Thursday, April 19, 2018

Malloy’s Collateral Damage



Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin is only the most recent of the casualties. In the midst of exploring a run for governor, Bronin, unable to garner sufficient support and money, the mother’s milk of politics, quietly dropped out of the race.

After a state bailout of $550 million, any politician not driven mad by personal ambition would have considered the mayoralty of bankrupt Hartford a softer political bed than the governorship of a failing state, a bed of nails.

The State of Connecticut and Hartford on March 27 inked a contract according to which the state will pay off the city's approximately $550 million general obligation debt over the next 20 years. Hartford's annual debt payments, projected to top $56 million by 2021, will also be “reduced” to $35 million per annum through the expedient of pushing payments into future years.

Bronin has had lots of company. Governor Dannel Malloy himself, after having consulted the auguries, decided not to run for a fourth term as governor. His decision opened wide the doors to what had been a political closed shop. Had Malloy decided to defend his two terms in office, a tough row to hoe, his Lieutenant Governor, Nancy Wyman, likely would have agreed to ride shotgun once again on the Malloy coach. But following Malloy’s flight from office, she too decided to call it a day, pleading grandchildren.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Republicans Downgrade Malloy



S&P Global Ratings has lowered Connecticut’s rating one notch from A+ to A. Credit analyst David Hitchcock provided a list of reasons justifying the downgrade.

Hitchcock noted, according to a CTMirror story, that Connecticut has one of the highest per capita debt ratios in the nation, having ended the last fiscal year with a taxpayer bonded debt approaching 24 billion. The state has been struggling with ways to provide support for its poorly funded municipal teachers’ pension program. Connecticut, according to Hitchcock, “has a history of deficit financing during recessions.” Connecticut has yet to recover fully from a recession that official ended several years ago. The state’s emergency budget reserve is dangerously low at $210 million, according to Hitchcock, an amount just larger than 1 percent of annual General Fund operating costs. CTMirror reports that “Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo recommends a reserve of 15 percent.”

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Cranky Democrats


Sometime after Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lee Whitnum was dragged from a debate stage in Brookfield and arrested – apparently for being Lee Whitnum – Connecticut Democratic Party Chair Nick Balletto issued the following directive to Fox News: “We’re a big tent party, we invite people from all walks of life to participate in our Party and the electoral process. But based on Lee Whitnum’s behavior tonight, and based on her behavior in the past, it’s clear that Lee Whitnum should not hold elected office and does not represent the Democratic Party, nor should she participate in Party functions at the local or statewide level.”

There will be multiple versions of the event, Whitnum’s and everyone else's. Going forward, the standard among gubernatorial Democrats for dealing with disgruntled declared candidates for governor appears to be -- call the cops. The "big tent" party of law and order is on the prowl, and Brookfield obviously is not a sanctuary town in which police officers are cautioned to wink at lawbreakers. This change, prompted by Whitnum, is highly unusual for Democrats, who generally tolerate political disruptors such as Antifa anarchists, the more absurd of the second wave feminists, and pretty much anyone who would support actions leading to the impeachment of the present White House disturber, Donald Trump.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Can Walker Walk The Walk?



Former U.S. Comptroller General and candidate for Governor took some time out of his busy day to answer a couple of questions. See below.

Connecticut Commentary:  In your campaign literature, you style yourself a “turnaround specialist,” and your background suggests you have walked the walk. You served as Comptroller General of the United States for 10 years under three different presidents, Reagan, Bush (41) and Clinton, during which time you “led a widely praised transformation of the GAO and spearheaded related efforts for the accountability community both domestically and internationally.” The state of Connecticut certainly could use a CPA governor who can add one and one and get two. Other governors have in the past more or less fudged the numbers through overly optimistic revenue projections and outright thievery – by flitching money from so called “lock boxes” and using the loot to balance chronically out of balance budgets, relieving the pressure, such as it is, on the General Assembly to reduce spending. Politics, not rational economic decisions, are driving these revenue distortions. How will someone like yourself, who has little experience dealing with the personalities and interests that shape Connecticut politics, manage to turn around Connecticut?

Safe Schools, Beyond Gun Control: What Malloy, Murphy and Blumenthal Are Not Telling You

This is a digest of information included in The Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative


THE FINAL REPORT AND FINDINGS OF THE SAFE SCHOOL INITIATIVE: IMPLICATIONS FOR THE PREVENTION OF SCHOOL ATTACKS IN THE UNITED STATES UNITED STATES SECRET SERVICE AND UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Owning Malloy


Governor Dannel Malloy has seven months remaining in his second term. His administration has been a deceptive failure.

Malloy came into office complaining loudly about the problems put on his plate by his predecessors, Governors Jodi Rell and John Rowland.  They had not done what was necessary to remediate Connecticut’s economic woes.

When Malloy leaves office at the end of his second term, the problems will be intensified.  Because he has promoted false solutions – tax increases, the extension of crippling state employee contracts beyond 2027, to mention just two missteps – Connecticut’s problems have become more intractable.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Solvency In The State Of Insolvency: Malloy Gets His Tax On



Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me – an Italian proverb

House Bill 5046, which would re-establish tolls in Connecticut, is yet another tax, a tax being money that flows from private wallets to public treasuries.

According to popular delusion, people traveling from states bordering Connecticut will pay the tax. The trick in taxing is to find someone else to pick up the bill. Senator Russell Long of Louisiana put it aphoristically: “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax the fellow behind the tree.” The truth is: We are the people behind the tree. Even when the tax burden appears to be paid by someone else, as in business taxes, the burden of taxation comes home to roost. Businesses collect corporate taxes from the consumers of their products and services. Like your smarmy politician, the taxed business is a tax collection operation.

In the case of transportation tolls, the imposture is thin and transparent. Only about 30 percent of congestion tolling will be paid by the people from out of state using Connecticut roads. The bulk of it, 70 percent, will be paid by Connecticut tax camels carrying heavy loads, and some are warning that the add-tax will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Other skeptics ask: Why is the transportation fund in need of such massive capitalization?

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Taking The Fifth, After Esty



Whether or not U.S. Representative Elizabeth Esty will serve the remainder of her term or resign immediately is very much an open question. But, in any case, the battle for Connecticut’s 5th U.S. Congressional District has begun with a show of unexpected fireworks.

