization of marijuana as a test to probe the question: Would legalization be more harmful than a present policy that packs jails mostly with young black  men drawn into gangs by the lure of lawless money making.

An appraisal of these views cannot be compassed within the scope of this modest blog. However, whatever one’s position on the question, it certainly must strike liberals as odd that left of center commentatiors should be attacking Dean for having put forward a position that has drawn notable conservatives and libertarians towards a view concerning the possible benefits of legalization that liberals themselves long have espoused.

By honestly addressing broad political questions that cannot affect her polity as attorney general, Dean soon came under fire for “supporting decriminalization of cocaine and heroin use,” an absurd mangling of her view. It has been bruited about in the Democratic camp that Dean would, as attorney general, “impose her political views on the office.” Her Republican primary opponent has now circulated a campaign brochure containing a suggestive hint that a vote for Dean would be a vote for crack-pipes on every street corner. Others timidly suggest that once Dean is installed as attorney general, kindergarteners would come to school with machine guns in their backpacks.

This is demagoguery of the worst kind, quite on a par with a now notorious Democratic Party ad during the Goldwater campaign showing a little girl picking a daisy, while behind her a mushroom cloud bloomed in the sky. Message: If you vote for Goldwater, you are voting for nuclear annihilation.

It is important to insist on the point that both Republican candidates for attorney general this year have vowed to de-politicize the office – Dean first and then attorney Ross Garber, who came late to the campaign – because that is the bald truth.

Many of the more outrageous rhetorical IED’s lobbed at Dean by her media critics are reprised in a lower key in a recent Courant editorial endorsing her primary challenger.

Prediction: In the general election, the Courant will endorse Democratic candidate for attorney general George Jepsen, because Jepsen has promised to leave the AG’s office unreformed. The former Democratic Party Chairman has promised to continue in the way of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, without question the most politically inspired attorney general in Connecticut history. The Courant’s Republican primary endorsee is little more than a place-holder who will himself be replaced in the paper’s affections as soon as practicable by the more reliable Democratic Party upholder of the status quo.

It is Blumenthal, and before him present U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, who transformed the attorney general’s office into a theatre for boilerplate left of center politics. When Dean ran against Blumenthal in 2002, she was indelicate enough to mention it. And Blumenthal’s admirers in Connecticut’s left of center commentariat will never forgive her the slight. The transformation of the attorney general’s office into a political annex of Democratic Party rectitude under Blumenthal has – for twenty years and more – left the editorial page writers at the Hartford Courant listless and speechless. But now, during a Republican Party primary, the paper, little more than a cheering section for Blumenthal’s endless attempts to bring his office in line with liberal political articulations, affects offense at the impending politicalization of the office by Dean, an imposture that should make all the horned hypocrites in Hell dizzy with envy.

Wonderful, just wonderful.

Dean should tape the Courant’s editorial to her forehead the next time she appears on any platform to denounce the politicalization of the attorney general’s office, pledging, as she often does, to reform the ethos of the office to comport with constitutional and statutory prescriptions – not, be it noted, that the Courant will seriously notice her vow to wrest that office from Democratic Party handlers and return it, reformed and refurbished, to the people whose liberties are fostered not by a politically adroit attorney general but by officers of government whose warrant for governing should elapse when they step outside constitutional boundaries.

Dean should fashion that editorial into a paper flower and pin in below her “cyborg blue eyes” as a red badge of courage.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Blumenthal Inattentive To The Rules Of Evidence

The case against Dr. Gad Lavy, who runs the New England Fertility Institute in Stamford, began with a resounding bang but ended with a whimper.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced his suit against Levy five years ago. The sensational press release, picked up by the usual media outlets that rarely follow a contested case through its tortuous litigatory permutations, certainly was blow to Dr. Lavy’s solar plexus.

After the charges against him were dismissed, a relieved Dr. Levy said, “This case was baseless from the beginning. It hurt me, my family, and my patients. I was pleased the Attorney General dropped the case, but it should not have taken 5 years to do so."

The initial media release contained specimens of Blumenthal regular potboiler rhetoric. Blumenthal accused the doctor of having charged a $600 facility fee to his patients when the doctor at the same time was collecting from his insurance carrier the same amount for the same purpose.

“This doctor,” Blumenthal charged in his media release, “imposed special fees to give himself special compensation, while falsely promising special care… In reality, these 'facility fees' were a false front - a scheme to pad his own profits… Imposing special payments for parenthood is unconscionable and unlawful, and now, Dr. Lavy will pay in court."

First the verdict, says the Queen of Hearts in Louis Carroll’s “Alice In Wonderland, “then the trial.”

Blumenthal’s case against Lavy, Ted Mann tells us in a carefully researched and well written piece that appeared in the Day of New London, fell apart like brittle old lace once Dr. Levy had his day in court.

On the stand was Kimberly M. Walsh, an executive from Connecticare, Lavy’s insurer, and she was being questioned by assistant attorney general Charles C. Hulin, the lead attorney for the state. Hulin had asked Walsh whether her company’s reimbursements would include a payment for the use of the doctor’s surgical facility. The question was an important one, because the state was alleging that Lavy charged just such fees to 355 female patients, sometimes for multiple procedures, totaling nearly $350,000.

The doctor’s attorney, Ross Garber, who is running this year for attorney general as a Republican, entered an objection: Blumenthal’s staff, he said, should have provided to the court the insurance contracts for each patient, which would verify that the cost was or was not a covered expense. The court should have had an opportunity to view the contracts and base its decision on primary documents; it should not make its decision based on hearsay testimony taken from witnesses who may or may not be familiar with the terms of the contracts.

Garber pointed out that in relying upon the uncertain testimony of witnesses rather than the primary documents, Blumenthal’s agents would be in violation of Article 10 of the rules of evidence, which hold that the contents of a document are proven by the document itself – not by a witness’s recollection of their contents. Judge Miller agreed with Garber that a reliance on the testimony of witnesses, rather than the contracts themselves, would violate Article 10 of the rules of evidence.

The judge turned to the assistant attorney general and asked, steel creeping into his voice, “"Let me ask you a very blunt question. Where are the managed care plans?"

The assistant attorney general hadn’t thought it necessary to produce them. He saw in the judge’s remark the caboose arriving and begged the court for a 30 day stay to gather documents that would comport with Article 10 of the rules of evidence, at which point there occurred this colloquy:

Judge Miller: "Well, the case has been pending since 2005.”

Hulin: “That's right. We think you're going to see eventually that we have a strong case and that we have … "

Judge Miller: (Interrupting) “Wasn't the time to show the court you had a strong case now?”

In his final decision, Judge Miller strongly rebuked Blumenthal’s office: “"When a party comes to court unprepared to address an important evidentiary issue which it well knew would be disputed at trial, and that party fails to prevail on the issue, the trial judge does not stop the proceedings and give the losing party time to correct the mistake. That is not how things work in our system of justice."

And Blumenthal dropped the case, deciding wisely not to appeal the court’s judgment until the stars drop from heaven, the usual recourse taken by his office.

Blumenthal’s office has pending, according to the attorney general’s most recent financial report, more than 36,000 cases. Perhaps the overload has fried the synapse of Blumenthal’s dozen or more litigators. It’s astonishing: Ignoring the basic rules of evidence is a little bit like ignoring icebergs on the high sea. It takes a titanic sized ego to do it. Judge Miller, among other members of the judiciary, is not unfamiliar with Blumenthal’s sometimes questionable methods, which include the presentation of defective affidavits in ex parte proceedings, on the basis of which judges authorize Blumenthal’s agents to impound company assets, leaving his hapless victims, already mutilated in searing media releases, unable to procure the services of competent lawyers such as Ross Garber.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mommy, Where Do Stories Come From?

To be just and honest, the noble ambition of credible journalism, it should be said up front that Tom Foley does not, or rather did not, beat his wife; neither is Ned Lamont a racist.

That is the undeclared imputation in two recent stories: one involving Foley, the Republican Party nominee for governor, and the other involving Lamont, now locked in a primary battle with former Mayor of Stamford Dan Malloy.

In the quarter decade old Foley story, the perp momentarily blocked his wife from leaving a driveway and disputed with her through a couple of stop signs, after which both were arrested. The matter was settled privately, charges were dropped, and the details of the case were not shared with the news media. A messy divorce is no walk through a rose garden, especially when the two former lovebirds quarrel over visitation procedures involving a young child.

The Foley story is, relatively speaking, old and hoary; the Lamont story is somewhat fresher.

