Thursday, August 30, 2007

Joe Lieberman And His Enemies

Decoding McEnroe

Any piece of writing by Colin McEnroe, the Hartford Courant’s Voltaire, has to be decoded. This is because McEnroe writes in a sort of Joycian stream of conscious mode; his columns are usually studded with arcane references and barely suppressed prejudices not unusual to his station in the world.

McEnroe is the sole host, now that his companion Bruce has departed, on his own radio talk program, the Colin McEnroe Show, a blogger, the author of an entertaining biography; and he also does house calls. McEnroe graduated from Yale, in the course of which – I am guessing here – he developed affection for coffee house banter and a disaffection for the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, not infrequently impaled in his remarks and columns.

McEnroe used to be the religious writer for the Courant at a time when it was thought chic to employ religious writers, but he is not friendly to organized religion, preferring the quasi-religious vagaries of Buddhism, and the disorganized anarchy of the Unitarian Church and the Democrat Party, about which Will Rogers once famously said, “I am not a member of an organized political party; I am a Democrat.”

To go off point for a moment, Rogers also said the best thing about our dysfunctional court system: “Is our court procedure broken down, lame, or limping? Something sure is cuckoo. It looks like after a person’s guilt in this country is established, why, then the battle as to whether he should be punished is the real test of the court. It seems if he is lucky enough to get convicted, or confesses, why he has a great chance of going free,” not a sentiment, one supposes, McEnroe would cozy up to.

It is possible to make such assumptions about McEnroe because he has over the years warmly embraced the usual liberal –- now “progressive”— program, but McEnroe is not a programmatic progressive. Rogers’ sentiment immediately places him to the right of most progressives in Connecticut, and therefore beyond the range of McEnroe’s affections. More than other writers in the state, McEnroe is driven by political affections. For instance, he seems genuinely to like Chris Healy, the new conservative Chairman of the Republican Party, though it would be difficult to name another politician in the state whose ideas are more offensive to progressives. McEnroe likes Healy, I suspect, because the state GOP chairman has about him the touch of the poet, as does McEnroe’s close friend Bill Curry. This means that McEnroe is not an undeviating ideologue -- a good thing.

The trouble with affections unrooted in hard principles is that they are likely to lead you into dark alleys and dangerous byways, as Jonathan Edwards, the poet who made Puritanism sing, reminds us in his treatise on “Religious Affections.” In place of firm principles – much too confining for poets and madmen – McEnroe has solicitous friends like Curry, who gently tap him on the shoulder whenever he seems to be rushing madly towards the abyss.

Sometimes he listens to his friends. Other times he is led by the nose by his muse, the same muse that got Aristophanes in trouble. Once, after the Greek comic dramatist had skewered yet another politician in a play, he was asked by an aggrieved victim whether he took anything seriously, to which he replied, “Of course, I take comedy seriously.” But here again there is a problem, felt most keenly by Mark Twain when he wrote in a serious mode about serious subjects. Expecting a laugh line, his audience greeted Twain’s most stinging satire with a deflating response: Is he kidding? In Twain’s case, the answer was “No.”

In McEnroe’s case, when he is in the toils of a serious subject, the answer is: Sometimes.

Lately, McEnroe has been keeping intellectual company with ruffian bloggers intent on bloodying Sen. Joe Lieberman.

Lieberman has become an object of critical asperity to the new-left for a number of reasons. Defeated in a Connecticut primary by proto-socialist Ned Lamont – a Greenwich millionaire tapped by ex-senator and governor Lowell Weicker, among others, to run against Weicker’s bete-noir -- Lieberman exploited a loophole in Connecticut’s primary regulations and handily defeated Lamont in a general election.

To say that the new-left was disappointed simply scratches the surface of a mile-high boil. Left-wing bloggers especially invested a good amount of time, energy and money pumping up the Lamont campaign. Democrats in Connecticut were split in the general election between Lieberman and Lamont, who had won the nomination of his party following a bitter primary. But Republicans turned out in force during the general campaign and backed Lieberman, then running as an “Independent Democrat.” Dashed, the anti-Liebermanites decided to seek vengeance by keeping up their pelting after the election.

When, chastising aggressive bloggers with incivility, Lanny Davis, author of “Scandal: How 'Gotcha' Politics Is Destroying America,” stepped into this mare’s nest, McEnroe answered for the anti-Lieberman mob. Davis was attempting to show that Lieberman, discounting his votes on the Iraq war, was by any measure a liberal Democrat.

“So Lanny,” McEnroe wrote on his blog, “here is something you failed to grasp: You can bring out all the liberal ratings numbers you want. Some of us just don't like Joe Lieberman as a person. He's vain, ambitious, preening, hypocritical, vindictive. He gives us the creeps. OK.”

Note the “us.”

McEnroe, apparently, has crossed a Rubicon of his own making and barred his own return to civility. It is difficult to distinguish such intense dislike from hatred, and hatred is an impassible bar to civility. As soon as I have said “I dislike you,” from that moment, I do not have to dispute with you. If you label an argument or an opponent successfully, you do not have to dispute with it -- or him.

Whether McEnroe, forced to the brink by his new friends in bloglalaland, will be rescued by his old friends is a question awaiting resolution. McEnroe seems committed to his course, but some commitments are serious, others comic.

DeLuca Committee And The Need To Know

The special Senate investigating committee inquiring into the DeLuca affair has issued a request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s office, the state police, Waterbury police and the chief state’s attorney, asking for information necessary to discharge its legislative mandate; upon completing its investigation, the committee is empowered to recommend Sen. Lou DeLuca’s expulsion from the senate.

It is not known whether any of the agencies that will be contacted by the committee will comply with its requests.

Committee co-chair Martin Looney, the Senate Majority Leader, is dubious. Such information, he said, “Is not frequently requested.” Republican co-chair of the committee Sen. Andrew Roraback and others on the committee think it is necessary to acquire the information, which would include an audio tape or a transcript of a conversation DeLuca had with an FBI posing as a confederate of James Galante, the subject of a 93 criminal count racketeering indictment.

The four page FBI affidavit supporting the charges brought
against DeLuca, to which he has pleaded guilty, states that it “does not set forth all of the facts and evidence ... gathered during the course of the investigation of this matter.”

Committee members have pointed out that, DeLuca having pleaded guilty to charges brought against him, the case against DeLuca should be considered closed.

It is an open question whether the release of the information requested by the committee will adversely affect the case the FBI and other agencies are building against Gallante and other persons under investigation that the FBI has intimated are mob connected. The information requested by the committee clearly does not exceed its commission. Should the information be denied, very likely a judge, reviewing the data requested by the committee, will decide whether the interest of the committee is compelling enough to force the agencies to disgorge the information the committee considers necessary to discharge its legal and political responsibilities.

Larry Craig Explains All

The British do this sort of thing much more capably than we do.

Undaunted, he explains more.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Castro For Hillary/Obama

According to a report from Reuters, Fidel Castro, who has outlived nine American presidents “… since his 1959 revolution turned Cuba into a thorn in Washington's side by building a communist society about 90 miles offshore from the United States,” would cast his vote for a Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama Democrat ticket in the unlikely event that the Cuban military were to launch a successful attack on Miami, destroy Cuban resistance here in the United States and impose a communist dictatorship of the proletariat on Washington DC.

Presidential candidate Chris Dodd, an authority on Latin America, reacted to the communist dictator's failure to endorse his candidacy by saying...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Why Vietnam Analogies Don’t Matter

Yesterday’s question concerning the war in Iraq – “Are we winning or losing?” – has given way to today’s question – “Is Iraq Vietnam?”

The question arose because President George Bush in a recent speech at a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention hinted that a retreat from Iraq would be attended by consequences similar to the retreat from Vietnam. "One unmistakable legacy of Vietnam,” Bush said, “is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens.”

This has prompted a “discussion” – really, more like a bar room brawl – that Bush cannot win. A quick glance at the discussion on the weekend following Bush’s analogy will show why.

The Hartford Courant and one of its lead commentators – Bill Curry, once an advisor to former President Bill Clinton, once a student anti-Vietnam war protestor – were very quickly out of the gate.

Mr. Curry has told us that in writing his columns he often consults with name Carolyn Lumsden, now the Editorial page editor of the Courant, and so we ought not to be surprised that that the substance of his column and the Sunday Courant editorial fit each other as neatly as a key fits a lock.

The lede to the Courant editorial is: “Until last week, President Bush dismissed direct comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam. White House operatives had admonished critics of the U.S. invasion of Iraq for saying there were similarities between the two wars. But Mr. Bush has changed his tune.”

And the lede to Curry’s Sunday column is: “We waited a long, bloody time for George Bush to change his mind about Iraq. This week he did, but it wasn't much of an epiphany. He merely rethought a historical point. Iraq, it turns out, is a lot like Vietnam after all.”

A laundry list of similarities between the two wars follow.

The Courant likens the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, based on what the paper calls “a faux incident,” the attack on American war ships by the Vietnamese, to the claim made by the United States that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction: “As in Vietnam, the war in Iraq is not driven by existential necessity. The faux incident in the Gulf of Tonkin should be aptly compared with claims that (1) Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and (2) was partially responsible for 9/11. Having raised the temperature of fear of Iraq's Saddam Hussein, the administration herded Congress into giving the president the right of way to Baghdad.”

The clear message of the comparison is that in both cases we were lied into wars that might easily have been avoided.

Despite these lies, the Courant argues in its editorial, the war in Vietnam raged on anyway “in the name of ‘containing’ communism.” During the Vietnam War, policy makers here in the United States “ridiculed those who said we were in the middle of a north-south civil war rooted in nationalism. In fact, the dominoes didn't fall after we left Indochina. Hanoi subsequently fought wars against China and Cambodia.”

