Monday, January 31, 2011

Energy Needs And The Collapse Of Connecticut

Energy is that stuff used to drive commerce. It is costly here in Connecticut, so we are told by suddenly cost conscious legislators. There are three ways to bring down the cost of energy: 1) the supply may be increased; 2) the demand may be reduced; 3) the attorney general may put pressure on the relevant regulatory agency to disallow price increases. The second is insufficient; the third is disruptive and laughable.

In 2000, it was thought deregulation would reduce the price of energy in Connecticut by expanding the number of suppliers offering energy to the state. To this end, a bill was produced facilitating deregulation. The two major energy producers in Connecticut, Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating, were asked how much the deregulation effort would cost. The cost was pegged at about $1.7 billion, and the legislature set about raising the funds to pay for deregulation. The General Assembly decided to pay the cost by issuing bonds, the bonds being securitized by a self elapsing fee attached to energy bills. The legislature also told the two Connecticut energy companies they would no longer be energy producers. Under the new arrangement, they were to become energy distributors. The bill also provided that the companies were to reduce the cost charged to their customers by 10%.

It all went swimmingly for about a year and a half. It was then discovered that the 10% decrease in the price of energy could not be sustained; that provision was adjusted to allow a 10% increase in price. Deregulation didn’t work in Connecticut, among other reasons, because the measures taken by the legislature did not significantly reduce regulations – which is what deregulation should entail. The fee the legislature attached to energy bills as surety for the bonds – really, a hidden tax – far from disappearing on schedule, was extended by the legislature, provoking Sen. Joe Markley to issue a suit to snuff the hidden tax.

Shortly thereafter, the economic house of cards came tumbling down. Nationally, former President George Bush and later current President Barack Obama decided to buy their way out of a deepening recession. Washington went into debt. The current national debt is about $15 trillion. The states went into debt. Connecticut’s budget deficit is about $3.5 billion per annum.

Connecticut quickly became number one in the nation in per capita debt. Its unfunded pension liability ballooned to between $51 to $81 billion, according to estimates provided by the Yankee Institute. The state began to use bonding to reduce its budget deficit. The bond rating agencies frowned upon the practice and lowered the state’s bond rating. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, now Sen. Dick Blumenthal, sued the bonding agencies, and his suit had the same effect on bond rates as did Xerxes whip on the rising tide. Investors are now fleeing municipal bonds. In a new report issued by Moody’s Investor Service that combines tax supported debt and pension liability figures, four states, Connecticut among them, rate highest in debt and pension funding needs

The ability of Connecticut and its hard pressed taxpayers to pay for the rising price of energy is decreasing in direct proportion to a decrease in the supply of energy. High energy costs can no longer be recouped by what has been called energy conservation. To put it in plain terms, the price of energy will not be driven down any time soon through a reduction in the use of energy – the desideratum of most conservationists, including suit happy attorneys general.

Conservationists, generally, are untroubled by higher energy prices because they perceive high prices as a means of forcing states to develop what has been called clean energy sources. When the price of a commodity increases, the high price itself forces the free market to search for and develop alternative sources such as wind power. When the price and use of a gas guzzling car exceeds the price and use of a more ecologically acceptable battery powered car, consumers will make rational choices and buy the more ecologically acceptable vehicle. High taxes at the gas pump are good, according to this view, because they nudge consumers in a less destructive direction, and the gas pump tax is a means of tipping the cost scale in the direction of green energy. Taxes, in a command economy, are used to destroy products considered harmful by political directors and construct out of whole cloth replacement industries considered beneficial.

The downside to this Eden is that governmental directors, who make economic decisions chiefly for political reason, quickly change. Unpredictable change causes flutter in free markets. Sometimes politicians quickly change their minds. Before he left office, then attorney general Richard Blumenthal changed his mind on wind turbines in Connecticut. When clean energy producer BNE Energy, Inc., recently sought to build to build two wind turbines in State Representative Vicki Nardello’s district, the Democratic co--chairwoman of the legislature’s energy committee, a clean energy enthusiast, underwent a reverse conversion and began to protest that turbines produce “flutter,” sharp disturbing slaps on the retina of light and shadow.

Indeed, “flutter” might be an appropriate word to use in connection with command economy decisions made by politicians that, in their absence, would be more efficiently and rationally made by a vigorous and competitive free market. When the “invisible hand” of the free market is replaced by such as Mr. Blumenthal and Ms. Nardello, the consequences are nearly always irrational, indeterminate, costly and ruinous to everyone but politicians and their pet industries.

REGULATORY COMPETITIVENESS AND REGULATORY AGENCY EXCESSES

Twenty-eight years ago, on January 28, the space shuttle Challenger exploded. For want of asbestos, the putty did not work. For want of reliable putty, the O rings did not hold. For want of reliable O rings, the Challenger exploded, 73 seconds after lift-off in freezing weather 25 years ago.

Asbestos was used in adhesives for strengthening and fireproofing and many other essential functions. It was used in electric hair driers, which the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) thought unsafe and banned it. The company that was manufacturing O rings for NASA’s space shuttles then went out of business. NASA had to try to find a substitute.

The O rings might have held had the outside temperature been warmer (it was 32 degrees). The freezing temperature, CPSC’s ban on asbestos, and NASA managers’ decision to not postpone takeoff, caused the Challenger’s explosion.

The reason for hurtful regulations like CPSC’s is monopolistic federal regulators acting under the precautionary principle, according to scientist Henry Miller, former FDA official. A further reason is want of effective oversight by Congress.

The public’s dissatisfaction with federal regulatory excesses has long been going on. In late January President Obama, by executive order, informed regulatory agencies to make sure the benefits of their rules exceeded the costs. (EPA’s Administrator Carol Browner always said they do.)

President Obama’s executive order has loopholes so large it is useless. It permits agencies to count as benefits “equity, human dignity, fairness, and distributive impacts.” No matter how costly a regulation, no matter if it shuts down all the power plants in the country, its benefit, for fairness or distributive social justice or whatever will be claimed to exceed its cost.

Among the recent pesky regulations is the sale or purchase of an item costing more than $600, which must be reported on form 1099 to the Internal Revenue Service. (It may be that this regulation is void if its deletion has been tacked onto the Continuing Resolution, which Congress passed.)

Retroactive revocation: EPA recently revoked a water permit for the largest mountaintop mine in West Virginia. (Its representatives have introduced a bill in the House to invalidate EPA’s revocation.)

EPA pulled a mining permit for the biggest mine in West Virginia.

EPA is a chronic offender. Here’s last week’s offense: It’s to mitigate oil slicks on dairy farms. EPA added dairy farms to its Spill, Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Program to prevent oil discharges in navigable waters or near shorelines. EPA intended its Program to cover oil and natural gas but then recognized there is fat in milk so included dairy farms and manufacturers of cheese, butter, yoghurt, and ice cream. They must prepare emergency management facilities. They must train first-responders in clean-up protocol. They must build containment facilities to restrict the flow of oil. (For more details see The Wall Street Journal editorial of January 27.)

EPA is forcing retirement of coal plants, which provide half the electricity the country uses.

Irrelevant data: EPA changed the rule for setting the standard for sulfur dioxide (SO2). Following public comment, it rewrote the preamble which had called for sampling and substituted a figure like how many hours a power plant has been running at maximum capacity. The outcome is a change of the SO2 standard in each individual plant. How are the models to be built? How is the analysis to be done? EPA has not explained. EPA does not have to issue permits to operate till that information is available.

EPA has pulled the permits for two oil refineries in Texas, stopping 200 plants from operating.

EPA took control of greenhouse gas permits for Texas power plants & oil refineries after Texas rejected EPA’s CO2 rules for climate change.

EPA has withdraw from the Texas State’s EPA its right to issue permits, holding up industry in the whole of Texas.

EPA has asked the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to NOT grant permits for new coal-fired refineries or power plants till there is evidence they won’t violate Clean Air standards. (Texas representatives have asked Congress to stop EPA from blocking TCEQ. The Congressional Review Act lets Congress review any regulation signed by thirty representatives.)

Little people EPA puts in prison. Consider the fanatical enforcement of EPA’s wetlands regulations, of which there are many examples. Occie Mills and his son Carey, with the permission of the State of Florida, put sand on a lot and were imprisoned for 21 months for filling in a wetland.

By Natalie Sirkin
sirnat9@gmail.com

Friday, January 28, 2011

Suzio, Bruenn And The Gay Charge

Early in January, Laurie Rich Salerno posted a story in Meriden Patch concerning the nomination of Democrat Thomas Bruenn to fill a seat in the state senate left vacant by state Sen. Thomas Gaffey, who quit the senate after having been arrested on larceny charges that he improperly used his own PAC funds to pay for trips he also billed to the state over several years.

Mr. Bruenn and the Republican nominee for the seat, Len Suzio, who lost to Mr. Gaffey in the recent election, are not strangers to each other. Before the nominations were settled, Mr. Bruenn said of Mr. Suzio, “If I do get the entire nomination from the delegation of the 13th District [and Suzio does as well] I look forward to having discussions with Len Suzio...he and I worked on the BOE together. We know each other and we get along well for the most part."

Mr. Suzio, a fourteen year veteran of the Board of Education in Meriden, was equally complimentary of Mr. Bruenn, a 37-year Platt High School math teacher, now retired. "I know Tom really well,” Mr. Suzio said. “He knows me really well. He’s a gentleman. I would hope we'd have a nice campaign on issues."

It was not to be.