Lamont, according to this one, was sued in 2002 by an African American fellow, an executive in the Delaware corporate offices of Lamont Digital Systems who felt, according to a Courant story, that he had been “’maliciously” fired after being denied stock, bonuses and commissions from sales activities.”

The African American fellow, asserting he was let go for racial reasons, figured the matter could have been righted if Lamont kindly surrendered to him a million dollars. The suit was settled privately in 2003; which is to say, the particulars of the dispute were not shared with the news media. The “secret” arrangements in both cases were secret because the principals involved declined to share their pain with the world, and the arrangements made satisfied all the parties involved, as well as the adjudicating authority.

But there is something about a secret that journalists do not love, particularly when it is held close to the chests of people who want to govern states.

Both stories, now in the public domain, have caused frayed relations between the three Republicans and two Democrats vying for governor because no one but the reporter who first released the information knows its provenance, and he is not likely to blow his sources to settle quarrels bubbling up in the Republican and Democratic gubernatorial camps. Reporters are generally circumspect and overly protective concerning their sources. The one piece of information flowing out of Watergate that remained a mystery for years after ex-President Nixon was tucked safely beneath the sod was – who was “Deepthroat?” Eventually, “Deepthroat” outted himself. Had he not done so, the world even now might be turning over in its mind the dread suspicion that it was Henry Kissinger who killed Cock Robin.

Both stories cited above are invitations to probe the general question: Does it matter where political dirt comes from? Where do stories come from, Mommy?A few days prior to the Democratic Party primary, Brian Lockhart, an investigative reporter and blogger for he Hearst papers, let the cat out of the bag:

“Today the Lamont campaign gave our newspapers a binder’s worth of opposition research it claims proves Malloy, who was cleared by the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney of any wrongdoing back in 2005, never got the hint that he should at the very least have made an effort to avoid perceived conflicts when accepting campaign donations while mayor. Lamont also took the story to The Hartford Courant.”
To historians, who are sticklers for facts, the source of information always matters. And certainly the person whose ribs are poked with the knife would dearly like to have his curiosity appeased. But in journalism, a source is not likely to be revealed by the journalist unless the stream of information provided is false or malicious or directly intended to poison the political well – in which case, it matters a great deal where the information comes from. Presumably, the responsible journalist will have checked other reliable sources before he releases the politically damaging information. Even in dire circumstances, a journalist whose well has been poisoned by a bad source still may be reluctant to name names.

Why so?

Because he does not want to interrupt the flow of information coming his way from a source who would be unwilling to disgorge raw untested truth if it were certain that his anonymity could not be guaranteed by the journalist. As in a war, a great deal of raw political information comes from opposing political camps, but it does not follow that because candidate X has loosed the sluice gates on candidate Y, the information provided is, for that reason, unusable. Even the blackest lie carries within itself a grain of truth that, planted in terra firma, may, like the biblical mustard seed, though it is the smallest of seeds, grow into a tree large enough to provide in its spreading branches a home for all the chirping birds of the air.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Merrill Or Farrell

Ray Hackett, the Norwich Bulletin’s editorial page editor, has lost patience with Denise Merrill, the Democratic Assistant Majority Leader in the state House of Representatives who is leaving her position to run for Secretary of State.

“She came in last week,” Hackett wrote in a barbed editorial, “for an editorial board meeting for candidates in the Aug. 10 primary. I expected her to dance around or avoid any accountability for the state’s fiscal mess. I was flabbergasted by her unbridled arrogance — arrogance that is only surpassed by the depth of the debt — $3.5 billion — that she had a hand in creating.”

Hackett was astonished when Merrill blamed the $3.5 billion state debt “she had a hand in creating” on George Bush – “I kid you not.” Trumpeting the Democratic Party line, Merrill claimed that Democratic lawmakers “’cut’ $8 billion over a two-year period from the state budget. But when we asked her where those cuts were made, her response was: ‘I don’t know.’”

Two kickers make the interview astonishingly newsworthy.

Appealing to her practical experience – Merrill has 18 years in the General Assembly, four of those years as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, the last two as Majority Leader in the Democratic dominated legislature – the Norwich Bulletin editorial board asked what recommendations she would offer to resolve the state’s crippling debt?

Hackett records her frigid response:

““That’s not my problem; I’m running for secretary of the state. I’m out of there. That’s for the next administration and legislature to resolve.”
In her maiden campaign announcement last July, Merrill described Connecticut’s clean campaign finance law as the “seminal accomplishment of our state in the last decade.” Turning to questions relevant to the Secretary of State position Merrill hopes to occupy, the candidate interviewing for the paper’s endorsement was asked a series of questions concerning certain disparities in the state’s public financing law.

The law treats third party and petitioning candidates different than Democrats and Republicans. Is this fair? Merrill answered “Yes.” She was presented with a hypothetical question: If someone were to run against her as a petitioning candidate, would she think she was better than her opponent just because she was a Democrat? According to Hackett, Merrill answered affirmatively because “as a Democrat, she represented more people” than the petitioning candidate.

There are straws that will break the strongest camel’s back. Hackett writes:

“I asked her to explain the logic behind allowing incumbents with no opponents to get public financing for campaigns that can’t lose. She said that, too, was fair because they ‘might’ get an opponent. I suggested why not wait until that happens. She said, ‘There wouldn’t be enough time (for the incumbent) to spend it all.’

“I said: ‘That’s the most insane logic I’ve ever heard.’ She didn’t care.

“This is the woman who wants to be the state’s next chief elections officer.”
Asked to respond to Merrill’s Bulletin endorsement interview, Jerry Farrell, the present Consumer Protection Commissioner running as a Republican for Secretary of State, said he had read the article and was “astounded at her comments, though her comments to the Bulletin seem very much an extension of what she said at a forum at the Hartford Public Library a few weeks ago.”

State government has played a direct roll in creating the state’s present financial difficulties, Farrell said:

“The State needs to get its fiscal house in order - by spending less, finding efficiencies, slashing unfunded liabilities and debt - if we want to attract businesses and get our residents jobs. Unfortunately, Denise Merrill believes that throwing money at every problem is the only solution; she just doesn't understand the damage she has done as Majority Leader to the people in this state. Her comments along the campaign trail confirm that, if elected Secretary, she will find more ways to tax and burden the people of Connecticut and spend us and our children into more debt.This is the exact opposite of what Connecticut needs.”
Farrell has made cost saving economies in his own Consumer Protection department that have served as a template for other departments. His cost saving initiative serve as the center joist of his standard stump speech:

“Just this past year, DCP saved $750,000 in printing costs by posting forms and brochures online, where a consumer can go and print exactly what they need. By this fall, we will also be emailing most licenses to the licensee - as a jpeg that the licensee can print out at home - saving $250,000 in postage. I have also opened DCP's online licensing functions to other state departments; so far the Department of Public Health, the Department of Agriculture, and the Charities Bureau, have taken advantage of this, instead of spending the millions of dollars that had been proposed to create their own online licensing systems. Given that the Secretary of State has a constitutional duty under our state constitution to be the chief "record keeper" for state government, I will use that constitutional duty to work with all state agencies to do the very same things I have done at Consumer Protection - going online and going as paperless as possible. People forget how much cost there is to a "paper bound" government - real quantifiable costs in purchasing paper, printing brochures, and postage. As Ronald Reagan once said, a million here, a million there - it all adds up. I will work to find those millions and give them back to the taxpayers of our state.”
The best stimulus, Reagan would have agreed, is a tax uncollected, and the less a government spends, the less often it must burden wealth producers with charges that quickly become someone else’s problem.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tis A Far, Far Bitter Thing…


The Madame Defarges of Connecticut’s left, while knitting and encoding names in their handiwork, just may be sharpening the guillotine for their brother in arms Colin McEnroe, raconteur, columnist, blogger and radio personality.

In any case, they will not be amused by his latest offering: “Ned and John – a ‘Bromance.”

McEnroe’s blog reflections features a picture supplied by Paul Bass of the New Haven Independent showing New Haven Mayor John DeStefano casting a Mona Lisa smile at lefty heartthrob Ned Lamont, followed by McEnroe’s speculation concerning DeStefano’s support for Lamont, who is locked in a primary for governor with former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy:

“What exactly is behind all this is not all that clear. But fun to speculate about. (Before I get savaged in My Left Nutmeg, let me add that I'm not suggesting any of this is sinister or better or worse than anything else that could happen. Just interesting.)