For many years, the 5th District was a toss-up proposition; both Republicans and Democrats have held and surrendered the seat. Geographically the 5th District touches the border of New York from Connecticut’s northern-most point to Danbury in the southern quadrant and includes much of Litchfield county and parts of Fairfield, Hartford and New Haven counties. Party affiliation is competitive, in round figures, 30 percent Democrat, 25 percent Republican and 45 percent unaffiliated. Over the years, the Democrat Party in Connecticut has moved from the center to the left, but the 5th District has been a moderate preserve. During the Obama presidential election, Republican moderates within Connecticut's U.S. Congressional elections fell to progressives in the Democratic Party.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

A Friendless Esty Calls It Quits



“If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” The saying was attributed to President Harry Truman by a playwright, but just because Truman may not have coined the phrase does not make it any the less true. Washington DC can be a cutthroat corner of the world. This is not to say that all well-mannered pols have cashed in their chips and left the casino in the hands of brutes. Some U.S. Senators still feel that politics should not be a murderous affair. If you do catch your enemy in a compromising position, it would be prudent to leave open a back door through which he might escape with his honor intact. Your enemy will appreciate the graceful gesture and, perhaps in some future encounter, pause and consider before he draws the knife across your throat” 

Friday, March 30, 2018

Esty’s Metoo Problem



Stories like this open a window into sealed rooms in which the usual favorable campaign propaganda is produced by the truckload.

This one, which ran in the Washington Post, is not good news for U.S. Representative Elizabeth Esty, most recently seen bobbing her head in assent to a vigorous attack on the National Rifle Association (NRA) by a teenage rabble rouser in Washington DC.

The Post story begins with a knock-out lede: “The threat from Rep. Elizabeth Esty’s chief of staff arrived in a voice mail.

“’You better f-----g reply to me or I will f-----g kill you,’ Tony Baker said in the May 5, 2016, recording left for Anna Kain, a former Esty aide Baker had once dated.”

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Murphy’s Future



History, always messy, has a wrong and a right side, and sometimes the right side is the revolutionary one; such was the case during the American Revolution.

When U.S. Senator Chris Murphy says that the National Rifle Association (NRA), and others who support the Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights, is “on the wrong side of history,” he shows a lack of understanding concerning what history is, what being on the wrong side of it is, and possibly what “is” is. If the NRA is on the right side of the Second Amendment, it is on the right side of history, as were American revolutionists who fashioned it in response to a British attempt to deprive colonists of their weapons. The most prominent lawyer of the day, Judge St. George Tucker, appointed by President James Madison as U.S. District Judge for Virginia, characterized the right of citizens to bear arms as “the palladium of liberty, the right of defense upon which all the other imprescriptible rights in the Bill of Rights depend. Such was the historic understanding of the Second Amendment throughout American history – before the advent of Murphy.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Nothing But Betrayal

With apologies to Shakespeare: “Spending’s the thing, wherein we’ll catch the conscience of the King.”

There is in Connecticut no truer Trumpian liege lord than Joe Visconti, a gubernatorial candidate who described himself in one of his campaign documents as “Trump without the millions.”

When Trumpians refer disdainfully to “the DC Swamp,” they have in mind the kind of uncontrolled spending that, during the Obama administration, doubled President George Bush’s $10 trillion deficit. The current deficit now has been boosted by the U.S. Congress, and it was Trump who signed – very reluctantly, to be sure – the “drain the swamp’s” death warrant.

Friday, March 23, 2018

The Malloy-Bronin Real Deal



Governor Malloy’s man in Hartford, Mayor Luke Bronin, is close, we are told by a Hartford paper, “to signing a deal that would require the state to assume Hartford's annual debt payments.”

Malloy, who has proven himself more adept at deal making with his political cronies than balancing budgets and warding off debt, previously has made deals with state employee unions that carry debt forward much beyond his term in office. The SEBAC deal Malloy struck with lean and hungry union honchos, ratified by progressive Democrats in the General Assembly, push union favorable contracts forward to 2027 and prevent future governors from deploying layoffs to reduce debt until the contracts elapse. During his first two terms, Malloy has used the threat of layoffs to persuade hard boiled union negotiators to cough up what Malloy has been pleased to call “concessions,” an option the SEBAC-Malloy deal will not provide to Malloy’s successor. Union concessions generally have not involved long-term, permanent savings, which is why the state keeps stumbling from budget deficit to budget deficit.

Malloy’s deal with Bronin, who hopes to replace his padron as Connecticut’s next governor, is a sweet deal for Bronin, but not for Hartford. Bailouts will not break the cycle of spending and debt that hangs over the Capital City’s head like a Damoclean Sword.

A bankruptcy proceeding and a consequent reordering of financing by a bankruptcy court might have helped balance Hartford’s books in the future, because a court would have attacked head-on the causes of Hartford’s penury. But a bailout simply postpones the day of reckoning and, if Bronin is successful in his bid for governor, someone other than Bronin will fall victim to the pending Damoclean Sword. Just as Malloy will be leaving the problems he has failed to solve to his successor, so Bronin, after two years and a few months into a four year term as Mayor, will be deeding Hartford’s problems to his successor.

The terms of the Malloy-Bronin deal are what one might expect: The state – i.e. state taxpayers besieged by billion dollar increases in taxes during Malloy’s failed tenure as Governor, which has contributed to tax-payer flight – would cover Hartford’s immediate debt by June 20, ponying up $12 million. State taxpayers will surrender another $24 million to close Hartford’s budget deficit. In the future, state taxpayers will cover Hartford’s full debt payment – which, of course, will spur additional spending – and Hartford may receive an addition subsidy. Hartford already receives $270 million in extra aid from state taxpayers each year.

Every playboy living off his daddy’s wallet knows that financial “help” of this kind induces future uncontrolled spending. In a bankruptcy proceeding, debt and expenditures are both reduced. The fine print on the Malloy-Bronin deal promises non-political oversight. The Malloy-Bronin deal provides that an “oversight board” will restrict how Hartford will spend its money. “Budgets, contracts and other documents,” according to the Hartford paper, “must be run by the panel, and the board has final say over new labor agreements. Hartford can’t issue new debt without the group’s permission.”

