Friday, April 29, 2011

Fight

Democrats in Connecticut are more efficient than Republicans in utilizing human resources. During the last non-presidential election, national Republicans on the right appeared to have caught up with the left. It was owing in large part to the most animated wing of the Republican Party – patriot tea party people, but libertarians and conservatives as well -– that Republicans were able to bring into the U.S. Congress and state houses across the nation a rich harvest.

In Connecticut, the harvest was meager -- and bitter. Republicans sent two new senators and 15 House members to the General Assembly, but they lost the governorship by the thinnest of margins, in part because of a stubborn resistance among status quo Republicans to the party’s most active element. Perhaps members of the town committees and the Republican Party Central Committee thought they could harness the storm they saw brewing elsewhere in the nation without also making room in the breast of the party for the lightning bolts.

To tell the truth, the status quo Republican Party has for a long time been an endangered species. It was status quo Republicans in 1991 that did not take up arms energetically against then Gov. Lowell Weicker’s ruinous income tax. The tornado of resistance, led by Tom Scott and Joe Markley, both of whom have now reentered Connecticut politics through different doors, was an epiphenomena. Joe Markley is once again a state senator, and Tom Scott, along with publisher of National Review Jack Fowler, recently opened The Roger Sherman Liberty Center, a organization dedicated to righting Connecticut’s tottering ship of state. The center’s first radio program on WDRC, following the Brad Davis Talk of Connecticut program, will air with Mr. Scott next Saturday.

Since 1991, the state has seen a quantitative rather than a qualitative change in our politics: Debts are three times deeper; unions are more importunate; and the usual solution to state debt – get more tax money from the guy behind the tree – is, quite simply, unavailable. The state is “already broke,” the non-partisan Connecticut Society of Certified Public Accountants asserted in a stunning report in mid-April that should stiffen the spines of Republicans on town committees and at Party Central. If there is anything more broke than state government, it may be the citizenry of the state, the poor, the middle class and the entrepreneurial class, sometimes called, for tendentious political reasons, “the rich.”

The wings of both parties are moved by winds of authenticity. The operative principals of the left and right, much different in both parties, will not allow support for those who sell their principals thoughtlessly for a mess of political pottage. It has been unprincipled compromisers who have dug our red ditch. Mr. Weicker fancied himself a pragmatist, and the fruit of his labors was an income tax sufficient to pay off a budget of $7.5 billion; the present budget is nearly three times as large, though not yet as massive as the egos of those, untethered by solid principles, who shuck off their responsibilities in these calamitous times to their state and nation. The right in the Republican Party will work to elect authentic Republicans, and they are prepared to support the real article with, as the Declaration of Independence has it, their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.

Conservativism is a philosophy of limits, constitutional, social and political. In a time of destructive debt, social anarchy and political effrontery that knows no bounds, it is a necessary and salutary correction. It is long past time for the Connecticut Republican Party both to open wide its arms to this correction and purge its ranks of status quo politicians and compromisers who have shown themselves to be unwilling to fight the good fight.

Last month, the right in Connecticut burst with indignation when it discovered that Dennis Cleary, a Republican Central Committee member of long standing, had made political contributions to U.S. Democrats Reps. John Larson and Joe Courtney in 2007. Mr. Larson’s 1st District, perhaps one of the most impregnable Democratic strongholds in the Western hemisphere, surely does not need monetary help from Republicans serving on the Central Committee. During the mid-term elections, Ann Brickley ran an energetic campaign against Mr. Larson on a shoe string budget; Mrs. Brickley had but $250,000 in her campaign kitty, Mr Larson $2.7 million. Of the two, Mr. Larson was, contribution wise, the millionaire in the race. Mr. Cleary is said to be a lobbyist, in addition to being a committee member. If so, Mr. Cleary may have been attempting by his contribution to purchase the senator’s ear, when he should have been attempting to purchase a victory for Republicans.

Elections to the Republican Central Committee are coming up in a couple of weeks, and it will be very difficult for any of the members on the committee who value limits to explain to any Republican voter how the party plans to defeat such as Larson and Courtney without first defeating those lobbyists among them who have chosen business interests over their share of honor.

The time to fight is now. Republicans need a Harry at the Helm of their party.




When they find him, they will win battles.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Reducing Energy Prices The Blumenthal Way

What do you get when you cross an attorney general with a U.S. Senator?

Answer: Dick Blumenthal.

People may not appreciate the joke until they’ve read Sen. Dick Blumenthal’s prescription for lower energy prices.

Appearing on Face the Nation” with Bob Schieffer, Mr. Blumenthal, who as attorney general of Connecticut for 20 years was very quick to pull the litigation trigger on companies large and small, called for “an investigation… involving subpoenas and compulsory process” to hold to the fire the feet of those who “may be driving prices up.”

A grand jury should be assembled, Mr. Blumenthal said, to “uncover the potential wrongdoing… The Justice Department should take the lead, seize this moment, and send a message — a very strong deterrent message — that this country will not tolerate the kind of illegal speculation and trading and hedge fund activity that may be driving prices up.”

The usual Blumenthal press release, when he was attorney general in Connecticut, was full of bluster and weasel words. The statements above are no exception: Stock speculators MAY be driving prices up; the Justice Department should SEND A MESSAGE rather than prosecute wrongdoing; illegal trading and hedge funds MAY be driving prices up.

Mr. Blumenthal’s solutions to high energy prices did not change when he moved from Hartford to Washington. An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) movement enforcer, Mr. Blumenthal is convinced that energy prices may be sufficiently reduced on the demand side through conservation measures. But the prospect of a descent into Hell – the reduction of energy prices through an increase in energy products on the supply side – is to be assiduously avoided, because some energy products may be injurious to the environment. Supply boosters such as oil mining, Blumenthal has argued, is a long term solution that “will take years to achieve on a scope and scale that will make a real difference.”

There are two ways to reduce energy prices: Prices are lowered when demand decreases, and they also are lowered when the supply of energy increases. The theology of the EPA movement considers the second solution sinful --depending upon the kind of energy that is made more abundantly available.

Politicians in Mr. Blumenthal’s party who announce in favor of nuclear production – a clean form of energy that could make Connecticut energy self sufficient – find themselves flirting with the near occasion of sin. A bill promoted by the Democratic co-chairs of the General Assembly’s Energy and Technology Committee that would impose a crippling $330 million tax on nuclear energy is now making its way through the state’s legislature. As the bill was being pushed through the legislative sausage maker, Mr. Blumenthal was careful not to comment on SB1176, even though Dominion, the owner of Connecticut’s sole nuclear power plant, which provides HALF the energy used in Mr. Blumenthal’s state, had announced it would shut down operations if the bill were written into law.

With a Hartford gas station serving as a backdrop, Mr. Blumenthal last month told reporters in Connecticut that “the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission should go after the speculators and the Justice Department should go after the foreign oil cartels that are ‘holding us hostage,’” according to a report in a Hartford paper.

Blumenthal supports legislation giving the Justice Department the authority to bring legal action against foreign entities. Accustom to brooking no challenges as attorney general in command of 200 lawyers, Mr. Blumenthal evidentially anticipates no retaliation from foreign entities, some of which are sovereign countries. The former attorney general is seemingly unaware that the entities’ equivalent of a Justice Department also may sue the U.S. government, producing a litigation war that doubtless would enrich lawyers even as it would bring international business to a screeching halt.

Mr. Blumenthal’s erstwhile Republican opponent in the late senatorial election, former wrestling impresario and business owner Linda McMahon, could have told Mr. Blumenthal that a good part of the price increase in energy, gas included, is the result of inflation. The price of gas and other products have increased in part because the value of the dollar has decreased. It takes more dollars to buy a gallon of gas because inflation has reduced the purchasing power of U.S. money. In addition, a large part of the dollar pumped into car tanks are taxes imposed by environmentally friendly state politicians who approve of high gas taxes as a means of SENDING A MESSAGE to car owners that they should switch from gas powered vehicles to other modes of transportation. High gas prices  in Connecticut fund Big Budgets and encourage mass transport -- supposedly.

Though inflation leads to higher prices -- the dollar last year lost 9 cents against the battered Euro -- Mr. Blumenthal has yet to demand that President Barrack Obama’s justice Department should convene a grand jury for the purpose of SENDING A MESSAGE to the folk who mind the money in the Federal Reserve that they should cease and desist pumping dollars into the money supply to pay off the unconscionable debt incurred for the last two years by Mr. Blumenthal’s largely veto proof Democratic Party in the U.S. congress.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How To Destroy A State In One Easy Lesson

Energy, as we all know, is the stuff that makes thing go: light bulbs, even the squiggly, earth friendly, energy saving kind that, some say, may cause cancer; cars and buses, preferred by “smart growth” utopianists who drive their non-motorized, non-gas guzzling bikes to work; and computerized presses that produce newspapers of a kind for which Senator John Fonfara of the 1st District and Vickie Nardello of the 89th Assembly District write op-ed pieces.

Mr. Fonfara and Ms. Nardello are co-chairs of the General Assembly’s Energy and Technology Committee, and together they are promoting a bill that at least one non-utopian academic, Richard D. Pomp, the Alva P. Loiselle Professor of Law at the University of Connecticut Law School, considers highly mischievous.

