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Showing posts from February, 2007

The Unplanned Admirable Life of James Buckley

By Gerald and Natalie Sirkin


Gerald and Natalie Sirkin have appeared in this space several times.



It is time we review a book that offers hope for a civil and intelligent future for the United States. Such a book is not easy to find, but we have one: James L. Buckley’s Gleanings from an Unplanned Life, an Annotated Oral History ( Wilmington , Del.: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2006, pp. 308, $25). A country that can produce a man like James L. Buckley and see him rise to an important position in public life must have some chance of recovering from its present social squalor.

As a member of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Judge Buckley was interviewed for the program of the Historical Society of D. C. to record oral histories of the judges. His book is the transcript of the interviews with his notes to clarify and amplify.

Judge Buckley called his life “unplanned.” Actually he had plans. The point is that nothing went according to plan, beginning with birth…

Ted Kennedy Jr. Lends His Support To COW

Ted Kennedy Jr., the son of the senator from Massachusetts, has lent his support to COW.

COW is, of course, the anti-war group Connecticut Opposes the War, a national group opposed to the present war in Iraq. The last letter in the acronym changes according to the state in which the group operates. The Massachussets chapter would be MOW; Wisconsin would be WOW.

Connecticut’s list of endorsers, here supplied by the Connecticut Citizens Action Group, suggest that some members of COW may be opposed to war in any case, while others may be oppose to the Iraq war in particular.

Endorsers of COW, according to CCAG, include: “Sisters Of Notre Dame De Namur; Sisters of Mercy Leadership Team; Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery; CT State Legislators Chris Donovan, Andy Fleischmann, Toni Harp, Jonathan Harris, Jack Hennessy; Evelyn Mantilla, David McCluskey, Denise Merrill, Tim O’Brien, Melissa Olson, Elizabeth Ritter; Brendan Sharkey, Toni Walker; AFL-CIO CT; AFT CT; AFSCME Council 4; AFSC CT; CCAG;…

Dodd Goes Fishing; Catches Bundles

What a difference a day makes. The day after Democrats took over the US Senate, the prospects of U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd improved considerably.

In the six weeks after Connecticut’s US senator and presidential hopeful assumed chairmanship of the powerful banking committee, Dodd “collected more than $1 million in contributions from individuals and political-action committees associated with the banks, securities firms, insurance companies, and housing developers overseen by the panel,” the Journal Inquirer reported.

More than a third of the money was shipped to Dodd in “bundles.”

They included:
* $98,800 from 70 executives and employees at Citigroup.
* $71,400 from 34 at American International Group.
* $57,450 from 34 at Merrill Lynch.
* $50,000 from 27 at Credit Suisse.
* $38,100 from 36 at Morgan Stanley.
* $27,500 from 39 at KPMG.
* $34,650 from 28 at Bear Stearns.
* $24,200 from 14 at J.P. Morgan
.”

According to the report, Dodd, “a leading proponent of deregulation in the securities in…

The Conference of Connecticut’s Crapulous Big Spenders

Gov. Jodi Rell already having publicly announced her defection to the Big Spenders, two radio talk show hosts who represent the last vestige of Connecticut’s disappearing “firewall” -- which is supposed to check improvident spending -- derisively refer to Connecticut’s Conference of Municipalities as “the conference of crying mayors,” an understated description.

Of course, there are firewalls that really do prevent tax pirates from running off with the gold in taxpayer’s teeth -- municipal referendums. The CCM hates referendums for much the same reason the prodigal son hated the homespun advice of his father, and the organization wants these firewall dismantled.

Municipal referendums across the state represent the voice of the people on budget matters, and the message arising from referendums has been constant and unequivocal: Town officials have been asking for increases of 10 to 14 percent; budget increases of more than 3 or 4 percent are insupportable. That is what those who pay taxe…

Taking Care Of Business

The item in the Courant about Rep John Larson, a new powerhouse in the US Senate, is mercifully short, only a little more than 200 words. The Courant buried it in the fat of its folds on page 100043B. Now if only Rowland got that kind of inattention – the name of the “business” is not even mentioned – he still might be governor.

It remains for a reporter more curious than Mark Peters and a newspaper more agressive towards Democrats than the Courant -- which, during the late election, endorsed all the US Democrat congressional candidates -- to find out who is the Peter Ellef of the group. And how much do these guys make anyway?

According to the Courant story, “A federally funded technology center in East Hartford that has been championed by U.S. Rep. John B. Larson has appointed the congressman's chief of staff," Elliot Ginsberg, as its first chief executive officer.

The three year old center, which employs 35 people and "relies primarily on federal and state funding" i…

All Things Considered: Polls, Primaries and Dodd’s Prospects

The coup de grace in political campaigns ought not to be delivered by pollsters months and even years before the votes have been counted. But here it is anyway: Doug Swartz, the tea leaves reader at Quinnipiac College, commented on Sen. Chris Dodd’s meager presidential prospects, “If Dodd can't even come close to winning a Democratic primary in his home state, that's obviously a bad sign for his presidential campaign.”