In Vietnam we had “Vietnamization;” now “there is talk of Iraqization. Having totally dismantled Iraq's institutions, we are trying to reinvent them with as little success as in South Vietnam. Casualties and Iraqis fleeing the country have numbered in the millions since the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Yet Mr. Bush contends it would be worse if we leave.”

One may quibble with some of the Courant’s grosser exaggerations. Interviews with some of the survivors of the prisoner of war and re-education camps in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand might just convince the opinion editors at the Courant that an uncontained communism spread beyond Vietnam after the war had been lost by conniving Americans. But there is no question that the two cases are similar. Backers of the war in Iraq have made just parallels between the war in Iraq and World War II.

The war in Vietnam and Iraq are also different, but neither the Courant editorial nor Curry’s column dwell on the differences.

Curry also occupies himself with drawing analogies between Vietnam and Iraq. But Curry is more practiced in the art of journalistic demonization than his editor at the Courant, Lumsden.

This riff is typical of Curry: “We waited a long, bloody time for George Bush to change his mind about Iraq. This week he did, but it wasn't much of an epiphany. He merely rethought a historical point. Iraq, it turns out, is a lot like Vietnam after all.

“That it's not was a key prewar talking point. Someone say quagmire? We'd be to Iraq and back in a jiffy, with hearty thanks from a grateful people. Democracy would rise in the East and supertankers brimming with crude would trail us home. To the victor goes the oil.

“Doubters lived in a "pre-9/11 world," their brains addled by "Vietnam Syndrome." The key distinction, it seems, was terrain. Iraq had less foliage, more sand. And the Viet Cong had North Vietnam's big army helping them. Saddam's army would be gone in a fortnight. Bottom line: piece of cake.”

Allowing that there is a place in political commentary for hyperbole, some of Mr. Curry’s statements are comically untrue. For instance, the “key distinction” between Vietnam and Iraq is not terrain. The key distinction lies in the nature of the enemy and his objectives. According to Curry, “In a way, Bush is right about politics defeating us in Vietnam - he just doesn't know how. The political genius we lost to was Ho Chi Minh, not Tom Hayden. Ho knew battlefield victories mean less in wars of resistance, where the nature of the conflict is political. We were beaten in Vietnamese politics before American politics even cranked up.”

There is some truth to this. But however capable a war leader Ho Chi Minh may have been, he never contemplated the destruction of Israel or the spread his ideology to Spain, the outer boundary of victorious Islam from its beginning to the Reconquista in the reign of Isabella and Ferdinand. Communism – which began, if we are to believe Lenin, with Karl Marx’s ponderings in a London library – does not have the historical depth of militant Islam. But these are matters that do not loom large in the current liberal attack on those prosecuting the war on jihadists.

Mr. Curry would be very hard pressed to find a line in any speech given by Bush that addresses the larger struggle between Western civilization and the jihadists in which the president has said that the struggle would be a snap. Bush’s critics are interested in pressing their claim that what the president has called “the war against terror” has involved us in yet another Vietnam. And the stark differences between Vietnam and the current struggle against jihadists do not strengthen their case.

However, one does not expect defense lawyers to dwell on the savage behavior of their clients. Better to attack the prosecution’s rational. The Curry column and the Courant editorial may best be viewed as an attempt to prescind the truth from their analysis.

This is not Vietnam. The architects of jihad are not communists. The war we are engaged in is not a civil war; it is a transnational religious war. Osama binLandin is not Ho Chi Minh. Mideast oil is not a luxury the Western world can do without. The consequences of a withdrawal from a lost war in Iraq – however desirable such an event may be to present and former war protestors – will not be the same as the consequences that attended the withdrawal from the lost war in Vietnam.

That is the truth.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Digging The Dirt: Committee Hearings, Politics By Other Means

It’s a mouthful from “Red Five,” a commentator on Connecticut Local Politics, but well worth heeding:

“So far the committee hearings themselves have appeared bipartisan.

“But someone is feeding a steady stream of “dirt” on Downey to the panel, and the media, and it makes you wonder who that might be … and why they’re doing it.

“Anyone who actually reads the Downey transcript on (Strom) Thurmond can see he (1) condemned Thurmond’s bigoted past and (2) spoke as someone with a personal relationship to the senator, not as a fan of his politics.

“Lawlor and McDonald - and please note here that Chris Healy was as wrong about this as he could have been - said as much themselves.

“Yet the damage was done.

“Then there’s the “questions” about his comments concerning immigration status. Even the lawyer for the party in question calls the comments innocuous - an intellectual exercise.

“Yet more damage was done.

“Come today and the committee is forced to delay action due to “surprise” new issues …

“Which brings us to snide posts on CLP about “Nominiations” and even more invective on MLN.

“Are we to believe that this “surprise” evidence - which deals with a case from 2002 - was not available before 4 p.m.? Or, to suggest another TV metaphor, is this a little too Perry Mason-esque?

“It’s classic political theater. And utterly despicable.”

There was an unmistakable political message attached to the hearing presided over by conservative judicial dragon slayers ,Rep. Michael Lawlor and Sen. Andrew McDonald, co-chairs of the Judiciary Committee, who persuaded Judge Downey to withdraw as a gubernatorial choice for the appellate court.

And the message is: Progressives on the Judiciary Committee never sleep. The gateway to judicial appointments to the bench is guarded by Lawlor and McDonald who have, between them, more eyes than may be found in a peacocks’ fan.

The little wag of the tail that gave Downey away was a remark he made, way back in 2002, to a defense attorney concerning a client who, Downey supposed, may not have been a legal immigrant. Pressed by a stern looking Lawlor and McDonald, Downey allowed that he was only engaging in intellectual fisticuffs with the attorney when he said non citizens in the country illegally might not have a right to access to the courts. But then someone – certainly not a friend of the judge -- brought to the attention of Downey’s inquisitors that, way back in the Mesozoic Period, the judge had sported the same belligerent attitude towards illegal aliens who might use the judicial system to gain an advantage over real citizens.

Well now, the two co-chairs of the judiciary committee are used to spiking conservatives. Earlier in the year, they easily got rid of Judge Peter Zarella -- perhaps the most brilliant jurist on Connecticut’s Supreme Court, a Republican, certainly not a progressive – whom Governor Jodi Rell nominated to be Chief Justice. Downey was an after-dinner drink for Lawlor and McDonald. When the two progressive co-chairs handed Downey his hat, the judge first apologized profusely for exercising his First Amendment rights from the bench, and then he did a little groveling before the two worthies, no doubt hoping his sins would be forgiven him by the time his re-appointment came up.

The ever obliging and truckling Hartford Courant closed the lid on Downey’s coffin. Said the magisterial Courant in one of its pro forma editorials, Downey “tellingly” said that his views on the issue under question had evolved over the years; thus Downey had “tacitly” acknowledged that his “political philosophy” had got in the way of his judgment – unlike his interrogators, grand inquisitors Lawlor and McDonald, who apparently have no political philosophy worth mentioning.

Whoever is digging the dirt on non-progressive judicial nominees certainly went back a long way to gather a few shovels full to bury Gov. Jodi Rell’s judicial appointments, and in Zarella’s case there was no dirt at all. But the innocence of the victims has never stood in the way of determined ideologues.

“Despicable!” said Red Five.

Hear, hear…

Superceding Considerations, Delucagate

"The course of action that we take today is not easy, but it is necessary, and we do not embark upon it lightly," Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr. told the Hartford Courant.

Indeed. There is a bottom and a top to almost everything said by Williams, and this one is one of the neatest political packages on the planet.

On his blog “To Wit,” Colin McEnroe notes a superceding consideration:

“Let me offer at least one aspect of this case about which more facts are needed. It comes from the announcement, two months ago, from the U.S. Attorney's office, about a superseding indictment in the Galante case:

“The Superseding Indictment also contains an additional racketeering act that alleges that members of the enterprise and their associates bundled campaign contributions to politicians, that is orchestrated campaign donations through straw donors who were then reimbursed in cash and, on occasion, provided unlawful favors to politicians so as to establish a corrupt relationship in the hope of improperly influencing or controlling these politicians.

“Gee. If I were looking into this on behalf of the people of Connecticut, I would certainly want to know who else got that kind of money and what effect it had on their behavior. Because the feds are pretty clear that it was not just one politician. (Lieberman was another beneficiary, but he too was not the only one.)

“In this regard, DeLuca's otherwise bizarre profession of victim status -- his notion that he is unfairly being singled out -- almost makes sense.”

William’s idea is to keep the legislative hearing into DeLucagate narrowly focused. No witnesses will be called; the hearing will consider only evidence currently available in the public domain; and DeLuca will be invited to address the hearing if he so chooses.

The narrow focus no doubt will please prosecutors on the hunt for Mob remnants in New England. It was, after all, state and federal prosecutors who conspired together to bring DeLuca up on a charge that was, in effect, non-prosecutable. The statute of limitations had run out on the charge to which DeLuca pleaded guilty -- making a false statement top federal agents -- and it is in order here to ask the question: Has the substance of the legislative hearing about to take place been shaped by the same prosecutors who offered DeLuca a deal he could not resist?

If the answer to that question is “Yes,” someone other than McEnroe and yours truly should be concerned with the independence of the legislature. The hearing should be broadened to investigate other legislators and politicians in the state whose political decisions have been influenced by unsavory, mob connected “businessmen.” The state legislature, whose business it is to represent the interests of the people of Connecticut, should not allow itself to become a handmaiden to other political agencies.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

In This Corner, DeLuca

Senator Lou DeLuca has painted himself into a corner from which he cannot escape.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation had been tapping the phone lines of “trash magnate,” so one newspaper put it, James Galante, who supposedly had ties to the Mob, when they stumbled upon DeLuca.

