Friday, May 23, 2008

You’ll Never Know

Everything you really wanted to know about the Obama-Hillary primary can be learned on the cheap by listening to The Platters.

First the charismatic Obama:

And Hillary of the broken heart:

Would You Buy An Insurance Policy From This Guy?

The Hartford Courant has dropped an editorial hammer on soon to be Speaker of the House Chris Donovan’s baby, a deficient bill that would open Connecticut’s health insurance pool to municipalities, smaller businesses and non-profits.

Sean Matterson, chief of staff to New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, no shrinking violet when it comes to accepting state taxpayer handouts, claimed in a letter to a legislator that, far from saving his city $8.6 million, Donovan’s brainchild “would result in no savings from current costs.”

Having done the math, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton says, according to the Courant, the bill would cost his city $5 million. The folk who claimed Donovan’s insurance pool bill would save Danbury $2.8 million… er…“forgot to include retirees in their calculations, an astounding math mistake no self respecting insurance company concerned with getting and spending would make.”

Over in Massachussetts – formerly Taxachussets – few people have bought into the state’s new insurance pool arrangement, and two insurers that handle Connecticut state employees accounts have threatened to raise rates if Dovovan’s bill is passed. One company found a rate increase of $24 million necessary, and another refuses to guarantee that rates will not spike after a year under Donovan’s Folly has passed.

“Insurance companies,” The Courant avers, go to considerable length to calculate all possible risks before setting rates. The wonder is why the General Assembly didn’t do the same.”

A soft ball question.

Insurance companies are concerned with rates because they want to provide a product without losing paying customers. If the customer perceives that the rates are non-competitive, they will move their business to companies offering lower rates or better products, the company’s stock will suffer and soon it will be out of business.

States are different than companies. States “earn” their money through taxation, and there is very little connection between the product they provide and “customer dissatisfaction.” Even Courant columnist pickled in their Yale educations – McEnroe, Curry, Rennie, pick up your goddamn phone! – cannot be satisfied with the educational product the state has been offering to urban school children.

So, why aren’t those schools shut down?

Ah me, to ask the question is to open the door to a room full of rackets: the “yes there is a material connection between money spent on urban education and the educational product” racket, the “if voters don’t like the job done by their congressmen they can vote them out of office” racket, the …but why go on?

Suffice it to say that the same folk who cannot educate urban school children now want to craft the state’s insurance policies.

And they want to do it without reference to the reasonable consequence that would follow passage of the bill. But then, whenever have consequences gotten in the way of a legislator on the make in his tireless efforts to refashion the world according to some pipe dream that would be attractive to his constituents and cost them little or no effort?

The entire legislative year is a black mark on the escutcheon of the ruling party in the legislature.

The legislature, dominated by Democrats, had an opportunity to put away for life violent criminals on their way to committing a third violent felony. They passed on the opportunity.

The legislature had an opportunity to craft an ethics reform bill that would provide a serious sanction – denial of pensions – to ethical scofflaws. They passed on the opportunity.

And now the same “do nothing” legislature will be called back into special session to … can anyone guess? The boys and gals want to effectively raise taxes by reinstating a lapsing tax that was, when it was instituted, sold to the public as a temporary measure to meet a possible budget deficit.

This effort to further gouge the public should be regarded by reporters and editorial writers as a firm indication of Democrat Party priorities. It should also be regarded as an announcement, shouted from the rooftops, that Democrat leaders will discharge any future deficit by raising taxes. Democrat leaders in the legislature – the departing Speaker of the House Jim Amann and President Pro tem of the Senate Don Williams -- simply did not have the guts to further ruin the state prior to an election.

Once they are comfortably situated in their seats, post election, the posturing will cease, and they will trot out their usual bromides. In the offing: more taxes, more spending and more political jive talk.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Invisible Victories

You won’t see this on the front page of the Hartford Courant.

Remember, you heard it here first.

Obama and Kennedy

Comparisons have been made between Sen. Barack Obama and President John Kennedy, and on some points the comparisons are well founded.

Both were and are young candidates running against war heroes. Both are barrier breakers, Kennedy the first Catholic president, Obama the presumptive first black president. Both wives of the candidates were and are intelligent, attractive and not camera shy. The hopes of young people appear to be vested in both. Obama and Kennedy are and were what has come to be known as “rock stars,” charismatic figures. Both were and are running on a program of change, though the "change" envisioned by Obama is somewhat different than the change envisioned by Kennedy. It seems odd to recall now that Kennedy had accused Eisenhower of being soft on Communism, part of a campaign salient in which the new and untried prospective president sought to assure a doubtful public that he was willing to "bear any burden" for the cause of liberty.

There are some important differeneces as well: Kennedy was a war hero; Obama is an anti-war hero.

But on one point a comparison is not justified: Obama has said that he would meet with the facilitator states of jihadist terrorists, Iran and Syria, “without preconditions.”

Someone went through the trouble of digging up declassified memoranda during the Kennedy administration that shows Kennedy was entertaining the possibility of “secret” negotiations with Fidel Castro, and Kennedy’s openness to the possibility of discussions is being held up as supportive of Obama’s intention to negotiate with terror facilitatators.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

First of all, the diplomatic situations in both cases are not the same. Kennedy had supported an ill conceived attack on Cuba, the Bay of Pigs fiasco, but there was at the time no "hot war" between the United States and Cuba.

Secondly, the possibility of direct talks with Cuba’s Castro was heavily preconditioned.

According to the information provided by those who wish to draw a parallel between Kennedy and Obama, the talk with Castro was conditional, not unconditional as Obama has proposed in the case of Iran.

Here is the important part of a George McBundy’s Nov 12 1965 memorandum:

“In particular, we would be interested in knowing whether there was any prospect of important modifications in those parts of Castro’s policy which are flatly unacceptable to us, namely the three points in Ambassador Stevenson’s recent speech of which the central elements are (1) submission to external Communist influence, and (2) a determined campaign of subversion directed at the rest of the Hemisphere. Reversals of these policies may or may not be sufficient to produce a change in the policy of the United States, but they are certainly necessary, and without any indication of readiness to move in these directions, it is hard for us to see what could be accomplished by a visit to Cuba.”

A reversal of these policies,” McBundy writes, “are certainly necessary, and without an indication of readiness to move in these directions, it is hard for us to see what could be accomplished by a visit to Cuba.”

The preconditions were never met. President Kennedy died at the hands of Lee Harvy Oswald, who had connections to Castro. The assassination and Castro’s obvious unwillingness “to move in these directions,” as was indicated by his move into the bosom of the Soviet Union, made any contact in the Johnson administration impossible.

Obama’s promised talks with Iran and Syria, both of which are supplying munitions and training used to kill American soldiers now fighting a hot war (not a cold war) in Iraq, is categorically different from the strategy adopted by the Kennedy administration in the case of Castro’s Cuba.

What? Me Worried?

According to a story in the Hartford Courant – You have to hunt for it on page A13 – some black holes have made an appearance in Sen. Barack Obama’s cosmos.

He lost Kentucky by 249,000 votes, “the most lopsided loss by either candidate in more than three months. He's lost ground in the nationwide popular vote steadily since March 1, losing a net of a half-million votes to rival Hillary Clinton. He faces another possible big loss next week in Puerto Rico. And early looks at key battleground states such as North Carolina and Ohio suggest troubles with whites, Hispanics and the working class.

“He's having difficulty in the primaries locking down fall battleground states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and has been unable to show he can win in Republican-leaning states such as Kentucky and Indiana.”

And the ruminations of Dante Scala, a political scientist at the University of New Hampshire, are not comforting.

The big Mo has disappeared: "Momentum has disappeared. Except for that one stretch between February and March where Obama won 11 in a row, momentum has really taken a backseat to the demographics...

"I think there's concern ... that his coalition has big holes in it. He hasn't consolidated the Democratic Party and he isn't any closer than he was after, say, Super Tuesday. That voter bloc, the white working-class voters, they are in places that Democrats need to win. Without Pennsylvania, without Ohio, the electoral-college map gets difficult for Obama. ... There are general election concerns there."

And the endline to the story is a clunker: “But in key battlegrounds, polls suggest Obama faces a tougher challenge than Clinton might.”

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Surgeon Michael DeBakey last month received the highest civilian award for his pioneering work in life-saving cardiac surgery. This 99-year-old inventor of open-heart surgery took the occasion to recommend to health-care policy makers and others, veterans’ health care ( VistA ), as the very best model available. A member of the selection committee, he presumably had studied all health-care systems.

