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Showing posts from September, 2005

Cindy or Bring in the Clowns

When media folk want to validate their prejudices, they commission a poll to verify them, a junk in, junk out phenomena.

It is a foolhardy fallacy to think that people believe everything they read. The opposite may be true: We are dealing with a readership that has “come of age” and tends to be hypercritical. But you cannot form a sound opinion around an empty space: People cannot mentally grope data that has never registered in their minds. The media’s sins of commission pale in respect of their sins of omission. And, of course, if it’s not there, a poll cannot measure it.

Here is a harmless example: In September, a political commentator wrote a column asserting that Cindy Sheehan’s protest against the war in Iraq was rendered ineffective because people were too easily distracted. The column was titled, “Weather Distracts Nation From Iraq War.”

“As a nation,” the commentator wrote, “we seem to be unable to pay attention to more than one thing at a time. Iraq, Iraq - whoa! Look at those …

Bi-Partisan Campaign Reform Group Lays an Egg

The bipartisan legislative working group formed two months ago to resolve differences between Democrats and Republicans in the matter of campaign finance reform is a signal failure. In order to understand the failure, it helps to remember that “bipartisan” working groups are not non-partisan working groups.

According to one news report, the working group concluded its business by agreeing on a “broad framework” for a voluntary system of public financing; the group also agreed to apply campaign restrictions to lobbyists, state contractors and political action committees.

Un-huh.

The “broad framework” recalls the infamous “framework for peace” Viet Cong and U.S. negotiators struggled to bring about during the Vietnam War. The groups that sat down together to resolve matters of war and peace ended up spending months deciding what shape the negotiating table should be. The perpetual meeting provided an illusion of conciliation, but peace escaped the negotiators, and eventually the war was de…

Ernest Newton's Plea Bargain

Sen. Ernest Newton, the fourth ranking Democrat in the state legislature, pleaded guilty in a Bridgeport court on a charge he received a bribe. Prosecutors also charged that Newton used campaign contributions as a “private piggy bank.”

The plea bargain surprised no one who had been following the story.

Very early on, newspapers reported that prosecutors had in their hot little hands reams of recorded conversations allegedly showing that Newton had solicited and then accepted a bribe from Warren Godbolt, the director of Progressive Training Associates, in return for which the senator secured a grant for Godbolt’s non-profit agency.

Connecticut is wearily familiar with such prosecutions, and charges of this kind are not lightly made. That an incumbent politician, safe in his political sinecure, would be sorely tempted to use campaign funds for private purposes should surprise no one who believes in the frailty of human nature. Now that ethicists have made a concerted effort to clean up pol…

The Twilight Zoning Board in Chester

In a government of laws not of men, citizens ought to be able to appreciate the difference between the following two propositions: 1) whatever is not proscribed is permitted; and 2) only actions prescribed by law are permitted.

The first proposition means that the governing authority cannot prohibit the actions of a person living in a free state unless those actions violate a law. The second proposition means that every action unaddressed by the laws is illegal and actionable.

A zoning officer in Chester, Connecticut, a town that apparently has managed to escape 2,000 years of Western law, has told a widow that she must disinter the eight month old remains of her husband, buried on private property they own, because private burials are not addressed in zoning regulations and therefore are not allowed.

The burial, overseen by a funeral director, was in accord with common practices. The violation of the non-existent zoning regulations was discovered after the widow had donated a large p…

The Strange Case of Ernest Newton; Or What Would Plunkitt Have Done?

A political tipping point in the case against state Sen. Ernest Newton came when Warren Godbolt admitted under oath that he had given a bribe to an as yet unnamed senator -- who almost certainly was Newton.

A similar tipping point occurred in the case of former Gov. John Rowland when the governor admitted that he had intentionally misled the media in statements relating to his acceptance of gifts from state contractors.

After that admission, the political universe under Rowland’s feet was pitched at an angle that could only take him downwards. Following a grand jury empanelled to take evidence of criminal wrongdoing from the governor’s close associates, a relentless media barrage, the convening of a committee of impeachment, calls from leading Democrats and some few Republican that Rowland should resign -- and other such horrors – the governor slid down the angle and was deposited, following a plea bargain, into an out of state prison.

There is an evolution of opinion and positions in…

The M.O.B. Meeting On Blumenthal's Suit

EXPURGATED MINUTES OF THE M.O.B. MEETING

The meeting commenced on Sept 11, 2005. Present were the parties, whose names are here omitted, involved in a settlement, a polite expression for plea bargain, with Connecticut’s Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. The meeting was addressed by one of the lawyers, name omitted, who arranged the $30 million settlement deal. Noticing that the audience appeared downcast, the attorney sought to introduce a little levity into the proceedings.

“Welcome to the M.O.B.,” he began, causing a few eyebrows to arch upwards. The acronym, he explained, stood for Meeting of Brokers, “Not, you know, that other thing.”

Eventually, the attendees – some brokers and representatives of the three major Connecticut insurance companies involved in the settlement, names omitted, warmed to the speaker, but it was a stiff climb upwards.

“Why all the frowns?” the speaker asked. “Ah, I think I know. As everyone here is aware, a brokerage house,” name omitted, “had arranged to s…