Controversy erupts over alleged gay question in 13th Senate District poll,” ran  the headline in the New Haven Register.

In the second paragraph down from the lede, which characterized the campaign as having turned “ugly,” Democratic Party Chairman Nancy DiNardo, “claimed that surrogates for Suzio’s campaign are running a telephone push poll that indirectly attacks Bruenn, who is gay.”

Ms. DiNardo then called for an apology from Mr. Suzio:
“Attacking a candidate because he is gay has no place in Connecticut politics. Leonard Suzio should take responsibility for this push poll and apologize immediately. The Connecticut Republican Party and Senate Republicans should join me in condemning this despicable attack.”
Mr. Bruenn told the Register he became aware of the poll after “several people who were contacted to take the poll called him.” He acknowledged generously, “What I’ve heard is all second hand, so I’m not going to point any fingers. If Len Suzio says he is not behind this, then I take him at his word. He and I have promised to run a campaign that is focused on the issues and I’m going to stick to that.”

Responding to the disclosures, Mr. Suzio said, “I think the media, before it runs a story, should demand proof that this push poll really exists. To me, this is the state Democratic Party trying to distract the electorate’s attention from a pending tax increase that will be the largest in the state’s history.”

Undeterred by Mr. Bruenn’s scruples, the usually quiescent Ms. DiNardo rushed in where the better angels of Mr. Bruenn’s nature feared to tread: Her demand for an apology from Mr. Suzio is premised on the notion, yet to be proven, that Mr. Suzio either knew about the alleged push poll or approved of it. Indeed, why should Mr. Suzio apologize for a smear with which he has no connection other than that imputed to him by the Chairwoman of the Democratic Party?

Let us suppose for a moment that both Mr. Bruenn and Mr. Suzio are honorable men. In that case, it would be true that Mr. Bruenn had been told by several people that someone had engaged them in a push poll in which the question was asked: “Would you be comfortable or uncomfortable with a state senator who is openly gay?” It would be equally true that Mr. Bruenn is correct in assuming Mr. Suzio was not “behind the push poll.”

Push polls of this kind are especially destructive because they seek to draw on poison prejudices to affect elections, but the implication, hidden like a scorpion in Ms. DiNardo’s charge that Mr. Suzio may have approved such methods, serves the same purpose, if her charge is untrue.

For this reason it is important to trace the long and winding fuse to its dynamite pack. Who were the several people who told Mr. Bruenn they were the recipients of the alleged push poll? Were those people connected to the Republican Party? Politics being a blood sport, is it not possible that those conducting the poll were Democrats unhappy with the possible election of Mr. Suzio, the push poll being an attempt to smear Mr. Suzio or the Republican Party days before an election in which a prior Democratic candidate had vacated his seat in disgrace after having been arrested?

No one can fault Ms. Rich Salerno for failing in her subsequent attempt to trace the alleged push poll back to its source.

In a follow-up report, Ms. Rich Salerno reported that Mr. Suzio once again denied that there was a push poll:

“I certainly don’t think there’s one going on. I know Tom Bruenn personally. I like him. We have a fun relationship because we can disagree agreeably, not getting personal and nasty. I believe the Democrats have manufactured this to try to exploit the sexual identity politics. In my opinion, it’s an attempt by the Democratic political machine to distract voters from the biggest tax hike in Connecticut that’s going to be foisted on them.”
Mr. Bruenn said he had not himself received such calls, though he believed they occurred. According to Ms. Rich Salerno’s follow up report, “The Curious Incident of the Push-Poll in the State Senate Race,” Mr. Bruenn “said Thursday that he would like to know who might be behind the calls, but that he wasn’t going to address them further.” Mr. Bruenn told the Patch reporter he “I don’t deal in rumors.”

The day before Mr. Bruenn declined to address further the damaging charge made by Democratic Party Chairwoman DiNardo that surrogates of Mr. Suzio were responsible for the putative push poll, Patrick Scully, “a journalist turned Democratic public relations specialist" and proprietor of a blog called “The Hanging Shad” told Ms. Rich Salerno, who also reports in Meriden Patch, that a Meriden resident, Mr. Kevin Larsen, had received a call from someone claiming to be a pollster who had asked him, “Would you be comfortable or uncomfortable with a state senator who is openly gay?” To his credit, Mr. Scully identified his source.

At this point, to her great credit, Ms. Rich Salerno went digging:
“Scully said his story originated when a Meriden resident named Kevin Larson (sic) contacted him. Larson reportedly said that someone he knew had received a call asking the question as to whether this person would be comfortable being represented by a gay state senator. The caller did not identify him or herself, and in a Friday interview with Scully, he said he was told that the incoming phone number was blocked.

“When contacted by Meriden Patch, Larson said he would prefer not to comment further on the incident to the media, that he had said everything to Scully.

“’Kevin Larson is a rock-solid source – he was extremely troubled by the call,’ Scully said. ‘He knows Bruenn as a teacher.’”
Good reporters know that information of this kind, especially damaging to the reputation of two men who may be presumed honorable, becomes less and less valuable, more and more questionable, the further removed it is from a primary source.

The primary source for what Mr. Suzio in this case believes to be a rumor is some unidentified person that Mr. Larsen knew who claimed to have received the push poll damaging to Mr. Bruenn. No one but Mr. Larsen knows at this point who this mystery person is because, according to Ms. Rich Salerno, “When contacted by Meriden Patch, Larsen said he would prefer not to comment further on the incident to the media, that he had said everything to Scully.”

And so, after a long detour during the course of which both Mr. Bruenn and Mr. Suzio have seen their reputations tarnished by what any judicious reader at this point would consider unaccredited rumors, we arrive, at long last, at the dead end of the road. The primary sources have shut up, no one is talking, and the matter is considered closed. Reputations having been mauled by unidentifiable sources, everyone quietly walks away, brushing the dirt off their hands and beaming like cherubs.

The good people of the 13th District will now be forced to sort the wheat from the tares in this twisted narrative before they vote for their senator, but they might take some solace from the fact that they will not be voting this time around for either the larcenous Mr. Gaffey or state Democratic Party Chairwoman Ms. DiNardo who, allowing her tongue to run off with her brain, immediately demanded, upon hearing the unaccredited charges, that Mr. Suzio apologize for the alleged push poll.

It may be possible that both Mr. Bruenn and Mr. Suzio have been set up in a controversy underwriten by others. This is a story that had been aggressively shopped around, and it is more than “curious” that all the primary sources who may have confirmed Ms. DiNardo’s suspicions have now disappeared back into the woodwork after the poisonous charge had been retailed – just two weeks before the special election that would send either Mr. Bruenn or Mr. Suzio to the state senate.

On Drafting Martha Dean

I have been asked to “like” a page on Facebook that seeks to draft Martha Dean for the U.S. Senate. Without question, I think Mrs. Dean would make a fine senator, a necessary balance in the congress to a left of center New England contingent. However, it will not do to over look hurdles before attemptiung to overleap them.

If principled conservatives and libertarians are to become serious about winning office, they cannot continue to will the end without willing the means.

Many of them, standing on principle, have declined to accept public financing of campaigns; their Democratic opponents, the servants of other principles, have no such scruples. Money is the means of winning campaigns; more than that, it is the means to transport a message to people who may be confused by possibly false messages relayed to voters by opponents and a sometimes hostile media.

Let’s suppose the end a principled conservative or libertarian has in mind is this: to end the public financing of campaigns. There is only one means of doing so; you and like minded legislators must get elected to office in sufficient numbers to pass a bill repealing the financing laws you consider destructive.

Here’s the hitch: You are not likely to win office by self financing – particularly if you are not independently wealthy, and even then it’s an iffy proposition. So, conservative and libertarians should bow to the inevitable – for the purpose of attempting to repeal public financing laws that some consider are inadvisable and unconstitutional.

I don’t know that Mrs. Dean is willing to strattle that apparent contradiction, and I do not know whether she would accept a draft for the U.S. Senate. Having said all that, I think she would make a fine senator.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Last Laugh -- January

January came in like a lion and went out like a lion, leaving behind in its wake a pile of snow and bone chilling winds that would make even the most fervent acolyte of global warming curse Al Gore, the high priest of the cult. GW cultists these days insist on calling their peculiar faith “climate change,” which is probably what Mr. Mark Twain had in mind when he said, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a minute; it’ll change,” or words to that effect. A neighbor across the lake, Tony Procrastinate (not his real name) who has just given up the last of the New Year’s resolutions he made at the beginning of the month, insists that Winter dumped three feet of snow on his property, and it is pointless to try to convince him that his snow footage is an accumulative figure, the present couple of feet having been added to the unshoveled couple of feet left over from the last storm. Mr. Procrastinate neglected to clean up his property last time because… well, he had turned his New Year’s resolutions into the pawn shop. His expostulations are to be taken, as Mr. Mark Twain said, “with a ton of salt… Speaking of Mr. Twain, one of his books, “Huckleberry Finn,” has been put on the endangered list because Mr. Twain overused the so called “N” word. An expurgated version was produced in which the offensive word, in addition to the word “slave” and its variants, was unceremoniously tossed out. This produced vigorous controversy; the debate is still unfolding, but those who argue that offensive words in literature ought to be maintained as historical artifacts appear to be besting their opponents. Mr. Twain would be pleased he has caused so much controversy more than 125 years after his book was first published in England in December 1884, probably during a snow storm.

