Thursday, September 30, 2010

AMERICA THY NAME IS HELEN KELLER

An editorial confession: I’ve been more or less begging Reid Holloway to write something for CTMajority for awhile, but not on my knees; these things are accomplished through subtleties. Mr. Holloway, always alarmingly astute, has written for this page before. Here, Mr. Holloway has a Damascus Road experience while reflecting on one of his favorite films and decides, peremptorily but justly, that Helen Keller IS America.

Prepare yourself for an entertaining journey of the mind. Emblazoned on Robert Frost’s tombstone is the legend: “I had a lover's quarrel with the world.” So do we all. This is part of Reid’s lover’s quarrel.

A stern word of warning: Those who are determined to denigrate the Tea Party movement should prayerfully pass by.

Don Pesci



By REID HOLLOWAY

Sometimes when I turn in for the night, I’ll boot up the television to relax a bit before dozing off.

Then, as happened one recent morning, it will still be on, as my large pet cat is pacing on my chest, applying about four pounds of pressure per foot to stir me into doing my job: hitting the deck and feeding him.

So there I was, following the cat’s orders, filling his bowl, when I glanced back at the television and noticed that the great 1962 film production starring Anne Bancroft and introducing Patty Duke, The Miracle Worker, was just getting under way.

I was a nine-year-old boy when that film came out, traveling with my Mom in Ohio visiting relatives. I’m not exactly sure how it happened—maybe our relatives had something else to do that afternoon that didn’t include us—but we found ourselves in a theatre out there in Ohio to see that film.

So as I was watching it more recently while feeding the cat, that was the first memory that came back to me. My mind wandered a little more, and I recalled that Patty Duke would encounter a great challenge many years later in her own life, confronting depression problems and successfully dealing with them. I chuckled in also recalling the fact that Anne Bancroft was married to Mel Brooks. Let that one roll around in your head for a minute or two.

Finally, the cat now occupied with his food and my mental focus starting to take hold, I concentrated on the film. It really is a wonderful film in my opinion and I heartily recommend it for a high-priority Netflix cue position for anyone who enjoys drama and crisp execution, in this case both the production itself as well as Bancroft’s and Duke’s riveting performances.

It’s the story of Helen Keller. Bancroft portrays Annie Sullivan, “the miracle worker” who leads the young disabled girl out of the prison of her existence—unable to speak, see or hear—into the light of freedom, self-sufficiency and eventually, iconic exemplar. It ain’t an easy journey, and it isn’t just Keller’s disabilities obviating the liberation. A host of other factors stands in the way, including her own parents, well intentioned and loving, along with the tenor of the times and the stiffness of a culture reflecting an era so long gone in this country you can only wonder how we got from there to Jay Z today. That’s a bit of a mind-bender all by itself.


The Fist Comes Out of the Screen and Socks Me in the Puss!


So there I was, innocently pulling on my coffee mug, gaining some semblance of coherency (thanks to my favorite brand, Price-Rite’s private label in that giant can), as one of numerous WWE-like cage matches between Helen and Miss Sullivan are acted out, this particular one being the confrontation centered on young Helen’s intransigence regarding civilized table manners, including, but hardly limited to, flying bowls and food, near fisticuffs, a more than healthy portion of yelling and screaming, etc. And on this occasion, there is a major breakthrough. Helen complies.

The camera zooms in as Helen not only acquiesces and calms down, but politely sits down and—super close-up—we see her obediently fold her napkin. You can’t describe the magnitude of this moment and how effectively it is staged. But I can tell you that my mind was no longer wandering; I was caffeine-spellbound with the scene unfolding before me, and maybe even a housefly or two lazily glided in and out of my wide-open mouth. It’s just transfixing stuff as only Hollywood can do it, ending with another close-up of Helen’s mother’s face, relaxing and smiling for the first time—perhaps in years. Both parents regard this as the ultimate victory; Miss Sullivan, on the other hand, has another view.

Thanks to Google and script-o-rama.com, a website whose keepers have painstakingly manually transcribed scripts of dozens of films, I will now simply lift the dialogue verbatim of William Gibson’s deft screenplay that follows this key turn of events, the interchange between Helen’s father and Miss Sullivan:


[knocking]

Come in.

Miss Annie, your first month's salary.

With many more to come, I trust.

It doesn't pay our debt
for what you've done.

I've taught her one thing: No.
Don't do this, don't do that.

- It's more than we could do...

- I wanted to teach her what language is.
I know without it
to do nothing but obey is no gift.


Obedience without understanding is
a blindness. Is that all I've wished on her?

- No.

- Maybe.

I don't know what else to do.

I simply go on and keep doing what I've
done and have faith that inside she's...
that inside is waiting,
like water underground.

- You can help, Captain Keller.

- How?

The world is not an easy place
for anyone.
I don't want her just to obey.

But to let her have her way
in everything is a lie.
To her.
And I don't even love her.
She's not my child.

Well...
You've got to stand between
that lie and her.

Agreed.
Won't you come now to supper?

Yes.

Holy Cow! Did that ever grab me by the…errr…“throat.” I looked down at the cup in my hand, to make sure I wasn’t so distracted I had spilled coffee all over the floor. It reverberated like a shout into the Grand Canyon, over and over—the miracle worker’s lament:

Obedience without understanding is
a blindness. Is that all I've wished on her?

What a moving line. Captain Keller in his own way is trying to express as best he can appreciation for a job well done, while Miss Sullivan—her enlightened consciousness wrapped up in and informed by the importance of language and its connection to freedom and independence—knows the job has barely begun. Misguided gratitude for accomplishment is met with a rebuke for insensitivity and fecklessness. Captain Keller’s valid intent reveals the two to be ships passing in the night. Eventually, however, Sullivan convinces Helen’s dubious father to grasp the importance of continuing the work. And Helen Keller goes on, not just to great things in the context of the handicapped, but extraordinary things in any context of the eons of the human struggle and condition.



America Is Helen Keller in Macrocosm


One more time for—please excuse me—the deaf, dumb and blind:

Obedience without understanding is
a blindness. Is that all I've wished on her?
Also:

I simply go on and keep doing what I've
done and have faith that inside she's...
that inside is waiting,
like water underground.

And:

You've got to stand between
that lie and her.

Helen Keller came along about a century after our Founding Fathers constructed the Republic, but if you squint a little and play with the clock, it’s almost as though they had this courageous woman before them as a human template and codified her life story into the great principles of our nation.

Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Hamilton, Washington, Jay and all the rest whose hands wrote it down—from the Declaration to the Articles, to systemic failure, then the Preamble, to the Constitution itself and its great selling document, The Federalist Papers—and eventually resuscitated the Republic…. They understood two things:


1. Freedom is God’s gift and humankind’s inherent and morally inviolable nature. The American Republic and the founders didn’t provide it; they only did the right thing in acknowledging it and solemnly vowing to create a nation dedicated to protecting that delicate flame against any and all crosswinds.

2. Freedom is always inside us and never dies, even when fear of the perils of nature may lure us into desiring a securer existence at the expense of freedom. The founders understood that that desire brings with it the consequence of tyranny, however seductive the sales pitch, and:

that inside is waiting,
like water underground.

You've got to stand between
that lie and her.

Just as it’s difficult for me to trace the insane path that’s taken us from Helen Keller to Jay Z, regarding our nation writ large, I bear as much soul-torturing confusion trying to understand how we got from George Washington to Barack Obama.

But when I look at the seemingly well intentioned goodness of Captain Keller, the mist and fog starts to clear a little. It’s a big bad world, life is tough, and obedience and security can look very attractive to a beleaguered citizenry tempted to give up on its ethical duty of sovereignty. The financial meltdown of 2007-2008, President Bush’s ignominious proclamation, "I've abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system," and the horrifying face of RINO John McCain as the standard bearer of the conservative voting bloc all combined to induce a good many decent but shell-shocked citizens to sit on their hands—while proactive Obamabots besotted with visions of their nominee’s “transformational America” marched devotedly to the polls—and we failed “to stand between that lie and her.”


Inspiration


It’s been brought about via a negative experience, the Obama experience, but at last we’ve been rewarded with the apprehension that those good, once somnambulating, loyal citizens—that’s us, We the People—have reawakened. We did it, from Town Halls to demonstrations to stuffing envelopes to generous financial support to door-to-door campaigning. We’re ready for something big come this November and atoning for our negligence and its consequences. We’re mending our ways. We’re involved. Big time.

Later on in her life, Helen Keller was in huge demand around the world, a global celebrity. She traveled 35 countries spanning five continents to satisfy a clamorous and large, dedicated following near and far to spread the message of courage and independence embodied by her life story. They loved it. They loved it because it was the story of America. At age 75, she did a 40,000-mile Asian trek over just five months.

And this may be a good point in the story to interject something else. For I know that many of my Tea Party, Republican and other flavors of conservative friends know that I stand with them on most issues—particularly the civil liberties at the core of the Tea Party movement’s success, even as our elected officials tried to stack the deck, turned their backs on many Town Halls and behaved abysmally at others they did show up for.

Many didn’t even bother reading much of Obama’s legislative initiatives before enacting it into law.

