Sunday, November 30, 2008

That Was Then, This Is Now: The Obama-Hillary Crush

"What exactly is this foreign policy experience? Was she negotiating treaties? Was she handling crises? The answer is no." So said then Democrat primary opponent Barrack Obama of his chief rival for president, Sen. Hillary Clinton. "Campaigns are ever thus."

The man now selected to serve as White House counsel in the Obama administration, Greg Craig, noted, “She did not sit in on any National Security Council meetings when she was first lady. There is no reason to believe ... that she was a key player in foreign policy at any time during the Clinton administration.”

But that was then.

Obama adviser Susan Rice shredded the notion that Clinton could acquire foreign policy experience through marital osmosis: “There is no crisis to be dealt with or managed when you are first lady. You don't get that kind of experience by being married to a commander in chief."

In March, adviser to the Obama campaign on foreign policy Robert Gelbard, who once worked for the Clinton administration, allowed that Clinton may have had more involvement in foreign policy than a lot of first ladies but, he cautioned, “her role was limited and I've been surprised at the claims that she had a much greater role."

That was then.

And now?

Quoth Gergen: “Generally speaking, there is a recognition that campaigns bring a certain amount of hyperbole, and when it's over you try to find the most talented people you can find to work with you."

So, hyperbole; that’s what it was.

Sort of makes you wonder how many other of the claims made during the primary by Obama and the Obama camp – not excluding his vow to withdraw troops from Iraq and recommit them to Afghanistan – were hyperbolic.

It will be left to the new Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to sort it all out. As the wife of former President Bill Clinton, she has had some experience in this area.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Pythagorian Thanksgiving

Connecticut’s legislature and the governor – twin saviors called to lead the state out of its Babylonian captivity to a new promised land – met for a one day special session before Thanksgiving and, as one reporter put it, “adopted only politically painless cuts and revenue enhancements to trim a current year deficit that stands at $302 million.”

Then everyone went home to make merry for the holiday.

However, when the lawmakers sat down at the Thanksgiving table this year, some things were different than was the case in 1991, when then Governor Lowell Weicker and the legislature dug the state out of a gaping red hole by substantially increasing revenue enhancements. That was the year the governor and legislature hung the income tax albatross around the state’s neck.

Time and tide waits for no man, and so here we are 17 years later – back at square one.

Once again, we are knee deep in red ink. But there are differences. The ink this time is deeper and broader, and there is no new income tax in the offing to address what is expected to be a $6 billion hole in the biennial budget. Christopher Donovan, scheduled next year to become the new House Speaker, is holding out hope, slim at best, that the national cavalry will arrive in Connecticut with cartloads of bailout money. "We have signals from Washington that there is help on the way,” said the future Speaker, “Who can predict in this economy what will happen next?"

Any six-year-old can predict what is about to happen in the national and state economy. The predictions are in, and it will not be a happy time. Depending on whether President-elect Obama and the dominant Democrat US congress pursue a course that punishes entrepreneurial capital, the recession will be either short and manageable or long and deep.

As Connecticut families this year gather together to give thanks to the Lord of creation for the blessings He has bestowed upon us, not everyone will be present at the Thanksgiving table. This should not prevent us from showing our gratitude to our loving parents who have died and left us; to our aunts and uncles, some no longer with us; to our families, who sustain and support us; to military men and women, the guardians of our liberties and freedoms, serving in troubled corners of the world; to our brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, some of whom have left the Connecticut and our Thanksgiving tables to raise their families in more welcoming states than ours.

When we break bread this Thanksgiving, we should remember that we are the children of a merciful and just God who has brought all of us through the wilderness of our winding ways to the joys of family life in a country that to be loved must be lovable.

It is to the wisdom of our elders that we owe whatever joy we have in life.

In his essay on moral standards, Plutarch comments on several enigmatic rules of Pythagoras:

“In general, it is proper to keep the young from association with wicked people, for they carry away some part of their baseness. This principle Pythagoras has enjoined in enigmatic rules, which I shall now put before you and expound. Their contribution adds no small weight to the impulse towards acquiriung excellence. For example:

“‘Do not taste black-tailed fish,’ that is, do not pass your time with men whose character is black with vice.

“‘Do not step over the beam of a balance,’ that is, justice should be very highly esteemed and must not be transgressed.

“‘Do not sit upon a peck measure,’ – or eschew sloth, and take thought how we may provide ourselves with necessities.

‘Do not put out your hand to everyone’ – stands for ‘One must not strike up friendships too readily.’

‘Do not wear a tight ring,’ which means that one ought to keep his life free and not subject it to any fetter.

“‘Do not eat your heart’ – or, do not afflict your soul by consuming it with anxieties.

‘Abstain from beans,’ which means that one should not engage in politics; in the olden times, beans served as ballots for impeaching magistrates.

“‘Do not put food in a chamber pot.’ This signifies that it is not seemly to put clever speech into a foul mind; for speech is the food of thought, and the foulness in men makes it unclean.”

Commenting unknowingly on the beans quote, my dear mother, who died a year ago on September 11, use to warn us before the carving of the Turkey, “There will be no discussion of politics at this table.” It was a rule we joyously broke every time we sat down as a family to break the bread that God gives us and share with each other the joys and troubles of family life.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

al-Zawahiri Disses Obama, Hood Strikes Back

Ayman al-Zawahiri is the second in command of al-Qaeda, a step behind Osama bin-Ladin, whose silence on the American election has led some to suppose that he is indisposed or dead.

Al- Zawahiri is very much alive. He is thought to be biding his time in the badlands of Pakistan until such time as it is once again safe to come out of his hidey-hole.

He has issued a communiqué on the American election and decidedly does not respect the wisdom of the American people in choosing to elect Sen. Barack Obama as president because, among other reasons, he does not compare favorably with Malcolm X.

Obama, said al- Zawahiri, is the direct opposite of “honorable black Americans” like Malcoln X, described in a CNN report as “the fiery African-American Muslim activist from the 1950s and 1960s.”

The sticking point for al-Zawahiri is “Obama's foreign policy positions on Afghanistan and Israel,” according to CNN.

“The posting, an 11 minute and 23 second audio message in Arabic with subtitles in English, appeared on the Web on Wednesday. Its authenticity cannot yet be confirmed.

“It shows a graphic with the words ‘The departure of Bush and the arrival of Obama.’ That graphic also contains a still image of Malcolm X on a Muslim prayer rug in a mosque; images of Obama, wearing a Jewish skullcap, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem; and a picture of al-Zawahiri.

“There are also archival videos in the message, including clips of speeches from Malcolm X.

"’You have reached the position of president, and a heavy legacy of failure and crimes awaits you. A failure in Iraq to which you have admitted and a failure in Afghanistan to which the commanders of your army have admitted,’ the message said.

“The speaker also said Obama's plan to pull troops from Iraq and send them to Afghanistan ‘is a policy which was destined for failure before it was born.’

"’If you still want to be stubborn about America's failure in Afghanistan, then remember the fate of Bush and Pervez Musharraf, and the fate of the Soviets and British before them,’ the message said. ‘And be aware that the dogs of Afghanistan have found the flesh of your soldiers to be delicious, so send thousands after thousands to them.’"

The hood strikes back.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


What is objectionable is that these voluminous and authoritative-appearing documents convey the message that passive smoking is a major cause of fatal disease, which few scientists believe to be the case. -– Geoffrey C. Kabat

It’s a thrill when the author of a new book also served as an expert on a policy-making report with which one is familiar. The subject is ETS, environmental tobacco smoke (i.e., secondhand smoke or passive smoking). The EPA with the help of its Advisory Board in 1992 published its Report which found a very low relative risk of 1.19. It listed ETS as a Class A human carcinogen, which scientists believe it is not. That is the conclusion EPA intended to reach from the beginning, declared Federal District Court Judge Osteen, who discussed at length the Report’s plethora of errors.

The unique, excellent new book is Hyping Health Risks, Environmental Hazards in Daily Life and the Science of Epidemiology (Columbia University Press, 2008). The author, epidemiologist Geoffrey C. Kabat, was a member of EPA’s Science Advisory Board (though he barely mentions it) for ETS, Environmental Tobacco Smoke. His book covers four case studies of lung-cancer deaths: ETS, breast cancer, radon, and electromagnetic fields from power lines and household appliances. In this column we deal at length with ETS and radon in residences.

Kabat takes each case from its initial stage of “emergency! health scare ahead!” through subsequent studies to ascertain whether the health risk is real. It is important, as there is always a health risk-du-jour. Examples: The Natural Resources Defense Council asserts that chemicals used in shampoos are “neurotoxins” which cause seizures, and it wants FDA to ban them; the National Christmas Tree Association claims that artificial trees “harbor cancer-causing and poisonous chemicals,” and it wants FDA to ban them; Mayor Bloomberg wants transfats in restaurant food banned.