VistA? Nowhere have we seen it discussed. It is not even mentioned once in the eight-paged VA Connecticut Information Packet. Fortunately, there’s an excellent new book: Best Care Anywhere, Why VA Health Care Is Better Than Yours, by journalist Phillip Longman (Sausalito , CA , PoliPointPress, 2007, 158pp). Longman came to the subject from months of exasperating experiences dealing with prestigious health-care providers for his wife, a breast-cancer patient.

Two unique factors distinguish VistA. One is the VA’s “spectacular” use of electronic medical records: its “integrated health information system, including its framework for using performance measures to improve quality, is considered one of the best in the nation,” according to the Institute of Medicine. The Journal of the American Medical Association praised it as “a bright start in the constellation of safety practice.”

No private-sector hospital can begin to match the VA’s use of electronic medical records, and only about 20 percent of the hospitals have tried. Private hospitals have been loath to computerize their medical records as too expensive and no way to recoup their investment.

Health Savings Accounts are the only model that introduces motivation by patients, a factor in keeping costs down; but it is the socialist VA that is setting the standard for best practices while controlling costs. The private sector lags in quality and cost-effectiveness. In 2004, the Bush Administration, looking for a case of high quality and lower-cost hospital, selected the Baltimore VA Medical Center. It could find no private hospital which was superior.

VistA ’s second uniqueness stems from its first. Patients stay on its records forever. No matter where they move to in the U.S., patients are always enrollees in the records of veterans’ hospitals. Their records remain for all their future doctors to see. In KATRINA lots of medical records were lost, but not VistA ’s. They could be retrieved by any veteran’s going to any VA hospital anywhere in the U.S. and announcing he is a Katrina evacuee who wants to know his records are retrievable.

Among VistA ’s numerous other advantages, there is no chance a doctor’s prescription cannot be read since it is not in his unrecognizable script. The system is wired to prevent errors. For example, a doctor enters a prescription on his laptop. The computer checks the patient’s record for an inappropriate combination of medicines or previous allergic reactions and sends up a red flag is there’s a problem. The system reminds doctors of patients who need to make appointments. The VA estimates that VistA has saved 6,000 lives by improving rates of pneumonia-vaccination among vets with emphysema, and has cut pneumonia hospitalizations in half, reducing costs by $40 million a year.

Through its record-keeping, VistA has been able to maintain a database of medical records to create the first national analysis of how patients fare, after undergoing different types of surgery in the many VA hospitals. The analysis shows decreases of nine percent in mortality and 30 percent in morbidity between 1994 and 1998. It also shows which outcomes are the best and the worst.

In the early ‘90s there was criticism of veterans’ hospitals and calls for them to be shut down. “The Worst Health care in the Nation,” blared a Washington Times headline. Young veterans sought medical help elsewhere. Meanwhile, VA dissidents known as “Hard Hats,” quietly pursued their own medical revolution and invented software for their own needs. Endocrine oncologist Andrew W. Schally, experimenting in his lab in the New Orleans VA hospital, was a Nobel Laureate as far back as 1977. The VA was the first facility to use nuclear powered pacemakers.

By 2003 and with the help of Dr. Kenneth Kizer who had been brought in to head the VA, things began to change. In places where there were too few veterans to support a hospital, Dr. Kizer contracted with private hospitals to take them. Only one percent of male patients had been screened for prostate cancer. The VA, with its “stable population of patients,” changed that and gave the VA an opportunity for improving quality. By 2003, the VA had become a leader in safe, high-quality, and innovative health care.

After all that, it is refreshing to learn that VistA ’s costs are lower than average hospital costs. In 2004, all hospitals’ average cost per-patient was $6,280, in VA hospitals $5,562 including prescription drug costs and long-term care benefits.

TIME magazine asked doctors what scares them the most about being a patient. The three most frequent answers were fear of medical errors, fear of unnecessary surgery, and fear of a contracting a staph infection in a teaching hospital.

The VA hospitals do not deal with vets’ families, but they should. Dozens of vets’ hospitals are scheduled to be closed because of insufficient patients. Only a few families are eligible, only for specific treatments and only when beds are available. A step toward comprehensive health reform would be to open them to veterans’ spouses and children.

By Natalie Sirkin

Edward Kennedy

Very likely, according to the prognosis of his doctors, Sen. Ted Kennedy will be passing along soon, perhaps as early as two years, into the hands of his Maker or into the void. He is the last Kennedy of what we here in the United States have come to regard as the “First Family.”

Those who belive in a "Maker" are sometimes comforted by the Veni Creator Spiritus:

Creator Spirit, by whose aid
The world's foundations first were laid,
Come visit every pious mind,
Come pour Thy joys on human kind;
From sin and sorrow set us free,
And make Thy temples worthy Thee.

Others pay cash.

Most of us were young when Sen. Edward Kennedy's brother John was elected the first Catholic president. When JFK died, I was just passing through my freshman year in college. Everybody remembers where they were on that dreadful day. I had just taken a shower after a basket ball game, and when I rushed through the doors out into the bright November day, the parking lot was crowded with cars, one girl draped over the hood of a red car crying fiercely.

“What’s the matter?”

“They shot Kennedy.”

None of my friends had cars; so three of us decided to hitch to Washington DC to be there at this moment of sorrow and despair. Hitching was no problem; it seemed on that day that all roads led to the Capitol, where Kennedy’s body was to lie in state. A short while after the assassination, I found myself on a Washington street, sunk in Walt Whitman’s teeming Democratic Mass, watching powerful horses carrying the fallen president’s body to the capitol.

"I will… go with drivers and boatmen and men that catch fish or work in fields. I know they are sublime,” Whitman wrote.

It was, in a Whitmanesque sense, a sublime day – that is to say, a day filled with terrifying vistas.

Everyman is a terrifying vista.

When we arrived home, we felt a gaping wound had opened in our lives.

There will be time, another poet said:

There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions…

that time will soon erase.

These are prayerful times: A time to be silent, a time to pray.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Politics Of Fear 2

Sen. Joe Lieberman, the scourge of progressive (anti-war) Democrats, once again has been caught engaging in “the politics of fear,” this time in the editorial section of the Hartford Courant.

Lieberman and his Republican pal, Sen. John Warner of Virginia, have together produced a bill “that will sharply reduce America's output of greenhouse gases responsible for global climate change and drive the technologies that will make us energy-independent.”

Attached to the bill is a warning: “The act puts the U.S. on a trajectory to help the world avert the catastrophic effects of unchecked global warming.”

Yes, catastrophic! Now there’s a word that raises the hairs on the back of your neck.

Over in Australia, at least one scientist is warning that we are about to enter a new ice age. Something to do with sunspots, which are not behaving as they should.

All this is bound to provoke a discussion of the Robert Frost poem:

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Chilling, really chilling.

Endtimes: The politics of Fear 1

Iran is not only a state that facilitates terrorism.

The United States, as President George Bush’s opponents in the U.S. Congress never tire of reminding us, is engaged in a hot war in Iraq. Many of the Democrat primary presidential candidates – including, to mention just two, U.S. senators Barcak Obama and Chris Dodd - and their media supporters continue to favor an unconditional withdrawal from that war patterned after the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, an “orderly” withdrawal followed by mayhem, murder, the slaughter and imprisonment of innocents, and the humiliating betrayal of those in Vietnam, such as the Hmong tribesmen, who supported our actions.

A similar turn of events has been anticipated in Iraq should American troops be forced to withdraw at this stage of the war. By precipitously withdrawing its troops, the United States would leave all in Iraq who had supported its military actions at the mercy of vicious terrorists supported by Iran and Syria. The innocents who would most suffer under such a regime would be, to mention just one group, the Kurds, once Saddam Hussein’s principle victims -- who have done everything we have asked them to do and perhaps would prefer to remain unslaughtered.

A precipitous withdrawal from a war theatre in which American and Iraqi troops have lately been successful also would destabilize the entire Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, from which Europe and the United States receive the energy products needed in order to keep the printing presses at the New York Times humming.

Iran is a state that has pledged to destroy Israel, supports with training and munitions terrorists operating in Iraq that have targeted American troops, and has been developing a nuclear weapons program that easily may be reinstituted soon after the American troops have withdrawn, at which point the so-called “president” of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, true to his word, may be expected to make Israel go poof.