Something borrowed, something plagerized? President Barack Obama borrowed heavily from others in his mellifluous second State of the Union Address, without bothering to assign attributions, and the lifting, bordering on plagiarism, did not escape the notice of Alvin Felzenberg in U.S. News And World Report. Mr. Felzenberg teaches courses at the University of Pennsylvania, George Washington University, and Johns Hopkins University, schools that generally frown on plagiarism or any of its first or second cousins. Mr. Obama did properly attribute a idea or two from the late Robert Kennedy, after which point he pilfered shamelessly from President Woodrow Wilson, a larval progressive, New York Governor Mario Cuomo, now showing signs of a dangerous drift to the right, the late Maggie Thatcher, former Prime Minister of Britain and a lover of all things American, and even former President Dwight Eisenhower, not known for his florid oratory. Mr. Newt Gingrich thinks Mr. Obama borrowed the theme of his second State of the Union address from Mr. Gingrich. “When I first heard that President Obama was using ‘winning the future’ as the theme of his state of the union, I thought it was ironically funny,” Mr. Gingrich wrote in a commentary piece released by Yahoo News. “I wrote a book, ‘Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract with America’ in 2005.” In addition, Mr. Obama borrowed from President Ronald Reagan the practice of inviting extraordinary citizens to sit beside the First Lady in the House gallery as the president recounted their notable achievements. There are, tucked away in the nation, people who think the Obama administration would be much improved if it were to plagiarize Mr. Reagan’s economic methodology.

Things are looking up for the 84 year old scion of Playboy Magazine, Mr. Hugh Hefner, who recently became engaged to Miss Crystal Harris, 60 years his junior. Mr. Hefner appears to go though women like the proverbial knife through butter and, so far, has avoided, perhaps through a judicious use of birth control, problems that beset Hollywood half-men who unadvisedly toss their wives on the ash heap of history, take up with younger women, marry them, get them pregnant and, at the end of a year or so, when both have exhausted their amours, are left to pay huge sums of money for the support of children who will, in their later years, come to despise them. No such nonsense for Hef, who has been around that block almost as often as your usual sheik. However, even Hef falls far short of the record set by King Tamba of Banarus, whose harem in the 6th century BCE reputedly held 16,000 apparently contented women. This was before the age of Viagra, and Mr. Tamba’s relationships with his various wives was more stable than the more evanescent hitch-up with Miss Harris is likely to be.

Karl Krapek, former president and chief operating officer for United Technologies Corp. and Chairman of the Connecticut State University System, did not survive the month. Having served on the board for 16 years, Mr. Krapek was told by Commissioner of Higher Education Michael Meotti to vacate the premises, according to a story in the Hartford Courant. The paper quoted trustee Peter Rosa on the termination: “He [Mr. Krapek] had gotten a call from the commissioner of higher education, Mike Meotti, who had suggested that the governor had indicated that he was going to go in a different direction and accordingly he was asking chair people of the various boards … to step down. It wasn't personal." The impersonal firing should signal, some budget hawks fervently hope, a wholesale dismantling of CSUS, a featherbed former Governor Lowell Weicker had prepared for Bill Cibes, Weicker’s Office of Policy and Management chief. In an odd twist, just as January was hobbling to a close, Governor Dannel (as he now prefers to be called) Malloy denied he had ordered Mr. Krapeck’s resignation. The governor issued the following statement: “I can certainly understand, given the trials and trepidations of that board and some of the decisions they've made in the last year, that he opted to resign.” The governor then credited Mr. Krapeck with a degree of literacy and prescience appropriate to the office he resigned: “I think everyone is capable of reading the writing on the wall, and sometimes that writing doesn't exist but maybe they're just ahead of it."

February looms darkly. A pit of red ink, snakes, creepy things, toads the size of Jupiter, slithering debt, the option of bankruptcy – perhaps too precipitously withdrawn from the table by Mr. Malloy -- and Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, the leader of the Democratic Party caucus in the General Assembly, all await Mr. Malloy as February leers over the horizon. Mr. Ken Dixon, a writer at the Connecticut Post, reminds us that Mr. Donovan, affable on the outside, unbending union steel on the inside, is the principle gate-keeper of the budget Mr. Malloy will present to the General Assembly. In the past, Mr. Donovan has been rather obstreperous – just ask the easily intimidated former Governor Jodi Rell – and it is an open question whether Mr. Donovan is prepared to accept the too modest spending cuts anticipated in Mr. Malloy’s upcoming budget presentation in February, the most momentous month in the calendar. On February 16th the die will be cast, the Rubicon crossed.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bernier’s In

In a Media release, Justin Bernier today announced his Campaign for the U.S. Congress. Mr. Bernier will be speaking today at 3:30 on WTIC-1080’s “Church and State” program.

In a video message to supporters, Bernier said “the American Dream is on hold” because of policies that have expanded government without solving problems. The Republican candidate delivered an optimistic message about the need to “renew America’s greatness” through limited government, fiscal responsibility and free enterprise.

“Prosperity is possible again,” said Bernier. “We can take the American dream off of hold if we use commonsense solutions. Americans can create jobs if the government lets them get to work.”

Bernier’s proposed solutions include new health care reforms, deficit reduction measures, tax reforms, an “all of the above” energy strategy, and a trade policy that finally gets tough with foreign governments who block American-made products. Bernier said Congress must also address the skyrocketing cost of higher education, calling the unaffordable prices morally and economically wrong.

Bernier, 35, pledged to re-energize the state GOP so “Connecticut doesn’t miss another Republican wave.” He promised to run a 41-town strategy to be competitive in the sprawling district, which covers large parts of central and western Connecticut.

The 5th District is considered an “open seat” following incumbent Rep. Chris Murphy’s (D) decision to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Joe Lieberman.

Bernier ran for the seat in 2010, finishing second in a three-way Republican primary race. The first-time candidate shocked political insiders by narrowly losing to the party-endorsed candidate, a sitting state senator, despite being outspent two-to-one.

Bernier won 18 of 41 municipalities in the 2010 primary, carrying every town in the Farmington Valley, the City of New Britain and most of Litchfield County, including the cities of Torrington and New Milford. A 3% swing in the vote would have given him an upset win.

Bernier is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and a former department head in the administration of Governor M. Jodi Rell. As the youngest member of Governor Rell’s cabinet, Bernier led the state in successful negotiations with the U.S. Navy to enhance Submarine Base New London and improve its odds of staying open. Bernier also managed Team Connecticut’s successful fight to save the base in 2005.

Bernier has served on three state-wide commissions. Notably, he was Chairman of the Connecticut Military and Defense Advisory Council, an unpaid group of experts committed to helping the state’s workers, veterans and military families.

Known for his commitment to fiscal discipline, Bernier this month was the only member of the Compensation Commission for Elected Officials and Judges to recommend a ten percent pay cut.

Bernier, the oldest of nine children, was raised in Farmington and attended the public schools there. He now lives in Plainville with his wife, Jennie, and seven-month-old daughter, Renée.

Bernier will discuss his announcement today at 3:30 p.m. on WTIC-1080’s “Church and State” program.

To view Bernier's Video Statement please click here.

Excerpts from Bernier’s video statement follow:

“The American dream is on ‘hold’ today. Too many families are falling behind. Too many small businesses are going under. Millions of Americans are paralyzed by uncertainty.

“Despite these challenges, we have a historic opportunity to set a new course, one that could lead us away from danger and toward safer waters. That opportunity comes in the next national election.

“The 2012 election will be about the future of America. It will determine if and how we meet our challenges, and whether we leave our children a better future.

“I am running for Congress because we can fix these problems and we can renew America’s greatness. But to fix things we must elect leaders who stand for limited government, fiscal responsibility and free enterprise. We must offer voters solutions based on proven principles and real-life experience…

“I have no illusions about the job in front of us. I know it won’t be easy.

“We will need a winning formula in the 5th District. So today I pledge to you that our campaign will have a 41-town strategy. With your help, we will compete in every area of the district.

“I also promise you that we will re-energize our party so that Connecticut doesn’t miss another Republican wave.

“It is not yet morning in America again. There is much work to be done before the night is over. I hope you will join us.”

Governor Malloy’s Budget Intentions

Governor Dannel Malloy announced in a meeting with his commissioners of state agencies that he would cut $2 billion from the projected annual costs of state services. Mr. Malloy proposes to eliminate 55% of the state’s deficit with spending cuts and 45% with tax increases.

Three points ought to be considered. First, the state debt Mr. Malloy hopes to discharge with his particular distribution of spending cuts to tax increases is a projected deficit. In the past, such projections have not been accurate. The final figures for the next few fiscal years may be higher.

Second, just as a man is no island unto himself but each is a part of the whole, so no state is an island unto itself. Mr. Malloy has said or implied repeatedly, both before and after his election, that his approach to budget matters will make Connecticut competitive with other states or, at the very least, will not tilt the economic playing field in favor of competing states, so that the flow of business, entrepreneurial and human capital -- most especially young people who have been fleeing the state for greener pastures elsewhere – might be reversed in Connecticut’s favor.

In this regard, it may be important to point out that the newly installed Democratic Governor of New York, Mario Cuomo, has vowed to attack his state’s budget deficit without recourse to new taxes. The Cuomo plan involves closing a $10 billion budget gap by freezing wages and taxes, limiting spending growth to the rate of inflation and consolidating departments, while Mr. Malloy proposes to raise nearly $1.7 billion in new revenue. Mr. Cuomo has also proposed a cap on property taxes, setting up a fight to the death struggle between the governor and a tax thirsty state legislature.