Hyping Health Risks fills a knowledge gap between scientists and lay readers, making the complex understandable. It has a Glossary. If you want to know what ionizing radiation is and nothing you have read ever stops to explain it, Kabat has it in his Glossary. And so too for the very important “statistical significance,” LNT (EPA’s linear-no-threshold hypothesis), odds ratio vs. relative risk, ELF-EMF (extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields), &ca &ca &ca. All are there and more.

EPA’s 1992 Report on ETS concludes that ETS causes lung-cancer deaths. Kabat goes back to the 1970s when two Harvard scientists, to evaluate the perception that ETS is dangerous, set about to measure it in public places. They found only a tiny amount, the equivalent of 0.004 (four one-thousands) of a cigarette per hour, and the equivalent of smoking seven cigarettes a year. This definitive study was completely ignored, the fund-grantor, Massachusetts Lung Association, even refusing to publish it. But it was published, then ignored. “People had already made up their minds that smoking and smoke were bad, and would not accept anything to the contrary,” author First told Kabat. Perception trumped science.

Kabat takes us through a second study of exposure to ETS. Subjects wore close to their bodies equipment measuring exposure to ETS in their home, and a second gadget for use when at work in their home. They measured approximately 8-10 cigarettes’ worth of nicotine and particles annually.

Radon is said to be the second most important cause of lung-cancer deaths. Information on radon comes from miners who worked for years in underground mines, and who smoked. The goal was to extrapolate down to what happens with a much smaller exposure of radon in residences. EPA estimated that from 6,000 to 36,000 lung-cancer deaths a year come from radon. But 90 percent “are likely to occur in smokers and would not occur in the absence of smoking,” says Kabat who adds, “It should be possible to acknowledge that much is known about the effects of radon at high levels encountered in mines but that we cannot characterize the risk at the very much lower levels typical of homes.”

EPA, whose philosophy is that there is no safe level of any carcinogen, makes assertions about strong radon threats which have no scientific basis. “We’ve created a statistical illness, multiplying a very small risk by a very large population to come up with frightening figures,” observed expert Ernest Letourneau.

As with radon, serious studies of electromagnetic fields and breast cancer so far have not found explanations, and the public is dissatisfied, frustrated, and inclined to believe the hype.

Explained authors Poole and Trichopoulos of an electromagnetic field study, “We have never stated that a causal association between EMF and cancer is impossible. We have indicated that the evidence for such an association is empirically weak and biologically implausible. We have never proposed that research concerning the health effects of EMF be discontinued . . . [W]e believe that . . . there are currently more serious health needs that should be given higher priority".

By Natalie Sirkin
Natalie Sirkin ;

Monday, November 24, 2008

CAIR Sued for Fraud

According to a press release issued by the law offices of David Yerushalmi, the Council on Islamic-American Relations (CAIR) is being sued by four of its former clients for fraud and racketeering:

CAIR Sued by Former Clients for Racketeering,
Fraud, & Breach of Fiduciary Duties

For more information:
David Yerushalmi, Esq.
Law Offices of David Yerushalmi

November 24, 2008 — Washington, DC: Four clients of the Council on Islamic-American Relations (CAIR) have filed a federal civil complaint alleging criminal fraud and racketeering against CAIR, a self-described public interest civil rights law firm. The lawsuit also names CAIR’s national leadership as individual defendants.

Some of the defendants were served with the complaint and summons to appear while attending the CAIR 14th Annual Dinner Sunday night in Arlington , Virginia . Congressman Ellison (D-Minn) was a guest speaker at this affair.

The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges that Morris Days, the “Resident Attorney” and “Manager for Civil Rights” at the now defunct CAIR MD/VA chapter in Herndon, Virginia, was in fact not an attorney and that he failed to provide legal services for clients who came to CAIR for assistance and who had paid for CAIR legal services.

While attorney David Yerushalmi represents the four plaintiffs in this particular lawsuit, two of whom are African American Muslims, the complaint alleges that according to CAIR internal documents, there were hundreds of victims of the CAIR-Days fraud scheme.

According to the complaint, CAIR failed to conduct a background check on Days prior to hiring him and when they did discover his massive fraud, they immediately set about to cover it up. CAIR officials purposefully concealed the truth about Days from their clients, law enforcement, the Virginia and D.C. state bar associations, and the media. When CAIR did get irate calls from clients about Days’ failure to provide competent legal services, CAIR fraudulently deceived their clients about Days’ relationship to CAIR, suggesting he was never actually employed by CAIR, and even concealed the fact that CAIR had fired him for criminal fraud.

“The evidence has long suggested that CAIR is a criminal organization set up by the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas to further its aims of stealth Jihad in the U.S.,” Mr. Yerushalmi said referring to the fact that CAIR has been named by the federal government as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terror financing trial.

“But our investigation and this complaint makes clear that CAIR’s criminal activities know no bounds,” Yerushalmi continued.

“According to the facts as carefully laid out in this complaint,” Yerushalmi explained, “CAIR has engaged in a massive cover-up of a criminal fraud in which literally hundreds of CAIR clients have been victimized and because of the CAIR cover-up they still don’t realize it. The fact that CAIR has victimized Muslims and non-Muslims alike demonstrates that CAIR is only looking out for CAIR and its ongoing effort to bilk donors out of millions of dollars of charitable donations thinking they are supporting a legitimate organization.”

The complaint also alleges that in addition to covering up the Days fraud scheme, CAIR officials in D.C. forced angry clients who were demanding a return of their legal fees to sign a release that bought the client-victims’ silence by prohibiting them from informing law enforcement or the media about the CAIR-Days fraud. According to the agreement, if the “settling” clients said anything to anyone about the fraud scheme, CAIR would be able to sue them for $25,000.

This enforced code of silence left hundreds of CAIR client-victims in the dark such that to this day they have not learned that Days is not an attorney and that he had not filed the legal actions on their behalf for which Days and CAIR publicly claimed credit.

The four plaintiffs contacted their attorney David Yerushalmi only after they had spoken to Dave Gaubatz, a private researcher who had been investigating CAIR for its connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and its ties to global jihad. Had Gaubatz not informed the plaintiffs of the fraud, they would still be under the impression that Days was a competent attorney representing their legal interests in various lawsuits and administrative proceedings.

The complaint identifies CAIR as a racketeering enterprise under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), which is a criminal racketeering statute that allows victims to sue the defendants in civil court. In addition to damages, the plaintiffs are seeking injunctive relief under this and other statutes to shut down CAIR and to prevent the individual defendants from engaging in public interest legal work in the future.

The named defendants are: the Council on American-Islamic Relations Action Network Inc. (dba CAIR); Nihad Awad aka Nihad Hammad who serves as executive director of CAIR National; Parvez Ahmed who was the chairman of the board of CAIR National during the relevant time period; Tahra Goraya who was the national director of CAIR but who has since resigned; Khadijah Athman who is the manager of the “civil rights” division of CAIR; and Nadhira al-Khalili, Esq., who is in-house legal counsel for CAIR.

According to the complaint, CAIR’s in-house Washington, D.C.-based attorney Khalili was directly involved in taking the legal files out of the CAIR Virginia office and concealing them in the D.C. office.

Also named as defendants are Ibrahim Hooper and Amina Rubin, CAIR’s director of communications and coordinator of communications, respectively. According to the complaint, these two were directly responsible for issuing fraudulent press releases about the Days fraud scheme, thus aiding and abetting the CAIR cover-up.

About David Yerushalmi, Esq.

David Yerushalmi has been practicing law for almost 25 years. He is a litigator specializing in securities law, public policy relating to national security, and public interest law. Mr. Yerushalmi is licensed and practices in Washington D.C. , New York , California , and Arizona .

For a copy of the complaint, email

Mark Steyn, the author of America Alone, has felt the long lash of CAIR.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The fishwrap

President Barrack Obama’s cabinet is firming up, and Markos Moulitsas, the progressive firebrand at DailyKos, is not on the list. Aiming for a cabinet of rivals, Obama has included New York Senator Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State, an appointment that has caused some controversy in the progressive barracks. It is supposed that Hillary the warrior was chosen to prosecute Obama’s military ambitions in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the government of which – at least that portion of it that remains uncorrupted – is on shaky grounds. Arnaud-de-Borchgrave advises against a re-deployment of troops to Afghanistan and, along the way, provides a delicious quote from outgoing President George Bush: "I know you believe you understood what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize what you heard is not what I meant." Back home in Connecticut, the Journal Inquirer reports that leaders of the Connecticut Community Providers Association, a group of non-profit agencies that delivers the bulk of the state’s social services, has not yet turned itself into a bank so that it may retrieve funds from the $700 billion collected by Washington to aid in the nation’s economic recovery. The Waterbury Republican American reveals that in the age of Obama, race hustlers still are seeking to cause discord. And in Hartford – Why don’t we give it back to the Indians? – Mayor Eddie Perez’s administration is caught up in some complex single party one horse town political tousle involving former Executive Director Lancelot Gordon of the Hartford Housing Authority, Miniard Culpepper (real name), New England regional counsel for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Courtney Anderson, the former authority chairman ousted by Perez two years ago along with commissioners Angel Arce and Yolanda Castillo, and a partridge in a pear tree. Also, Sarah Palin has resurfaced to confound liberals everywhere by giving a press availability at a turkey processing plant just before Thanksgiving. Katy Kouric was not present.