But my conservative friends may give me a hard time for paying homage to Helen Keller. For Helen Keller was a wholehearted socialist, avid pacifist and dyed-in-the-wool antiwar activist. It would not be overstating matters to say that she viewed the American military establishment as an appendage to rich capitalists, and viewed war as nothing more or less than a capitalist tool for forcibly allocating the world’s riches to those capitalists. Mainly, however, her tours around the world focused on advocacy for the handicapped, although she invariably laced her comments with these antiwar views, and she enjoyed taking the newspapers to task for admiring and praising her intelligence, and example in overcoming her impairments, then later trashing her when they learned about what they considered her anti-American—if not outright treasonous—opinions. These same “journalists” then expediently discarded their earlier tributes and replaced them with crude and lazy hack jobs averring that Keller’s handicaps had interfered with a “proper” understanding of, and loyalty to, her country. That is to say, even though their bias was of a different nature, they were just as scurrilous as today’s news media.

The day arrived when she would do The Big Show—addressing an audience in New York at Carnegie Hall, and the press hit her hard. The Big Town was abuzz for weeks in anticipation of Keller’s arrival. And the Hall was jam packed to the rafters when Keller took the stage and approached the podium. They say it was quieter than a church mouse. This was before modern air conditioning and crystal-clear sound systems. Keller’s impaired speech was neither particularly voluble nor easy to make out. Nobody wanted to miss a syllable. So they shut up, and they were still, and they craned their necks and cocked their ears with rapt attention. Keller told her story and it probably took about 45 minutes, if that. Here’s some of what she had to say that day, January 5, 1916—heavy stuff, to say the least.

"I have a word to say to my good friends, the editors, and others who are moved to pity me. Some people are grieved because they imagine I am in the hands of unscrupulous persons who lead me astray and persuade me to espouse unpopular causes and make me the mouthpiece of their propaganda. Now, let it be understood once and for all that I do not want their pity; I would not change places with one of them. I know what I am talking about. My sources of information are as good and reliable as anybody else's. I have papers and magazines from England, France, Germany and Austria that I can read myself. Not all the editors I have met can do that. Quite a number of them have to take their French and German second hand. No, I will not disparage the editors. They are an overworked, misunderstood class. Let them remember, though, that if I cannot see the fire at the end of their cigarettes, neither can they thread a needle in the dark. All I ask, gentlemen, is a fair field and no favor. I have entered the fight against preparedness and against the economic system under which we live. It is to be a fight to the finish, and I ask no quarter."
I say Keller faced circumstances that were no different from the massive disrespect those who populate the Tea Party movement have faced throughout their efforts. Her views weren’t popular or fashionable, but she should have gotten a fair and evenhanded hearing and an honest debate. Instead she got ad hominem attacks. Sound familiar? It wasn’t fair play for Helen Keller then; it isn’t fair play among the Bill Mahers, Michael Moores and many others today who do much the same thing. I also say it doesn’t conform to the Founding Fathers’ notions of freedom and free competition of ideas. Helen Keller waged a clean fight. And so has the Tea Party.


And then she was done


It was one of those moments that, if you were there, you wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between a minute and an hour. But there was definitely a long pause between the conclusion of her remarks and the audience’s response. Because they were stunned, amazed by what she had been through all her life, astonished by what she had overcome, and overwhelmed by her modesty and simplicity. And I’m sure quite a few of them were less than appreciative of her politics. But mainly they were just plain dumbfounded (how appropriate) by this…miracle.

So there was a long pause while they figured out what to do. Don’t forget, Keller was still deaf and blind.

And then Carnegie Hall erupted. The whole place was on its feet, pounding the seats with their fists and stomping the floor with their feet. Carnegie Hall shook.

And up on stage Keller could feel it—from the bottom of her soles right up to her hairdo. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Love vibrated throughout Manhattan.

That’s what I want to feel at about 10:00 p.m. on November 2.

Reid Holloway, a realtor associated with The Cohen Agency of Torrington, Connecticut, is a consultant specializing in strategic development. A professor on Minyanville.com, Mr. Holloway is the creator of the “RLH Volatility Model." He was an editor with Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publications, handled speaking engagements for chairman Peter Grace of W.R. Grace & Co, has been published by The Christian Science Monitor and The New York Times and is a regular guest on four ClearChannel radio stations based in Monterey , California . CTMajority is pleased to print his contribution.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Deconstructing the Deconstructionists

The American Thinker” deconstructs New York Times columnist Matt Bai, who looks back with fond nostalgia on the Weicker years in Connecticut and admires Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s prosecutorial pluck, Christine O’Donnell assassins, Linda McMahon assassins, the elite media world, mainstream anger, Harvard University, Yale Law School, privileged politicians, Richard Blumenthal, assorted liars, squared jawed columnists who get heir kicks by deriding women, God, Darwin, and much more. A fun read.

Why The Attack On McMahon Has Not Worked

The latest Quinnipiac poll shows that Linda McMahon has whittled down Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s lead in the U.S. Senate race from a high of 40 percentage points to a worrisome 3. And yet, McMahon has come under fierce attack, if not by Mr. Blumenthal then by the media. Judging from Mr. Blumenthal’s slide in poll numbers, that attack has not been effective.

Why has it failed?

The attackers, just to begin with, lie under a suspicion of being ideologically allied with Mr. Blumenthal. The infrequent attacks upon Mr. Blumenthal by the media during his 20 year reign as attorney general have been soft core, and political consumers have now come of age. Mrs. McMahon has been on the attack well before the primary elections in a series of ads and media buys, and one is keenly aware of the palpable disappointment among Connecticut’s left of center media that Mrs. McMahon has so easily found a route around them.

Whether one is disposed to agree or disagree with the thrust of her campaign, there is little question that it has been successful; so much so, in fact, that her campaign may be used in the future as a template, whether it is finally successful or not. Instruction number one in any imitative campaign might read: First, get together $50 million. The amount of money Mrs. McMahon is willing to spend seems by ordinary standards to be much more excessive than people in the nutmeg state are used to.

On the other hand, Mrs. McMahon is battling against the Democratic heir presumptive of U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, whose political career spans the living memory of a good many people in the state. Mr. Blumenthal’s career in Connecticut politics is as long-lived as Dodd’s. In a contest of this kind against opponents who have been cosseted by the media, it helps a good deal to be able to dispose of a few million dollars in a campaign. Mrs. McMahon has generously spent $20 million so far in her effort to deny Mr. Blumenthal his dearest wish. She has threatened to spend more as the general campaign progresses.

Is the money question, which has become one of the chief issues urged against her by her opponents, important?

No one will deny it looms large in the campaign. Who wills the end must will the means. Unhorsing incumbents -- or people like Blumenthal who time, chance and reasonable expectations have fingered as the inevitable choice for such a seat -- is no walk in the park. Republicans, a minority party here in Connecticut, have always been cash poor. But money is not the whole show. Mr. Blumenthal is wealthy enough to balance the scales somewhat, should he so choose.

It is precisely the political presumptions in this election year that are being tested. Off year elections used to be decided on state and local issues. The recession – and, perhaps more to the point, Mr. Obama’s unorthodox means of addressing it – has made everyone in the country sensible that the national shin bone is connected to the state anklebone. The Obama machine is a radical ideological national administration operating in an intensely ideological year. Ordinarily, one expects a viable national candidate to have risen through the ranks. In any other year but this, the year of the little understood and overly abused Tea Party Patriot, Mrs. McMahon’s lack of political experience would be fatal.

Not so this time. During Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign, Democrats who ran on the same ticket with him were only too happy to warm their hands at his fire. But when he came to Connecticut to invite Mr. Blumenthal and other Democrats to take a ride on the magic carpet of his coattails, old campaign war horses such as former Democratic Party Chairman John Droney warned publicly that his presence in the state could not be helpful, and the members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation stayed away in droves.

These all are important signs of the times, but many Democrats seem incapable of reading them. The complaint hollered from every rooftop this year is that national experts who have driven the economy into the poor house have shut their ears and closed their eyes: They do not know where they came from, who they are or where they are going.

The Democrats are calculating their chances with reference to presumptions that may no longer be operative. Blumenthal – though forewarned against it – has run a campaign one might expect from an incumbent. And everything said about him, both by himself and his supporters, leaves an impression that he is running for attorney general, a disorienting message to send in this the year of our discontent.

The old political bromides will not do. The chief problem with the Blumenthal campaign is that it is unplugged. Static is not a winning sound.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

SOWELL SHOWS HOW WE ARE DISMANTLING AMERICA

Parents may be upset because of differences of opinion with their grown children on current events. They may differ on, say, global warming. Their offspring may have seen Al Gore’s move, “An Inconvenient Truth,” perhaps in school or college. They can’t ask them if they have read anything on the other side, but have they seen the British Channel 4 television special, “The Great Global Warming Swindle”? How can they know what’s right till they have heard the other side, says Sowell.

If they were a member of a jury, would they be content to learn the defendant’s case presented solely by the prosecution? Wouldn’t they insist on hearing the defendant’s side from the defendant itself? If so, why should they be content with hearing only one side of global warming?