So then, let us reason together. Hartford, like the state of Connecticut, has been overspending for decades, and it is largely future salaries and benefits that are driving debt. Salaries and benefits are set by chief administrators -- governors, mayors and town councils -- who concoct deals with union negotiators. State-Union deals may be rejected by the General Assembly, which is constitutionally authorized to appropriate money and disburse expenditures. But it has not often happened during negotiations between Malloy and SEBAC that a deal struck by Malloy and union chiefs has been rejected by the General Assembly. Far from rejecting deals that set in stone extravagant spending and ordering deals to be reconstructed so that spending may be brought under control, the Democrat dominated General Assembly has nodded sleepy assent to Malloy-SEBAC union favorable deals. Malloy is a progressive Democrat who has a warm spot in his heart for unions. Indeed, the Governor has expressed his solidarity with unions – which had contributed generously to his campaigns – by marching in strike lines with unions.

In fact, the Malloy-Bronin deal sets in concrete the present level of spending in Hartford and then uses this marker as a standard for future spending. The deal is a permit to continue a ruinous level of spending and a promise that spending excess, which is the cause of Hartford’s debt, will be assumed by state taxpayers.

Like his political patron Malloy, Bronin has not fallen far from the Malloy’s progressive tree. For those in Connecticut who mistakenly believe that Malloy’s stewardship of the state has led to uncontrollable bursts of economic activity, an influx of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial capital and a reduction of future debt, Bronin is a perfect gubernatorial choice to replace his political padroni, who has chosen to flee Connecticut’s burning house with his pants on fire.


Monday, March 19, 2018

What To Do About State Unions


Jim Powell asked in an eye-opening piece in Forbes magazine 67 months ago, “How Did Rich Connecticut Morph Into One Of America's Worst Performing Economies?"

A partial answer, freighted with supportive data, has now been advanced in a piece commissioned by The Yankee Institute titled “Above the Law: How Government Unions’ Extralegal Privileges Are Harming Public Employees, Taxpayers And The State." 

Everyone, both inside and outside the state, is intimately familiar with the bad news most of us have internally affirmed during the past few decades. Consider the rise in the Connecticut’s “fixed costs,” a fixed cost being one that can be reduced only by extraordinary, politically unlikely efforts: “In 2006, fixed costs constituted only 37 percent of the state’s budget; by 2018 that amount was 53 percent.” In 2016, the Census Bureau reported that Connecticut was one of only eight states to lose population. Fixed costs are strangling the state’s economy and pushing taxpayers and workers out of state.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

McDonald And The Art Of Victimology


Governor Dannel Malloy’s Nominee for Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, Justice Andrew McDonald, was sent to the General Assembly with a negative recommendation. The nomination  passed in the House by one vote, where Democrats have a six member edge over Republicans, and is now headed towards the Senate, which is split 18-18 among Democrats and Republicans.

The Republican leader in the Senate, Len Fasano, said on a radio talk show recently that he is inclined to vote down the nomination.  After viewing all McDonald's opinions -- and also interviewing McDonald -- Fasano feels that McDonald is prone to affirming a possibly flawed decision if the decision contains a partial narrative that supports his apriori views. For instance, McDonald believes that the death penalty may be racist because it falls disproportionately on blacks, a doubtful datum. If a decision to abolish the death penalty supported that view, McDonald would be inclined to support it. That mode of interpretation violates judicial norms and is reason enough to vote down McDonald's nomination. Is Fasano right?

Monday, March 12, 2018

McDonald And Connecticut’s Indentured Supreme Court


Objective court watchers may be amused by the notion that Connecticut’s Supreme Court has become politicized, especially since the court for some time has shown itself to be the indentured servant of the left wing of the Democrat dominated General Assembly.

As proof of this proposition, one need look no further than Governor Dannel Malloy’s choice for Chief Justice, recently approved by one vote in Connecticut’s House of Representatives. The McDonald nomination now moves to the State Senate, where confirmation is more doubtful.

In addition to being gay – a major plus in Connecticut, as witness McDonald’s unimpeded elevation from Director of Legal Affairs for the City of Stamford from 1999 to 2002, to Stamford Representative in the General Assembly from 1991 to 2003, to co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, along with Mike Lawlor, to Justice of the Supreme Court – McDonald has shown himself to be a committed partisan Democrat ideologue whose political attachment to Malloy, the most progressive chief executive in living memory, never wavered.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Judge Norko, Let us Now Praise…

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is a book written by James Agee containing photographs by Walker Evans. In 1936, they traveled to Alabama to report on three tenant farming families. Their original story, only recently unearthed, never ran, but Agee continued to work on the project, and in 1941 Agee and Evans published their book, now itself famous as a literary work of art. Poverty and struggle had found a voice.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

The Democrat’s Bête Noire, The NRA

Mayor of Hartford Luke Bronin, once Governor Dannel Malloy’s Chief Counsel, has declared war on the National Rifle Association (NRA). Democrats running for high office in the upcoming elections will likely follow suit, mostly because they dare not defend the rapacious policies of Governor Dannel Malloy, the nominal head of the state Democratic Party, and they need a distraction sufficient to beguile a public that already has voted against Malloy’s policies with its feet.  The national anti-NRA campaign script, widely vetted in the northeast and California, reached Connecticut politicians early on. In fact, they had a hand in its construction.

Only recently Malloy condemned the NRA in what might be termed politically pornographic terms. The NRA has become in essence, Malloy said, “a terrorist organization."

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Sarsour At UConn


Ben Shapiro has come and gone. UConn alumni – students who have grown up – will be pleased to hear that there were no untoward incidents during his appearance at their university. Shapiro’s bona fides are impressive. He is a conservative political commentator, columnist, radio talk show host, lawyer, editor in chief of The Daily Wire, which he founded, and the author of Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America's Youth, a book he began writing when he was 17 years old. And he is visibly Jewish, a point that will become increasingly relevant as this column progresses.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Chris Murphy’s New Pal


President Donald Trump recently called to the White House one of his most acerbic critics, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, to chat about gun control and school safety; the two are not at all the same thing. Murphy could hardly refuse. Trump wanted Murphy to shape, in concert with others, a national package that might help to prevent the slaughter of innocents in schools and also the victims of gun violence in our large cities, the nation’s shooting galleries, a “comprehensive” reform of gun laws that would ameliorate conditions in cities such as Chicago, former President Barack Obama’s abandoned haunt, and school kids left at the mercy of gun toting mass murderers.

