Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Why Connecticut Can’t Cut Spending

Capitol Watch,” a bog written by two Hartford Courant reporters, is reporting that “House Speaker James A. Amann's announcement that he will not seek re-election in November set off a scramble to climb the leadership ladder.”

Presumably House members vying for the position are less experienced than the present occupant of that office, James Amann, who has announced his intention to run for governor. Amann also is less experienced in the rigors of governing the state than the present occupant of that office, Gov. Jodi Rell.

No one from the Democrat camp has yet argued that Amann should not run for governor because in doing so he will be surrendering his office to novices who lack "experience on the job."

The notion that experienced legislators may never be replaced because the state will lose technical proficiency is an argument for reestablishing a monarchy and abolishing elections. This argument is trotted out whenever the word "term limits" are mentioned, and it also figures prominently in newspaper endorsements.

Yet, oddly, when the Republicans – defying both their governor and prominent Democrats – recently suggested that the state might save some money by offering early retirement to state employees, cries of alarm were sounded: Experienced people would be lost; the state would suffer.

Alas, experienced people are lost every year through the usually process of attrition and cutting jobs in tough times is a common business practice in all companies, painful but sometimes necessary. It is not as if the Republicans were proposing to throw state workers out of the plane without a parachute. They are proposing early retirements and job consolidation to fill the gap created when some jobs are not filled.

Reduced to its essence, the Democrats are arguing that the state may never cut spending, for any reason – ever.

That argument may sooth those in state government who believe that the state must never reduce spending, ever – for any reason. Though this clamorous crowd may have purchased the ears of the Democrat majority in the legislature, they are in the minority of people in the state who have been bruised by a sour economy brought on by people who reason that spending must always go up and never come down.

Obama on Wright

Denouncing the nutty uncle in his closet, Barack Obama said in a recent news conference in Winston-Salem, North Carolina of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's statements that they ``offend me, they rightly offend all Americans and they should be denounced and that's what I'm doing very clearly and unequivocally today."

It must have been the reference to “garlic nosed Italians” that did it for Obama.

At some point -- later to be determined -- Obama figured it was time to throw the incubus overboard.

No one yet has asked Jesse Jackson, one of Obama's supporters and also a Reverend, whether he thinks Obama did the right thing.

Junk Bonds Anyone?

Standard & Poor's Ratings Services on Tuesday cut its long-term rating on newspaper publisher The New York Times Co. to "BBB-" from "BBB." as its advertising revenue continues to fall. "BBB-" is one notch above "junk bond" status.

Monday, April 28, 2008

April Quickies

Cindy Sheehan, who very early on adopted with respect to the war in Iraq a position espoused much later by U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd and Barack Obama – war bad, Bush bad, troops out now – has decided to run against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, according to the authoritative San Francisco Chronicle. Ralph Nader popped up in Waterbury to regale the folk there with his shopworn message: Bush bad, Barack bad, McCain bad, corporations bad, Nader good. The people in Waterbury might have been satisfied if Nader, railing against incompetent bureaucrats, had aimed a few of his arrows at the boobs in state government who made it impossible to pass by Waterbury on route 84 in less than four hours. At his best, Nader sounds like Leon Trotsky on hashish crying out to the captains of industry “Get thee to a Gulag”; at his worst he sounds like former president Jimmy Carter, nominated by numerous political watchers as the worst president of the Twentieth century. Has it been that long since Jimmy fouled up the Middle East by assisting in the overthrow of a corrupt Iranian Monarch, thus paving the way for puritanical mullahs and their terrorist confederates? It seems like only yesterday. The internationalists – including Poland but alas not Connecticut – are becoming Lafferites, according to Arthur Laffer, the artist-economist who created the now famous Laffer Curve, that point in the science of economic when liberals stop paying attention. Poland has declared as its top priority a flat tax of 15 percent by 2009, by which time the state of Connecticut, under the direction of its socialist government, will have gone bankrupt. Bulgaria – ferGodsakes – already has instituted a 10 percent flat rate income tax. Kuwait has cut its corporate income tax rate by two thirds. And even Europe’s rusty old socialists have got in on the act. Spain’s socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez has pledged to cut the country’s corporate income tax by 10 percentage points and totally eliminate Spain’s wealth tax, among the highest in the world, in an evident bid to attract millionaire run out of Connecticut by homegrown retrograde socialists Democrats like congresspersons Mike Lawlor and Don Williams. Finally, as a late April fools joke, President Bush, universally reviled by America’s press, once again good naturedly attended a soiree at which his humor and modesty was heartily cheered by his assassins… And, oh yes, humorist solipsist Colin McEnroe, who in one of his past incarnations used to be a "religious" reporter for the Courant, still despises Catholics and the Pope.

Oversight? Come Again?

The Hartford Courant did not report on Pope Benedict’s mass at Yankee Stadium on the Monday following the mass, and some readers noticed the non-report, according to the paper’s ombudsman Karen Hunter.

“One reader said, ‘Shame on The Hartford Courant. The only newspaper in the country that opted to put something about the priest and had nothing about the pope's visit yesterday. I'd like to know who is responsible. As far as I'm concerned, I am going to write a letter to the editor. I'm going to write a letter to several other newspapers. And I say, I would love to know who was in charge of not putting one . . . go on the Internet see the front pages of all the other newspapers in the country. Shame on The Hartford Courant.’"

“A North Branford reader said, ‘I can not believe that I pick up The Courant and there's nothing about the pope. Not only is he a religious leader, he's a head of state. I can't comprehend that your paper did this. . . . People above you made some very, very bad decisions.’”

Returning a call from a third complaintant, Hunter informed the reader “that at the 4 o'clock news meeting Monday, Assistant Managing Editor Paul Spencer said the lack of a story about the pope at Yankee Stadium was an oversight.”


Well, at least she called back.

Courant consumer watchdog George Gombossy may want to investigate which planet Courant editors were visiting while the Pope was saying mass at Yankee Stadium, the most well attended event in the Stadium’s history

Saturday, April 26, 2008


The state legislature, dominated by Democrats and Quisling Republicans, has defaulted twice in one session. Outgoing Speaker of the House Jim Amann, announced today that the legislature will default to its previous budget; this means, at a minimum, that there will be no cuts in spending as the recession rolls over us.

The legislature also defaulted on the three strikes and you’re out bill, reverting to its usual practice of using every salient by Republicans to increase spending. The new measure – unlike the rejected proposal that would have required judges to sentence to life in prison felons previously convicted of two violent crimes -- does not compromise judicial discretion in the 270 cases cited by co-chairman of the legislature's judiciary committee Mike Lawlor as falling within the parameters of the “three strikes and you’re out” law.

As previously noted in this space, there is no reason why the “three strikes and you’re out” provision could not have been combined in a single bill with the new Democrat measure, which will cost the state $10 million, a projection that no doubt will increase over the years.

In requiring judges to double the minimum penalty for persistent felony offenders who commit a second violent crime, Lawlor and other Democrats had agreed in principle to compromise judicial discretion.

“Our goal, said Lawlor, “is to ensure that these tragedies don't happen again. After nine months of deliberation, we have finally come up with a version of 'three-strikes' that is tough and will actually work” – except in the 270 cases cited by Lawlor of persistent violent offenders who may be returned to the streets after they have served a mandatory minimum penalty for having committed two violent felonies. On their third violent felony, they will not be struck out.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Obama The Good Old Boy’s Good Old Boy

From Barack Obama’s campaign literature, one could not doubt that the presumptive Democrat nominee for president is still transcendently clean. But leaks are beginning to appear in the propaganda boat. Very few people familiar with Chicago politics and the old Cook County political machine are surprised by recent revelations. "Recent” revelations means that some of the information is slowly dribbling down from sources unfriendly to Obama in the direction of such Obama-friendly outposts as The New York Times, CNN and other Big Media whose editorial page editors and political commentators appearto be as stricken with the guy as "Obama Girl."