Political watchers may have noticed that there are every so often within the Democratic Party sudden flare ups, quickly suppressed, of economic good sense. Mr. Fonfara and Ms. Nardello have escaped this human frailty. The two are perfectly well aware that the taxing power of the state, always a withering hand, may be used either to destroy or build up industries. A drop in taxes, usually in Connecticut through some form of tax credit – or, equally effective, through the selective use of the transfer mechanism available to every utopian legislator who wants to make the world over – does wonders to suppress unwanted products such as nuclear energy and promote politically desirable products such as wind turbines, provided the flickering blades of the turbines do not disturb the tender eyes of voters in Ms. Nardello’s district.

In a free economy – one not directed by proto-fascists such as operate efficiently in China and utopias elsewhere – the consumers of products direct the flow of goods and services through their purchases. Products considered by consumers to be desirable are purchased, and the industries producing them prosper and make profits that, like the farm in the Robert Frost poem, are “plowed under” to create jobs and an improved product. Under a free market system, whoever makes the most efficient mouse trap at the most affordable price succeeds and enjoys rich dividends. In command economies, the only kind considered tolerable by utopianists, the supply and demand structure is replaced by politicians such as Mr. Fonfara and Ms. Nardello, the invisible hand of a formerly free economy then made visible as a mailed fist. Even in free societies, the jump from a free to a quasi-fascist command economy is but a progressive baby step forward.

Mr. Fonfara and Ms. Nardello are well aware that the joint bill they are promoting -- Senate Bill 1176 (SB1176), An Act Concerning Electric Rate Relief -- slaps a massive punitive tax on Connecticut’s nuclear energy provider. The Bill unabashedly seeks to readjust radically the economic DNA of the state. Dominion Resources, the owners of Millstone, which provides HALF the state’s energy needs, is taxed so strenuously under SB1176 that the owner has threatened to shut down operations.

An idle threat, Fonfara-Nardello charge in a recent op-ed column that should be scrutinized with a jeweler’s eye.

F&N point out in their joint op-ed that the product produced by Millstone is LESS EXPENSIVE than that provided its competitors: “The Millstone nuclear plant, owned by Virginia-based Dominion Resources, generates some of the lowest-cost electricity in New England. For this, the owners of Millstone should be rewarded” – presumably by means of a tax that can only make Millstone’s product more costly for the company to produce.

Although less expensive, the product has never-the-less been economically burdensome to those who use it. Somehow the profits earned by a company that produces a less costly product “has caused all of our state's businesses to be less competitive and left many households on limited incomes to make choices between their electric bill, food or heat.”

But never mind the inherent absurdity: A lower cost product makes companies purchasing it less competitive than they would be were they imprudently to purchase higher cost energy from other companies. Look over here while F&N pull a rabbit out of their bill: The nuclear product is so hedged about by federal regulations that Dominion, F&N imagine, cannot pass along to consumers the increased costs generated by higher taxes. And indeed, it is precisely because such increased costs cannot be passed along to Connecticut consumers that F&N have chosen to put a crippling tax on the company. But just as there is no such thing as a free lunch, so there is no such thing as a tax without consequences.

Here are the real world consequences of F&N’s $330 million tax increase on Dominion:

F&N’s tax will kill nuclear energy production in Connecticut, because no other nuclear energy producer or distributor would enter the market in a state that imposes predatory taxation on nuclear energy. And the absence of competition drives up prices. In fact, that is precisely the thrust of SB1176: It seeks to eliminate a product that lowers the cost of business of everyone in the state using it because…

Because the only way to lower the cost of higher priced energy from undeveloped sources that please the utopianists is to take from Peter the profits he has earned by producing a low cost efficient product and give it to Paul, whose product is a) undeveloped, b) commercially untested, c) very costly to produce and d) favored by utopianists such as Mr. Fonfara and Ms. Nardello, whose dearest desire is to acquire more status and power than is good for either them or us.

Bill SB1176 is constructed in such a way as to permit the energy taxes it imposes primarily on nuclear resources to leech into the general fund. In this way, spine free politicians need not tax citizens to promote their fantasies, and the bill, if passed, will move Connecticut towards an operative command economy under the direction of a political elite that has shown itself to be inefficient and dismally stupid. To control the means of production, the most important of which is energy, is the utopian dream of proto fascists everywhere.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Dickman Trial: The Truth Sacrificed To An Abundance Of Caution

Jury trials are scripted narrations carefully edited by all the parties involved – judge, defense council and prosecutor – not always to the benefit of the party accused.

Priscilla Dickman, accused of four counts of forgery by the state attorney general’s office, was found guilty on March 24 on all counts and faces in mid-May a possible sentence of eight years in prison.

The trial turned on disparities in medical forms – documents #8, #9 and #10 – that found their way into the personnel file of Ms. Dickman, for 27 years a senior microbiologist at the University of Connecticut Health Center (UCHC), the prosecution contending that Ms. Dickman had altered the forms to secure a benefit. Ms. Dickman was convicted of second degree forgery for having tampered with the documents and, upon sentencing, may receive 2 years on each of the four counts for a total of 8 years.

In criminal trials, the prosecution is charged with presenting to the jury evidence sufficiently compelling to justify a verdict of “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” a fairly high standard of proof. Ms. Dickman chose not to testify at her trial because her lawyers felt that they could impugn the prosecution’s evidence sufficiently to create a reasonable doubt in the mind of jurors that would justify a not guilty plea.

Days after the guilty verdict, Dr. Paul Tortland of Valley Sports Physicians & Orthopedic Medicine, a physician who had been treating Ms. Dickman for eight years and one of the two doctors called by the prosecution to testify to the putative forged documents, was so disturbed by the verdict that he wrote a letter to Ms. Dickman’s attorney.

Dr. Tortland’s letter is here printed in full:

March 31, 2011
Norm Pattis, Esq.
Pattis Law Firm
649 Amity Rd.Bethany, Ct. 06524
Re; Priscilla Dickman

Dear Attorney Pattis,

In the hours immediately following my testimony in Mrs. Dickman’s case, I reflected on the line of questioning to which I was subjected, both by then state’s attorney and by you. I was asked very detailed questions about the content of the documents in question [State’s exhibits 8, 9, and 1].
However, I was quite surprised that you never asked me to explain the content [the doctor perhaps meant to write “context” rather than content] in which those documents were produced and generated such controversy, especially in light of my letter to Attorney [William] Gerace explaining the circumstances surrounding those documents. While I am no attorney, it seems to me that the context is critical in providing exculpatory evidence on behalf of Mrs. Dickman.

Specifically, it is my recollection that document #9 stipulated very stringent work restrictions, so much so that Mrs. Dickman’s employer could not accommodate them. She was, as I recall, told to have her physician relax some of the restrictions if she wanted to return to work. To expedite this process, it was my understanding that Mrs. Dickman created document #10 as a template for me to use to create a new work restriction form. She had her husband hand deliver to form to our office, with the intension being that I would create a new form and give it to him. However, my medical assistant at the time apparently did not fully understand this and, rather than bring the matter to my attention, instead simply faxed document #10 back to UConn.

In other words, it is my understanding that Mrs. Dickman did not alter the documents with intension to deceive or defraud, but rather to assist me in generating a new form to help her get back to work (emphasis original in Dr. Tortland’s letter).

Furthermore, the logic of the accusation makes no sense to me either. Who falsifies a document with intent to deceive, and then returns the altered document to the original creator [Dr. Tortland] for approval (emphasis original in Dr. Tortland’s letter). In addition, if it is my documents that have been altered, and yet I find no problem with the alterations, how is that an issue?

It seems to me that, at least regarding the forms from my office, a gross miscarriage of justice had been visited upon Mrs. Dickman by her being found guilty.

Sincerely,

Paul D. Tortland. D.O. FAOASM
Although called to testify by the prosecution and questioned on the stand by Ms. Dickman’s defense attorney, Mr. Pattis, the jury did not have the benefit of hearing in full the concerns that tormented Dr. Tortland in the letter he wrote after the jury had returned its verdict.

One of the documents Ms. Dickman was accused of forging, document #10, was the template document she had prepared for Dr. Tortland. Ms. Dickman was told by the health center’s Human Resources personnel that figures previously provided would have to be adjusted so as to be less restrictive to allow her to return to work. According to Dr. Tortland, that template document was to be used by him to gauge what medical limits were necessary to allow Ms. Dickman’s return. In trial testimony, Dr. Tortland said that the differences between the medical limits in the template document and another medical report that made its way into Ms. Dickman’s personnel file were “medically insignificant.”

The template document, offered to the jury as a forgery, was sent to the UCHC by mistake by one of Doctor Tortland’s assistants, according to the doctor’s letter. It was no more than a doctor’s work sheet used by the doctor to produce an alternate form that was to be sent to the UCHC in order to allow Ms. Dickman to continue to work.

The jury never heard Dr. Tortland say during his testimony, as he had in his post verdict letter, it was his understanding that “Mrs. Dickman did not alter the documents with intention to deceive or defraud, but rather to assist me in generating a new form to help her get back to work (emphasis original in Dr. Tortland’s letter).”

Nor did the jury hear the doctor say unambiguously, as he did in his post trial letter, “It seems to me that, at least regarding the forms from my office, a gross miscarriage of justice had been visited upon Mrs. Dickman by her being found guilty.”