Murphy and his confederate in the congress, Connecticut Senator Dick Blumenthal, had persistently denounced Trump as “eccentric,” and touched with madness, accusations laundered through Connecticut’s media that have been temporarily shelved now that the madman is making cooing gestures in Murphy’s direction; for, really, how could a madman be  both mad, when he is fighting excessive regulations, business destroying taxes, and the baneful effects of a dying Obamacare wreck,   and yet sane when he is cooing in the direction of Murphy and Blumenthal on the matter of gun control?

Thursday, March 01, 2018

McDonald And The Gay Question


The question has been asked: Should Governor Dannel Malloy’s appointment of Supreme Court Justice Andrew McDonald as Connecticut’s Chief Justice be rejected because McDonald is gay?

The answer is no, and it is highly unlikely in Connecticut’s Democratic top-heavy General Assembly that the nomination would be rejected for such a reason. The flip side of the question is: Should the General Assembly approve Malloy’s nomination because McDonald is gay? The answer is no.

On the gay question, it should be noted, Republican legislators have been accommodating. Connecticut legislators in 2009 agreed to replace all statutory references to marriage with gender-neutral language, a variant of a bill sponsored by McDonald and his Judiciary Committee co-chair in the House, Mike Lawlor, who, like McDonald, also is openly gay. The General Assembly voted to approve the measure – 100-44 in the House and 28-7 in the Senate. At first promising a veto, Republican Governor Jodi Rell signed the bill into law in April of that year.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Connecticut, California East?


“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of a passionate intensity” – WB Yeats

The Politico story came as a shock to no one: “California Democrats decline to endorse Feinstein.”

Connecticut has been blue roughly forever; ditto California, the political eagle’s nest of moderate Democrats turned progressive. Senator Dianne Feinstein, long a Democrat moderate, did not convert quickly enough. Then too, progressives, full of a passionate intensity, find protestations of progressivism dripping from the lips of moderate, long-serving Democrat political fixtures sadly wanting. If tomorrow Feinstein said she was backing a recent move to withdraw California from the union – a prospect eagerly awaited by national conservatives -- no one on the progressive side of the political barricades in California would believe her. Lions want red meat, not well cured moderate puff pastries.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Down The Rabbit Hole, A Book Review




Down the Rabbit Hole
How the Culture of Corrections Encourages Crime
by Brent McCall & Michael Liebowitz
Available at Amazon
Price: $12.95/softcover, 337 pages

 Down the Rabbit Hole: How the Culture of Corrections Encourages Crime,” a penological eye-opener, is written by two Connecticut prisoners, Brent McCall and Michael Liebowitz. Their book is an analytical work, not merely a page-turner prison drama, and it provides serious answers to the question: Why is reoffending a more likely outcome than rehabilitation in the wake of a prison sentence?

The multiple answers to this central question are not at all obvious. Before picking up the book, the reader would be well advised to shed his preconceptions and also slough off the highly misleading claims of prison officials concerning the efficacy of programs developed by dusty old experts who have never had an honest discussion with a real convict. Some of the experts are more convincing cons than the cons, possibly because prisoners, many of them victims of programs that do not reduce recidivism rates, are not credentialed. Most people in prison are graduates of the school of hard knocks, not Harvard.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Trump Opposition In Connecticut


There are two stories in the Hartford Courant of general interest. The first is a front page, top of the fold story, “Getting To Know Joe Ganim” the present Democrat Mayor of Bridgeport now running for governor.

The story is what we call in the trade “a puff piece.” Perhaps all we need to know about Ganim is that he’s not John Rowland, though the recent past of both are eerily similar. Would a major newspaper in Connecticut publish a top of the fold, front page puff piece on Rowland if, after his release from prison, he had run for, say, mayor of Hartford, won, and then announced his candidacy for governor, as Ganim did in Bridgeport? Unfortunately for the hapless Rowland, he went into the radio talk show business on his first release from the hoosegow.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Malloy Et Al, Hyperbolists



Surrounded by ad makers, cartoonists, various temporary – we hope – politicians who reach for the stars in their attempts to explain the nature of man and the universe, Americans are used to hyperbole. It surrounds us like a sometime amusing sea of comic exaggeration and error. Sometimes, you have to blow a thing up to understand it. It’s OK; hyperbole has long history, sometimes honorable, sometimes not, in our politics.
  
Most Americans shrug when President Donald Trump unveils a stunning hyperbole; as with a window, they see THROUGH the intended exaggeration to the more modest truth obscured by the hyperbole.

But some hyperboles are opaque; in these, there is nothing behind the words, no “there” there.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Murphy and Blumenthal, Nothing Succeeds Like Failure



In a recent editorial, the Hartford Courant notes, “U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., has a well-oiled speech on the issue [of gun bans].  Considering his 14-hour filibuster after the Orlando shooting in the summer of 2016, he’s got his points together. And every time there’s another mass shooting, he drags them out again, as he did on Tuesday.” Murphy has had a good deal of practice fulminating at the U.S. Senate podium; most recently he accused his fellow legislators of being complicit in the murder of 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.


“This scourge of school shootings,” Murphy said, “only happens here [in the United States].  It only happens here not because of coincidence, not because of bad luck, but as a consequence of our inaction. We [his fellow Senators] are responsible for a level of mass atrocities that happens in this country with zero parallel anywhere else.”

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Gilded Politics Of Mark Twain


Anyone hoping to hammer into a coherent ideology Mark Twain’s robustly critical admonitions on politics and politicians is bound to be disappointed.

Here is Twain on the Congress of his day: “An honest man in politics shines more there than he would elsewhere.” That is taken from A Tramp Abroad, written in Hartford, Connecticut. Twain wrote most of his important novels in Hartford, including The Adventures of Tom SawyerThe Prince and the PauperLife on the MississippiAdventures of Huckleberry Finn and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. Towards the end of his life, tragedy became the uninvited guest at Twain’s table. He lost his beloved wife, both a spiritual anchor and a literary censor. Twain did not believe writers should self-censor. Olivia Clemons was concerned about her husband’s place in the world, as all good wives should be, and worked to keep his combustible politics from bursting into flame – at least publically -- and singeing the politicians of his day and ours.