One is tempted to reply with a variant of Laura Ingraham’s repeated refrain: Shut up and poll.

Dodd’s problem is long standing. In his own time, Abe Lincoln heatedly objected to the elimination of viable candidates through early and possibly misleading “canvasses” or party nominations. In our day, primaries have made the problem worse. The quibbling over who should be on the ballot in general elections used to end after political conventions, when delegates had selected their tickets. Primaries extend the early jockeying for position, deplete party resources neede…

I’m Sorry. No, Really, I Am

We live in the age of apologies, but here’s a corker:

In South Carolina, African American state senator Robert Ford quickly threw his support to Senator Hillary Clinton, wife of the “first black American president,” Bill Clinton.

The press thought this curious, since Barack Obama, also running for president, is a black American and, if elected to office, would be the second black American president, Hillary's husband being the first. So a reporter asked him about it.

Ford said that if Obama got the nomination, “Every Democrat running on that ticket next year would lose because he's black and he's top of the ticket. We'd lose the House and the Senate and the governors and everything."

In South Carolina, this sort of thing is important.

Naturally, Ford got grief. And after a few days of heavy pelting, he issued the following apology: “If I caused anybody, including myself, any pain about the comments I made earlier, then I want to apologize to myself and to Senator Obama…

Rell To Republican Party: Drop Dead

Richard Armey, co-chairman of FreedomWorks in Washington (DC) and a former Republican U.S. House Majority Leader, has stuck his toe into Connecticut politics. So far, his reception has been chilly.

Armey issued a mass e-mailing and press release critical of Gov. Jodi Rell, the titular head of the state’s Republican Party, that took aim at her promised income tax hike.

"With a current budget surplus,” Armey wrote, “the idea of a new multi-billion-dollar tax hike is even more outrageous. If enacted, this tax hike will drive businesses and residents out of the state to seek more tax-friendly havens. As a result, Connecticut's economy will be left in ruins, and Gov. Rell's bloated education budget will do little for the residents of Connecticut."

These are strange times in Connecticut politics. During her rather uneventful gubernatorial campaign, Rell emerge from the ordeal as a tax and spend Republican; who’da thunk it? Recent polls indicate that most voters and taxpayers …

When Pigs Fly

Despite chief gubernatorial aide Lisa Moody’s attempt to put some rouge and lipstick on the thing, a pig is a pig is a pig.

When Gov. Jodi Rell last week astonished everyone, including wary Democrats and shell shocked Republicans, by agreeing to raise the income tax to purchase the affections of Connecticut powerful education lobby, she threw a Gibraltar into a small pond, and the ripples continue to splash on the shore.

Governor Rowland’s former chief of staff Dean Pagani said Rell dropped a bomb on the Capitol and then waltzed off stage.

Moody said no, the governor intends to “work the issue.” Tom D’Amore, last seen advising Ned Lamont’s failed campaign, said, “It's pretty substantial what she is doing. It's going to take time to educate folks. I don't think there is any real ... necessity to be jumping on it overnight. You can let it sink in and seek what you are getting in feedback from folks.”

Here’s some feedback: Connecticut Republicans are not anxious to toss on the as…

On Sense And Satire

Everyone knows John Petroski by now: He was the hapless editor of a student newspaper at Central State College in New Britain who, attempting to write a satire about an “R” subject – Rape – got an “F” in satire and was roundly pilloried in the press, within the Central Connecticut State College community and, for all we know, at his family’s breakfast table. Everyone hates rape except rapists, and pretty much everyone is agreed that the subject ought to be treated gingerly.

Following the onslaught, Colin McEnroe, no amateur in the art of satire, attempted to make a few general points about satire and mercy on his blog site. The guy's a student, not Rush Limbaugh, and presumably students, as well as the rest of us, should be permitted to learn from their mistakes.

He wrote: “I don’t know this guy Petroski, and I certainly don't condone the stupid article he wrote, but let me say this: Enough. He actually stood there and took questions from the most angry audience imaginable, w…

Connecticut Conservative Congress Meeting

Even Kevin Rennie, widely regarded as a moderate Republican, took a hatchet to Gov. Rell following her budget address.

“But Rell now worships in the Capitol village,” Rennie wrote from his berth at the Hartford Courant, “She's gone native. The harder fight would have been to enforce discipline on the state behemoth. That would have required some hard slogging and backbone, and that's no longer Rell's way."

Both Rell and Rennie were Republicans together at the Capitol when former Governor Lowell Weicker jammed the income tax through a legislature that resisted the imposition -- to a point. Conservative talk show host Brad Davis recalls both Rell and Rennie ringing him up on the phone during those tumultuous days and telling him they thought they had the votes necessary to axe the tax. The Republicans hadn't counted on the defectors.

“‘Trust me,’ the governor said on Wednesday. But why would anyone be so foolish as to do that? She insulted the public by calling her h…

Plaudits For Jodi: Something Borrowed, Something Blue

Jodi’s New Friends

Gov. Jodi Rell’s budget address – the one in which she surrenders all the silver in the Republican Party cabinet to Democrats – was received differently in different parts of the political barracks.