Best commentary may be found here."Tell me, Arianna - have the turkeys stopped screaming?"

Saturday, November 22, 2008

White House Council’s Latin American Connections

Politico is reporting that some of Greg Craig’s lobbying connections are questionable. Mr. Craig has been newly named by President-elect Barack Obama as his White House council.

As a top Washington lawyer, newly named White House counsel Greg Craig has represented high-profile clients, from Bill Clinton to John Hinckley to Alexander Solzhenitsyn to Elian Gonzalez’s father.

But less well known is Craig’s work in the 1990s for at least four foreign governments or leaders facing a variety of tricky situations in Washington.

Craig represented Argentina, Bolivia, Panama and the prime minister of Haiti as a “foreign agent,” basically a lobbyist for foreign governments and businesses with issues before the federal government. But those governments, which paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Craig’s power law firm Williams & Connolly, got more than just traditional lobbying from him.

President Obama and Lincoln

President-elect Barack Obama, who may surprise us all, is said to have been much impressed by Doris Kearns Goodwin’s new book on Abraham Lincoln, “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.”

Part of the genius of Lincoln, Kearns Goodwin believes, lay in his ability to bend men to his purposes. Lincoln prevailed over his political rivals because he was able to live in their skins and think with their brains. And when it came time for Lincoln to build his cabinet, he put together a “team of rivals” that worked well under his direction because he was able to master men through a respect for his competitors.

“Good leadership,” Kearns said, “requires you to surround yourself with people of diverse perspectives who can disagree with you without fear of retaliation. Lincoln placed his three chief rivals for the Republican nomination in crucial positions in his Cabinet and filled the rest of his top jobs with former Democrats. His Cabinet sessions were fiery affairs, but they provided him with a wide range of advice and opinion.”

Of course, there are as many books on Lincoln as there are views of him. Lincoln has been appraised and reappraised more often than other lesser American presidents. Two other excellent books on Lincoln out recently are “Tried by War,” written by the distinguished Civil War historian James McPherson, and “Lincoln at Peoria: The Turning Point,” by Lewis E. Lehrman.

McPherson argues that Lincoln was considerable more involved in managing the Civil War than previously had been suspected. Lincoln was the only president “whose entire administration was bounded by war.” Lehrman points out that it was during a speech in Peoria that Lincoln effectively became Lincoln. In the Peoria speech, Lincoln dedicated himself irretrievably to a deep and abiding commitment to the revolutionary principles of 1776 as adumbrated in the “all men are created equal” doctrine of the Declaration of Independence, which Lincoln regarded as “the sheet anchor of American republicanism.” It was in this speech that a prescient Lincoln warned American would move towards civil war if the Kansas-Nebraska Act was not repealed.

Obama's "turning point," that testing point in his presidency when he becomes what he is, lies in the future.

Comparisons between Obama and Lincoln are inevitable. Both are relatively unknown one term legislators who ascended to the presidency. Both were state legislators in Illinois. Both have a certain flair with the language, though Obama is more prosaic, Lincoln more poetic. The administrations of both may be bounded by war. And then, of course, there is a historic connection between the two: Lincoln rang the death knell on slavery; Obama, the first African American president, may do the same with the remnants of Jim Crow in American culture.

But comparisons are useful only up to a certain point. Though history may sometimes seem beguilingly repetitive, history does not repeat itself, and it is the differences that matter.

When Obama steps into the White House, his window on the world will show a country and a world racked with painful problems. We are engaged in a war on terror that will not end if we wink at it, and the recession now upon us very well might be prolonged if presidential prescriptions for spurring the economy are not effective.

Added to all this are the political problems – namely, the Clintons.

During the Democrat primaries, Hillary Clinton was a little sharper with Obama than, say, Sen. Joe Lieberman, and husband Bill was even sharper than his convivial wife. Hillary regarded Obama as a foreign policy wreck waiting to happen and provided Republicans, during their general election struggle, with much appreciated aid and comfort. Obama, perhaps heeding the words of Kearns Goodwin, now has retaliated by offering Mrs. Clinton a position in his cabinet as Secretary of State, in which position she is certain to draw fire from progressive guerillas such as the frumious Ms. Huffington of the Huffington Post and bandersnatches such as whathisface over at DailyKos, the progressive’s bible of bilious anti-war protest.

At this point, all of us but Christopher Hitchens should wish the new president God speed. His cabinet picks so far suggest a man who is not tied inextricably to his elastic campaign promises or to defeatist ideologies. And he certainly has the native talent to be a great president, if only he has the courage to ignore bad advice from his team of rivals.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Citizen Ayers, the Pedagogue

Bill Ayres has become little more than a radical cartoon. Only pedagogues could take him seriously, and his election as vice president for curriculum of the 25,000-member American Educational Research Association (AERA), the nation’s largest organization of education-school professors and researchers, suggests they have done so.

American education has been deteriorating roughly since early 70’s when Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” became part of the curriculum in teacher’s colleges. Freire’s idea was that the pedagogue or teacher was an oppressive creature so long as he taught his students, for teaching implies the conveyance of ideas or, as Freire would prefer to frame it, propaganda. Learning, however, is a liberating activity. Oppression in the classroom therefore would end when the teacher no longer taught a subject to his students. To become liberators, teachers must become “learning facilitators.” They may shuck off the imputation that they are indoctrinators or propagandists by leading their charges to drink; but they must not prescribe the drink. No lecturing, please.

Ayres takes Freire a step further. Ayres borrows from Freire and other pedagogical tinkerers the idea of oppression and, having failed in the 70’s to bomb it out of existence, jettisons the practice of facilitation in favor of a pedagogy of liberation. Ayres’ teaching does have a prescribed content; he is an unashamed pedagogue and an unashamed former Weather Underground revolutionist, a larval communist in a day when even communists – except in backwaters such as Castro’s Cuba, Chavez’ Venezuela and now Ortega’s Nicaragua – had grown weary of boilerplate propaganda. He lectures -- shamlessly.

Both Freire and Ayres recognize education as a culture carrier. Both think the culture in the West is rotten. Freire thinks that students, if they are not oppressed by their teachers, will stumble upon the truth somehow and manage to liberate themselves. Ayres, a true pedagogue, knows the truth that will set them free, and he is determined to spoon feed it to them, preferably when they are young and malleable. The way to liberation is through propaganda.

In any society worth saving, Ayres – who has a bad case of arrested development, a lingering personality distortion from the silly seventies -- would have been dismissed as a failed revolutionist and a third rate pedagogue. In America, teetering on the brink of the 21st century, he is feted in the halls of academia, and his books sell; his educational monographs are read in the claustrophobic castle of liberal academia.

Here are some excerpts:

From “Conceptions of Teaching

If what is before us is out of balance, if some part of what we see stands as an obstacle to our humanity or if it is in some sense unacceptable or offensive to the better angels of ourselves, we are called to say “no.” It is in this spirit of resistance and hope that we go in search of a humanistic pedagogy…

When a school functions as a prison, and an increasing number of schools do, students become its little political prisoners—the most wide-awake of them know it. Compelled by the state to attend, handed a schedule, a uniform, and a rule-book, sent to a specific designated space of cell blocks, monitored constantly and controlled relentlessly—Pledge of Allegiance: 9:00; No talking; Bathroom break: 10:15-10:20; No eating in the classroom; Lunch: 11:45-12:05; Boys and girls form separate lines; Dismissal bell: 3:10; No running in the hallways. On and on and on, the whole catalogue of coercion under forced confinement—every young body the object of domination and control...

As teachers, we engage students with their own situations, and we pose problems that allow them to consider their places in the world. As Paulo Freire put it, “Education as the practice of freedom—as opposed to education as the practice of domination—denies that man is abstract, isolated, independent, and unattached to the world; it also denies that the world exists as a reality apart from people. Authentic reflection considers neither abstract man nor the world without people, but people in their relations with the world.” …

It makes no sense if we have freedom on our minds to go about the process of teaching while ignoring the fundamental power relations that define the world in which we all live. In schools shot through with mechanisms of disciplinary surveillance, the technology of power should itself constitute some part of the humanizing curriculum. Students can think critically about disciplinary power, about how they are being watched, by whom, and for what purpose. They can question, and they can act. By questioning and acting ourselves, we can show them how it’s done.