This is only one of the many issues which students hear about in school or college. Are they being educated or indoctrinated? Thomas Sowell’s new book is Dismantling America, perhaps the 20th by this economist, scholar in residence at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, a black, and an orphan. His Basic Economics textbook has been translated into six languages. Dismantling America is a collection of his newspaper columns on issues on which the public has received chiefly one side, the politically correct party line. Yet that is the jury that will ultimately decide the nation’s fate, says Sowell.
.
NOT ALWAYS RICH OR POOR. Should tax cuts for the top 1% be terminated? Should the half of the population that does not pay an income tax, pay something? In the bottom fifth of the income-distribution, total income increased by 91% between1996 and 2005. Most of the people in the bottom fifth rise out of it over time. In the top fifth, some do not remain there more than one decade. “More people from the bottom fifth end up in the top fifth than remain at the bottom,” says Sowell.

Tens of millions in China and India have moved out of poverty, but we never hear about them. The ideologues’ “behavior shows their interest in the poor to be greatest when the poor can be used as a focus of the left’s denunciations of society,” says Sowell.

MINIMUM WAGE. The politicians talk about increasing jobs, but the government cannot create jobs except by taking money away from others, or selling bonds, or imposing mandates. That is transferring wealth, not creating it, says Sowell. Mandating a minimum wage is a way of reducing the number of jobs. Politicians mandate things that employers must provide, which the public thinks is getting something for nothing. Raising the minimum wage makes workers more expensive to employers, so they hire fewer. It is cheaper to pay overtime than hire new workers. As the minimum wage rises, unemployment does not disappear.

RACE. For the left, blacks are trophies or mascots that must be seen on campus. A mascot is a symbol of somebody else’s success. In college, there are lower admissions standards for blacks, who, when they do not make it, are replaced by more blacks. “The point is to have black faces on campus, as mascots symbolizing what great people there are running the college,” says Sowell.

Leftists have destroyed black neighborhoods by urban renewal and replaced them with “upscale homes or pricey businesses—neither of which the former residents can afford.” Another common practice is “leaping to the defense of black criminals” by liberals who need black mascots. They do not hesitate “to throw blacks to the wolves for the benefit of the teachers’ unions, the green zealots, . . . or people who keep low-priced stores like Wal-Mart out of their cities.” Using blacks as mascots is “ugly,” says Sowell.

POLITICIANS. How can government insure you for less than a private insurance company? They make a third party pay. If anything bothers us, we go to a politician. For the politicians, nothing is impossible. They don’t pay. They don’t make you pay. They make third parties pay.

FAIRNESS. First-born have higher IQs than their younger siblings. Twins have lower IQs than if born singly. Between Western and Eastern Europe, there is a bigger gap than between blacks and whites, because the highly advanced Roman legions, who had the language, more easily invaded Western than Eastern Europe, so language had a longer time to develop in Western than Eastern Europe, says Sowell.

The University of California at Berkeley dropped four science teachers in order to spend their salaries on low-income achievers. This fairer distribution of funds means everybody will get what the low-income achievers get, to wit “lessons in note-taking.” Says Sowell, this is equalizing downward by lowering those at the top.

In Toronto, the Japanese have higher incomes than others, so they are considered “privileged.” In politically correct societies, achievement is a privilege.

Philosopher John Rawls wants a fair society that “arranges end-results.” (Is this where OBE, Outcome-Based Education, comes from?) Rawls’s “fair” conception ignores natural endowment and social circumstances like families and cultures “with different priorities, attitudes and behavior,” says Sowell.

The Germans can make beer. No other nationality can make beer as the Germans can. Other nationalities are unfairly underrepresented in the beer-making industry.

Edmund Burke, 19th century British philosopher, warned of “new power in new persons.” Sowell, quoting Burke’s observation that “eloquence may exist without wisdom,” says that President Obama never ran anything but fired the head of GM and is telling bankers how to run their business.

By Natalie Sirkin
e-mail: sirnat9@gmail.com

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Dickman Case: Blumenthal Breaks a Butterfly On The Wheel

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is the sort of Household Word who might sue death itself when, after a long life of litigation and writing media releases, the grim reaper finally comes for him. He surely has enough tricks up his sleeve to postpone the unfortunate incident for at least half a dozen years, perhaps more.

Ms. Pricilla Dickman’s case has been in litigation at least that long. She is both a whistle blower – the University of Connecticut’s Health Center being the institution whistled at – and the subject of Mr. Blumenthal’s attention these past few tortuous years. Mr. Blumenthal’s office defends both whistleblowers and state institutions. Sometimes when the two lock legal horns, conflicts of interest arise. If one tries to imagine a lawyer in a case involving two antagonistic parties who is charged with representing BOTH in a civil proceeding, a few difficulties will suggest themselves.

The latest turn in the 6 year old Dickman case involves an assistant attorney general who, having agreed to abide by a judgment made by the Commissioner of Worker’s Compensation that might have determined the Dickman case, told a judge trial referee that he never had the authority to settle the case.

In virtually every case Mr. Blumenthal touches, a settlement of some sort or other is arrange and the case is closed, sometimes after years of costly litigation. Blumenthal’s successor – either Republican Martha Dean or Democrat George Jepsen – very likely are hoping that the attorneys under Mr. Blumenthal’s charge are working laboriously to clear the decks of most of Mr. Blumenthal’s outstanding cases before either one of them arrives on the job to shoulder Mr. Blumenthal’s real legacy: In his last finance report, Mr. Blumenthal listed a backlog of 36,394 cases, which seems an imposing number.

Ms. Dickman – who is not one of those Big Tobacco tycoons or a greedy profit driven energy producer or a Wall Street flimflam artist one hears so much of in Mr. Blumenthal’s campaign ads for the U.S. senate – is one of them. A settlement arranged between the assistant attorney general, Ms. Dickman and other aggrieved parties could have placed Ms. Dickman on the “done” side of Mr. Blumenthal’s ledger -- had not the assistant attorney general, who consented to the compact that might have led to a settlement of Ms. Dickman’s justified complaints, not told the judge trial referee, after more than two months of participation in hammering out at a settlement agreeable to all parties, that he was not authorized to offer the settlement he had offered.

The judge expressed his dismay, and no wonder. This is not the sort of thing that judges familiar with the black letter law in settlement cases, “Audubon Parking Associates Ltd Partnership v. Barclay & Stubbs,” appreciate hearing from an assistant attorney general laboring under Mr. Blumenthal’s direction.

Judges, as a rule, are no-nonsense, busy bees, many of them made considerably busier by Mr. Blumenthal’s penchant for suing, which accounts for some of the crushing backlog of cases mentioned in the attorney general's last finance report.

Apparently, the word has been circulated among lawyers. John Wolter, a managing partner at Updike, Kelly & Spellacy and a Jepsen supporter, remarked recently in story in Connecticut Law Tribune covering an upcoming debate between Dean and Jepsen, “A lot of times you’re dealing with assistant AGs, and you think you have a matter ready for resolution, but they don’t have the authority to settle then and there.”

Several years ago, Ms. Dickman, injured on her job, filed a claim to worker’s compensation for disability and what is called “reasonable accommodation,” which means that her employer would have to make accommodations for her so that she would not exacerbate her condition. After a two week review in 2005 she was awarded a State Retirement Disability and then a Permanent Full Disability dating back to April 2005. It is a considerable understatement to say that the accommodations were not made.

Ms. Dickman entered the public spotlight as a whistleblower in 1988, when present Sen. Joe Lieberman was attorney general. She claims retaliation against her began in earnest in 2004 when she reported fraud activity in her medical billing. And, of course, it did not help that Ms. Dickman, a union steward who had assisted others in their difficulties with her superiors, publicly testified in 2008 before the Labor and Public Employee’s Committee on SB 805, a measure providing additional protection for whistleblowers by establishing a Retaliation Adjudication Board within the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.

During her testimony, Ms. Dickman lamented that so few people were willing to come forward and speak in favor of SB 805. Testimony was not forthcoming because whistleblowers feared exposure to retribution and retaliation. Ms. Dickman testified, “I am certain that many here have heard of the subtle or outright abusive acts of retaliation that employees are subjected to when they come forward, report fraud or waste, especially at the state agency [where] they are employed.”

Naively, she had contacted the attorney general’s office. But, after her ordeal, she was convinced that this course led to a cul-de-sac:

“I thought that by contacting the Attorney General I would be following the proper course of action. How quickly I learned that is the wrong avenue and that there is little to no protection. In fact, a situation can be made worse by enlisting this office just by the nature of the relationship between state agencies and the duties of the Office of the Attorney General… The Attorney General’s Office represents and defends the employer. The employer is empowered by the fact that they are provided sovereign immunity and will be defended by the Attorney General. It is as though the fox is sent out to guard the chicken coop.”

Commissioned to handle whistleblower information supplied to the attorney general’s office by state employees, Ms. Dickman pointed out in her testimony, the attorney general’s office is also statutorily bound to represent state employers:

“Therefore it is virtually impossible to think that the representative from that office can and will be working to protect the employee at risk. That office can not be unbiased in its actions since it is enlisted to first protect the employer from lawsuits and the state from a loss of revenue, especially if that individual is stating that retaliatory actions have been taken against them for engaging during the process in whistleblower actions for fraud, activity of a protected class such as workers compensation claims or the filing of a CHRO complaint.”