The following dictation note is taken from the Autobiography of Mark Twain: “Look at the tyranny of party -- at what is called party allegiance, party loyalty -- a snare invented by designing men for selfish purposes -- and which turns voters into chattels, slaves, rabbits, and all the while their masters, and they themselves are shouting rubbish about liberty, independence, freedom of opinion, freedom of speech, honestly unconscious of the fantastic contradiction; and forgetting or ignoring that their fathers and the churches shouted the same blasphemies a generation earlier when they were closing their doors against the hunted slave, beating his handful of humane defenders with Bible texts and billies, and pocketing the insults and licking the shoes of his Southern master.” Twain left instructions that his uncensored autobiography, a  product of his political “pen dipped in Hell,” should not be let loose on the general public until a century had passed after his death.

This from A letter to Helene Picard, in 1902: “Yes, you are right -- I am a moralist in disguise; it gets me into heaps of trouble when I go thrashing around in political questions.” Helen Picard was the French member of Twain’s private “Juggernaut Club.”

Here is Twain’s note to Helen, published in the Lady’s Home Journal posthumously, as was much of his writing on politics: “I have a Club, a private Club, which is all my own. I appoint the Members myself, and they can't help themselves, because I don't allow them to vote on their own appointment and I don't allow them to resign! They are all friends whom I have never seen (save one), but who have written friendly letters to me. By the laws of my Club there can be only one Member in each country, and there can be no male Member but myself. Someday I may admit males, but I don't know -- they are capricious and inharmonious, and their ways provoke me a good deal. It is a matter which the Club shall decide.”


Seriously?


Twain died on April 21, 1910 of a heart attack in Redding Connecticut, where he had moved to escape certain ghosts. Perhaps not unexpectedly, the death of those he most loved liberated him. Following his near bankruptcy, the premature death of his daughter Susy of spinal meningitis at age 24 in 1896 and the passing of his wife Olivia in 1904, Twain went “thrashing around in political questions.”

Was Twain serious in his political writings? Indeed, is it possible to take seriously any humorist? He was deadly serious, and his writings did get him into no end of trouble with his political targets, among them President Teddy Roosevelt. Twain thought Roosevelt a rare political showman and a preposterous fraud. Roosevelt, for his part, wanted to strangle Twain – and said so.

But the question is an important and serious one: can someone with a comic turn of mind say anything useful about politics in the widest sense of the word? For a broad thinker like Aristotle, politics was anything and everything having to do with the polis, the nation state of his day. The family, for instance, was, in Aristotle’s view, a primary political unit.  What we know of Socrates we have gleaned from two sources: Plato, whom everyone takes seriously, and Aristophanes, the most famous Greek comic playwright of his day and a contemporary of Socrates.

One day, someone, possibly a political flunky whose patron Aristophanes had raked over the coals in one of his nuclear tipped theatrical satires, approached him in the street and demanded to know, “Don’t you take anything seriously?” to which Aristophanes replied, “Of course, I take comedy seriously.” Very Twainian that response.

Was Twain serious when he said of Teddy Roosevelt in a letter to Joseph Twichel in 1905, “We are insane, each in our own way, and with insanity goes irresponsibility. Theodore the man is sane; in fairness we ought to keep in mind that Theodore, as statesman and politician, is insane and irresponsible.” A year earlier, Olivia Clemons had died in Florence, Italy.

Olivia was six years gone when the following item written by Twain appeared in The Ottowa Free Trader in 1911. William Howard Taft, a conservative Republican and a great disappointment to Roosevelt, had just been sworn in as President: “Astronomers assure us that the attraction of gravitation on the surface of the sun is twenty-eight times as powerful as is the force at the surface of the earth, that an object which weighs 217 pounds elsewhere would weigh 6,000 pounds there. For seven years this country has lain smothering under a burden like that, an incubus representing in the person of President Roosevelt, the difference between 217 pounds and 6,000.

“Thanks be we got rid of this disastrous burden day before yesterday, at last -- forever, probably not. Probably for only a brief breathing spell, wherein under Mr. Taft, we may hope to get back some of our health. Four years from now we may expect to have Mr. Roosevelt sitting on us again, with his twenty-eight times the weight of any other Presidential burden that a hostile Providence could impose upon us for our sins.

“Our people have adored this showy charlatan as perhaps no impostor of his brood has been adored since the golden calf; so it is to be expected that the nation will want him back again after he is done hunting other wild animals heroically in Africa, with the safeguards and advertising equipment of a park of artillery and a brass band.”

And indeed, Roosevelt, frustrated with the non-progressive policies of Taft, did make a showy comeback a year later as a “Bull-Moose” candidate for president. William McKinley’s Vice President, Roosevelt became president following McKinley’s assassination, was elected to a full term in 1904 and vigorously promoted a progressive agenda. The person Roosevelt groomed for president, Taft, is now heralded as a conservative, politically pretty much Roosevelt’s opposite number. Frustrated with Taft, Roosevelt sought the Republican endorsement for president in 1912, failed in his effort and, storming out of the Republican convention, founded the progressive “Bull Moose” party, ultimately throwing the presidency to Woodrow Wilson, a progressive Democrat.

Twain would have witnessed some of this drama in his rear view mirror, and his reaction to Roosevelt was both splenetic and humorously titillating. Three years before he died, Twain dictated the following assessment for his autobiography: “Mr. Roosevelt is the Tom Sawyer of the political world of the twentieth century; always showing off; always hunting for a chance to show off; in his frenzied imagination, the Great Republic is a vast Barnum circus with him for a clown and the whole world for audience; he would go to Halifax for half a chance to show off and he would go to hell for a whole one.”

Perhaps the most read modern biography of Roosevelt is Theodore Rex, written by Edmund Morris. Two paragraphs in the book mention Twain, who is quoted disparaging Roosevelt mildly only once: “Twain was never-the-less moved to express the misgivings of not a few thoughtful observers who wondered if a Roosevelt unrestrained might not become a Roosevelt moving too fast for his own good.” Morris embeds a Twain quote here: “’He [Roosevelt] flies from one thing to another with incredible dispatch… each act of his, and each opinion expressed, is likely to abolish or controvert some previous act or expressed opinion.’” This is a wordy way of saying that Twain thought Roosevelt a hypocrite; his real feelings about Roosevelt were much fiercer than that. In any case, Twain’s anti-Roosevelt vituperation is under-displayed in Morris’ book.