The current issue of National Review magazine is packed with them. Here is the lead to the cover story, “The Obama Way” by Fred Siegel: “Barack Obama exaggerates, embellishes, engages in double-talk, overstates, systematically deceives, and presents lies as metaphorical truths. All of this is unappealing, but also unexceptional. What makes Obama different is that there’s not just a gap but a chasm between his actions and his professed principles.”

Siegel says it is not surprising Obama failed to transcend Chicago politics. The lure of money, status and such characters as Tony Rezko would prove irresistible to Saint Francis: “Blacks adapted to both the tribalism and the corrupt patronage politics that accompanied it. Historically, one of the ironies of Chicago politics is that the clean-government candidates have been the most racist, while those most open to black aspirations have been the most corrupt. When the young Jesse Jackson received his first audience with Richard Daley the elder, the mayor — impervious to the universalism of the civil-rights movement in its glory — offered him a job as a toll-taker. Jackson thought the offer demeaning but in time adapted. In Chicago, racial reform has meant that today’s Mayor Daley has been cutting blacks in on the loot. Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson, Jeremiah Wright, and Barack Obama are all, in part, the expression of that politics. It hasn’t always worked for Chicago, which, under the pressure of increasing taxes to pay for bloated government, is losing its middle class. But it has served the city’s political class admirably.”

Why was Obama singled out for preferment by the political machine? “Part of the answer was given long ago by the then-boss of Chicago, Jake Arvey. When asked why he made Adlai Stevenson — a man, like Obama, more famous for speeches than for accomplishments — his party’s gubernatorial candidate in 1948, Arvey is said to have replied that he needed to ‘perfume the ticket.’”

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Amann Bows Out

Jim Amann, the Speaker of Connecticut’s House of Representatives, has announced that he is surrendering his position, very likely to Majority Leader Chris Donovan, though others are vying for the position.

Before he was elected to his leadership position, Donovan served as House Chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee. A key sponsor of health care reform, he has worked strenuously to create a system of universal health care in Connecticut.

The insurance pool bill – which ought to be named after Bill Curry who as state Comptroller suggested the measure in 1991 – glided through the House on a party line vote shortly after Amann threw in the towel. Gathering votes for its passage was Donovan, who said “What's not to like about it? Its time has come.”

According to his legislative biography, Donovan “is a labor representative with the Congress of Connecticut Community Colleges and teaches part-time at the University of Hartford. Rep. Donovan formerly worked for the Connecticut Citizen's Action Group where he focused on environmental, energy and housing issues. He also worked for the Service Employees International Union on day care, family leave, and pay equity issues.”

The Majority Leader’s political resume is the kind that will stand him in good stead with Ned Lamont Democrats; one cannot imagine a former Citizen Action Groupie backing Joe Lieberman in any contest with Lamont, the Greenwich millionaire who challenged and beat Lieberman in a primary. Lieberman ran for the US senate as an independent and won in the general election; currently Lamont is pawing the ground waiting for an opportunity.

The outgoing Speaker did back Lieberman, earning Amann the undying disrespect of people like Tom Swan, who took a leave of absence as Executive Director of CCAG to manage Lamont’s campaign against Lieberman.

His friendly gesture toward Lieberman, two old ships passing in the night, cost Amann dearly, and what happened to Lieberman in his party is on a par with what happened to Amann. Since there is in Connecticut no enemy to the left in the Democrat Party, politicians like Lieberman and Amann, both moderates, are slated for removal by leftists whose time has come.

Possibly, Amann saw the writing on the wall, or perhaps the weariness of politics whittled him down.

Amann’s position likely will be taken by Donovan, a man of the left acceptable to the numerous grindstones who will not bid Amann goodbye with tears in their eyes.

Amann’s goodbye is also a hearty hello. While bidding goodbye to his position as speaker, he hopes to become governor over the mild protest of the sitting governor, who said she wished Amann well “in nearly all his future endeavors.”

In the age of YouTube, it would be nearly impossible for Amann to juggle both balls; his every move as Speaker would be interpreted as a clever campaign ploy. But there is a downside to his leave taking as well. The phone won’t ring as often and money, which moves in the rut of power, tends to dry up as the power baton is handed over to others.

And then, of course, there is Amann’s standing within a party now heavily influenced by left of center san culottes. One reporter dryly noted that that Amann had successfully pigeon-holed himself as a “moderate,” a label that would do little to endear himself to activists within his party.

Connecticut may now expect a resurgence of the kind of Democrat liberalism that was in vogue when Curry was Comptroller and the insurance pool bill was no more than a glint in the eye of the Young Turks who hoped to refashion their party on more progressive lines.

In Connecticut, they have broken through gates and successfully stormed the castle, all but abandoned except by some old Democrat warriors dressed in antique “moderate” coats of mail that offer little protection from assaults launched by the now aging Young Turks.

Though nationally the Democrat Party is murdering itself by a primary system that is too long and too brutal, the state Democrat Party still is in good order. The national Party should switch back to winner take all primaries and then allow voting in primaries only to registered Democrats, but the party, a prisoner of its own radical egalitarianism, will not do this.

The state Democrat Party is under assault from reformers as well, but they have not been able to make much headway – until now. Given the economic condition of the state and the tone-deafness of party leaders, that way will lead downward to more taxes, higher spending, business flight and an even more profligate legislature, at which point a weary public just might turn for succor to a “fiscal conservative”, moderate Democrat like Amann to bail the state out of bankruptcy.

The Disappearing Act: Going, going...

Whatever you tax – and excessive regulation may also be viewed as a tax, since it forces companies to shell out money that might better be spent elsewhere – disappears, including, in the long run, revenues collected by the tax.

This is what is happening in Connecticut. Taxpayers and taxed companies are disappearing. The current budget is about $16 billion, slouching towards $18 billion; that’s more than twice the bottom line figure of the last pre-income tax budget.

Some of us are old enough to remember fondly the days of Democrat governors who were able, usually by threatening to burn down the houses of Democrat legislative leaders, to control the ravenous appetite for spending that always threatens to burst budget envelopes.

They are long gone.

High taxes have forced companies in Connecticut that cannot absorb the usual raid on profits to move elsewhere in search of lower labor costs, lower taxes and less entangling regulation.

During the terms of the last three governors, two of them Republicans and the third a faux Republican, Connecticut has pushed new business from its breasts, which have now run dry.

Unable to read the signs of the times, Connecticut’s Democrat dominated legislature has consistently piled spending on spending, taxes on taxes, regulations on regulations, and now – marvel of marvels – the surpluses Connecticut used to enjoy as a buffer and quickly spend during the good times have all but disappeared.

The prospect of an empty pantry, with a few frightened millionaires wiggling on the shelves and ready to bolt at the first sign that the state intends to dig a mine shaft into their pockets, has alarmed some of the big spenders at the Capitol.

When Gov. Jodi Rell issued a letter advising Democrat leaders in the legislature that the surplus – the amount of money the state has regularly overtaxed its citizens – had dwindled from a projected $263.2 million to $15.7 million, loud cries of protests were raised by leading Democrats.

“We must be extremely prudent,” Rell noted in a two page letter, “about any new state spending or new or enhanced programs. Moreover, we must engage in scrupulously straightforward budget writing and present a truly balanced budget. Using one-time revenues, underestimating costs, shifting payments from one fiscal year to another, and other approaches used in the past exacerbate shortfalls and lead to record deficits. I know you desire to avoid these problems as much as I do.”

The legislature will adjourn this year on May 7, at which point the pocket picking will cease.