Asked about the Governor Rell’s budget address by host Colin McEnroe on his radio talk show, Hartford Courant columnist and failed gubernatorial candidate Bill Curry said, “I thought it was great. I thought it was the best speech I ever heard her give. I think that it’s the second time that she’s taken a great Democratic trophy and put it on herself. This is a woman with a collector’s eye for Democratic issues. The first one was campaign finance reform, now property taxes… My reaction to her calling for this much change in the worst public policy we have – kudos… What she said today went far beyond my expectations.”

President Pro Tem of the Senate Don Williams was astonished. “It kind of blew our minds, when we heard the rumor at the end of the day yesterday. It’s not what …

Unpacking the Progressive Verbiage

It is apparent, even after even a cursory study of Jodi Rell’s budget message, that Mayor of New Haven John DeStefano, slain as a gubernatorial candidate, lives on as a ghost inhabiting the body of the current governor. Rell's comments on previous budgets mark the change. At the same time, it is also apparent that Rell’s proposal to boost education spending through an increase in the income tax, rather than a tax on half-millionaires, has exposed Democrat pretensions.

Sounding very much like a conservative the day after Gov. Jodi Rell’s Budget address, Democrat Speaker of House Jim Amann, touched by the performance, said of the increasingly progressive governor, “First of all, she's all wet. We raised too many taxes already or else we wouldn't have a surplus. Somebody's being overtaxed, and I think the governor should understand that. I don't need to be lectured by someone who was part of the Rowland-Rell administration. Give me a break! She's also taxing the sa…

Rell Unleashed, The 2007 Budget

We’ve been here – multiple times. Gov. Jodi Rell’s budget plan increases to 50% the funds given to municipalities by the state, largely for education. It is, in a word, warmed over DeStefano, the Democrat candidate who ran against Rell for governor. Rell prevailed in that contest because most voters thought she would be a less high maintenance governor than her Democrat counterpart.

It is doubtful whether there is one legislator at the capitol, with the possible exception of Edith Prague, who sincerely believes there is a direct correlation between money spent on education, most of which is consumed in salaries, and the quality of education.

If there were such a correlation, urban students in Hartford would be outpacing students in the suburbs, and the performance of students from the Amistad Academy, an “Achievement First” college preparatory school in New Haven, would not exceed that of public schools that draw from the same pool of students. By every measure of academic excellence, …

Where Are They Now?

Alan Schlesinger, the Republican nominee for governor in the last election, has a home in Florida. And from this redoubt he plans to challenge new U.S. Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, according to recent news reports (read: “rumors”).

Ned Lamont, the heartbeat of the progressive movement in Connecticut – John DeStefano appears to be temporarily satisfied with his current position as mayor of New Haven – is planning an assault on Chris Shays’ seat in the US House of Representatives, according to recent news reports (read: “rumors”). This one seems plausible because bored millionaires are much in the habit of spending chunks of their fortune on easily purchased prestige acquired through political means.

Dianne Farrell, Shays' challenger mentioned in a recent interview that she once had taught Angelina Jolie, who is not married to Brad Pitt. Farrell revealed in the interview that Jolie's puffy lips were the real deal; no artificial insemination there. Farrell simply did not posses th…

LOBGate We Hardly Knew’Ya

After LOBgaters Rick Lopes and Stephen Palmer had been disciplined, the usually verbose Senate Democratic spokesman, Patrick Scully issued a brief statement: "Although the actions of the employees were not criminal, it should be clear that Senate Democrats take this situation very seriously and consider the behavior of the individuals unprofessional and unacceptable. Such conduct will not be tolerated. Appropriate disciplinary action has been taken in this case."

The two aides, both attached to the government administration and elections committee, the legislative committee that earlier investigated improprieties committed by Gov. Jodi Rell’s chief aide Lisa Moody, were caught on tape rifling through the desk of Republican aide Juliannna Simone, who was interviewed after the event by channel 8 reporter Mark Davis.

House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., who in an early report had briefly mentioned Watergate in connection with the high jinks of the two fun loving Democr…

The Ken Krayeske Show

A good part of Ken Krayeske’s adult life has been one of provocation. There is nothing unseemly in this; the same is true of some journalists and other adult provocateurs – artists, for example. Andres Serrano who, several years back, dipped a crucifix in a vial of his own urine, dubbing the final product “art,” was robustly provocative. Serrano, implausibly, was surprised at all the fuss he had caused. Sometimes, when you provoke, the provocation is successful. There is nothing alarming in all this; it’s simply the way the world works. You set out to insult Catholics; your provocation is successful; Catholics are insulted. So then Serrano, non-artists and people with ordinary sensibility said, you are surprised? Come off it.

On Sunday, in front of the courthouse in Hartford, the Ken Krayeske show was in full flower. A picture in the Hartford Courant – there have been dozens in Connecticut newspapers since Krayeske was detained by the Hartford police, shuttled off to a holding pen and …