Others have pointed out the structural problems involved when the attorney general’s office represents both whistleblowers in state agencies and the agencies that have engaged in possible unethical or illegal behavior. But walking away from settlements is particularly egregious behavior. Since virtually every legal action undertaken by the attorney general’s office ends in a legally enforced or negotiated settlement, no business or state agency can any longer rely on the word of Mr. Blumenthal’s attorneys if they are willing to abrogate settlements entered into by attorneys general, judges and aggrieved parties.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Himes, Courtney, Slip Sliding Away

Dennis House’s “The Hartforite" is reporting that Jim Himes and Joe Courtney, two representatives in districts less liberal than Speaker of the U.S. House Nancy Pelosi, are inching away from Bethlehem:

“During a taping of Face the State, when I asked both Congressmen Jim Himes and Joe Courtney if they would endorse Pelosi for another term as their leader, they balked.

Neither were conspicuously present during President Barack Obama's visit to Connecticut in mid-September.

“The two are running for re-election in districts where Mr. Obama’s approval rating has fallen and unemployment is high. With an electorate becoming increasingly frustrated with Washington, Himes and Courtney are both stressing to voters that they are ‘independent voices.‘”
The word “independent,” a curtsey in the direction of the Tea Party Patriots and Independents who have expressed their dissatisfaction with the two major parties, is one we shall be hearing often on a campaign trail that, some believe, will lead to a valley of tears in November.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Clinton Hearts Blumenthal

Following President Barack Obama into Connecticut, here to raise money for the senatorial campaign of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, came former president Bill Clinton.

Mr. Clinton headlined a rally for Mr. Blumenthal at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven. The rally was followed by a fundraiser considerably more modest than Mr. Obama’s earlier fundraiser in gold plated Greenwich. Connecticut always has been fertile ground for Democrats hoping to fill their campaign coffers by uprooting golden truffles in the state’s campaign rich Gold Coast. No doubt Mr. Clinton and Mr. Blumenthal were anxious to empty the pockets of those millionaires in Connecticut who had not previously been hit-up by Mr. Obama.

Mr. Clinton is no stranger to the state, and he certainly is no stranger to controversies. Mr. Clinton’s support of Sen. Joe Lieberman during the now famous Lieberman-Lamont kafuffle got him in Dutch with the more excitable elements of Democratic progressivism. The proprietor of Firedoglake, Ms. Jane Hamsher, reacting to Mr. Clinton’s vigorous support of Mr. Lieberman, ran on her site a doctored photo showing Mr. Clinton in Blue’s Brother sunglasses, his arm draped round the fragile frame of Mr. Lieberman, who appeared in blackface.

Ms. Hamsher and other progressives were considerably upset at the time with Mr. Clinton, who was unwilling to back their favored anti-Iraq War candidate, Ned Lamont. And later, when U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd threw in the towel and declined to defend his seat, the same progressives seemed to be mildly with Mr. Blumenthal’s hawkish views on Mr. Obama’s hawkish wars.

Mr. Clinton and Mr. Blumenthal were students at Yale together in the day, those carefree bygone days of yore when draft dodging was thought to be, in some quarters, an honorable pursuit. Mr. Clinton did his anti-Vietman War draft dogging in England, where he went to escape the prehensile claw of his draft board, while Mr. Blumenthal dodged service in Vietnam first through a series of deferments, and then, when President Richard Nixon instituted a lottery, by hitching up with a reserve unit in Washington DC that delivered toys to needy children. Subsequently, Mr. Blumenthal lied about his service record – several times.

Times certainly have changed. Mr. Clinton is greyer; Mr. Blumenthal’s hair has thinned; both are slim and fit. It has been reported that Mr. Clinton, having suffered a health setback, has become a vegan. The anti-war zealots, so very active when former President George Bush was organizing a surge in Iraq, have disappeared behind the flower pots. Mr. Obama and Mr. Blumenthal have become war hawks. On some points, Mr. Blumenthal and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party here in the nutmeg state have politely agreed to disagree.

Mr. Clinton, a gabmeister who tends in his speeches to wander into ideological thickets, was in fine fettle in New Haven and did not disappoint.

On economic matters, Mr. Clinton and Mr. Blumenthal and Mr. Obama and Speaker of the U.S. House Nancy Pelosi, the iron lady of the newly instituted command economy of the Obama administration, tend to march in campaign lockstep to the same tedious drummer.

Rep. John Larson, blessed with a recent visitation by Mrs. Pelosi, is the drum major of Connecticut’s congressional delegation. The political message, trickling down from those who parcel out dollars in the Obama administration to all and sundry, is simplicity itself: The recession ravaging the country is wholly the fault of Republicans who have been much too solicitous towards rapacious businesses. It is long past time that some of the profits made by Wall Street be diverted to Main Street, and this cannot be done in the absence of a command economy in which virtuous legislators such as Mr. Larson and Mrs. Pelosi first collect money from those who have it and disburse it to the have-nots.

In the modern age, Thomas Jefferson’s curse upon national debts is little more regarded by his Democratic heirs than a whisper in the whirlwind:

“[With the decline of society] begins, indeed, the bellum omnium in omnia [war of all against all], which some philosophers observing to be so general in this world, have mistaken it for the natural, instead of the abusive state of man. And the fore horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression."
At one time, Mr. Clinton valued the justice of Jefferson’s remark, and it is no service to the country that he seems so reluctant to share such wisdom with the members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Blumenthal And "Stolen Valor"

Following a story in the Hartford Courant by Daniela Altimari, The Australian Broadcasting System (ABC) has released “Stolen Valor,” a film in which Attorney General Richard Blumenthal figures prominently. Connecticut’s prospective U.S. senator is now an international celebrity. Apparently, people in the United States are incapable of making documentaries of this kind.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Dodd vs Carter

When former president Jimmy Carter said in an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes” recently that the late Sen. Edward Kennedy killed a health care initiative during Carter’s failed administration, he scared up a ghost or two. Mr. Dodd quickly came to the defense of his departed friend, telling Reuters that factors unrelated to Kennedy doomed Carter’s health plan:

“At the time … you had 22 percent inflation, you had gas lines going everywhere,” Dodd said. “The idea that healthcare was going to be a major debate in ‘79 is sort of selective history. I don’t think there was any room for that debate in ‘79.”
Today, of course, the times are more propitious: a  national debt is approaching 14 trillion (in Carter's last year it was about $1 trillion);  bailouts of failing Wall Street investment firms, banks and housing mortgage ponzi schemes; inflation, breathing heavily, waiting in the wings; an expensive regulatory apparatus with Dodd’s fingerprints all over it that surely will drive up the cost of nearly everything from soup to nuts; a possible double dip recession (good news) or a possible depression (bad news for everyone but those who long for a command economy); a war on two fronts in the Middle East; a state debt in Connecticut that is, per capita, the worst in the nation – all this, and more, make an expensive health care bill that only a few congressman who signed it bothered to read a brilliant idea-- just brilliant.

Coming to a TV Near You: I Want Your Money

Castro The Cuban Model

It seems as if Cuban dictator Fidel Castro has, in his dotage, become an anti-Castroite.

"The Cuban model,” Castro said recently, “doesn't even work for us anymore,” a sentiment that easily could have gotten the speaker a 20 year sentence in one of Castro’s prisons had he been anyone other than Castro.

George Will offers an analysis of the 84 year-old Marxist and one of his enablers, Jean Paul Sartre.

Will ends his column by calling for an end to the boycott of Cuba:

“Today, U.S. policy of isolating Cuba by means of economic embargoes and travel restrictions serves two Castro goals: It provides an alibi for Cuba's social conditions and it insulates Cuba from some of the political and cultural forces that brought down communism in Eastern Europe. The 11th president, Barack Obama, who was born more than two years after Castro seized power, might want to rethink this policy, now that even Castro is having second thoughts about fundamentals.”
All very well and good, but Will offers no answer to the all important question: What possible objection can Mr. Obama have to Castro’s anti-business model?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Second Act In Politics And Rob Simmons

It was Henry Clay who said he’d rather be right than be president. The cynic perhaps would retort that such a selfless sentiment could only issue from a man who had never been president; though, Lord knows, Mr. Clay, always ready to serve his country in any capacity, certainly gave it a good try.

Drafted for president a few times, he was frustrated by unavoidable political events beyond his control and lost each time, some would say, to lesser men. A Whig leader in Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, said Mr. Clay was "my beau ideal of a great man." And Sen. John Kennedy cited Mr. Clay as one of the five greatest senators in U.S. history.

It must be supposed that Mr. Clay took his defeats with a certain degree of equinimity. Rob Simmons very well may be the Henry Clay of Connectiut. Mr. Clay’s Whig party, which later evolved into the Republican Party, was strong enough at that point and later to allow for what might be called “second acts” -- and even third and fourth acts.

There ought to be a second act in the state Republican Party for such a class act as Mr. Simmons and who ever it was, perhaps Republican Party committeeman Doug Hageman, who whispered in his ear prior to the House interview that the Republican Party still very much needed Simmons’ selfless service.