Both Ahmadinejad and the so called “president” of Syria, Bashar al-Asad, are ambitious men; their aim and ambition is to do in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and perhaps Turkey what they are doing now, successfully, in Lebanon.

Ahmadinejad, the wackier of the two, will not be satisfied until the hostilities in the Middle East usher in the Endtimes, the age of the twelfth Imam, after which Islam will recover the splendor it lost when Queen Isabella chased the Moors out of Spain in the 15th century.

In its rapid move north from Medina, Islam was checked in what is now France in 732 by Charles “The Hammer” Martel, whose military methods in the battle of Tours would not have passed muster with the current U.S. Congress. From its beginnings in the early 7th century to the defeat of the Ottoman Turks in 1918, Islam was first a dominant then a retreating force in North Africa, Spain, Italy France, Russia, Persia, the Balkans and India.

Some of this has become a proper subject for discussion in the American presidential election now under way.

The universally reviled outgoing President George Bush contributed his mite to the discussion when, addressing the Israel Knesset on the 60th year of Israel’s bloody birth, he said: “Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”

In fact, the allusion to the Nazis is not at all implausible. Everyone is familiar with Hitler’s “final solution” to the Jewish problem. Ahmadinejad foresees a similar “solution,” and he has not been hiding his vision of a future without Israel under a bushel basket; it has been prominently displayed in his speeches and addresses.

Increasingly, as the presidential campaign lumbers on, Democrats have raised aloft the slogan, “the politics of fear” every time Republicans and the much reviled Senator Joe Lieberman point to the dangers of appeasement. But the slogan is little more than a rhetorical devise designed to wedge out of office those who support what ought to be called the resistance to a form of Islam that is profoundly anti-Western. If we wake to find an intruder rummaging in our bureau drawer, should we not be at least “wary” that a theft is in progress? If after calling the police we find that the thief’s comrades have bombed the police station and stoned the mayor’s wife as a kafir, should our emotions not move beyond wariness to something else – not fear, which freezes the senses, but a fierce resolution to resist with our minds, our hearts and our blood? At what point will Chris Dodd and Barack Obama become -- if not fearful -- then at least less placid about the aims and ambitions of such as Ahmadinejad and Asad?

In an attempt to quiet the very real fears of Israelis and Jews here in the United States, Obama has given assurances that he will defend Israel militarily. Having retreated from a hot war in Iraq to Camp Lejeune, he ought to be asked “From where?”

The New Good And Bad Rules Of President Obama

The new rule under Barack Obama, agent of change in Washington, is this: If you’re connected with a lobbyist, that’s no good. If you are running for president on the Republican ticket, and you establish a guiding rule according to which everyone connected with your campaign who has lobbyist ties in Washington must leave the campaign, you become a target for accusations that you are supporting the status quo in Washington. If you are connected to either a black racist preacher, a terrorist who has not repented of his terrorist activities or an indicted moneybags Chicago politician who had contributed oodles of cash to your campaign and later helped you purchase a million dollar home – not so bad. If you mention these things in print – bad. You are engaging in the dreaded "politics of fear."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Courant, Court Ordered Legislation, Gay Rights And Polygamy

In connection with gay rights, the Hartford Courant is untroubled by the fact that a California court has vetoed the vox populi.

Rolling over the legislature, California’s state Supreme Court has decided that the right to marriage is a constitutional right.

The Courant heartily agrees.

The paper cites a dissent by Justice Marvin R. Baxter, who argued that the justices had “substituted ‘judicial fiat’ for democratic change.”

No problem, the Courant argues: “…that's what courts do when people's rights are long denied. In the celebrated Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court — headed by Californian Earl Warren — jump-started school integration in parts of the country that had been slumbering since the Civil War.

“The majority of justices found that marriage is a constitutional right and that the state had no compelling interest in denying that right to same-sex couples. ‘In contrast to earlier times,’ wrote Chief Justice Ronald M. George in the majority opinion, ‘our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation.’”

By some strange judicial calculus, the court has determined that because California has through statute provided additional legal rights for gays in “civil union” relationships, these provisions, add up to a constitutional right, even though other statutory regulations create a bar to marriage for gays. Apparently some statutory regulations are more “constitutional” than others.

The paper hopes for a similar ruling here in Connecticut and mentions that “California's decision does not require clergy to perform same-sex marriages, nor does it invalidate the state ban on polygamy.”

To which one is tempted to retort – why not?

If gay marriage is a constitutional right, why should churches be permitted to violate the constitution in their unconstitutional religious practices. Or, to put a finer point on the question: Why shouldn’t the governing authority force religious institutions to align their civil practices, other courts having determined that marriage is a civil right, with the constitution?

As for polygamy, there are no laws in Connecticut prohibiting what the Courant in a previous story called polyamory, polygamous relationships outside of marriage.

If marriage is a constitutional right, why should those perfectly legal relationships not be brought under the court ordered law? Are not polygamous relationships in other cultures "long term" and "loving," and have not polygamists here in the United States been unjustly discriminated against?

If love makes a marriage, why cannot love make a poligamous marriage?

And finally, what is the point in having legislative debates on such questions if legislators are not permitted by the courts to decide such issues as the courts themselves seem ill prepared to decide?

A question not considered by the courts is this one: In putative gay marriage relationships, how does the state test for fraud? But that question cannot be considered until the courts have established "by judicial fiat" a constitutional "right" to marriage for virtually anyone who fraudulently claims to be gay in order to obtain the rights bestowed by the courts on genuine gay marriage partners.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Caruso Sings The Blues

At the end of the “do nothing” legislative session, Rep. Chris Caruso and Senator Diana Urban, the co-chairs of the Government Administration and Elections Committee, had a press conference the subject of which was ethics reform, but another senator, Edward Meyer, unexpectedly showed up, commandeered the microphone and rained on their propaganda parade.

“I want to state a different opinion,” Meyer said as reporters recorded the interruption of an otherwise placid media opportunity.

According to a report in the Journal Inquirer, “The Guilford lawmaker then charged his two House colleagues on the GAEC panel with producing a ‘watered down’ pension sanctions plan designed to shield unionized state employees, questioning their resolve to affect a linchpin of the Democratic base. ‘It looks self-serving,’ Meyer said. ‘It looks union-biased.’”

The king was stripped naked of his trappings and the two co-chairs of GAEC gasped with astonishment. Of course, it didn’t take Caruso long to recover the use of his tongue.

"That was just bush league," Caruso said. "I have never had a colleague do that."

A suitable punishment for Mayer’s bad taste in exercising his right to criticize Caruso in a public forum might be to deprive him of his parking space at the Capitol.

The two co-chairs of the GAEC panel had come together to resolve a difficulty caused mostly by Caruso. At first, Caruso had insisted that pension revocation for corrupt government officials should be made retroactive, the better to seize the ill gotten gains of former Gov. John Rowland, one among other government officials who actually did time for having used their offices corruptly for personal gain. Rowland -- along with former Mayor of Bridgeport Joe Ganim, child molester and former mayor of Waterbury Phil Giordano, the sweet talking state senator Ernie Newton, and a handful of others –spent some time in the clinker reflecting on their misdeeds.

Everybody who was anybody warned Caruso that retroactive punishments were unconstitutional. A law cannot be written to punish activities that were legal at the time they were performed: First comes the law defining a breach of legality, then follows the breach, then follows the punishment, except for the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, those who think laws were intended to punish pre-illegal rather than post-illegal acts – and Caruso.

Caruso relented on the point but soon drilled a hole in the ethics reform boat that for the moment sunk the bill.

On the Orwellian theory that all animals in the political barnyard are equal except the pigs -- who are more equal -- Caruso favored a system of pension revocation in which everyone but unionized employees of the state would have their pensions revoked upon the commission of an illegal act.

When the legislature reconvenes for a special session, it will restore an elapsing tax cut and once again consider ethics reform. Apart from increasing taxes, no one is betting much else will get done.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Labeling The Enemy

V.I. Lenin used to say that if you label an idea properly, you do not have to argue with it. On a similar line, if you find that a proposed amendment in Connecticut’s General Assembly is “not germane,” even when it is germane, you do not have to consider it.

That is what was done by Majority Leader in the House of Representatives Chris Donovan in the case of a Republican alternative budget submitted by Republicans as an amendment after Democrats and Governor Jodi Rell had decided to skip school.