Third, Mr. Malloy must get his budget project approved by a Democratic caucus that in the past has not been in favor of cuts adversely affecting unions credited with Mr. Malloy’s election as governor. Effective cuts of this kind would be permanent, reaching far into the future; they also would represent disinvestments in areas where the state’s growth in spending has in the past been resistant to reductions. An end to binding arbitration, for instance, would allow municipalities to control their own destinies. One supposes that measures of this kind – precisely because they would be effective in controlling future costs – would be vigorously resisted by Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, who in the past has shown himself to be unusually attentive to union interests.

Both co-chairwomen of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee, Sen. Toni Harp and Rep. Toni Walker, cautiously greeted Mr. Malloy’s announced intentions. Ms. Walker said she looked forward “to seeing where exactly those reductions will come from. We have nothing concrete yet." It is the Democratic dominated legislature that first adjusts and then sets in concrete Mr. Malloy’s budget plan.

In the meeting with his agency heads, Mr. Malloy unfurled four principles guiding his budget decisions: He would refuse to borrow money through bonding to pay down current expenses, “absolutely fund our pension obligations next year - and all years,” not rely on early retirements to cut expenses, and force state government to live within its means by changing the state “in a profound way.”

Mr. Malloy’s intentions will become clearer after he presents his budget to the Democratic dominated General Assembly. Connecticut’s red ink arises from a disproportion between revenue and spending. Debit in Connecticut has not been caused because legislators and previous governors have been uninventive in creating “tax investments” that increase revenues. The state is up to its knees in red ink because the rate of spending has increased precipitously over the last two decades following the institution of an income tax that made it possible to boost revenues and add surpluses to the general fund. Consequently, the ravenous beast that was fed got fatter – and considerably more demanding. It is now eating up the state’s seed corn.

It took the state of Connecticut about ten years to recover jobs lost during the milder recession that followed the institution of the Lowell P. Weicker Jr. Income Tax, which turned out to be a license to spend. Any solution to the disparity between getting and spending that does not PERMANENTLY reduce spending by about 25%, while holding the line on taxes during what promises to be for Connecticut a far more protracted recession, will not succeed in properly positioning the state relative to contiguous states so that, when the recession gives way to a rising tide, Connecticut’s ship of state can speed forward on the crest of the tide, rather than being stranded on a sand bar of its own making.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Susan Bysiewicz’s Prospects

Former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz decided she would like to be governor and then changed her mind after former Sen. Chris Dodd declined to defend his seat. Without leaving his position as attorney general, Richard Blumenthal ran for Mr. Dodd’s seat and won, leaving open an attorney general slot that Mrs. Bysiewicz coveted. She announced for the position, but her candidacy was derailed in the course of her campaign by a Supreme Court finding that Mrs. Bysiewicz did not have the proper years in service as a lawyer in “active practice” to assume the position of attorney general.

Along the way, other difficulties arose, many of which have been covered in some detail by Connecticut’s media.

The database of potential voters Mrs. Bysiewicz had assembled while Secretary of State was embarrassing at best, and an insufficient number of ballots supplied to Bridgeport during the recently concluded election turned some arch criticism her way.

But Mrs. Bysiewicz is bleeding from other wounds, most of them self inflicted.

Following her withdrawal from the attorney general race and finding herself with unspent money in hand, Mrs. Bysiewicz threw several “thank you” parties for her supporters, paid a bill for a campaign consultant, and paid the salaries of three campaign workers, spending about $45,000 of her campaign contributions improperly.

State law required that the campaign surplus Mrs. Bysiewicz disposed of should have been given to charity or returned on a pro-rated basis to her contributors.

Accordingly, Connecticut’s State Elections Enforcement Commission last month found Mrs. Bysiewicz in violation of the law. There followed a settlement, part of which stipulated that Mrs. Bysiewicz would pay out of her own pocket $14,000 to a New Haven law firm that previously had been paid by her campaign committee. When the enforcement committee declared it would need access to further information to support its determination, Mrs. Bysiewicz yielded to the importunities of the committee and agreed to pay the questionable legal bill from her own funds rather than supply the necessary information to the committee.

In a separate issue, Mrs. Bysiewicz ran up bills charged by yet another law firm in the course of her Superior and Supreme Court appearances. Last February, she announced that she would pay these bills out of her own pocket, not from campaign funds, and she did shell out a portion of the payments in this way last May. But recently amended campaign finance reports indicate that she is claiming reimbursement from the campaign for part of the charges. The change in the manner of payment was occasioned, Mrs. Bysiewicz has said, by an unforeseen increase in her legal bills, Republican opposition to her suit having driven up the cost of litigation.

At the end of December, the elections enforcement committee, perhaps running out of patience, ordered the “immediate termination” of Bysiewicz’s campaign committee following the “lawful disbursement” of $112,599 in funds yet to be distributed.

Just now, Connecticut’s media appears to be unsettled by such political ineptness; but, in the case of liberals, the left of center media is supremely tolerant of human imperfections, and the 2012 elections are far enough off so that Bysiewicz will have plenty of time to redeem herself through good works, following in the footsteps of Sen. Chris Dodd, who appears to have recovered from imputations that he had been a bit too cozy with evil captains of industry during the larger part of his career in the senate.

The healthy Democratic heart is forgiving and expansive, though it appears temporarily pinched in the sad case of retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman.

In a bilious piece written by Jack Stuef for a site called “Wonkette,” Mr. Lieberman appears as a “douchebag fused to the senate with an adhesive of literal mucus and the endless cash of the defense contractors.” One commenter sees “a bright future for Joe as a test subject for land mines,” and another implores Mr. Lieberman’s wife to “do us all a favor and smother your husband in his sleep” – all this AFTER repeated calls from national Democrats to soften the putative violent political rhetoric endemic on the right.

We should never wonder at the fecklessness of the gods of politics who work in mysterious ways their wonders to perform. Given time and chance enough, even the senator Mrs. Bysiewicz hopes to replace in the U.S. Congress may be re-evaluated by cooler heads, the revaluation of values being the secular version of redemption, a form of cheap grace practiced by historians and politicians. And if redemption is open to such as Mr. Lieberman, why should the door of political salvation be closed permanently against the relatively less offensive Mrs. Bysiewicz?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Malloy, Blumenthal Rule Out Declaration Of Bankruptcy

Both Connecticut's new governor, Dannel Malloy, and its new U.S. Senator, Dick Blumenthal, have put the kabosh on the possibility of bankruptcy for the state as a means of settling its deepening debts, according to Mark Davis of News Channel 8.

Mr. Blumenthal, no longer loking for someone to sue since he moved from the attorney’s general office, said "States really need to cut spending and put their fiscal houses in order without resorting to mass insolvency.”

Governor Malloy, who previously has acknowledged that Connecticut’s per capita is worse than California’s, agreeed with Mr. Blumenthal.

"Connecticut,” the governor said, “is looking to embrace, not to escape the responsibilities of sound financial management. We will honor our obligations and do not intend to support proposals that would enable states to avail themselves of bankruptcy."

Should a state declare bankruptcy, its financial obligations fallinto the hands if judges who are able to order changes in payment schedules and union contracts. Mr. Malloy has not yet said that he would be willing or able to do the same as the state marches towards bankruptcy.

"It would sort of shift the decision making from the legislature to the judicial branch, and you'd have the judicial branch overseeing the state's budget, so it certainly is a real drastic measure," said Rep. Vince Candelora, a Republican.

Mr. Davis quoted “as one person close to the leadership” as having said “We have a whole lot of agita about this, it's a political minefield."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nader Hearts Curry, Harpoons Dodd, Lieberman

A bit like the batty uncle in the attic with a shotgun, Ralph Nader is unsafe in any conversation.

No politician in Connecticut has been Naderish enough for the consumer protection scold; not Sen. Joe Lieberman, whose liberal rating in the congress has been respectable, and not Sen. Chris Dodd, the author of the small business-crippling Dodd-Frank bill. That bill may not impede Big Business, which has time and lawyers enough to cut deals with obliging senators. From the point of view of companies too large to fail, one of the purposes of Byzantine legislation – the Dodd-Frank Bill is a prolix 2,319 pages long -- is to squeeze out smaller competition though costly regulation while at the same time allowing preferments from legislators whose campaigns are financed by Big Business lobbyists.

Nader, naturally, was happy to see the end of Mr. Lieberman’s career in the senate, nor did he cry crocodile tears when Mr. Dodd threw in the towel.

“He couldn't leave the Senate fast enough as far as I'm concerned,” Mr. Nader said of Lieberman. “He's not only driving Democrats nuts down here, but he's become a right-wing extremist on everything except the environment and gay rights.'' Mr. Lieberman’s exit from public life is not the end of an era, Mr. Nader told Courant reporter Chris Keating. “It’s the end of a nightmare.”

Mr. Nader wants Bill Curry, who ran for governor but lost to John Rowland in 2002, to run for Mr. Lieberman’s vacant congressional seat in 2012.

Nader on Curry: “I've got a favorite in the race: Bill Curry. He was six months too early on Rowland when he ran against him. He's got enormously good insight. He's a strong political talent. He's enormously knowledgeable on a lot of subjects.''

Unlike Mr. Curry, “who’s been through it all,” U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, a lightweight, is “not seasoned enough,” said Mr. Nader.

In a 2002 letter addressed to both Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Dodd that Mr. Nader shared at the time with the Hartford Courant, Mr. Nader claimed that neither senator helped to raise money for the chronically under funded Curry campaign.

“For years,” Mr. Nader charged in his letter to the two senators, “you have had a publicly unspoken arrangement with John Rowland to avoid competition. The Republicans put up nominal candidates against each of you, and you lay off criticizing the incumbent governor or having a strong challenger to him.”