The budget figures were “renounced” in a scathing letter to Rell by the two Democrat co-chairwomen of the legislature's appropriations committee, Sen. Toni Harp and Rep. Denise Merrill. The letter accused Rell of “mismanagement.” The two doubted that the governor had applied for Medicare grants amounting to $82.5 million. Four administrative heavyweights -- budget director Robert Genuario, deputy budget director Michael Cicchetti, Department of Social Services commissioner Michael Starkowski, and chief spokesman Christopher Cooper – responded at a news conference that that the forms seeking reimbursement from the federal government had been submitted, as the two chairs of the committee well knew.

Genuario did not indicate that the words “stop spending” were mentioned during his discussions with the two Democrat co-chairs of the appropriations committee. But if past practice is any guide to the future, the dwindling surplus no doubt will spur the tireless engineers of spending in the legislature to find some fertile as yet untapped new revenue source to sack and plunder.

Millionaires beware.

From this point forward, the words "cut spending" should be a rallying point for those who have not yet left the state and whose wallets are groaning under the spending assault. What this state of spending needs is a state budget referendum, ballot initiative and a bill designed to communicate to the people cost projections for every spending measure in advance of the passage of a bill.

All these measure can be accomplished in the upcoming state constitutional convention.

The time for the revolution is now.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Two Wars

There are two wars in Iraq: the real war, reported most accurately on such sites as The Long War Journal; and the imaginative war that leers at us from the campaign literature of partisans and their cheerleaders in the media, most of whom are uniformly a’gin it.

The trouble with the latter war is that the real war is not likely to conform to campaign demonization after the campaign is over and someone other than President George Bush is hoisted into office.

Will that president be, quite literally, hoisted by his own petard?

The Best Paragraph Of The Pre-General Election Campaign Season

Victor Davis Hanson has a way with concision.

“Let me get this straight: Populist and racial healer Barack Obama, in impromptu remarks to zillionaires in Marin County, "explains" to them the rural sociology of Middle America. In anthropological fashion, he warns of their peculiar customs, so, that armed with such brilliant Obamian insight, his campaign workers can approach and win over the natives, who cling to guns, go to church, hate ("antipathy") those who seem different, and scapegoat the other ("anti-immigrant" and "anti-trade"). And all of this is published on the pro-Obama Huffington Post—perhaps because its radically egalitarian editor, Arianna Huffington, is off on David Geffen's 454-foot mega-yacht, cruising the shores of Tahiti.”

Monday, April 21, 2008


Freedom of speech is not going away in the United States of America . It’s gone -- Ben Stein.

If you enjoy diaries and are unfamiliar with Ben Stein’s, you will find it in The American Spectator, monthly. Bright, light, and fun—but not the latest, which he entitles “Outraged Sadness.” It is in the April issue.

Stein is an actor, writer, lawyer, and son of esteemed economist Herb Stein. He and his make-up artist were chatting while he waited for his turn before the camera. He told a joke in which Barack Obama figured. Unbeknownst to them, someone was taping them. Next day he was summoned to the front office. The executives were scandalized at his “racism.” A fighter against racism even from childhood, he was outraged.

“Can’t talk about that.” There are already many things we no longer are free to talk about. Examples:

Stein gives the example of Global Warming. “The debate is over. The issue is settled.” Gore gave the message to the eager media. The media passed the message to a receptive public. Scientists who disagree like Dr. S. Fred Singer are “corporate lackeys [trying] to convince the general public we are not facing the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced.”

Senators Jay Rockefeller and Olympia Snowe sent a You-Just-Don’t-Get-It letter to ExxonMobil for publishing ads arguing that global warming is rubbish. Their gag order urged ExxonMobil to stop funding anti-GW ads and start funding pro-GW ads. (Has anyone challenged the pro-GW advocates on whether the grants they receive, influence their views?)

Remarks Stein, “You can show the most extreme violence and pornography imaginable to anyone with a computer, to any ten year old, but you cannot even talk about global warming or evolution or racial political correctness without being branded a criminal.”

Stein mentions Don Imus, who lost a radio job after making fun of a black women’s athletic team. Geraldine Ferraro had to resign from Hillary Clinton’s campaign when she implied that Barack Obama’s experience and credentials were too thin ever to be acceptable if from a white candidate. Was Vince Foster’s suicide, his body found under peculiar circumstances in Fort Marcy Park, a suicide or a murder? It can no longer be discussed. Barack Obama’s middle name, Hussein, was mentioned once on radio. Never again.

When the women’s movement changed women’s titles from Mrs. and Miss to Ms., every letter-writer quickly fell into line. Only one dissenter, a writer for National Review, “Miss” Florence King, has come to our attention. She never misses a chance to broadcast her disagreement to the reader.

You can’t criticize Mohammed. Filmmaker Theo Van Gogh made an uncomplimentary documentary of Mohammed and was knifed to death in broad daylight on a street in Amsterdam . Pinned to his stomach was the Muslim assassin’s message, held in place by the assassin’s knife. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a young Somali woman, a Member of the Dutch Parliament, wrote the script for Van Gogh’s documentary. She had to flee to the U.S. or risk a similar fate. In Britain for years, Salmon Rushdie had to keep moving from one safe house to another to escape assassination in retaliation for his book about Muslims. The same fate afflicts a professor in France who published an inoffensive scholarly article about Muslims.

Pope Benedict XVI in his Regensburg lecture quoted from a 14th century Byzantine Emperor on the Qur’an: “Just show me what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” Muslim jihadists called for the Pope’s assassination.

You can’t even refer to Muslims. PBS documentary “Islam vs. Islamists, Voices from the Muslim Center ” is a prize-winning documentary which PBS selected and paid for but then refused to show. Its theme is the struggle of moderate Muslims against Muslim extremists.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott at the 100th birthday and retirement celebration of Senator Strom Thurmond, praised him in words no longer used in polite society. In 1948, Thurmond was a segregationist running for president in the Dixiecrat Party. If the Dixiecrats had won, observed Lott, “we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.” Lott was quickly removed as Senate Majority Leader.

In England , a Saudi billionaire slapped author Rachel Ehrenfeld with a libel suit for her book, Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed—and How to Stop It. The book was published in the U.S. A British judge ruled she must apologize, pay the Saudi $225,000, and destroy her book. (A U.S. court has held that the British court has no jurisdiction.)

“Can you let us know if there are any references to Saudis and terrorist[s] in the book [by Andrew McCarthy],” the British distributor of Encounter books asked of Encounter’s president. “We are just concerned . . . [with] libel lawsuits as it could offend Saudis living in England .” (McCarthy prosecuted the case that put the Blind Sheikh and nine accomplices in prison for their role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and in the plotting to attack New York City landmarks.)

“The West has reacted with appeasement, willful ignorance, and a lack of journalistic criticism,” in Ben Stein’s judgment. He concludes:

"We have reached a stage where political correctness has totally beaten free speech to a pulp. You can get punished drastically for even the most lighthearted, harmless comment taken out of context.. . [I]f we are to have free speech in this country, we have to be able to speak about anything except inciting to violence."

By Natalie Sirkin

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sunday Morning Blues

Although bitter – because Connecticut is no longer an economic powerhouse -- Jonathan Pelto, Democrat wunderkind, has not yet moved out of state to, say, South Carolina, where low taxes and rational government have caused many Connecticut companies and former taxpayers to move south.

Actually, what Pelto is not telling us is that Connecticut has lost its economic prominence because the taxes and regulations that Pelto so often has supported finally has emptied the cupboard. There is but one jar of peanut butter left in this bare ruined house – millionaires – and Democrats are anxious to wolf it down. The increase in Connecticut’s budget – from a modest $7.5 billion in the pre income tax glory days of the late departed Bill O’Neill to around (What’s a billion or two among friends?) 16 billion today – certainly has not kept pace with the increase of Pelto’s salary, wherefore he is bitter.