Mr. Clay, who never allowed his spirit to be broken by political adversity, bounced back time and again after his many defeats and repeatedly came to the aid of his country, whenever the call went out to him. Students of history will recall that Mr. Clay was a fierce party man, as was Mr. Lincoln after him. The elasticity of spirit so pronounced in Mr. Clay is very much evident in Mr. Simmons. And it was on display during an (WFSB) “Face the State” program on Sunday moderated by Dennis House.

Will Linda McMahon, Mr. Simmons’ opponent in the Republican primary, beat Attorney General Richard Blumenthal in the November U.S. Senate race, Mr. Simmons was asked?

You bet’cha! Mrs. McMahon, Mr. Simmons told Mr. House, is on her way to a significant upset over Blumenthal. An early entrée in the race when departing Sen. Chris Dodd had not yet thrown in his towel, Mr. Simmons took the measure of Mr. Blumenthal and found him wanting almost as soon as attorney general jumped into the race.

During the primary, it was thought by many commentators that Simmons would be an effective opponent against Mr. Blumenthal because his honorable record of service in Vietnam contrasted sharply with Mr. Blumenthal’s false claims, repeated several times, that he had served in the Vietnam War. Mr. Simmons also had honorably bowed to his fate, rather than challenge a vote count, when he lost a squeaker of a race to present U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, whose Republican opponent, Janet Peckinpaugh, is supported by Simmons.

Characterizing Mr. Blumenthal’s effort against McMahon as “lackluster,” Mr. Simmons said, “It’s over for him.”

The “Obama factor,” far from being a help to Mr. Blumenthal, would hurt his campaign, Mr. Simmons predicted, noting that Mr. Obama has dipped sharply in polls. The President’s approval rating in deep blue Connecticut has plummeted from 71% in 2009 to 45%, a decline that, some commentators say, weighed heavily upon Connecticut’s Obama shy all Democratic U.S. Congressional delegation. When Mr. Obama visited Stamford recently to fortify Mr. Blumenthal’s campaign coffers, Democratic members of the delegation were not conspicuously in attendance.

Simmons additionally predicted that three Democratic congressional seats -- those of Jim Himes, Chris Murphy and Joe Courtney – will fall to Republican challengers Dan DeBicella, Sam Caligiuri and Ms. Peckinpaugh.

If the Republican Party were a real political operation rather than a flag under which candidates assemble to run for office, the party would nurture its tender shoots such as Rob Merkle, Daria Novak or Justin Bernier, whose primary campaign should serve a model for young Republican Turks. And there would be second, third and fourth acts for such as Mr. Simmons and loyal party stalwarts, like Hageman, a suburb party technician who gently led Mr. Simmons to express his support for Mrs. McMahon; though, in Simmons’ case it must be said that the disposition was there, wedged deeply in an honorable and stainless character.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

America And The Tea Party Movement, a German View

The picture of American politics as seen from Europe is often lucid, particularly when large matters are up for debate, because distance allows for a more dispassionate and objective view. Germany, for instance, is not too close to the trees to see the forest.

With that in mind, the view of President Barack Obama and the Tea Party movement as expressed in Süddeutsche Zeitung, a German left of center paper, ought to give pause to those in the United States who are inclined to blithely write off the Tea Party Movement as a passing fringe phenomena:

"Obama has underestimated the frustration in the country and the power of the Tea Party movement, which gives the prevailing disillusionment a platform and a voice. It is by far the most vibrant political force in America. Obama's left-of-center coalition, which got young people and intellectuals involved and which appealed to a majority of women, blacks and Latinos, has evaporated into nothing."

Friday, September 17, 2010

Eleanor Holmes Norton Holds Her Nose And Makes The Call: Connecticut Dems Greet Obama

Some Democrats, distressed over the pull lobbyists have on the U.S. Congress, may have wondered to themselves “What do anti-lobbyist Democrats – the sort of folk who appeal to Joe Lunchpail on the stump by denigrating Wall Street in favor of Main Street – actually say when they pick up the phone and try to tease some money from Mr. Moneybags.

Wonder no longer.

Here is Eleanor Holmes Norton selling her patrimony for a mess of pottage:

"This is, uh, Eleanor Norton, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. Uh, I noticed that you have given to uh, other colleagues on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. I am a, um, Senior Member, a twenty year veteran and am Chair of the Sub-committee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management. I’m handling the largest economic development project in the United States now, the Homeland Security Compound of three buildings being built on the uh, old St. Elizabeth’s hospital site in the District of Columbia along with uh, fifteen other, uh, sites here for, that are part of the stimulus .
I was, frankly, uh, uh, surprised to see that we don’t have a record, so far as I can tell, of your having given to me despite my uh, long and deep uh, work. In fact, it’s been my major work, uh, on the committee and sub-committee it’s been essentially in your sector. I am, I’m simply candidly calling to ask for a contribution. As the senior member of the um, committee and a sub-committee chair, we have (chuckles) obligations to raise, uh funds. And, I think it must have been me who hasn’t, frankly, uh, done my homework to ask for a contribution earlier. So I’m trying to make up for it by asking for one now, when we particularly, uh, need, uh contributions, particularly those of us who have the seniority and chairmanships and are in a position to raise the funds. I’m asking you to give to Citizens for Eleanor Holmes Norton, PO Box 70626, DC, 20024. I’ll send you a follow-up note with appreciation for having heard me out. Thanks again."
A sound record of Ms. Norton’s warbling may be found here.

Mr. Green Descends To The Lower Depths

Mr. Rick Green, Courant columnist, was not able to arrange a private interview with President Barack Obama during his visit to the nutmeg state, possibly because his employers do not pay him $ 30,000 an hour and, like the rest of us, he could not afford the price of admission to Mr. Obama’s plush Connecticut appearance.

In Stamford, Mr. Obama joined Attorney General Richard Blumenthal – one of the few hearty in-state Democrats who were willing to appear with Mr. Obama on a dais, the rest having better things to do than to get themselves snapped in pictures with a president whose popularity in deep blue Connecticut is on the wane – to raise some cash; the Obama/Blumenthal/Democratic Party take was a cool million.

Mr. Money Magnet was whisked away from Stamford, without having had the opportunity to chat with Mr. Green, to dine with some of the denizens of Wall Street in Greenwich, where Mr. Blumenthal lives.

The Obama administration seemed concerned to put a ten foot pole between the president, Mr. Blumenthal and Connecticut's clamorous media. WFSB reporter Susan Raff noted:

Media were kept a good distance away from tonight’s fundraiser for senate candidate Dick Blumenthal headlined by President Obama. Reporters and photographers were kept blocks away from the Stamford Marriott.

“This was very different from the last time the President came to campaign for a senate candidate,” Raff explained, saying the October event with Senator Chris Dodd was much more accessible. “All of the television stations and reporters were allowed into the room where Dodd and Obama appeared. Tonight only one pool camera was allowed and no local cameras were allowed anywhere near the President or the hotel. We were not allowed to see who was entering the fundraiser,” Raff said.

Gluttons for punishment, friends of the fabulously rich and aptly named Rich Richman, Obama’s Greenwich host, coughed up more cash at a $30,000 a plate dinner that would have brought a smile to the lips of Caligula, who liked dinner parties at which he could pilfer his guests for contributions.

Chris Keating, a Courant reporter, noted in his story one other brave Democrat at “the star-spangled dinner” who apparently cared less about his reputation than the quivering members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation, whose presence was not noted in connection with the Greenwich bash, “which raised $1 million for the Democratic National Committee.” Attending Mr. Obama were “longtime Greenwich director Ron Howard, ‘Doonesbury’ cartoonist Garry Trudeau and his wife, television journalist Jane Pauley. Blumenthal was seated toward the back of the vaulted-ceiling dining room in the $16 million mansion, while Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dannel Malloy was seated near the front.”

Deprived of Mr. Obama’s company, Mr. Green decided to mingle with a few hearty tea party patriots protesting opposite the hotel where Mr. Obama, dry and inside and loaded with cash, was praising the virtues of Mr. Blumenthal.

It was raining. Mr. Green, sprinkled like a morning daisy with dew, reached out to the assembled protestors and offered them a sign of peace:

“Actually, I think government is too big. I didn't want Chris Dodd re-elected. A Republican governor might be a good idea. I'm tired of handouts to Wall Street fat cats. I think it's a good idea to have conservatives and liberals representing us. But what's with all this anger and hyperbole?

“Well, it [the tea party movement] isn't so fringe anymore, as I'm sure Richard Blumenthal will at some point realize.”

And tea party revelers, I am told, figure that at some point Mr. Green will realize, to his dismay, that the tea party movement was NEVER a fringe phenomena, as some suppose who confuse political theatre with effective political action.

The McMahon Reaction

As might be expected, the Obama/Blumenthal love fest did not go down well with the McMahon campaign. McMahon communication Director Ed Patru reviewed the proceedings in a media release:

“It’s Friday, and the Cook Political Report says Connecticut’s U.S. Senate race is now a tossup. We spent all morning scouring the papers looking for signs that Dick Blumenthal stood up to Washington last night and gave the President a piece of his mind, but all we’re finding are pictures like this and this. “Washington isn’t listening, and Washington isn’t working for ordinary people,” said Blumenthal, exactly one month before yesterday’s lovefest with the man running Washington. In fairness to Dick Blumenthal, he is a career politician so he has a legitimate excuse for the hypocrisy.