On the day Mr. Nader released his letter, Mr. Keating reported on his blog, “Curry and Lieberman stood together outside a Newington diner, saying they had been friends since they sat next to each other in the state Senate nearly 25 years ago. When Lieberman was asked whether he had not helped Curry's campaign enough, Curry interrupted, and said, ‘I reject it. Joe Lieberman is my friend. I am grateful, and I know what he has been doing.’”

Most lawyers would consider such avowals coming from a party alleged to have been injured by Mr. Lieberman exculpatory.

Mr. Nader still charges that Mr. Dodd “didn’t lift a finger” to help his friend Mr. Curry in his race against Mr. Rowland.

Mr. Rowland defeated Mr. Curry by 12 percentage points, hardly a photo finish, in a campaign in which Mr. Rowland claimed to be a “moderate” Republican, an experienced governor dedicated to improving the state’s schools and an able negotiator who could work with the Democratic dominated legislature to “hold the line on spending.”

Whether Mr. Rowland has kept such pledges is a matter of ardent dispute. Connecticut’s schools have miserably failed urban children, and if Mr. Rowland’s negotiations with Democrats were successful in holding the line on spending, the state budget likely would not have more than doubled by the end of his final term, cut short by the year Mr. Rowland spent in jail for having conspired to steal honest service from citizens of the state. Whether Mr. Curry, had he prevailed against Mr. Rowland, would have so acted as governor to enforce the admirable pledges made by Mr. Rowland also is a matter of ardent dispute.

Mr. Nader, generally bored by massive spending, has not always been quick to notice the damage done by the legislative-industrial compact made possible by excessive federal regulation. And while Mr. Nader, whose hometown is Winsted, has been rich in complaints, he has not deigned to run for public office in his native state, because he could not do so without claiming responsibility for the solutions he has so often pressed upon others.

What the pope of the day said of Cardinal Richelieu upon his death may apply equally well to politicians and batty uncles in the attic: “If there is no God, the cardinal will have lived a good life; and if there is a God, he will have much to answer for.”

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lieberman Leaves

Sen. Joe Lieberman’s post mortem began even before he officially announced his retirement.

Here in Connecticut, a politically battered Susan Bysiewicz rushed to announce in advance of U.S. Reps. Chris Murphy and Joe Courtney her availability for the seat hours after she had told bewildered reporters and commentators she would be spending the next few years ensconced in her new job with a prestigious law firm, drying out from a recent political dunking and acquiring active experience before the state’s bar. Mrs. Bysiewicz has been portrayed in the state’s media as an ambitious Lady Macbeth, but she probably is not much more ambitious than the usual political specimen.

Well… maybe a wee bit.

Connecticut can expect the same scramble for political crumbs that occurred when U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd announced his retirement. The frantic melee would be a little less over the edge if the state had term limits, a process that would allow a more dignified free for all. The present political rumble is for a senate position that, in the case of Mr. Dodd, is about half the reign of King George III. The senator who replaced Mr. Dodd, Dick Blumenthal, held his previous position of attorney general for 20 years. The average term in office of U.S. Senators has increased 300 percent since the first decade following the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. As of October 2008 there were four U.S. Senators -- Robert Byrd, Edward Kennedy, Daniel Inouye and Theodore Stevens – who had been in office over 40 years. The prospect of such a secure roost in office makes the rough and tumble scramble up the greasy political pole a matter of political life and death.

Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy congratulated Mr. Lieberman in a prepared statement on a “remarkable career of public service” and pointed out that the senator stuck to what he believed was right for his constituents and countrymen.” Acts of courage such as the senator’s steadfast support of “policies that have brought political freedom to Iraq and to Afghanistan when many Democrats sought to end that commitment prematurely,” Healy said, “almost cost Sen. Lieberman his political career in 2006 when radical liberals ousted him as the candidate of the Democrat Party, which once supported the foreign policies of both Republican and Democrat administrations.”

The “Nedheads,” of course, would not agree with this assessment, though many of the anti-war activists among them have been far less vocal in their opposition to the war in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama’s “war of necessity,” than had been the case when Ned Lamont successfully challenged Mr. Lieberman in a primary, losing in the general election to Mr. Lieberman, who was able to draw support from Republicans and Independents.

Pretty nearly everyone seemed to agree that the prevailing circumstances that allowed Mr. Lieberman to snatch an earlier general election victory from the jaws of a primary defeat – a weak Republican candidate, a primary victor whose experience in office was shallow and a residual affection for Mr. Lieberman for having earlier defeated then Sen. Lowell Weicker, widely regarded as a Republican Party scourge -- would not be present in the general election two years after then Sen. Chris Dodd had left office.

By the time Mr. Lieberman made his announcement in Stamford at noon on Jan. 19, the news that he was retiring was old news. Nate Silver of the New York Times speculated that “The scariest possibility for Democrats would be if Ms. Rell decided to run for the seat.” Roll Call adjusted Connecticut’s race from “toss up” to “leans Democrat.” The New York Post advised that Connecticut Democrats should seek a centrist Democrat to run for Mr. Lieberman’s seat, which will be vacated in 2012. Salon noted that Mr. Lieberman was “Every Republican's favorite Democrat.” The American Prospect noted the New York Times noting that Bill Curry said of Mr. Lieberman, “It’s the first thing he’s done in 10 years to make Connecticut Democrats completely happy.” And Emily Bazelon, writing in Slate, cordially explained to readers of the on-line political magazine why she loathed Mr. Lieberman in a piece appropriately titled, “Good Riddance Joe Lieberman: Why I loathe my Connecticut senator.”

As Louis Prima sings in “Just A Gigolo” – “Life goes on without me.” Owing to a Prima release in the 1950’s, that song was inescapably linked with “I ain’t Got Nobody.”

History may show that Mr. Lieberman did have a few honorable people in his corner. Non-bilious historians may be kinder to Mr. Lieberman than the foaming at the mouth progressives who continue to loathe him, well after leading Democrats in Connecticut have agreed that civility in politics, going forward, should shape political discourse.

Monday, January 17, 2011

EPA CAUSES UNEMPLOYMENT, RAISES COSTS

The Environmental Protection Agency has revoked a water permit for a mining project issued in 2007 by the Army Corps of Engineers. It blocks $250 million in investment and costs 250 jobs. It is in the coal-mining area of West Virginia and involves removal of a mountain top. EPA, as is its custom, says science required the revocation.

Other firms wonder if their permits will be revoked. This revocation is in line with EPA’s regulatory excess and its anti-energy bias.

EPA is among the most imperious of the regulatory agencies, arising from the vagueness of Congress’s laws and orders, and Congress’s having abrogated oversight of the regulatory process. But if Congress is reforming, there are ways to rein them in, according to The Wall Street Journal January. 14 editorial. One is to enact the “Executive In Need Of Scrutiny (Reins) Act,” proposed by Senators DeMint and Davis.

Among these unelected agencies, scarcely a week goes by without EPA’s regulatory carcinogen witch-hunt to remove PCBs from schools and hospitals. PCBs (PoliChlorinatedBiphenyls) are a compound uniquely suited for insulating electrical equipment. They are a pollutant that may harm animals but have not been found to hurt human beings, despite numerous epidemiologic surveys of workers occupationally engaged with them.

The latest PCB scare is in two schools on Staten Island. Eight classrooms have been closed down in anticipation of the results of tests taken by EPA for PCB-contamination of the air. While they await the test results to see if the schools or other classrooms must be closed down, EPA is annoyed at the slow pace of New York City. Moreover, fluorescent light fixtures have been suspected of PCB contamination. EPA has warned that absent immediate action by the City, it would act on its own, presumably to close the schools. Deputy Mayor Walcott says closing 800 schools would be prohibitively expensive, costing maybe $1 billion.

PCBs are at the end of a long list of substances that could be hazardous if inhaled or ingested over a lifetime of 70 years. The list was devised by Bruce Ames, world-renown molecular biologist at the University of California at Berkeley.

The items below have been arbitrarily selected from Professor Ames’s long list. The figures represent the risk of the substance compared to the risk of PCBs (and DDT; DDT is included only because it, like PCBs, is at the very bottom of Professor Ames’s list.)

14,000 beer, a 12-ounce can
150 one peanut-butter sandwich a day
30 cooked bacon, 100 grams
10 water, one liter of the worst of Silicon Valley (low-quality) water
5 water, one liter of average U.S. tap water

The following facts are still relevant though gathered ten years ago, when this subject was covered in the pages of this newspaper:

• Animal tests for carcinogenicity are usually terminated after tumors develop; but a 1984 PCB test on rats was continued for the lifespan of the rats and found that rats treated with PCBs lived LONGER than untreated, and that over their lifetime, the treated rats developed FEWER cancers of all types than the untreated. It is difficult to infer harm to humans from a test in which the chemical is beneficial to animals.

• A study of heavy consumers of fish from the Great Lakes, which contain PCBs, found no more illnesses than in the control group. A similar Connecticut State Department of Health study of people who regularly eat fish from the Housatonic River found that they had no more illnesses than the control group.

• The National Institute of Health did four occupational studies. It found that exposed workers had slightly FEWER cancer deaths and no more other illnesses than the general public even though they had higher levels of PCBs in their blood.

• Continued attempts to show PCBs a problem have similarly failed. One, a study of endocrine (hormone) disruption at Tulane University, was publicly withdrawn by its authors because they found that further research could not replicate their result.