Nor did the jury hear Dr. Tortland question “the logic of the accusation,” which was impossibly convoluted. Ms. Dickman had been accused of forging a document to obtain a benefit. The only immediate benefit was that she be allowed to return to work after a debilitating illness brought on by a fall that had exacerbated her original injury.

During the trial, Ms. Dickman’s defense attorney attacked the prosecution’s premise: How many workers commit fraud on medical documents in order to return to work after a disabling illness? And the defense also questioned whether forgery was a proper charge to bring against Ms. Dickman in view of the fact that both doctors testified they had given authorization to Ms. Dickman to fill in portions of the forms under question.

Citing dispositive cases out of the presence of the jury, the defense argued in a motion that the intent to deceive is necessary to forgery. Importantly, the jury never heard Dr. Tortland, one of only two doctors called as prosecution witnesses, say that “it made no sense to him” that a patient who intended to deceive his employer by submitting a forged document would first submit the document to his doctor “for approval" (emphasis original in Dr. Tortland’s letter).

Addressing the jury in her summation, the prosecutor remarked that that the state was not concerned with claims that Ms. Dickman neither desired to deceive nor did in fact deceive Dr. Tortland; the disparities in the various forms the jury had been shown, which they were to take with them in the jury room to examine before settling upon a verdict, were sufficient to prove forgery. It was a matter of no importance that the state had not called upon a professional hand writing analyst to verify doubted signatures; the jury was instructed to look carefully at the documents and determine, on the basis of the disparities, whether a forgery had occurred. You are the experts, they were told. The defense had insisted that deception was a necessary component in forgery. Pointing to Dr. Tortland’s testimony, as well as a note written by Dr. Abeles giving Ms. Dickman permission to use his signature on forms or in the alternative to fill out the forms for him, the defense argued that there was no intended deception.

So instructed by the prosecution, the jury retired for deliberation, studied the documents, noted that there were disparities in the forms and returned, after a little less than twenty minutes deliberation, to announce that it had found Ms. Dickman guilty on all counts of second degree forgery, each one a felony charge.

Alex Wood of the Journal Inquirer, who reported on the trial, was able to interview a juror following the jury verdict  (The JI has a pay wall on stories).

“’It was kind of a very clean-cut case, the juror said, explaining that the panelists concentrated on the documents at issue.

“’If it was just one document with a questionable signature, that’s one thing,’ the juror said. ‘But there were multiple documents.’

“The juror emphasized that, under the state forgery statute, it didn’t matter whether Dickman was the one who altered the documents, as long as she was aware that they weren’t the originals.

“Two of the forms that Dickman was convicted of forging included instructions in boldface type that some or all of the information was to be filled in by the attending physician or practitioner. The juror said Dickman shouldn’t have filled out such a form even if a doctor had given her approval to do so.”
The doctors either testified or earlier provided documentation to the UConn Health Center that as a matter of practice they had Ms. Dickman fill in forms for them. Disregarding the testimony.

“Three of the documents that the jury found to be forged bore the name of Dr. Michael Abeles, who has treated Ms. Dickman for more than 20 years.

“The juror said Abeles was smiling and waving at Dickman during his testimony, adding that he would say things and take them back, ‘conveniently forgetting.’

“’We didn’t feel his testimony was very valid,’ the juror said.”

Never-the-less, based in large part on Dr. Abeles’ questionable testimony, the jury convicted Ms. Dickman on three felony charges of forgery.

Dr. Abeles had a rather high hurdle to overcome. The doctor, on the payroll of the UCHC for thirty years and due to retire this June, had written to Ms. Van Alstyne, Ms. Karen Duffy Wallace's UCHC labor relations assistant, in response to their questions concerning the documents: “Yes, I approve the documents” for Ms. Dickman. One of Dr. Abeles’ forms was presented to the jury by the prosecution as an indication of possible forgery; Dr. Abeles’ e-mail was presented to the jury by the defense to rebut the charge.

Dr. Abeles was asked by the prosecution on the witness stand to account for his e-mails clearly giving Ms. Dickman permission to use his signature and fill out portions of the forms. The doctor six years later testified he had not given such permission, explaining that he had sent to Ms. Dickman an e-mail clearly authorizing her to use his signature because, over brimming with compassion for his patient, he was acting in her best interest.

In her summation to the jury, the prosecutor referred to Dr. Abeles as a “compassionate man.” As he took the stand and was asked to identify Ms. Dickman, he smiled in a friendly fashion in her direction, a gesture that, according to the post verdict interview reported by Mr. Wood, was not lost on the jury. As reported by Mr. Wood, the jurors “didn’t feel his testimony was very valid.” Dr. Abeles also appeared to have great difficulty recalling with any precision events that had occurred five or more years earlier. To questions asked by both the prosecution and the defense, he responded more than half a dozen times that he did not recall.

E-mails held by The UConn Health Center and released recently upon a Freedom of Information ruling track Ms. Dickman’s connection with Dr. Abeles and the center’s investigation of Ms. Dickman.

They show that in April 2005 Dr. Abeles was asked by health center attorney Wallace whether he had approved a two week medical leave form for March 2005 and an out-of-work note for which Ms. Dickman was to receive a reduced payment for one day. Dr. Abeles received three e-mails from UCHC, all authored by Ms. Van Alstyne, who testified as a prosecution witness during the trial. Ms. Van Alstyne reports to Ms. Wallace. Ms. Van Alstyne received back from Dr. Abeles the note that figured as a defense document during the trial affirming that Dr. Abeles had approved the document. Ms. Wallace then had a labor relations attorney at the health center also query Dr. Abeles in yet another e-mail, to which Dr. Abeles again responded that he had approved the documents.

Virtually all of the e-mails showing the interaction between both doctors and the health center were withheld from Ms. Dickman, who several times requested them in other hearing venues.

In August of 2008, Dr. Abeles met with Dickman attorney Stephen Solomson and once again stated, according to the attorney’s investigation notes, that he routinely allowed Ms. Dickman to fill out forms. After so many years treating his patient, the information on the forms were repetitive.

After Ms. Dickman in September 2008 had refused to plead guilty to worker compensation fraud, Dr. Abeles was visited by Inspector Gregory Dillon of the office of the Chief State Attorney (OCSA) and prosecutor Mike Sullivan of the workers compensation fraud division in the same office. Mr. Dillon retired in January of 2011. Chief State Attorney Kevin Kane, appointed by Governor Jodi Rell, may be replaced in September 2011 on the recommendation of Michael Lawlor, Governor Dannel Malloy’s Under Secretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning.

There are fatal conflicts between Dr, Abeles’ testimony during the Dickman trial and his prior representations to a host of people never called to the witness stand. Most seriously, the jury that convicted Ms. Dickman never heard important exculpatory evidence that was withheld from them, Dickman Attorney Norm Pattis now asserts in a motion for a new trial, “in defiance of a subpoena issued by an officer of the Superior Court" (and in addition that the State violated Brady by with holding information that it knew it should have revealed regarding its most recent interview with Dr.Tortland on January 2011 when he revealed to the states prosecutor and inspector that he felt intimidated and threatened when interviewed by the UCHC police officer Gary Loomis, who was armed, in uniform and belligerently pushed forms in front of him. When Dr. Tortland said on the stand that he felt intimidated by the police, the prosecutor asked flippantly whether Mr. Loomis had drawn his gun on the doctor.

The subpoena was served upon state witness Wallace, the labor relation attorney for the health center, and required that she bring with her to court all handwritten notes of interviews regarding the investigation of the defendant.

Ms. Wallace, herself a lawyer, defied the subpoena, thus depriving the defense of necessary exculpatory evidence it intended to present to the jury.

According to a “Post Trial Motion For A New Trial” filed by Mr. Pattis, Ms. Dickman through her attorney issued to Ms. Wallace a subpoena requiring that she bring with her to court “all handwritten notes of interviews regarding the investigation of the defendant.”

These e-mails, relevant to the defense of Ms. Dickman, had been the subject of a previous Freedom of Information (FOI) hearing during the course of which the FOI commission issued a final decision requiring that e-mails drafted by Ms. Wallace and Ms. Van Alstyne from January 2005 through August 2008 be made available to the commission so that the commission could determine in an in camera review whether the notes were subject to a non-disclosure privilege. The defendant had attempted since February 2008 to have the emails released to her. The state, represented by the UCHC assistant attorney general Donald Green, requested a stay of any enforcement order pending an appeal on September 2, 2010. The state, Mr. Pattis writes in his petition for a new trial, “took an administrative appeal of the order requiring disclosure of the communications on March 30, 2011, after the verdict in the instant case was recorded.”

Coincidentally, the trial court responsible for hearing the administrative appeal issued an order on April 8, 2011, “directing Ms. Dickman to bring any issues relating to compliance with the subpoena and the deliberate withholding of information from this Court to this Court.”