Pelto worked like a demon to push all that money through the pipeline that connects the state budget to people’s wallets – and the result is: He is bitter at the result.

Poor darling.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

How Democrats Killed The Ethics Bill

There were, of course, obstacles to be overcome. For obvious reasons, it was impossible to vote down the ethics legislation.

Ever since the prison door clanged shut on former Governor John Rowland, Democrats had been clamoring, as had Republicans, for ethics reform. Historically, both parties had ventured too far out on the issue to vote down necessary reforms.

The reform bill approved by the senate answered all the problems that had arisen since Rowland’s imprisonment, a blot on the escutcheon of the Republican Party that Democrats easily could exploit in campaign literature.

The bill that Amann would not permit to come to a vote would have:

1) Revoked pensions for elected officials and state and municipal employees convicted of a crime related to their employment.

2) Made the failure of reporting a bribe a class A Misdemeanor if the public servant witnessed the offer.

3) Prevented chiefs of staff in the Capitol from soliciting campaign contributions from staff members for state of municipal elections.

4) Provided mandatory ethics training for newly elected officials and refresher courses for incumbents every four years.

5) Imposed a one year restriction on employment with state contractors for state employees or officials who played a significant role in awarding a state contract.

Fashioned with Republican input and adopted by the Senate, the bill was effectively killed in the House by three people: Speaker of the House Jim Amann, the sainted extremist Chris Caruso, chairman of the legislative committee that oversees ethics, and President Pro Tem of the Senate Don William, who must have known that Amann would kill the bill; the two, who pride themselves on caucusing, are only a phone call away.

Amann vowed that the House would construct its own bill and blamed Governor Jodi Rell who had, Amann said, neglected to negotiate with Caruso.

Caruso still wants to slip into the bill a poison pill provision that would retroactively revoke the pensions of convicted officials. Retroactive punishments are inherently unconstitutional and almost certainly would not stand scrutiny by any court that still has an abiding affection for the rule of law, which holds, among other things, that persons may not be deprived of their liberty or property unless they have broken a law. Retroactive punishment penalizes actions that had been legal at the time they were committed.

The beauty of such a poison pill provision is that it shifts all political responsibility from elected lawmakers to unelected and therefore unaccountable justices. In future years, if the law studded with the retroactive poison pill is struck down by the courts, legislators will be held blameless. People will remember, if they remember anything at all, that legislators struggled to pass a bill on ethics reform. An inevitable rejection by the courts would move the legislative game back to square one, and precious time in reforming ethics will have been lost in the interim.

Amann, who has indicated he might want to run for governor on the Democrat ticket, says he has no problem with retroactivity, “and I'm surprised with some people in that building who do.”

The people who have surprised Amann probably are addicted to the rule of law, which holds a man cannot be guilty of breaking a law that did not exist when action for which he is being retroactively punished was committed.

A refresher course in the political thought of the founders might budge him from his astounding misinterpretation of the rule of law that under girds all Western laws.

In "Alice in Wonderland," the Queen of Hearts is seen to be no respecter of the rule of law: “First the verdict,” she cries, “then the trial.” Amann and Caruso dispense even with the trial and find men guilty retrospectively of having broken future laws, an improvement on tyranny that is breathtaking to behold in a man who wants to be governor.

The Republican point man in the legislature, John McKinney, said after Amann blocked the vote in the House, “The House is afraid to vote.”

“What it demonstrates to me,” said House Republican leader Lawrence Cafero, is that the Democrats “don’t want ethics reform. Based on their rhetoric of the past five years, they should have 107 votes.”

Both are right.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

McCain, Lieberman Eaten By Liberal Cannibals Oberman, Fineman

Liberal cannibals are after Sen. Joe Lieberman… again...

Colin McEnroe has suggested on his blog “To Wit” that Sen. Joe Lieberman and Sen. John McCain have entered into a homo-erotic relationship.

On his blog, “What He Did For Love,” McEnroe wrote about the two: “You could probably substitute the word ‘strip’ for ‘star’ in this headline ["Lieberman willing to star at Republican convention"] and not be inaccurate. Actually, you could probably substitute a lot of words. And no, I am not inviting you to try in the comment field.

“Still, there must be a little wistfulness on Larry Craig's part when he looks over there and murmurs to himself, ‘All I really want is what John and Joe have.’”

Craig, it will be remembered, is the senator from Idaho with the wide stance who was caught in a compromising position by the vice squad in a men’s room. It has been suggested, gently, that he has gay tendencies.

Former sports reporter Keith Oberman on his show "Countdown," tried to wheedle Howard Fineman, Newsweek's senior Washington Correspondent and columnist, senior editor and deputy Washington Bureau Chief, into asserting that Lieberman's support of McCain would not be good for his career.

Fineman said Lieberman was a hapless creature who did not “move a lot of votes.” Picking a small bone with Oberman, Fineman thought it was not fear but bitterness that caused what Oberman perceived to be a personality change in Lieberman after 9/1.

Bitterness has been much in the news lately, but neither of the MSNBC newsmen suggested that the now "bitter" Lieberman will assuage his false consciousness through a reliance on religious prescriptions, and neither suggested Lieberman was any time soon due to rush out and buy guns.

The latest poll by Yahoo indicates that someone – perhaps the God of Abraham and Jesus, certainly not Lieberman – is moving votes in McCain’s direction.

The poll shows McCain drawing votes from both badly wounded Democrat presidential candidates, which very likely will cause bitterness among Lieberman hunters Fineman and Oberman.

The good news is that God works in mysterious way, and their bitterness may lead them to a more comprehensive appreciation of the role religion plays in American life, not to mention foreign policy.

Wiggles, Hillary And Obama

At some time in the future, it is not impossible to imagine a fresh faced, third year college student, perhaps studying rhetoric – if only they will bring it back as a course of study in colleges – laboring over a thesis that has as its center piece the recent so called “debate” between Democrat presidential candidates senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

The paper might be called “A comparative Study in Wiggles.”

Concerning her “sniper under fire” remarks, Clinton said, “On a couple of occasions in the past week, I said some things I knew weren’t the case. I’m embarrassed by it. I’ve apologized for it.”

Not too much wiggle room there: “I said some things I knew weren’t the case” means, to put it in the vernacular, “I lied,” or more tenderly, to borrow a phrase from Huck Finn talking about Mark Twain, I told “a stretcher.”

Here is Obama on his “bitter” statement: “I think there’s no doubt that I can see how people were offended. It’s not the first time that I’ve made … a statement that was mangled up.”

The statement that was “mangled up” – by others of course – was this one: Obama said that small town Americans become bitter because of economic adversity and “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.”

Among the people who have “mangled up” Obama’s very straight forward assertion is George Will, who wrote in one of his recent columns: “Explaining why many working-class voters are ‘bitter,’ he said they ‘cling’ to guns, religion and ‘antipathy to people who aren't like them’ because of ‘frustrations.’ His implication was that their primitivism, superstition and bigotry are balm for resentments they feel because of America's grinding injustice.”

This is an explication, not a mangle. And putting Obama’s most damaging assertion “into context” as was suggested recently by, among others, Colin McEnroe, does not relieve Obama of offering a straightforward apology, minus the rhetorical dodges, if Obama does not mean what he so clearly said.

It is not the structure of the assertion that is offensive but the assertion itself.