• Toxicologist Alice Ottoboni declared it is extremely unlikely that exposure to trace quantities in the environment could cause cancer.

Dr. Renata Kimbrough of the Institute for Evaluating Health Risks did a study of 7,075 workers in the electrical industry whose occupational exposure to PCBs went back 35 years. “We basically didn’t find anything,” she said. “There is no adverse health risk to exposed populations.” Whether workers were exposed heavily or lightly made no difference. The length of exposure made no difference. Even where the PCB blood-levels were 2,530 parts per billion compared to the general population’s of 5 to 7 ppb, there was no difference. Her study was published in the March, 1999, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

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

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Governor Malloy On Connecticut’s Economic Doldrums

Gov. Dannel Malloy appeared recently at the editorial offices of the New London Day, where he unburdened himself cautiously on matters involving taxing and spending:

“’We have people who for political reasons are inserting uncertainty into the bond market, and we’re seeing the bond market reflect that,’ Malloy said. He went on to criticize some of [New Jersey Gov. Chris] Christie’s other recent exhortations to fellow Republicans to hang tough against established interests and to eliminate tenure for schoolteachers.

“’Hopefully I take a slightly more intellectual approach to this discussion than Governor Christie has demonstrated,’ Malloy said, adding that his counterpart ‘certainly understands the nuts and bolts portion of it.’

“’There are proven economic theories about sustaining economic growth, and we ignore those theories that have proven themselves at our own peril,’ Malloy said.

“’We’re going to see large-scale additional unemployment caused by governmental entities: local government and state government primarily, and perhaps the federal government,” he said. “Can you tell me what the impact of that is going to be on the recovery?’
One of the proven economic theories about sustaining economic growth is this: When expenditures outpace receipts and you still think you do not have to cut back spending, you are kissing the lipstick on a pig. An unsustainable national debt of $14 trillion, massive governmental regulation and excessive governmental borrowing introduce uncertainty into both bond and stock markets. The value of state bonds is secured by the economic wellbeing of the state. If California is bankrupt, its bonds will be correspondingly valueless because few would be willing to buy such bonds.

Moody lowered Connecticut’s general obligation bonds more than two years ago from stable to negative because the state used deficit bonds to resolve a budget shortfall.

“Connecticut,” Moody said in a report issued in 2009, “used one-time solutions to close slightly over half of the (biennial budget’s) shortfall … these solutions create future structural budget gaps and leave the state with significantly reduced flexibility to address additional fiscal pressures that may arise due to a delayed and/or weaker than expected recovery from the worst economic recession since the depression.”

A political writer from Rhode Island crowed after citing the report, “Break out the champagne! Another state has done worse than us in the budgeting department!

Connecticut is now running a deficit of some $3.5 billion or more for each of the next three years; the state has borrowed money to pay for budget deficits rather than capital improvements, and it has raided pension funds to pay for state debt. No “intellectual approach” – what ever that means -- will change the facts on the ground. If the state of Connecticut were to borrow less and spend less, if its pension liabilities were offset by suitable pension payments, its bond rating would be more secure.

An alternative solution, from Moody’s vantage point, is to pay debts and pension liabilities from tax increases. But recent national elections have suggested to some intellectually wide awake Democrats that this is a route leading to political unemployment, and so they have been cautious of late in proposing tax increases. It is always possible that Connecticut Democrats are more courageous than Democrats in other states. Here in the “Tax-Me State”, Democrats survived an election in which the U.S. House reverted to Republicans, many state legislatures fell to the GOP and many gubernatorial state houses also were captured by Republicans.

One would like to hear from Mr. Malloy what impact he thinks tax increases would have on Connecticut’s business environment now that Mr. Christie of New Jersey and Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York have pledged not to raise taxes. Those pledges may seem to some in Connecticut a little too close for comfort. Over the long haul, the impact of spending cuts – provided they are permanent -- will be salutary. When government shrinks, personal wealth, one of the more important drivers of the economy, increases, which is good for the economy. Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, appears to share this intellectual approach with the less intellectual Mr. Christie, possibly because he does not wish New York businesses to migrate to New Jersey, a possibility that does not disturb the snoring of caucus leaders in Connecticut’s General Assembly.
Mr. Malloy, during his appearance at the Day’s editorial office, also ventured some views on history:

“The current economic plight is ‘not unlike 1935, ‘36,’ Malloy said, referring to the years when the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt had seen some success but also heard calls to roll back its most aggressive economic interventions against the Great Depression.

“’Do you pull back from a level of investment that has shown some ability to get the economy moving?’ Malloy said. ‘Do you pull back now or do you pull back over a period of time? The Republicans in Washington want to pull back now. What I would argue is you need a better thought-out withdrawal from that market, which we’re not going to get.’

“But Malloy also expressed sympathy with the intentions of politicians such as Christie, who say their goal has been to shrink the size of state government and improve its efficiency. Those same goals, which were central talking points of Malloy’s campaign, have many in Hartford anticipating a clash between Democratic leadership in the legislature and the new governor, who seems more prepared to make cuts.
“An ultimate reduction in the size of government is, ‘over the long haul ... probably a good thing,’ Malloy said, but he returned to his concern about driving unemployment. ‘Over the short run, all of that at once is a very dangerous thing."
None of the terms used by Mr. Malloy are qualified. How much time is a “long haul”? How much time is a “short haul”? No one but local anarchists are proposing that government in the state of Connecticut should be reduced a modest 25 percent “all at once.” But Mr. Malloy should at the very least be able to tell editorial page editors what percentage of state government should be reduced to insure solvency “over the long haul” and whether the reductions will be permanent or temporary.

And at this point, only a few weeks before his budget will be written in stone and presented to a rubber stamping Democratic majority in the legislature, Mr. Malloy should be able to disclose what percentage of tax increases to reductions in spending he thinks will stabilize Connecticut’s bonds and reverse a flow of jobs from Connecticut to other states in which state debts are lower, bond rating is more secure and taxes are less punishing.

That kind of information, elicited by editorial writers and demanding reporters across the state, will greatly sooth the minds and hearts of taxpayers, those who receive government services, bond rating agencies and any stray intellectuals who have not already found employment in the Malloy administration.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Powell On Malloy s Brain Trust

Managing Editor of the Journal Inquirer Chris Powell, the George Patton of the reality movement in Connecticut politics, examined a report issued by Governor Dannel Malloy’s Brain Trust and found it “shocking for its obliviousness.”

The report, Powell argues, renews commitments to failed programs and did not recommend “a single important change that might save big money and help restore solvency to state government.”

While the report acknowledges that Connecticut’s formula for municipal educational financing is broken, “… the formula, while often adjusted, has accomplished exactly what it was created to do: send more money to poverty-infested cities. This has achieved only prosperity for city school employees, not any improvement in educational outcomes."

There is little direct connection between money spent on education and educational outcomes:

“But then the problem with educational outcomes has never been the aid formula. The problem has always been the premise that student performance is a matter of school spending. Unfortunately Connecticut has been operating on this false premise since the state Supreme Court decided the Horton vs. Meskill school-financing case in 1977. Despite 30 years of tinkering with the aid formula, the relative performance of city students is worse than ever.

“The report advocates creating two education commissionerships, one for early childhood education and one to oversee all state education efforts from birth to college, though there is no evidence that the two education commissioners already in place do much.

“Even as Connecticut's fatherlessness rate nears 50 percent there is no hint in the report that the education problem is the consequence of the family disintegration and child neglect subsidized by government stipends for childbearing outside marriage. The report presumes that many children never will have parents and that state government will have to be their parents -- or, rather, pretend to be.”
The Brain Trust’s notion that Connecticut is losing jobs to other states for want of a super salesman is also rooted in a false premise, Powell argues:

“The report is just as empty with economic development. Its big idea is that the governor should become Connecticut's cheerleader, touting the state's virtues to businesses and surveying them about what would bring or keep them here. But business wants only what it always has wanted: low and stable rates of taxation and regulation, good infrastructure, and a capable work force. No mere cheerleading can change the underlying circumstances. Those circumstances are that Connecticut has had no private-sector job growth since enacting its state income tax in 1991, just a lot more government expense and regulation. And how can the governor tout to business two major items on his party's agenda -- mandatory paid sick time and a new unemployment fund tax of $40 per employee?”
Hint to the new governor: Before you try to sell an unwanted product to other states – and the out migration of jobs and brains to states with more temperate tax environments and less predatory legislatures is unimpeachable evidence of a product failure – try changing the product.

The Brain Trust has suggested cost reductions in management. But in an environment in which management is itself unionized, serious attempts to reduce cost are bound to fail. If unions are foxes that already have invaded the henhouse, it cannot help to appoint as a warden yet another “management” fox to guard the foxes:

“A serious review of the management question might survey the laws Connecticut has enacted to prohibit ordinary public administration. Recognizing their insolvency, some states are reconsidering binding arbitration of public employee union contracts and reconsidering even collective bargaining for public employees. But not Connecticut; indeed, Connecticut's public employee unions are congratulating themselves for having won the gubernatorial election.”
The overarching question hanging like a Damoclean sword over the heads of every citizen of Connecticut is: Will the legislature and the new governor, all Democrats, allow the crisis unaddressed by Mr. Malloy’s Brain Trust to go to waste?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Priebus In, Steele Out As GOP Chairman

Wisconsin Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus is the new national Republican Party Chairman, according to a posting in GOPUSA.

Obama And Palin

Victor David Hanson writes most persuasively about war and peace, more often than not two sides to a similar coin: Long periods of peace in history often follow decisive wars.