“One theory is that DeStefano is motivated mainly by residual antipathy toward Malloy from 2006. More than I (having completely forgotten about it) would have guessed, the 2006 Malloy ad that showed DeStefano in a dress is still a piquant subject.”
Malloy and DeStefano ran against each other for governor in a primary at a time when present Governor Jodi Rell’s favorables were floating airily in the stratosphere. Malloy dished DeStefano in a primary and went on to lose to Rell in the general election, creating what the French call “frisson” between the two.

The French also invented the guillotine, the sans-culottes and modern leftism.

A word to the wise, Colin – run!

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Simmons’ “Pause,” The Weicker Gambit

“Former congressman Rob Simmons is once again a candidate and back in the race for the U.S. Senate after a two month hiatus,” according to Dennis House of (WFBC’s) “Face the State.”

Apparently, when Simmons said he would accept the decision of the Republican nominating convention that chose Linda McMahon as its candidate to run for U.S. Senator Chris Dodd’s seat, he misspoke. Following the convention, Simmons dismissed most of his staff. His candidacy appeared to be dead in the water, though Simmons left his name on the ballot, he said at the time,

Simmons is expected to acknowledge on Sunday’s Face the State interview with House that he “paused” his campaign and, at the urging of former Republican Governor and Senator Lowell Weicker, has now resumed campaigning, an announcement that would seem to answer questions others have had concerning Simmons’ decision to leave his toe in the political water.

Prior to the “Face The State” admissions, Jim Geraghty of National Review expressed his puzzlement concerning the “commercial” run by Simmons announcing that he would still be on the ballot for the Republican primary on August 10.

Geraghty thought it was a “strange commercial.” Having “expressed admiration for Rob Simmons in the past,” Geraghty allowed that Simmons probably would come out of the primary with the good wishes of other Republicans undiminished, but he could not help but note “a couple of oddities in his latest message… This ad is titled and described in campaign materials as a “PSA.” Sir, if it looks like a commercial, sounds like a commercial, conveys a candidate’s message like a commercial, and quacks like a commercial, it’s a commercial.”

Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post’s “The Fix” thought Simmons’ on-again, off-again” campaign, “suspended late in May,” was bizarre:

“It's hard to see what Simmons is trying to accomplish with the ads, besides pursuing a vanity project. A Quinnipiac poll released Friday shows him trailing McMahon by 27 points with three weeks to go… Simmons maintains he is not re-activating his campaign, which he suspended in late May due to the overwhelming financial advantage for former wrestling executive Linda McMahon, in advance of the Aug. 10 primary. But he is using about $350,000 in leftover funds to go up with an ad reminding voters that he's "still on the ballot" in case they want to vote for him. (Um, what?)”

Rep. Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., the Republican leader in the state House of Representatives, was troubled by practical questions:

"If he were to win (the primary), when he has no campaign staff, and hasn't raised any more money, then how does he expect to win in the general election?"
Cafero told The Day of New London that “he had shared his doubts about Simmons' strategy with the candidate after Simmons called to let him know he'd be suspending his campaign in May.

"’I guess I don't quite get this,’ Cafero said.”

Enter Weicker, whose hobby appears to be hobbling Republican campaigns.

Previously on “Face The State,” Weicker, who serves on the board of World Wide Entertainment (WWE), had acknowledged that he thought McMahon a respectable candidate, perfectly capable of being a U.S. senator.

Weicker rejected Attorney General Richard Blumenthal as a dissembler who misrepresented his service in the military:

“I think that anybody that dissembles on their military service and dishonors those that served and those that died in the service of the United States, and it does not commend them, I think, to be a United States senator... If he’s going to go ahead and dissemble and fabricate over a matter like that, what trust are you going to have in that individual as a United States senator? Don’t forget, I’ve been a senator. That’s a great honor. That’s a very powerful position. And I don’t care whether the country has loosened its standards or what. I demand the highest. So there’s just no way I could go ahead and vote for or endorse Attorney General Blumenthal.”
Weicker complimented McMahon as “a very decent and fine person. I like her enormously.” He reminded House that previously he had endorsed Dodd:

“I have not endorsed her [McMahon] As I told you on your last show, Chris Dodd was my choice, that obviously I no longer have that choice. So, now the situation arises: Is it Linda McMahon, or is it Congressman Rob Simmons, who I gather is still o the ballot? And I’m not in a position to comment on that particular scenario until after the fall primary.”
One does not wish to accuse so upright a politician as Weicker of dissembling. However, Simmons is due to tell House on Sunday that he decided to take his campaign off “pause” at the urging of the non-dissembling Weicker, who is much in the habit of endorsing Democrats for high office.

In the good old days, when Weicker was a Republican U.S. Senator, he was visited in his office in Washington -- very much a dissembling town, especially during the campaign season – by Roger Eddy, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate. Eddy was there to solicit Weicker’s backing, and he came away from the meeting with a promise that he would be backed by Weicker100%. On the eve of the election, maverick Weicker was heard on radio spots endorsing 100% his long time friend in congress Chris Dodd, who easily could have rolled over Eddy without the dissembler’s backing. In his book “Maverick,” once reviewed by Chris Powell of the Journal Inquirer under the title “Mr. Bluster Saves The World,” Weicker makes an admission that he regretted the part he played in savaging Dodd’s father during his own campaign for the U.S. Senate, and so his support of Tom Dodd’s son may be charitably put down, in part, to a bad conscience.

In a teaser to Sunday’s ‘Face The State” program, House writes:

“During a taping of “Face the State,” Simmons explained why he is back on the scene less than three weeks before the primary. The Stonington Republican told me was encouraged to get back in the race by countless supporters and perhaps most importantly, former Governor Lowell Weicker. Simmons also said conservative author Ann Coulter of New Canaan urged him to resurrect his campaign.”
Coulter and Weicker swimming together in the same political petri dish: Truly, the political world is full of miracles and marvels. Weicker enters the political stage left, Coulter right, and they embrace center stage in one common purpose – saving the Republican Party from McMahon, in Weicker’s view a reasonable choice for U.S. Senator, in Coulter’s view a certain loser to Blumenthal, excoriated by Weicker as a dissembler.

But pray tell: Was Weicker dissembling, just a wee bit, when he told House that he could not decide between McMahon and Simmons “before the primary” on August 10? Or is it possible that Simmons will misspeak when he tells House on Sunday that he was encouraged to get back in the race by Lamont-Dodd supporter Weicker?

When did this encouragement happen?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Saying "No"

Is there anyone in the state’s Democratic dominated legislature who can say “No?”

Apparently not.

During the next budget cycle, the state will be facing a deficit that is about 20% of receipts. The size of the deficit has alarmed some in the Media and some in the legislature. Governor Jodi Rell may be unsettled, but her alarm has not itself reached alarming proportions. Rell, a lame duck governor, is due to leave behind at the completion of her term her office and its attendant responsibilities. The principal Republicans and Democrats vying for the position of governor are: former ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley, present Lieutenant Governor Mike Fedele and Oz Griebel on the Republican side; and on the Democratic side, Ned Lamont and former Mayor of Stamford Dan Malloy.

Over at the Journal Inquirer, Managing Editor of the paper and its chief political columnist Chris Powell warns darkly that anyone fortunate or unfortunate enough to become governor next November will have to make some “horrifying cuts” to patch the 20% gap. The budget deficit for fiscal year 2012 is expected to be an astronomical $3.4 billion. A debt this massive cannot be reconciled without leaving some blood on the floor. The good news is that many of those vying for governor – generally seen as that person in state government most likely to wield the cost cutting axe – appear to have at least a notional understanding of the horrific responsibilities that soon may fall to them. Democrats, Powell feels, are simply too closely aligned with unions to expect useful yeoman’s service from them, while Republicans seem to be singing the right dirge.

Thanks to the obduracy of the Connecticut State University system (CSU), we now have a canary in the mine shaft that easily could be used to test the resolve of all the gubernatorial aspirants. It should be mentioned in passing that in pre-Weicker days, there was no CSU, and yet graduates of state universities appeared not to have suffered from the absence of this relatively new featherbed, created at the end of Weicker’s administration to absorb the weighty fall of Bill Cibes, Weicker’s OPM manager and the midwife of the state’s income tax.

Salaries, as everyone knows, drive educational spending in Connecticut. And salaries are driven by union contracts. In an attempt to manage spiraling costs, Rell reached an agreement with officials of CSU to freeze the salaries of non-unionized workers. In the past, it has proven nearly impossible to wring from unionized state workers the concessions necessary to bring the state out of the red. Rell’s critic say she hasn’t tried hard enough; the state legislature, dominated by Democrats overly sympathetic to unions – the Speaker of the state House is a former union steward -- have mounted, some critics say, what appears to be a Potemkin Village resistance. That feathery resistance quickly is broken at the first or second loving touch from union leaders.