Readings Required:

Paulo Freire. Pedagogy of the Oppressed

bell hooks. Teaching to Transgress

William Ayers. Teaching Toward Freedom

From: Improving Learning Environments:

And Freire: “Through dialogue the teacher-of-the-students and the students-of-the-teacher cease to exist and a new term emerges: teacher-student and students-teachers. The teacher is no longer merely the-one-who-teaches, but one who is himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach. They become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow.” Dialogue is based on a faith in capacity of all people, as well as the recognition that I don’t already know everything.

I accept the fallibility of all inquiry, the contingency of all knowledge, a multiplicity of perspectives, interpretations, lack of certainty. I might even find that exciting rather than a cause for despair. But, first, I must be responsive to claims of others. I must listen, and I must speak…

From: Social Conflicts of the 1960’s

In 1965, just as the American catastrophe in Viet Nam was reaching full ignition, I was arrested along with 38 others disrupting the normal operations of the Ann Arbor draft board, part of the bureaucratic machinery for sorting soldiers from civilians, the living from the dead, issuing, we thought, warrants to kill and to die. We borrowed energy and tactics from the Civil Rights Movement, of course, and we intended, as well, to awaken our fellow citizens to a moral crisis of massive proportions. It was a large civil disobedience, but it was not exactly a popular action. Only about 15% of Americans opposed the war then, and even in Ann Arbor we were pretty much on our own, surrounded by thousands of students who supported the war and wanted to see us expelled or worse. So much for the myth of popular resistance.

But by early 1968 a majority of citizens had come to oppose the war, and a sitting US president in effect relinquished his office because of it. Several developments in those three short years had dramatically shifted the scene.

For one thing US political leaders—blind and arrogant and cocksure as they took over the failed French colonial mission—were certain that they would triumph easily over a poor, peasant nation, welcomed in fact, as liberators, that tired, delusional conceit. But the Vietnamese refused their assigned role in Washington’s script, and the National Liberation Front wouldn’t quit—they retreated when necessary, holed up underground as required, and reemerged suddenly to beat back the invaders. The Vietnamese refused to lose.

Further, those of us who opposed the war set out early to organize and to educate our fellow citizens. We marched and picketed and resisted, it’s true, but we also drew up fact sheets, created teach-ins, circulated petitions. The most difficult and exhilarating project for me was Viet Nam Summer, a concerted effort to knock on every door in working class neighborhoods—I was assigned to Detroit—and meet people face to face, listen to their concerns, and engage them in dialogue about war and peace. The more we tried to teach others, the more we ourselves learned—about Viet Nam, about America, about politics and possibility, about ourselves. We became better teachers, deeper, more thoughtful and more effective organizers. We became radicalized, and eventually we thought of ourselves as revolutionaries, committed to overturning the system.

The Civil Rights Movement also came out early and unequivocally against the war. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) issued a statement saying that “No Black man should go 10,000 miles away to fight for a so-called freedom he doesn’t enjoy in Mississippi,” and Muhammed Ali said, “No Viet Cong ever called me nigger… I won’t fight in the white man’s army.” Martin Luther King, Jr., with his great prestige and base of liberal support on the line, denounced the war as illegal and immoral, and with some palpable anguish, he condemned his own government as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”

All of this shook the country to its core, and perhaps the last straw was large numbers of vets returning from Viet Nam, some disoriented, many angry and bitter about what they had seen and done there, and telling the plain truth. With the anti-war movement at its height and hundreds of thousands of people demonstrating in the streets, they joined the peace movement in droves, bringing a renewed urgency and purpose, even creating their own anti-war organizations which brought a new level of militancy into our ranks. The movement, which had been organizing GI’s from the start, embraced the vets as a strategic priority and a practical politics, and many vets found a natural ally in the movement, and in any case found more in common with young activists than with the old bastards in power. When they lined up, with and without beards, stated name, rank, and length of service, and then tore their medals and war decorations from their throats and threw them down on the Capitol steps, sometimes with a curse at those who’d sent them to kill and die for a lie—when they did all that, they initiated a new level of crisis.

So when the president relented, those of us who had worked to end the war felt vindicated and triumphant. In Ann Arbor we swirled out of our apartments and snaked through the streets in a spontaneous victory dance, rallying finally on the steps of the home of the president of the University of Michigan. He greeted us with words of encouragement: “Congratulations,” he said. “You’ve won an important victory. Now the war will end.” I think he believed it that night; I know that I did.

Five days later Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated and the cities erupted, fire in the streets, martial law, tanks and troops patrolling downtown. Three months after that Robert Kennedy was killed and the sense of chickens coming home to roost was palpable. Henry Kissinger emerged with a “secret plan to end the war,” Richard Nixon was elected president, and by the winter it was clear that the war would not end. Rather the murderous occupation would escalate and expand in spite of the wishes of almost everyone. The war was deadlier and deadlier—every single day that the war dragged on, 2,000 innocent people were murdered by the US government. Not every week or every month—every day. And there was no end in sight. What to do?

Living through that time, the aggression, the assassinations, the terrorist war raging on and on in our names, it seemed as if we were experiencing terminally cataclysmic events and permanent war, the war of all wars, war without end. Looking back, of course, we can see that even if it felt that way, it wasn’t so—that while it was monstrous and bloody, the war lasted only a decade, and then it was done. Three million people were needlessly killed, not thirty million, not three hundred million. But in those days, with the outcome far from certain, we had to choose our actions within a shifting, complex, and speculative world. Should I oppose the war? On what basis? Should I risk anything on behalf of that opposition? Could I be part of mobilizing a more wide-spread resistance? Could we perhaps go beyond ending this war, and end the system that led so inevitably to war after war? Could we have an impact?

Some of us burned out, then, and others fled to Europe or Canada or Africa to get away. Some ran for office, while others ran for the communes of California or Vermont. Some dug in, others dropped out. Some created what they thought would become vanguard political parties and went into the factories to organize the industrial working class, while others joined the Democratic Party with the hope of building a peace wing. Some made a religion out of making love, others made a mess of making revolution. No choice was the obvious best choice, none in retrospect was up to the challenge.

Note: Because this is a seminar, your presence is required each session. You will not receive credit if you are not here. If you are sick, I’ll arrange for you to sleep in my office or at an infirmary nearby. If you want to bring a child because your childcare failed, fine. Is this clear? Is there any room for misinterpretation or ambiguity? Show up or be doomed.

These extracts are not the words of a man who believes that all knowledge is contingent ... all of which recalls that ancient revolutionary apothegm of yore: "Those who can do; those who can't teach; and those who can't teach teach teachers."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Al-Zawahri vs Obama

Sounding a bit like Jesse Jackson in a bumptious mood, Ayman al-Zawahri, Tonto to Osama bin Ladin’s Lone Ranger, has pulled out all the stops and called President-elect Barack Obama a “house negro.”

The reclusive second in command at al-Quaeda, using the Arab term “"abeed al-beit," which literally means “house slave,” sliced into his latest missive shots of Malcolm X fulminating against black leaders who had failed to standup to whites, according to an Associated Press report written by Maamoun Youssef and Lee Heath:

“The 11-minute 23-second video features the audio message by al-Zawahri, who appears only in a still image, along with other images, including one of Obama wearing a Jewish skullcap as he meets with Jewish leaders. In his speech, al-Zawahri refers to a Nov. 5 U.S. air strike attack in Afghanistan, meaning the video was made after that date.

“Al-Zawahri said Obama's election has not changed American policies he said are aimed at oppressing Muslims and others.

"’America has put on a new face, but its heart full of hate, mind drowning in greed, and spirit which spreads evil, murder, repression and despotism continue to be the same as always,’ the deputy of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden said.

“He said Obama's plan to shift troops to Afghanistan is doomed to failure, because Afghans will resist.

"’Be aware that the dogs of Afghanistan have found the flesh of your soldiers to be delicious, so send thousands after thousands to them,’ he said.”

Apparently it was trip to Israel and his professed support for the beleaguered democracy that ticked Tonto off. Obama wore a skullcap during his trip that, said Tonto, “confirmed to the Ummah (Islamic world) that you have chosen a stance of hostility to Islam and Muslims.”

Obama, of course, is used to this sort of rhetoric, having been tried in the crucible of Chicago politics. The dogs in Afghanistan who find the flesh of US soldiers sweet have a lot to learn about Chicago politics.

Live and learn.