Here Mr. David Hanson scrolls out some highly objectionable quotes from President Barack Obama – nice to have in an rhetorical ammo dump (please forgive the metaphor) when recent converts to bi-partisanship begin to chafe under assaults (forgive the metaphor) from their opponents:

“There is much talk that Sarah Palin’s ‘crosshairs’ ad pushed Loughner over the edge. But if sloppy use of gun metaphors can drive anyone to shoot congressional representatives, think what we are up against when the president of the United States invokes violent imagery to galvanize his supporters. What are we to make of Obama’s warning of ‘hand-to-hand combat’ if the Republicans take over; or his comment that one of his supporters could ‘tear [Sean Hannity] up’; or his Untouchables boast that ‘if they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun’; or his advice to supporters of his presidential campaign to argue with Republicans and independents and ‘get in their face’?

“Why would a president boast about figuring out ‘whose ass to kick,’ or, in a climate of fear about terrorism, call his opponents ‘hostage takers’? In a post-9/11 world, is it prudent for the commander-in-chief to say of his political opponents, ‘Here’s the problem: It’s almost like they’ve got — they’ve got a bomb strapped to them and they’ve got their hand on the trigger. You don’t want them to blow up’? What about, ‘But you’ve got to kind of talk them, ease that finger off the trigger’?

“Also, in a political twofer, Obama once not only evoked gun imagery, but did so in a context of relegating Republicans into second-class citizenry: ‘We can’t have special interests sitting shotgun. We gotta have middle class families up in front. We don’t mind the Republicans joining us. They can come for the ride, but they gotta sit in back.’”

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Taxes And Spending: How Much?

The most important question to be decided when Gov. Dannel Malloy presents his budget to the legislature in February is: How much? What will the distribution of spending and tax cuts be like?

Mr. Malloy has said often enough, during and after his campaign, that the budget nut – a $3.5 million deficit in each of the next three years -- will be hard to crack. Both spending cuts, generally referred to by Democrats as “painful,” and tax increases, possibly less painful for a Democratic caucus that under the leadership of Speaker of the House Chris Donovan and President of the Senate Don Williams has tended to trim its politics to union interests, are in the offing.

Republicans in the legislature certainly will offer a stiff resistance to tax increases, which are regarded in GOP quarters and many places in the world outside Connecticut as business disincentives. But Mr. Malloy, Mr. Donovan and Mr. Williams may well ask in this regard: How many battalions do Republicans have? In Connecticut, a state that did not follow in the last election a pattern that threw the U.S. House and many state legislatures and gubernatorial offices into Republican hands, the GOP lacks the necessary fire power in the legislature to offer more than polite objections.

Such has been the case with Connecticut’s GOP even in days of yore when Republicans ruled the gubernatorial roost. Republican governors have not often wielded their veto pens in the interests of their party or their dwindling legislative caucus.

So far, the question the Malloy administration has assiduously avoided is: What percentage of tax increases to spending cuts would be acceptable to the Democratic dominated legislature and the state’s Democratic governor? These matters are usually settled, before the budget has been set in concrete, in meetings held between the chief executive and caucus leaders in the legislature that are closed to the public, the infamous “smoke filled back rooms” of muckraking journalists.

A like percentage escaped U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman as he was being grilled by Dennis House of WFSB’s “Face The State.” House’s rapid fire interrogatories often do not allow his guests time to mull over carefully crafted non-answers, and the truth sometimes comes tumbling out them. Such was the case when House asked Mr. Lieberman “What will the new senate do to cut back on some of the spending?

Citing President Barack Obama’s National Commission On Fiscal Responsibility And Reform, the senator then unscrolled a spiel:

“We’re going to have to methodically cut back spending, and we’re going to have to raise some taxes too… the bipartisan commission came out with a proposal, not adopted by enough members but by a majority, that said we can get ourselves back in balance by a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. Three quarters of their recommendations were spending cuts, one quarter tax increases. That’s probably a good balance… Frankly, we’re going to have to ask more of everybody, if we’re going to get our country back on track and paying our bills. That’s not only the responsible thing to do to protect out kids from an unbelievable tax burden. But it’s the best thing to do for our economy, because it will restore confidence in our markets. I think it will keep interest rates low, and it will allow for a lot of investments in business and job creation. To me, the three goals we [should pursue] are: Get the country moving again, deal with the long term debt of our country, and make America energy independent again.”
The reasonable goals proposed by Mr. Lieberman for the nation are the same as those sketched in rude outline by Mr. Malloy and former ambassador Tom Foley in their recently concluded gubernatorial campaign. Is there a legislator in the General Assembly who would decline to support a workable plan designed to get Connecticut moving again, expunge its budget deficit and pension liabilities, and make the state energy independent?

The coming legislative jihad will be all about the proportion of spending cuts to tax increases. It is a delicate question how the proportion mentioned by Mr. Lieberman in his discussion with Mr. House -- one quarter tax increases to three quarters spending cuts -- will go down the gullets of legislators who have spend a good part of their careers genuflecting in the direction of minimal and temporary spending cuts while promoting permanent progressive increases in the state’s ever burgeoning income tax.

Will they recall George Will’s quip about Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger -- that Mr. Schwarzenegger was “the best governor that states contiguous to California ever had.”

Governors and mayors in states contiguous to Illinois, the home state of President Barack Obama, are slavering over the proportions of spending cuts to tax increases proposed by the lame duck Illinois legislature: 66 percent tax increases to 34 percent spending cuts. The scheduled tax increases are supposed to be temporary, a prospect sure to raise a chuckle in states continuous to Illinois, whose mayors and governors look forward to pillaging the city of its workers and businesses.

New Jersey’s governor is indisposed to any tax increases, and Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York  is unambiguous on the matter of tax increases: “I understand the semantics argument. I say no new taxes, period." Mr. Cuomo’s vision for New York’s future involves limiting spending growth to the rate of inflation, consolidating departments and placing a cap on property taxes.

The question before the house is: After Mr. Malloy’s budget is passed by the Democratic controlled legislature, will he be the favorite governor of states contiguous to Connecticut?

Monday, January 10, 2011

U.S. Rep Rosa DeLauro’s Former Chief Of Staff Found Dead

Roll Call is reporting that former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro Ashley Turton was found dead in her car Monday morning.

“Ashley Turton, former chief of staff to Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and wife of White House liaison to the House of Representatives Dan Turton, was found dead in her car Monday morning, according to a source...
"Metropolitan Police Lt. Nicholas Breul said there is a joint investigation into the cause of the accident. Homicide detectives have been called to the scene.

“'This could be just a tragic freak accident,' Breul said. 'And that’s why we’re crossing our i’s and dotting our t’s because it is a little freaky, and we need to figure out why. But there is no indication now that there was any crime.'” 

Update: MPD has issued a statement saying the death is being investigated as an accident:

"On Monday, January 10, 2011, at approximately, 4:45 a.m., the driver of a 2008 BMW X-5 crashed into the interior of a garage of a residence in the 800 block of A Street S.E. After impact, a fire started and quickly engulfed the entire garage as well as the automobile.The driver was pronounced dead by a representative from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the District of Columbia. The identity of the decedent is being withheld at this time, pending further identification. The Major Crash Investigations Unit, along with the DC Fire Department’s Arson Investigations Unit are investigating the circumstances leading to the crash and fire."


Sunday, January 09, 2011

Rennie Sniffs Out Gaffey, Williams

Hartford Courant columnist Kevin Rennie, whose nose is extremely sensitive, smells something fishy in the relationship between former eight-term state Sen. Thomas Gaffey and state Senate President Donald Williams.

After recently running for re-election to his seat and winning, Mr. Gaffey quit the senate when he was convicted of having used his own PAC funds to pay for trips that he also billed to the state over several years. It appears the double billing may have been occasioned by Mr. Gaffey’s fondness for a fetching lady.

A second girlfriend, Mr. Rennie reported, also tapped into Mr. Gaffey’s affections:

“Connecticut State University System Associate Vice Chancellor for Government Relations and Communication Jill Ferraiolo employed her charms to make Gaffey the chief and relentless advocate for a $1 billion blank check in public funds for CSU to spend on construction at its four campuses.”
Far from recoiling in horror at Mr. Gaffey’s indiscreet petty larceny, his influential friend in the legislature, Mr. Williams, “tut-tutted that the public was not interested in officials' private lives. What did enrage Williams, however, were the efforts of state Sen. Joan Hartley, D- Waterbury, to impose some sensible standards and restrictions on CSU's expensive plans.”

So formidable and trusting was the Williams-Gaffey alliance that Mr. Williams then targeted Ms. Hartley on behalf of his friend, according to Mr. Rennie:

“Williams removed Hartley as co-chairman of the Higher Education Committee while he continued to sustain the volatile, corrupt Gaffey in his close circle of influential advisers until the end came Monday.”
The Republican American located in Waterbury pointed to an evident double standard in the way the Democratic dominated legislature responded to both Mr. Gaffey and former state Senator Lou DeLuca, who had the misfortune to be a Republican when he was caught in a sting operation arranged by the Feds some years ago. In the DeLuca case, President Pro Tem of the Senate Don Williams did not fiddle while DeLuca burned:

“Compare Sen. Williams' treatment of fellow Democrat Gaffey with his handling of the scandal surrounding former Sen. Louis C. DeLuca, R-Woodbury. Mr. DeLuca did not steal money or peddle influence. Believing his granddaughter to be a victim of physical abuse by a then-boyfriend, Mr. DeLuca asked for Danbury trash hauler James Galante, later convicted on federal racketeering charges, to have someone threaten the boyfriend. No threats or assaults occurred, but Mr. DeLuca pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy to commit second-degree threatening.