Here is another commentator, Mickey Kaus reacting to Obama’s assertion in Slate, an internet magazine: “It lumps together things Obama wants us to think he thinks are good (religion) with things he undoubtedly thinks are bad (racism, anti-immigrant sentiment). I suppose it's logically possible to say 'these Pennsylvania voters are so bitter and frustrated that they cling to both good things and bad things,' but the implication is that these are all things he thinks are unfortunate and need explaining (because, his context suggests, they prevent voters from doing the right thing and voting for ... him). Yesterday at the CNN 'Compassion Forum' Obama said he wasn't disparaging religion because he meant people 'cling' to it in a good way! Would that be the same way they 'cling' to 'antipathy to people who aren't like them'--the very next phrase Obama uttered? Is racism one of those 'traditions that are passed on from generation to generation' that 'sustains us'? Obama's unfortunate parallelism makes it hard for him to extricate him from the charge that he was dissing rural Pennsylvanians' excess religiosity.”

Others have supposed that Obama, feeling at ease in the company of the illuminati in California from whom he expected generous contributions, slipped into the Marxian fallacy so prevalent among academics: the notion that the lower orders suffer from a “false consciousness,” the result of feasting on religious opium.

None of the commentary will get any better if Obama continues to insist that someone else mangled his truth.

The “truth” he so clearly asserted simply is not true. Men do not turn to religion because they are stricken with false consciousness. They turn to it because they perceive in it a meta-reality that is invisible to the hard of hearing and the hard of heart, as well as the solipsists in California and elsewhere who have ears, and deep pockets, “but who hear not…”

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ethics, Retroactivity and Amann

Retroactivity in the ethics bill may be out of sight – It did not play a part in the bills offered for consideration to the legislature – but it definitely is not out of mind. Speaker of the House Jim Amann, who has indicated he might want to run for governor on the Democrat ticket, says he has no problem with retroactivity, “and I'm surprised with some people in that building who do.”

The people who have surprised Amann probably are addicted to the rule of law, which holds a man cannot be guilty of breaking a law that did not exist when action for which he is being retroactively punished was committed.

A refresher course in the political thought of the founders might budge him from his astounding misinterpretation of the rule of law that undergirds all Western laws. In "Alice In Wonderland," the Queen of Hearts is seen to be no respecter of the rule of law: “First the verdict,” she cries, “then the trial.”

Amann dispenses even with the trial and finds men guilty retrospectively of having broken future laws, an improvement on tyranny that is breathtaking to behold in a man who wants to be governor.

A Self Interview On The Ethics Reform Bill

Q: Some newspapers have said that the view of the general public on ethics reform borders on insurrection. Is this owing to the inability of the present regime to reform itself?

A: The short answer is “yes.” The general public is frustrated and angry. And we all know where that leads. Pretty soon, everyone will be turning to religion as a means of abating their anger. Tell you the truth though; a few prayers might be in order. There’s always the possibility that God is still listening to us.

Q: But seriously now…

A (Big sigh) I’m inclined to adapt a phrase from one of Hitler’s enforcers and say that when ever I hear the word “reform,” I reach for my Lugar.”

Q: But seriously now…

A: Look, the best ethics reform is term limits. With term limits, at least we can be certain that the same crooks are not plundering the public till.

Q: Are you finished now? Got it all out? I want to have a serious discussion about the new ethics reform bill. The legislature appears to be having a bit of a problem steering that sausage through the legislative grinder.

A: Where’s my Lugar?

Q: Come on!

A: Okay. The elements of the bill proposed by Republicans now up on their web site are pretty good. This is what the Republicans want to do:

1) Revoke pensions for elected officials, state and municipal employees convicted of a crime related to their employment.

2) Make the failure of reporting a bribe a class A Misdemeanor if the public servant witnesses the offer.

3) Bar chiefs of staff in the Capitol from soliciting campaign contributions from staff members for state of municipal elections.

4) Provide mandatory ethics training for newly elected officials and refresher courses for incumbents every four years.

5) Impose a one year restriction on employment with state contractors for state employees or officials who played a significant role in awarding a state contract.

Now, those provisions answer all the ethical scandals that have surfaced over the past few years.

Under the provisions listed above, future Rowlands could be more easily prosecuted (Number 1), and their pensions would be revoked on the commission of a crime. Ex post facto legislation specifically targeted at Rowland that would have eliminated his pension was always an unconstitutional “rat” designed to sink the bill. That has been eliminated from the proposals.

Making the failure to report a bribe a class A Misdeameanor would make easier the prosecution of future DeLucas and Newtons (Number 2).

Number 3 would prevent future Lisa Moodys from muscling campaign contributions from state workers.

Number 4 is a waist of time; the application of the provisions listed and the prosecution of corrupt politicians is the best education for newbies and seasoned crooks…

Q: Come on, will’ya?

A: The provisions are great. Will they be passed? You can be sure of this: There is more than one way to kill a bill. There are three kinds of people who may thwart the proposed reforms: Republicans who anticipate some cataclysmic event that will sweep them all into office, at which point they will not want to poison the well through reforms that might rob them of their perks; Democrats who want to blow the whole thing up because they perceive that these measures do indeed remove campaign advantages; and Rep. Caruso, the patron saint of ethics reform, always willing -- to borrow a phrase from Bill Curry, the patron saint of lost elections -- to sacrifice “the good” to “the perfect.” Saints will never be satisfied with anything less than failure.

Q: So, do you think the bill will pass?

A: Come on, will’ya?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Lights! We don't need no stinken lights!

“Whether consumers weary of high energy prices might agree depends on whether New Jersey, Massachusetts and Maine allow alternatives that can take the place of Broadwater Energy's plan for the Sound.”

So says the authoritorial Hartford Courant a day after Gov. Jodi Rell and Connecticut’s battle weary Attorney General Richard Blumenthal broke out the bubbly; the two were celebrating the demise of Broadwater, the offshore natural gas terminal that had been nixed by New York Governor David Paterson.

It turns out, according to the most recent Courant report, that “without their project in place, households and businesses in Connecticut can expect electricity and natural gas prices to climb. Demand for natural gas, especially by power plants, continues to grow and the region has a limited number of pipelines to get gas into the state.

“The other liquefied natural gas terminals proposed, in locations in Delaware and New Brunswick, Canada, will do little for Connecticut, Broadwater officials said, and that's assuming they win approval.

“‘The alternatives that the opposition points to don't exist, haven't been reviewed or aren't designed to serve Connecticut or New York,’ said John Hritcko Jr., a senior vice president for Broadwater, a consortium of Shell Oil and the TransCanada Pipeline.”

The high price of electricity in the state is tied directly to the availability of natural gas. Increasing the supply would bring down the price by about $300 per year per median household, money Connecticut taxpayers may need to pay for expenses incurred by their improvident legislature, dominated by Democrats living in environmental bubbles.

Bottom line: The last person leaving Connecticut may not have to shut off the lights. Rell, Blumenthal and the spendthrift legislature have already done it for you.

Message to businesses considering relocating in Connecticut: Move along, there's nothing to see here.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Clinton Campaign Fodder

Someone from National Review – Could it have been the late departed and much missed Bill Buckley? – once said that discussions in college were so intense because they were “about nothing.”

The recent flapdoodle concerning Barrack Obama’s remarks on anger in small town Pennsylvania is much ado about nothing.

Here is the lead on the story from Reuters: “TERRE HAUTE, Indiana (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama came under fire on Friday for saying small-town Pennsylvania residents were ‘bitter’ and ‘cling to guns or religion,’ in comments his rivals said showed an elitist view of the middle class.”

It did not help that Obama made his remarks about Pennsylvania at a toney fund raiser in, of all places, San Francisco.

But at least the remarks were not the canned soup one has come to expect of politicians trolling for votes. Following Obama’s remarks, Hillary Clinton let loose a barrage of limp overcooked rhetorical spaghetti: She thought the remarks were condescending. Said Hillary, “Pennsylvania doesn't need a president who looks down on them. They need a president who stands up for them, who fights for them, who works hard for your futures, your jobs, your families.”