Why Lieberman is Necessary to Democrats

A blog site populated with progressives asks: “He (Sen. Joe Lieberman) has four years. Can he win those Democrats and independents back? If he can’t, he’ll definitely not be able to win re-election.”

The answer is “yes,” for a number of reasons.

The parting of the ways with Lieberman and the progressive community came as a result of the senator’s position, pro-Bush, on the war in Iraq. Lieberman also laid waste their plans to vacate his seat and replace him with a senator that courted their support during a hard fought primary and general election, which Lieberman won, much to the dismay of the progressive community. Ned Lamont, the heartthrob of the progressive movement, having disappeared in a puff of smoke, Lieberman proceeded on his merry way, spurning the opposition from his left. In politics, the left does not like to be so loftily ignored; it makes them feel small and negligible and wounds their dignity.

Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders and Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, both of Vermont, did not believe Lieberman deserved to keep his Homeland Security chairmanship after having campaigned against President-elect Barack Obama in the general election.

Lieberman himself has not spared their tattered dignity. Recently, he said he thought the effort to deprive him of his chairmanship was “the kind of thing that only happened in the former Soviet Union.” Lieberman figured that in this country he shouldn’t “get punished” for doing “something that I really believe.”

Lieberman himself has not spared their tattered dignity. Recently, he said he thought the effort to deprive him of his chairmanship was “the kind of thing that only happened in the former Soviet Union.” Lieberman figured that in this country he shouldn’t “get punished” for doing “something that I really believe.”

When Lieberman leapt the fence during the presidential primaries and threw in his lot with Republican primary nominee Sen. John McCain, opposition ranks swelled. Every blue state Democrat, seemingly, was outraged at the betrayal – but not Barack Obama, who dished feminist heartthrob Sen. Hillary Clinton in the primary and went on to clean McCain’s clock in the general election.

A victorious President-elect Obama, who might well have divested Lieberman of his blue chip chairmanship of the Homeland Security committee, instead magnanimously spared his status. After a secret ballot, Lieberman was permitted to keep his chairmanship and the progressive community was once again marginalized.

Here in Connecticut, purple faced bloggers still rant and rave, but everyone else seems prepared to accept the verdict of Harry Reid, “It’s all over with. Joe Lieberman is a Democrat; he’s part of this caucus... I feel good about what we've done here today."

The dogs have been called off.


Different politicians, different positions. The war in Iraq, though some progressives refuse to believe it, is winding down. And we have a new president – Barack “Lets unilaterally invade Pakistan so we can rout possibly dead terrorists from the badlands in Pakistan, where they are holed up” – Obama.
During the past few weeks, Obama has been assembling – though few seemed to have noticed it – a WAR cabinet.

With a new president, one may expect – even in progressive Connecticut – what is called a shift in opinion. Liberal to a fault, political opinion in Connecticut follows in the rut of political strategy. In the new circumstances, Lieberman will not only be tolerated; he will be necessary. Most of the newspapers that had been cackling against Bush’s war in Iraq will slowly approve Obama’s war in Pakistan and Afghanistan, possibly even Iran and Syria.

Why is Lieberman necessary?

Chiefly to acquire Republican support for Obama’s war in North Pakistan and Afghanistan. That war – primarily because of the strategies implemented by General David Petraeus in the Iraq war – might be winnable, though some realists, who soon may be tagged by New Democrats as anti-patriotic, have their doubts.

A massive amount of people, clinging like drowning men to their anti-war positions, instantly abandon them once they are hauled aboard a new war ship captained by a new leader who is able to command their attention and support.

Funny how these things happen, isn’t it?

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Fishwrap

The Guardian, a British newspaper, is reporting that New York Sen. Hillary Clinton will accept the cabinet position offered her by President-elect Barack Obama. The diminutive French President Nicholas Sarkozy says that what the world needs is a modern equivalent of Bretton Woods; he draws a sharp rebuke from Pat Buchanan. Democrats, under the leadership of the resourceful Nancy Pelosi, have been unable to persuade outgoing president George Bush, not a tightfisted guy when it comes to bailing out FOD’s (Friends of Democrats), to load the US auto industry with tax dollars, wealth that the industry intends to spread around to workers who are far from poor. But Nancy promises to revisit the issue once Republicans vacate the halls of power. Another British publication, the MailOnLine, has some vivid shots of the outskirts of LA being burnt to a crisp. And British import Christopher Hitchens, America's favorite atheist, is still roving the countryside scaring the wits out of Catholic schoolgirls and here and there throwing Protestant ministers and Jewish Rabis into the fiery pit. Why do we need US papers anyway? Rupert Murdoch is not so sure we do. The Australian media mogul points a crooked finger at the hubris of American reporters and editors: “A recent American study reported that many editors and reporters simply do not trust their readers to make good decisions. Let's be clear about what this means. This is a polite way of saying that these editors and reporters think their readers are too stupid to think for themselves.” Comedian Al Franken may get to Washington after all, and we are waiting upon Connecticut’s anti-Joe Lieberman media to tell us what relevance this may have to the Democrat Party. We do not know what to think about this but are certain that American media folk, bursting with hubis, will tell us.

Real Change for a Change

If state Republicans could adopt a slogan that might be useful to them in the future, it might be: “Real change for a change.”

The “change” slogan worked well for president-elect Barack Obama, and not only because the heavens smiled upon him when Wall Street took a bath. When a person’s perceived wealth – say, his 401k is diminished – he becomes ready and eager to herald in change. But Americans like change for change’s sake the way artists like art for art’s sake. To become perfect, Emerson said somewhere, is to have changed often. That is typically an American perception. Our political progenitors came to these shores to begin anew. Americans then are prejudiced in favor of change, or at least they do not fear it, which is why Obama struck a responsive chord with his slogan “change you can believe in.”

It is still very much an open question whether the changes Obama will inaugurate will usher in fundamental change, but that is a different matter for a different day.

Here in Connecticut, we are stuck in the mud; we may need the kind of push forward that change brings. What kind of change would be beneficial?

Certainly something has to be done about the sluggish economy. Republicans may have been very much surprised and encouraged to read a column written by Jonathan Pelto, a former state representative from Storrs, that appeared in a Hartford paper. Pelto, it should be recalled, is a liberal’s liberal.

In the age of Obama now upon us, it is not surprising that Pelto should be calling for change.

Some of the changes he trumpets are typical liberal prescriptions: Connecticut’s “spending cap,” fundamentally flawed Pelto says, should be “fixed.”

Now, the spending cap is not flawed, according to Pelto, because it has prevented the legislature and the governor from controlling spending. That naive perception is almost exclusively a Republican one. No, Pelto holds that the cap is flawed because it does not allow the state to recover sufficient funds from the federal government. According to this typically Democrat view, there are no spending problems; there are only revenue problems. The fix proposed by Pelto will enhance revenue; here he does not wander very far out of the Democrat ideological box.

Pelto’s call for an end to “irresponsible” bonding is one that might strike a responsive chord among some Republicans who have managed to shake off the spell woven by President George Bush, a reckless spender.

But what Republican heart does not beat a little more fiercely when Pelto writes:

“Connecticut's public-private partnership with its nonprofit, community-based providers is the best way to deliver services such as group homes, day treatment and employment programs for people dealing with mental illness, developmental or physical disabilities or other challenges. The state should properly fund them and expand their use. Overall costs can then be reduced and some state employees, who now provide these services, can be retrained and assigned to ensure the services are being properly provided… In addition, the massive budget crisis facing our state cannot be solved unless the state and state employee unions agree on much more aggressive mechanisms to reduce health care costs and ensure that the pension and heath care accounts are properly funded.”

A shocking proposal, coming from a dyed in the wool liberal.

After this bracing break with Democrat orthodoxy, Pelto falls back into the claustrophobic box with a crash. He attributes the state’s anemic job production with its failure to make use of “effective economic development strategies… From 1950 to 1990, Connecticut's job growth was impressive; since 1990, Connecticut has ranked dead last in job growth nationally.”

Republicans would be inclined to ask at this point – what happened after 1990 that may have contributed to the decline? And they may remember, more often than is comfortable for Democrats, that Connecticut’s income tax was launched in 1991. Pelto does not mention the roll the income tax may have played in generating a series of surpluses, quickly spent, that ratcheted up state budgets until, in 2008, the Wall Street that watered Connecticut’s treasury and Main Street with ample funds took a fall and left us with a $6 billion hole in our biennial treasury bucket. But then it's easy to miss such pink elephants in a room crowded with friendly Democrats.

Connecticut voters and taxpayers are now muttering under their breath, “Gotta change that.”

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Surprise!!! We’re Broke

It’s Sunday, and everyone knows what this means: A brillig day, the fierce wind shaking the last leaves from now barren trees stripped for winter; church bells sounding in the cold air, summoning all but a few sour atheists to the Lord’s supper; and, peering out the window, what is that lying like a beached white whale in the clustered leaves just under the blue container marked The Hartford Courant?

