Monday, December 31, 2007

08 Predictions: Happy New Year

It’s always a hazard to make predictions, because future events depend upon current events that change rapidly. The best sort of prediction is a vow: “I pledge in the New Year to be kinder to my friends and more hostile to my enemies.”

This sort of prediction depends solely on will power and determination, which always lie in the hand of the vow taker. Predictions about historic events are always iffy. History, as a rule, snatches the better angels of our nature from us and consigns them to Hell. The careful reader will note that I have capitalized “Hell.” This, with apologies to honorable atheists among us, is because it is a place name for a real place, as yet undiscoverable by the spiritually vacuous tools of modern science.

The following are safe predictions because, with the exception of #7, they are limited to what will not happen in the coming year.

1) Bloggers -- who are nasty, brutish and short (with just about everybody) – will continue on their private path to Hell (note the capitalization): The Jew baiters will continue to bait the honorable Joe Lieberman, and he will continue to respond in kind; Chris Dodd will continue to call for an “immediate” (as soon as practicable) withdrawal of American troops from Iraq at precisely that moment in history when the presence of surging troops have thwarted the bloodier of the jihadists – talk about nasty, brutal and short! – who have designs on Saudi Arabia, thoroughly corrupted by a rapid accumulation of wealth, Iran, Iraq, and other places in the Middle East where oil sprouts from the ground (not that we care about oil); Hillary Clinton will continue to press for a repeat of the Camelot days of the first Bill Clinton ascendancy, when bombing ibuprofen factories in Iraq was considered a sufficient response to dictators that successfully defied the sacred mandates of the United Nations.

2) Neither Chris Dodd nor Ron Paul will become president.

3) Neither Bill Curry -- a two time gubernatorial loser, confidant of the aforementioned Bill Clinton and a columnist for the Hartford Courant, now owned by real estate magnate Sam Zell – nor Colin McEnroe, a dark souled humorist who unadvisedly wanders into the deep waters of political discussions and promptly drowns, will give up Buddhism in favor of Christian fundamentalism. There seems to be some discussion concerning who “owns” the Courant, real estate magnate Sam Zell, who bought the property from Times Mirror, or the employees of the Courant. The person who may dispose of the property is the proper owner: That would be real estate magnate Sam Zell.

4) Lou DeLuca will in the future not be talking to FBI sting operators disguised as Mafi hitmen, unless in the presence of his lawyer.

5) The Harford Courant, now owned by real estate magnate Sam Zell, will not be hiring a bona fide conservative columnist to balance the uber-liberal commentariate that presently disports on its pages – even though, thanks to Party Chairman Chris Healy and other right of center Republicans, there is in medialand an untapped well of readers hungry for conservative opinion in Connecticut’s liberal backwater. Evidentially, the Courant’s current owner, real estate magnate Sam Zell, does not wish to capitalize on this untapped money supply.

6) The Democrat controlled US Congress will not end the war in Iraq by de-financing it.

7) At some point down the line, Connecticut’s Republican Party will offer unyielding resistance to the state’s ever burgeoning budget by offering a program of tax cuts (not rebates -- real tax cuts) and spending cuts. The party will organize behind a proposal to eliminate the state’s income tax and replace it with a either a flat income tax or a sales tax -- not both -- that will both relieve current businesses of onerous taxes and encourage new business growth in the state, resulting in increased revenues that will not be spent augmenting teacher’s salaries. The excess revenue will be used to support traditional family structures in urban areas blighted by single family households, absent fathers and drug dealing among armed preteens.

The reader should be warned that #7 is subject to the vagaries of historical circumstances, very iffy, and therefore less certain that #’s 1-6.

But hope springs eternal.


Q. What’s the best strategy for closing the gap [between black and white students] and what in your view are the prospects for success?

A. Abigail Thernstrom: If I had my druthers, I would turn every urban school into a charter school and with the bucks stopping on the principal’s desk.

A. Stephen Thernstrom: I wouldn’t want to restrict the choice made available to students to charter schools. I see no reason why we cannot make it through some kind of voucher plan.

San Diego San Diego Union Tribune, November 13, 2005

Vouchers, besides charter schools and private schools, are covered in Herbert J. Walberg’s new book, SCHOOL CHOICE, THE FINDINGS. It contains solid empirical evidence on all schools including private schools, secular and parochial. Walberg, an expert on effective educational practices and research methods, has fitted the findings into a tiny paperback which will fit into a pocket or pocketbook. The findings are from all the valid empirical studies. CATO published this jewel in 2007, but without the index or footnotes that are in the big edition. They are available from CATO.

Only six public high schools were on the list of 40 high school alma maters of students who are in the eight foremost colleges in 2007 (Wall Street Journal, November 30, page W6).

Public schools

Traditional public schools perform less effectively and efficiently than either charter or private schools. U.S. students are among the poorest performers and at the highest per-pupil cost of students of 39 countries. Productivity (achievement per dollar spent) over the 30-year period 1970 to 2000 declined to 73 percent from 55 percent.

Charter schools

The largest study of charter schools, which included nearly every charter school in the country together with its nearest traditional-school neighbor, showed charter schools outperforming comparison schools. Poor and Hispanic students achieve well. Outcomes improve as charter schools are given more autonomy, funding, and time to work out their opening operating problems. Charter schools have a beneficial effect on their own students and on students in nearby traditional schools. Overregulated and underfunded, they spend a fifth less than traditional schools.


Eleven studies found positive effects on academic achievement of those attending voucher schools but sometimes showed little effect on white students. Studies of voucher programs in Washington , D.C. , Cleveland , and Milwaukee show reduced social tension compared to traditional schools. Research indicates that voucher programs yield results at least as good as those of traditional public schools, and particularly good for black students. Vouchers benefit both private and public schools. The first federal voucher program signed by President Bush in 2004 gives 1900 low-income students choice of private schools.

Voucher programs in the U.S. are too small to provide evidence that supporters believe exists, but evidence is available from Sweden since 1993, the Netherlands since 1917, Chile since 1982, the Czech Republic since the fall of Communism, and Colombia since 1991. Improvements are seen in student achievement, parent satisfaction, and increased numbers of independent schools.

On the effects of private schools, Walberg reviews the findings with respect to academic achievement, efficiency, racial integration, parental satisfaction, and civic engagement by students. Private schools achieve better than public and at lower cost. The findings show private schools are more likely than public schools to foster cross-racial friendships, social integration, civil participation, and tolerance.

The larger the state share of school costs, the smaller the accomplishment. Unfortunately, states have been providing an increasingly larger share. Where states provide only a small fraction, accomplishments are greater, because each school has to compete with other schools. This was the result of Harvard economist Caroline Hoxby’s study of New Hampshire , where the state pays only seven percent of K-12 funds, and six other states including Connecticut . Smaller districts show higher achievement than larger districts. Walberg finds that citizens in smaller districts involve themselves more in school affairs than in larger districts.

Customer satisfaction—parents, children, the public—matters. High level of parental discontent is one of the reasons that over one million students are home-schooled.

Dissatisfaction with public schools suggests basic differences of the public and professors at schools of education. A 1997 Public Agenda survey of education professors’ views showed that only a fifth agreed with the public that students should write correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

The schools of education set the views in the public schools. Abigail Thernstrom told the San Diego editors, “And I will never forget the day that I walked into my daughter’s fifth grade and said, ‘Where is she?’ And I was told ‘Oh, we’re doing math. She doesn’t like math. She doesn’t do math. She’s in the library reading.’”

The prospect for success lies in advancing school choice, as Milton Friedman knew decades ago. In education as in the economy, competition produces winners. School choice is the key to competition in academic achievement. Walberg summarizes:

Two literature reviews of some 140 studies showed that most studies show positive effects of increases in school choice opportunities on overall student achievement. The most rigorous 50-state study found strong positive effects. The largest international study of school choice effects . . . also showed strong positive effects on overall academic achievement.

