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Showing posts from February, 2009

Orwellian Deficit Mitigation

The state House’s so called “deficit mitigation” bill passed unanimously but ran into a problem in the Senate, where Republicans opposed the measure on a party line vote.

The bill draws $373.3 million from President Obama's federal stimulus package and $281.7 million from the state’s "rainy day fund'' for fiscal emergencies. It incorporates $280.6 million in dubious temporary cuts and revenue increases, $50 million in contract cancellations by the governor, $49.2 million in labor savings yet to be negotiated with state-employee unions and $40 million in federal Medicaid funds.

It is important to pause here and notice that deficit mitigation relates only to the current hole in the bottom of the state’s treasury; the Damoclean sword hanging over the heads of both legislators and the governor is a hefty $8 billion projected “shortfall” in revenues.

The word “mitigation” is a euphemistic fig leaf that hopefully will not signal to taxpayers that the state has a gaping hole in…

Imagine There Is No Courant

Let’s say you start off with a chair, then you remove the left forward leg, then you remove the seat, then you remove the backrest – do you any longer have a chair?

Some people would answer “No.”

The Hartford Courant, under the inspiration of current owner Sam Zell, a real estate poobah who has no intellectual or emotional connection to the people of Connecticut, now has dumped a major political reporter, Mark Pazniokas, the paper’s Washington Bureau chief, Jesse Hamilton, its Religion Reporter, Elizabeth Hamilton, a business reporter, Robin Stansbury, a handful of greenies -- environment reporter David Funkhouser, Steve Grant and Anna Marie Somma -- sportswriter Matt Eagan, itowns editor Loretta Waldman and itowns reporter Nancy Lastrina, two administrative assistants, a couple of feature copy editors and a library staffer and researcher.

The Courant previously has shed staff through attrition and early retirement. The latest round of bodies were shot behind the curtain, so to speak, th…

Dodd’s Washington Land Records, 30 Acres and a Mule

"...the blow of a loy, have taught me that there's a great gap between a gallous story and a dirty deed."-Pegeen Mike, in The Playboy of the Western World

“What does it mean to “co-purchase” a house together with someone like Ed Downe?” a curious blogger asks on the popular web site Connecticut Local Politics.

It’s a timely question. Land records in Washington show that US Sen. Chris Dodd made three real estate purchases there.

Dodd, it would appear, is not only an accomplished congressman; he is a super real-estate maestro.

1) 508 E Street, S.E. Washington DC was co-owned by the Dodds and Sanford Bomstein and wife. Bomstein was the bagman implicated in Sen. Tom Dodd’s scandal. Chris Dodd's father was censured in 1967 by the Senate for using campaign funds for personal purposes. That property was sold to Sean Roach for $10 (that’s ten dollars, no decimal error), and the filing date was 8/20/95. You can buy a lot (no pun intended) for ten dollars in Washington. And so…

Hillary Clinton Not Arrested

The good news is that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived home from her Chinese trip without having unduly upset Chinese leaders. The Chinese overlords are, after all, the custodians of much of the debt in the United States, which has increased precipitously after the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

The bad news is no walls came tumbling down. Life in China for Christians is just as nasty, brutal and short as it was before the courageous secretary of state set foot in the country. The feeling among some Christians is that if Hillary were a delegate to Rome in the days of Nero, she would have been talking to the engaging emperor about the weather, or climate change, studiously ignoring the strange goings on in the coliseum, where Christians were being harassed by lions and bears.

While Hillary was rattling her tin cut before the Chinese overloards, President Barack Obama was promising to present to the Democrat controlled US Congress a budget that cuts in half the national…

Dodd Blows Up Wall Street

There are some people, not all of them bankers, who think that U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, the head of the banking committee, should be pushing an apple cart on 5th Ave. in New York in the morning and selling pencils out of a tin cup in the evening.