Rather than confront the serious problems facing the state, which include but are not limited to a vanishing surplus and mounting spending, the Rell-Democrat combine chose not to tinker with a budget that later will require either severe spending cuts or crippling increases in taxes. This dereliction of duty, some have speculated, is related to the coming elections. Democrats, some critics have said, are loathed to raise taxes to cover anticipated deficits and burgeoning spending increases before the election, because they do not want the black mark on their resumes before plucked taxpayers march to the polls to vote.

Republicans this year proposed an alternative budget that did not permit Rell or the Democrats to bury their heads in deficit sand. It was quietly dispatched on the floor of the House.

When Republicans attempted to resurrect their alternative budget as an amendment to another bill -- HB 5617, An Act Making Revisions to the Charter Oak Health Plan -- Donovan objected that the amendment was not germane to the bill to which it was attached, an objection dutifully supported by the House chair.

Donovan is the chamber’s proto-typical liberal, though liberals these days have got in the habit of calling themselves progressives. Donovan, who served as House Chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee, is a key sponsor of health care reform. He has worked strenuously to create a system of universal health care in Connecticut. Donovan’s insurance pool bill, glided through the House on a party line vote shortly after Amann announced he was surrendering his position to Donovan.

Amann, it used to be thought, was a fiscal conservative; Donovan, who earned his liberal badge of honor working for the Connecticut Citizen's Action Group where he focused on environmental, energy and housing issues, is a pro-labor, unapologetic redistributionist.

When the Connecticut Business and Industries Association, a pro business group, began to lobby against Donovan’s health reform measure, they were immediately accused by pro-labor forces in both the legislature and the press of shamelessly padding their own nests; the CBIA offers and insurance program to small businesses.

The chair’s ruling in favor of Donovan’s motion was rebutted by House GOP leader Larry Cafero, but the numbers overwhelmed principled argument and the amendment was crushed by a party line vote of 104-44.

Cafero noted from the floor that if the chair's understanding of "germane" were to prevail in every amended piece of legislation, the House had been doing things wrong for a long while.

It is not necessary that every point in an amendment, Cafero said, should directly relate to the bill to which it is attached. Amendments usually are accepted for discussion on the floor if in some measure they pertain to the bill. The amendment containing an alternative budget proposal introduced by the Republicans contained provisions related to the Charter Oak Health Plan.

The amendment offered by Republicans was deemed not germane for political reasons. Neither chamber of the legislature, dominated by Democrats, favored a discussion of the alternative budget because the Democrats and Rell’s office already had decided that no revisions of an early second year budget would be permitted.

Cafaro’s protest was to no purpose. Numbers rule in the House, not principled argument. The proper answer to Donovan and his minions is not better argumentation but more Republican feet on the floor of the House.

Republicans may be expected to argue during the coming elections that Democrats had refused to consider an alternative budget because by accepting Republican proposals to address serious economic problems as the state enters a time of diminishing returns, the Democrats, led by Donovan in the House and Senate President pro tem Don Williams, wanted to put off a tax increase until they had been safely elected.

Whether that point will resonate with a general public used to voting by instinct rather than a reasonable appreciation of their genuine interests is very much an open question.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What Chocolates And Government Programs Have In Common

Like chocolates, government programs are instantly addictive. They are also difficult to repeal, especially in Connecticut, because every new program creates its own constituency, instant professions; and as George Bernard Shaw reminds us, “Every profession is a conspiracy against the laity.” The laity is the world outside the profession. In government, the laity is the collective whose pockets are mined by the profession to extend and continue the conspiracy.

That is how hard pressed and friendless taxpayers in the state should think about new programs.

Old programs involve entrenched constituencies, which are considerably more difficult to uproot and cast into the fires of Hell.

An entrenched constituency is like a mouse in a house. First you see one, then two; then nothing happens for about six weeks. Then the mouse population explodes. Soon you are overwhelmed by boisterous mice chatting in the wall. What a mouse population that threatens to overrun the house needs is a cat – a bright-eyed, sharptoothed, merciless cat. Pity only serves to excite the mouse population's reproductive systems. Smile at one mouse and before you know it you will be the unwilling host to a hord of mice that will spoil your sleep and, worse, upset your wife.

Democrat Grass Roots Want the Primary To Continue, Leaders Fear Committment

According to a Gallup Poll, most Democrats want the primary race between senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to continue. However, nervous Nellies in the Democrat leadership remain nervous. Huge beads of sweat continue to pour from party leader Howard Dean’s forehead, and Chris Dodd continues to hover between strangling Hillary and smooching her.

The longer the primary goes on, Dodd said, the more committed people become. Better to cut the thing off while people are yet malleable: "The problem as this thing goes further down the pike is that your supporters, the intensity, increases. Your loyalty deepens. Your feelings about the other side deepen. ... The question is really whether these other folks out there, who have really invested a great deal of their lives in this effort for the last two years, are going to be willing to sort of pat each other on the back and go charging off for eight weeks."

The tingling at the back of the neck that every genuine reporter and political commentator now feels is caused by the prospect of a brokered convention, a real bang up, cigar smoke and bunting filled, national convention in which selected delegates – the real tribunes of the people – decide who will be their leader in the general election.

The ghost of Henry Mencken, who covered all national conventions for about fifty years and whose reports are high political literature, is twisting in his grave, anxious to be in the maw of one more national buffoon fest, very likely the most exciting convention of the last 50 years.

Mencken himself took conventions, to quote a phrase of Mark Twain’s, “with a ton of salt.” They were exciting, both to him and to the American public, because they represented a distinctively America throw of the dice.

A reporter, once peering through Mencken’s window late at night after a rally, saw him pounding out copy in his hotel room: “He would type a few sentences, read them, slap his thigh, toss his head back, and roar with laughter. Then he would type some more lines, guffaw, and so on until the end of the article.”

Perhaps he was typing this: “The Liberals have many tails, and chase them all.”

Or he might have been laughing at the usual American notion of liberty: “The fact is that liberty, in any true sense, is a concept that lies quite beyond the reach of the inferior man's mind. He can imagine and even esteem, in his way, certain false forms of liberty - for example, the right to choose between two political mountebanks, and to yell for the more obviously dishonest - but the reality is incomprehensible to him. And no wonder, for genuine liberty demands of its votaries a quality he lacks completely, and that is courage. The man who loves it must be willing to fight for it; blood, said Jefferson, is its natural manure. More, he must be able to endure it - an even more arduous business. Liberty means self-reliance, it means resolution, it means the capacity for doing without.”

Or at the resilience of most politicians: “It is [a politician's] business to get and hold his job at all costs. If he can hold it by lying, he will hold it by lying; if lying peters out, he will try to hold it by embracing new truths. His ear is ever close to the ground.”

Or at the typical liberal's over-generous estimation of the nature of government itself: “[Government] is apprehended, not as a committee of citizens chosen to carry on the communal business of the whole population, but as a separate and autonomous corporation, mainly devoted to exploiting the population for the benefit of its own members. .... When a private citizen is robbed, a worthy man is deprived of the fruits of his industry and thrift; when the government is robbed, the worst that happens is that certain rogues and loafers have less money to play with than they had before.”

The pity of it is that if there were a brokered Democrat national convention, there would be in the hall no one like Mencken to report on it, no one large-minded enough. The purchase price of courage, for most reporters, is too dear:“Life may not be exactly pleasant, but it is at least not dull. Heave yourself into Hell today, and you may miss, tomorrow or next day, another Scopes trial, or another War to End War, or perchance a rich and buxom widow with all her first husband's clothes. There are always more Hardings hatching. I advocate hanging on as long as possible.”

Why Opra Dumped Wright

Television host and mega-celeb Opra Winfrey was, according to a story in Newsweek, “a member of Trinity United from 1984 to 1986, and she continued to attend off and on into the early to the mid-1990s. But then she stopped. A major reason—but by no means the only reason—was the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

“According to two sources, Winfrey was never comfortable with the tone of Wright's more incendiary sermons, which she knew had the power to damage her standing as America's favorite daytime talk-show host. "Oprah is a businesswoman, first and foremost," said one longtime friend, who requested anonymity when discussing Winfrey's personal sentiments. "She's always been aware that her audience is very mainstream, and doing anything to offend them just wouldn't be smart. She's been around black churches all her life, so Reverend Wright's anger-filled message didn't surprise her. But it just wasn't what she was looking for in a church." Oprah's decision to distance herself came as a surprise to Wright, who told Christianity Today in 2002 that when he would "run into her socially … she would say, 'Here's my pastor!' " (Winfrey declined to comment. A Harpo Productions spokesperson would not confirm her reasons for leaving the church.)”