BY Natalie Sirkin

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dodd Gets Real

Politico is reporting that the embattled Sen. Chris Dodd, who has not risen much above 2.5% in the polls, has slipped a dagger or two in the sides of Democrat presidential wannabes Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

The presidency involves more than giving great speeches, al la Obama, or observing politics, a la Hillary Clinton Dodd said in Iowa: “It isn’t just a question of giving a great speech, giving an ennobling idea. It isn’t enough just to be sitting on the sidelines and watching your husband necessarily deal with problems over the years.”

Expanding on the idea of witnessing, Dodd said, “Laura Bush is a wonderful person, a delightful first lady, but I don’t think anyone would assume necessarily she is ready to be president of the United States. Now, Hillary Clinton has been elected to the Senate, and that adds a bit more to all this. But the idea that, for the last 10 or 15 years, because you’ve been next to events as they’ve unfolded somehow qualifies you to do this job is an exaggeration. That’s not experience. That’s witnessing experience. There’s a distinction.”

As for Obama: “Barack Obama, I mean, how — I mean, talking about the future and giving soaring speeches is very good, and it’s a good experience, But I don’t think it’s as deep as what people are looking for in a Democratic candidate that can win the election and bring our country together.”

Dodd called for a politics of realism in Pakistan, body checking Bill Richardson in the process.

“President Bush should press [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf to step aside,” Richardson had said. “And a broad-based coalition government, consisting of all the democratic parties, should be formed immediately. Until this happens, we should suspend military aid to the Pakistani government.”

Said Dodd: “I think that is a dangerous idea, and I am sort of surprised Bill Richardson would make that recommendation. Can you tell me who is going to then be controlling the keys to the nuclear weapons in Pakistan when Musharraf is not there? And if you can’t answer that question, then be careful what you wish for. The idea of dumping Musharraf and cutting off aid, which I think Bill Richardson also suggested, is the worst possible thing we could be doing right now. That is the height of danger.”

Dodd previously has called for a withdrawal of American troops from Iraq by March, a measure that some analysts think may return the country to its pre-surge status and give jihadists the opportunity to create in Iraq the same havoc they have caused in Pakistan. Iraq has no nuclear weapons, as does Pakistan. It does have some oil.

The Benizar Bhutto Who Done It

One can only make sense of a world turned upside down by standing on one’s head.

The New Year presents us with at least one important “Who done it?” Who assassinated Benizar Bhutto and why?

The historic stage is littered with potential culprits. Immediately after Bhutto’s assassination, the administration of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, released a tape purporting to be a conversation between people involved in the hit and a person who ordered the hit.

“We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat mujahideen.” These were the words of al-Qaeda’s top commander for Afghanistan operations and spokesperson Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, immediately after the attack that claimed the life of Pakistani politician Benazir Bhutto on Thursday (December 27), Asia Times on line reported.

President George Bush had engaged both Musharraf and Bhutto diplomatically in an effort to turn Pakistan in a democratic direction. That diplomatic effort appeared to be succeeding, and then the bomb went off. The scene of the assassination was soon scrubbed clean by water hoses, eliminating all useful forensic evidence that might have been gathered to resolve the question “Who assassinated Bhutto?”

The Musharraf regime, assuming it had no hand in the assassination, certainly would have benefited from an earlier forensic examination of scene of the earlier attempt on Bhutto’s life. Bhutto herself said as much in an interview with David Frost.

At this point, though it is very early on, we are left with the question “qui bono?” who benefits, as a speculative guide.

The Bush administration – and diplomatic efforts in general – certainly did not benefit from Bhutto’s assassination. Temporarily, the jihadists appear to have gained the most from the chaos caused by the assassination. The culprits fingered by Musharraf and to a certain extent by Bhutto herself, the Afghan jihadists, have “distanced themselves,” in American political parlance, from the assassination.

But the really interesting thing about the jihadists -- potential makers and breakers of US congresspersons and presidential wannabes -- is that they fail most spectacularly when they succeed. That is what happened in Anbar province. They took it over, banned smoking, imposed hated Sharia law and forced popular sheiks to give up their daughters in marriage to the jihadists. Almost immediately, the locals began to turn them in to American soldiers. The assassination of Benizar Bhutto may, in the long run, prove to be one of these successful spectacular failures, assuming Americans have the patience and the fortitude to run the race through. Europe, always short of breath in the crunch, is traitorous in this regard.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The New England “Moderate” in the Progressive Mineshaft

Whenever liberals in Connecticut get in trouble – not often – they like to drape the “moderate” mantel around their shoulders and strut and preen, Chanticleer-like, before Connecticut’s largely liberal press.

Just look at me!

This cocky imposture puts me in mind of a story told by Bill Buckley, I think at a gathering at his house in Stamford.

Traveling in Ireland visiting pubs, Buckley noticed that no matter where a conversation began, it ultimately was steered in the direction of religion. Someone had mentioned a prominent local atheist, and Buckley, taken aback, remarked, “You mean to say there are atheists in Ireland!!!”

Oh yes, he was told – “But you have to understand: There are Catholic atheists and Protestant atheists.”

In Connecticut, there are liberal moderates, many of whom write for newspapers, and conservative moderates. But really – wink, wink – the whole lot is programmatically liberal.

Colin McEnroe, a talk show gabber, is instinctively liberal, as is his sometime guest on the Colin McEnroe Show, Bill Curry, a two time gubernatorial candidate on the Democrat ticket now writing for the Hartford Courant as a columnist. The slug on Curry’s columns reads: “Bill Curry, former counselor to President Clinton, was the Democratic nominee for governor twice.” Two days before Christmas Curry summoned all his karma to wish readers of his column a “merry Christmas,’ after having thrown ashes on a Mike Huckabee ad that does pretty much the same thing, even though the Supreme Court has not declared unconstitutional seasons wishes from politicians running for president.

“Nothing breeds cynicism,” Curry wrote, “like seeing religion used as a ploy. It's been that sort of year, even among Democrats. John Edwards calls Jesus "my Lord," a phrase he seldom used last time out. Hillary once sought a "politics of meaning" but now models a more conventional spirituality.

“Huckabee and Romney are in a race for sainthood. Mitt may regret running. As he gains among Iowan evangelicals, polls show him slipping with New Hampshire independents. He may gain too few evangelicals to win Iowa and lose too many independents to win New Hampshire, ending up as another satisfying example of the law of karma.”

Karma aside, one of the columns one may not expect from Curry in the New Year might justly be titled, "The Clintons And The Politics Of Meanness."

Staff reporters and commentators at the Courant are mostly liberals. Columnist Laurence Cohen, a libertarian not on the Courant staff, is the outstanding exception. Libertarians, provided they are not anarchists, are cheerfully admitted into the conservative brotherhood and sisterhood of saints. The Courant keeps Cohen on the shelf as their trophy conservative. The editorial section of the paper hues very closely to a line laid down in the sand by its longtime Editorial Page Editor John Zakarian that the paper would never consider putting a conservative lion in its editorial sheep den.

Commentators, as opposed to reporters, are supposed to look with lofty disdain at such imprisoning categories as “liberal” and “conservative,” but in the case of the Courant, as well as many other eastern seaboard news outlets, the paper’s commentators and reporters are subjectively liberal.

When a media reporter says he is objective, he does not mean that he has in his report managed to suppress his distorting liberal tendencies; he means that he is being “fair” in his report to the acknowledged conservative enemy. As a practical matter, this means that he sometimes hunts out a quote from “conservative” sources – really liberal moderates – to provide “balance” to his slanted report.

The categories are a little confusing, a confusion routinely exploited by disguised liberal behavioralists and their peppier true believing cousins, Connecticut progressives.

Liberals began to call themselves progressive around the time the national conservative press poisoned their well. On the principle “Do unto others as you have been done by,” Conservatives in the US, somewhere around mid-century, began to develop their own media. Bill Buckley’s National Review became the point of a very long sword. Conservatives, blackballed by the mainstream media, used their considerable resources to flail relentlessly at liberals. Post modern liberals have sought to escape these whips and scorns by calling themselves progressives. A progressive is a liberal who is more Mc Carthyite -- no, not Joe, the other one, Eugene – than the pope, who is, in the secular political scheme of things, Eugene McCarthy, the anti-war hero of the Vietnam era.