The CSU’s non-unionized workers are now putting the touch on the governor, the state legislature and, of course, tax payers for anticipated salary increases. According to a report in CTMirror, Rell’s plea to hold the line on Salary increase were somewhat tardy, having reached officials at CSU after increases of 5-10% had already been approved by trustees to satisfy a resumption of raises previously negotiated union contracts.

CSU’s Board of Trustees Chairman Karl J. Krapek and Chancellor David G. Carter point out that non-unionized employees were promised last year that they would received raises at the same time the pay freeze for unionized employees was terminated.

Carter, who stands to realize a salary increase of 10%, acknowledged “this may not have been a politically expedient thing to do, but I believe our managers and . . . support staff are no less important than any other member of our staff and deserve to be treated fairly.”

Co-chairman of the legislature's Appropriations Committee Sen. Toni Harp has said that CSU’s preliminary budget request is in line with union contracts. Her hands are tied: “"Unless the unions agree to another freeze, it's something we're obliged to do, and we're obliged to [meet] the 27th payroll.”

It is not at all surprising that there is no effective resistance among Democratic legislators to improvident contractual demands made by unions. It would be very surprising if there were no such resistance  among Democrats and Republicans gubernatorial aspirants who next November plan to occupy a position in state government that should serve as the last line of resistance to the poor house.

Every person vying for governor this year should be asked at every gubernatorial debate what strategies they can bring to bear as governor to overcome the alarming placidity of Harp and other like her in the legislature who perversely refuse to acknowledge, unless their own pants are singed, that the house is on fire.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Farrell To Shred Spending

The Republican Party nominee for Secretary of State Jerry Farrell has an enviable theatrical talent.

The present Commissioner of Consumer Protection is captivating the on the stump, and on Saturday, July 24, he will be holding a “Shred State Spending” event for residents in the towns of Middletown, Durham, Middlefield, Portland and Cromwell, who are encouraged, according to a press release, “to drop off their home and office paper clutter including personal documents and meet Jerry. The campaign has hired Shred It, Inc. with headquarters in Cheshire to perform the shredding with its mobile services.

“The event will be held in the parking lot of FUTURES, Inc. at 158 Broad Street at 8:30 am through 11:30 am. Set up for the event will begin at 7:15 am.” Other similar events in other parts of the state will follow.

Virtually all Republicans running for office this year have professed a concern in their ads and campaign literature on the ruinous consequences of state debt. Connecticut, along with other states, in is the debt ditch. There are two ways – and only two ways -- of resolving debts: The state must either cut costs or raise taxes. Republicans and Democrats this year part company on where the axe should fall first. Spending cuts and tax increases are hard choices because the consequences of either are severe.

The strategy of a Common Sense Party, if there were such a political instrument, probably would crystallize around detailed specifications involving spending cuts -- before tax increases were seriously considered. The relationship between tax increases and spending, the last 20 years have shown, is direct and ruinous.

What most voters will be looking for this campaign season from those running for office are tokens of seriousness. It will not be enough for a prospective governor or state legislator to profess his or her concern for job losses or the depth of the state’s indebtedness or excessive borrowing or the plight of the downtrodden at a time when unpalatable choices must be made for the greater good.

Words certainly may be tokens of intentions. But when the barns are empty, when everyone knows the coming harvest will be poor – words are not nearly enough. One wants a plan, a commitment that demonstrates to citizens who will be asked to shoulder the burden of hard times that those who govern us have, through their words and deeds, crossed a personal Rubicon and committed themselves to an action plan that, at some risk of losing votes, will call upon the angels of our better natures to make personal sacrifices.

“With the state's finances continuing to spiral out of control,” Farrell said, “I will fight to save taxpayer’s money by consolidating all state record-keeping in the Secretary of the State’s jurisdiction. This will help avoid duplicative spending in the various agencies of the state. In these tough times, we need to look for every way we can to save money and reduce taxes.”

Farrell said he also intends to spur job growth by assisting new businesses, an avenue with which he is familiar as chief of consumer protection. He has made economies in that office and will use his experience to do the same should he be elected Secretary of State.

The Real Millionaires And Their Support Staff

Over the course of her congressional campaign, Republican Linda McMahon boasted that she was willing to sink $50 million into her bid for the U.S. Senate. The tribunes of the people immediately drew their swords. McMahon, it was said in scores of editorials and commentary pieces, was attempting to buy a seat in the congress.

The outrage directed by the Main Stream Media at McMahon, whose opponent is also a millionaire – present Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, the MSM’s anointed candidate for Sen. Chris Dodd’s seat -- has not been poured upon the heads of Democratic contestants in the state’s congressional delegation, even though CTMirror has provided unimpeachable proof that Democratic incumbents, not their impoverished Republican challengers, are the real millionaires.


Republican challengers hoping that the anti-millionaire animus directed at McMahon will now be focused laser-like on their rich and greedy Democratic opponents had better not hold their breath waiting for such as Rick Green and Colin McEnroe of the Courant -- not to cite other too numerous to mention cracker-jack liberals in Connecticut’s one-way media -- to direct their outrage at their favored Democrats.

Better just to swallow the pain of injustice and get along without these disingenuous, hypocritical, partisan liberal sons of thunder in their corner.

UPDATE SATURDAY, JULY 24, 2010

Jacqueline Rabe of CTMirror has filed an updated report on campaign financing that shows Democrats on the public financing dole far outpacing their Republican counterparts.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dodd-Frank Financial Bill’s Diversity: Office of Women & Minorities

The Financial Reform bill, now known as the Dodd-Frank bill for Senator Dodd and Representative Frank, passed the Senate last Thursday by 60-37, with the help of three Republicans. It passed the House on June 30. When signed by the President (probably this week), it will become law.

Its 2319 pages make it the longest bill in the history of financial regulation. The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 was 31 pages; the Sarbanes Oxley was 66 pages. In its 2319 pages could be found by any reporter Section 342, the Office of Women and Minorities.

In our July 7 column, we reported this Office was no longer in the bill. A mistake. How did it happen? Not seeing it mentioned in the media, we assumed that it had been deleted. Its first mention was on Internet July 8, the day following our column. It was inserted by its discoverer, Diana Furchtgott-Roth, of the Manhattan Institute, who was searching for derivatives.

The bill says that gender- and race-employment ratios must be observed in the public and private financial sectors. Though it does not mandate quotas, which are illegal, its language moves smoothly from anti-discrimination to quotas. It sets up 29 such offices in nine government bureaus: the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks, the Treasury, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Federal Housing Finance Agency, National Credit Union Administration, Comptroller of the Currency, Securities and Exchange Commission, and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Each Office will have a director to develop policies promoting “fair inclusion” in the agency’s workforce and the workforces of its contractors and sub-contactors.

The head of each Office is to be named by the President. Those who fill these positions will be at the highest personnel level.

Will the new diverse employees have a role in monetary policy? No one yet knows.

A more relevant part of this bill is, will it help prevent another financial crisis? That question was put to seven experts by The Wall Street Journal.

Will this bill help prevent another financial crisis?

“Not at all,” said a former head of the SEC, who graded it F.

“The new tools in this legislation will help mitigate and manage another crisis, which should be in the next six to 10 years,” answered Henry Paulson, former Treasury Secretary. His grade, “incomplete.”

“It won’t repel further crises but it will certainly make them less likely and less severe,” said the chief economist of Moody’s Analytics. B+

“A botched financial reform is planting the seeds of the next financial crisis,” says a professor of economics at NYU, who grades it C+.

A manager of the PIMCO Total Return Fund didn’t answer the question, gives it a D+

“We can’t eliminate financial crises, but the bill will make them less frequent and less costly,” responded an economist a Brookings Institution economist. A-.

“Realistically, we may need to go through another major financial disturbance before officials ‘get this’ to a sufficient degree,” comments a professor of entrepreneurship at MIT, who graded it B, “the lowest passing grade MIT allows.”

The consequences of the Bill

What’s the biggest likely change, they were asked. They couldn’t answer because they didn’t know. Rules have to be written. One attorney calculates there are 243 rules yet to be written. Another says 400. Among them are 54 relating to the Fed, 95 to the SEC, and 24 to the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.

Of the seven interviewed, three agreed that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s non-inclusion was a principal defect, a typical comment. So let us turn briefly to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Fannie and Freddie were created by Congress to buy mortgages and package them for investors. The housing bubble loosened lending standards. They own or guarantee half the mortgages in the country representing over 30 million home loans worth about $5.5 trillion.