DeLuca was having family problems.

He had contacted Galante, who signaled DeLuca that he would dispatch, with DeLuca’s approval, a couple of tough guys to intimidate Mark Collela. DeLuca was fretting that Collela had abused his grand daughter, whom Collela later married.

The FBI arranged a decoy to talk to DeLuca. The conversation between DeLuca and the FBI agent, posing as a confederate of Galante’s, has not been disclosed in full, but in the course of their tete a tete, DeLuca was offered a bribe, which he refused but did not report. DeLuca, in an expansive mood, promised he would do anything possible to help Galante. DeLuca may have been signaling Galante, through a third party he thought was a business associate of the trash magnate, that he appreciated the “visit” Galante promised to arrange with his future son-in-law.

As it turned out, there was no visit. Galante’s tough guys, frightened off by a state police detective the FBI had conspicuously posted at Collela’s house, apparently weren’t that tough.

Someone at the FBI -- little changed since the days when good old J. Edgar Hoover’s spooks tapped phones and use secret information gathered on politicians to prosecute criminals -- apparently decided that a deal made between the FBI and a crippled DeLuca might strengthen the case they had been building against what is left of the Mob in New England, presently led by a 85 year old geezer who, if he does not cop a plea, almost certainly will not survive the usual appeals in a case like his.

If DeLuca had not taken the first step, contacting tough guy Galante, he need need not have taken the second, confessing to an FBI agent that he was willing to put himself at the service of someone who was paying tribute to a reputed caporegime, or the third, refusing a bribe but then declining to report the bribe to the relevant authorities.

The road to his own private Hell, DeLuca now says, was paved with good intentions. He had an acquaintance, not directly associated with the Mob, arrange to “pay a visit” to a boyfriend who had been abusing his grand daughter. He had privately complained to police, but the police had done little, a charge vigorously disputed by the police. Certainly, what he did was wrong, and he has been punished for it. He has been deprived of his leadership position in the senate; he has suffered public humiliation; he has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, conspiracy to commit second-degree threatening, and paid a fine. Has he not made amends through his suffering?

Interestingly enough, DeLuca pleaded guilty to a charge that was a spent shell. DeLuca could not have been prosecuted on the charge because the statute of limitations had expired. With the connivance of state and federal prosecutors, DeLuca avoided being charged with a felony that might have carried a five year sentence, making a false charge to federal agents. Some have speculated that prosecutors felt they needed DeLuca’s willing testimony to secure a conviction against Galante and, somewhat down the road, 85 year-old Mob geezer, Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianniello.

DeLuca’s view of things – that he has suffered enough and his constituents should decide whether he is fit to serve in the senate – is about to be challenged by his confederates in the legislature. They will do both DeLuca and his constituents a worthwhile service if they show DeLuca the door, and at the same time create legislation providing that any servant of the people in Connecticut who is offered a bribe and does not report it should be instantly dismissed.

Such legislation will make honest men and women of potential bribe takers who hold public office. If a law of this kind had been in effect when DeLuca sat down to have a chat with the person whom he had supposed was a business associate of Galante, he might well have had second thoughts about his first step into a prosecutorial mare’s nest.


The State Children’s Health Insurance Program--so called though it is enrolling adults—is due to expire the end of September. The law was amended by the House of Representatives on August 1 and by the Senate August 2. The more stringent House bill withdraws the federal subsidy from private insurance companies offering plans to elderly Medicare beneficiaries. Originally SCHIP was to be reauthorized every ten years. The House bill has made it a permanent entitlement.

The House bill passed narrowly by 224-204, defying a veto-threat from the President, who sees SCHIP as too expensive and too much like socialized medicine.

The Senate bill was passed by 68-31. All the “no” votes were Republican. Eighteen Republicans joined two Independents to vote with the Democrats for the bill.

Both Democrat and Republican observers agree that SCHIP is on track for HillaryCare, to reach the same final outcome as HillaryCare but incrementally, one person, one group, at a time. SCHIP was designated for low-income families who did not qualify for Medicaid and could not afford private insurance. Initially, a family of four could earn as much as $40,000 and still qualify, but the threshold has been raised to $82,500.

This “Kids First” proposal is a precursor to a universal system. The amended House bill gives states a bonus for enrolling more people. The Senate bill would stop payments for adults who don’t have children.

How is it to be financed? From the federal subsidy given to the elderly. The current federal appropriation to states is not enough to enable the states to maintain their current programs.

Private insurers of the elderly living in rural areas have been receiving a federal subsidy to help elderly who, unlike urbanites, did not have private Medicare plans, to have a choice. Insurers say private insurance plans would disappear from many parts of the country if this provision were to remain in the House bill. The House bill cuts $50 billion over five years to private insurers that operate in Medicare Advantage D, a managed-care alternative to the federal health program. Federal welfare is pushing out private health insurance.

The direction in which this health-care insurance is headed is “universal,” frequently involving a single-payer, as under the Soviet Socialist system for food. Soviet central planners did not have much control over the supply so they controlled the demand, by rationing it. The same system fairly describes the universal health-care in England and Canada . The cost is high: premature death and productivity-decline. Productivity is lost when sick workers have to wait for medical attention.

The wait is long. Moira Ryan’s case is illustrative. She needed a hip replacement. She was prepared to wait 21 months to get free surgery, but when her turn came, the British bureaucracy turned her down because her body-mass index exceeded 35. She took out a bank loan and flew to Malta where she got her hip surgery for $14,000. Outsourcing for health care may become an alternative to long waits and to unaffordability, for in an American case, elderly parents, both in need of constant care, have been outsourced by their son to India.

How long do patients have to wait before they get to the general physician who assigns them to the hip-surgery queue? Canadians wait 40 weeks for orthopedic surgery, 35 weeks for plastic surgery, 27 weeks for ophthalmology, 12 weeks for internal medicine, 31 weeks for neurosurgery, 35 weeks for plastic surgery. Canadian medical orthodoxy has finally been punctured. One province is allowing private spending for private health care. Other provinces are considering it. Ignoring the unsatisfactory health-care solution in Canada and England , in the U.S. there appears to be growing support for it.

In California and Massachusetts , everybody is now required to have health insurance. Massachusetts employers who don’t provide employee health insurance must pay a modest $275 annually per employee. In California , the Governor’s $14 billion universal plan requires employers who do not provide employee insurance to pay 4% of their payroll. Universal coverage has the support of the AARP. “If we can get comprehensive reform in California ” said AARP’s chief executive, “it could be the dynamite that breaks the national log-jam.”

Republicans who see universal medicine as a form of socialism have a different approach. They want a consumer-based free market to replace the employer-based system, which is seen as faltering. They would put 300 million people in charge of their own care at zero extra cost through Health Saving Accounts (HSAs) and tort-liability reform.

Cost is a big concern. A survey finds that 82 percent of respondents are dissatisfied with the cost, which some say will be ruinous. Advocates of universal health care show no interest in reducing cost, counting on government to raise taxes to supply the funds.

A big saving would be possible with Health Savings Accounts. The President lobbied hard for it, but the opposition did not support it, arguing (erroneously but successfully) that it would privatize Social Security. Dr. David Gratzer, a member of the Manhattan Institute who has had experience in the U.S. and Canada and has published a book, The Cure, How Capitalism Can Save American Health Care, says that health savings accounts (HSAs) are the best vehicle for expanding health coverage to the widest possible group of people, while also stimulating the American economy in the most efficient way.”

Besides HSAs, answering the call presently, 400 convenience-care clinics have sprung up. They are open after hours and on weekends and when doctors’ offices are closed and hospital emergency rooms are filled to overflowing. They are often located near pharmacies. They (nurses) treat ordinary illnesses. No appointment is needed. The American Medical Association disapproves of them.

By Natalie Sirkin

Monday, August 20, 2007

PJAK To The Rescue

It’s not a household acronym yet. PJAK is, according to the Guardian of London, “the Kurdistan Free Life Party, an armed Iranian Kurdish group that is stepping up its campaign for Kurdish rights against the theocratic regime in Tehran.”

PJAK is the fastest growing armed resistance group in Iran. Right – that Iran, the home of the birth of the modern anti-Western jihadist movement.

The Guardian, no pro-Bush newspaper, reports that resistance group has “3,000 or so members under arms in the mountains” and also – a datum that certainly will bring hope and cheer to progressives here in the United States – “it also claims tens of thousands of followers in secret cells in Iranian Kurdistan. Its campaigning on women's rights has struck a chord with young Iranian Kurdish women. The group says 45% of its fighters are female. Iranian authorities regard the group as a terrorist outfit being sponsored and armed by the US to increase pressure on Iran.

“On a recent visit to PJAK camps in the Qandil mountains the Guardian saw no evidence of American weaponry. The majority of its fighters toted Soviet-era Kalashnikovs. In an interview Biryar Gabar, a member of the leadership committee, said the group had no relations with the Americans, but was "open to any group that shares our ideals of a free federal democratic and secular Iran."

So then, here is a group – in Iran – that is feminist to the core and also deeply committed to democratic forms now on display within the Democrat Party here in the land of the free and the home of Chris Dodd, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton et al.

It is a military group composed in equal part of women and men now fighting jihadist groups originating in Iran who are largely responsible for the killing of American troops in Iraq.

The question is: Do we support them?

Anyone? Chris? Obama? Hillary?... Just jump right in.