“While Blumenthal is busy raising more special interest money, we’re focusing on Fightin’ Dick Blumenthal’s one-man assault on the middle class. But before we do that, let’s fire up the time machine and go back to the last time Dick Blumenthal had the power to write laws: the date is June 1989.

“’Have they no shame?’ asked the Hartford Courant in an editorial reaction, shortly after state lawmaker Dick Blumenthal voted to increase state taxes by about a billion dollars. “There is no fairness in increasing the highest state sales tax in the nation to a still higher level, in taxing meals under $2 and in imposing more taxes on telephone bills. There is no honor in retelling that lie that Connecticut has no income tax while taxing income from capital gains, dividends and savings accounts. There is only deception in the claim that many of the new taxes will not hurt the people because they will hit businesses and not people.”

“Twenty-one years after voting for what the Hartford Courant described as “the largest tax increase in state history,” Dick Blumenthal is back at it again. This time he’s fighting for not only a job-killing tax on small businesses, but also a massive tax on the middle class and working poor. Blumenthal led the fight for a regressive national energy tax that would raise electricity prices in Connecticut by an average of $925 per household and increase the cost of a gallon of gas by 68 cents. Blumenthal’s assault on the middle class will cost this state over 13,500 jobs, reduce income for families by almost $2 billion, and cut the gross state product by $5 billion. Dick Blumenthal’s letter lobbying for a Cap and Trade energy tax is available here.
“Blumenthal’s national energy tax is so extreme that even with a “Democratic supermajority” in the Senate, his big-government allies are struggling to pass it because it would “increase the national debt, kill millions of jobs, reduce personal income and wealth, and lop trillions off the national gross domestic product.” The Waterbury Republican-American explained in a recent editorial:

“James R. Copland, director of the Center for Legal Policy at the Manhattan Institute, writes in [Investors Business Daily] that Mr. Blumenthal, seven other attorneys general and others have sought to circumvent the Constitution through a taxpayer-funded federal lawsuit, filed in 2004, against five power companies. Dismissed in 2005 but revived last fall, the suit seeks to hold the companies liable ‘for contributing to an ongoing public nuisance, global warming,’ and demands the court impose caps on their greenhouse-gas emissions, similar to those in cap-and-tax.”

“Dick Blumenthal’s tax-hiking assault on the middle class isn’t just out of touch, it’s extreme.
“In a press conference yesterday that can only be described as bizarre, Blumenthal attacked Linda McMahon with a patently false and discredited Washington-produced talking point on tax cuts:
“’Some Republicans, including my opponent, are seeking to block, those middle class family tax cuts unless and until the wealthiest families receive tax cuts as well, that's wrong.’
 “There is no meaningful disagreement in Washington – or in Connecticut, for that matter – on extension of the Bush tax cuts that directly apply to the middle class. Dick Blumenthal knows this, and he’s being untruthful … again. The President, Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle, Blumenthal and Linda all support extending those cuts. The debate is whether to raise taxes on small businesses, and as of today, there is no bipartisan support for raising taxes on individuals earning over $200,000 and households earning over $250,000; all of the bipartisanship is on the side of preserving those tax cuts. Even Nancy Pelosi seems to be wavering in her support for higher taxes, according to Politico, now that 31 Members of her caucus have come out in opposition to higher taxes.”
The primary season is now over.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Larson, Do You Know Where Your Congressman Is?

U.S. Rep. John Larson, firmly entrenched for 12 years in a U.S. congressional seat held previously for 16 years by Barbara Kennelly, the daughter of Connecticut’s last Democratic Party boss John Bailey, is what used to be called way back in the Middle Ages “a hale fellow well met,” a gregarious, back slapping, sociable politician who likely will remember your name the second time he meets you at the Manchester Peach Festival.

The old U.S. congress of the Dodds, father and son, used to be full of such convivial good-old-boys. Sen. Chris Dodd, in a recent exit interview with MSNBC, sadly mourned the passing of such amiable deal brokers, reminding young up-and-comers that the U.S. Senate is, after all, a political brokerage house where, in order to get things done, one must get along with opposition party members, giving a little here, taking a little there, in order to push the sausage through the legislative grinder.

Larson is heir to this tradition. He also is something of a partisan pit bull, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Dodd believes a senator can compromise without compromising himself but acknowledges that fruitful compromise is less likely in the more raucous House.

Only a few months ago, Dodd, Larson and their confreres in the congress spurned the sort of compromise Dodd praised during his exit interview, passing two complex and expensive bills, largely unread, heartily opposed for reasons of principle by the loyal opposition. The Democrats in the congress were able to pass a massive health care bill and an equally massive economic regulations bill because they had the votes, Dodd and Larson leading the charge in the Senate and House, and a righteous wind named President Barrack Obama at their back. Heedless of the warning “be careful what you wish for,” Democrats got what they wished for, and they shall have to live with the consequence of these bills – together, an absurd effort to make the world over – throughout the coming election campaign.

Larson has been loud in his approval of the Democrats’ uncompromising legislative sausage links, but polls taken several weeks before the election have marred the brows of some Democrats with worry lines. President Obama’s poll ratings are but a shadow of what they were when he was perceived in his campaign for the presidency as tolerably moderate. Recent polls show a precipitous decline in his popularity, and some commentators, a bit slow on the uptake, now are beginning to entertain the thought that his precipitous decline may have something or other to do with those expensive entrepreneurial killing bills, the fervent partisanship of Democrats, and the Democratic controlled congress, so un-Dodd like in its indisposition to forge cross-party coalitions. The righteous wind, it would seem, has had some wind kicked out of it.

Disputes about the economy this election season likely will center upon the flow of money between states and the federal government, a dispute as old as the republic itself. Some conservatives, unable to shed the view of virtually all the founders, still cling to antique notions expressed most persuasively by Bill Buckley, who thought that “stimulus” funds, tax dollars used to boost the economy, are best kept in the hands of productive entrepreneurs, who are perfectly able to stimulate business activity without – thank you very much – yielding abjectly to the demands made upon them by ear-markers in Washington such as the late Rep. John Murtha, a pustule of corruption famous for shuttling tax dollars to his political patrons.

It was pointless, Buckley insisted, for taxpayers in Connecticut to send to Washington a tax dollar while receiving back from the horn of plenty sixty nine cents on the dollar. The sixty nine cents meant that Connecticut was 31 cents and more behind some other states in the begging queue. Federal spending in Pennsylvania, Murtha’s old hang out, is $1.07 on the dollar; Maine $1.49. Catch-up, under these circumstances, is a futile exercise. How much money in stimulus funds or ear-marks must Connecticut beg from Washington to level this pitched playing field?

In her  bones, Ann Brickley, Larson's Republican opponant, is a Bucklyite.

Murtha, once cited as a co-conspirator in the infamous ABSCAM sting, was a political shakedown artist of great accomplishment, but those, like Larson in Connecticut, who seek to emulate his artistry, have sent themselves an impossible task. It’s not that Larson is not an artful beggar. But the huge gap between the dollar sent to Washington and the pittance received by Connecticut from Washington is, relatively speaking, too wide to bridge.

However, there’s no harm in asking. When tax rich Obama, showed up in Stamford on the 16th, there were hosts of Democrats in attendance, begging bowls in hand, crying out, like some poor wretched Oliver Twist, “Please sir, I want some more.”

Republicans steered clear, as did Rep. Jim Hines, who is trying to put some ideological distance between himself and the once popular president. And Connecticut’s congressional delegation was missing, one supposes, with leave. No where to be seen in public with Obama was Larson, ever the hale fellow well met, the protégé of Murtha, convinced that a little moral uplift, backslapping and a gerrymandered district will preserve his status in this the season of our discontent.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

CONNECTICUT’S UNFUNDED PENSIONS

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is suing New Jersey for deceiving investors in its bonds. There is a growing lack of transparency that bond presentations do not mention.

Connecticut employees’ pensions have for years been funded by the State of Connecticut, but the funds are raided, according to columnist Chris Powell, managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester. In the past two years, the raids have taken away $315 million, or half the Connecticut pension funds, to pay for state spending which the state budget has not covered.

If the State runs out of money, government employees will normally be the first to be paid, as required by contract. And this is so even if the State has to close down everything else, police and fire departments, hospitals, park and recreation, higher education.

What is happening in Connecticut is happening in everywhere. States have been collecting funds for pensions for government employees for years, but the states have been raiding those funds for spending. The situation is widespread, being only more worrisome in this prolonged recession.

The Connecticut treasurer collects for three funds: pensions, whose under funding now amounts to $11 billion; state debt, $14 billion; and health benefits for retired state employees, $29 billion. (For health benefits, nothing has been set aside, according to Andrew White, Independent Party candidate for state treasurer.) Were all the funds to be entirely disbursed suddenly, each household would on average pay an additional tax of $55,000. The total state debt is $75 billion, according to Mr. White. The total unfunded pension liability across the country is $933 billion, estimates the Manhattan Institute.