Fannie-Mae and Freddie Mac are noted for their purchase of political influence. They give to 60 congressmen, perhaps every congressman on the two relevant congressional committees, and Speaker Pelosi. Freddie ran afoul of the law and was fined $3.8 million by the Federal Election Commission in 2006. Senator Dodd assisted in writing a rescue plan, to be signed by the “next president.” In 2008, Fannie and Freddie were nationalized. The rescue plan is awaiting the next president’s signature.

Fannie’s PAC gave over $6l7, 900 and Freddie’s PAC over $202,907 from January 2007 to May 2008. Currently, President Obama and Senator Dodd are the biggest recipients. Fannie and Freddie are also known for generous bonuses to departing officials: $26 million to Jamie Gorelick and $99 million to Franklin Raines. The White House is not concerned about bonuses in the public sector.

The New York Stock Exchange will not permit a stock to remain on its list whose price is below $1 on average for 30 days. Fannie has closed at $0.92, Freddie at $1.22. They have been “delisted.” Their stock will now be traded over the counter along with the other penny-stocks, but they hold about 97 percent of all subprime mortgages.

By Natalie Sirkin c2010

Natalie Sirkin is a Connecticut columnist. The above column is here printed with her permission
e-mail: sirnat9@gmail.com

Blumenthal And The House Interview

It should be stipulated up front that Dennis House is one of the better interviewers in Connecticut. House is the moderator, chief cook and bottle washer of the popular program “Face the State,” which airs every Sunday on WFSB Channel 3.

In a prelude to his program, House provides on "The Hartfordite" tasty little tidbits of shows before they air.

In the teaser for a show on Sunday featuring the surprisingly elusive Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate Richard Blumenthal, House noted that the public figure before him on Sunday was a notably different character that the self assured attorney general whom he had often interviewed on “Face the State.”

“Blumenthal,” House reported, “used to the be the most accessible public official in our land of steady habits, offering reporters his personal cell phone number and granting interviews at a moment’s notice. His eager willingness to go on camera was a running joke among his staff, journalists, columnists and radio disc jockeys…even himself. But the post NY Times article Blumenthal is a new type of politician. That cell phone number has been disconnected, and his twice, or thrice weekly appearances on local media outlets have been sharply reduced…

“My sense is that the Vietnam comments controversy shook Blumenthal to his core. I don’t think the old Dick Blumenthal is ever coming back. He is now in a race that is probably tougher than he ever imagined and for the first time after decades of easy landslides he faces an opponent in a campaign that has everybody watching.”

That sense is partially correct. After the more or less self administered thumping he had received as a result of his multiple lies concerning his military record, Blumenthal did withdraw behind the protective shields of his handlers, both old and new. But there is something else as well that should figure into this calculus: namely, the different positions he will occupy as attorney general and U.S. Senator.

Apples are not oranges. However much Blumenthal may wish to conflate the two positions – He has, for instance, promised to carry over into his position as senator the same passion and energy he employed, with the assistance of hundreds of lawyers in his office, in his present job – still attorneys general are not senators.

Under Blumenthal’s direction, the attorney general’s office has become a hyperactive consumer protection agency armed with subpoena power and ready to litigate at the drop of a hat, one of the reasons surely that the Competitive Enterprise Institute cited him as the worst attorney general in the United States.

Initially, Blumenthal’s office, which evolved from the “king’s lawyer,” was designed to represent state agencies in matters involving litigation. The statutory architecture of the office was re-jiggered by former attorney general Joe Lieberman; later, the Lieberman re-design was further enhanced and embellished by Blumenthal. To be sure, one of the offices to which the attorney general should serve as an advisor and legal council is the state’s Consumer Protection Department, but Blumenthal has used “whistle blower” incidents to poke his nose into some exotic tents in the course of his twenty year run as attorney general.

It would seem that the radical transformation of that office has not escaped the notice of the two Republican candidates for attorney general this year, Martha Dean and Ross Garber, both of whom have chided Blumenthal for having over litigated when he should have been negotiating settlements with companies that, for one or another reason, incurred his displeasure. Others have charged Blumenthal with a failure to properly represent state agencies on those occasion when doing so might offend the ideological propensities of the ambitious and highly partisan attorney general.

It should be noted in passing that while the Republicans vying for attorney general seem intent on rectifying the animating ethos of the office – sue first, ask questions later – George Jepsen, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, has promised to comport himself faithfully to the Blumenthal model.

As U.S. Senator, Blumenthal will not have within his reach many of the usufructs of office he deployed so effectively as attorney general. A couple of hundred attorneys general will not be at his beck and call; his press availabilities will not be monologues in which the attorney general, reading from a carefully crafted script will cast luster on himself by accusing his targets of illegal activity; the audience at his new newsers will not be passive receptors, transcriptionists who for various reasons unquestioningly adopt the briefs they are give to print.

The House interview was a gentle reminder of the differences between the office Blumenthal has molded to his liking - indeed the greater part of Blumenthal's responses suggest that he might be running for attorney general rather than U.S. Senator -- and the office he hopes to occupy. As attorney general, Blumenthal spoke TO the media. As a U.S. Senator, he will be speaking WITH the media.

Monologues are apples; dialogues are oranges.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Simmons, The Half In Half Out Candidate

Rob Simmons, though he withdrew as an active candidate in Connecticut’s U.S. Senate race, has – not inadvertently – left his name on the ballot, a ploy considered provocative by Linda McMahon and her supporters. McMahon is the Republican Party primary nominee for the position.

Simmons has his supporters, some of whom consider McMahon’s campaign against sometime Attorney General Richard Blumenthal – news on the street is that the attorney general’s appearances at the office are increasingly infrequent – a long shot. McMahon has whittled down Blumenthal’s early lead, but she has not been able to shake from the race either Peter Schiff or Simmons.

Unlike Schiff, Simmons has one foot in and one foot out of the race. He has pronounced his formal challenge dead, though he will leave his name on the ballot through the primary on August 10.

There are two very different kinds of Simmons supporters.

Some stalwarts who supported Simmons over McMahon and Schiff have continued to urge Simmons to keep one foot in the race for prudential reasons. They saw him, during his party nomination bid, as the best candidate to prevail over Blumenthal in a general election, and the fact that the Republican Party nominating convention vote went to McMahon has not disabused them of this notion. Primaries, in fact, were always envisioned by campaign reformers as devises to overthrow those anointed by nominating conventions. Simmon’s decision to leave his name on the ballot throws a wrench into both processes. Schiff, supported by many in the Tea Party Patriot movement, has not yet said that Simmons should whatchacallit or get off the pot, but the Simmons ploy is equally damaging to both party nominee McMahon and primary challenger Schiff, a thumb in the eye both to conventions and primaries.

The second kind of “supporter” has no love for things Republican and yet backs Simmon’s ploy for much the same reasons. He, too, will argue that Simmons would be a better opponent in the general election than McMahon. Blumenthal, he will point out, slipped on blood when he lied about his military service, an issue that presently seems to have disappeared from the political radar screens. Recent polls suggest that those questioned by pollsters are willing to put in the justice scale Blumenthal’s one great failing measured against his many virtues as attorney general. His virtues, according to this reckoning, far outweigh his momentary lapse in judgment. Simmon’s military record alone, it is said, would never-the-less give him a leg up over Blumenthal. And Simmons, a typical center-left New England Republican during his years as a U.S. Rep. in the beltway, has experience in the ways of Washington.

In tooting for Simmons recently, one such supporter pointed out that 1) Simmons is “qualified” to be a U.S. senator; 2) the Republican Party -- the larger party not represented by convention delegates who chose McMahon over Simmons -- could “seek redemption” by voting for Simmons in the primary; and finally, capping these arguments, the putative Simmons supporter also pointed out that even ex-Senator and Governor Lowell Weicker, who is aggressively supporting Democrat Ned Lamont in his bid for governor, said recently that Simmons could defeat Blumenthal.

Some of these points may or may not have merit. But, given the temper of the times, it is hardly a positive recommendation to point out that Simmons is the preferred candidate of Weicker, a center-left Republican in the Jacob Javits mode who, as the father of Connecticut’s income tax, triggered a spending spree that has left the state on its knees begging a greedy legislature swollen with hubris and money to stop pouring gasoline on a fire of Weicker’s making.