YouTube Nation: Anti Americanism At Home And Abroad

The first selection is from Osama binLadin following the successful attack on the World Trade Center towers in New York.

The second is a celebration of Anti-Americanism at home.

The third is from a report on the European media.

And the concluding video features Andrei Markovits, author of “Uncouth Nation,” who examines the roots of European anti-Americanism, tracing the most virulent strain to a general dislike on the part of European intellectuals of all things American.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Eye On The Courant

Don’t Mess With Gombossy

In Sunday’s edition, The Hartford Courant’s new Consumer Watchdog, George Gombossy, brings the president of Connecticut Light & Power, Raymond Necci, to heel – with a little help from the paper’s friends.

CL&P has been unable to shed it’s arrogance as Connecticut’s former state supported energy monopoly. It could not be brought to admit that its meters might possibly malfunction and overcharge its customers. When several consumers complained to Gombossy that their meters appeared not to be working properly, Gombossy produced a front page story on the issue, the paper enlisted the help of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, and before you could say “You’re gonna get sued,” the president of CL&P was on his knees, begging for mercy.

In yet another front page consumer column in Sunday’s edition, Gombossy pulls no punches. “CL&P and its parent company, Northeast Utilities,” he writes, “are under pressure from the state attorney general's office and the General Assembly's energy committee, which have asked state public utility regulators to investigate the utility's meter testing and customer service programs as the result of the Watchdog columns.

“I hope Necci realizes there will be uproar if he or Northeast Utilities tries to stick ratepayers with the tab for what it's going to cost CL&P to regain its credibility. That money should be coming right out of the executives' compensation and from the stockholders.”

The uproar no doubt will include some barking from the paper’s Hound of Heaven, Blumenthal. The paper and Blumenthal have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship for many years, causing some to wonder whether the paper has been lax in pointing out Blumenthal’s deficiencies – if any.

I have said before in this space that Blumenthal is little more than a consumer advocate with subpoena powers. Gombossy and the Courant, working hand in glove with Blumenthal, do not need subpoena power; they have Blumenthal. Or he has them, as he case may be.

However, should it be shown that the Courant is favoring its favorite Connecticut politician, perhaps someone could convince Gombossy to intervene on behalf of the Courant’s consumers, who rightly expect an even-handed approach to all its politicians, including those who work in concert with the paper to produce news stories.

Rove’s College Pranks

Sunday’s edition of the Courant also includes a column written by Bill Curry protesting Karl Rove’s college pranks. Mr. Curry was an advisor to the more sober and serious President Bill Clinton at a time when the president was entertaining Monica Lewinsky at the White House, though he certainly was not privy to any of the frat house scenes.

Out With The Old, In With The New Old

Robert K. Schrepf, who succeeded John Zakarian as Editorial Page Editor of The Hartford Courant, has now been replaced by Carolyn Lumsden. According to a puff in the paper, “Lumsden, 53, came to The Courant from Massachusetts, where she had worked for the Associated Press and the Holyoke Transcript-Telegram. She was an editorial writer until 1995, when she became editor of Commentary, The Courant's Sunday opinion section, and of the daily op-ed page.”

Bill Curry, one of the more elegant writers at the Courant, once an advisor to former President and putative First Husband Bill Clinton, joked on the occasion of Ms. Lumsden’s elevation, "'The first question that comes up for me is, "Who will write my column now?" Curry joked Friday. Lumsden first invited Curry to write specific op-ed pieces; later, when he began a weekly column, she became his primary editor. It fell to Carolyn to teach me how to do this, for which I'm grateful. She is smart, principled and meticulous."

But, is she conservative Bill? ..."perchance to dream. Aye, there’s the rub."

Friday, August 17, 2007

Merry XMass And a Happy Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, Chinese New Year, Pagan Winter Solstice And Atheist Non-Belief Day

Vernon, Connecticut is preparing for XMass – and other celebrations -- early this year.

According to a report in The Journal Inquirer, Vernon’s mayor Ellen Marmer and Town Administrator Christopher Clark have “crafted a document” that will allow Vernon’s annual crèche display to be disported once again on the town green.

The crèche display was yanked from the green two XMasses ago when village atheist Mr. Dennis Paul Himes, state director of the American Atheists, threatened legal action because the town had “violated the constitutional provision of separation of church and state by allowing the Christian crèche to be displayed on town property.”

Last year the crèche was re-sited to St. Bernard Church because landscaping was being done on the green. This year, according to the JI, the issue “came to a head when the Republican Town Committee passed a unanimous resolution requesting the scene representing Jesus' birth be returned to its traditional spot in Center Park for 2007.”

The document engineered by Marmer and Clark respects the principle of diversity, which looms large in the minds of town administrators who fear legal suits.

"Everybody has a limited space,” said Mayor Marmer, “and there are only a number of spaces available. We had to allow for diversity and give everyone a chance to exhibit. We just wanted to make sure we were being fair. Either you do nothing or you give everyone equal footing."

“Everyone,” the mayor hastened to explain, would of course include the “beliefs” of atheists. Since atheists do not believe in God, or religion for that matter, it seems doubtful that Mr. Himes could this soon before Christmas produce suitable non-religious symbols and representations that will be included with other religious items on what is certain to be a crowded town green.

The Marmer/Clark policy, according to the JI report, states that Vernon “’wishes to do more to respect the importance of symbolism and individualized expression’ and to recognize the existence of many religious - and nonreligious - traditions.

“As such town buildings and facilities will set aside space, of equal import, to recognize the various symbols and traditions celebrated throughout the winter.”

Some Republicans in Vernon may be wondering what displays the Wiccans and Zeus worshipers will come up with. They are a bit hot under the collar because the mayor did not consult them before she settled on her policy.

The public space allotted to the Christians is too short to accommodate the traditional crèche display, and this has upset some Republicans.

"That's irritated some people," said Republican Town Councilman Daniel E. Anderson. The Christian churches, he added, are now "going to have to revisit what they display, and potentially buy another crèche."

Republicans are not adverse to diversity said Anderson: "We see all these displays as being a cultural experience of the town, and I think that's healthy, but this is a community issue and it needs to be debated by the greater community. There was no facilitating or getting of opinions here."

"Everyone seemed very happy with the policy," Marmer said.

The JI reported, “Among other things the new policy allows for the traditional stringing of white lights in Central Park and on lampposts and major trees in various sections of town, as that is considered a celebration of the winter season without regard to a particular religion.

“Garlands and wreaths will grace Town Hall, Central Park, and other municipal buildings.

It will not be long before the Christians realize that garlands and wreaths originated in Pagan festivals. Perhaps the pagans have the edge on Vernon’s multifarious Christain/Jewish/Wiccan/Atheist Winterfest.

In Vernon, and on town greens across the United States in coming years, one will no longer see displayed representations of religious faith. Increasingly, what one sees there is a court ordered abstract argument: baby Jesus surrounded, in the heart of the Christmas season, with rednosed Rudolph’s, Santas and now – thanks to diversity – the emblems of Wiccan, paganism and, as the kids might say… whatever…

What would happen if, seeking to enforce the mayor’s yearning for diversity, the Christians should insist that the paganish wreaths and garland be decorated with crosses?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Lawlor, The Politicized Judiciary Committee, And The KKK

Jon Lender reported in the Hartford Courant that “State Appellate Court nominee John R. Downey's praise of longtime segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond as a ‘great American’ four years ago has now surfaced as an issue in his legislative confirmation.”

That “praise” stuck in the craw of state Legislative judiciary committee co-Chairman Michael Lawlor, who said, according to Lender’s report, that the comments about Thurmond, “by themselves, are unlikely to derail the Superior Court judge's nomination by Gov. M. Jodi Rell to the higher court.

"Lawlor said Downey's prospects are ‘probably OK, but he's probably going to have to answer questions about his thought process leading up to those comments,’ as well as queries about race relations in general. Downey's confirmation hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.”

Several paragraphs into the story, Lender advises that Downey was praising Thurmond’s “transformation” from one who was considered by many to be a “bigot and racist” to “one of the most responsible and helpful people in terms of race relations in South Carolina, appointing federal judges who were black and doing much for the black community. He also changed his political affiliation from Democrat to Republican. He was an example, I think ... of people who can see that the truth in life, sometimes we only see it later in life, but he was a person who seemed to transform in that regard."

One can well understand why Lawlor feels that Downey’s remarks would not damage the judge's prospects.

U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, intending to throw a bouquet at Sen. Robert Byrd’s feet, praised the former Klu Kluxer in lavish terms in the well of the senate following one of Byrd’s orotund remarks in the course of which Dodd said, “Robert C. Byrd in my view, Mr. President, would have been right at anytime. You would have been right at the founding of this country. You would have been in the leadership of crafting this Constitution. You would have been right during the great conflict of civil war in this nation (italics mine).”

Dodd’s remark was particularly damaging because shortly after the Civil War the Klu Klux Klan was gruesomely active in terrorizing African Americans, and Dodd’s compliment to a son of the Old South followed a similar display involving Trent Lott, who was reprimanded by the senate for having praised Strom Thurman.

At the time, Roy Innis of the Congress of Racial Equality said about Dodd, “He was wrong then; he's wrong now. He was a hypocrite then; he's a hypocrite now… I mean, Dodd was the one that called for the scalp of Trent Lott. How can he, in good faith, look in the mirror and do what he did?”

Dodd currently is running for president. Lender's Courant story did not mention Dodd, although the parallels are striking.