A Gilded Twain


Roosevelt was a type that challenged Twain’s temperamental disposition. H. L. Mencken approached the truth about Twain reverently when he wrote: “Instead of being a mere entertainer of the mob, he [Twain] was in fact a literary artist of the very highest skill and sophistication… he was a destructive satirist of the utmost pungency and relentlessness, and the most bitter critic of American platitude and delusion, whether social, political or religious, that ever lived.”  Of course, Mencken’s appreciation is tinged with his own Nietzschean prejudices. Writers tend to regard as saintly other writers whose views can be forced into their own Procrustean beds.

Mencken notes that Twain’s comic mask had publically been thrown off after Harpers Magazine had published The Mysterious Stranger and What Is Man? 

Mencken lifts a quote from Twain’s preface: “The ideas in it are very simple, and reduced to elementals, two in number. The first is that man, save for a trace of volition that grows smaller and smaller the more it is analyzed, is a living machine — that nine-tenths of his acts are purely reflex, and that moral responsibility, and with it religion, are thus mere delusions. The second is that the only genuine human motive, like the only genuine dog motive or fish motive or protoplasm motive is self-interest — that altruism, for all its seeming potency in human concerns, is no more than a specious appearance — that the one unbroken effort of the organism is to promote its own comfort, welfare and survival…”

These determinist ideas, aggressively promoted by Thomas Huxley, sometimes called “Darwin’s Bulldog,” were throbbing in the public pulse during Twain’s own day. We do not know – and perhaps cannot know – whether Twain’s sentiments, as expressed above, are simply a “thought experiment” placed in the mind of a fictitious character or, more ominously, whether this dark vision of God and man represents Twain’s own world view. Nietzsche, we now know, read and liked Twain. But Twain came by Nietzsche indirectly, through a back door.  George Bernard Shaw, a more rigorous Zarathustrian, yoked together both Twain and Nietzsche in a review of two translations of Nietzsche titled “Giving the Devil His Due,” only to dismiss Twain later, in a preface to Three Plays for Puritans, as a member of the Diabolonian Junior Varsity team.

Twain professed disinterest in Nietzsche, or indeed in any other philosopher. He drew his own philosophy, Twain insisted, “from the fountainhead… that is to say, the human race… Every man is in his person the whole human race … in myself I find in big or little proportion every quality and every defect that is findable in the mass of the race.”

Comparisons between Twain and Nietzsche lead, more often than not, into a philosophical snake pit. Aspiration is a  more certain architect of character, and Twain’s aspirations mirror those of the Gilded Age and the Manchester School, a 19th century movement that began in Manchester, England whose most prominent proponents were Richard Cobden and John Bright. The school has more in common with modern conservativism than either modern liberalism or progressivism. The Manchester School carried into politics the theories of economic liberalism popularized by Adam Smith and Davin Hume:  free trade, laissez-faire, pacifism, anti-slavery, freedom of the press, separation of church and state, and anti-colonialism.

No one can doubt that Twain was a fierce anti-colonialist.  The Spanish-American war was a large stone in his shoe, and he was, one might say, instinctively wary of strong-man politicians, possibly because he was, like some important writers of his day, a superb psychologist who drew his perceptions, as did Dostoyevsky and Dickens, from a deep private well. The most important note of Manchester liberalism is its belief in free – non-government regulated – consensual relations of all groups at every level. Henry David Thoreau was shouting from the Manchurian rooftops when he said -- that government governs best which govern not at all.

It may be best to adopt a historical view of Twain and anchor him, as one sets a stone in its setting, in his own time. Twain wrote and rose to public prominence near the end of the La Belle Époque, roughly the Victorian age in Europe (1837-1901). In America, this period was called The Gilded Age, and it was Mark Twain himself who named the age in a lesser known book he wrote along with Charles Dudley Warner, published in 1873 and titled “The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today.”

Warner came from Puritan Massachusetts stock, practiced law in Chicago from 1856-1860, was assistant editor then editor of the Hartford Press, which later became the Hartford Courant, and also an editor for Harper’s Magazine.

The Gilded Age marked the period of rapid economic growth in America following the Civil War up to the turn of the century. And what a boom it was! The United States had come into its own. Millionaires were popping up on every street corner. And for the first time, the United States economically was outpacing Europe, torn as usual by its historic divisions. The rise of the progressive movement in the United States marked the end of the Gilded Age.

In 1884 so-called Bourbon Democrats elected Grover Cleveland to the presidency. It was the first time since 1856 that a Democrat had sat in the White House. The Bourbon Democrats, often contrasted with Republican Mugwumps, were very close in spirit to modem conservatives. Bourbon Democrats supported low tariffs, reductions in government spending and, most importantly, a laissez-faire government. Tarrifs, they argued, increased the cost of goods and subsidized government supported monopolies. They fiercely denounced imperialism and an expansionary overseas policy. Remind you of anyone?

“The mania for giving the Government power to meddle with the private affairs of cities or citizens is likely to cause endless trouble,” Twain wrote in a letter to Enterprise in 1866. “And there is great danger that our people will lose that independence of thought and action which is the cause of much of our greatness, and sink into the helplessness of the Frenchman or German who expects his government to feed him when hungry, clothe him when naked … and, in time, to regulate every act of humanity from the cradle to the tomb, including the manner in which he may seek future admission to paradise.”

Republicans, on the other hand, felt national prosperity depended upon an economy that produced high wages; they feared a flood of low  priced goods from Europe would depress both wages and the burgeoning economy. The tariff , they thought, should be used as tool necessary to prevent the impending catastrophe.

The Gilded Age was brought to a stop by Progressivism, which began as a Prairie Populist movement shortly after the Civil War and flooded Teddy Roosevelt’s ambitious and fertile mind with dreams of glory. Roosevelt, the hero of San Juan Hill, was the first important progressive president. And Twain, who fulminated against the Gilded Age in the book he wrote with Warner, intensely disliked Roosevelt, the Spanish America War, US expansionist policies in the  Philippines, monarchs of every shape and hue – most venomously, the Czar of Russia.

When Roosevelt, rejected by Republicans in favor of Howard Taft, now embraced as a conservative by modern American conservatives, went off to Africa on a safari – TR liked to kill things and share stuffed carcasses among his friends – Twain wrote that Zarathustra-on-the-hunt had gone off to Africa to “kill cows.” Roosevelt, hunting water buffaloes at the time, was not amused.