The public is sleeping. Politicians hide the problem, continue it, and leave it for their successors to hide. Politicians don’t care who has to pay as long as it is not they, as Tom Sowell has pointed out. No one seems personally responsible. Once in a while the truth, when it is no longer manageable, leaks out—in election time or when a unique statesman suddenly appears or an official body with a conscientious chairman writes a report

A report from the National Association of State Budget Officers has “admitted” that states are financing current operations with debt (a no-no), or with money taken from highway-maintenance and other trust funds, by pushing payments to vendors into future fiscal years, or other “creative, innovative” adjustments to budgets.

The New York State Comptroller is another example. It has issued a devastating report on New York State “fiscal manipulations,” which present a distorted view of state finances. This “shell game” includes shuffling money among accounts to hide deficits, loans made by the state to itself—which is like borrowing from your credit card to pay off your mortgage—and other manipulations to “mask the true magnitude of the State’s structural budget deficit.”

In California, the state legislature passed a bill enabling state employees to purchase -- at a discount -- additional taxpayer-guaranteed high-yielding retirement annuities,” thus adding to the retirement debt of $550 billion. In ten years another $30 billion will be added from these rich annuities.

States that care about taxpayers are Indiana and Texas. Indiana is governed by Mitch Daniels, who has sold a highway instead of (we presume) raiding the government pension funds.

Other states besides California and New York that severely under fund pensions are Illinois and Rhode Island, according to Steve Malanga’s “How States Hide Their Budget Deficits” in the August 23 Wall Street Journal.

Perhaps Connecticut should be added to Malanga’s list. We have asked an expert in the field, Andrew White, how he would improve the Connecticut problem. He says he would restructure the Treasurer’s office for asset growth. Here is his answer:

“As the next Treasurer, I would pick my own Chief Investment Officer. Together we would restructure the pension portfolio to yield better upside while still protecting for the downside (e.g. switching mainstays of the fund from active to vastly cheaper passive managers). That will go a long way to increasing assets in the pension funds.”
He adds:

“I would also bring together representatives of the unions and government employees (who own the pension fund assets). I would make the case: serious risk of zero benefits in 10 years and still at mercy of bankrupt government or 90% of benefits locked in (i.e. beneficiaries control specialized beneficiary 401k plans). I would also include the vital taxpayer representatives. Potentially, a touch more tax in only one year in 2011 to be permanently off the hood for state employee pensions vs. sharply higher taxes within10 years devastating employment. Everyone gives a little, and everyone walks away a winner.”
Even so, the existing problem of underfunding remains throughout. Senator Casey (D. Pa.) has introduced a bill calling for a bail-out of unfunded government pensions. Or a state legislature might scrap the employees’ contract, combining it with suddenly inflated taxes. Or the SEC might sue yet another state for deceptive investment practices.

Natalie Sirkin
C2010
sirnat9@gmail.com

This Way To The Egress

A recent Quinnipiac poll shows Linda McMahon within striking distance of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal who, despite an unending stream of press releases touting his triumphs as attorney general, this year is actually running for the U.S. senate.

McMahon has shaved Blumenthal’s once awesome 40 point lead to 6 points.

In further bad news for Blumenthal, Quinnipiac reports that President Barack Obama is on the downslide in Connecticut, which Obama carried by an overwhelming majority just two years ago. A majority of likely voters -- 52% -- in the Quinnipiac poll disapprove of how Obama is handling his job as president. Only 45% approve of his performance.

The National Journal reports:

“The numbers suggest that Obama is struggling even in deep blue states like Connecticut. Obama carried Connecticut by more than 20 points over John McCain (R) in '08.

“The poll also indicates that Dem candidates may be wary of having Obama on the stump. Quinnipiac's polling director, Peter Schwartz, suggested that Obama is a drag on AG Richard Blumenthal's chances in the Connecticut Senate race -- even as he heads to Connecticut this week to campaign for the Democrat. The Quinnipiac survey found Blumenthal leading former WWE CEO Linda McMahon by 6 points -- 51% to 45%.”

Independents are on the move:

“Obama is struggling among independents in particular. Nearly 6 in 10 -- 58% -- independents disapprove of Obama's job performance. Only 38% approve.”

Obama will be stumping for Blumenthal in Stamford on September 16th.

The depressing figures indicate that former Democratic Party Chairman John Droney may well turn out to be a prophet unloved in his own party.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Attack On Martha Dean ll

Martha Dean, the Republican nominee for attorney general, made a fruitless plea to Courant reporter Mathew Kauffman at the end of his front page story, “Martha Dean Embroiled In Custody Battle: Experts In The Case Say It Has Taken A Toll On Martha Dean's Son,” a heartfelt cry into the belly of the beast:

"’You're straying into territory that involves a 12-year-old boy and somebody who has lied profusely,’ she said, repeating a frequent assertion she has made in court about her ex-husband. ‘This is serious stuff. Do not go there. This is not appropriate for journalism. It has nothing to do with running for attorney general. It's just the luck that I got stuck with, in having married somebody like this, and we're trying to do the best we can to get through this.’"

But go there Kauffman did. At the center of Kauffman’s story is a psychological evaluation of Dean plucked from Superior Court documents that trace a messy divorce.

Messy divorces, almost always involving minor children, are Darwinian struggles sometimes involving psychological evaluations. Blessed is the politician whose spouse goes gentle into that good night, perhaps clutching in his or her balled fist a sufficient monetary settlement. The much divorced former senator and governor Lowell Weicker, amicably departed from his many wives, was spared the indignity of psychological evaluation, as was soon to be former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd. Sen. Edward Kennedy of blessed memory had a somewhat rough divorce, his married life having been punctuated by the drowning death of a young lady left unattended in the ocean by a senator who may have been drunk at the time. Kennedy’s divorce was spared front page scrutiny, perhaps because his left of center politics was very much in conformity with those reporters writing about “the lion of the U.S. Senate.” The lion was spared the indignity of a psychological evaluation spread out for all the world to see in the pages of the Boston Globe.

It may be that times have changed since those days of yore when reporters declined to mention in their reports private details of the lives of politicians only incidentally related to the duties of their offices. Somewhere along the time-line leading from President John Kennedy, whose sexual exploits were exhausting but hidden from public view, to Dean, the journalistic goal posts were moved to allow the publication of tendentious psychological evaluations.

The psychological evaluation at the center of Kauffman’s story very likely should be taken with, to quote Mark Twain, a ton of salt. Apart from the glosses of the psychologist, snippets of the evaluation that appear in the Courant tell us very little about Dean that Dean herself has not already told us in exhaustive detail. Among all the politicians vying for office this year, she has been more transparent than most, invariably insisting that her political and social views do not necessarily bear on her prospective duties as a would-be attorney general.

Dean is a disciplinarian, unlike a good many of the exponents of the let-it-be school of modern parenting. She is not hostile to orthodox religious belief, a condition that modern psychologists of a certain temperament bite their nails over, preferring a libertinism decidedly more moderate than that espoused by the Marquis DeSade, who tended to carry things to extremes. Dean is a constitutionalist, which strikes Connecticut’s left of center media as a trifle rigid. The snippets quoted in the Courant from one psychological evaluation – apparently, there were several competing evaluations offered to the court -- give no indication of the psychologist’s view of constitutions or statutory laws, which tend to be rather more rigid than may suit the fancy of modern psychologists. As it happens, such bars to progressive politics as one finds in constitutions do not please left of center media adepts at all. The psychological evaluation used by the Courant to suggest that Dean may be more unyielding in her views than, say, current Attorney General Richard Blumenthal unfortunately gives us no indication of the psychologist’s general view of lawyers who, it must be admitted, are more argumentative and confrontational than most psychologists. Karl Kraus, Freud’s Viennese contemporary, once said of the science of psychology that it “was the disease it purported to cure.” Had Kraus, an acerbic critic of modern times, been a modern politician entrapped in a messy divorce, he no doubt would have been subject to an equally messy psychological evaluation in the course of which it would have been determined by his critics that he was not fit to be attorney general.

The Courant has been on a Dean hunt ever since the lady announced her candidacy. This is why: The Courant is a left of center paper, and Dean is right of center politician, the sort of intolerable nuisance that Courant editorialists gleefully strange in their cribs. For twenty years, during which the Courant continually winked at Dick (as we are now encouraged to call him) Blumenthal’s bullying tactics in exchange for hot copy, the paper has supported one or another left of center politician, including the much divorced and married Weicker, the once divorced, twice married Dodd and, in the very near future, Dan Malloy, whose family problems will not be mentioned here -- or in the Courant, at least not on the front page.

The animus directed at Dean by the paper’s editorial board, some of its reporters and nearly all its columnist has nothing to do with dubious psychological reports dug out of the waste baskets of a divorce case the Courant would spurn if the target had been a politician whose political philosophy aligned with the paper’s tiresome often iterated leftist ethos.

The Courant is also in the protection racket. Dean, among all the candidate who have run for attorney general, knows best how to reform the run-amok attorney general's office, a predatory vehicle that, under Blumenthal’s direction, has driven businesses from the state by peppering them with self serving suits poorly grounded in statutory or constitutional prescriptions.