“Sen. Christopher J. Dodd,” read the lede on the front page Hartford Courant story , “sent the already reeling shares of major US banks to nearly two decade lows Friday after he said that short term nationalization of some large banks might become necessary to lift them out of a mire of bad loans.”

The story was accompanied by a graphic showing the result of Dodd’s loose tongue, a perfect “V” the bottom of which tickled the bottom of the stock market floor one day after Dodd told Bloomberg News, “I don't welcome that [nationalization of the banks] at all, but I could see how it's possible it may happen. I think that's unfortunate, but it may come to that.”

Bloomberg did what Bloomberg does: It posted Dodd’s “concerns” electronically whi…

To the Republicans in Windsor: The Revolution Now

A sharp political analyst, Karl Marx -- who, appropriately enough, wrote for the New York Tribune -- used to talk about “the correlation of forces.” Marx was a lousy economist but a keen observer of people, countries, events and political movements.

By the correlation of forces, Marx meant all the important powers that shape politics, the plow that forms the furrow in which politics flows and determines its course.

The correlation of forces drifted to the top of my mind about two weeks ago when Gov. Jodi Rell surprised all of us by pulling a pin from her grenade and fragging the Democrat controlled legislature. The ensuing fireworks have been instructive.

All the usual suspects retreated behind all the usual barricades.

Roy Occhiogrosso, who has become the unofficial voice of the Democrat Party in the media, characterized Rell’s budget, on the Shelly Sindland show, as “a fairy tale.” Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy was sitting beside him, and for once his wits failed him. He might h…

Deja Madoff All Over Again

A Bernie Madoff clone, Texas financier R. Allen Stanford, has been accused of “cheating 50,000 customers out of $8 billion dollars” according to an ABC report, “but despite raids Tuesday of his financial empire in Houston, Memphis, and Tupelo, Miss., federal authorities say they do not know the current whereabouts of the CEO.

“The Securities Exchange Commission alleges Stanford ran a fraud promising investors impossible returns, much like Bernard Madoff's $50 billion alleged Ponzi scheme.

“Stanford's business is headquartered on the Caribbean island of Antigua. In the last decade, Stanford and his companies have spent more than $7 million on lobbyists and campaign contributions in efforts to loosen regulation of offshore banks.

“Among the top recipients: Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Congressman Pete Sessions (R-Texas), Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), one of the members who took a trip to Antigua where he was entertain…

Nickerson, Whistleblower

Having experienced ex-governor and senator Lowell Weicker and remembering that Weicker recruited Ned Lamont, a fellow redundantly rich Greenwich millionaire, to run against Sen. Joe Lieberman, Republicans may be asking themselves “Can anything good come out of Greenwich?”

The answer is “Yes.”

William Nickerson, a former state Rep. and senator, hails from Greenwich.

The state legislature, Mr. Nickerson reminds us, is used to fiddling while Rome burns. Now out of office and therefore free to speak the truth, Mr. Nickerson has identified in a column several “myths” about his former band of brothers that ought to be exploded so that the state can achieve financial sanity.

Myth No. 3 is especially instructive: “Each year government programs are rigorously evaluated by the legislature with unworthy ones reduced or eliminated and effective ones expanded.”

Drawing from his 22 years of experience in the legislature, Mr. Nickerson concluded that instead of reviewing, paring back or reforming program…

Dodd Finished?

In a rub-your-eyes editorial Sunday, The Hartford Courant has called upon US Sen. Chris Dodd, who has in more than 30 years in Washington “compiled a mostly lustrous record as a hardworking lawmaker,” to consider throwing in the sponge.

Low polls, the Courant writes should be sobering: “Quinnipiac’s latest polling yielded the senator's worst results ever. For the first time, more voters disapprove of Mr. Dodd's job performance than approve, and a majority say they are unlikely to support his re-election. By more than 2 to 1, respondents said they were dissatisfied with his Feb. 2 explanation of the refinancing with Countrywide. And, although 41 percent of those polled said they thought Mr. Dodd was honest and trustworthy, 42 percent said they thought he was not.”