Stuck in the anti-Vietnam War past, the new progressive can only see the future by squinting at the past, a gesture that reshapes their world. These folk now have opened business under their own shingle. In Connecticut, they gather under such signs as MyLeftNutmeg, CTBob, CTBlue, bloggers all, and, of course, they include support mechanics such as McEnroe, Curry and fellow traveling mainstream media reporters, commentators and information moguls, who easily pass the sniff test for liberals.

U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, by any objective measure, is a liberal. The senator’s ADA liberal quotient for 2006 was a respectable 75%. The average liberal quotient for Democrats in the senate for the same year was 82.7%; Republicans bottomed out at 9.4%.

Lieberman likes to call himself a Harry Truman Democrat; on the domestic progressive front, he is also a Franklin Roosevelt Democrat.

Both Roosevelt and Truman were war presidents, and Lieberman is not afraid to shake the big stick. In fact, Teddy Roosevelt, considered the father of the progressive movement, the stormer of Kettle Hill and San Juan Hill, was a impetuous war hero. Lieberman, who is ready to do battle with the war mongers who blew up the Twin Towers building in New York, is proud to place himself in their company. He now finds himself in a pinched room, a “little ease.”

The “little ease” was a contrivance fashioned by the French to sweat prisoners. Entering the “little ease,” a prisoner found himself in a cramped space in which he could neither lie down or stand up, an arrangement far more wearying than any devised at, say, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where suspected terrorists are kept on ice in relative comfort, waiting for deliverance from the anti-Bushites in the US Congress.

It would be only a slight exaggeration to say that in all else but the prosecution of the war against jihadists, Lieberman is a liberal of the old school, which has now been dismissed and filled with a new class of Eugene McCarthyite, anti-war progressives.

To be sure, Lieberman has not had an easy go of it. A recent blog from MyLeftNutmeg is titled, “Is Joe Lieberman An Alcoholic Pedophile? But the one thing progressives in the North East cannot cite Lieberman for is a lack of courage. On his support of the Iraq war and his manful defense of Israel, the bloodied but unbowed senator has fought the good fight.

Nationally, Lieberman may be the last Scoop Jackson Democrat standing, and the assault against him was, and continues to be, brutal. That assault is driven partly by anti-war fervor, cleverly used by the new left as a catapult to toss the Liebercrats out of office.

In this endeavor, Lieberman’s cohort in the senate, Chris Dodd, has been unusually pro-active. An astute politician, Dodd has read the progressive writing on the wall: Moderate Republicrats in Connecticut – Nancy Johnson and Rob Simmons – were washed overboard when the Tsunami struck. The rising tide of progressivism in Connecticut swept a sufficient number of Democrat congressmen into the legislature to assure a veto-proof majority. In the 2006 general election, the Hartford Courant, tiring of the “moderate” Republicans it had in the past so assiduously courted, and breaking its long habit of endorsing “experienced” incumbents (the good bums), threw its weight behind Democrat US House candidates Jim Murphy and Joe Courtney, respectively Johnson’s and Simmons' opponents, both of whom won. Of the two campaigns, Courtney’s was by far the milder and more gentlemanly. The Johnson Murphy bout was a blood fest on both sides.

Oddly enough, the only Republican political incumbent left standing after the 2006 general election was Chris Shays, the prototypical moderate Republican and, in concert with Lieberman, the Connecticut congressman most closely associated with a vigorous support of Bush’s war against jihadism. Association with Bush policies damaged neither Shays nor Lieberman in the deciding general election campaign.

In the preceding primary campaign, Lieberman was sliced and diced by his opponent’s henchmen. The bloggers were particularly brutal as they cheerfully supported their Great White Hope, Ned Lamont, a Greenwich millionaire of impeccable pedigree. Lamont is the grandson of Corliss Lamont, a trench fighting uber-liberal humanist.

According to Corliss Lamont’s on-line biography, Ned Lamont’s beau ideal of the scholar and gentleman “was born to Wall Street wealth, yet he championed the cause of the working class, and was derided as a ‘Socialist’ and a ‘traitor to his class’.

“Corliss Lamont's Humanist belief that earthlings have evolved without supernatural intervention and are responsible for their own survival on this planet caused traditionalists to label him a ‘godless atheist’”.

The elder Lamont clearly was a man ahead of his time. One supposes that his humanist’s religious views were more in keeping with those of Curry, McEnroe and Buddha.

Lamont’s primary campaign was other directed.

One of the directors of the Lamont campaign was Tom D’Amore, once Sen. Lowell Weicker’s major domo. When Weicker was a Republican senator, he managed to appoint D’Amore chairman of the Republican Party. It was Weicker who encouraged Lamont to run against the ex-senator’s bete noir; Lieberman had bested Weicker in a senatorial contest, after which Weicker bolted the Republican Party and ran for governor on a contrived ticket, A Connecticut Party. Weicker lost the 1988 election to Lieberman by less than 1% of the vote, partly because Republicans dissatisfied with Weicker pummeling of the Republican Party defected en mass to Lieberman.

Lamont was not nearly as venomous as his most ardent supporters. When ex-President Bill Clinton -- like Lieberman a past chairman of the moderate Democrat Leadership Council -- came to Connecticut to support Lieberman in the primary, Blogger Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake ran on her blog a doctored picture of Clinton in Blue’s Brother’s sunglasses and Lieberman in blackface. The picture has since been removed. Comments on her blog and others concerning Lieberman’s religion bordered on anti-Semitism. Lieberman is not an Atheistic Humanist, and his support for Israel against jihadists whose most ardent wish is to drive Jews into the sea was at the time well established and predictable. There were no strenuous objections raised to any of these out-of-bounds remarks from McEnroe, Curry, Weicker or other Lamont henchmen. The idea was to give the dogs at FireDogLake, DailyKos, The Huffington Post and other progressive blog sites a long leash.

At this remove, no one is able to tell which of the two, Lieberman or Dodd, are Cain or Able. There is no question that they are opposite numbers. The fate of Iraq, Iran, Israel and the whole Middle East may decide the issue. That fate is very much up in the air and will itself be decided by either democratic countries or radical jihadists.

Friday, December 28, 2007

That Didn’t Take Long.

South Asia Times is reporting that a spokesperson for a top al-Quaeda commander, Mustafa Abu al-Yadid, said Benizir Bhutto was assassinated because she was “the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat mujahideen.”

These beasts actually have spokesmen, just like US senators and presidents.

Had Mustafa Abu al-Yadid been caught by American troops in Iraq, America’s most precious assets, Chris Dodd among them, would have festooned him with Constitutional rights, supplied him with a lawyer – probably ex-US Attorney General Ramsay Clark – and no one would have laid him on a water board to extract actionable data from him.

Benizar was not long for this world; she was a courageous woman, like Hersi Ali, who also has a price on her head. The jihadists hate women, booze and democracy.

It may also be worth pointing out that Bhutto was assassinated because she was conducting diplomacy with the Bush administration. In an age swarming with jihadists, diplomacy has once again become a dangerous pursuit.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


An attack on a political rally killed the Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto
near the capital, Islamabad, Thursday. Witnesses said Bhutto was fired upon before the blast, and an official from her party said Bhutto was further injured by the explosion, which was apparently caused by a suicide attacker.

Friday, December 21, 2007

First The Verdict, Then The Trial

Suffering from a troublesome case of anti-Semitic indigestion, “pete” from West Hartford belched in the Hartford Courant commentary section attached to a story called “A Tangle Of Tensions, “go back to isreal (sic) and steal some more land, dirtbag (sic) troublemakers.”

The comment is a dramatic overstatement of some of the tensions underlying a decision of Litchfield’s Historic Commission to deny a Jewish orthodox religious group, Chabad Lubavich, permission to convert a “home” into a Jewish temple. The historic “home” on Litchfield’s pristine town green was gutted 40 years earlier and turned into a business, seriously compromising the “home’s” historical character.