Mr. Pattis’ charge is highly plausible:

“In this case, an investigative agency of the State was actually fighting the defendant in a separate proceeding to prevent her from obtaining documents about the investigation in this case. A witness in this case [Karen Duffy Wallace] appeared subject to a subpoena and tendered partial compliance with the subpoena without alerting anyone that documents were withheld that the Freedom of Information Commission had ordered disclosed. Apparently, counsel trying the case for the State was not made aware of this. Counsel for the University of Connecticut Health Center did not appear to quash the subpoena; instead, the witness was left on her own to determine what to bring and whether to comply. Evidently, she did this on her own, without discussing it with the state’s attorney in this case.”
In his motion for a new trial, Mr. Pattis argues that the state had an inescapable obligation under Brady v Maryland to provide the defense with any and all exculpatory evidence at its disposal. “During trial,” Mr. Pattis notes in his motion, Ms. Dickman was “deprived of timely notice of exculpatory evidence regarding Dr. Tortland because, apparently, the state changed prosecutors at the last minute.” Two previous state attorneys more familiar with the history of the health center’s dealing with Ms. Dickman, John DeMattea and Jack Whalen, now heading the office public integrity and ethics in the office of the chief attorney, were prepared to nolle the charges. In addition, Mr. Pattis argues, “Ms Dickman was also deprived of information the Freedom of Information Commission ruled she should have: no attorney for the State alerted the Court to this at the time witnesses tendered documents in response to a subpoena.”

And in what must be the understatement of the year, particularly for those who are familiar with the tortuous history of the flawed investigation of the heath center and its tragic ramifications, Mr. Pattis concludes, “The result is something less than a fair trial.” Mr. Pattis broached Brady during the trial, arguing that the state had fairly assured a false verdict through the exclusion of vital subpoenaed evidence. The jury was sequestered and deprived, from an abundance of caution, from hearing his plea.

Pretty funny funny-business all that.

But it comes as no surprise to Ms. Dickman. Her six years of dealing with agents of UConn and its support system of assistant attorneys general have been pockmarked with funny business. The jury that convicted Ms. Dickman had only a glimpse of the tip of a large iceberg that includes faulty affidavits, ex post facto enforcement of state regulations, illegal entrees into Ms. Dickman’s computer, the gathering and publication of medical information normally protected by HIPPA regulations, the intimidation of possible witnesses by UConn’s overpaid police and, as it now appears, the rank refusal of a lawyer, Ms. Wallace, to bring with her to trial possible exculpatory evidence that the jury convicting Ms. Dickman therefore could not process while considering its verdict.

The great mass of the iceberg -- even the tip of which, visible to the jury, has been dusted over by the passage of six years -- remains buried deep below the surface, though a portion of it, invisible to the jury, may be found here in an earlier report.

It is the weight of everything that has happened to Ms. Dickman during the intervening six years since she first blew the whistle on both UConn and former attorney general Richard Blumenthal, now a U.S. Senator, that drives forward her prosecution. The whole shaky edifice rests upon a faulty investigation undertaken by the UConn police, big spenders of tax dollars who have been much in the news lately.

The Dickman trial suffered from excessive editing in an attempt to narrow the jury’s attention to a few questionable documents. The all important context that might have better illuminated the real meaning of the documents was so foreshortened that the jury, throwing the reasonable doubt standard to the wind, brought in a most unfortunate finding of guilty on all counts. The reasonable doubt lay, for the most part, in a context beyond the ken of the jury. There is enough reasonable doubt hovering over Ms. Dickman’s prosecution over the years to choke a herd of horses.

This Is The Risen Christ

You part the darkness, You bring me light.
You fill my soul with sweet delight.
The blood You shed is mine tonight.
Tomorrow You will rise and conquer death.
Its sting will be no more,
For You have opened wide the door
For all to enter by your grace
That we may see our Father’s face.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Daria Novak Announces Bid For U.S. Congress in 2nd District

The 2nd District, the largest geographic district in Connecticut, tens to float between Democrats and Republicans. Daria Novak, a personable, energetic Republican, ran for the seat on the Republican ticket once before. She received the Republican endorsement but was challenged in a primary, and former newscaster Janet Peckenpaugh was selected to face current U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney. Ms. Peckenpaugh lost to Mr. Courtney in a year in which Republicans elsewhere in the country did remarkably well.

Ms. Novak is back for a second go round. Having served during the Reagan administration in the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC and overseas, Ms. Novak is not unfamiliar with foreign policy. She speaks fluent Chinese and has a comprehensive understanding of domestic policy and economics.

Ms. Novak received an MA in Political Science from the University of Southern California and is a graduate of the U.S. Foreign Service Institute and Georgetown University’s Institute of Comparative Economic and Political Systems. She received a BA in International Affairs from the University of Wyoming and certification in advanced Chinese language studies at Taiwan National Normal University in Taipei. She began her PhD program at the University at the University of Southern California before transferring to the University of Connecticut. She also has served as a graduate researcher for a Harvard University-based study of presidential politics. Prior to founding ERUdyne, an international cross-cultural, business management training and consulting firm she founded, Ms. Novak was a manager in the Technology Practice at META Group. She specialized in knowledge management, risk/vulnerability assessments, IT-business performance standards and contracting.

From 1979 to 1989, Ms. Novak served in career and political positions at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC and overseas. In 1989, she served as Senior Coordinator for the Secretary of State’s 300-member China Task Force handling the crisis in Tiananmen Square and as a U.S. government spokesperson. She received a Meritorious Honor Award from the Undersecretary of State for her “core leadership role in managing the crisis” in China. Ms. Novak has traveled extensively in Asia and was a member of then-Vice President Bush’s White House Advance Team.

In the race for the 2nd District, Ms. Novak very well may be Mr. Courtney’s most formidable opponent.

An Ameriborn News clip shows Ms. Novak announcing her candidacy here.




Ms. Novak’s campaign site may be found here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Malloy’s Pig In A Poke Tax Plan

Moments after Governor Dannel Malloy and majority Democrats in the General Assembly had more or less signed off on the governor’s tax plan, a half-budget that includes doubtful savings from state unions, minority Republicans asserted that the so called budget could not be passed in its present form by the legislature because the state constitution requires a balanced budget.

The Democrat’s tax plan might be in balance if the $2 billion the governor hopes to recover from state unions were assured. But negotiations between the governor’s office and Connecticut’s fourth branch of government -- Larry Dorman, the chief spokesman for SEBAC, the union coalition in negotiations with the governor -- have not been concluded, and no one in the Democratic dominated legislature may know at the point at which they will be asked to vote on the Democratic tax plan whether the anticipated savings have been secured.

Statements made by Mr. Dorman and Mr. Malloy suggest that a quick resolution is not in the offing. The state, said Mr. Dorman, hasn’t sufficiently squeezed millionaires and the CEOs of major corporations in Connecticut that have not yet sent jobs out of state in an attempt to lower business costs.

"We are pleased,” Mr. Dorman said, “to see that the budget has seen some improvements, such as asking the very rich to pay more of their share, as opposed to other ideas, like eliminating the property tax credit, that further hurt struggling working and middle-class families. We would still like to see much more asked from big multi-state businesses and the very rich who have so far been the only ones to share in our state's so-called economic recovery.''

Concerning negotiations with Mr. Dorman, Mr. Malloy resorted to a papal metaphor: “There’s no white smoke coming out of the chimney now, but there is no black smoke, either.'”

Meaning: Mr. Dorman has not yet capitulated to the governor’s demand that the union members he represents cough up 4$ billion in savings. It is very much an open question whether the Democrat dominated General Assembly will vote favorably on Mr. Malloy’s tax plan if the concession is not in place when the matter comes up for consideration.

The so called budget voted out of two important tax writing committees ASSUMES cost savings from union concessions in advance of the concessions; the savings have yet to be realized. Without a finalized, signed on the dotted line agreement between the governor and the heads of state unions, legislators who vote affirmative on Mr. Malloy’s tax plan will be voting for the proverbial a pig in a poke.

Though there are important differences between Mr. Malloy and Mr. Dorman, the negotiator for SEBAC has not yet pulled out of the talks. Mr. Dorman believes that the governor and “those struggling middle-class families who happen to work for the state” ultimately will find common ground – presumably after Mr. Malloy’s tax plan, which now contains a very iffy placeholder savings from union concessions, has been written into law.

On the other hand, the cost savings negotiations with unions will be much easier for Mr. Dorman after the so called budget – in the absence of the $2 billion in concessions from unions, it’s really a tax plan – has been etched in stone, because in that case the governor will have surrendered to Mr. Dorman his most valuable bargaining chip: the possibility that, absent a union agreement, the governor may either pass on the pain involved in cost savings to municipal union workers to recover savings lost through failed negotiations with Mr. Dorman or simply remove tax increases from the bargaining table until such time as Mr. Dorman is more amenable to pain sharing.

Mr. Malloy’s tax plan has been sent to the floor by two obliging committees, one of which, the tax-writing finance committee, showed Sen. Edward Meyer the door when the upstart protested that he would like to see the pig in a poke before voting upon it. Mr. Meyer, a fiscal conservative Democrat, told his colleagues on the committee that he opposed the package because legislators were “virtually ignorant” of the details concerning union concessions. And then, approaching heresy, Mr. Meyer said, “This budget history now requires our focus on responsible spending before we entertain an historical package of tax increases, particularly when we see that those tax increases are not sunsetted.”

Sunsetted tax increases? Be thou anathema Meyer!