Downey’s remarks about a former bigot and racist differ from the remarks of Dodd and Lott in one crucial respect: It is clear from Downey’s remarks that he is praising the transformation of a former racist and bigot – the conversion, if it may be put this way, of a sinner into a respectable non-bigot and non-racist. Such transformations are praiseworthy, and the lesson Downey described in court ought to be proper and praiseworthy in all branches of government.

Lawlor's point in the Courant story is that Downey’s remarks, apparently harmless in themselves, have no place in a courtroom.

In the Courant story, Downey was vigorously denounced by one of Lawlor's apparatchiks, judiciary committee member, Rep. David McCluskey of West Hartford. McClusky said, according to the Courant report, "that a judge's praise in court of 'one of the poster children of segregation and racism in the United States ... strikes me as unusual.' McCluskey, like Lawlor, doubted he would vote against Downey on the basis of the comments he read in the transcript, but he said he will listen to hear whether 'people of color, who have appeared before him ... feel they have been treated fairly.'"

McClusky's last remark is particularly despicable, because it mischaracterizes Downey's remarks praising the transformation of a bigot and racist and suggests that Downey himself is infected with racism and bigotry. It is also despicable that Lender would permit himself to be used as a hatchet to carve up the reputation of an honorable judge.

It will be very difficult for the practitioners of the politics of personal destruction to similarly transform Downey's remarks into a stick to beat a popular governor with, but Lawlor and his confederates on the increasingly politically partisan Judiciary Committee obviously think it’s worth a try.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


The FDA’s philosophy seems to be that the way to protect the public from uncertainty about the safety of new drugs is to stop approving any at all. But who will protect the public from the FDA -- Henry I Miller, M.D.

These past several months, the Food and Drug Administration has been under severe attack by former officials, by unfairly treated pharmaceutical companies, and by patients in pain. Let us list a sampling.

Avastin, a breast-cancer drug, is delayed a year or more because FDA wants additional data. Moving the goalpost in the middle of the game is vexing for drug-developers, says Henry I. Miller, M.D., FDA official 1979-94.

The FDA some times requires testing long after it has approved the therapy. FDA approved doxepin for depression in 1969. Doxepin may be useful as a sleeping pill at very low dosage. FDA has ordered animal testing, a procedure always done prior to use on humans.

Vioxx, an arthritis drug for pain was withdrawn by Merck, its maker, when it was found to double the risk of heart attacks.(In the interest of full disclosure, two or three years ago, one snowy December night, a member of our household shook from every limb till Vioxx was administered. In 15 minutes, there was complete relief—a miracle!)

Arcoxia, a new arthritis painkiller from Merck, was disapproved by FDA. Its Director of the Office of Drug Evaluation ruled that “simply having another drug on the market” was not a reason “to approve the product unless there was a unique role defined.” FDA’s criteria for approval are safe and efficacious, to which the Director has added competition.

Why not let the patients choose which therapy is best for them? A drug that cannot be tolerated by one person, works wonders with another, says law professor Richard A. Epstein, author of a book on FDA. There’s no right answer. Arcoxia had already been tested on over 34,000 patients.

Genasense, a new drug, is for melanoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia, CLL, which often appear together at a patient’s terminal stage. FDA denies to terminally ill patients their last resort, investigational drugs. It doesn’t want those near death to take any avoidable risk. FDA should have to show that its duty to society supersedes an individual’s right to be free from government interference.

Genasense caused complete disappearance of the disease in 17% of the patients in contrast to 7% in the control group. FDA disqualified the only sitting CLL expert on its Advisory Committee and added several non-experts to the Committee. Following the presentation designed to elicit a negative outcome, the Committee voted No by 7 to 3.

The company found a mathematical error in FDA’s analysis and has won the first round in court.

Bureaucratic revenge awaits challengers. FDA charged that TMJ Implants failed to do the paperwork indicating adverse events. TMJ denied it and appealed and waited for the case to come up. It waited. And waited. Finally FDA said, too late. We have just fined you $63,000. Your appeal would have been rejected since it is on the same issue as the fine.

TMJ is a small, one-product company. It has been in business a long time. It makes jaw-replacement devices. A big company would settle, but this small company could not afford it. FDA’s Center for Devices has lost its last four consecutive cases.

On May 9, 2007, “the dawn of a new era in cancer immuno-therapy was driven back into the night,” wrote Mark Thornton, former FDA official, as two new promising therapies were turned down by FDA. The first therapy, Provenge, is a cellular therapy that tackles prostate cancer in men for whom all other therapies failed. The search for this type therapy has been alive for a hundred years.

The second therapy, Junovan, was tested on children with osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer affecting only 900 children a year. The presentation was to an FDA Advisory Committee of oncologists with no experts on immunology present. The results of both therapies showed that patients lived longer compared to control groups.

Provenge was approved by 13-4, but the minority four were influential oncologists who launched a PR campaign accusing the majority of incompetence. A few weeks after the Provenge vote, Junovan, by a different manufacturer, came before the Advisory Committee. It was turned down because the odds were 94% surety instead of the usual goal of 95%. The vote was No by 12-2. The meeting was chaired by the same influential oncologist who had launched the PR campaign against Provenge. Not one comment was made about immunology science’s supporting the efficacy of Junovan. Under the pressure, the FDA fell apart and declared it would not approve Provenge either, calling for more testing (three more years).

Viracept, for H.I.V., has been recalled by its maker, Roche Pharmaceuticals of Switzerland. Roche found an impurity, ethyl mesylate, which developed in the manufacturing process. The New York Times attacked Roche for discriminating against the poor, headlining its story “Roche’s Recall of AIDS Drug Hits World’s Poorest Patients.”

Richard Epstein pinpoints FDA’s basic problem:

Transfixed on the harms drugs can cause, the FDA remains largely oblivious to the harms they can prevent. Any delay in the use of a successful drug is costly: The delay matters little to the FDA, but a great deal to the thousands who plea for compassionate exemptions to try a drug that has not met with FDA approval.

By Natalie Sirkin

Monday, August 13, 2007

Right On

The Right Brothers put their enemies list to music.

Urban Pathology And Distance

The distance between Windsor Locks, just to pick a suburban Connecticut town at random, and Hartford may be measured in more than miles.

In Windsor Locks awhile back, there was a triple murder, an affair of the heart, some think. A Lothario who held dual citizenship both in the United States and Italy contracted with a third party to have a husband put out of the way because he had a fancy for the man’s wife, according to early press reports. The wife perversely refused to leave her husband for the star-crossed lover, and so the duel citizen purchased the services of a fellow of low wattage to bump off the husband.

When the bullets stopped flying at the scene of the murder, three people were dead, and the person accused of arranging the contract killing was overcome suddenly with a hankering to visit the Old Country, at which point prosecutors in Connecticut began extradition proceedings. Like most fastidious Euro countries, Italy will not surrender those accused of murder to other nations that may dispose of them through executions. Arrangements between Italy and the United States having been settled, a trial date was set, but any punishment assigned cannot not include the death penalty.

The point to notice about the Windsor Locks mayhem is that the murders were an aberration. The narrative in Windsor Locks might well interest Hollywood or crime novelists because it is unusual -- for Windsor Locks.

Shootings, fatal and otherwise, are more common in Hartford. Last year there were 24 homicides in the city, and no one in the suburbs blinked. Sociologically, Windsor Locks is as far distant from Hartford as the moon. The distance between most Connecticut suburbs -- to which many a weary urbanite has fled -- and Connecticut’s cities is more cultural and sociological than geographical.

It is being said by some commentators that suburbanites are indifferent to the mayhem in Connecticut’s cities.

And why?

Suburbanites, so the theorizing goes, are disengaged from the pathologies of city life: single parent households in which rootless young males join gangs and terrorize neighborhoods; high schools in which, as was reported in Hartford some years ago, more girls became pregnant than graduated, the handiwork apparently of older men preying upon very young girls; random shootings and non-random shootings. Because of their emotional detachment, suburbanites just don’t care about city problems, despite the many warnings of commentators that the pathologies in cities undoubtedly will affect them.

To a certain extent, the warning is true. There were 76 shooting incidents in the Capitol city in 2003 and 86 in 2007, according to the most recent Hartford police crime summary, and despite spending $2,500 per student above the state average, drop-out rates in Hartford were triple the state average.

City schools have become the repositories of the consequences brought about by urban pathologies. The remnants of innocent families caught in the crucible of urban crime carry their fears and behaviors with them as they migrate out into the suburbs. This outmigration has produced a slight spike in criminal activity in some places, and the same outmigration also has deprived cities of responsible citizens who helped to reduce crime rates in urban areas.

The tough-nut-to-crack question is: What is to be done about all this?

If the root cause of urban pathologies is to be found, as some analysts have suggested, in partial family structures – single parent households abandoned by fathers, or those in which fathers never were present – then a solution to the pathologies must include a restoration of more adequate social structures.

What is the possibility that architects of social policy, including politicians and legislators, will in the future dedicate themselves to writing laws and policies that encourage the formation of traditional family structures, remembering that such legislation must include sanctions that discourage less successful forms?

To ask the question is to answer it. There are many powerful political interests arrayed against such a restoration, and politicians are not celebrated for an excess of courage in opposing powerful and politically well connected interests. Children in the cities are the victims of such timidity, not to say cowardice; and however much money is thrown their way, they will continue to be victimized by a system of sanctions and rewards that is blissfully unconcerned with families and convinced – despite clear evidence to the contrary – that it is possible for a village to raise a child in the absence of honorable, loving and working fathers.

If I Only Had A Brain: Rove To Resign

Karl Rove is expected to resign at the end of August, according to a Wall Street Journal piece, at which point the Bush regime will deflate, for the Frankensteinian monster cannot continue without a brain.