The polls are “Bad enough to make a veteran politician think hard about whether to call it a day.”

President Icarus Declares Beltway Honeymoon Over

Through his White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, who once sent a political opponent a dead fish by mail, President Barack Obama is signaling that the bipartisan honeymoon is over, according to a story in Politico.

It did not take long for Obama to figure out that bipartisanship is overrated, particularly when one is the titular head of a party that controls congress. It was the stimulus package that tipped the scales.

“Meeting with reporters Thursday night, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said that there were times during the stimulus debate when ‘I don’t think we were sharp about the benefits’ of the legislation, letting Washington process dominate the message.

“Reflecting as ‘somebody who has been in this town,’ he observed that ‘there’s an insatiable appetite for the notion of bipartisanship here and we allowed that to get ahead of ourselves.’

“But Emanuel said that they recognized they had overdone their initial outreach to Republicans and had offered ‘a sharp message f…

On Lincoln, Obama, Liberty and the Republican Party

Prior to and after President Barack Obama’s inauguration, the president had been compared to Abe Lincoln: Both were from Illinois; both had a rough start in life; the Great Emancipator – a Republican, by the way – has done his best to make possible the election to the presidency of the nation’s first African American; so Lincoln and Obama were, some in the press said, bookends of a kind, one opening the struggle against slavery and the other closing it. All this is true. And we all should be glad whenever the nation is able to shuck off the tattered remnants of a debilitating Jim-Crow politics. It has been a long time coming. Lincoln, had he been alive in our day, would have rejoiced.

At this point – so it seems to some of us – it only remains for the president now to decide whether he wishes to be Lincoln or Franklin Roosevelt, with whom he’s also been compared. Some have also seen in Obama a likeness to President Jack Kennedy. I have no doubt that someone will come along in the near …

Right Wing Terrorists

According to the Jerusalem Post:

“US officials are publicly taking a wait-and-see approach to the formation of a new Israeli government, but privately many have expressed concern that Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu might preside over a right-wing coalition.

"”There would be great unease’ at the prospect of such a government, said one Capitol Hill source.”
The unnamed source predicted “that a governing coalition of parties from the Right could embolden the left flank of the Democratic party and turn up pressure, particularly in the US Congress, to pass measures that made clear demands on Israel.”

The post story is titled, “US worried over prospect of right-wing gov't.”

More prosaically perhaps, Joe Israel is worried that the right wing government of Hamas will continue to rain missiles down on his head.

Blumenthal’s Last Stand?

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced early this political season that he would not be running for governor, though he has dropped hints here and there that he might be willing to step into the shoes of either of Connecticut’s two badly wounded US senators, Chris Dodd or Joe Lieberman.

In the meantime, there are the Indians to be dealt with. “Blumenthal Renews Bid To Ban Smoking at Casinos,” the headline reads, and one detects the odor of yet another suit in the air.

Famous for filing suits, filling the pages of state newspapers with his most recent adventures, bullying private businesses into contributing their mites to the state treasury and offering bills to a complicit legislature, many wonder why Blumenthal would want to be senator, or even president, when he now deploys such awesome powers as attorney general.

“The casinos,” Blumenthal said at a recent press conference attended by some Foxwood employees, officials from the union representing them, public health advocates an…

Jacklin Rises

The one question reporters and commentators seem not to want to touch – for pretty much the same reason most of us stay clear of downed power lines – is this: When the chief political writer for a prominent newspaper leaves the paper and is hired for pay by a politician either in office or running for office, is the person’s future contributions to the paper tainted in any way by small-“c” corruption? After all, the returning scrivener is in a perfect position to provide journalistic favors for favored political parties, the downed power line.

The question hangs over the head of Michele Jacklin, who has written a Democrat paint by the numbers opinion piece for the Hartford Courant, “Rell Evokes Regan, But Counting on Obamabucks.”