Monday, May 12, 2008

Primary Dirt Dished By Democrats

The Democrat primary campaign, writes Noemie Emery in National Review, certainly is not without irony: “A campaign in which a feminist trailblazer [Geraldine Ferrero, once a Vice Presidential candidate on the Democrat ticket] is called a racist by a post-racial healer [Sen. and would-be president Barack Obama] who indulges a racist bible thumper [the silver tongued Rev. Jeremiah Wright] is a little too strange for their minds to keep up with, but it is the long termed result of the world they created. They never dreamed that the diversity codes they cooked up could snap back and attack them. But they could, and they have.”

“We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue,” Obama said some time before he dismissed his pastor as a crank and a demagogue, “just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro in the aftermath of her recent statements as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.”

The “some” to whom Obama was referring were Obama backers, ardent Democrats all.

Ferraro, who left the Hillary Clinton campaign under duress, was not pleased by the characterization.

“To equate what I said with what this racist bigot (the Rev. Wright) has said from the pulpit is unbelievable,” Ferraro returned. “He is spewing that stuff out to young people . . . and putting it in their heads that it’s okay to say ‘God damn America,’ and that it’s okay to beat up on white people.”

Before Obama showed Wright the door, the preacher was defended by supporters such as Bob Herbert of the New York Times, who wrote of George W. Bush’s campaign appearance at Bob Jones University, “George W. Bush could have distanced himself from such venues, but he chose not to. Mr. Bush has dismayed many millions of Americans . . . who have tried hard to move away from the corrosive policies and customs of the past.”

Wright’s corrosive theology and his long standing custom of savaging white folk, “blue eyed devils,” did not prevent Dionne from comparing Wright to Martin Luther King, “another angry black preacher,” Dionne said, who had harsh words for many American policies.

Historians of the period will search the writings of Dr. King in vain for a reference that God "damns" America or that the Romans were "garlic nosed Italians." King is famous for having said that people should be judged on the content of their character, not on the color of their blue eyes.

Who is it, exactly, who has been driving the chariot of division and recrimination so far?

Republicans may plead not guilty; Democrats, one supposes, might want to plead nolo contendere.

When the long, seemingly endless primary contest was but a glint in Sen. Hillary Clinton’s eye, former ambassador to the UN Andrew Young helpfully suggested that Omaba should run up the white flag early because the Clintons were known to have surrounded themselves with do-or-die apparachiks who were somewhat ruthless on the campaign trail.

Ruthless and cunning.

But the Clinton’s do not have a corner on cunning.

Attempting to preempt charges that Wright and the flag stomping Bill Ayers have warts on their noses, the progressive Huffington Post in April reported that Rick Sloan, one of Clinton’s union backers, mailed 40 key unions a message called “What Is Rove Up To?”

The memo, Emery wrote, “detailed a projected campaign by Karl Rove, the former George W. Bush adviser, based on Obama’s connections to both Reverend Wright and Bill Ayers. ‘The drip, drip, drip of Republican opposition research will continue throughout the summer,’ Sloan frothed. ‘Speakers will joke about a color spectrum of light pink to deep red. . . . The bombing of the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, and the U.S. State Department will serve as b-roll for his television ads that will have one final visual, as the announcer gravely intones, ‘Their Change — Not What You Had In Mind.’

“…Paul Waldman at The American Prospect: Liberal Intelligence was whipping himself into a frenzy over a supposed conservative ‘hate-based campaign against Obama.’

“’They intend, as they have so many times before, to wage a campaign appealing to the ugliest prejudices, the most craven fears, the most vile hatreds,’ Waldman assured us. ‘They will make sure white Americans know that Obama is not Tiger Woods. He’s not the unthreatening black man, he’s the scary black man. He’s Al Sharpton, he’s Malcolm X, he’s Huey Newton. He’ll throw grievance in your face, make you feel guilty, and who knows, maybe kill you and rape your wife.’”

“There are, in fact, many examples of recourse to fears and prejudice that Waldman could have cited, but he ignored them, since they were all committed by Democrats. Barbed praise is one favorite tactic. Bob Kerrey, the former Nebraska governor and senator, said after endorsing Hillary Clinton, ‘I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that his father was a Muslim, and that his paternal grandmother is a Muslim. There’s a billion people on the planet that are Muslims, and I think that experience is a big deal.’ Another method is pious disavowal: ‘The issue related to cocaine is not something that the campaign is in any way raising,’ said Mark Penn, then Clinton’s chief strategist.”

All this dirt has been dug up and vetted by liberals and progressives in the party that will nominate Barack Obama at the Democrat national convention … well, sometime after Clinton withdraws from the race and begins to heal the party’s self inflicted stab wounds.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Saderist Bloc Throws In The Towel

The good news probably will not make the front pages of the New York Times and its Connecticut derivatives. But weeks after the Times and other publications decided that the Mahdi Army had prevailed over Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, the government of Iraq and the Saderists have reached an agreement, according to the most recent update on The Long War Journal.
According to the terms of the agreement:

• The Iraqi government and the Mahdi Army would observe a four-day cease-fire.
• At the end of the cease-fire, Iraqi forces would be allowed to enter Sadr City and conduct arrests if warrants have been issued, or if the Mahdi Army is in possession of medium or heavy weapons (rocket-propelled grenades, rockets, mortars).
• The Mahdi Army and the Sadrist bloc must recognize the Iraqi government has control over the security situation and has the authority to move security forces to impose the law.
• The Mahdi Army would end all attacks, including mortar and rockets strikes against the International Zone.
• The Mahdi Army must clear Sadr City of roadside bombs.
• The Mahdi Army must close all "illegal courthouses."
• The Iraqi government would reopen the entrances to Sadr City.
• The Iraqi government would provide humanitarian aid to the residents of Sadr City.

It is a positive sign that the people within Sadr City themselves forced the Sadrist movement to the bargaining table.

"It is not the government who pressured the Sadrists into entering this agreement," said Ali al Adeeb, a leading member of the Dawa party. "It is the pressure from the people inside Sadr City and from their own people that will make them act more responsibly."

Connecticut’s Budget And Dystopias Elsewhere

It is, perhaps, too complimentary to call them Utopians, they ought rather to be called dys-topians, or caco-topians. What is commonly called Utopian is something too good to be practicable; but what they appear to favor is too bad to be practicable" – John Stuart Mill

Gov. Jodi Rell this year conspired with the Democrat leadership in the legislature to shut down a promising Republican alternative budget.

There’s something old and something new in all this. In times past, other Republican governors have joined the Democrat leadership and blissfully ignored objections coming from the loyal opposition. Former Governor John Rowland was notorious for beating up on the loyal opposition within his own party to bring in expensive Democrat crafted budgets. And former senator and governor Lowell Weicker, the father of Connecticut’s income tax, had been practicing the art of subtly and not so subtly undermining the efforts of his party ever since he emerged mewling from the political crib.

This tendency among Republican and putative Republican governors to conspire with liberal legislative leaders to form a budget over the muted objections of an increasingly irrelevant Republican Party is the governing template that has guided the state through the last three gubernatorial administrations.

This year, owing to a stubborn resistance among some courageous Republican leaders, the template has forced the usual cowards to step in front of the curtain.

Among the phrases Rell, her chief of staff Lisa Moody and Democrat leaders do not want to see in stories concerning the budget are these: “Democrats ignored boos from big city Democratic mayors… Rell ruthlessly undercut legislative Republicans, who offered their own budget… The governor and the Democrats are accentuating the positive, using similar and mutually beneficial talking points about fiscal responsibility… a surplus once projected at $200 million turned into a burgeoning deficit… Republicans, who hold fewer than one third of the 187 House and Senate seats, quickly pounced on the plan as the do nothing’ budget… Rather than give the Republicans that chance to put the Democrats on the defensive, Rell seemed more intent on making sure her own deal with the Democrats was not threatened…”

These phrases occurred not in an opinion column but in a news story written by the chief political correspondent of a major Connecticut newspaper. The phrases italicized are the kinds of bits and pieces one sometimes sees in successful campaign advertisements, and they certainly will resonate with the majority of hard pressed Connecticut taxpayers who, unlike Rell and the Democrats, do not have the luxury of confronting gaps in their own household budget by running away from their painful responsibilities.