Like the poor, anti-Semitism will always be with us. But in this particular case, a just decision between the competing claims of Chabad Lubavich and Litchfield’s Historic Commission very likely will be settled in court. The dispute, in any case, appears to be tending in that direction since the Historic Commission refused Chabad Lubavich’s petition on December 20th. The court, one may be sure, will render its decision based on the facts of the case, which have very little to do with the anti-Semitic hostilities of “pete” from West Hartford.

The Historic Commission objected to the clock tower that Chabad Lubavich wishes to add to the former “home” but would allow a finial bearing a Jewish star. Previously the commission objected to the addition of a Jewish star, but some observant commentators pointed out to the commission that there were no fewer than two Jewish stars blighting a nearby Methodist church on what is referred to in the town as “Church Row.”

The commission in a seven page declaration argued that the additions proposed were too large. While denying the application, the commission said it would welcome a new application only if Chabad Lubavich’s plans did not exceed 6,000 square feet.

There are, however, a number of buildings in the historic district that do not comply with the standard imposed by the commission on Chabad Lubavich. The proposed renovation of Town Hall, presently 7,884 square feet, would be expanded to 20,000-square-feet under current plans. The Town Hall is located directly across the street from the proposed Jewish temple.

The Jewish temple would share a neighborhood with Episcopalian, Methodist and Roman Catholic congregations, each of which occupies structures much larger than the space Chabad-Lubavitch needs to services its needs.

"We deliberately picked this site two years ago,” said Rabbi Joseph Eisenbach told the commission, “because we wanted to be at the center of religious worship in Litchfield and contribute to the life of the town.

"All the Chabad wants is to be treated like other religions, to be on church row and have a structure of equal size to those churches," Merriam said. "But the commission has denied us that right tonight, and there are many remedies under the law with which to proceed."

Chabad Lubavich’s lawyer, Peter Herbst, asked the Historic Commission, “

"I have to ask why, when the Historic District Commission is dealing with a constitutionally protected use such as the Chabad, rather than a nursing home … or town hall, which is not afforded similar protection under the Constitution, why would a different and more-difficult-to-meet standard be applied?"

That is a question the Historic Commission will not be able to dodge in a court proceeding.

Lawyers for Chabad Lubavich may be expected to argue in future court proceedings that the restrictions imposed by the Historic Commission place an undue burden on the religious organization’s First Amendment Rights. The protections afforded religious organizations under the U.S. Constitution are not all that ambiguous. The court cannot allow zoning regulations, rules promulgated by government agencies and dubious Historic Commission decisions to trump constitutional safeguards that courts themselves are sworn to protect and uphold.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lieberman Driving Them Batty

Originally uploaded by girlforgirlforme

Once again, US Sen. Joe Lieberman has grievously disappointed Pharg, CGG, Anonymous, and countless other bloggers and Liebercritics.

The left side of the blogsphere is in full cry against Lieberman’s endorsement of John McCain, a Republican. The right side of the blogsphere, unlike the prescient Lieberman, has not yet settled on a candidate.

It is not known at this point if Lieberman will endorse McCain or some other forbidden Republican presidential wannabe in the general election, but the smart money says he will endorse the Democrat candidate -- provided the foreign policy of said candidate is substantially different than that of US Sen. Chris Dodd, who favors abject surrender at the earliest possible moment. Having lost a military struggle with al-Qaida props like Syria and Iran, Dodd thinks it is possible to sweet talk these puppet regimes into peace.

Lieberman, at this tender point in the rout of al-Qaida from Iran, is not yet willing to lay aside his big stick and pick up Dodd’s limp carrot.

Every Word A Lie

Mary McCarthy, known to have had an acid tongue, once said of Lillian Hellman that every word she wrote was a lie, including “the” and “and.”

The same might more justly be said of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, now making his bow off the totalitarian stage – after 47 years and some months as Latin America’s most prominent pain in the butt. Venezuelan nut job Hugo Chavez, a Castro wannabe, was shown the door by his countrymen earlier in the month. The sulpherous Chavez wanted to insert in his country's constitution language that would make him dictator for life. US Sen. Chris Dodd’s mentor, US Sen. Robert Byrd drifted into congress only two days after Castro seized power in Cuba but, a notorious hanger-on, he may let outlast the felonious dictator; Byrd’s plumbing is thought to be in good order.

Said Castro: “My elemental duty is not to cling to positions, or even less to obstruct the path of younger people, but to share experiences and ideas whose modest worth comes from the exceptional era in which I lived.”

Castro's duty for a little less than half a century was to shove in prison anyone who had the temerity to oppose him. The reaction of the civilized world to this barbaric monomaniac says infinitely more about the condition of the Western World than it does about the dictator whose sorry carcass the devils are about to drag into Hell.

Castro’s false modesty ill befits the aging Stalinist. He was at the top of the junk pile for nearly half a century – not a bad run.

Monday, December 17, 2007


No national interest of ours could justify handing sovereign control of two-thirds of the earth’s surface over to the Third World . . . . The underdeveloped nations who now control the General Assembly are looking for a free ride at our expense—again.
President Reagan, 1978

President Reagan sent his personal emissary, Donald Rumsfeld, to visit our allies around the world to explain his opposition to the Treaty and ask them to support him—which they did. Awaiting a vote now in the U.S. Senate, a “relic of the 1970s,” is the Law of the Sea Treaty, known by the acronym LOST.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has done a cursory review, holding two hearings. Seven witnesses testified in support, two against (Frank Gaffney of Center for Security Policy and Fred Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute).

Not attending either hearing were two Republican senators who are up for reelection in 2008, Norm Coleman of Minnesota and John Sununu of New Hampshire . The Committee approved the Treaty by 17-4 on October 31. A two-thirds vote of the full Senate is needed for approval.

The Senate has twice turned it down, in 1994 when after cosmetic changes in an annex, President Clinton proposed it, and again in 2004. The White House, previously opposed, argues that it would help preserve navigational freedom for the Navy. Among the presidential candidates, the Republicans vehemently oppose it except Senator McCain. It is assumed to have the approval of liberal Democrats. Not much is reported of their views on it, though it constitutes a significant change which the U.S. should understand.

The Treaty, intended to create rules governing deep sea mining, ocean navigation, and conservation, has moved toward world government at the expense of sovereign nation states, especially the U.S. In its 320 articles and nine amendments, it creates executive, legislative, and judicial mechanisms for controlling the resources of the world’s oceans—and land too, since it prohibits ocean-polluting coming from land-based technology.

Today 155 nations have ratified the Treaty, officially named “United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [UNCLOS].” Supporters are the gas and oil industries, the American Bar Association, the U.S. military, and those of globalist mind-set who oppose America ’s acting in its own national interest. George Shultz and James Baker have written in support. The White House was opposed but in May changed its position when told that President Reagan’s objections had been remedied in 1994 renegotiations (disputed by Ed Meese and William Clark who were in the Reagan Administration at the time).

The Treaty gives coastal states exclusive economic zones of maritime resources within 230 miles of their shoreline or more if they can prove that their underwater continental shelf extends beyond their coastline. In territorial jockeying, five nations have laid claims to portions of the seabed under the Arctic ice cap and seven to the seabed under the Antarctic ice cap. Russia , to strengthen its claim to the seabed, sent two submersibles to plant a corrosion-resistant titanium Russian flag on the (unmapped) seabed beneath the North Pole. Senator Murkowski (R., Alaska) warns that the U.S. could be cut out of the boundary-wars if it does not ratify the Treaty soon.

“The rest [beyond the coastal waters], regarded as international waters, is subject to agreed-upon rules governing fishing, protection of the marine environment, navigation, and mining of the ocean floor.” The international waters are under the management of the International Seabed Authority, a U.N. affiliate.

The ISA has taxing power. Taxes will be a percentage of revenue from oil, gas, or other commercial exploration outside territorial waters. The gas and oil industries favor the Treaty.