That should be the view of most progressives, who have always insisted that Bush was towed forward by Rove, Bush’s brain. It very likely was the other way round, but then the truth was never a stumbling block to ideologues on the left.

Rove himself has a different opinion.

“In the interview, Mr. Rove said he expects Democrats to give the 2008 presidential nomination to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom he described as "a tough, tenacious, fatally flawed candidate." He also said Republicans have "a very good chance" to hold onto the White House in next year's elections.

“Mr. Rove also said he expects the president's approval rating to rise again, and that conditions in Iraq will improve as the U.S. military surge continues. He said he expects Democrats to be divided this fall in the battle over warrantless wiretapping, while the budget battle -- and a series of presidential vetoes -- should help Republicans gain an edge on spending restraint and taxes.”

On his own indispensability, Rove is cheerfully candid: "'I'm a myth. There's the Mark of Rove,' he says, with a bemused air. 'I read about some of the things I'm supposed to have done, and I have to try not to laugh.' He says the real target is Mr. Bush, whom many Democrats have never accepted as a legitimate president and 'never will.'"

However, it has always been impossible to determine in any opinion offered by Rove whether he was – poor brainless fellow – simply piping Bush’s tune or offering an independent analysis, and Paul Gigot’s commentary piece on the Rove announcement does not shed light on this question.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Gold Coast Turns Copper

A report in the Connecticut Post by Rob Varnon indicates that the population in Fairfield County – the killing fields for rapacious Democrats who want to plunder the rich, mostly in order to feather the nests of those who vote for them -- is dwindling.

Connecticut’s largest county lost population between 2005-2006. The population in the county has remained steady for the last several years only because the number of people moving out, carrying their plunderable wages with them, has been balanced by immigrants from abroad moving in.

Lisa Mercurio, the director of the Fairfield County Information Exchange, interprets the data cautiously. More than 10,000 people have out-migrated from Fairfield County in a single year; in 2000, the loss was only 1,200. The figures provided by the U.S. Census Bureau give no indication of the causes of the outflow, Mercurio said, but she pointed out that policy makers and business owners have cited the need for more affordable housing and transportation.

The most recent figures have not surprised chief economist with New Haven-based DataCorps Partners Donald Klepper-Smith.

The bloom, according to Klepper Smith, has been off the rose for some time.

“Fairfield County,” he said, “is starting to lose its luster.” Although the county had the highest per-capita income in the nation, he said, according to the Connecticut Post report, “people are starting to question what's the worth of living in communities with high taxes, high energy costs and bad traffic. There are other issues than earning a dollar.”

The rich and the wannabe rich, it would appear, have feelings too.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Moore Is Less

Kevin Leffler, who knew Michael Moore in High School, has made a documentary about the famous documentarian that very likely will not win the prestigious Palm D’Or award. He was interviewed by Brian Lamb of CNN early in August 2007.

A teaser from Leffer’s documentary, "Shooting Michael Moore," may be found here, courtesy of YouTube. And the full CNN interview may be found here.

In the interview with Lamb, Leffer describes an encounter between his daughter, then working for NBC, and Moore in which the famous documentarian – not the fierce defender of the First Amendment we all know and love from “Roger and Me,” “Farenheit 9/11” and, most recently, “Sicko” -- prevents the young lady from filming him at a public event and threatens to have her fired:

“She was - so she’s in her NBC shirt, NBC camera, and filming the Traverse City film festival, what we just saw. Mike comes up to her and puts his hand over the lens of the camera and says you can’t do anything for your dad, and she says this is for - this is for the network, I mean you’re news, and I’m not doing anything for my dad. And he says, no you can’t do this, and then he walks away, sends someone back, now this is a 22-year-old college student, and says if you do anything for your father, I’m going to make sure you get fired.”

Has anyone told Colin McEnroe about this?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Human Comedy… Continued

Sex (And Shotguns) In The City

Leave the guy alone. “Judge, I was just walking to my neighbors house to borrow some sugar for my coffee when, all of a sudden, my morning reverie was disturbed by this gang of cops who descended upon me like a swarm of locusts.”

Bad news for the Bushwackers

According to Gallup, the president’s positives are nosediving up.

How It’s Done Under The Rock

From the authoritative Howard Kurtz, Washington Post muckraker: “One month after rekindling their partnership, Moldea learned that Sen. David Vitter's number had been found in the phone records of the escort service run by the alleged D.C. Madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey. This was no coincidence, as Moldea had just agreed to write a book with Palfrey. He promptly leaked the Vitter calls to Time. And when the Louisiana Republican preempted the magazine by apologizing for having sinned, Moldea made sure Flynt got credit by leaking word of his role to ABC News.” The Flynt mentioned in Kurtz’s account is porno-King Larry Flynt.

God? What God?

Christopher Hitchens is still an atheist. Some things never change.

Connecticut’s Liberal Bloggers Continue To Celebrate Their Loss

Most gaudily at Connecticut Bob, where the political is always the personal.

The great Debate

And on the national stage, Democrats hurl imprecations and pound each other with the blatters of ancient Greek comedy.

Dodd? What Dodd?

And Sen. Chris Dodd, Connecticut’s Eastern Seaboard Great White Hope, is still stuck in the political doldrums.


And even in this poll, presidential hopeful Sen. Chris (Mr. 1%) Dodd just can’t get off the floor. Letter courtesy of MyLeftNutmeg.

Dear MoveOn member,
The votes are in, and Barack Obama is MoveOn members' top choice to lead the country out of Iraq, with John Edwards a close second (see full results below).
At the Virtual Town Hall meeting Obama said, "The hard truth is there's no military solution...It's time to end this war." Edwards declared, "Congress...must not write George Bush another blank check without a timeline for withdrawal. Period."...
...Now, here are the full results from the Virtual Town Hall vote (remember, this does not imply a MoveOn endorsement):
Sen. Barack Obama 28%
Sen. John Edwards 25%
Rep. Dennis Kucinich 17%
Gov. Bill Richardson 12%
Sen. Hillary Clinton 11%
Sen. Joe Biden 6%
Sen. Chris Dodd 1%...


Here’s a money saving calculator you won’t find at Wal-Marts.

In Praise of Famous Men

Let us now praise famous men, and their fathers that begat them - Ecclesiasticus

During our brief vacation in Florida -- where we went to see my wife’s brave sister, Sandy, recovering from a bout of cancer – we were able to reconnect with Dick D’Avanzo, an old and true friend.

Several years ago, when I was writing columns exclusively for the Journal Inquirer of Manchester, D’Avanzo had called and asked if I could come over to see a letter he had received from a young boy then in a prisoner of war camp in Thailand. The camp was full of the human detritus of the Viet Nam war. The Khmer Rouge occasionally would raid the camp, forcibly impress into service the young boys and rape the young girls.

The letters D’Avanzo had received were written by a boy whose family had made it from killing fields, across the perilous Mekong River, into one of the border camps. The letters were, in the precise sense of the term, pitiful, all of them written in English in longhand with a pen on rough paper.

The boy was just then entering his teens. He and his family, tradesmen before the area became prey to rival communist states, had been middle class entrepreneurs. The whole family spoke English speckled with a French accent, in addition to several other foreign languages. The family had been robbed, dispossessed and sent to a reeducation camp sometime after President Nixon’s “Peace with Honor” conclusion to the Viet Nam war, which featured dramatic photographs showing bodies dripping off American helicopters rescuing them from the roof of an American Embassy. Drip, drip went the bodies; it was like watching holy water splashing into Hell. The grey haired father of the family had bribed his way across the Mekong into the camp. His family was safe, poor but intact. The father and mother were old. They would die in the camp. Three daughters and a boy rounded out the family.

This was the conversation I had with D’Avanzo after I had read two of the letters:

“Look, Dick, I’ll do anything I can to help you… but…”


“But you won’t be successful. You just won’t.”

How could he know what he was up against?

It took D’Avanzo years to get the family out. In the course of his efforts, he made dozens of trips and pestered scores of bureaucrats in the camp, the American embassy and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The columns -- Chris Powell, then on the editorial page of the JI kept demanding more and helped us in other ways -- were partly responsible for involving others in the effort. When the United States refused to accept the family, D’Avanzo got them a house in Canada. He also adopted three young camp children, one of whom entered high school a year early and graduated a year early, so persistent in her studies was she.

And so it happened one July that D’Avanzo called me and asked if my wife Andrée and I could come over to Bolton Lake to celebrate the Fourth of July, as John Adams once put it, “by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other...” It is a shallow patriotism that does not like fireworks.

“The family you have saved will be there to meet you.”

This was an exaggeration on D’Avanzo’s part. I wrote a several columns on the family, now languishing in the paper’s morgue, for the Journal Inquirer. But he did all the work. The meeting went off well, and I was able to say to these people who had suffered so much, “Welcome to America,” in a setting of bunting and fireworks that lit up the starry night sky like a constellation of exploding angels.

After the fireworks, Andrée and I moved to the Gazebo, where we had hoped to sit and let the peace of the water surround us. D’Avanzo had built a gazebo about the size of a small garage that ran out onto the lake, and in its chapel-like shelter on this quiet July night sat the remnants of three other families D’Avanzo had plucked from the Hell of the prison camps.

“A great man,” said one of them of D’Avanzo in his faltering English.

Years had passed, and now we were on our way, after visiting Andree’s sister, to re-engage, to re-embrace the past.

“To meet a friend again after a long absence,” says an old Greek proverb, “is a god.”

D’Avanzo hadn’t changed at all: Still that world conquering smile, that open and honest face; still an ardent foe of adversity; still the best of what is best in Italian men – steadfast, loyal, daring and loving.