“The Senate decided to launch an investigation that could have led to expulsion, had Mr. DeLuca not decided to resign five months after entering his guilty plea.

“But the zeal the Senate, under Sen. Williams, showed in the DeLuca case was nowhere to be found before or after he left office. "Lawmakers displayed an almost never seen willingness to investigate a colleague after DeLuca pleaded guilty to a threatening charge in June," the Republican-American reported in November 2007. ‘Legislators have been jailed for drunk driving, arrested for barroom brawling, shoplifting and ballot fraud, convicted of bribery and child molestation, and cited for misusing campaign funds since DeLuca joined the General Assembly in 1991. None of them were investigated or punished. ... Only (DeLuca) was threatened with expulsion.’"
To be sure, ethical propriety, like love, sometimes rests in the eye of the beholder. But when so much ink has been spilled over the lack of ethics of politicians in this state, we may say that a standard of ethics has over time been clarified on a case by case basis. Applying the “good for the goose” standard to Mr. Gaffey, it ought to have been plain to ethicists in the legislature -- very early on in the Gaffey scandal – that Mr. Gaffey had exceeded the boundaries the legislature itself had established to prevent such moral mutilation as Mr. Gaffey inflicted upon himself. It is altogether proper, under these circumstances, to ask why his comrades in the senate did not reacted more aggressively to early indications that Mr. Gaffey had run off the rails. It was no act of friendship on Mr. William’s part to fail to reprove a friend when he was so obviously in danger of crossing ethical thresholds. Indeed, Mr. Williams’s good-old-boy politicking may have facilitated his friend’s downfall.

Fortunately for Gov. Dannel Malloy, Mr. Williams was not one of the legislators Mr. Malloy netted to flesh out his new administration. Mr. Williams, his rigorous application of ethical strictures somewhat compromised by his backhanded defense of his comrade in the senate, still presides as President Pro Tem of the state senate.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Mapping Malloy's Victory

Pictures, it is said, are worth a thousand words. And so is the red-blue map taken from the pages of the Register Citizen. The map shows towns in Connecticut in which citizens cast votes in the 2010 gubernatorial election for either Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy (Blue) or Republican Party challenger Tom Foley (Red). Mr. Foley won in 126 towns, while Mr. Malloy won in 43 towns, prominent among them Connecticut’s large cities, Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven.

Excluding the three major cities won by Mr. Malloy, Mr. Foley led Mr. Malloy by a 51 to 47 percent margin, according to the paper.

Barry Goldwater, the conservative presidential candidate and precursor to President Ronald Reagan who peeked too early, is famous for having said about California and New England, two areas of the country that seem always to vote reflexively for the most liberal candidates, that if you exclude them “… you have a pretty good country.”

Voters living in the 126 red indicated towns might be forgiven for thinking similarly about Connecticut’s major cities. The gubernatorial election – as well as other state wide elections – was won in the cities by a Democratic Party that, in one instance, simply rented out its vote gathering effort to out of city groups, many of them union connected.

That datum raises some interesting questions. Far more than Republicans, Democratic state-wide office holders – the governor and lieutenant governor, the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, the Comptroller and the Treasurer – owe their seats to special interests. Will they remember their obligations when they are in office and legislation passes under their noses that affects the special interests responsible for their elevation to office? The question is especially pertinent when a bill or a policy so approved tends to affect in a negative way what might be called the general interest or the general good.

Nearly everyone running for office this year, no matter on which side of the political barricades he or she chose to stand, was in agreement that an increase in jobs would advance the general good. When more people are working, the tax pie increases proportionally, while the individual tax bite may remain the same or be reduced. Everyone benefits when a state is so situated, relative to other states, that the flow of enterprise runs from other states into their own. Reversing the flow so that jobs travel from Connecticut to, say, Texas, provides a benefit to Texas; but an inrush of industry to Connecticut will benefit city and suburb alike.

There is an in-state division of long standing between city and suburb. Moving from city to suburb has, throughout the history of all the New England states, been a sign of prosperity and upward mobility. The potato famine Irish clustered in the hovels of Boston in the pre-Civil war period moved, as their personal circumstances improved, from city to suburb. But the vehicle that made the move possible was an expanding post Civil War economy. As jobs became more plentiful, the old religious and cultural animus that had been jousting grounds between the haves and the have nots quite simply vanished. It was a rise in personal income and status that provided the melt within the melting pot.

What the red-blue map shows, far more than a political division, is the end result of a long recessional in which the haves, who live in suburbs, will lock horns, if we are not very careful, with the needy in cities who have not -- for a whole series of reasons sociological, economic and cultural. A high incidence of crime, the dissolution of the traditional family as a cohesive sociological unit, the breakdown of traditional neighborhoods, the absence of working fathers in households, an aversion in the broader culture to religion as a spiritual unifier – all this, and more, has contributed to the infantilization of city populations. Central to this breakdown is the terrible isolation of those who live in job poor cities from which the middle class has fled, leaving behind, at a period in which jobs are scare and personal wealth is diminishing, a residue that is resistant to assimilation into the wider culture.

How to make the pot melt again is a more significant and important question than many other of the so called political questions arising from a serious contemplation of the red-blue map.

Not to be unduly apocalyptical, but the direction our state and nation will take in the very near future depends upon how this question is answered and who provides the answer.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Lieberman's Future

Four commentators – Duby McDowell of the Laurel , Rick Green of the Hartford Courant , Brian Flaherty, a former Republican state representative, and Tom Dudchik of Capitol Report -- got together several days ago at Dennis House’s house, Face the State on WFSB, to review the old year and plot Sen. Joe Lieberman’s future.

Poor Joe’s future, all agreed, was dismal.

Pretty much all House’s guests thought Mr. Lieberman MIGHT defend his seat, the senator having teased several reporters and commentators that a run was not altogether out of the question. The consensus appeared to be that Mr. Lieberman would not be nominated by his party; apparently, Rep. Chris Murphy has stolen the party’s heart, and progressive Democrats are especially hot on him, while their reaction to Mr. Lieberman has been considerably cooler.

Ever since Mr. Lieberman lost to progressive heart throb Ned Lamont in a previous Democratic Party primary and soldiered on to defeat the Great Progressive Hope in a general election, the left wing of the party has been in a flutter against Mr. Lieberman, its more insistent members sharpening their stakes, grinding their teeth and challenging the deathless vampire to run once again for office on THEIR ground. Go ahead – just go ahead. You’ll see.

Mr. Lieberman has been toying with them, playfully. The danger is that may hoist them in their own petard.

If the senator, pushed out of his party by Mr. Lamont in a primary and forced to run in the general election as independent, CANNOT run for the nomination in his former party – there are only two open questions: 1) Will he run? He’s such a tease; and 2) If he runs in what then likely would be a three way race involving Lieberman the independent, Murphy the beloved and a Republican nominee -- possibly Linda McMahon, who does not seems to have had her fill of politics, or Rob Simmons or some other aspiring Republican -- would Mr. Lieberman win?

The answer to this question is: Nobody knows. Events have a way of overturning the best laid plans of mice and men. But then the whole point of predicting the future is to speculate, loudly and bravely, on matters the answers to which one cannot know.

Perhaps it might be useful to back up a second and ask a somewhat different question: Would Lieberman’s chances of winning the pending general election in a three way race be better or worse if he did or did not force a primary with Murphy the beloved? This, after all, is how Mr. Lieberman won the general election race against Mr. Lamont – by smashing in a primary the lockstep hold in a general election Mr. Lamont expected to have on the party that nominated him.

Just a second, progressives will remonstrate. Mr. Lieberman the Vampire won the general election because the Republican candidate was, shall we say, inadequate, and Mr. Lieberman the Vampire had built up within the Republican Party a residual affection after he had defeated, with the party’s help, former senator and self proclaimed “turd in the Republican Party punchbowl” Lowell Weicker. These circumstances are not repeatable. In addition, Mr. Lieberman the Vampire has further alienated himself from his party by canoodling with the enemy, throwing his support behind a Republican Party presidential nominee at a time when Democratic nominee for president Barack Obama enjoyed wide national popularity. To be sure, the bloom is off the popularity rose now; former President George Bush and President Obama are running fairly close in popularity polls., But to have support McCain then! And he kissed Bush too! And he’s a vampire!

To all this one may cheerfully nod assent. Even so, in a free country in which primaries have for decades undetermined nominating conventions, anyone with a ardent will and a little spare cash can primary party nominees. Before Mr. Lamont, at the urging of progressives, leapt upon the stage to challenge Mr. Lieberman in a primary, Mr. Lieberman WAS the Democratic Party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate. Both former President Bill Clinton and then U.S. Sen. Dodd stumped for their party nominee on the primary campaign trail.

And so the question remains: Would Mr. Lieberman’s chance in winning a general election in a three way race, assuming he would consent to run in a three way race, be improved if he chose to primary the presumptive Democratic Party nominee for the senate, Mr. Murphy?

The answer to that question is: Maybe. No one can be certain what tomorrow may bring. It seems only yesterday that former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd was a shoe in for re-election to the senate. And then a couple of shoes fell on his head. The only way to measure Mr. Lieberman’s strength or weakness within his own party many months out from today is to test his strength in a primary. And even then, the lay of the political land having changed, the probe may be telling – or not.