Progressives And Libertarians


Twain was a laissez faire child of the Gilded Age and – most importantly – an acerbic social critic and humorist. Fredric Bastiat, the father of libertarianism, also was a Manchester School liberal who, like Twain, was a suburb dialectician. In the modern period, Twain would be a libertarian and, as he was in his own day, a virulent opponent of what then was called, approvingly, muscular Christianity.  It was from muscular Christianity that the progressive movement in America arose. The very notion of missionary Christianity was abhorrent to Twain, because he was an apostle of liberty as it pertains to individuals.  Equally abhorrent was politics as a missionary activity.

Here is Bastiat on law officers before and after elections:

“When it is time to vote, apparently the voter is not to be asked for any guarantee of his wisdom. His will and capacity to choose wisely are taken for granted. Can the people be mistaken? Are we not living in an age of enlightenment? What! are the people always to be kept on leashes? Have they not won their rights by great effort and sacrifice? Have they not given ample proof of their intelligence and wisdom? Are they not adults? Are they not capable of judging for themselves? Do they not know what is best for themselves? Is there a class or a man who would be so bold as to set himself above the people, and judge and act for them? No, no, the people are and should be free. They desire to manage their own affairs, and they shall do so.

“But when the legislator is finally elected — ah! then indeed does the tone of his speech undergo a radical change. The people are returned to passiveness, inertness, and unconsciousness; the legislator enters into omnipotence. Now it is for him to initiate, to direct, to propel, and to organize. Mankind has only to submit; the hour of despotism has struck. We now observe this fatal idea: The people who, during the election, were so wise, so moral, and so perfect, now have no tendencies whatever; or if they have any, they are tendencies that lead downward into degradation.”

And Twain: “No country can be well governed unless its citizens as a body keep religiously before their minds that they are the guardians of the law and that the law officers are only the machinery for its execution, nothing more.”

And here is Twain in the Galaxy Magazine telling what Huck Finn once styled one of Twain’s stretchers:I shall not often meddle with politics, because we have a political Editor who is already excellent and only needs to serve a term or two in the penitentiary to be perfect.”

Twain did meddle with politics, and it did get him into trouble. But isn’t trouble the theatre in which a comic talent like Twain performs? The question remains: To what extent should we take comedy seriously? Does the comic lose authority by speaking behind a mask of humor?

On Christmas Eve 1909, Twain had returned four days earlier from Bermuda to his Redding home, “Stormfield.” Hours earlier, Twain’s youngest daughter Jean had drowned in a bathtub from a heart attack that may have been related to her epilepsy.

On Christmas Eve, Twain wrote the following eulogy:

“I lost Susy thirteen years ago; I lost her mother–her incomparable mother!–five and a half years ago; Clara has gone away to live in Europe; and now I have lost Jean. How poor I am, who was once so rich! Seven months ago Mr. Roger died–one of the best friends I ever had, and the nearest perfect, as man and gentleman, I have yet met among my race; within the last six weeks Gilder has passed away, and Laffan–old, old friends of mine. Jean lies yonder, I sit here; we are strangers under our own roof; we kissed hands good-by at this door last night–and it was forever, we never suspecting it. She lies there, and I sit here–writing, busying myself, to keep my heart from breaking. How dazzlingly the sunshine is flooding the hills around! It is like a mockery.”

Let others say Twain was not to be taken seriously. I will not say it.




Saturday, February 10, 2018

Bysiewicz Puts Her Toe Into The Gubernatorial Pool



Like U.S. Senators Chris Murphy and Dick Blumenthal before her, Susan Bysiewicz was looking for a sure-thing. Blumenthal replaced U.S. Senator Chris Dodd, with minimal resistance from Republicans, and Murphy replaced U. S. Senator Joe Lieberman.  Both Lieberman and Dodd were passé liberals; Murphy and Blumenthal are hip progressives. The seats were retained by Democrats in a state in which Democrats outnumber Republicans by a two to one margin.

Bysiewicz, who has been known to change her mind concerning which post she would like to hold, had been considering a run for the State Senate in District 13, but then the heirs apparent to an open gubernatorial seat that is to be vacated by lame-duck Governor Dannel Malloy began dropping out. Comptroller Kevin Lembo, an early candidate, had second thoughts; lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman pleaded grandchildren; Middletown Mayor Dan Drew stumbled on route and bowed out.

Friday, February 09, 2018

On Powell Leaving The Journal Inquirer


I happen to be writing something on Mark Twain’s politics, and I couldn’t help but wonder what he might have thought rather than written – for Twain was fairly cautious, some would say over-cautious, while his wife and censor Oliva was still alive – about recent Connecticut politics.

Surely Twain would have noticed that the flight of progressive politicians from their sinecures have followed the flight of businesses and entrepreneurial capital from his beloved state. There’s got to be some heavy levity, Twain’s specialty, in there somewhere. Not even Olivia, the keeper of Twain’s reputation, could have prevented him from poking fun at Connecticut’s political Grand Guignol. Following a fatal dip in the polls, Governor Dannel Malloy has chosen not to run again, and he has been followed out the door by his Lieutenant Governor, a promising Democrat gubernatorial prospect who has not spent time in prison, Comptroller Kevin Lembo, Attorney General George Jepsen, and other Democrat celebrities, all banging their tushies, frantically attempting to put out pant fires.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Malloy’s last Chapter


“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning” -- Winston Churchill

Governor Dannel Malloy’s last “State of the State” address might well serve as the last chapter of his forthcoming autobiography, to be titled "He Meant Well," assuming there is to be an autobiography.

Wisely, Malloy avoided mentioning the budget, growing like a tumor on the side of Connecticut’s face. Budgets, getting and spending plans two years out, map the destiny of the state. In place of destiny, Malloy’s address was brimming with utopian froth.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Lawlor In The Briar Patch

Thinking perhaps that he was Twitter-in-Chief President Donald Trump, Undersecretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning at the Office of Policy and Management Michael Lawlor in late January fired off the following tweet: “Wow, Connecticut gets its first full-force racist enabler candidate for Attorney General.”

According to CTMirror, Lawlor’s target was “Susan Hatfield, a state prosecutor from eastern Connecticut who was a Donald J. Trump delegate in 2016 and once worked in Washington as a young policy aide to former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich…” Hatfield, a Republican, is running for the Attorney General spot soon to be vacated by George Jepsen.