Mr. Meyer was quickly exiled from the finance committee’s Democratic caucus by co-chairwoman Sen. Eileen Daily of Westbrook. Having asked the committee’s other chairwoman, Rep. Patricia Widlitz of Guilford – his own state representative – to intervene on his behalf, Mr. Meyer was unceremoniously booted from the caucus. Winking at the pig in the poke, the ladies and gentlemen on the referring committees, having received their marching orders from pope Malloy, were in no mood to hear fiscal conservative dissenters talk truth to power.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Tax Plan Is Not A Budget

The banner headline in the Hartford Courant read “Budget: It’s A Deal.” And an accompanying photo showed Governor Dannel Malloy pressing the flesh of various Democrats whose votes were crucial in passing the Democratic Tax Plan.

President of the Senate Don Williams was mildly applauding, an enigmatic Mount Rushmore smile playing upon his face. Sen. Edith Prague, the most obliging senator state union leaders ever bought, was half out of the picture, also applauding. Mr. Malloy was pitched forward, grasping the hand of Rep. Susan Johnson, eager to launch Connecticut forward on a path of prosperity, gratefully accepting plaudits from Democrats in the legislature who had helped him set in budget stone their preferred Tax Plan.

Significantly, the second half of Mr. Malloy’s budget, a Savings Plan that includes the “shared sacrifice” Mr. Malloy has demanded from state workers, is still in process of being negotiated. The cost savings part of Mr. Malloy’s budget has, so far, been written on the waves.

Republicans, a slender minority in the General Assembly, were out of the picture, both figuratively and literally. Their fingerprints will mar neither the Democrat’s Tax Plan nor their rumored Savings Plan.

Earlier in the week, Republicans unveiled their own no-tax-increase budget; among the Democrats shown happily celebrating in the Courant’s front page photo, you could have heard a pin drop.

In past budget negotiations, Republicans, when they were not cooperating with majority Democrats in crafting spending plans, were simply shunted out of the way of Courant photographers and airily dismissed by Courant commentators as irrelevant nuisances, a sprinkling of ashes tossed upon the big spender’s feast. “Laissez les bons temps rouler,” as Marti Gras revelers said in New Orleans before Katrina buried them, “let the good times roll.”

This time around, all the serious negotiations on the budget were conducted in back rooms of the state capitol marked “no Republicans need apply,” because Democrats who now control both the General Assembly and the governor’s office need no longer keep up the pretense that legislative Republicans have a hand in constructing a so called budget that is, for all practical purpose, little more than a tax plan with a promissory note from Connecticut’s fourth branch of government, state unions, attached to it: “The bearer of this note will pay in “shared sacrifice” $4 billion in cost savings to Mr. Malloy, Mr. Williams, Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, Ms. Prague and Ms. Johnson – maybe.”

The times, they are not a’changing, at least not here in Connecticut. Both the the times and the state’s fatally deficient public policy will change when the people of Connecticut, battered on all sides by an omnipresent and omniscient government that robs them of the fruit of their labor to secure for itself the means to wipe dry every tear, begin to take seriously the advice posted on a billboard on route 44 during the last election season: “If you don’t like your congress, change your congressman.”

In the course of his 17 town tour, during which Mr. Malloy presented to the general public his proposed budget – a Tax Plan that included the largest increase in taxes since Gov. Lowell Weicker addressed a similar deficit problem in 1991 and a Spending Plan that included essential promised savings from concessions to be made by state union workers – Mr. Malloy called for “shared sacrifice” from both taxpayers and unions.

Mr. Weicker solved his budget deficit through the imposition of an income tax, the so-called “gas” poured on the spending fire that Mr. Weicker during his campaign for governor promised would not be poured out in the form of an income tax. The Weicker income tax produced ungovernable spending, obscene surpluses that swelled the bottom line of future budgets, and THE FIRE THIS TIME that Mr. Malloy says he hopes to snuff out – with a promissory note from Connecticut’s biggest spenders and their legislative enablers, the celebrants who were applauding Mr. Malloy’s Tax Plan.

The Democrat’s so called “budget” is really a tax plan to which has been attached a promissory note of savings and cost cuts. The real budget is still very much a work in progress.

It is expected that the Malloy-William-Donovan half budget will be passed quickly over media muted objections from Republicans.

And then?

Then General Assembly Democrats, having secured Mr. Malloy’s commitment on a signed Tax Plan, may begin to roll the first Democratic governor since Gov. William O’Neill was washed out of office on a sea of red ink.

Of course, the governor could always maintain an effective negotiating posture with unions and their enablers in the General Assembly by declining to sign the Democrat’s half-budget until he has secured his $4 billion in cost savings from the people whose hands he was pressing in the Courant’s photo; in this way, Mr. Malloy could be certain that the promises he made to Connecticut citizens in no fewer than 17 town meetings have been secured in budget stone before he commits fatally to the pleasures of Mr. Williams, Mr. Donovan, Ms. Prague and Ms. Johnson.

Bets are now on the table that union bought Democrats in the General Assembly will roll Mr. Malloy -- just as they had rolled his two Republican predecessors.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hamilton Sundstrand Moves Jobs Out

“Exit pursued by bear” – Shakespeare’s stage direction in a play

In search of lower business costs, Hamilton Sunstrand in Windsor Locks has announced that it will lay off more than 20 percent of its union workforce. The company, a part of United Technologies, plans to move jobs to Poland, not a state contiguous to Connecticut, and other former Soviet block countries where salaries are lower, regulations less punishing and unions but a blip on the horizon.

According to a report in the Hartford Courant, “Hamilton President Alain M. Bellemare has told investors at previous earnings announcements that ‘we are laser-focused on executing our cost-reduction strategy’ by doing manufacturing and engineering in developing and former Soviet bloc countries.”

Coincidentally, Republicans yesterday presented their no-new-tax budget, which was immediately denounced by Malloy spokesperson Roy Occhiogrosso as a threat to Connecticut’s all embracing safety net.

The Republicans plan calls for a reduction in the state workforce from the current level of 54,000 full-time equivalent jobs to 51,300.

There are no plans to move 20 percent of the state’s unionized workforce jobs to Eastern block countries, where workers will have fewer safty nets but more jobs.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Blumenthal, Simmons and Vietnam… Again

“Some people wonder all their lives if they’ve made a difference. The Marines don’t have that problem’ – Ronald Reagan

If there is anybody in the state of Connecticut who does not know that current Senator Richard Blumenthal has a Vietnam problem, his or her voting rights should be taken away for chronic inattention.

During Mr. Blumenthal’s senatorial race against various Republicans, among them former U.S. Rep Rob Simmons and former CEO of World Wide Wrestling Linda McMahon, it was revealed that Mr. Blumenthal had told some stretchers about his service in the U.S. Marines. Mr. Blumenthal, then hanging on to his attorney general position as if he were a drowning man grasping for a straw and assiduously avoiding media exposure, said several times that he had served in Vietnam when in fact he remained stateside during the war. And any lipstick put on that pig during his campaign did not help to restore the honor marines so value.

Mr. Blumenthal was one of two U.S. congressmen featured in a documentary on stolen valor made by the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) called “Heroes, Frauds and Imposters”.(To see video, hit “play video”) Then Republican congressman Mark Kirk, who falsely claimed he had received an Intelligence Officer of the Year award, was featured in the same documentary. Mr. Kirk was running for Barack Obama’s old senate seat at the time.

“Congressman Mark Kirk, a Republican candidate for Senate in Illinois,” noted New York  magazine, “is starting to out-Blumenthal Richard Blumenthal, after it was discovered last week that he'd never won the Navy's Intelligence Officer of the Year award in 1999 as he'd claimed over and over through the years.”
The documentary, which places in its proper context Mr. Blumenthal’s self serving lies about his non-service in Vietnam, was not widely distributed in his home state. Both frauds were successful in their senatorial bids, and in June 2010 a Medal of Honor recipient was trotted out to deem Senator Kirk’s apologies “adequate.”

“To me, in my opinion,” said Medal of Honor winner Alan Lynch, “it’s just a bunch of nit picking. Plus, he's done a Christ ton for veterans. So I think this is being blown way out of proportion.”

It now appears that former Republican Rep. Rob Simmons will play the role of Mr. Lynch to Mr. Blumenthal, and the alarming stupidity of it all has well respected Connecticut reporter Mark Pazniokas of CTMirror scratching his head in wonderment.

During the senatorial campaign a year ago, Pazniokas noted, Simmons said, “I am unsatisfied with Attorney General Blumenthal's comments. While I'm not surprised that he 'regrets' that his misstatements have been called to the public's attention, what he owes is an apology to the veterans, who served and sacrificed in Vietnam."

That was then. Now, Mr. Simmons, whose Vietnam creds are unimpeachable, has offered to “help U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal reach out to Vietnam veterans.”

Mr. Pazniokas is not at all certain that Mr. Blumenthal any longer has such a problem. Political wounds heal quickly in the forgive-me state. It seems only yesterday that former Republican Governor John Rowland was cooling his heels in jail for “conspiring to defraud Connecticut citizens of the intangible right to the honest services of its Governor and defrauding the I.R.S. of tax revenue by failing to report gratuities,” the single charge to which Mr. Rowland pleaded guilty in a plea arrangement. Having been suitably punished, the remorseful Mr. Rowland is now a well respected radio talk show host. Former state Senator Ernest Newton appears to be making something of a political comeback after his time in jail, and some commentators worry that former Mayor Joe Ganim, also a jailbird, may reenter Bridgeport politics.