In a Manichean world in which the universe is divided between the forces of good and evil, there are good ideas, those proposed by President Barack Obama, and bad ideas, the operative ideas of the Reagan era: small government, manageable taxes and a vigorous pr…

Tammany Hall Comes To Town Hall

Tell the truth but tell it slant: That was poet Emily Dickenson’s advice.

Applying the maxim to the Carlos Costa case, we get Tammany Hall epigrams from Carlos Costa’s lawyer, the forthright William Gerace:

"He did what he did," said Gerace of Costa, his client, adding that the facts of the allegations against Costa aren't in dispute. It's the interpretation that's at issue.

"Someone else will have to determine if he committed a crime or if he was trying to make a living," Gerace said, adding that what Costa did was grease "the wheels of business."

Costa is the Hartford developer, now under arrest, who sought to grease the wheels of business by performing what he thought was cost free work on Mayor Eddie Perez’s house.

The prosaic Hartford Courant put it this way:

“According to arrests warrants, Costa has told investigators that he thought the allegedly free work was "the cost of me doing business with the City." At the same time he …

The Budget Jihad: Union Opposition

On Friday, Feb 6, hours after Governor Jodi Rell had laid out her budget proposal urbi et orbi, Daniel Livingston, an attorney for the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, professed that unions were disappointed in the governor’s no tax budget.

Livingston told the Hartford Courant, “The direction she is pushing the budget (sic), we believe, is irresponsible. It’s an anti-stimulus package. It’s the traditional Republican playbook. It’s not the time for the same old, same old. It’s going to make the economy worse.”

The unions also wrote a “Dear Jodi” letter to the governor in which they said, “It is time to say openly and frankly to the people of this state that revenue enhancements [union verbiage for tax increases] should be raised in order to close the budget gap and preserve public services.”

No one who has been watching the news should be surprised at these entrenchments. Unions have issued previous communications of the same sort, one of them just before Rell’s address in whi…

Thanks George, Yours, Obama

This from the Washington Post, not a bastion of neo-conservativism:

Last weekend’s vote, which occurred during one of the calmest periods Iraq has experienced since the U.S. invasion, was a political triumph. Though results are still preliminary, they show that voters strongly rewarded Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for his forceful action against extremist militias and his secular nationalist agenda — and punished religious parties perceived as too sectarian or too close to Iran. The nonsectarian alliance of former prime minister Ayad Allawi also appears to have done well, and nationalist Sunnis gained influence in areas where they had lacked it because of previous election boycotts. In short, Iraq appears to have taken a step toward becoming the moderate Arab democracy that the Bush administration long hoped for.

Mr. Maliki’s State of Law ticket appears to have finished first in Baghdad, in the southern port of Basra and in every southern province but one.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Reaction to Rell’s Budget Address

The day after Governor Jodi Rell delivered her budget address to the legislature and the state, the reviews began drifting in.

Quasi-socialist mayor of New Haven John DeStefano thought, "It was very powerful. It touched a lot of the right bases."

Other Democrats said the plan was under funded by some $3 billion. Majority Leader Martin Looney of New Haven said, "It's another partial deficit-mitigation plan, rather than a comprehensive budget, and John Geragosian of New Britain said, “It punts to the legislature the politically hard work. It is a partial effort, but it is not a serious effort."

Don Williams, President Pro Tem of the senate, sniffed at the plan and cautioned that it may not meet the fairness test. "As we go forward in the coming days and hours and hold the budget up to the light, it's got to pass the fairness test”said Williams, a canned response. Among Democrats, “fairness” is unrelated to equity; it is simply a command barked at the dogs t…

Governor Rell’s Knife

Governor Jodi Rell warned in a short public address that her budget would be like no other, and this was easily dismissed by her usual opponents.

Now that she has put some flesh on the bare bones of her earlier statement, the same folk have gone apoplectic.

Rell’s remarks certainly are a flag around which Republicans may rally.