The new house he had built in Vero Beach had been assaulted by a hurricane, the walls of it rippled by fierce winds. Other houses in his area had not been spared. Workmen tearing down the houses after the first hurricane had piled the debris forty or fifty yards from his mailbox.

And then the second remorseless hurricane hit. The wind, like some multi-armed fury, picked up the debris and pitched it at his house. And so he was forced to rebuild from the ground up. The new house we visited was, as far as possible, hurricane proof. But with Mother Nature, dripping in tooth and claw, one can never be certain.

He and his wife Maria were living for the time being in a condo.

“When will the house be ready for you two?”

“If everything goes as it should” – here he shot me smile drenched in irony – “another month. But you know how it is with contractors: You stretch them out on a time line to do the work, and then if one of them for any reason begs off, the whole thing collapses.”

“Like a French soufflé.”

“Right, or a house hit by a hurricane.”

“Two hurricanes.”

“I hope you and Andrée don’t mind the condo.”

“I came here to see you. And now we are together.”

He was happy. I could see that.

He took us to the ocean. With the wind ringing in our ears, he asked me, “Do you remember (Name), one of my daughters?”

“I remember her, very bright, I recall.”

Yes, that’s her. I have a story to tell you.”

“After she had got out of the camp…”

“After you had got her out of the camp…”

He shrugged it off.

“Yes… then.”

Now in freedom, he said, she wrote to a young boy she had met there in the camp. Of course, there was no question of romance. Marriages among these people were arranged, and her’s was so arranged. But she held back. She just wanted to make contact with this boy, because they had shared a time at the camp and she wondered about him in her mind. So, letters went across the sea. They might as well have been put in bottles, because there was no assurance he would ever receive them. Time passed. She was being pressed to marry as arranged by her family and the family of another boy she now met for the first time. She liked him, but there was no spark there to ignite her interests. More time passed. She busied herself at college, and one day came home to find a message on her computer. It was from the boy in the camp. It said, “I have received all your letters. Please respond. I am here, in the United States.”

“There were dozens of messages, all frantic: please respond, please respond.”

“You are going to tell me something good now?”

“Very good. She married that boy.”

It could have happened otherwise. It is lethargy and weariness that holds us back. D’Avanzo, after all, could have done nothing except sigh at the receipt of those letters from the camp. This would have been almost enough, because the task that lay before him was nearly impossible. No, it was impossible. The Vietnam War had ended. People had begun to pick up the rag ends of their lives. And in Asia all the orphans of war -- plundered and murdered and brutalized -- had been locked away out of sight. Pot Pol, his hands red with blood, was still active in the area. The Khmer Rouge regime, removed from power in 1979, survived into the 1990s as a resistance movement in western Cambodia from its bases in Thailand. It was all out of sight and out of mind when those tortured cries from a young boy in camp, like a July firecracker, pierced the frightening stillness.

And now more cries – please respond, please respond, please respond.

And the response leads to a marriage.

It is enough to make one believe in happy endings. But none of it would have been possible without D’Avanzo – to this day grateful for the slight and almost unnoticed blessings of the day.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Dodd’s Shield Law: Protection For Or From Journalists

Like the pigs in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, journalists at the Hartford Courant want to be equal to everyone else – only more so.

That is why they need a shield law protecting them from giving evidence at trial. Ordinary folk, the other animals in the barnyard of humanity, do not need such protections.

And why not?

Well, see now, there’s this here thing called the US Constitution. And the US Constitution provides that all the animals in the human barnyard should have an equal right to a fair trial by jury. But rights depend on obligations. There can be no right to a fair trial unless testifiers are obliged to cough up what they know on demand, which is why judges are empowered to find in contempt of court those animals in the human barnyard who have information necessary to assure fairness at court but refuse, for perverse reasons, to depart with it. Traditionally, some exceptions have been allowed: Wives and husbands, for example, cannot be compelled to testify against each other, and witness cannot be compelled to furnish testimony against themselves.

But exceptions do not invalidate rules. They prove the rule; one might almost say they improve the rule.

The right to a fair trial is seriously impacted if some animals in the human barnyard are excluded from their obligations.

No obligations, no rights. That’s the way the thing works. Excuses that have not in the past played well with judges who are sworn to uphold the law are as follows: “With all due respect to you judge, it would greatly inconvenience me to give you this information;” or “My boss won’t like me if I surrender this information judge;” or “I won’t be able to do my job – which involves the free flow of information — if I’m forced to cough up this data. See, I’m a stockbroker, and my clients will flee the premises if I disgorge private information about them… etcetera, etcetera, etcetera… as Yul Brenner says in The King And I.

Or, “Sen. Chris Dodd, finding himself running for president this year, and wishing to protect himself from troublesome media criticism, has now produced a bill that would give us, the tribunes of the people, an immunity not enjoyed by other animals in the human barnyard who, like us, trade in personal information – and we love this bill, love it to death. We intend to call it in our dispatches ‘The Chris Dodd Immunity From Media Criticism Bill’ –- hereafter the CDIFMCB -- which, we hope you will agree, should fall on the other side of constitutional obligations.”

Judge: Ah, I see. You want to carve out in the law an exception for yourselves that may adversely affect someone else’s right to a fair trial, and you want to do this because…?

The CDIFMCB Conglomerate: Well, because current restrictions interfere with the flow of a free press.

Judge: But granting you such an extraordinary exception would interfere with the flow of a fair and just trial. No.

The CDIFMCB Conglomerate: But Judge…

Judge: No.

My best guess is that there is somewhere in this wonderland of the free and the brave a judge who will just keep saying “No” to importunate pigs who want to be freer than all the other animals in the human barnyard.

No, just no.

Dodd’s is a bill that offers protection to him at the expense of everyone else. Any honest, constitutionally abiding journalist would understand this and flee these artificial and unnecessary protections the way a saint flees the devils’ pitchfork.

By the way, Dodd has gotten a very good press since he promised to provide the MediaPoliticalComplex with special protections. These are the folk who generally greet political favors with high handed abuse and moral unction.

But in Dodd’s case they have learned to swallow their indignation.

Monday, August 06, 2007

O’Hanlon and Pollack: A War We Just Might Win

Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, both senior fellows at the Brookings Institution, considered by many a liberal think tank, published on July 30 a column in the New York Times that immediately caused ripples in the leftist anti-war community.

The lede was startlingly blunt: “Viewed from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.”

And the second paragraph, written by two thoughtful consistent critics of President Bush’s prosecution of the war, was a stunner: “Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.”

The significant changes on the ground reported by O’Hanlon and Pollack are not likely to affect the ground war in the U.S. Congress between hawks and doves. At home, the congressional forces that back or reprehend the surge in Iraq have dug in their heels; but then, it should surprise no one that decisions made in the Congress are deeply rooted in political considerations rather than, as ardent anti-war Democrats sometime insist, real politick.

Over the past few years, the Bush administration radically changed its policy in Iraq – largely as a result of clear headed political opposition -- and, inferentially at least, admitted the abject failure of its earlier policy, a political consideration that anti-war Democrats are powerless to exploit politically, so long as it is politically expedient for them to insist that the surge is an abject failure.

In their most recent trip to Iraq, O’Hanlon and Pollack found:

A surge in the moral of the troops: “Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.”

A more harmonious relationship between the troops, Sunni and Shiite military units and the general population in many previously war ruptured areas: “We traveled to the northern cities of Tal Afar and Mosul. This is an ethnically rich area, with large numbers of Sunni Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens. American troop levels in both cities now number only in the hundreds because the Iraqis have stepped up to the plate. Reliable police officers man the checkpoints in the cities, while Iraqi Army troops cover the countryside. A local mayor told us his greatest fear was an overly rapid American departure from Iraq. All across the country, the dependability of Iraqi security forces over the long term remains a major question mark.”

A popular animus – no doubt the result of extreme measures imposed on local populations by Al Qaeda and other Salafist groups – against military jihadists: “In war, sometimes it’s important to pick the right adversary, and in Iraq we seem to have done so. A major factor in the sudden change in American fortunes has been the outpouring of popular animus against Al Qaeda and other Salafist groups, as well as (to a lesser extent) against Moktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army. These groups have tried to impose Shariah law, brutalized average Iraqis to keep them in line, killed important local leaders and seized young women to marry off to their loyalists. The result has been that in the last six months Iraqis have begun to turn on the extremists and turn to the Americans for security and help.”

A wholesome and productive decentralization of power from the central government to the provinces: “…the Iraqi National Police, which are controlled by the Interior Ministry, remain mostly a disaster. In response, many towns and neighborhoods are standing up local police forces, which generally prove more effective, less corrupt and less sectarian.”

The gravest hurdles remain on the political front in Iraq: “Iraqi politicians of all stripes continue to dawdle and maneuver for position against one another when major steps towards reconciliation — or at least accommodation — are needed. This cannot continue indefinitely. Otherwise, once we begin to downsize, important communities may not feel committed to the status quo, and Iraqi security forces may splinter along ethnic and religious lines.”

Similar hurdles may be seen in the U.S. Congress. If they can be overcome, Iraq just might have a chance at survival.

Living and Dying by Polls

A report from McClatchy provides some interesting data on the great Democrat/Republican struggle in the U.S. Congress. It would appear from the poll numbers that voters have become, to put it mildly, disenchanted.

“Meanwhile, many voters who longed for a change last year now appear disgusted with Congress. Several recent national polls have put Congress' job rating in the mid-20s, and 51 percent of Americans held an unfavorable view of Congress in a Pew Research Center poll released this week. That's worse than the 46 percent unfavorable rating that Congress scored last fall, when Republicans were still in control.”