Of course, neither Mr. Blumenthal nor Mr. Kirk can be said to have been punished, unless one regards service in the U.S. Senate as a penalty for errant behavior. But no matter. In this most liberal of states the absence of punishment or fitting repentance is no bar to the political success of the frauds and liars who crowd the benches of national and state legislatures.

During his senatorial campaign it was thought buy some political analysts that Mr. Simmons would be the more successful Republican candidate to oppose the Blumenthal juggernaught, far better than wrestling impresario Linda McMahon, precisely because of his impeccable war record.

But for ill or good, war records have many uses. Mr. Pazniokas reads Mr. Simmons’ intervention on Mr. Blumenthal’s behalf as an indication that Mr. Simmons, whose relationship with some moderate averse elements in his own party has been strained, may not be interested in running for U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman’s soon to be vacant seat.

On the other hand…

GOP Should Continue EPA Conflict Moving Forward But Change Strategy

By Scott Portman

The month of April has brought forth plenty of discussion over federal and state budgets.  As President Obama handed down a resolution just last week, some aspects will likely continue to spark controversy. One aspect of the resolution, the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, will likely see more discussion from GOP representatives and big business owners in the near future.

The GOP has been on the tail of the EPA throughout the early part of 2011, pushing forth a budget proposal that explored a 30 percent cut to the agency. When the resolution that came through last week from President Obama was finalized, only a 16 percent cut to the EPA’s budget was called for; just over half of what republican reps wanted.

Expect further push back from the GOP.

Apart from budgetary issues, Republicans have set out to reduce the scope of the Clean Air Act, put an end to the cap and trade tax, and soften greenhouse gas emission regulations from the EPA. The Energy Tax Prevention Act was presented by Republican senators James Inhofe, Fred Upton, and Ed Whitfield. This act was originally drafted to combat the Clean Air Act and address the cap and trade agenda as well, but it’s likely to get voted down.

So although the Republican attempt to reduce both the EPA budget and the power and reach of the Clean Air Act have been somewhat unsuccessful, look for the GOP Reps to ramp up their game plan concerning EPA matters. A strategy in which Republicans point out the positive aspects of the EPA and how the agency is employing some negative initiatives could be crucial. The EPA has so many positive and successful campaigns, yet they seem focused on defending those that are having little impact. The EPA could more profitably invest more of their resources towards initiatives to improve public health, instead of wasting them on projects that have little direct impact on the people of the United States.

For example, the EPA works every year to cut down on cases of mesothelioma, asthma, respiratory issues, and other health problems through programs like water monitoring and asbestos abatement. Their work in water monitoring, including the Safe Water Drinking Act, allows the agency to directly oversee local water authorities and public water sources. Thus, the EPA is able to impact decreases in water contamination and associated health problems. The EPA's work in asbestos removal takes place in thousands of older buildings and schools all over the US. They are able to remove the material toxin that is causing dangerous problems, and in some cases life threatening risks, due to the drastically short mesothelioma life expectancy. Either way, these two initiatives represent just a portion of some of the more promising efforts of the EPA that are being lost in their battle with the GOP and business owners, primarily because of their attention and devotion to defending less important costly initiatives.

Given the fact that the GOP has continued to fight the EPA through the latter half of 2010 and all of 2011, expect their fight on the EPA’s power and costly regulations to continue. From here on out, their strategy is likely to be different. Their inability to cut the budget cut as much as they would like and their ineffectiveness pushing their bills through congress strongly suggests a need to change their plan of attack. An exposure of the EPA’s inability to defend and support the right initiatives could help the GOP to lessen the environmental agency’s constraint on business.

Scott Portman is a health, safety, and political advocate with a passion for economics and an interest in national fiscal responsibility. He is an aspiring journalist who currently resides in the North East United States. Under our current administration, he believes budgets have become lopsidedly oriented in favor of trendy "green" environmental politics

Monday, April 18, 2011

Foley On Malloy’s Current Services Budget Chicanery

After Tom Foley lost the gubernatorial race to then former Mayor of Stamford Dan Malloy, he did not slink away into that good night in which many losing politicians find their ultimate repose.

Mr. Foley, a former ambassador and business owner, started a research organization that develops public policy proposals, and a recent op-ed piece Mr. Foley wrote for a Hartford paper represents part of the fruit of his post campaign labors.

Mr. Foley’s column vigorously attacks “current services budgets” as a means used by shiftily, non-transparent politicians to foolall of the people some of the time, in Abraham Lincoln’s piercing phrase.

The method of reckoning getting and spending in Connecticut’s current services budget is little more than a partially successful sleight of hand used by professional politicians to “pitch their causes and confuse their constituents to suit their purposes,” according to Mr. Foley.

Governor Malloy’s current services budget first implausibly assumes that tax policy and state services will not change in the new budget year and then uses this dubious assumption to project future revenues. In planning expenses for the new budget, Mr. Foley writes, current services budget writers factor in “anticipated wage and benefit increases for the same number of state workers and inflationary increases in the cost of things the government buys.”

Under the states current services budget in the fiscal year ending in June 2012, spending will increase 9.8 percent, $1.75 billion higher than spending for this year, a figure Mr. Foley characterizes as “ridiculous.”

Using the current services budget as the base year, Mr. Malloy claims in his budget proposal to have cut spending by $1.76 billion. His proposal shows personal income taxes increasing by $879.8 million, while total taxes increase by $1,840 million. The anticipated give backs Mr. Malloy hopes to recover from unions appear in his proposal as Labor Management Savings and are presented as an expense reduction.

Most people suppose that current year budgets serve as the baseline for future budget projections. But using the current year budget as a staring point, spending in the new fiscal year will increase rather than decrease by $263 million; personal income taxes will increase by $1,443 million; and total taxes will increase by$2,466 million.

And spending for the benefit of state workers will according to Mr. Foley remain “approximately even with this year, i.e., no givebacks… On this basis, the budget deficit is being funded entirely with new taxes and no spending reductions. That is a very different story from the shared sacrifice story being used to sell the budget.”

“Sell” is the operative word. To sell his proposed budget both to the general public and union workers from whom Mr. Malloy hopes to realize a “shared sacrifice,” it helps to peddle the notion that union givebacks – i.e. spending reductions -- are a fait accompli in the new budget; they are not. And anyone who believes that real time spending in the new budget has been slashed or that personal income taxes have been increased $879.8 million rather than by $1,443 million or that inflation will not drive up the costs of various state agencies in the new fiscal year has been successfully deluded by number crunches who rely on current services budget persiflage.

“Using the current services budget,” Mr. Foley asserts, “degrades the clarity and quality of debate on the budget. It enables bureaucrats to pad budgets and move the goal line in the hope of achieving ever higher funding. It enables politicians to obscure bad news and fabricate good news. It enables advocates of government spending to demagogue anyone who questions the ever-increasing funding for their causes. It confuses the concerned citizen who is trying to understand what is going on.”

Early in his campaign with Mr. Foley, Mr. Malloy announced that he would move the state towards a new budget accounting process, Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), so as to assure transparency and forestall the budget gimmickry that had allowed prior governors and legislatures to present a false picture of budgets though the manipulation and abuse of sound accounting procedures. According to Office of Policy Management Secretary Ben Barnes, GAAP should be operational by July 1 2013 and begin in fiscal year 2014.

Current service budgeting does for political campaigning what dishonest budget accounting does for politicians who survive budget red ink by fooling some of the people all of the time. Democratic governor of New York Mario Cuomo has honestly addressed budget issues by using immediate prior budgets rather than current service budget chicanery in measuring the progress he has made in stemming the flow of red ink.

With a gentle poke in Mr. Malloy’s easily bruised ribs, Mr. Foley asserts that Mr. Malloy’s dark angel in New York got it right and suggests, “It isn't too late for our leaders in Hartford to follow Gov. Cuomo's lead and begin making things clearer for us as they debate next year's very important budget.”

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The EPA and Job Loss/Gain Analysis

Is an economic analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that does not include a job study a complete economic analysis?

That is the question put by U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner to EPA Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus.

Now, the answer to this question is a simple “No,” followed by “Duh?”

The impact of a regulation on the job markert is possibly THE MOST IMPORTANT datum in any economic analysis. Just ask any Republican or Democrat in Congress. Even Mr. Stanislaus’ CEO, President Barack Obama, thinks jobs are important in economic calculations.

But watch Mr. Stanislaus wriggle as he is questioned with some persistance by Mr. Gardner, who would be quite willing to take “no” for an answer.



Why should any congressman need to exert this much energy to extract a simple “yes” or “no” from an EPA bureaucrat? Because sometimes the truth is a rotten tooth that must be pulled, and persistence, God willing, occasionally wins out.

The lesson embedded in this embarrassing episode is that no future EPA regulation should be passed unless accompanied by and economic analysis that includes a job impact analysis.

Yes?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Tax Day Rally

At about the same time that Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo had declared his state “functionally bankrupt" and warned public-employee unions not to expect any pay hikes over the next three years, Governor Dannel Malloy showed up in New York at the annual gathering of the Regional Plan Association -- a research and planning advocacy group focused on New Jersey, New York and Connecticut – to lament the want of investment in infrastructure.