At a minimum, the encouragement offered to Simmons by those unfriendly to Republican interests means that no dice is ever finally cast: that nominating conventions mean nothing; that polls measuring Republican preferences – among grass roots Republicans, Simmons has not led McMahon in polls since last January – mean nothing; that massive debt, caused mostly by the kinds of Democrats and Republicans Weicker likes, means nothing; that a vast regulatory apparatus fashioned by center-left Democrats and art-deco Republicans to nationalize health care and to cripple what remains of a recession impacted economy by imposing on it a suffocating regulatory scheme fashioned by Barney Frank and the out-going Chris Dodd, Weicker’s favorite living senator, whose dubious reforms still leave Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac virtually untouched, means nothing.

At bottom, this kind of skepticism, poorly disguised as an irresistible forward progressive movement, is a council of despair: Why should people choose at all, when their choices mean nothing.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Jepsen Wealthy Beyond His Means Owing To Public Financing

Is anyone doing the arithmetic here?

Theoretically, public financing is supposed to “even the campaign money playing field” between contestants for office.

There is no incumbent in the attorney general race. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is running for the U.S. Senate.

Out of the gate, George Jepsen, the Democratic candidate who has accepted public financing, will be awarded $750,000, according to a story in the Greenwich Time:

“To quality for a $750,000 grant, Jepsen was required to raise at least $75,000 in contributions of $100 or less. According to a campaign finance report filed this week, Jepsen has raised about $84,500.”
Of the two Republican nominees for the office, Ross Garber has raised $72,640, and Martha Dean, the Republican nominee for the position has raised $26,000. Both Republicans have spurned public financing.

Public financing, in this instance, has tilted the playing field significantly in Jepsen’s favor. The Democratic candidate for attorney general has in his campaign kitty $651,360 more than the combined total of both his opposition candidates.

If the purpose of public campaign financing is to give all contestants an even money shot at a public office, public financing has failed spectacularly in this instance.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Raw Sewerage Escapes From Blumenthal’s Office


George Gombossy got curious after stories began to appear in Connecticut’s media -- 90% of which genuflects and crosses itself before the Dick Blumenthal icon every morning -- concerning Richard Hine’s personnel file.

Hine is the Marine in Blumenthal’s office who released to the media a letter disclosing that Blumenthal had told him in personal conversations that he had served in Vietnam. Not a big deal there, since it had already been established that Blumenthal had lied SEVERAL TIMES concerning his attempts to steal valor from Vietnam soldiers who, unlike Blumenthal, did not spend the war getting deferments.

Those of us who know how the eye-gougers and ear-biters in Blumenthal office operate were waiting patiently for the hob-nailed boot to come down on Hine’s face.

Gombossy filed an FOIA request to secure Hine’s personnel records, portions of which had already been released by Blumenthal’s office to other news outlets after reporters had filed other FOIA requests. The packet, Gombossy discovered, contained what some in the business call “raw information,” documents that had not been certified as true by Blumenthal’s office. Such data should more properly be called raw sewerage.

While other journalists had only requested disciplinary information from Major Hine's personnel file, Gombossy requested ALL the file information, about 500 pages. Hine claims the allegations against him, not anonymous, were redacted when he was told about it. Gombossy was given access to the redacted and unredacted documents, copies having been made for him the attorney general’s office after he had paid for them.

Gombossy was permitted to view the unredacted raw sewerage. Hine had requested that the sewerage should not be given out, since it contained unverified and libelous charges; Hine, unlike Gombossy, was not permitted to learn the name of his accuser.

Gombossy’s story on the sewerage gusher, “Blumenthal’s Office Improperly Releases Sensitive Personnel Document About Staffer Who Claimed Blumenthal Lied About Vietnam,” is well worth a peek.

Gombossy apparently attempted to contact the icon himself but reached a subaltern, who was shocked, SHOCKED, that the sewerage had been inadvertently included in the file.

“Blumenthal,” Gombossy writes, “according to his press aides, would not comment on this issue and that he turned the matter over to his deputy Attorney General because of the obvious conflict of interest.

“’This document was provided completely in error in response to a disclosure request,’ Deputy Attorney General Carolyn Querijero said. ‘We immediately urged in writing and by phone that the document be returned and not disclosed. We continue to strongly urge that the document be returned and not disclosed.’”

So saith the eye-gougers and ear-biters in the attorney general’s office. Even the icon himself might have had a bit of a problem swallowing that big fish in one gulp, had he been available to handle Gombossy’s questions.

Good thing for Blumenthal there was a conflict of interest.

Others in the media beside Gombossy might well wonder at the “mistake” had they been more familiar with the methods used by the eye-gougers and ear-biters.

Then again, what they don’t know won’t bite them.

Powell Nixes Lamont

Chris Powell, Managing Editor of the Journal Inquirer and the paper’s columnist, stirs the embers of Ned Lamont’s gubernator campaign and finds them luke-warm. No bonfire here:

“Lamont declares that he wants to "show taxpayers that we'll fundamentally reform government," and he identifies three huge areas of state spending that are ripe for review -- medical care, payroll, and retirement benefits. But anybody can try to get more Medicaid money out of the federal government; promising to prune "top-heavy management" is just pandering to the state employee unions and won't save much money because so few state employees are managers, nearly all being unionized; and Lamont offers no ideas for curbing state government's pension obligations.”

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Confederacy of Dunces Revisited

While Lieutenant Governor Michael Fedele was savoring his court victory over Republican gubernatorial nominee Tom Foley, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit was sawing off the limb he was sitting on.

The court struck down the “trigger provision” of Connecticut’s campaign finance system, a devise that awards extra public funds to candidates running against opponents not participating in the system who spend more than the system’s limits

Meanwhile, in a Connecticut court, Judge Julia Aurigemma has decided that Fedele’s view of a Connecticut statute which, in the not so humble opinion of this writer and an apprehensive U.S. Supreme Court, violates the Constitution is the correct one. In writing the Connecticut statute that violates the U.S. Constitution, the judge ruled, the legislature DID envision the possibility of two clever politicians bundling their contributions so that they may steer their skiff around a restriction limiting the amount of money they can accept as a legitimate campaign offering.

To put the matter briefly: All this litigatory nonsense is nonsense because McCain-Feingold and its myriad spawn is unconstitutional, and it is only a matter of time before an enlightened Supreme Court chucks the whole business as a impudent violation of the First Amendment.

But courts tend to disassemble unconstitutional structures brick by brink. “Time, there will be time,” says the poet:

“Time for visions and revision
That time will soon erase.”

The New York court said: No, you can’t deprive a candidate for office of his free speech rights. Money, most especially money used by private citizens to finance their own campaigns, as countless editorialists remind us daily, talks; therefore, it falls under the umbrella protections of the First Amendment. The court ruled that campaign contributions by lobbyists were acceptable; it also found that the so call “top off” provision of most campaign regulatory schemes was unconstitutional. Both rulings will reset the campaign contribution playing field in a way unacceptable to the levelers among us who hope to eliminate all advantages in pretty nearly every department of life.

To translate this into Connecticut terms, the New York Court ruled that Fedele cannot offset ALL the private money Foley pumps into his campaign with taxpayer generated “contributions.” The quotes imprisoning “contributions” are necessary because there ain’t no such animal as a tax “contribution.” All taxes are appropriated by force under threat of imprisonment, even that portion that some plucked citizens “agree” shall go to generic politicians.

So then, Fedele is constitutionally incapable of evening out the money spent by Foley through the Rube Goldberg mechanism the state legislature has created to “level” the campaign contribution playing field. The quotes imprisoning the word “level” are necessary here because – even if some constitutional devise could be found to “equalize” contributions between incumbents and challengers, the incumbent will never-the-less enjoy offsetting advantages, too numerous to mention here, that tilt the election playing field – life is so unfair – so as to accomplish his nefarious purposes.

At this point, no one can say for certain where all this judicial and legislative nonsense will end. It probably would have been much saner, and more effective, to scrap McCain-Feingold and steer all campaign contributions anonymously through party mechanisms. The contributions would in this way arrive at the door of an incumbent or a challenger masked, so that neither the incumbent nor the challenger could identify its source as originating from a PAC or a Robber Barron or a union or a patriot intent on steering his money to someone who genuflects before the Constitution.

But, you say, the routing method would assure that no challenger outside the two major parties would receive funds. Not true. The campaigner independent of the major political parties would simply have to start a party – this would be made effortless in the scheme here proposed -- and the tap would be open to him. But, you say, it’s hard to start a party.