Besides undermining national sovereignty, the Treaty risks national security. Submarines are required to navigate on the surface and to display their flag. One submarine has already been built, the USS Jimmy Carter, to conform to this anti-defense regulation.

Technology is transferable from industrialized to less-developed nations and to national liberation movements like the PLO as well. “Obligatory technology transfers [that] would equip adversaries with sensitive and militarily useful equipment and knowledge” are objected to by Ed Meese and William P. Clark, who know the Treaty from their work in President Reagan’s Administration. The pro-Treaty case is made by George Shultz and James Baker.

According to Ambassador James Malone, President Reagan’s expert who renegotiated the Treaty in 1994,

The Treaty’s provisions were intentionally designed to promote a new world order—a form of collectivism known as the New International Economic Order (NIEO)—that seeks ultimately the redistribution of the world’s wealth through a complex system of manipulative central economic planning and bureaucratic coercion.

The Treaty’s purpose is peace, it explicitly states. It offers no protection for times of war. Defense planners will wonder if the U.S. can intercept planes carrying terrorists or can defend against jihad. Defense planners must choose between robust defense and decisions by foreign judges who are not likely to rule in their favor.

While President Reagan staunchly opposed the Treaty, he was not in principle against a treaty of modest mandates. In his radio address he said, “No one ruled out the idea of a treaty—one which makes sense—but after long years of fruitless negotiating [1973-1982], it became apparent that the undeveloped nations who now control the General Assembly were looking for a free ride at our expense—again.”

Four years later on June 29, 1982, he wrote in his diary now published, ”Decided in [National Security Council] meeting will not sign ‘Law of the Sea’ treaty even without seabed mining provisions.”

What will happen to U.S. approval of this flawed international agreement? The answer may depend upon who is the next president.

By Natalie Sirkin

Icon Writing at Ender's Island

Vladimirskaya (Kondopoga)
Originally uploaded by jimforest

The first time I came to St. Michael's Institute on Ender's Island, I put a question to one of the women who had made several icons previously: What had I let myself in for?

She said, "You are about to pray an image into wood."

On my most recent return in November, I was at least not a novice. I had made one icon under the tutelage of Vladislav Andrejev's son Nikita a few years earlier. Vladislav Andrejev is a masterful iconographer who had learned his craft at the hands of Russian monks and then went on to found a school of iconography, the Prosopon School.

Andrejev now lives in New York, having immigrated to the United States in 1980. He has been teaching iconography in North America for more than 15 years. His icons, faithful to the Russian-Byzantine tradition, grace churches and homes both in America and elsewhere in the world.

His son looked a little bit like a Russian monk; he was tall and lank, wore a full beard that swept like a bib across his chest, and brought along with him for the occasion his Russian wolfhound, a dog about the size of a great dane. This dog, everyone remarked at the time, was incredibly well behaved. Jake, my wife's guide dog, found him, shall we say, interesting.

I returned to St. Edmund's Retreat a few years later to try my hand at illuminated miniatures, a course taught by Jed Gibbons of Chicago. An instructor at the St. Michael Institute for more than eight years, Gibbons recaptures both in his work and his classes the visual vocabulary of the ancient Christian church. Illuminated miniatures will be familiar to anyone who has viewed ancient bibles and been captivated by the elaborated letters and pictures of the Christian narrative that precede a text in scripture.

All the instructors at St. Michael's Institute of Sacred Art participated in the making of the new Chapel of Our Lady of the Assumption. The chapel embodies the gospel in stone and glass. Cut and laid by hand, as they would have been formed centuries ago by a master mason, the stones themselves evoke the time of St. Edmund Rich, 1174-1240, who served as the archbishop of Canterbury from 1234 until his death in 1240.

The island was deeded to the Edmondite monks by its former owner, Alys VanGilder Enders, the wife of Thomas B. Enders, a son of the president of Aetna Insurance Company.

Among the disciplines offered at St. Michael's Institutue are iconography, manuscript illumination, gilding, stained glass, fresco and Gregorian chant.
Two icons written by Andrejev may be seen in the chapel; the brilliant windows were made by the artisan who teaches the course in stain glass making; the walls of the chapel are circled by Gibbons' brilliantly conceived Stations of the Cross.

Writing the icon

The making of an icon is symbolically a participation in the creation. In the process, the image continually disappears and is re-established by the icon maker. Dark grounds are laid in first, and light is gradually added as the icon unfolds, pretty much the opposite from an oil painting. Light is spiritual. So the making of the icon itself is a journey from matter to spirit. The last details added to an icon are its highlights, the purest, brightest, and most spiritual of accents. In an oil painting, and in photography too, light streams around the subject from one source, creating form and shadow; but in an icon, the light is interior. When an icon maker trails his brush through paint to write the icon, he is dipping into centuries of art history.

Peter Pearson, the iconographer who conducted our course in acrylic icons, was self taught for nearly 15 years, studied under Russian iconographer Nina Bouroff in Maryland, and also perfected his icon writing with Philip Zimmerman at the Saint John Damascus Academy of Sacred Arts, an Orthodox school of icon painting in Ligonier, Pa.

The students he patiently instructed came from all over the United States. In addition to two nuns, two priests, and two deacons, our class had in it a portrait artist who ran a large farm and a woman whose medical background and wanderings through Germany and the Middle East permitted her to start her own business in specialized medical treatments. One day, she told us, she tripped on the bottom stair in her business office and shattered her ankle.

"That was it. I sold the business, and here I am."

Everyone in the class came to Enders Island because at some impressionable point in their lives, they had been exposed to the lure of icons. One of the icon makers, the portrait painter, was here because of the importunities of her parish priest.

"Just try it, please," he said.

"I couldn't put it off any longer."

God, the Christian writer C.S. Lewis tells us, is a very crafty fellow. Everywhere, temptations reach out to us. One might find oneself caught up in a Gregorian chant, also taught at St. Michael's Institute. "Bibles are left open," Lewis says, where one might find an illuminated miniature brushing up against an elaborate calligraphic letter introducing a scriptural text. Calligraphy is also taught at the institute.

The daily regimen was unvarying. Shortly after the sun appeared over the surrounding water, we were up and off to breakfast; then to the chapel for a morning service; then to work in the studio. After laboring - truly a labor of love - over our icons for a few hours, we were off to lunch, then back to the studio. We took a break for supper and then returned to the studio, which emptied out around nine o'clock.

Every icon is an attempt to express in an image the ineffable mystery of God; and for this reason all icons, however alluring and beautiful, miss their object. They can only be suggestive. They are aids that speak in images of the theology of redemption, a glimpse of which made the angelic doctor, Thomas Aquinas, say that beside his visions "everything I have written is straw."

I wrote two icons while at St. Michael's Institute. The first is an "icon of tenderness," showing the child Jesus brushing his head against the cheek of his mother, a Christmas portent; the second is called "the image not made by human hands," a reference to the image left on the cloth of Veronica, a woman who wiped the face of Jesus as he made his bloody way to the cross.

For myself, these two icons embrace the mystery of my faith, the faith of my father, and the faith of Acquinas. Somewhere in the passage between the crib and the cross, the ineffable mystery of god awaits the hungry heart.

Enders Island is a site of spiritual renewal and Catholic prayer in Fisher's Island Sound, near Mystic. The 11-acre island offers retreats with overnight accommodations and is connected to the mainland by a bridge. Enders Island offers many programs for groups and individuals, including art classes in iconography, manuscript illumination, stained glass, and more.

For more information, visit:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

How Anbar Was Scrubbed Clean of al-Qaeda Terrorists

“Six months ago Sheikh Ali Hatem Ali Suleiman al-Dulaimi predicted that tribal leaders would defeat al-Qaeda in Anbar province, the Sunni tribal heartland. Now the young prince of the Dulaim, one of Iraq's largest tribes, exults that al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has been driven out of Anbar by tribal fighters aided by American troops.”

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Backing into the Porcupine

Interesting how the reporter here backed into a pretty interesting story. This line of questioning is not what one would expect to hear on National Public Radio, which is used to lobbing hardball questions at Republicans and softball questions at liberal Democrats.