Mr. Malloy, whose approach to state deficits is the obverse of Mr. Cuomo’s, chastised "governor after governor, legislature after legislature," for their short-sided indifference to infrastructure needs and confessed he was “more than happy, even as I decry what's happening in our nation, to put in my bid to get any dollars Florida or New Jersey or any other state wants to send back to Washington."

On the same day Mr. Malloy was dilating on “Malloy’s Way” in New York, some 750 concerned citizens in Connecticut were gathered at the state capitol in Hartford to protest Malloy’s Way. Within shouting distance of the governor’s office, the ebullient crowd was crying out “Nuts!” to the governor’s plan to raise taxes. The governors of Connecticut’s sister states in New York and New Jersey had balanced their blood red budgets without resorting to tax increases, and there is little doubt that most members of the crowd would have preferred the no tax way of balancing a Connecticut state budget $4 billion in the red. One of the signs brandished by a Tax Day participant read “No child left a dime.”

Republicans in the General Assembly have assembled a no-tax budget. In the past, Republican alternative budgets had been routinely ignored by a Democratic dominated legislature working hand in glove with Republican governors Rell and Rowland athwart the interests of their own party; and, of course, former governor and Maverick Republican Lowell Weicker, the father of the state’s income tax, a riotous license to spend, was famous for sticking red hot irons in the eyes of Republican conservative obstructionists.

Near the end of the rally, Republican leader Larry Cafero emerged from democracy’s mausoleum to announce that the CEOs of several of Connecticut’s too-big-to-fail companies – Aetna, United Technology, etc. – had jointly sent to Mr. Malloy a letter praising his tax increase budget plan. The near suicidal affection of Big Business for command economies caused some in the crowd to call for boycotts. Mr. Cafero urged Tax Day protestors not to surrender their liberties to Connecticut industrial- legislative complex.

It certainly could not have come as a shocking surprise to those conservatives who spoke to the crowd, such as newly elected Senators Joe Markley and Len Suzio, to find Big Business in flagrante delicto, their drawers hanging about their ankles, with uber-regulators in Connecticut’s General Assembly. Despite all the high octane caterwauling from putative liberals, Big Business is not unfriendly to regulations or high taxes, preferably paid by someone else, both artfully manipulated by CEOs and their well paid lobbyists with a view to driving smaller competitors from the market.

The speakers at the rally who held out the most promise for those who would like to see Connecticut restored to its former luster as a business powerhouse were Tom Scott, best known for engineering the axe-the-tax rally of blessed memory that drew a teeming crowd of 40,000 to the Capitol in 1991, and Jack Fowler, the publisher of National Review, even now, after the departure of the late Bill Buckley, the premier conservative magazine in the country.



Mark Pazniokas of CTMirror, not your usual stay at home journalist and well known among scriveners as an accomplished digger and a smart dresser, noted the launching of the Roger Sherman Liberty Center, “a think-tank/candidate school that will attempt to transform complaining into campaigning,” in a report  that included a good deal of on the scene interaction with people in the crowd.

In an eye-opening report, the Connecticut Society of Certified Public Accountants, a group tied to no ideology, recently traced the contours of Connecticut’s economic ditch, concluding that the state is not going broke – it IS broke. It is doubtful that the Democratic dominated legislature will be spurred by the report to significant ameliorative action. Mr. Scott and Mr. Fowler think they can mount an effective opposition to the state’s death spiral. To do so would requires message, money, organization, and grueling political work, in combination with the laudable zeal on display among conservative realists at the May 15th rally, an event covered in full by the indispensable Ameriborn News.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Malloy Cave In

Chris Keating of the Hartford Courant reports today that Governor Dannel Malloy is about to cave in to union demands after his 17 town tour, which recently concluded in Middletown:

“Malloy is expected to drop his plans for eliminating the maximum $500 property tax credit that chiefly benefits middle-class homeowners, Capitol sources said. Instead, the level probably will be lowered to $300.

“To help pay for it, Malloy would propose changing the income levels at which tax hikes take effect for the highest earners. Higher tax rates would kick in at lower income levels for those wealthiest residents.”
Two groups, the “left leaning Voice For Children” and state unions have for years been pressuring the Democratic dominated legislature to raise marginal tax rates on the wealthy.

Union leader Leo Canty, the Danton of the union movement in Connecticut, has put the “rich” on notice: “Tax them, and they will not leave. There is no data that says they will leave.''

Really? So many of the rich fled California in advance of the red ink, fearing a plucking by the Democratic spendthrifts in the bankrupt state, that George Will was able in one of his trenchant columns to observe wryly that Arnold Schwarzenegger was “the best governor that the state contiguous to California ever had.” The per capita debt in Connecticut is higher than that of California.

The “rich” over the years have been considerably degraded. The “millionaires” upon which unions heap hot coals of rhetorical scorn – mostly to justify wage and pension benefits increases for comfortably situated union workers -- are now those making $250,000 per year, and the level almost certainly will drop lower as quarter-millionaires attempt to protect their earnings by moving to states whose tax environment is less punishing than Connecticut.

The income tax was initiated to pay for Civil War debt. The first peacetime income tax was imposed by Congressional Democrats in 1894 at a 2% rate on those making more than $4,000 per year; in current inflated dollars, these were the millionaires of their age. But as spending increased progressively, the bar was lowered to include Mr. Canty as well as the millionaires. The availability of revenue drives spending upwards; and as it vaults to the sky, the bar that assures only millionaires will pay the increased levies is lowered progressively to include Mr. Canty, whose salary does not allow him to purchase a Lamborghinis.

Pinched awake by these event, Rick Green, a Courant columnist who maintains a blog called “CtConfidential,” is somewhat torn. Was this Mr. Malloy’s plan all along, Mr. Green asks, or is it possible that Mr. Malloy will on Thursday announce changes in his repeated pledge to demand $2 billion in concessions from unions without further tax increases – the unvarying message Mr. Malloy iterated in all of his 17 Town Hall appearances – because he has been attentive to voices raised during these Potemkin Village town hall meetings:

“After hearing Malloy repeatedly promise that he is not going to seek more than $1.5 billion in taxes and that he's going to stick with demands for $2 billion in concessions from unions, what will Malloy's revised tax plan look like? Is he really going to jump on board with labor's tax-them-and-they-won't-leave philosophy -- which is the opposite of what neighboring governors in New York and New Jersey are doing? Or is the governor setting the stage for layoffs when unions don't comply with his concession demands?

“Malloy holds a press conference this afternoon in Hartford.”
The Tea Party folk who will gather at the Capitol one day after Mr. Malloy’s pending announcement, regularly dismissed by Courant columnists as insufferable pests, will know the answer to Mr. Green’s questions by Friday, their meet date.

So will Mr. Green.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Real Budget Deal

Governor Dannel Malloy’s strong suit in budget negotiations with unions is that his proposed budget limits the pain for unionized workers in Connecticut only to state employees. In a hitch, he might easily choose to broaden the shared sacrifice to cover municipal union workers as well. Under a contingency plan prepared by the governor’s office, municipalities would lose one-third of their state aid should the legislature unwisely resist Mr. Malloy’s proposed budget.

Having already socked taxpayers for $1.5 billion, the governor is asking $2 billion in spending cuts only from state union workers. Given the economic condition of the Connecticut – ambulatory, according to The Connecticut Society of Certified Public Accountants -- the state’s long term debt can only grow larger over the years. Very little in Mr. Malloy’s plan patches the hole in the boat caused by excessive spending, which can be ameliorated only by permanent long term cuts. The governor has to wring $2 billion or more from the budget – permanently.

Following the presentation to the legislature of Mr. Malloy’s budget outline, the word on the political street and in union halls was that the savings Mr. Malloy had demanded in very stern tones from state union workers could not be realized, largely because the pool from which he hopes to recover $2 billion in savings has been restricted only to state workers. Unionized Municipal workers are not touched by Mr. Malloy’s withering hand. The “shared sacrifice” Mr. Malloy has asked of taxpayers has not been expanded to include unionized municipal workers, a group that would include teachers, the largest tax drain on state resources.

Delighted with this arrangement were: municipal politicians – especially town administrators who are members in good standing of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, sometime derisively titled the Connecticut Conference of Crying Mayors -- legislators elected in districts composed of town voters, and all municipal workers, including teachers, a voting bloc partial to Democrats.

The state-wide tax increases Mr. Malloy had proposed were trumpeted as a highly principled effort to share the pain of sacrifice. Because the sacrifices were so widely shared, they would be more tollerable for everyone. All were to shoulder an equitable burden. Had Mr. Malloy disappointed the above named interests by requiring a similar “shared sacrifice” of all union workers in the state, including teachers and other municipal employees, none of the state workers now protesting the enormity of their sacrifice, said to be an unrealizable $20,000 per year per worker, would have had much reason to complain – because, in that case, the “shared sacrifice” would have been distributed more equitably among all unionized workers throughout the state.

Mr. Malloy could only have distributed the pain of “shared sacrifice” more equitably throughout the state’s larger union pool by passing along the burden of “shared sacrifice” to municipalities in the form of – listen for the GASP! – state cuts to municipalities. It was argued at the time that this would inevitably raise the dreaded property tax, a prospect that always had drawn crocodile tears from the Connecticut Conference of Crying Mayors, unionized municipal workers, town property taxpayers and state legislators.