Why, it’s the Hartford Courant. Wrapped in the fat of ads is this precious paragraph from the editorial page:

“Ironically, the state income tax, begun in 1991, was supposed to stabilize state revenues, which were then fluctuating wildly with the volatile sales tax. Connecticut's treasury, however, is now dependent on a wildly volatile Wall Street — so volatile that on Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average dipped below 8,000 but finished the day up 553 points. The state income tax depends on the stock market for a quarter of its revenue. Greenwich alone — home to many whose livelihoods are tied to the market — supplied 13 percent of all state income tax in 2006.”

Let us parse this graph, painful sentence by painful sentence.

“Ironically, the state income tax, begun in 1991, was supposed to stabilize state revenues, which were then fluctuating wildly with the volatile sales tax.”

Whence this irony, this wide-eyed surprise shining in the bleary eyes of the members of the editorial board of the Hartford Courant? Why so taken aback? And, to vary a song title from the immortal Tina Turner – What’s irony got to do with it?

After then Governor Lowell Weicker broke some arms to get the complaisant state legislature to pass the income tax, the Courant said that it would replace the niggling little taxes other governors had relied upon to patch holes in the budget. But why should editors believe their own propaganda? The Courant also said that the broad based tax would bring “stability” to revenue collections. But this was pie in your eye even then, as is shown in the pudding. It is perfectly obvious, looking back through the surplus filled years from the present towards that luminous last pre-income tax O’Neill budget, a modest $7.5 billion, that spending has gone wild. The income tax was passed in 1991; we are now on the cusp of the year 2009. The editorial writers at the Courant have had 17 years to do the math and discover the incremental increase in state spending: Spending in Connecticut has increased threefold since the last Democrat governor was displaced by Weicker.

At the same time, the editorial board members of the Courant knew – how could such brighties help but know? – that a good portion of the succeeding surplus slurping budgets were Wall Street reliant. What they know now -- "The state income tax depends on the stock market for a quarter of its revenue. Greenwich alone — home to many whose livelihoods are tied to the market —- supplied 13 percent of all state income tax in 2006” –- they have known through year after painful year of increased spending.

Wall Street takes a bath; Connecticut takes a bath. No surprise here; no cause for ironical astonishment, eh?

And what is the non-ironical prescription for all this bloody spending?

Stop spending, does anyone suppose? Not a bit of it.

The Courant’s solution is to raid the so called Rainy Day Fund because – well, it’s raining. Just look out the window.

Some of us, more familiar with the real causes of Connecticut’s venture into poverty, would consider this solution to be, in the precise sense of the word, ironic.


Because you cannot end the horror by more spending; and providing more money to a spendthrift legislature and a compliant governor, is, ironically, a non-solution to the problem. It always was a non-solution to the problem.

Those who are feeling the pinch of exorbitant state spending this year may want to save a few pennies by canceling their subscriptions to this beached white whale. After the rainy day fund is gone – it will happen in a trice – a few pennies in the piggy bank might prove useful.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

What Future for the Laugh Machine?

Jim Shea, the funnybone tickling guy at the Hartford Courant, spoke for the entire paper when he said in a recent column:

“After shooting fish in a barrel for so long, Obama is going to be tough. Right now, other than the jug ears, I got nothing. Hopefully this will change. In the meantime ... I don't know about the economy, but right now, people in my business are about to enter a depression. We're going to have a hard time trying to put food on our families.”

That little prepositional confusion was a black tribute to outgoing President George Bush, who tended to slur his ideas.

But really, this comedy stuff is serious business. Asked by some tortured politician in the golden age of Greek comedy whether he “took anything seriously,” Aristophanes responded, “Of course, I take comedy seriously.”

Twenty percent of voters this year followed the election through the rose colored glasses of comics, usually liberal ones like Gary Trudeau, the star studded cast of Comedy Central and Vice President elect Joe Biden.

With Obama at the helm, what will they say? Probably not much. And not much is not very funny.

Editorialists in the state will be in a black mood too when presented with the humorous side of their hero.

In the age of Obama, there will be no room in the editorial inn for such as Shea. We’ll miss them as much as they will miss Bush and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Bill Curry already has jumped off board the Courant. The purpose of column writing being to reprove and correct the idiocies of the powerful and comfortable, what would Curry have to say of an Obama administration full of sycophants?

The silence will be unbearable.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Red Tide

The notice in the Hartford Courant was mercifully brief, somewhat like a sentence of execution.

National economic problems, Governor Jodi Rell said, have decimated state revenues and the state is facing “"massive budget deficits," nearly $6 billion over the next two fiscal years.

The governor is being forced, she said, to institute budget cuts that will “hurt people and hurt programs." Will that include laying off state employees? “Everything is on the table, every single item."

The legislative session opens in February, at which point the governor is expected to present her two year budget to a Democrat dominated legislature that has not shown itself eager to slash budgets.

The legislature this time will not be able to rely on its usual bromides: taxing the rich through a more steeply progressive income tax and relying on one time sources of revenue to plug the $6 billion hole in Connecticut’s ship of state.

Owing to the Wall Street business slowdown, Connecticut’s upper crust has its own revenue enhancing problems.

The progressive income tax has been called “choppy.” by some economists. They are being polite. The progressive tax increases pile A (tax receipts from rich folk) and decreases pile B (tax receipts from middle class and lower income workers). It should also be progressive at the distribution end, but sometimes is not; mostly because, put in charge of Pile A, legislators like to divert money to their own private political charities. In this kind of a system, when a business slowdown happens – and we are in the midst of one right now, according to the authoritative New York Times – the amount of money pouring into the treasury from Pile A necessarily decreases, leaving a gap in revenues that cannot be closed by increasing Pile A without punishing taxation. In business slowdowns, one does not want to punish entrepreneurial capital, which is necessary to raise the economy up from its death bed. If you raise taxes on entrepreneurs during a recession through capital gains tax increases, President-elect Barack Obama’s plan, you are letting yourself in for a deeper, longer term recession down the road, and consequently less taxable revenue for state governments. So, what we now have in the economy, national and state, is – choppiness. Other economist, far less polite, would call it stupidity -- for having relied on so choppy a system in the first place.

Much of Connecticut’s tax revenue comes from Gold Coast inhabitants living the life in Greenwich or other revenue hot spots in the state. In the pre-Barack Obama era, what was good for Wall Street was good both for Main Street and state coffers. A progressive tax – though never progressive enough– assured sufficient tax receipts for Connecticut’s budget surplus sipping legislators without unduly alarming tax consumers. The Wall Street meltdown this coming fiscal year will deny to the legislature the same level of receipts. Awash in a sea of red, legislators may now resort to one of two measures: either increase taxes to replenish state coffers, or cut spending. Connecticut will not be able to escape this either/or.

It is anticipated that Speaker of the state House Jim Amann will soon hand the Speaker’s baton to Rep. Christopher Donovan, a Democrat from Meriden who works part time as a union organizer for the Congress of Connecticut Community Colleges and is presumed to be much further left on the political spectrum than his predecessor. With his back to the wall, the new speaker of the House may want to try leveraging his position with state unions to arrange more modest contracts from the people who generally contribute to his campaigns.

Everyone, no doubt, will do their part when duty calls.

Remembering Veterans: General Douglas MacArthur at West Point

General Douglas MacArthur gave the speech below at West Point when he was 82 years old. His address was delivered without notes.

General Westmoreland, General Groves, distinguished guests, and gentlemen of the Corps. As I was leaving the hotel this morning, a doorman asked me, "Where are you bound for, General?" and when I replied, "West Point," he remarked, "Beautiful place, have you ever been there before?"

No human being could fail to be deeply moved by such a tribute as this, coming from a profession I have served so long and a people I have loved so well. It fills me with an emotion I cannot express. But this award is not intended primarily for a personality, but to symbolize a great moral code — the code of conduct and chivalry of those who guard this beloved land of culture and ancient descent. That is the meaning of this medallion. For all eyes and for all time, it is an expression of the ethics of the American soldier. That I should be integrated in this way with so noble an ideal arouses a sense of pride and yet of humility which will be with me always.

"Duty," "Honor," "Country" — those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you want to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying point to build courage when courage seems to fail, to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith, to create hope when hope becomes forlorn. Unhappily, I possess neither that eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to tell you all that they mean.

The unbelievers will say they are but words, but a slogan, but a flamboyant phrase. Every pedant, every demagogue, every cynic, every hypocrite, every troublemaker, and, I am sorry to say, some others of an entirely different character, will try to downgrade them even to the extent of mockery and ridicule.