Even partisan positive commentary on the failed legislative session was dispiriting. Looking for the silver lining in the gathering storm clouds, Courant columnist, former counselor to ex-President Bill Clinton and twice nominee for governor on the Democrat ticket Bill Curry, everyman’s progressive, wrote that the Rell-Democrat combine managed to produce a global warming measure that gives the state the power “to curb consumption in areas ranging from transportation to home appliances to building design. The goal is to cut carbon emissions 80 percent by mid century.”

Connecticut is one of five states to pass such legislation in the hopes of ameliorating distopias elsewhere. The bill will jack up prices, increase the cost of government, prevent new businesses from migrating to Connecticut, exile businesses that cannot maintain their profit line by assuming increasing costs, give a competitive edge to companies outside Connecticut and do little or nothing to reduce global warming – which, as Al Gore never ties of reminding us, is an airborne phenomena on a par with pollens that cause runny noses. Global warming is not susceptible to small scale legislative solutions that will drive the modern itch to settle problems through technical means back into a prehistoric cave.

But never mind all these imperfections: Connecticut, through this legislation, will declare resoundingly that it is in the vanguard of those who care about the environment – though certainly not the budgetary environment or the economic environment or the reckless spending environment, dystopias all closer to home.

The elephant in the room is overspending and over taxation: Everyone knows it and, until Republican elephants recently began hooting, everyone has been studiously ignoring it.

Can the killer ads be long in coming?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Right’s Loss Is The Left’s Gain

Voters are deluded, Arianna Huffington wrote, “The thing is, these voters clearly still think of McCain as the maverick of 2000, a straight shooter who would never seek the embrace of a man he couldn't bring himself to vote for, nor accept the regular counsel of Karl Rove, the man behind the vile, race-baiting attacks on him during the 2000 campaign.”

And the mainstream media, “the John McCain Protection Society,” is primarily responsible for the deception, according to Huffington.

The MSM, in the lingo of blogdom, has become the scapegoat of such as Huffington who, for awhile there when she was a cheerleader on the Right, was part of the putative conspiracy to portray McCain as a Republican maverick.

She has changed her mind since she changed her principles and leapt over the barricades to hitch up with progressives.

Huffington insists it was her principles that impelled her to disclose that McCain once told her in a private conversation that he did not vote for President George Bush, a charge McCain denies. At the time, he had very publicly and visibly campaigned for Bush, McCain said. The charge may be a marker that the campaign silly season has begun.

In the past, Huffington has taken flack from her critics. In his 1996 memoir, "Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms," Ed Rollins offered his assessment of Huffington, the Ann Coulter of progressivism, and her “empty suit” of a husband:

“Since early July, I'd been working for two of the most unprincipled political creatures I'd ever encountered. One was such a complete cipher he gave empty suits a bad name. But his wife was even worse - a domineering Greek Rasputin determined to ride her husband's wealth to political glory at any cost....
Arianna Huffington had charmed me out of my socks to get me to manage her husband's campaign. But in a few short months, I'd come to realize that she was the most ruthless, unscrupulous, and ambitious person I'd met in thirty years in national politics - not to mention that she sometimes seemed truly pathological”

Rollins worked on many campaigns and was known to stray from principles on occasion. For instance, he told Time magazine that he had secretly paid black ministers to suppress voter turn out during the Christine Whitman New Jersey campaign in 1993 . This produced a public outcry, and Rollins later told People Magazine that his comments had been exaggerated.

The silly season indeed; it brings out the brass knuckles in the most principled of partisan commentators.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Closing Time, The Punch And Judy Hour

Well, it’s crying time again, you’re gonna leave me. I can see that far away look in your eyes… Ray Charles

The old saw has it that neither a man’s property not his wallet is safe so long as the legislature is in session.

Connecticut may now breathe a collective sigh of relief.

The legislative session has officially ended.

The bad new is that the duffers may be called into a special session.

The legislative plate this year had been pretty full, before the governor and the legislature threw the carefully prepared meal on the floor and stomped out of the room. The boys and girls were supposed to tackle ethics reform, provide relief to hard-pressed taxpayers slogging through a recession, prevent murderers and rapist from murdering and raping us a third time and, of course, give more money to UConn, a reflex action of the last zillion legislatures.

As it happened, the surplus, eaten by recession mice, dwindled to nothing; at which point, the legislature and Governor Jodi Rell decided to push in all the stops. After having chomped down more than a decade’s worth of successive surpluses, the Rell-Amann-Williams consortium decided their collective belly was full.

No ethics reform, no protection provided by a three-strikes-and-you’re out bill, and no additional revenues for, in many cases, non-unionized contract workers who do what unionized worker do – only for less money and benefits. No, no, no…

And that’s how we ended up with the usual Punch and Judy Show.

Punch (the legislature) wants to ransack Daddy Warbuck’s wallet and spend a lot of money on his usual projects: taking care of the poor and needy, really fixing the collapsing crime and punishment joke, preventing corruption in government, building a pipeline connecting the treasury to teacher union pockets, and giving money to an indigent UConn.

Governor Judy goes along with all this -- up to a point.

Both appear to favor ethics reform and a get-tough-on-crime bill that would put violent criminals away for life on the third commission of a serious felony. A serious felony is defined as rape, murder and failing to commit oodles of taxpayer money to UConn. Both are aware that a recession is lowering all the boats, and both express concern, deep verbal concern. The three-strikes-and-you’re-out bill is rejected by the laughably titled Judiciary Committee because, co-chairman of the committee Michael Lawlor argues, there are only a few hundred felons out there to whom the law might apply, and the bill would not have prevented an especially horrific crime in Cheshire. The pension reform part of the ethics reform bill falls apart when (Rep.) Chris Caruso, the saintly chairman of the committee that oversees ethics, inserts into it a provision withdrawing pensions from corrupt officials retroactively that even a sophomore law student would regard as unconstitutional.

Punch and Judy primp on stage: They are so tolerant, so generous (with other people’s money), so fuzzy and warn, so cute.

All of a sudden – owing, Punch and Judy say, to the disappearing surplus – the pillow sized powder puffs appear, and the two begin to bang up on each other. The media follows the mayhem closely and provides a running commentary: Punch good, Judy bad; no, hold on there, Judy good, Punch bad.

In fact this delightful scene has been played many times before. By now, all the actors have got down their parts pat.

Owing to the collaborative efforts of Rell, Speaker of the House Jim Amann and President Pro-tem of the Senate Don Williams, the governor will be able to primp before the media as “an effective firewall,” and the Democrat dominated legislature will be able to enter the coming campaign as lions tearing at the pants of millionaires and providing benefits out of their left ears to a grateful constituency.

We have seen the whole show before.

It’s time to ring down the curtain on it permanently by voting in a new set of actors.

In the absence of term limits, an effective way to clear the stage of aging bad actors, Connecticut’s voters this year should get angry – very angry – at the increasing price of government. Forget the price of gas; Punch and Judy this year have decided not to reduce their take on rising energy costs. There’s a recession don’t you know, and state government needs every penny it has misappropriated through successive surpluses. Focus on the price and size of government.

And throw the bums out who do not want to reduce both.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Putting On Ayers, Radical Chic Lives

Another associate of Barack Obama, former terrorist now Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois, Chicago, Bill Ayers, is shown in an article on him that appeared in Chicago Magazine with a flag rumpled at his feet, a Mona Lisa smile coursing across his face.

Ayers, one supposes, is no fan of flag pins.

He’s duded up in jeans and a frumpy navy sport coat, the very picture of soi-disant late 60’s early 70’sb, bomb throwing, cop hating, marriage scorning, pot smoking, authority questioning, radical underground revolutionary whose Daddy was a wealthy capitalist.

Sol Stern in City Journal writes that Ayers is highly influential among the nation's educators: "Ayers’s texts on the imperative of social-justice teaching are among the most popular works in the syllabi of the nation’s teacher-ed schools and teacher-training institutes. One of Ayers’s major themes is that the American public school system is nothing but a reflection of capitalist hegemony. Thus, the mission of all progressive teachers is to take back the classrooms and turn them into laboratories of revolutionary change."