Even the left has begun to notice Blumenthal's litigatory effronteries. In a critical column in printed in Connecticut Law Tribune, defense attorney Norm Pattis, by no means a man of the right, pours a vial of acerbic criticism over the placid attorney general’s pomaded do:

“When I hear Richard Blumenthal chest-thump about Craigslist and its advertising of adult services, two words come to mind: Eliot Spitzer. What is it about aneroxic moralists that chills the blood?”

In a media environment in which the First Amendment is defended stoutly from the left and the right, especially by Dean, whose affection for the Constitution -- all of it – has driven some Courant commentators batty, Pattis is the refreshing exception that proves the rule:

“Dick wants tough new federal laws to clamp down on Internet advertisements. ‘We are determined that Craigslist should be a model for good, not bad, in these practices dealing with prostitution ads,’ Blumenthal said. Oh, please Richard: would you just shut up? He sounds like he’s still running for attorney general and trading jibes with Martha Dean who, as candidate for that office, thinks our children should have firearms training in grade school. At what roadside vegetable stand are these candidates spawned?”

Pattis is simply wrong about Dean. Temperamentally, she opposes the death penalty, as he does, and she has been cuffed and hammered by “liberals” at the Courant for politely RAISING the issue of drug legalization, as he has. He is also wrong about firearms training in schools. But the worse that can be said about Pattis is that he has been insufficiently attentive to an essay written in the early 1900’s by William Graham Sumner, America’s first sociologist, called “The Absurd Effort To Make The World Over.” Part of Pattis’ mission, of course, IS to make the world over, even at the risk of landing in hot soup, as was the case with Dean. But it must be said about Pattis that he is principled; his spine does not wave in the wind at every zepher. He stand’s upright, as homo sapiens was meant to do, and in this he has more in common with Dean than her critics.

Colin McEnroe, who seemed to take little joy in Dean’s unnecessary humiliation, was sad, he said on his blog, that Dean, knowing her divorce could be troublesome, never-the-less had decided to run for office, thus exposing her 8 year old son to Kauffman’s embarrassing disclosures. One can be sure tears flowed at the Courant after the lights went out on Monday. Rick Green’s cheeks were moist with sympathy.

Really, no one wanted this. If only Dean had given way to the Courant’s endorsed Republican primary candidate. She may yet throw in the towel. There is reason to hope.

In fact, the entire Kauffman piece was an unnecessary display of surprisingly uninformative political agi-prop. Little is said in the story about the several psychological evaluations not cited by Kauffman.

The narrative is built around only one psychological evaluation because that evaluation strengthens the Courant’s view often iterated view that Dean is somewhat stern and forbidding; in one of his blogs, Green made reference to Dean’s inhuman cyborg, blue eyes. Kauffman’s narrative, which orbits around the telltale psychological evaluation, did not permit the author to flesh out his timeline. We know that Dean was married to her husband, Carlos Valinho, for 9 years, that they separated and got together again for 8 years, remaining unmarried, during which time her son was born. At some point during this period, her husband or partner, as the case may be, disclosed to a councilor that he had had a child by a woman in Brazil, a piece of intelligence not likely to warm the cockles of the cyborg’s heart. When this happened we do not know, though the information must have been available to Kauffman in the knee deep pile of court documents to which he makes reference in his story. He simply chooses not to emphasize it, possibly because the emotional impact it might have on a reader whose attention Kauffman seeks to focus on a disputed psychological evaluation damaging to Dean, the centerpiece of the Kauffman narrative, might swing a reader’s sympathies towards the cyborg. And that would never do.

After I read the story myself, I asked my wife to read it and give me her opinion. She knows a great deal less about Dean than McEnroe, Pattis, Green and Kauffman, not a law firm. Andrée is “meticulous and opinionated,” Kauffman’s description of Dean, though not a lawyer. Legally blind, she taught public school for many years under a glass ceiling considerably lower, on account of her disability, than that which hung over the heads of many business women her age.

Her response follows, and I notice it is not much unlike some of the responses that may be found in the commentary section of McEnroe’s blog.

Her first question was, “Who benefits by all this?” Certainly not Dean’s young boy. She thought Dean’s response in taking the boy to Vermont was reasonable because her disappointed former husband might easily have transported the boy to Brazil, at which point he could easily have avoided the reach of American law. If it were a question of preferring the Courant’s tolerance in the manner of bringing up boys or Dean’s Way, she would much prefer Dean’s Way. Two of her friends brought up boys without television sets in the house; all the boys are successful, and none are crippled with psychological problems. Kauffman’s story was stacked in favor of anyone with modern sensibilities who may run against Dean -- nearly all her opponents. What would a psychologist make of Blumenthal’s megalomania? The story did not merit front page treatment. As a woman, you don’t often see this sort of criticism leveled at men. Old school feminists, reading Kauffman’s description of Dean as "meticulous and opinionated," might have objected that his misogyny was showing. “A little too uppity for you, eh, Hoffman?” A liberal’s tolerance is a conservatives intolerance, and vice versa. The tone and thrust of the story was marred by unbudgeable prejudice and intolerance. The paper’s concern with out of wedlock births is rib tickling funny when one considers that the social indiscretions of people like Barney Frank, who allowed a tenant in his apartment to turn his Washington DC home into a gay and straight bordello, have not exited the interests of Courant commentators.

At this point Andree, I regret to say, launched into a salty diatribe against low journalism that cannot be printed here.

Generally, I agree with her sentiments. I expect others will as well.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Vote Genus Feminae

It appears that 2010 may be the “year of the woman” in Connecticut politics -- and not only in Connecticut. Pretty much across the United States, markedly in the Republican Party, women seem to be coming out of the woodwork to run for office, and their backgrounds, mostly in business, are not shallow.

Genus feminae, of course, has been making steady progress in politics for some time. Women hold 90 or 16.8% of the 535 seats in the 111th US Congress, 17% of the 100 seats in the Senate and 16.8% of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives.

Connecticut can point to bumper crop of women vying for political positions this year. One of them, Martha Dean, running for attorney general, was the highest vote getter in the recently concluded Republican primaries.

Ann Brickley, running against Democratic pit bull Rep. John Larson – New England’s answer to Ear Mark King John Murtha, diseased -- has a stunning background in business. It seems that Republican women, having tasted some success in what Democrats this year derisively call “Wall Street,” as opposed to “Main Street,” have now turned their attention to politics.

In addition to Brickley, two other people are running in the 1st District, Ken Krayeske and Chris Hutchinson.

Krayeske, a progressive scourge running on the Green Party ticket, is best known in Connecticut for having been arrested by over-zealous Hartford Police. Krayeske disturbed Hartford’s finest in 2007 by intervening in a parade featuring Gov. Jodi Rell and became, because of this, an overnight cause celebre among some in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Radicalized by his ill treatment at the rough hands of “the man,” Krayeske has now finished law school and is loaded for bear. Hutchinson is a Socialist Party candidate, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Brickley is a former General Electric executive and United Technologies guru. For much of her business life, she has devoted herself to helping companies improve both their productivity and the quality of their products, enabling them to become more competitive in national and global markets. Having started her own business, she has been for 15 years applying her talents in assisting companies to compete in a crowded international marketplace, not a bad resume if one happens to be on the look-out for a politician who might be able to address the crush of business problems now threatening to turn the U.S. into a third world plutocracy -- with politicians, as happens in plutocracies, handing out benefices to favored companies and political action groups.



Larson is a tough nut to crack, for all the usual reasons. He’s an incumbent, and therefore has political “experience.” People this year are beginning to catch on that political experience is a plus only when the particular politician has led the country in a profitable direction. Of what use is a taxi driver who takes me to Bridgeport when I have contracted with him to transport me to Hartford, however much driving experience the wayward numbskull has? What should I say to him when he counters my protests that he is going in the wrong direction by replying to me, in that voice of experience most politicians put on when they wish to escape sharp criticism, “We must press on. You, sir, are an obstacle to progress. You may as well try to turn the clock back as turn this cab around! Sir, does not my experience outweigh yours? Be quiet!”

“Listen you, I’ve paid you to take me to Hartford, and if you don’t turn this cab in the opposite direction, I will report you to… to… Rep. John Larson. He has experience.”

In politics and business both, direction is everything.

This year, since the laity is in furious revolt against political clerics, neither incumbency nor political experience may be useful as a hedge against an embarrassing loss of status. Senator Chris Dodd had experience. He is gone, or will be soon. John McCain, vying for the presidency against an inexperienced one and a half term U.S. Rep. and community organizer from corrupt Chicago, had experience, much good it did him. Sen. Edward Kennedy, the lion of the senate, had experience, which did not prevent him from being hauled off to eternity by devils or angels, depending on your political point of view, who are no respecters of experience.

Experience will get you nowhere if you do not take the ship of state where the country wishes to be: That is the message being urged in campaign after campaign this year, sometimes by women who have now come out of the business closet to challenge men who have failed most miserably the trust the nation once put in their clumsy balled fists.

Some people, pointing in the direction of women-stoning mullahs of the Middle East, reason that the world would be a softer, more thoughtful place without all this needless testosterone in it.

They have a point. Perhaps voters this year should cast their ballots for genus feminae -- including the “kick ass” ladies.