NPR host Robert Siegel asks House Minority Leader John Boehner about his pledge earlier in the year that Republicans would work with Democrats in addressing issues important to the country:

"’What evidence of that has there been so far, since you've been leader?’

"’Well, unfortunately, Robert, there hasn't been any,’ Boehner confided, although he insisted the unfriendly atmosphere in Washington was not the GOP's fault. ‘I was hopeful that Speaker Pelosi wouldn't make some of the mistakes that the Republican majority made by overreaching and going it alone. But what we've seen all year is an effort to overreach, to only consider what the Democrat majority wants to do.’

“Siegel tried to clarify that Pelosi's behavior ‘reminds you of what Republican behavior was’ when they controlled Congress before the 2006 elections.

"’Well, some of it -- it sure does,’ Boehner said with a laugh.”

Siegel promised his audience that they would hear from Democrats on the same issue in the near future.

Hope For Atheists In The Season Of Hope

It’s near Christmas, and the neopagans have begun their Winter Solstice celebration on Vernon’s town green. Some of the celebrants, it is said, are atheists – a hopeful sign. The real pagans who once celebrate the Winter Solstice at least believed in resurrection deities -- Osiris, Adonis, Attis, Baal, Tammuz -- though not in the Christian God whose manger will lie but a few feet from the Vernon atheist’s… ummm… posting. If one has progressed from atheism to paganism, it is but a leap and a jump into theism. The village idiots, crawling towards Bethlehem, may make it yet -- God willing.

Up Yer’nose

A “high official” (read: scandal monger) in the Hillary Clinton campaign, according to the Washington Post, has warned that Barack Obama may be attacked for his drug use but not, one hopes, by Bill Clinton, himself scarred by charges of drug use and philandering. The ex-President and future First Husband's Chris Kringle nose is mute testimony to past usage.


The bacillus was eradicated almost as soon as the words were out of his mouth. He extended a handsom apology too.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Brits on Intel Report

The Brits and Israel, both more accomplished at intelligence gathering than the United States, think that Iran, with the co-operation of the CIA, has hoodwinked Uncle Sam.

The Brits begin with the assumption that the CIA, historically full of dunderheads, has a political reason for thinking that Iran ditched its nuclear weapons program in 2003:

“A senior British official delivered a withering assessment of US intelligence-gathering abilities in the Middle East and revealed that British spies shared the concerns of Israeli defense chiefs that Iran was still pursuing nuclear weapons.

“The source said British analysts believed that Iranian nuclear staff, knowing their phones were tapped, deliberately gave misinformation.” We are skeptical. We want to know what the basis of it is, where did it come from? Was it on the basis of the defector? Was it on the basis of the intercept material? They say things on the phone because they know we are up on the phones. They say black is white. They will say anything to throw us off.

"It's not as if the American intelligence agencies are regarded as brilliant performers in that region. They got badly burned over Iraq."

“A US intelligence source has revealed that some American spies share the concerns of the British and the Israelis. "Many middle- ranking CIA veterans believe Iran is still committed to producing nuclear weapons and are concerned that the agency lost a number of its best sources in Iran in 2004," the official said.
“The Foreign Office is studying a new text of a third United Nations Security Council resolution that would impose tough travel bans on regime figures and penalize banks that do business with Iran.”

Why don’t we just mothball the CIA; or, better still, deprive it of its Orwellian character and rename it The Central Cover My Ass Agency?

Hard Times for Dems

Student protestors in Iran are – with apologies to Daily Kos -- crashing the gates, Venezuela is poised to kick Hugo Chavez to the curb, and a YouTube video is making the rounds showing that Bush’s ouster of Sadam Hussein had the support of a handful of prominent Democrats. And, oh yes, the surge has worked; so says Mr.anti-war bluster John Murtha.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Colin Show

This is what happens when you mix Buddhism and Unitarianism:

“And then there are the lesser known entities. There is, for real, something called Fox Faith which makes religious movies. Last year they offered up "One Night With the King," which I assumed was a remake of "A Date with Elvis." Never mind. It's not. I'm currently pitching them on a project called "Scrubbed," in which a cranky, socially isolated talk show host (played by Bill O'Reilly in a break-out role) sees the face of the Virgin in a loofah sponge and rediscovers the meaning of Christmas… Murdoch is getting dangerously close to an idea I've been kicking around for years: the openly for-profit religion. What's holding a lot of megachurches back is their nonprofit status. They can't be traded on the NYSE; they can't charge fees for service or admission prices; they can't sell indulgences. They would probably save more souls and lighten more karmas if they were answerable to shareholders who put in some hard-earned cash and were now showing up at annual meetings demanding results… Eventually, Murdoch will figure this out and start Godfox. You pay a yearly fee of $199.99 and they deliver a variety of religious experience, including a powerful sense of the preservation of your immortal soul -- Colin McEnroe

The rest of this entertaining anti-Catholic column can be found here – and just in time for Christmas too.

For a somewhat different view on megachurches, see here.

The Second Shot Heard Round The World

Kevin Rennie’s two reports on state Sen. Thomas Gaffey's have gone unanswered, which is not to say there have not been repercussions.

“Joey from Glastonbury” -- very likely a pseudonym, since “Joey” is commenting on the Harford Courant’s site, which allows pseudonyms – writes:

“I think this article proves last weeks (sic) piece was nothing but garbage. Last week Rennie put the idea out there that Gaffey supported the CSU 2020 because of a romantic relationship. Now Rennie writes that Carter's friendship with Gaffey goes back much further. There are no violations. Three years ago Carter sold tickets at face to Gaffey (legal on all fronts) and Carter made a political contribution (legal on all fronts). Rennie doesn't report on what other political contributions Carter might have made nor if he ever sold tickets to others in past years. Considering up until a two years ago, UConn gave out dozen of tickets to each game this column is just an assignation (sic) attempt on Carter's character. Carter is a person of great character and the fact that a person with skeletons his closet should write this garbage is a real shame. Maybe Rennie (sic) should write an authoriative (sic) article about legislators' relationship with male and female interns.”

Unless I am mistaken, that last remark may be a reference to Rennie’s sexual orientation. This kind of intemperate remark did not surface when Rennie was publishing columns critical of Republicans; so one can only suppose that the commentator is a paid functionary of the Democrat Party and/or a small minded anti-gay bigot. Such supposals are made necessary by the commentator’s anonymity. Bloggers and commentators on news sites are permitted to spew their venom under cover of pseudonyms, which imparts to them a kind of courage they lack when addressing their ministers or mothers face to face.

Actually, Rennie’s second column on Gaffey is an elaboration of his first column, which has resulted in much spilled ink.

In the second column, Rennie addresses concerns raised by one of the eminences of the Democrat Party, President Pro Tem of the state senate the Honorable Don Williams.

Williams dismissed Rennie’s first shot: that hanky-panky between Gaffey and his “amorata” (Rennie’s expression), Associate Vice Chancellor Jill Ferraiolo, a state worker and a lobbyist for the Connecticut’s four state colleges, may have distorted the role Gaffey played in procuring one billion dollars for Ms. Ferraiolo's employer. Not for nothing did the ancient Greeks portray the confusion Eros sows in men’s minds by the wild goatskin clad Pan, god of the grape. Wine makes you woozy; so do women, recently divorced, who compare their business associates to Gods. Heady stuff that.

Nothing to it, Williams said, provoking the following commentary from Rennie:

“State Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams, displaying his taste for censorship, mustered a studied disdain for the idea that Gaffey ought to have disclosed his affair while shaping and promoting the CSUS legislation. Pay no attention to Gaffey's gambit last spring, as a member of the legislature's Finance Committee, to replace a carefully controlled plan for CSUS with one that spent a lot more and included less oversight…

“Gaffey says he's an old-fashioned fella; he paid for meals with his inamorata, CSUS link Jill Ferraiolo, he said early last week.