But, I say, life is hard. At this point in our leap into a politically bleak future, my guess would be that independents, more numerous in Connecticut than either party, would be willing to donate to third parties – provided the distribution mechanism was not controlled by the usual political culprits disguised as politically disinterested citizens.

How to disguise the contributions?

Americans are an unusually inventive species: Where there’s a will, there will be a way.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Party Of “Yes” Can’t Say “No”

The Waterbury Republican American asks who, among the candidates for governor this year, will have the courage to just say “No” to the spending frenzy that has gripped the state ever since ex-Governor and Senator Lowell Weicker – Is he gone yet? Is it safe to come out? – saddled state tax suppliers with an income tax and thereby a) saved a spend-thrift state government from the necessity of making real, permanent cuts in the budget and b) produced quickly spent multi million surpluses every budgetary cycle that increased an ungovernable appetite for spending, which has now produced a budget deficit that even Weicker deplores. Weicker deplored the deficit most recently on Colin McEnroe’s talk show, Dennis House’s show and other venues.

His concern was touching, in a touchy feely kind of way.

This year, Weicker is supporting Ned Lamont for governor. No surprise there; Weicker and his former chief aide Tom D’Amore supported Lamont – who, in his own campaign, now has hoisted Weicker’s tattered “No Man But Yours” Jolly Rodger – when Lamont, at the urging of Weicker and D’Amore, challenged present Senator Joe Lieberman in a primary. Lieberman is to Weicker what holy water is to the devil’s tail; the slightest drop causes clouds of smoke to spume, emitting enough noxious vapors to stun an elephant.

Is there, the WRA asks, a dime’s worth of difference this year between Republican and Democratic promises? The paper is quick to remind us that most political campaign promises are worth no more than a dime a dozen. In his presidential campaign, candidate Barack Obama promised us he would close GITMO within months of his swearing in as president. He hasn’t done it. Military tribunals would be out. Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi, a Sudanese detainee held at Guantanamo Bay and Osama bin Ladin’s former driver, just pled guilty on July 7 to charges of conspiracy and material support for terrorism before a military commission. Troops in Iraq were to be withdrawn within months of his attaining office. They weren’t. He would create millions of new jobs. He hasn’t. The president has managed to create some jobs, a good many of them temporary, in the public sphere. He would scour the federal budget “line by line, “eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less."

The WRA’s response?

“Ha!”

Closer to home:

“Connecticut is about to elect a new governor, and it's deja vu. Five candidates — Democrats Dan Malloy and Red Ned Lamont, and Republicans Tom Foley, Michael Fedele and Oz Griebel — are promising to revitalize the economy, create jobs, reduce government borrowing and spending, root out waste and fraud, improve accountability, ‘invest’ in education, public safety and transportation, restore fiscal responsibility (as if it ever existed), and — our favorite — ‘think outside the box.’

“If it sounds familiar, it should.

“With minor variations and adjustments for the prevailing circumstances, it's what gubernatorial candidates promise every four years. This year's crop has repackaged these promises and is peddling them as new solutions, new approaches, new direction and new leadership. It's the same old wine, long ago gone rancid, in a brand new bottle.”

Friday, July 09, 2010

Marie And The Magna Carta

Former Department Of Transportation chief Joseph Marie has now lawyered up, as the lawyers sometimes say.

It is supposed that he was urged out of his position by Governor Jodi Rell or, as some in the commentariat community may suppose, by her evil twin, chief gubernatorial aide Lisa Moody.

On an informal complaint of harassment, Marie was called on the carpet by a lawyer attached to Rell’s office, a pre-written statement was put in front of him, and he was told to sign it -- or else.

The statement was a resignation plus: If Marie would agree to resign and whisper not a word concerning his resignation to the media, the state, represented by Rell or demon Moody, as the case may be, would agree to let him go peaceful into that good night and whisper not a word concerning the real reason for his speedy departure, which was this: One of his associates had made an informal complaint alleging sexual harassment against Marie.

Here, half a dozen or more questions drum on Marie’s closed door: Who was the complainant? What was the nature of the sexual harassment? When did it occur? Was it a touchy feely thing, or a verbal thing? If verbal, what was said? Were there any corroborating witnesses? Why wasn’t a formal complaint made? How thorough was the nature of the cursory “investigation” that preceded Marie’s firing? Despite the falderal of signed agreements, it was a firing, was it not? These questions point only to the tip of the submerged iceberg that cost Marie his job.

If a formal complaint had been issued and Marie had been given the opportunity to respond the charges made against him – a simple rule of law that had been forced upon the too sovereign King John nearly eight centuries ago by the Magna Carta -- all the answers to the questions above, and more, would have been exposed to the disinfecting light of day. When you are trampling on what later came to be called the "due process" provisions of such an ancient and revered document as the Magna Carta, even a first year law student would not hesitate to warn that a sign had been by-passed before which free men ought to kneel:
 “No Free-man shall be taken, or imprisoned, or dispossessed, of his free tenement, or liberties, or free customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or in any way destroyed; nor will we condemn him, nor will we commit him to prison, excepting by the legal judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land – To none will we sell, to none will we deny, to none will we delay right or justice.”

In order to protect an anonymous complainant and to assure the safety of others who worked with Marie, due process was shelved – with predictable results. A reporter having acquired relevant documents through a freedom of information complaint, the gentleman’s agreement between Rell, or demon Moody, and Marie quickly unraveled.

Rell, it was said by some commentators, was no gentlemen. Colin McEnroe – Courant columnist, blogger and CPR raconteur – said that Rell had “screwed him [Marie],” a sentiment quickly emblazoned in a banner headline over at “Capitol Report.” Gregory Hladky’s sensitive nose picked up the stench of corruption at the Hartford Advocate. Very shortly, the whole pack was in full bay.

It is group that knows how to howl but not always what to howl.

When Attorney General Richard Blumenthal was tramping though the countryside despoiling accused persons of their property and liberty without giving them the opportunity to answer in a timely manner the inflated charges he made in faulty press releases, and when in ex parte proceeding he used defective affidavits and trampled as destructively on the Magna Carta, the whole pack was contentedly silent.

They are silent still.

Dubitsky Slams Courtney On Fake Budget Bill


Doug Dubitsky, running as a Republican in the 2nd Congressional District against Rep. Joe Courtney, views the budget enforcement resolution passed by a veto proof Democratic congress a license to continue spending with virtually no limits.

The extraordinary measure sets discretionary spending at $1.12 trillion, lacks future spending a revenue projections and – big surprise! – does not include spending limits.

“This resolution,” Dubitsky said, “is not a budget at all. It sets no priorities. It fails to outline spending in the next fiscal year or beyond. It is nothing but a complete abrogation of Congress’ budgetary obligations. Joe Courtney and the Congressional Democrats are playing fast and loose with the nation’s economic and fiscal health.”

Republicans unanimously voted against the measure, 38 Democrats crossing over to vote with Republicans, Courtney not among them. The 2nd District incumbent voted with his party to pass the measure, 215-210.

“At a time when Americans are increasingly being forced to pinch pennies under strict budgets,” Dubitsky said, “Congress is failing in its most fundamental obligation -- passing a spending plan for the country. Democrats are trying to fool the people by passing this fictitious budget.”

The “budget enforcement measure,” was smuggled within a war supplemental bill in an effort to acquire votes that would not have been possible in a stand alone bill. The measure passed last week covers only a single year and ignores spending and revenue requirements. The congressional budget ordinarily establishes a fiscal blueprint, complete with expected spending and revenue needs, for five fiscal years.

Foley, Griebel Question SEEC Decision

This is how the Courant wrote up the SEEC decision released on Thursday:

“The State Elections Enforcement Commission voted unanimously Thursday to award the grant to the combined committee of Fedele and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, who are running as a team. Under the law, the money is awarded to the committee as ‘a single grant, which can be used to benefit both candidates,'’ according to the commission.”
That report is correct as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. Actually, the State Elections Enforcement Commission broke new ground in its interpretation of the state statute that gives the commission the authority to disperse tax dollars to primary challengers. The commission’s ruling means that any two people, not nominated as a legitimate combination by the relevant party nominating apparatus, may join together as a team for the purpose of acquiring tax money to run their joint campaign.

Fedele had been having some difficulty raising the threshold amount necessary to trigger public financing until Boughton dumped the funds he had accumulated into Fedele’s piggy bank. The SEEC decision authorizes this practice when two politicians decide to run as a team, even though their nominating conventions have not sanctioned a joint campaign by nominating the team as a statutorily legitimate combination.