For any number of reasons, this was not the brightest tweet in Lawlor’s constellation of tweets. Imputing racism to all Trump delegates smacks of McCarthyism, and Hatfield is a woman who should be able to toss her hat into a political ring without being peppered by politicians operating in the #me-too era who ought to be conscious of possible offenses against women entering the political theatre.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Blumenthal, Murphy And The Nunes Memo


We survived World War Two, the deadliest conflict in world history; we survived the frequently denounced McCarthy Era; we survived the Soviet Union and the darkest days of the Cold War; we survived Watergate; we even survived the publication of the Pentagon Papers.

But will the FBI survive the Nunes memo?

Piece of cake!

Prior to the release of the memo, Chris Murphyup for re-election in 2018, warned that its release might well cripple democracy in the United States: “Attacking the FBI betrays the [law and order] traditions of the Republican Party and, of course, is a threat to democracy, if people lose faith in the highest levels of law enforcement.”

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Ask Not For Whom The Tolls Toll, They Toll For Thee

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity --  W.B. Yeats

It did not take Governor Dannel Malloy long to renege on his vow not to impose more taxes on those voters in Connecticut, poor suckers, who trusted he meant what he said when, following the imposition of two major tax increases – the largest and the second largest in state history – they twice elected him to the position he is now abandoning.

But at last Malloy has arrived at the usual progressive default position, according to a headline in a Hartford paper: “Connecticut Governor To Propose Highway Tolls.” Malloy regards the current gas tax, reduced partly by more fuel efficient engines, as “a dying funding source.” He has proposed tolls as a funding enhancement; other progressives had been flirting with a mileage tax.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Abortion And The Senator From Planned Parenthood


It is shameful and disgraceful that this measure should be before Congress” – U.S. Senator Dick Blumenthal

Even on a contentious issue such as abortion, it may be possible for people to draw proper distinctions between health care and abortion. Those who confuse the two ought to be asked to furnish four instances in which an abortion not performed to save the physical life of a mother improves the “health care” of the mother. Abortions performed after 20 weeks of a pregnancy -- the point at which, scientists tell us, the fetus feels pain -- certainly do nothing to improve the heath care of an aborted baby.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Yale University: Weighed and Found Wanting

PRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM PAUL SUTLIFF

By Paul Sutliff

In 2008 Basak Otus, a writer for Yale Daily News, the leading news source for Yale University wrote an article that started:

“English majors getting tired of Shakespeare and Wordsworth will soon be able to turn to Yale’s libraries for a poet of a different kind altogether: Osama bin Laden”.

The backlash to this article should have been taken as a prophetic warning of what was to come, akin to the hand writing on the wall of King Belshazzar of Babylon in the book of Daniel. In that story the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote on the wall an ominous warning that the prophet Daniel interpreted as meaning:

Thursday, January 25, 2018

UConn And Its Enemies, Ben Shapiro

“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges ...” -- Anatole France.

Of course, we all know that the rich do not sleep under bridges, and so the law, which in this case enforces the same rules of behavior for rich and poor, is not at all majestic, or merciful, or just. Justice, Aristotle says, treats equal things equally and unequal things unequally.

Let’s begin with an obvious observation: a university talk by Ben Shapiro and Anita Hill are in no sense equal. And we know from bitter experience that opposition to such talks are radically (pun intended) unequal. President of UConn Susan Herbst would be hard pressed to cite a case in which a political sermonette by a noted liberal was cut short by audience thugs. But in the case of conservatives invited to speak at colleges, address-interruptus, sometimes violent, always ill mannered, is as common as applause. It would appear then that conservative speakers are in no sense equal to liberal/progressive/socialist/communist speakers; their messages are different, and reception to their messages is different.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Is Lamont Passé?

Ned Lamont, who won a Democrat primary against sitting Democrat U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman in 2006, has entered the gubernatorial contest. There is little reason to believe that Lamont will be able to effect an ideological course correction within the Democrat Party.

Lamont will in part be self-financing his campaign. In a preceding election, Lamont self-funded his $12.7 million campaign, having pledged not to accept money from lobbyists. The temptation on the Democrat side to choose a candidate who is not, shall we say, poor will be almost irresistible. The Republican Party fell prey to self-financing candidates several times in the last few elections, and the results were disappointing. Lamont claims he has been “actively involved in this state” and points to his service on the board of selectman and finance board in Greenwich, a background in practical politics much less fulsome than that of Governor Dannel Malloy.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Treason Of The Intellectuals


The phrase is French -- La Trahison des clercs”, meaning roughly the treason of the intellectuals. This particular phrase, launched by Julien Benda in 1927, could only have popped out of a French head. Benda’s beef was that the intellectuals of his day were placing the virtue of action above the necessity of lucid thinking. Opinion makers, Benda feared, were allowing political commitment to strangle thought. As Roger Kimball put it in a 1992 essay in the New Criterion, "Benda claimed, politics was THE ideal of disinterestedness, the universality of truth: such guiding principles were contemptuously deployed as masks when they were not jettisoned altogether. It was in this sense that he castigated the 'desire to abase the values of knowledge before the values of action.'”

When intellectuals abandon “the universality of truth” for political reasons, they are guilty of intellectual treason. During Benda’s own day, politicians were wearing convincing but false masks of intellectualism; think of Stalin in Russia, Hitler in Germany, Mussolini in Italy, and the choir of intellectuals who surrounded them. Suitably abased, knowledge yielded to political force blind to truth.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

McDonald Is No Conservative

On Capitol Report, Roy Occhiogrosso, Governor Dannel Malloy’s chief cook and bottle washer during his first term, had this to say about State Supreme Court Associate Justice Andrew McDonald: “I worked with Andrew, as you know for a couple of years.” Before being appointed by Malloy to the Supreme Court, McDonald was the Senate co-chairman, along with House Rep. Mike Lawlor, of the Judiciary Committee. Occhiogrosso continued, “I’ve known him for a long time – very smart, very careful, very conservative in the sense that he observes the bright lines he is supposed to observe.”

It is telling that Occhiogrosso, who perhaps knows the mind of Malloy better than most, should be constrained to announce that McDonald is in some approvable fashion conservative. Some legislators, not all of them conservative, might more justly argue that McDonald has rarely seen a bright line he has not ventured to cross.