Below is an edited portion of the meatier part of her budget address:

Well, to the soothsayers and naysayers I say: Step aside. We need leaders. Help me as I lead Connecticut to a smaller, more affordable, more responsive government.

It starts with fewer state agencies. My budget eliminates 10 of them. All serve worthy purposes on paper, but all have functions largely duplicated by regular state agencies.

In times of plenty they are helpful. In times such as these they are unaffordable. Families are making do with less – so can we.

My budget also eliminates 10 other agencies through logical consolidations. Stand-alone entities are simply not needed. Families are makin…

Cooper Recants, Sort Of

That didn’t take long.

According to a recent back up story in Politico, prominent Blue Dog Democratic congressman Jim Cooper has “moved quickly Wednesday morning to clarify eyebrow-raising comments made Tuesday in which he said White House officials encouraged him to speak out against the House stimulus bill.”

Cooper, from Tennessee, previously had been a thorn in the side of the Clinton regime. The transition of his enmity to Speaker of the US House Nancy Pelosi has been effortless.

Out Of the Mouths Of…

Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee stuck his foot in his mouth; then he stuck his other foot in his mouth; then he swallowed one of his eyeballs; then...

Politico via Liberadio! has the story:

"’Well, I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but I actually got some quiet encouragement from the Obama folks for what I’m doing,’ said Cooper, one of about 55 House Democrats to sign a letter criticizing Speaker Nancy Pelosi for suspending normal debate and committee rules on the $819 billion package.

“He went on -- and on:

"’They know it’s a messy bill and they wanted a clean bill. Now, I got in terrible trouble with our leadership because they don’t care what’s in the bill, they just want it pass and they want it to be unanimous. They don’t mind the partisan fighting cause that’s what they are used to. In fact, they’re really good at it. And they’re a little bit worried about what a post-partisan future might look like. If members actually had to read the bills and figure out whether they are…

Sen. Blumenthal?

Anton Chekov, the great Russian playwright, use to say that if you introduce a gun in the first act, it had better go off by the final act. Dick Blumenthal, in Connecticut politics, is the gun that won’t go off.

Blumenthal has his name in the media every other day, sometimes multiple times. All that juice, reporters figure, ought to be put to some useful purpose, and Blumenthal has numerous times expressed his interest in occupying some post other than being attorney general.

It has been widely reported in various media outlets that both US Connecticut senators have slipped on blood. Lieberman is in the progressive dog house largely because of his position on the war in Iraq. Dodd lately has run into trouble over a sweetheart deal he had made with Countrywide a defunct mortgage lender, an industry Dodd regulates as chairman of the banking committee.

All this is a recipe for imaginative speculation.

The Hill, a beltway publication, has cited anonymous “multiple Connecticut Democrats” to th…

Sanford among the Lilliputians

The next shot heard round the world may be a simple “No.”

Mark Sanford, governor of South Carolina, here appears before the US Congress to give testimony on the federal bailout and utters the forbidden word, causing faces to collapse, hearts to break and Charlie Rangel to reach for the smelling salts.

Typhoid Cibes Surfaces

“There is no panacea to solve our current problems,” writes Bill Cibes who, along with Lowell Weicker, the father of Connecticut’s income tax, ushered in the father of all panaceas.

“Hard decisions must be made that employ every available option to balance the state budget while doing no harm to the most vulnerable among us and preserving the foundations of future prosperity,” Cibes wrote in a Courant column, “How To Solve Deficit, Restore Sound Footing,” in tandem with Ned Lamont, the come-from-nowhere Greenwich wunderkind who won a primary against current Senator Joe Lieberman several years back.

Cibes is not new to Connecticut politics. He ran for governor on an income tax platform several years ago and was soundly defeated. Refusing to take “No” for an answer, Cibes consented to become then Governor Lowell Weicker’s Office of Budget and Management chief. And – surprise! – a few weeks into his term, Weicker graced the state with its current non-performing income tax.

The tax was sold …