Actually, what Pennsylvania needs are jobs, which was pretty much Obama’s initial point: “You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.

“And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

One must recall that Obama’s sentiments were tailored to a specific audience of donors: liberal, gun hating, Californian, deep pocket agnostics.

The durable people in Pennsylvania's small towns do not turn to religion or guns from a sense of frustration. They turn to God for the same reason that people in, say, San Francisco turn to God (heh, heh).

The old Irish saying has it that God must love the poor, since he made so many of them. It is true that when one’s job has flown over seas because labor costs and benefits in the United States outpace the same labor costs and benefits in, say, India – people do get angry.

What President Obama may do about all this is anyone’s guess. The answer to that question would take all of us very far from pointless college discussions about nothing.

Iraqi MP Iyad Jamal Al-Din: Democracy in the Middle East

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Annual Pesci Prize Awarded to Cohen

The Pesci Prize for distinguished commentary, awarded in lieu of the Pulitzer Prize, this year has been bestowed on Laurence Cohen for his entrée “A Spell Is Broken.”

Mr. Cohen writes a regular column for the Hartford Courant, Connecticut’s state-wide left-leaning daily. The award committee has not been able to determine whether Mr. Cohen, once associated with the Yankee Institute, actually is on the staff of the paper, now owned by the mercurial Sam Zell, a real estate magnate who lately has threatened to make the paper profitable.

Mr. Cohen’s winning column is reprinted below. Don Pesci, commenting on the entrée, said, “Cohen is always good for what ails'ya, but this one is a rib tickler. Many of us can’t understand why Zell doesn’t let Cohen write the whole dammed paper.”

There were no runner-ups.

A Spell Is Broken
Laurence Cohen

April 11, 2008

What was the likelihood that the Connecticut General Assembly was going to pass up the opportunity to forgive women accused of being witches or practicing witchcraft, or, at the very least, of registering Republican?

The heavy lifting and creative public relations had already been done: A mom and her 14-year-old daughter, standing around one day boiling puppy-dog tails, decided to tell the legislators that they were direct descendants of a 17th-century Connecticut woman accused of witchcraft — and served up the notion that the legislators should absolve all the Connecticut women branded as witches.

What a home run. You assign Legislative Research to dig up the stuff on hysteria and witches and Salem and the Wicked Witch From the East that Dorothy killed when the house fell on her. You wake up the staff at the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women and have them issue a quick report on how most of the accused witches were women, because men are pigs.

And then you clear a path for Gov. M. Jodi Rell and Attorney General Dick Blumenthal and a coven of legislative leaders, as they fly to the microphone as if on brooms, to express their regrets and sympathy and a promise never to execute any more witches, except perhaps for the governor's chief of-staff, Lisa Moody, who has a reputation at the Capitol for being a real, well, you know, witch.

It's not like the General Assembly didn't have enough time for the witches. The decision to extend the emergency temporary real estate conveyance tax only took about 15 seconds. You didn't really think that tax was going to be "temporary," did you? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

And yet, despite the lack of apparent risk, despite the opportunity for positive news coverage and being named "Legislators of the Year" by the Aggrieved Witches Division of the American Civil Liberties Union, the resolution melted away like a witch with water poured on her.

This is not a case of important legislation being sabotaged by lobbyists. In fact, many lobbyists are witches or at least instruments of Satan, and thus sympathetic to the resolution. So, to what can we attribute the failure of that old black magic to exercise its, well, magic?

In part, the problem may be that modern-day witches have changed the rules of the game. They market the bubbling caldron stuff as sort of a New Age religion; they go to the University of Connecticut School of Social Work and apply witch-stuff to social problems; and they call themselves Wiccans.

The modern witches seem so mainstream that the label from days past doesn't seem so bad — except for the part about being hanged.

Also, the modern witch advocates didn't play the game. You have to liquor up those legislators and hire their relatives if you expect to get stuff passed. Intimidating them with flying magic monkeys doesn't work.

As many students of Welsh legend remember, the brave warrior Peredur spent three blissful weeks with the witches of Kaer Loyw, learning how to be a man, despite a ruling from the Celtic Ethics Commission that the witches should been reimbursed for the beer and cigars.

The most troubling aspect of the exoneration pitch to the legislators was the possibility that the women in question actually received fair trials and were, in fact, actually witches.

For instance, one of the first witch trials of the time was that of Judith Catchpole in 1656, who was accused in Maryland of secretly giving birth on a crowded boat, killing the baby when no one was looking, slitting the throat of a sleeping woman and then sewing it back up again without waking her.

The evidence was way-cool, as they said in those days, but totally unbelievable — and Judith was acquitted of witch stuff, although she did have trouble finding boyfriends after that.

Perhaps we will never know the real reason that the witch exoneration juggernaut failed to win the day in Connecticut. As early as 1697, in the Massachusetts general court, one of the judges and several of the jurors repented for their roles in the Salem witch trials.

Connecticut? We know witches when we see them. And we aren't apologizing for nothin'.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Age Of Planned Atrocity

“Here in the U.S.,” writes Dan Henninger of the Wall Street Journal, “our politics has spent much of the year unable to vote into law the wiretap bill, which is bogged down, incredibly, over giving retrospective legal immunity to telecom companies that helped the government monitor calls originating overseas. Even granting there are Fourth Amendment issues in play here, how is it that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama cannot at least say that class-action lawsuits against these companies are simply wrong right now?”

Henninger is concerned that our politics, which seems to go forward in a time warp, will not be able to adjust to the modern reality in which several British citizens plotted to blow up seven air lines carrying American passengers. The seven are on trial in Britain.

“Philip Bobbitt,” Henninger writes, “author of the just released and thought-provoking book, 'Terror and Consent,' has written that court warrants are 'a useful standard for surveillance designed to prove guilt, not to learn the identity of people who may be planning atrocities.' Planning atrocities is precisely the point. 'Atrocity' is a cruel and ugly word, but it has come to define the common parameters of the world we inhabit. It is entertaining to watch the candidates trying to convince the American people of their ability to be presidential. It would be more than nice to know, before one of them turns into a real president this November, what they will do – or more importantly, will never do – to stop what those eight jihadists sitting in the high-security Woolwich Crown Court in London planned for seven America-bound airliners over the Atlantic Ocean.”

At the Washington Post, David Ignatius notes that the CIA will in the future be hamstrung by, among other things, the unwillingness of some in Congress, notably US Sen. Chris Dodd, to provide what Dodd calls “retroactive immunity” to US corporations that assisted the government in providing information necessary to thwart planned atrocities.

The expression “retroactive immunity” is rhetorically freighted since most provisions of immunity are retroactive. The important question is: Do we want the co-operation of telecom companies in providing to US intelligence information that may thwart planned atrocities? Without immunity from prosecution, US firms will not provide such information, as British corporation regularly do. In Britian, the burden of proof that must be met to trigger an investigation is much less obstructive than is the case in the United States.

Ignatius, by no means a neo-con, writes, “The general mistrust of intelligence is spilling over into the agency's contacts with U.S. corporations. Companies that used to cooperate in providing nonofficial corporate cover for officers or in highly classified programs to combat, say, nuclear proliferation are getting nervous that they'll be exposed to legal consequences if there's a scandal. That's the real importance of granting immunity to telecommunications companies that cooperated in the Bush administration's terrorist surveillance programs. They did so in good faith, assured by government officials that their actions were legal -- and now they face a barrage of lawsuits.”

"Corporate CEOs considering whether to help the government today tell intelligence officials that they would like to be patriotic, but they can't expose shareholders to the risk of litigation. That's a worry Congress should help remove.”