But these are some of the things they do. They build your basic character. They mold you for your future roles as the custodians of the nation's defense. They make you strong enough to know when you are weak, and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid.

They teach you to be proud and unbending in honest failure, but humble and gentle in success; not to substitute words for action; not to seek the path of comfort, but to face the stress and spur of difficulty and challenge; to learn to stand up in the storm, but to have compassion on those who fall; to master yourself before you seek to master others; to have a heart that is clean, a goal that is high; to learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; to reach into the future, yet never neglect the past; to be serious, yet never take yourself too seriously; to be modest so that you will remember the simplicity of true greatness; the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.

They give you a temperate will, a quality of imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the deep springs of life, a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, an appetite for adventure over love of ease. They create in your heart the sense of wonder, the unfailing hope of what next, and the joy and inspiration of life. They teach you in this way to be an officer and a gentleman.

And what sort of soldiers are those you are to lead? Are they reliable? Are they brave? Are they capable of victory?

Their story is known to all of you. It is the story of the American man at arms. My estimate of him was formed on the battlefields many, many years ago, and has never changed. I regarded him then, as I regard him now, as one of the world's noblest figures; not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless.

His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give. He needs no eulogy from me or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy's breast.

But when I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism. He belongs to posterity as the instructor of future generations in the principles of liberty and freedom. He belongs to the present, to us, by his virtues and by his achievements.

In twenty campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude, that patriotic self-abnegation, and that invincible determination which have carved his statue in the hearts of his people.

From one end of the world to the other, he has drained deep the chalice of courage. As I listened to those songs of the glee club, in memory's eye I could see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs on many a weary march, from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle deep through mire of shell-pocked roads; to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God.

I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death. They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory. Always for them: Duty, Honor, Country. Always their blood, and sweat, and tears, as they saw the way and the light.

And twenty years after, on the other side of the globe, against the filth of dirty foxholes, the stench of ghostly trenches, the slime of dripping dugouts, those boiling suns of the relentless heat, those torrential rains of devastating storms, the loneliness and utter desolation of jungle trails, the bitterness of long separation of those they loved and cherished, the deadly pestilence of tropic disease, the horror of stricken areas of war.

Their resolute and determined defense, their swift and sure attack, their indomitable purpose, their complete and decisive victory — always victory, always through the bloody haze of their last reverberating shot, the vision of gaunt, ghastly men, reverently following your password of Duty, Honor, Country.

The code which those words perpetuate embraces the highest moral laws and will stand the test of any ethics or philosophies ever promulgated for the uplift of mankind. Its requirements are for the things that are right, and its restraints are from the things that are wrong. The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training - sacrifice. In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave when he created man in his own image. No physical courage and no brute instinct can take the place of the Divine help which alone can sustain him. However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country, is the noblest development of mankind.

You now face a new world, a world of change. The thrust into outer space of the satellite, spheres and missiles marked the beginning of another epoch in the long story of mankind - the chapter of the space age. In the five or more billions of years the scientists tell us it has taken to form the earth, in the three or more billion years of development of the human race, there has never been a greater, a more abrupt or staggering evolution. We deal now not with things of this world alone, but with the illimitable distances and as yet unfathomed mysteries of the universe. We are reaching out for a new and boundless frontier. We speak in strange terms: of harnessing the cosmic energy; of making winds and tides work for us; of creating unheard synthetic materials to supplement or even replace our old standard basics; of purifying sea water for our drink; of mining ocean floors for new fields of wealth and food; of disease preventatives to expand life into the hundred of years; of controlling the weather for a more equitable distribution of heat and cold, of rain and shine; of space ships to the moon; of the primary target in war, no longer limited to the armed forces of an enemy, but instead to include his civil populations; of ultimate conflict between a united human race and the sinister forces of some other planetary galaxy; of such dreams and fantasies as to make life the most exciting of all time.

And through all this welter of change and development your mission remains fixed, determined, inviolable. It is to win our wars. Everything else in your professional career is but corollary to this vital dedication. All other public purpose, all other public projects, all other public needs, great or small, will find others for their accomplishments; but you are the ones who are trained to fight.

Yours is the profession of arms, the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory, that if you lose, the Nation will be destroyed, that the very obsession of your public service must be Duty, Honor, Country.

Others will debate the controversial issues, national and international, which divide men's minds. But serene, calm, aloof, you stand as the Nation's war guardians, as its lifeguards from the raging tides of international conflict, as its gladiators in the arena of battle. For a century and a half you have defended, guarded and protected its hallowed traditions of liberty and freedom, of right and justice.

Let civilian voices argue the merits or demerits of our processes of government. Whether our strength is being sapped by deficit financing indulged in too long, by federal paternalism grown too mighty, by power groups grown too arrogant, by politics grown too corrupt, by crime grown too rampant, by morals grown too low, by taxes grown too high, by extremists grown too violent; whether our personal liberties are as firm and complete as they should be.

These great national problems are not for your professional participation or military solution. Your guidepost stands out like a tenfold beacon in the night: Duty, Honor, Country.

You are the leaven which binds together the entire fabric of our national system of defense. From your ranks come the great captains who hold the Nation's destiny in their hands the moment the war tocsin sounds.

The long gray line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses, thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country.

This does not mean that you are warmongers. On the contrary, the soldier above all other people prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers: "Only the dead have seen the end of war."

The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished — tone and tints. They have gone glimmering through the dreams of things that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday. I listen then, but with thirsty ear, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll.

In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield. But in the evening of my memory always I come back to West Point. Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country.

Today marks my final roll call with you. But I want you to know that when I cross the river, my last conscious thoughts will be of the Corps, and the Corps, and the Corps.

I bid you farewell.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Jefferson said of education that it “enables every man to judge for himself what will secure or endanger his freedom.”

Historian Rick Shenkman in his new book, Just How Stupid Are We? concludes that in the November 4 election, people were clueless without 15-second infomercials in deciding whom to vote for.

How can ignorant people make such judgments, asks Chester Finn, Jr., in his introduction to Terrorists, Depots, and Democracy, What Our Children Need to Know. Finn asks, “How does it strengthen America for the future if it is raising a generation of ignorant citizens whose teachers are urged not to inform them of the truth about events for which they have no context, background, or information base”?

The Fordham Foundation’s monograph (no relation to Fordham University), which deals also with what teachers need to know about America and the world, contains short essays by William J. Bennett, E. D. Hirsch, Jr., Lynne Cheney, James Q. Wilson, Stanley Kurtz, Tony Blair, and two dozen others.

What better time than now, just after the November 4 presidential election, to be reminded of the foundations of our democratic self-government and its difference from all other countries? Our children need to know where else in the world self-government has taken root, and why; and where it has not, and why.

Our children need to know that our origins are in Western Civilization. The words citizen, freedom, and constitution come from Greek and Latin. Our children have to understand the our country is more than a tale of small-pox infected Indians, oppressed slaves, and interned Japanese Americans. They must understand the nature of totalitarian ideologies, which have attacked us in the past and we know will do so again.

From the beginning, the American experiment was fragile, writes Lynne Cheney. In 1776 our forefathers declared their independence from Britain, the greatest empire in the world. Their—our—Declaration of Independence declared that governments get their powers through the consent of the governed—us, (Not through King George III.)

For eleven years the American colonists fought the Revolutionary War and finally won, but only barely. Our forefathers were so ill equipped they had to bandage their shoeless feet. Then, in 1787, our forefathers drafted a Constitution guaranteeing us freedom of speech and religion.

Our students need to know that we still look to our Constitution to govern us. They need to know about the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War II, and the 9/11 attack upon us by people we did not know existed and who hate our ideas. They need to learn about the heroism of the firemen and policemen who rushed into the attacked World Trade Center to try to rescue the innocents trapped there, and the heroism of the passengers on flight 93 who wrestled the terrorists in midair and crashed them all into the earth instead of into the Capitol or the White House, where the plane was believed headed.

What makes America exceptional? How do the political principles and institutions we value as Americans differ from those of the societies from which the World Trade Center terrorists came?

We have our freedom of religion, and intellectual freedom, comments Lynne Cheney, who writes, “Try to imagine the Wright brothers, or Steven Spielberg, or Bill Gates in an oppressive society. It is inconceivable that they would flourish.”

“Freedom, democracy, an independent judiciary, and the dignity of the individual are not innate to the human spirit,” observes Victor Davis Hanson. The American experiment from the first seemed fragile, by no means easy to perpetuate. These ideas, different fundamentally from other countries’, represent a threat to countries that do not permit them. This essential difference, our students must understand.

Foreigners come here as immigrants and who are integrated or assimilated into our society, make us a unique country. In no other country does this happen.

But our toleration of cultural and intellectual differences, and the “quintessentially American virtue of niceness,” have given rise to a kind of moral relativism, making it impossible to teach children the difference between good and bad regimes, writes Finn.