The whole article, which includes predictable spin from both parties, is worth a read.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Caruso, More Honest Than Joe

There is little love lost between the Democrat Party in Bridgeport and Rep. Chris Caruso , an out of the box Democrat.

When Caruso told a blogger that he would run as an independent should he lose in a primary with Bill Finch, the likely Democrat candidate for mayor, the blogger acknowledged a problem – “I guess primaries aren’t a principle of the Democratic party?” – but gave Caruso a pass on the larger question of loyalty to party: “But I do give him credit for being straightforward about his intentions. I’m completely against ignoring the results of a primary, but he’s being more honest than Joe Lieberman was.”

Lieberman came under heavy fire from bloggers on the left when, having lost a primary to leftist heartthrob Ned Lamont, the senator refused to acknowledge the primacy of primaries, ran against Lamont in the general campaign, and won.

Following the pitched battle between Lieberman and the left wing of his state party, the date for filing a petition for an independent line on the ballot was readjusted so that candidates who lost a primary but challenged party nominees in a general election would have to announce, prior to the primary, that they intended to challenge the party nominee in a general election. The misalignment initially occurred as a result of a change in the primary date.

Given the irreconcilable divorce that occurred in Connecticut between Lieberman and leftists in his party after the senator drubbed Lamont in the general election, “More Honest Than Joe” might make a clever bumper sticker for the Caruso campaign, and nevermind that Casuso’s honesty is at least in part determined by the impossibility of his waging an independent campaign without signaling, before the primary, his intentions to do so, as Lieberman did.

The Republican Party, a lifeless corpse in many of Connecticut’s large cities, is not likely to offer urban party machines much effective opposition. The opposition, if any, must come from politicians like Caruso. Since absolute parties corrupt absolutely, Caruso’s campaign ought to be cheered on by true democrats everywhere.

It will be interesting, though, to watch Democrat leftists, who regarded Lieberman as a traitor for bucking the Democrat Party convention nominee, maneuver cleverly around their “principled” opposition to Lieberman when Caruso, a candidate much more to their liking, bucks the party choice in Bridgeport and opens a somewhat traitorous campaign against his party’s choice as mayor.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Dodd/O’Reilly Smackdown

Prior to the Dodd/O’Reilly smackdown, leftist bloggers in Connecticut who simply hate Lieberman were rooting for their champion – hint, not O’Reilly.

The show, largely a shouting match between the two, did not disappoint. O’Reilly produced a vile picture showing Lieberman preparing to perform a sexual act on Bush and asked Dodd, who is a friend of Lieberman, to condemn the picture and the site, DailyKos, on which it appeared. Dodd said no and went on to make a valid point: O’Reilly, he said, disliked the site because he disagreed with its ideological posture. This distaste preceded O’Reilly’s search for an offensive image on the site. That image, Dodd suggested, was not representative; yet, on the basis of a few remarks, O’Reilly was rushing to condemn millions of people… yada, yada, yada…

O’Reilly has over the years pretty much perfected the “I am alarmed and surprised pose one sees and hears so often on his show, and so it was not surprising when he was abashed that Dodd did not fulsomely condemn the image he had produced. Eventually, Dodd was clubbed into a grudging admission that the picture – showing Lieberman on his knees groping at Bush’s fly -- was, shall we say, indelicate.

The truth is this: Many commentators on many leftist sites hate Lieberman, and the word “hate,” chosen carefully here, is not too strong a word. Evidence of that hatred is not hard to find on DailyKos and other leftist spin-off sites.

Many of the comments following diary entrees on most blogging sites tend not to be discursive; they are, for the most part, semiotic signs signaling that the commentator is part of a pack formed to hunt down an ideological foe, like the sheets that cover the faces of KluKluxers, the black shirts of fascists and the arcane signs used by secret organizations to show solidarity with the group. Like bonfires, these pusspits of hatred warm those gathered together around them.

The image that offended O’Reilly, left on the site of DailyKos for more than a year, was fashioned by one of these primitive, thoughtless, club wielding modern cavemen. And Reilly was right to condemn it. Dodd, one of the most civil gentlemen in the U.S. Congress, was wrong to withhold his contempt for those who had so contemptuously condemned his friend of many years, who is also one of the most civil gentlemen in the U.S. Congress.

But his point is well taken: Sometimes, in search of ideological friendships, we wander into primitive caves. Would it not be more prudent to avoid association with the hate-baiters?

The cynical view on all this relates to face-time: Dodd will get a certain amout of negative publicity from his appearance on the O'Reilly show; on the other hand, he will achieve solidarity with groups he is courting in his presidential campaign. The two, as in the case with most things American where publicity of any kind in a plus, balance each other out.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The DeLauro-Ryan Bill

In a commentary over at Connecticut Local Politics, a popular liberal blog site, Ghengis Conn remarks, “Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-3rd District) is trying to find middle ground on what has been the stickiest and most controversial issue in American politics for a generation: abortion. Her approach, which she is undertaking with pro-life Democrat Tim Ryan of Ohio, is to reduce the need for abortions.”

“Got a problem with that?” DeLauroites are now asking.

DeLauro is a liberal Catholic who, like virtually every other Catholic US congressperson in Connecticut, disagrees with her church and her Pope on the matter of abortion.

So, there’s a tiny red flag flapping wildly in the stormy debate.

Then too, in discussing “needs,” we should bear in mind George Will’s priceless definition of a need: To the modern sensibility, a need is “a want that is more than 24 hours old.” Some non-ideologues in the great pro-life, pro-choice debate have supposed that if a woman’s life were in danger during her pregnancy, she might need an abortion.

The plain fact is – we do not know why different women get abortions. That hard data is in the pipeline of abortion providers – or it should be – but is unavailable to us; it hasn’t been tapped.

So, none of us are arguing with hard statistics; we are all guessing, all surmising. The authors of the legislation backed by DeLauro and Ryan simply assume that if you decrease pregnancies through the wider availability of contraceptives, abortions will decline. In the parlance of pro-choice politicians, they will become “rare.” This argument is akin to the argument that if you rid a grocery store of all apples, there will be fewer bad apples. The most certain way of making abortion rare is to limit it.

This is not to say that the argument advance by pro-choicers has no merit.

We simply do not know that it’s true.

It cannot be said that contraceptives are less available now than they were, say, twenty years ago. The social sanctions that made the use of contraceptives less frequent certainly have disappeared over that period of time. Women are comfortable using contraceptives. But we should be lucid in matters involving life and death. Contraceptives prevent pregnancies; abortions prevent births by destroying the issue in the womb. If a politician says to me, “My legislation will reduce abortions,” I want to be sure the proposed legislation will do that. I do not want to be sold a bill of goods that will make contraceptives more available on the pretext that that such legislation will reduce abortion: You reduce births by limiting births; you reduce abortions by limiting abortions.

The assumption embedded in the DeLauro-Ryan legislation seems reasonable: Provide women with the tools they need to prevent pregnancy and you will limited the possibility of abortion.

We do not know that this assumption is true.

We do know abortion is a procedure that occurs when a woman is pregnant. We do know that the incidents of abortion are reduced by reducing abortions.

We should be a little cautious of soft statistics, statistical data embedded with ideological assumptions, “scientific” Trojan horses. A few years ago, a couple of scientists produced a study that found a correlation between abortion and crime among the lower orders. The study concluded that as abortion increased among the poor, crime decreased. That study has been overturned because the “scientists” who conducted it never ran the figures. When two other scientists ran the figures, they found an alarmingly dramatic increase in crime as abortion became more widely available to poor people. This is what happened: The availability of abortion (as a last resort) made the set under study less inclined to use contraceptives – which increased single family households, which increased criminal activity; single family households in areas where drugs are rampant are easier targets for ever younger criminals.

If you are ideologically minded, you can make statistics sing your song. Now, DeLauro’s husband is a noted pollster. My own guess – and this is merely an intuition; somewhat like the educated guess of those who reason that abortion will decline in response to better propaganda in schools and the wider availability of contraceptives – is that DeLauro has seen polling that reflects an altered street dialogue. People have become impatient with the usual justifications.

Many people are reluctant to conclude that abortion will subside if contraceptives are provided to school kids with their breakfast cereal because they know that contraceptives have for some time been widely available. It is true that births in what has been called the developed countries – England, Italy, France, etc. – have declined to a point where the birth rate is no longer replacing the indigenous population, and this is worrisome to some people, including the Pope. Under such circumstances, a decline in the numbers of abortions may be affected by declining birth rates.

Rigorous thinkers here in Connecticut may be a little disturbed to find that a distinction so important to the pro-choice side when it was a question of forcing Catholic hospitals to provide Plan-B to rape victims has now sadly fallen by the wayside. During that roiling controversy – won by pro Plan-B enthusiasts – it was maintained that Plan-B was not an abortifacient, as some bishops had claimed, but a contraceptive. The distinction was an important one in persuading Connecticut legislators to craft a bill forcing Catholic hospitals, under their strenuous protests, to provide Plan-B to rape victims. But the distinction that liberal Catholic legislators in Connecticut found so easy to grasp then now eludes the very same crowd when it is proposed that the way to reduce abortion is to reduce abortion.

It is not necessarily cynical to note that Ryan and DeLauro, in addition to their good works, are also working to get re-elected. The dialogue on the street about abortion has changed, largely because the speakers, especially in large cities, have changed. A bill providing that abortion providers should gather and provide hard data to researchers that might help legislators to craft bills reducing the incidents of abortion would be more helpful than the scatter-gun legislation proposed by DeLauro and Ryan.

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