Sometimes, while sipping double lattes at Starbucks – Ayres admits he’s addicted to the stuff – his mind reverts to the glory days of yesteryear. Barack Obama’s passing friendship with Ayres, one of the founding members of the terrorist Weathermen, has hauled him along with his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, to the center of the political stage. Ayres has written a memoir about his fifteen minutes of fame called Fugitive Days.

Of the two, Dohrn was in the silly sixties the more radical. She was dubbed "La Pasionaria of the Lunatic Left" by then FBI director J. Edgar Hoover because she likeed to wear mini-skirts and knee high boots. The two “hooked up” after three of their comrades were blown up when a bomb accidentally exploded and killed them. Doren and Ayres have been married since 1982. Of those days, Ayres now says, "I acted appropriately in the context of those times."

Political consultant Don Rose, who has written about the Days of Rage, says, “What made Ayers of particular interest then was that he was the son of a captain of industry. Now he's interesting because, of all the farther-out radicals, he has achieved the most scholarly reputation."

The Chicago Magazine piece on Ayres is aptly titled, “No Regrets.”

The Real Wright, In Context

In the May 19 issue of National Review magazine Stanley Kurtz, a senior fellow of the Ethics and Policy Center, puts some of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s wilder flights of fancy into their proper context, and finds the context as disturbing as the statements themselves.

Far from being in the mainstream of the black American church, Chicago’s United Trinity Church of Christ, Kurtz writes, is “the most radical black church in the country.”

The “theology” of the church has been lifted from the writings of James Cone, “the founder and leading light of black-liberation theology” and the author of Black Theology & Black Power.

“Wright acknowledges” Cone’s work as the basis of Trinity’s perspective, Kurtz writes, “and Cone points to Trinity as the church that best exemplifies his message…Cone’s theology is the first and best place to look for the intellectual content within which Writes views took shape.”

Presently the Charles A. Briggs Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York, Cone hit upon liberation theology even before the Marxist inspired movement that swept Latin America in the 1970’s.

One of the attractive features about Barack Obama is that he has positioned himself, the candidate of "change," as a black politician who is not mired in the past.

Cone and Wright are stuck in the tar pit of the 70's, when everyone else has moved on, including the black entrepreneurial class that Wright and Cone view as having been co-opted by the "White Power structure." Even the rhetoric of Wright and Cone smells of the attic, and their underlying theology is a mess.

Those who do not transcend the past are doomed to live in it, and those who live in the past are doomed to repeat ad infinitum its fatal errors.

Obama and Wright were bound to clash – better sooner than later. One does not know at this point whether Obama's recent rejection of Wright is radical enough. There are some who suppose it opportunistic rather than radical.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Connecticut's Big Bad Deficit

When a deficit occurs in Connecticut – not often, because the state regularly reaps surpluses by overtaxing its citizens – the first instinct of the Democrat politician is to reach for someone else’s wallet.

Millionaires -- the-well-to-do, the redundantly rich, the average Connecticut Gold-coasters who usually, according to those who want to pilfer them, spend their Sundays grinding the faces of the poor -- are a convenient target.

It was Luke, not the relatively inoffensive Mathew, who in his beatitudes called down lightening upon the heads of the rich and heedless. Luke’s beatitudes, unlike Mathew's, include curses: “…woe unto you that are rich, for you have your consolation; woe to you that are filled, for you shall hunger; woe to you that now laugh, for you shall mourn and weep; woe to you when men shall bless you, for according to these things did their fathers to the false prophets.”

Luke’s objection seems to be that the sons of wealth need no God; comfort can well afford to dispense with the Comforter. Therefore, in the last days, when justice shall come, woe will betide those who have turned away from the poor and needy: They will be parched, for their thirst already had been fulfilled; they will be hungry, for they had no need of the Father who commands them to feed the poor and tend to the sick at heart.

A rational politics takes these injunctions seriously. That, in part, was the message left us by the departing Pope Benedict.

Materialism, in its essence, is a turning away from the Father, a rejection of fatherhood itself. As with Hamlet, who could “close himself in a walnut shell” and “count himself the King of infinite space,” this insularity, the imprisoning of men in the little ease of their egos, makes men mad.

All of which brings us to the role of government in the lives of men and women.

The role of government is not to establish an impossible heaven on earth, a utopia, the secular equivalent of a blissful afterlife in the here and now: It is to secure the peace, security and prosperity of the community and to leave men in a condition to live a life in which the beatitudes might possibly be observed.

The first governmental commandment is to do no harm -- not to disturb the peace, security and prosperity of the governed. Constitutions, it is sometimes forgotten, are abridgments on the authority of government, which, more often than not, dispose of a destructive power. The authority to order a community is the power to destroy a community, a notion that would not have been unfamiliar to the founders of the Republic. One of the reasons the founders established a tripartite government in which the dreadful powers of a monarch are divided between an executive, legislative and judicial branch was to hobble potential tyrants and demagogues. And the demagogue must be resisted most strenuously when he appears among us as an angel of light, whose life and works benefit the downcast and the oppressed. He is most dangerous when he appears most helpful.

Deficits are useful reminders that the governing power has spent more money than it has collected, but it is not often enough noted that surpluses are reminders that the governing power has collected more money than is necessary to discharge its budgetary responsibilities. In the case of deficits, the governing power can discharge its responsibility by either raising taxes or cutting spending. In the case of surpluses, the governing power can only discharge its responsibility by returning the misappropriated funds to the people. In both cases, the governing power has enfeebled the people and eaten out their substance, by creating deficits through imprudent spending and by creating, hoarding and spending surpluses through excessive appropriations.

For more than a decade, the Democrat dominated legislature has reaped surplus after surplus, quickly spending the excess. It was not for nothing that former governor and senator Lowell Weicker once rebuffed charges that he might institute an income tax once he was governor by saying that to do so would be like pouring gas on a fire.

He never spoke a truer word. The fire has been raging ever since, stoked with surpluses. And now that the big bad wolf is at the door, the same legislature has decided to confront the problem by going home and permitting Gov. Jodi Rell to commit economies by minimally reducing staffing.

Such pluck and courage has not been seen since Nero fiddled while Rome burned.


Twenty-five years ago, in 1983, the Nation At Risk warned us our schools were falling behind. The National Governors’ Conference in 1989 declared we would be first internationally in math and science by 2000. The warning was heard but not heeded. We were further behind than ever. Many countries have been surging ahead of us including Liechtenstein , Estonia , Macao-China , Finland , Singapore , South Korea , Taiwan , Japan , and HongKong.

We try. Chester Finn, Jr., started his career in the new U.S. Department of Education by investigating and reporting on all the good published studies on “what works.” The Department distributed over 500,000 copies, with little impact.

Is all lost? There are a few signs of resuscitation in “Going for the Gold, Secrets of Successful Schools,” by Barry Newstead, Amy Saxton, and Susan Colby in the Spring issue of EDUCATION NEXT, pp. 38-45. The authors analyzed the successful schools for the elements that make them successful. The schools are KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program), YES Prep Public Schools, and ENVISION Schools.

Professional development is the key. Twenty-two year-old Wendy Kopp’s Teachers For America spends $19,000 per corps member for training, development, and on-going support for new teachers. Selected candidates spend five weeks in the summer in training, with opportunities for practice, observation, coaching, and study. They must pass subject-area tests before starting teaching.

Dave Levin and Mike Fineberg after finishing their terms in Teachers For America started a KIPP school in inner-city Houston in 1994. In 1995, Levin returned to New York City and set up a KIPP school in the South Bronx . KIPP has been seen twice on CBS’s “60 Minutes” and in an hour-long interview by C-SPAN. In a “60 Minutes” audience were the owners of Gap, who then gave KIPP $15 million to cover the high-need neighborhoods of the country with KIPPs. There are now 59 KIPP schools.

From their first year, Fineberg and Levin arrived at five tenets: High expectations for academic achievement and conduct. Choice and commitment (parents sign a pledge). More time in school. Power to lead; teachers have authority over budget, personnel and culture. Focus on results, measured by scores on standardized tests.

To Fineberg and Levin, leadership in a school is critical. Instructional strategy, funding, and curriculum are essential but don’t make or break a school. The leader does. The Leader motivates. KIPP focuses on recruiting, training, and supporting outstanding teachers to becoming school leaders. Their objective is putting a strong leader in each school.

In recruiting, F&L look first for passionate teachers. KIPP teachers, devoted, have cell phones which are never turned off. Students can telephone them at any time of the night. During the day they do not have to, as the students are in school from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (and have homework) six days a week, 11 months a year.