These are the things America is made of that American children have to understand if they are to carry on this fragile experiment without counting themselves out as pacifists.

If the enemies of open, democratic societies had used force to impose historical and civic ignorance on our children, we would have considered it an act of war. Instead, we have done this to ourselves.”

As historian David McCullough testified to a Senate committee in 2003,

We are raising a generation of people who are historically illiterate. . . . We can’t function in a society if we don’t know who we are and where we came from. . . . When you have students at our Ivy League colleges saying they thought Germany and Japan were our allies in World War II, you know we’ve got a very serious problem.

By Natalie Sirkin

Whither the state Republican Party?

The state Republican Party has been decimated by decades of bad advice proffered by those who do not have the party’s interests in mind. That is why it is a small, negligible party.

During the Weicker years, in a moment of rare candor, Weicker was heard to say, “Why doesn’t somebody take it [the state party] over; it’s so small.” To this end, Weicker the maverick managed to convince the Republican state party machinery to appoint his chief aide, Tom D’Amore, as party chairman. D’Amore lately was advising the Ned Lamont campaign in its struggle to unhorse Sen. Joe Lieberman. Ned Lamont, one must suppose, is D’Amore’s idea of a boffo senator; but he is not a Republican, not a moderate and not – no thanks to D’Amore – not a senator.

Now, are we permitted to reason from the present back to the past? If D’Amore was comfortable supporting Ned Lamont, have his political preferences changed in any significant respect from the time when he was Republican Party chairman? The truthful answer is “No.” D’Amore is now what he was then. What was he then? Answer: like Weicker, a Rockefeller, Jacob Javitts kind of Republican -- and he was Republican Party chairman.

Next question: What was it that moved the leaders of the Republican Party to nominate as their party chairman a Ned Lamont Democrat? We can only speculate. Was it ungovernable suicidal tendencies? This would not be far off the mark; the road to suicide is paved with bad advice. Party central was moved by two things: 1) Weicker’s success as a “maverick” Republican and 2) an importunate state media, which admired Weicker because he was not a loathsome conservative.

Since that time, the political landscape has changed dramatically. In Massachusetts Republicans hold a mere 17 of 160 House seats, and in Rhode Island, where Weicker counterpart Lincoln Chaffee was booted from office, Republicans hold only 6 of 75 seats.

Since the Weicker era, the Republican party in Connecticut has become more negligible; Weicker and D’Amore have been put out to pasture; Connecticut has just bid goodbye to former Rep. Chris Shays, the last Republican “moderate” standing in New England, though Shays, like Weicker, preferred to think of himself as a maverick; and those who do not have the interests of the Republican Party at heart have become even more importunate.

The chatter now is that Republicans in the state must become even more moderate to survive. One is tempted to ask: More like Chris Shays do you mean? More like Weicker? More like Chaffee?

The Obama tsunami has just washed over light-as-air Republicans, moderates all, blowing them out to sea. And now here comes the avalanche of bad advice, most of it centered on the theme of moderation, pragmatism and compromise, code words signifying a spinal collapse.

It will not be long before the Obamacrats in Connecticut begin to attempt to scatter the loyal opposition by stamping their feet and calling for the resignation of the present party chairman, Chris Healy – who most certainly is not Tom D’Amore.

When that happens, Republicans should take courage from the title of an Evelyn Waugh novel: “Put out more flags.”

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Last Days of the Sunshine Patriot

"These are the times that try men's soul's. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and women" – Thomas Paine

In calling for Sen. Joe Lieberman’s head, many of his eager executioners have lost their own. One blogger headlines his usual spit and piddle with the title “Lieberman Must Be Destroyed,” while a statewide columnist refers to him contemptuously as Uriah Heap.

Now that we can speak with bowed heads and chastened hearts of President Barack Obama, an early anti-Iraq war enthusiast, it is supposed by ardent Democrat Party activists -- many of whom, the modern equivalent of Paine’s sunshine patriots, spend their days in bathrobes writings blogs -- that present leader of the Democrat Party in the US Senate Harry Reid should deprive Lieberman of his perks, take from him a quick confession, lead the repentant sinner to the executioners block and there strike off his head, which thereafter will be mounted on a pike at the entrance of the Capitol building as an object lesson for other Democrats who presume to challenge the smelly little orthodoxies within their party on the matter of war and peace.

There is a problem.

Democrats, Independents and some stray Republicans have just elected as their new president a man who has pledged many times to end the war in Iraq, now a distinct possibility, for the purpose of committing troops and treasury to the war in Afghanistan. A little below Afghanistan lies Pakistan's tribal zones, the so-called badlands of Pakistan, a sovereign country that has just given the boot to Pervez Musharraf, a military strongman and president once considered friendly to US interests. Pakistanis refer to the tribal areas as "ilaka ghair," or the land of the lawless. Outwardly, Pakistan’s new government is urging the United States to discontinue its policy of targeting known terrorists in the inaptly named Federal Controlled Territories. Inwardly, embroiled in a longstanding conflict with India over Kashmir and now attacked by aggressive terrorists operating from the tribal territories, Pakistan is trembling.

When Obama, who knows a little more than Sarah Palin about that corner of the world, asks himself, “What would General Patton do?” he is asking himself what would Lieberman do? We know what the sunshine patriots of Blogdom and the editorial page of the New York Times would do. Unanswerable to history, not to mention voters, they would run away. But it is doubtful at this point that Obama will be in the crowd rushing for safety – because, apart from the destruction or pacification of terrorists, there is no safety.

Now, there are two theories about Obama: The first is that he is a consummate liar with a literary bent, personable, quick on his feet and treacherous, as befits a Chicago politician.

And the second is that he is not a sunshine patriot.

Time will tell which theory is proven by events.

As to Lieberman, Sen. Chris Dodd, who has problems of his own, recently was quoted on the point of Lieberman’s immanent beheading: “What does Barack Obama want? He's talked about reconciliation, healing, bringing people together. I don't think he'd necessarily want to spend the first month of this president-elect period, this transition period, talking about a Senate seat, particularly if someone is willing to come forward and is willing to be a member of your family in the caucus in that sense.”

The truth is sloshing around in there somewhere.

The truth is sloshing around in there somewhere, but even Dodd’s pragmatic defense of Lieberman has earned him thumps among the crowd of hyenas lapping at Lieberman’s heels.

Connecticut awaits a surge of venom from the state’s increasingly rabid leftists titled “Dodd Must Be Destroyed.”

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Fishwrap

Rinker Buck of the Hartford Courant goes to church and finds the Rev. Jeremiah Wright tolerable. Wright was taken out of context.

His compatriot Rick Green finds Fairfield, full of yuppies and “smart growth” illuminati, going moderate. He suggests that Republican politicians in the state follow their lead, so they may be picked off by illuminati like Green and Colin McEnroe and Bill Curry and the entire editorial board of the Hartford Courant. Mr. Green, a recent import, hardly notices that there are no “moderate” Republicans left in New England’s US congressional delegation pews. Where have they all gone? They have been replaced by liberal Democrats. And why? Because asked to choose between a faux Democrat and the real thing, people generally will choose the real thing.

Fearing conservatives – and mislabeling moderate Republicans as conservatives -- is a tradition among Courant commentators, all of whom are unapologetic liberals. Charlie Morse, the chief political correspondent for the Courant during the golden years of the Lowell Weicker regime, was a liberal before he gave up his pen, dedicated to liming the virtues of Weicker, and went to work for the self proclaimed “turd in the Republican Party punchbowl.” Michele Jacklin, chief political correspondent for the Courant during the halcyon days of the Rowland regime, was a liberal who tossed her pen aside and went to work for Mayor of Stamford Dannel Malloy, who is neither a moderate Republican nor a conservative. Bill Curry, who now holds forth on the Courant’s op-ed page formerly was erstwhile Democrat candidate for governor and an advisor to former President Bill Clinton’s regime, the nearest he will even come to a moderate Republican.

In a snit, the paper’s editorial board in a previous election threw its considerable weight against every “moderate” Republican in Connecticut’s congressional delegation. Result: Only “moderate Republican” Chris Shays was left standing as the sole representative of “moderate Republicanism” in New England. The Obama-tsunami has now borne him off on waves of self pity.

Shays is now hopiung for a spot in the Obama administration.

Looking at all this havoc, Rick suggests that Republicans in Connecticut should abandon conservative ways and become more like – Chris Shays.

But of course!

Hey Rick, you wouldn’t be pluming for a job in the Obama administration, now would you? Get in line; remember, Curry was there first.

And Rinker has finally found religion with the Wright pastor.

Just beautiful.

Wait till Colin hears you been sippin’ that religion cool aid!

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