“By Friday, however, Gaffey's recollection was getting sharper. He recalled, in response to written questions, two previously undisclosed luncheons with Ferraiolo and others that he paid for with money from his Government Action Fund Political Action Committee. Those are political contributions that Gaffey has used for years to finance travel, dinners and trips.

“He is indeed an old-fashioned guy. Sen. Williams should be disappointed to learn that Gaffey and Ferraiolo were mixing their private lives with political contributions…

“GAFPAC, like every Connecticut political committee, must file quarterly finance reports. The law requires an itemized accounting of each contribution and expenditure. Gaffey has often neglected to comply with that requirement. It's hard to know exactly where, when and on what thousands of dollars have been spent. GAFPAC has made many payments to the senator's personal credit card for purchases that are not clearly disclosed.

“On Friday, Gaffey said he'd file an amendment to one mysterious payment this year of $1,281 to his personal credit card. There are plenty of other blank spaces in the reports he's filed since the millennium that the state Elections Enforcement Commission may want to review.”

This is pretty solid commentary. If I was gay – and let me be up front about it; I am not – I would have been proud to write those lines. This is legitimate commentary. What’s gay got to do with it?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Priest Sentenced

In the oddest of reversals the Reverend Michael Jude Fay, who robbed his 0wn parish to support his rather expensive gay lifestyle, was sentenced to three years and a month in prison by judge Janet Arterton.

Begging for mercy, Fay said, "I beg your mercy not to send me to prison. I am already in prison,” and the judge in her response hit it out of the park, ethically and religiously speaking.

Said the judge, “Forgiveness is going to have to come from elsewhere and from others because that is not a part of what the court is charged with doing.”

However, if Fay felt the need to redeem himself through good works, he would have ample opportunity: “In our prisons we have many needy people.”

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Middle Way

Cardinal John Henry Newman would have dubbed Mitt Romney’s address on religion a "Middle Way," a via media, between, say, Hilaire Belloc and former president John Kennedy.

Campaigning for a position in Parliament, Belloc was accosted on the stump by a woman who objected to his Roman Catholicism. He drew some rosary beads from his pocket and said to the lady, “Madam, do you see these beads? I pray on them every night before I go to bed and every morning when I wake up. And if that offends you madam, I pray God he will spare me the ignominy of representing you in Parliament.”

Kennedy formed an uneasy alliance with the anti-Catholic bigotry of his day by surrendering to it.

That bigotry – the first and strongest prejudice of the new nation, said Arthur Schlesinger – is still very much with us, though it has assumed different forms. If Kennedy were alive today, he would have to draft an apologia to neo-pagans should he want to win the presidency.

Romney did not, and for this he will be taken to task.

Gaffey, Transparency And Opacity

Because Lou DeLuca complained of maltreatment and suggested that the Gaffey potboiler be handled in a way similar to his own case, both commentators and politicians, among them President Pro Tem of the state senate Don Williams, felt constrained to point out the differences.

Williams said, "For Lou DeLuca to have brought this up is an outrage. For somebody who was investigated by the FBI, the chief state's attorney's office, and but for the fact that law enforcement was able to break up the hit that he ordered on a relative, he would be in jail. For him to start talking about Tom Gaffey, who broke no law … we're talking about two different universes."

All true. Apples are not oranges. The characters to whom we’ve been introduced during the DeLuca drama are not at all the same as those wandering the stage in the Gaffey drama. There are no FBI agents posing as mobsters under state Sen. Thomas Gaffey’s bed, and Gaffey did not refuse a bribe and then decline to report it to the proper authorities like US Rep. John Murtha, the powerful member of the House Appropriations Committee and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Defense who lately favored Connecticut Democrats with a submarine.

On the other hand, 1.8 billion in tax dollars did not pass between Deluca and reputed mobster associate James Galante.

Shortly after stories began to appear in the media concerning Gaffey’s liaison with Jill Ferraiolo, the university's associate vice chancellor and legislative liaison at the state Capitol for Connecticut’s four state colleges, Gaffey presented a query to the state ethics board, which found that he had broken no law or ethics regulation.

Relying on that decision, Williams pronounced, “There is no intention to proceed with a review because no law has been broken, no ethical statute has been violated. Senator Gaffey was under no obligation to disclose his personal, private relationship and to come forward and say, 'I have this relationship, but by the way, it's not a conflict.' But I think, in hindsight, certainly more transparency would have been better. That's always a good thing.”

Williams, it should be noted, thought transparency was not a good thing when Democrats produced their multi-billion dollar bonding package plan – which included a hefty one billion for the state colleges that Gaffey and Ferraiolo worked hand in hand to procure. Republicans claimed at the time they were blindsided by the Williams, Gaffey, Ferraiolo bonding package. When Williams grudgingly advises that more transparency is good, it should be understood that he means to single himself out as an exception to the rule.

We do not know at this point whether Gaffey received any favors from Ferraiolo that might have inclined him to satisfy the lady’s requests. We do know that if he did, the ethics committee would look upon the Gaffey, Ferraiolo liaison with an approving eye – whatever it was. Ferraiolo and Gaffey are both state employees; which is to say, they are paid from tax dollars – and while it is unethical for politicians and private lobbyists to corrupt each other, the same regulations do not apply to politicians and state employees. The private lobbyist goose is not at all the same as the public lobbyist gander; or, to put the matter in Orwellian terms, all the animals in the state's political barnyard are equal, but the public pigs are more equal than the private pigs.

Perhaps a little more transparency would change all that. But no one should hold his breath waiting for an enlightened legislature to pass laws punishing the kind of relationship exploited by Gaffey and Ferraiolo.

Conflicts of interests of the kind that has exposed Gaffey “private” relationship to public view are routine in Connecticut. The transferance of one billion dollars from private to public pockets is in no sence a private affair. The legislature – indeed, the Judiciary Committee itself – is full of lawyer/legislators whose lives would be made so much more difficult under the direction of a law or regulation that prohibited self serving liaisons between, say, lawyers and the judges before whom they practice.

It's the worst sort of optimism to suppose that the pigs are interested in writing legislation that affects their feed time at the public trough. Some legislators are married to lobbyists; others get their satisfaction outside the bonds of holy matrimony.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Second Look

A short time ago, John Murtha, a powerful member of the House Appropriations Committee and the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Defense, perhaps the most persistent critic of the war in Iraq, returned home and pronounced the surge a success, news that now is trickling down through the Democrat grapevine.

Murtha’s announcement is not likely to win him many friends in the frothing progressive community. His grudging admission, however, was attended with an important qualification: The political situation in Iraq is still a mess – no argument there. It is still being argued in some quarters, by presidential hopeful Sen. Chris Dodd, among others, that American troops should quickly be withdrawn from Iraq. Dodd has proposed a withdrawal by March.

Those who believe that security and efficient politics in Iraq are unrelated have a quarrel with history that they cannot win. Even in Iraq, there are signs that the two are intimately related.

In a blog piece titled “What Happens After The Surge?” -- published both on his own site and in Pajama’s Media -- Omar Fadhil provides evidence of the vital connection.

The government, he notes, has begun to crack down on two pestiferous groups in Iraq: “… the Association of Muslim Scholars, an organization of Sunni clerics sympathetic to al-Qaeda and believed to have even been involved in leading, funding and hosting insurgent groups that have been responsible for countless attacks against Iraqis and Americans alike , and corrupt officials from Sadr’s movement and the Fadheela Party.”

The important datum is this: “Unlike previous operations, this one is different in that the troops were sent following a request submitted to the government by the department of Sunni endowment, an entity in charge of overseeing Sunni mosques and other religious activities. The chief of the Sunni endowment, Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Ghafour Samarraie, is a moderate Sunni cleric who has renounced the insurgency and explicitly accused the association of assisting al-Qaeda by justifying their murderous attacks against Iraqis.”

These are very hopeful signs on what may be a road to political security in Iraq.

“In my opinion,” Fadhil writes, “what we’re seeing right now is an exploitation of the achievements of the surge strategy in the direction to establish rule of law-step by step.”