One of KIPP’s innovations is how to teach the multiplication table. Do students have a hard time memorizing it? They know all the words of every popular song, so why not set the multiplication table to music? It worked. The students memorize it as they sing it

KIPP schools start at the 5th grade. Students are predominantly poor and non-white. Some can’t read. But four years later KIPP is the best school in the district, and many students get full scholarships at prestigious multi-tear prep schools.

Compared to KIPP, which has been inexistence 14 years, the other two successful schools are young and small. Each of the YES Prep Public Schools is a part of a public school. In all, YES Prep serves 2,100 students predominantly low income and minority. All its graduates have been accepted in four-year colleges. There are five YES Prep schools in Houston .

YES prep schools have two coaches on staff who support ten teachers each. They devote their time and funds to resources for training and learning. They skimp on facilities, transportation, classroom size, and other non-learning expenditures. The coaches are on a regular schedule with all the teachers they support. They go to a single teacher for 3-4 days each.

ENVISION breaks up a school into learning communities and integrates learning among the several disciplines. The idea is that what students are learning in one class, say Science, be taught in other classes as in literature. Different classes are integrated in one subject, requiring teaching-teams to do rigorous lesson planning. In a class, pupils master content. They demonstrate that they understand the subject by giving exhibitions. They chart their progress by portfolios, journals, and observations.

Difficult as integrated teaching is, ENVISION now runs four high schools in the San Francisco Bay area. They serve first-generation college-bound low-income students. Since 2003 ENVISION schools have been highest performing in their district. They do not provide transportation or food.

The quality that differentiates excellent schools from schools that do not excel are, besides professional development, student learning and school culture. Leaders devote more than half their time and resources to these goals and values. Less successful schools spend only a quarter of their time on them.

The seriousness of the deteriorating state of our schools cannot be overstated. With fewer students majoring in math and science, technology will inevitably suffer and we will have fewer engineers, scientists, and mathematicians. National growth will decline. Newt Gingrich and others have termed declining national growth our second most serious national problem.

By Natalie SirkiN

Friday, May 02, 2008

Poison Pill 2

Breathing heavily, the Hartford Courant noted in a Friday editorial that state Rep. Chris Caruso, “once (emphasis mine) the leading voice on revoking the pensions of corrupt government employees,” has inserted yet another “poison pill” into proposed ethics legislation.

The legislature wisely excised Caruso's first "poison pill" -- the unconstitutional retroactive revocation of pensions -- from the legislation and permitted it to float into obscurity as a stand alone bill, wherefore Caruso, the Inspector Javert of ethics in the House, now has offered his second "poison pill," a provision that offers an escape hatch to unionized corrupt public officials.

On Tuesday, Democrat House members "exempted union members from pension revocation," the Courant fumed. Under the provision backed by Caruso and the unions, "judges could reduce the pensions of unionized employees — but only (emphasis mine) to repay stolen money and pay fines, court expenses and the cost of imprisonment."

None of the Democrats leapt forward to object that the provision, which prevents judges from revoking pensions for other judicious reasons, impairs the much touted "discretion" of judges.

Caruso, the Courant notes, has watered down the bill “that he had wanted to strengthen a week earlier. He argues that collective bargaining agreements protect unionized employees from having their pensions revoked. He is less clear on why those same union contracts do not also protect employees from having their pensions reduced.

"Pension forfeiture laws in Massachusetts and other states have survived court challenges. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1983 that when a law serves a legitimate and necessary public purpose — as pension forfeiture does — it may override any 'impairment' to a contract."

Sometimes things happen the way they do -- Bills are scuttled because they are at the last moment festooned with killer provisions -- because that's the way people want things to happen.

So far, Caruso has been coasting along on his reputation as a fierce proponent of ethics reform.

Caruso’s last minute killer provision demonstrates that when the union “red phone” begins to ring at 3:00 in the morning, Democrat ethicists are eager to answer the call.

Inspector Javert's reputation now lies in tatters. Even Main stream media outlets are beginning to doubt both Caruso’s motives and his methodology. And doubt, as we all know, is the beginning of wisdom.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Deficit, A Really Inconvenient Truth

Since February, State Comptroller Nancy Wyman wrote in her monthly budget analysis, income tax receipts have been declining. “And, based on current employment reports, I expect this trend will continue throughout the remainder of the fiscal year and will impact July accruals. Current sales tax collection patterns also suggest a shortfall in revenue.”

But never fear, Democrats intend to patch part of the hole with an amnesty program for tax delinquents, a move advocates say could infuse the next budget with more than $100 million in one-time revenue.”

To quote myself quoting former senator and governor Lowell Weicker, father of the state income tax, way back in December 2005: “The eyes of the world and of other states are on us. What have those eyes seen so far? Following the institution of a new income tax, they’ve witnessed a doubling of the state’s budget, which means a doubling of state spending, and a shift in collections from consumer sales taxes to less business friendly income taxes that drive up wages. Even the father of the state income tax, former senator and governor Lowell Weicker, emerged from obscurity a little over a year ago to register his dismay that legislators had so quickly consumed their new financial resources.

“’Where did it all go?’ an astonished Weicker asked.”

Just Remember, you heard it here first.

The Long War Journal

If the Pulitzer Prize Committee were on its toes, it might consider awarding “The Long War Journal” a Pulitzer for superior reporting from the war front:

“Fighting in Sadr City has been heavy over the past four days. The largest engagements occurred on April 29 when a large force of Mahdi Army fighters ambushed a US patrol on the border area where the wall is being built. US forces responded and killed 28 Mahdi Army fighters while suffering six wounded. On April 27, 22 Mahdi Army fighters were killed as they massed to strike at a checkpoint in Sadr City. Sixteen more were killed in separate engagements that same day.’

That is not the sort of paragraph one sees in the usual reports in major newspapers, most of which spun off the operative premise that Muqtada al Sadr would be successful in his promised “uprising.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

“US and Iraqi troops killed 173 Mahdi fighters from the period between March 25 and March 30, when the Basrah offensive began up until Muqtada al Sadr issued a unilateral ceasefire. During a relative lull in the fighting from March 31 to April 19, 71 Mahdi Army fighters were killed. Between April 20 and April 30 -- the period starting after Muqtada al Sadr threatened a third uprising and as US and Iraqi forces took control of the bottom third of Sadr City -- 191 Mahdi fighters were killed.

“The casualties have not deterred Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. In an interview with Al Iraqia satellite television, Maliki said he would pursue the offensive against ‘militias’ but the door remains open to those who would assist the government.

“’Those who want to join the political process have to help the state in handing over gunmen or information about the hideout of the criminals and wanted men,’ Maliki said. ‘We are not talking about one militia, but several militias, al-Qaeda and other armed groups, and security forces must be informed about the places of these outlaws ... and no one has the right to prevent us from tracking them down.’ Maliki also denounced the Mahdi Army's use of ‘human shields’ and deplored the militia's use of mosques as weapons storage facilities.

“Sadr has refused Maliki's past conditions for ending the fighting, and threatened to conduct a third uprising against the government if the attacks on his militia did not cease. Sadr later backtracked and claimed he would attack US ‘occupation’ forces if the offensive against his Mahdi Army were not halted. US and Iraqi forces have continued the assault in Sadr City and Iraqi forces have cleared several Mahdi Army-dominated neighborhoods in Basrah.”

Should Democrats End Proportional Primaries?

News Channel 8’s is reporting that Joe Andrew, appointed Democratic National Committee chairman by then Preident Bill Clinton from 1999-2001, is switching his allegiance from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama.

“I am convinced that the primary process has devolved to the point that it’s now bad for the Democratic Party,” Andrew said. “While I was hopeful that a long, contested primary season would invigorate our party, the polls show that the tone and temperature of the race is now hurting us,” Andrew wrote. “John McCain, without doing much of anything, is now competitive against both of our remaining candidates. We are doing his work for him and distracting Americans from the issues that really affect all of our lives.”

All this was predictable after the Democrat Party had put forward two strong candidates for the presidency, one a woman and the other a black American. The Republicans, relying on winner take all primaries, put their primary season to bed early. The Democrats, relying on proportional primaries, are still going at it, arousing fears in the Democrat Party of a real nominating convention and a foreshortened general election.

The obvious solution to this problem is to revert back to winner take all primaries, and yet no one has asked the leading Democrat contenders whether they would approve such a party reform.

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