There was but one political commentator in the state who suggested this line of reasoning was hokum; the governor all along should have been proposing cuts in state aid to towns said Chris Powell of the Journal Inquirer. In yet another column, Mr. Powell exposes the political pretensions behind the Malloy gambit.

Under threat of increased property taxes, municipalities have often chosen though budget referendums to cut spending; and, in fact, the ever increasing tax buck in Connecticut more often is brought to a stop at the desk of a mayor than that of a state legislator or governor. It is far easier for state legislators to raise taxes -- because Connecticut has no state budget referendum, whereas many towns do. It is at the municipal level, in other words, that cost cutting is most effective, because through referendums town voters directly influence budgets, doubtless at the cost of many tears shed by mayors and other administrators who find cost saving measures too painful to execute.

The latest news is that union negotiators are largely satisfied with the outline of Mr. Malloy’s budget proposal. They want to tweak it a “very little” bit, according to Senate President Don Williams. One cannot help but think of Danton itching to tweak the neck of Marie Antoinette, who was said to be imperious.

The Democratic majority in the legislature has been much in the habit of tweaking the budgets of previous Republican governors, and there is little reason to suppose the same extravagant spenders will not similarly tweak the budget of one of their own on behalf of their most clamorous and grateful constituency – union workers. If the Republicans were of a revolutionary frame of mind, they’d propose a constitutional convention to be convened only for the purpose of establishing a state budget referendum and attach the measure to any and all pending bills increasing the cost of state government.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Connecticut’s Economic Report Card, F-

The report card the state has received from The Connecticut Society of Certified Public Accountants is alarming.

Connecticut ranks 50th in personal debt, 48th in debt measured a share of personal income, 49th in pension funding, and 49th in the amount of working capital it has in hand.


Marcia Marien, president of the Connecticut Society of Certified Public Accountants, put it this way when she was invited to give a presentation at the state Capitol: “We’re not going broke. We’re broke right now.”

Over the last five years, state revenues have increased 5 percent, while state spending has increased 28 percent. And although stimulus funds provided by the federal government have helped some states to get by, federal funds – tax money withdrawn from the private marketplace and distributed to states and favored industries in the form of grants or credits – are not likely to continue because, according to Ms. Marien, “The federal government doesn’t have the resources, either.”

If the federal government did have a surplus, it might more efficiently provide stimulus funds through the expedient of tax reductions; the least harmful way to stimulate the economy is by leaving economic resources in the pockets of people who most efficiently decide which companies will prosper or fail though the purchasing choices they make. When market winners and losers are decided by political federal and state bureaucracies, the funds necessary to support the winners are a perpetual drain on both the economy and taxpayer resources.

Connecticut’s CPAs have singled out for attention a number of pressing issues:

• State spending has increased by 227 percent since 1980 from $4,400 per household to $10,000 per household.

• The number of state employees expecting pension and after retirement benefits is a stunning 205,000. “About 185,000 Connecticut taxpayers account for more than 60 percent of the state’s income tax revenues. This second group can leave Connecticut, and many probably will if their tax burden increases dramatically.” These proportions strongly suggest that if Connecticut has a revenue rather than a spending problem, as so many union leaders now negotiating pay and benefit packages with the administration of Gov. Dannel Malloy persistently urge, Connecticut is not likely to increase revenue from already besieged taxpayers.

• The CSCPA reminds us that “Connecticut’s fiscal problems are structural. Budget deficits aside, we spend more that we take in, we have legal obligations that will further escalate spending, and Connecticut’s aging population will pressure the budget still more. At the same time, we need to fund essential services. The state has made unfunded post-employment benefit promises to its employees that will soon prove extremely difficult if not impossible to keep.”

In addition, the state’s “fund balance,” the amount of money the state of Connecticut would have 60 days after the end of the fiscal year if the government were to stop doing business, an accounting measure of the state’s short term financial health, is a NEGATIVE figure of $922 million. A healthy fund balance would be ten percent of Connecticut’s annual expenditure. The state’s present fund balance is a negative five percent of expenditures.

And Connecticut’s long term financial health is worse. The state’s total liabilities amount to $70 billion – 4.5 times its assets. Connecticut has the highest debt per capita of all the 50 states; as a percentage of personal income, we lag behind only two states, Hawaii and Massachusetts.

Now then, companies considering a move into the state and Connecticut companies considering out migration to other states that ARE NOT ALREADY BROKE -- whether contiguous to Connecticut or not -- are likely to weigh seriously such reports as have been issued by the CSCPA, an organization that has, unlike silver tongued politicians, no political dog in the national fight to retain and attract businesses.


The CSCPA report is a vivid and accurate description of the economic state of the state. THIS is the defective state product that Governor Dannel Malloy hopes to sell to portable businesses as he begins to keep his promise to merchandise Connecticut both nationally and overseas. Mr. Malloy has shown himself to be an able salesman, Most elected politicians are smooth talkers, which is how they attain office. However, the writing on this wall can only be changed when the state’s assets exceed by a comfortable margin its deficits. And to lead the state from its Babylonian captivity, Mr. Malloy must first convince those here at home in his own party who have been largely responsible for running up the state’s debt and exhausting its assets that WE HAVE A SPENDING PROBLEM.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Who Done It? A Lesson In Constitutional Probity

When the convention that gave birth to the U.S. Constitution had finished its work, the great charter of liberties was left on a table so that the founders of the Republic might, if they wished, sign their names to it.

Ben Franklin had earlier warned his band of revolutionary brothers that if they did not hang together they would of a certainty “hang separately.” And he was not playing with metaphors. Had the agents of King George captured George Washington or any of those who had signed the Declaration of Independence, the father of our country most certainly would have been hanged, even as Nathan Hale, Connecticut’s Hero and one of Mr. Washington’s spies in New York, was hanged without benefit of trial. Mr. Hale, a school teacher, repented that he had but one life to give for his country.

John Hancock’s large and audacious signature, a defy that resounds through the years like a great shout of joy, leaps out of the Declaration of Independence five years before Lord Cornwallis surrendered to Mr. Washington at Yorktown. Mr. Hancock of Boston said he had signed his signature so conspicuously “so that the king would not miss it.”

When the constitution had been completed, the constitutional architects drifted one by one to the table where it lay and, on the understanding that a Bill of Rights was later to be added, claimed ownership of the nation’s foundational charter by signing the document. Since the founding, courageous architects of bills in both state and federal governments have signed their handiwork.

There are no signatures on Raised H.B. No. 5460, tendentiously titled “An act concerning captive audience meetings” -- because this bill, outlawing religious and political speech in the workplace, effectively repeals the First Amendment to the Constitution, which provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The bill is introduced by “LAB”; no names of those sponsoring the legislation are appended to this disgraceful piece of legislation.

The rights enumerated in the First Amendment quite literally hang together; they depend upon each other. Over the years, the antique expression “establishment of religion” has created some difficulties in interpretation, but the rights here specified clearly proscribe the national congress, and by extension state legislatures as well, from constructing bills that prohibit the free exercise of religion, abridge freedom of the press and speech – most especially political speech – as well as rights of assembly and the right of citizens to petition their governments for a redress of grievances.

Raised H.B. No. 5460, approved by the state’s labor and public employees committee, an ideological annex of Connecticut’s employee unions, now awaiting action by the House and Senate, prevents employers from talking about religious or political topics with their employees, the two forms of speech most protected by the First Amendment.

The new state bill, prompted by failed attempts to unionize Yale-New Haven Hospital in 2006, effectively repeals that portion of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) that affirms an employer’s right to express an opinion about unionization provided the employer does not threaten reprisal or promise a benefit that coerces employees. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) administers the law and rules on specific cases alleging unfair labor practices. The NLRB allows captive audience meetings more than 24 hours before a union election as long as the employer does not commit an unfair labor practice such as, for instance, threatening reprisal for supporting a union. The NLRB may order a new election if it finds either the employer or a union held a captive audience meeting of employees within 24 hours of a union election.

The bill under consideration by the General Assembly is inherently unjust and unconstitutional because it prohibits so called captive audience meetings for employers but not for union organizers and unconstitutionally restricts political and religious speech in the workplace. Given the already stringent impositions imposed by the NLRA, the constitutionally dubious union supported bill is a solution in search of a problem.

In addition to promoting “new and costly litigation,” said Andy Markowski, the state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, Connecticut’s leading small business association, portions of the bill are “ambiguous, overly broad and subject to varying interpretations,” a goldmine for lawyers, some of whom may be familiar with constitutional proscriptions.

Any ban on religious and political speech is content based, and the Supreme Court has not been silent on such issues. In a case involving the right of workers to picket, the court reversed on First Amendment grounds a prior court ruling prohibiting the picketing:
“To permit the continued building of our politics [p96] and culture, and to assure self-fulfillment for each individual, our people are guaranteed the right to express any thought, free from government censorship. The essence of this forbidden censorship is content control. Any restriction on expressive activity because of its content would completely undercut the profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.”
So grave a violation of the Constitution does this menacing bill entail that its legislative architects should be impeached for irreducible stupidity by offering it for serious consideration. But the cowards have taken care to hide themselves from public censure, and we do not know under what rock the slithering idiots may be found.