If all this seems fishy, it may be because the process gives off an odor of a mackerel stinking in the moonlight. The decision considerably advances the interest of the SEEC, which is charged with disbursing funds. Although both Oz Griebel and Foley are questioning the decision, a final resolution concerning the decision will be made long after the funds have been dispersed.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Democratic Contenders Just Say “No”

Democratic Party gubernatorial hopeful  Ned Lamont has refused a public debate in New London with primary challenger Dan Malloy, the former mayor of Stamford.

Democratic Party nominee for the U.S. Senate Richard Blumenthal is in deep cover and shows no sign, any time soon, that he may pop out of his hidey hole to confront Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate Linda McMahon and Peter Schiff, a Republican primary opponent. In addition, Blumenthal’s senatorial campaign site is light on many pertinent campaign issues.

For instance: In a major decision, the U.S. Supreme Court recently held that the second amendment pertains to individuals rather than state militias. Does Blumenthal agree with that decision?

Some economists hold that the roll played by the Federal Reserve in boosting or lowering interest rates has distorted the market system and sent confusing signals to major lenders and investors. According to views propounded by economists who cleave to the Austrian school of economics, these distortion have created temporary booms and busts in the market place, producing “malinvestments,” the fundamental cause of our boom-bust cycles. Does Blumenthal agree with this view? Would Blumenthal agree to a debate on economic issues with his two Republican opponents prior to a primary vote, so that his economic views can be properly ventilated in advance of the primaries?

President Barack Obama has just cashiered General Stanley McKristol for incautious remarks made by the general and his staff in a left leaning publication, appointing General David Petraeus to fill the leadership void in Afghanistan. There has been great deal of resistance all along in Democratic Party ranks to both the Iraq war and the war in Afghanistan. When Obama agreed to increase troop levels in Afghanistan, he was sharply criticized by the peace wing of the Democratic Party. Some in the Republican Party believe that current troop levels are too low to sustain in Afghanistan the strategy adopted by Petraeus and employed successfully in Iraq. What is Blumenthal’s view on the matter of troop levels and announcements of time-lines for the withdrawal of troops in both theaters?

A rational discussion of such issues would more easily allow Connecticut voters to choose who may best represent the interests of the people of United States on these matters in the U.S. Senate. But in order to have a proper discussion, Blumenthal would have to make himself available for questioning in venues familiar to him as attorney general, where he faced the media and responded to important questions . Even now, as attorney general, Blumenthal permits himself to respond to issues affecting that office through his subalterns. He has not done the same as a prospective U.S. senator. If references to his activity as attorney general are boiled out of Blumenthal’s official senatorial campaign site, the remaining pap makes a very thin soup. And at this point in his campaign, even newspapers that have been exceedingly obliging to Attorney General Blumenthal are beginning to murmur darkly about Blumenthal’s motives in secreting himself from those who might be expected to vote for him as U.S. senator.

In the meantime, Lamont, taking a page from Blumenthal’s book, has refused an invitation by the New London Day to debate Dan Malloy on issues important to Connecticut, prompting Malloy to issue the following statement:

"The Day said today that they are disappointed in Ned's decision. I think it's worse than that. This debate is a tradition. It's a chance for voters to see and hear each candidate only days before heading to the polls. It's when primary voters are most tuned in and most ready to hear from candidates about their values, their experience, and their vision. And Ned Lamont is denying them that chance. What a shame.

"If this is an indication that Ned is going to refuse to meet me in any televised debate between now and the primary, I think it's an unprecedented situation. No statewide debate in the closing weeks of a campaign this important? What a shame."
Lamont has said he’d rather campaign against Malloy than debate him. No one need wonder why. Like Blumenthal, Lamont is far ahead in the polls over his challenger. When the hare is so far in advance of the tortoise in the race, he cannot be expected to pause for debates, and this is the great failing of primaries. For primaries to work properly, an honest confrontation on important views is a necessity. By avoiding the necessity, the incumbent or the leader in a primary frustrates, knowingly and purposely, the whole point of a primary, a craven acknowledgement that debates are far less important than political status.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

FINANCIAL REFORM BILL, TO HELP OR HINDER?



The sheer complexity of the … [Dodd-Frank] bill is certainly a threat to future economic growth. But if you sift through the sections and subsections, you find much more than complexity to worry about -- Economist John B. Taylor

The 2,319-paged financial reform bill of Senator Christopher Dodd and Representative Barney Frank “widens” the regulatory net, installs “better shock-absorbers,” and “provides a road-map for big firms that fail,” according to the Wall Street Journal. It is supposed to prevent future bail-outs, but it may facilitate them. Here follows a sampling of its provisions.

How it will work out, even Senator Dodd says he cannot anticipate, though President Obama, a little behind on reviewing the history of business cycles, anticipates that the bill will ensure that a financial crisis will never happen again. A radio caller dubs the bill the “Frank-Dodd Fraud bill.”

What’s in the Bill?

The Federal Reserve retains oversight over thousands of community banks.

The bill involves government agencies that had nothing to do with the financial crisis. “Far from effective reform, this legislation includes provisions totally unrelated to the financial crisis which may disrupt America’s fragile economic recovery, and increase instability and risk,” says the Business Roundtable’s president. Among BR’s criticisms is that regulations on derivatives raise costs for firms that merely use them to hedge risks.

The bill creates a lot of new regulator agencies, giving them much discretion and little oversight. Among the new agencies are: an Office of Financial Research—in the Treasury—to concentrate on systemic risk, which has been the task of the Fed; a Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection—in, and financed by, the Fed—to write the rules for all types of financial service including some that had no connection to the financial crisis; a Commodities Futures Trading Corporation, calling for higher collateral on risk-reducing instruments even in firms unrelated to the crisis. It and the SEC, together, are to regulate over-the-counter derivatives. Which does what, is unclear.

In the Treasury Department, an agency (perhaps the Office of Financial Research) will monitor the insurance industry.

Surrounded by the new agencies and the old, private firms stand about as much chance for survival as insurance companies under ObamaCare.

What’s in the Bill that’s bad?

The Federal Reserve is given control of the financial system, points out Peter J. Wallison in the March 18 Wall Street Journal, which is perhaps surprising because it “failed to anticipate the financial crisis, missed the significance of the developing housing bubble, and did not prevent our biggest banks from taking excessive risks.”

Within the Fed, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is established with authority over banks and some financial firms—authority to enforce regulations for all mortgage-related businesses, banks, and credit unions having assets of over $10 billion. It will write the rules, which will affect even pay-day lenders and check cashers. It has discretion.

The auto industry managed to get itself excluded from the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau, though President Obama particularly wanted the auto industry included.

What’s not in the Bill?

Dropped from the bill is the $19 billion assessment on the biggest banks and on hedge funds to pay costs associated with the bill. Nearly at the last minute Senator Brown from Massachusetts threatened he would vote against the bill in the Senate on that account. It was removed. The problem was where to find the $19 (now reduced to $18) billion. It was decided to take it out of the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are not mentioned in the bill. Recently nationalized, they were the providers of funds for most home loans and subprime mortgages. Long protected and much praised by Senator Dodd and Representative Frank, they are generous at gift-giving time, with Sen. Dodd and President Obama at the top of the gift lists.

Another interest group that doesn’t appear in the bill is the Office of Women and Minorities. It was to be housed in the Federal Reserve. Its head was to be appointed by President Obama. Its staff, which was to be placed in all twelve regional Federal Reserve Banks, was to be at a high level, perhaps even in decision-making on monetary policy. The Office of Women and Minorities evidently was not approved by the House conferees in the conference committee.

It is useful to compare the U..S. financial experience with that of Canada, which did not encounter a financial crisis. How come? Canada has no subprime mortgage market. Mortgage lending organizations are not allowed to sell the mortgages they initiate. There is no Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to pass the mortgages to. Home-owners and taxpayers are not allowed to deduct interest on mortgages from their income taxes.

A non-governmental agency should replace Fannie and Freddie, a critic has suggested.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the kingpins of the subprime mortgage industry. Chairmen Dodd and Frank have long been misstating Fan and Fred’s role and understating their importance. Chairman Frank discourages his committee members from even mentioning their names at hearings. He interrupts, saying he is “working on” it.

It is too bad that Messrs. Dodd and Frank did not await the outcome of the congressionally mandated Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to ascertain the causes of the financial crisis before they rearrange these deckchairs, which may require another bail-out of another company “too big to fail.”

As the Administration has taken over ObamaCare, the legislature, through massive and complex regulations, is positioning the financial industry for governmental take-over.

By Natalie Sirkin
c2010
sirnat9@gmail.com