These are good tidings that ought to be more widely distributed. Perhaps Murtha should take a second look at the political changes in Iraq or, at the very least, take a trip to Fadhil’s site.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Gaffey, You Be Up

With the first two paragraphs of a column by Kevin Rennie that ran in the Hartford Courant on Sunday, we were off to the races. “Lust for power is merely ambition,” Rennie wrote. “Lust and power together, however, can make trouble. The question is whether that potent cocktail cost taxpayers $1 billion this year because of a secret relationship between a high-ranking legislator and a state university vice chancellor. While they were pushing the bonding package, they were bonding.”

The “lust” to which Rennie refers is the affection and high regard that State Sen. Thomas Gaffey, D-Meriden, chairman of the Education Committee and vice chairman of the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee, had for Jill Ferraiolo, associate vice chancellor for government relations and communications at the Connecticut State University System.

CSUS was created during the gubernatorial administration of Lowell Weicker, who pulled up his deep-rooted Connecticut stakes and moved to Virginia recently – some suggest because, among other reasons, he wanted to avoid a possible up tick in income taxes levied against rich folk in Connecticut. Weicker is primarily responsible for introducing Connecticut to its new income tax, and Democrats have been struggling for years after Weicker left office to introduce more progressivity (fairness?) into the tax structure. Translation: They mean to get money from millionaires like Weicker to pay for their spending excesses. They have been thwarted in this design by two moderate Republican governors, ex-Governor John Rowland who served some time in jail for peculation, and present Governor Jodi Rell. The general feeling is that Rell is a weak reed rather than a strong firewall, and Democrats are nothing if not persistent.

CSUS was created by Weicker, among other reasons, to provide a cushion for Bill Cibes, who ran for governor on an income tax ticket, was soundly defeated and managed to find a spot in the Weicker administration as the head of the Office of Policy Management. Shortly before the Weicker administration trailed off into irrelevance, Cibes moved into plush offices as Chancellor of CSUS. The cushion broke his fall from politics and saved his rather large posterior. In Connecticut, the relationship between the average politician and the average state worker political appointee is incestuous.

But when Rennie refers to “power” and “lust,” he does not mean to indicate back scratching political relationships of the Weicker, Cibes variety; he means real lust, not the lust for power, status and money.

Ferraiolo, an associate vice chancellor for government relations and communications whose principal responsibility is to lobby legislators on behalf of CSUS, and Gaffney “became allies,” according to a Courant story, in the quest for a billion dollars the legislature was considering providing to the state university system that includes Eastern, Central, Southern and Western. Unlike lobbyists in the private sector, Ferraiolo is a state employee.

Readers who enjoy Barbara Cartland novels will find a bit of steam in Rennie’s account:

June was not a good month for Ferraiolo. In June, Joseph Ferraiolo, married for 18 years, sued his wife for divorce, citing adultery, a pointed claim in an age when the vague "irreconcilable differences" suffices. The couple divorced in October. Their three young children live mostly with their dad under the divorce agreement. A highly unusual paragraph in it precludes the parties and their lawyers from discussing their grievances. It punishes any leaks. Husbands and wives don't usually worry about leaks, but politicians do.

“As the summer ended, Gaffey and Ferraiolo were living in a convoluted e-mail world, one that could have been written by Barbara Cartland with some Stephen King creeping in. In August, Ferraiolo oohs and aahs at a Gaffey favor for a mutual friend. He declares, "I move mountains for my friends." In September, brace yourself, she proclaims him a "god." "Alongside every god is a great goddess," reads his modest reply. News from Gaffey that he's had a call from an editor at The New York Times has Ferraiolo repeating in capitals that he is indeed a god. Another exchange finds Zeus offering bon mots in French. Power rarely improves the judgment of those who wield it

Gaffney, his ethical scruples awakened by press stories, sent a query to the state’s Ethics Commission, which promptly pronounced that he was not in disfavor. The code of ethics applies to lobbyists in the private sector, and Ferraiolo is a public employee.

President Pro Tem of the state senate, Don Williams, was trotted out to say that because Gaffey was not in violation of the code of ethics for public officials, an assertion that may be premature, the senate will not look into the matter any further.

Barbara Cartland over at the Courant thinks otherwise. Sex, power and glory have a Big-Mo of their own.

“Ferraiolo and Gaffey,” Rennie writes, “had better start gathering receipts for the state's ethics agency. Shortly after the bill was passed, the Senate Democrats requested an opinion from the Office of State Ethics on Gaffey's role in the legislation, but failed to ask about any benefits he may have derived from his relationship with Ferraiolo.

“Legislators who knew of the relationship but remained silent deceived their colleagues” as in:

What a wicked web we weave
When once we practice to deceive

Monday, December 03, 2007

Appropriating The Body

Now that former Governor Bill O’Neill has passed on, everyone is laying claim to the body.

O’Neill was a kindly man, a genteel barkeep who wandered into politics at a time when it was thought that barkeeps -- rather than, say, news people – could run for governor or president and win.

He never lost his common touch; it was both his strength and his weakness. The most dangerous and cowardly word in politics is “yes.” O’Neill, as Chris Powell of the Journal Inquirer reminds us, was full of yeses, which is why the state budget flowered under his hand.

A conservative in demeanor only, Powell writes, O’Neill “in 10 years and 10 days, enacted, almost mutely, most of the liberal agenda of his time -- vast state underwriting of municipal school expenses, the near-doubling of teacher salaries, and the tripling of total state reimbursements to towns. Prompted by the bridge collapse in Greenwich in 1983, O'Neill also arranged a huge program of road renovation. His conservative demeanor was useful cover.”

There is no doubt O’Neill pushed the spending envelope while in office. When push came to shove, O’Neill was inclined, far more than his predecessor former Governor Ella Grasso, to yield to the push. In many ways, he was a prime example of the worse excesses of Democrats, the mirror image of the present speaker of the House, Jim Amann, also a glad hander who is fighting off an undeserved rep as a “fiscal conservative.” It would be well for us to get this straight: In an era – the era of the moderate, ideologically clueless politician – in which the state budget has more than doubled within the past administrations following O’Neill, all talk of fiscal conservativism is gibberish.

The tradition, when a good man has died, is to refrain from kicking the corpse. But now that O’Neill is off in heaven disporting with the angels, it may be said: The poor, clueless, genteel barkeep probably never knew how masterfully he had been manipulated by the liberals, always less genteel than their victims.

No doubt O’Neill felt their pinch. Who does not? And perhaps he resented them for a bit, but only the ideologically committed hold grudges. Out of office in his hometown, surrounded by real friends, he must have felt that resentment washing away. It does not take long, once an honest man leaves politics, for the reality of daily life to re-assert itself.

What O’Neill left behind was Lowell Weicker, the income tax and an apparently limitless spending spree. These days, the Democrats have become political alchemists: There is no problem so mild and solvable that it cannot, with the aide of a compliant media, become the occasion for more improvident spending. We have been on this road ever since O’Neill yielded to the promptings of the Hartford Courant editorial board and produced a deficit that the alchemists have now changed into multiple surpluses with their income tax. In this regard, he was not that much different from Republicans John Rowland and Weicker, who spent most of his political life in the “moderate to liberal” Republican camp.

Here is a charitable comment from O’Neill’s close friend and adviser Jim Wade lifted from the Journal Inquirer: O’Neill, Wade said, was “a modest, humble man who was more proud of his state, Irish heritage, Catholic faith, and his staff than himself.” All very true. He considered himself “a fiscal conservative who wanted to make sure ‘the little guy’ enjoyed the same benefits he had in life. Politics was a calling ‘from which he did not shrink.’”

Is it not passing odd how that expression “fiscal conservative” gets bandied about in Connecticut politics? Like departed governors, everyone wishes to lay claim to the corpse of fiscal conservativism. Those who do not have the courage to be conservative -- that is, to practice the art of saying “no” and to offer alternatives to reckless spending – claim the mantle of fiscal conservatives. They are neither, just run of the mill, never say “no” moderates.

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