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Revolution Next Time

In a rational universe Chester’s First Selectman Tom Marsh’s idea might be bruited about in the state legislature; it certainly would not be rejected out of hand.

Mr. Marsh fresh from a recent conversation with Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams, wants Connecticut to know that for the past year he has been promoting “a policy that allows towns to keep a portion of the sales and income tax that is generated.”

An earlier idea promoted by several of Connecticut’s mayors, that selected big cities should be permitted to levy sales taxes, is the wrong idea, in Marsh’s view, because it would encourage the flight of capital from city to suburb.

After being told by Williams that there was no magic money tree in the basement of the Capitol building from which dollars could be plucked and given to the towns, Marsh, David facing Goliath, slung his proposal at Williams, writing later in an letter to a newspaper that it was his idea to shift to towns “control of a portion of the tax revenue” from “the inefficient bureaucracy in Hartford and keep it in the hands of local government, where it is most directly accountable to those who pay the tax.”

With ideas like this in the air, can the revolution be far behind?

Marsh is not the first politician to notice that when a dollar is transmitted from, say, Chester to the money eaters in the state legislature in Hartford, something more than a dollar is lost in transit.

Every dollar Williams collects from Chester is a dollar in tax receipts that Marsh cannot collect from citizens who live in Chester. Also, the dollar’s trip from Chester to Hartford is attended with hidden costs that reduce the purchasing power of the dollar. If the dollar is collected by Williams and returned to Chester for educational costs, the purchasing power of the dollar will be reduced by additional bureaucratic costs. There is of course no dollar for dollar return on revenue collected; in the getting and spending lottery, some towns win dollars, while others lose dollars. The state, far less responsible than municipalities, also has a way of reneging on its promised obligations. Much of the loot collected from towns that should have been dedicated to teacher pension funds, to take but one example of many, has been dumped into the general fund, Connecticut’s black hole of spending. Like love, it would appear that dedication lies in the eyes of the beholder.

Here’s the real deal: Money is political power; that is why Williams wants the bulk of it to be collected from Chester and sent to Hartford, where it may be dolled out, at William’s pleasure, to chastened petitioners like Marsh.

When Williams told Marsh there was no magic tree from which William could pluck dollars to fill Marsh’s beggar’s bowl, Marsh introduced Williams to reality.

He knew there was no magic tree, he said.

The source of the funds Williams was able to distribute to Chester in fact originated in Chester. The state is simply the custodian and distributor of the funds. But the state, far removed from the source of those funds, is not as responsible a distributor or collector as the municipalities, which are closer in a republican form of government to the people, who are the real money tree.

So why not allow municipalities to keep more of the money sent to Hartford?

Revolutions are made of questions such as these.

In another corner of the Democrat barracks, in the meantime, the Democrat controlled finance committee was plotting, unbeknown to the sometime fiscal conservative Speaker of the House Jim Amann, to raise taxes. When Amann recovered from his surprise, he “spoke strongly,” as one newspaper put it against “a legislative proposal to charge an extra 6 percent sales tax on delivery charges for packages sent to homes and businesses.”

"From day one, we've said this is not the year to raise taxes," Amann said. "For the most part, this is dead on arrival. It's the last thing we want to do in this environment. This is not the climate for it. It came as a surprise to everyone, including leadership and 98 percent of the people in the building."

If the unshakable William was surprised, he was not dismayed. Said Williams, “I'm not ready to say this is a good idea or a bad idea.”

More taxes, after all, are the next best thing to a money tree in the basement of the Capitol building.

Monday, April 07, 2008

A Charitable Hillary Fires Penn

According to recently released tax information, the former First Couple earned $109 million over the past eight years, a tidy sum that puts them among the top .01% of taxpayers. The Wall Street Journal reminds us that, with the Clinton’s, charity begins at home.

“Meanwhile, the Clintons also made liberal use of the charitable deduction, claiming $10.2 million in charitable giving over the eight years. Intriguingly, nearly all the donations went to the Clinton Family Foundation, which has disbursed only half the money. The Clintons can thus use the foundation for, er, strategic giving, such as the $100,000 it donated last year to a local South Carolina library – the day after Mrs. Clinton debated in that key primary state. There are other examples of such politically targeted philanthropy, and it's worth noting that most of the foundation's disbursements came only after Mrs. Clinton announced her Presidential run.”

Mark Penn, pollster in chief of the Clinton campaign, has been shown the door. According to a Breitbart report that references a report in the Wall Street Journal,
Penn met with Columbian officials to “help craft strategy to move the Colombian free trade agreement through Congress.

“Colombia agreed last year to pay Burson-Marsteller,” Penn’s firm, “$300,000 to help "educate members of the U.S. Congress and other audiences" about the trade deal and secure continued U.S. funding for the $5 billion anti-narcotics program Plan Colombia.”

This is a problem because Clinton, nudged by Barack Obama’s soaring rhetoric, opposes the Free Trade Agreement.

Penn apologized for his miss-step but Hillary, not in a charitable mood, canned him anyway.

On Saturday, the Colombian government, announced it had fired Burson- Marsteller owing to Penn’s "lack of respect" for Columbia.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Why A Three Strikes And You’re Out Law Should Be Adopted

The three strikes and you’re out proposal has been strangled in the crib by the usual suspects.

The proposal is now in the process of being reconfigured. The reconfiguring will be costly.

The original proposal would have prevented judges from using their discretion in sentencing criminals already convicted of three serious violent felonies. Upon commission of a third felony, the presiding judge would be obliged to remand the criminals to prison for life.

That is the nub and center of the three strikes and you’re out proposal.

The proposal was introduced after a horrific murder in Cheshire. Two petty criminals who had been processed under Connecticut’s present liberal court system, upon release from jail, graduated to serious felonies. They followed the mother of a family home, broke into her house, beat her husband with a baseball bat, tied him up in the cellar, drove the mother to her bank where she was forced to withdraw money, raped the mother, raped one of the daughters, bound all three women to a bed, doused all of them with gasoline and set them on fire.

The mother had an opportunity while in the bank to alert officials, who then called the police, who raced to the scene and apprehended the two no longer "petty burglars" on their way to freedom.

Lots of strikes there.

Naturally, this being Connecticut, there was at first a substantial outcry, followed by a proposal to enact a three strikes and you’re out law, followed by some notices in papers that such a law would not have applied to the two petty burglars, followed by a few thoughtful opinion pieces questioning the propriety of a three strikes and you’re out bill, followed by a stiff resolve to oppose the bill and instead enact legislation that would be more responsive to the facts on the ground.

The new proposals include fists full of money thrown in the direction of Connecticut’s penal system: more beds for prisoners, more outreach programs, a reformed parole board, more parole monitors, etc., etc., etc., as the king of Siam might say, and finally, a consummation dear to the hearts of Connecticut empathetic liberals, an end to the prosecution of crimes in which there are no victims, like pot smoking and drug dealing.

The idea is to make these non-violent crimes legal and then tax them out of business; in this way, Connecticut will reap more revenue to pay for all the workable proposals that have been offered as a means of preventing burglars from beating people with baseball bats, raping women and setting them on fire.

Along this merry way, a couple of things have escaped notice, the most important of which is that the three strikes and you’re out proposal was narrowly constructed to apply only to those criminals who have committed three serious felonies.

The Democrats on the Judiciary Committee and in the legislature who oppose the notion are saying something like this: Because laws on speeding do not apply to jaywalking, they are therefore unnecessary.

Of course a three strikes and you’re out law will not apply to criminals who have committed two violent felonies or to petty burglars or to jay walkers. The law is what it is. Laws are by nature limited prohibitions. The petty burglars who invaded the home in Cheshire might be eligible under the terms of such a law if they had been tried separately for each of their strikes at the Cheshire family. The law compels a judge to sentence to life in prison violent offenders who have committed three previous violent felonies, which, come to think of it, is the whole point and purpose of the three strikes and you’re out law.

None of the additional proposals made by those on the judiciary committed and others to address the problem of violence in Connecticut are incompatible with a three strikes and you’re out law. This is not an either/or proposition; all the measures that recently have been proposed can go forward at the same time. Though it is doubtful that decriminalizing pot will prevent home invasion in Cheshire, no commentator or editorialist has yet proposed that the proposal to decriminalize pot should be abandoned because it would not prevent violent home invasions.

Yet this is the rationalization used by opponents of the three strikes and you’re out proposal: The proposal will not prevent murderous home invasions by petty burglars, therefore it is unnecessary. But it is necessary to prevent a fourth violent felony, and any additional proposals to insure the public safety should pass in tandem with a three strikes and you’re out law.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Pick Up The Phone

When the phone is ringing in the White House at 3:00AM, you want to be sure to answer it.

The caller may be Indonesian moneybags Mochtar Riady.

An examination by the Washington Times of Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s recently released 11,046 pages of White House activity calendars in response to a freedom of information request by Judicial Watch shows, according to the Times’ report, “ that Mr. Riady and his wife were among nine people who sat with Mrs. Clinton at the head table. His name is listed next to the notation, ‘**giving large donation**.’”

Five days after the dinner, Mr. Riady wrote a four page letter to President Bill Clinton calling for an end to a 30-year trade embargo with Vietnam. Mr. Riady was developing extensive business relationships with Vietnam at the time.

“By that time,” the paper reported, “Mr. Riady's banking conglomerate, the $12 billion Indonesia-based Lippo Group, its subsidiaries and its employees, including his son James and executive John Huang had funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to Mr. Clinton's 1992 presidential race and had guaranteed a $3 million last-minute loan to a cash-short Clinton campaign just before the crucial New York primary in 1992.”

One of the Riady connected bagmen who “played a critical role in seeking an end to the Vietnam trade embargo” was John Huang. “He quit his $120,000-a-year job at Lippo in December 1993 to accept a job offered by Mr. Clinton as deputy assistant secretary for international economic affairs at the Commerce Department, at $60,000 annually, where he aggressively argued for a new U.S. trade policy toward Vietnam,” according to the Times’ report.

“Mr. Huang resigned from Commerce in December 1995 to join the Democratic National Committee as a fundraiser, after Mr. Clinton had made inquiries on his behalf. The DNC returned $1.6 million of the more than $3 million he raised because the contributions were either illegal or suspicious.

“Mr. Huang pleaded guilty in 1999 to a felony charge of conspiring with other Lippo employees to make campaign contributions and reimburse employees with corporate funds or money from Indonesia. He was sentenced to one year probation and fined $10,000. LippoBank California, a state-chartered bank affiliated with Mr. Riady’s Lippo Group “pleaded guilty in 2001 to 86 misdemeanor counts charging that its agents made illegal foreign campaign contributions to Democrats from 1988 through 1994.”

In the meantime in Chicago, city of the big shoulders, one of Sen. Barack Obama’s patrons, Antoin "Tony" Rezko, is on trial for doing what in the days of Tammany Hall might have been considered a public service.

Tammany was well known for picking promising blooms like “Big Bill” Thompson from the nursery beds, fertilizing them with contributions and making them flower. The high point of Cook County bossism in Chicago came during the administration of Governor Thompson, a Republican, whose picture adorned the Lexington Hotel wall of the headquarters of Al Capone and his thugs. Thompson, a colorful character who once threatened to punch King George V of England in the nose, was an anti-prohibitionist who was indifferent to corruption.

Rezko, who assisted Obama in the purchase of his $1.95 million dollar house, has been indicted, according to a recent Chicago Tribune story, “for plotting to squeeze millions of dollars in kickbacks out of investment firms seeking state business and for obtaining $10.5 million from a large company through fraud and swindling a group of investors.”

Rezko has helped bankroll all of Obama’s campaigns with the exception of his bid for the presidency.

In an interview with the Tribune, Obama said ‘voters should view his Rezko dealings as ‘a mistake in not seeing the potential conflicts of interest.’ But he added that voters should also ‘see somebody who is not engaged in any wrongdoing . . . and who they can trust.’”

The delegate counts amassed by both Clinton and Obama suggest that neither Clinton's past relations with Riady nor Obama's past relations with Rezko have undermined their support within the Democrat Party or the main stream media, which has not pressed either candidate on these issues.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The price of Comity: $15 Billion and Rising

Democrats have controlled the state legislature roughly since the Jurassic Period, while Republicans have had a lock on the governor’s office for the last three terms. This arrangement has benefited two Republican governors, John Roland and Jodi Rell, as well as state legislators, the preponderance of whom are Democrats.

The arrangement also helped former Governor Lowell Weicker, who left the Republican Party to run as an independent governor, in his battle to shove an income tax down the gullet of Connecticut tax payers. Weicker, it will be remembered, won office after having said that establishing an income tax would be like pouring gas on a fire.

Voters of average intelligence supposed at the time that Weicker was averse to the income tax that had been the central pillar of Bill Cibes’ gubernatorial campaign. As it turned out, Connecticut got Weicker, the income tax and Cibes, whom Weicker installed as his Office of Policy Management chief – not, it should be noted, to put out fires.

After the income tax battle was over, all the professional politicians in the legislature and Weicker kissed and made up. Three governors later, the fire rages on. Connecticut’s budget, $15 billion and rising, has more than doubled since the last Democrat governor, William O’Neill, left office. The figure above does not include bonding obligations, about $14.7 billion, a mini budget not included in budget figures.

Such have been the fruits of co-operation and comity between Democrat legislators and so-called “opposing” Republican governors.

George Bernard Shaw once said that every profession is a conspiracy against the laity. His quip would apply to the professional courtesies exchanged between Democrat legislators and Republican governors, Weicker included.

Into this Eden of professional politicians now slithers a snake, several snakes, in fact; for it would appear that some stalwart Republicans – Rell and her aide decamp Lisa Moody not among them – are no longer interested in co-operating with the present regime.

The recent mild mannered opposition of some Republicans to the present regime –represented in the governor’s office by chief of staff Lisa Moody, a notorious compromiser, and other co-operating and co-opted Republicans – gives some reason to hope that the tax and spending freight train that has for years run over the wallets of hard working Connecticut citizens may be derailed.

What Connecticut needs to lift it out of the doldrums is not an attack on sprawl. It does not need the illusion of a regional form of government, the progressive’s answer to strong towns whose citizens have successfully turned away swollen budgets in town referendums. It does not need to send yet one more liberal congressman to Washington, there to be stroked and schmoozed by corrupt beltway earmark king Rep. John Murtha.

What Connecticut needs to prosper in the 21st century is, in no order of importance, a strong principled Republican Party, a fiscally responsible Democrat Party, a statewide referendum to control costs and costly regulations, a ballot initiative that will lure representatives away from reliance on lobbyists and make them responsive to the people they represent, more sprawl (if by sprawl is meant an excess of business activity generated by low taxes and responsible regulation), less comity in the legislature, and a reinvigorated media that has the courage to live up to the journalistic principle stated by Joseph Pulitzer, after whom the coveted Pulitzer Prize is named, that good journalists “should have no friends.”

In the Republican resistance to Moodyism – the tendency to surrender half a loaf of bread to the opposition (soon transformed by muscular negotiation into a whole loaf) in return for crumbs – may be seen the first faint glimmerings of a principled opposition to business as usual.

The dawn begins to break.

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