Thursday, April 30, 2009

Blumenthal abrogates contract; Superior Court Declines to Notice

Attorney General Dick Blumenthal, cited by the American Enterprise Institute as the worst attorney general in the United States, has more sleeves on his tentacles and cards up them than Harry Houdini.

In his attempt to impoverish the Hoffmans, Blumenthal may have violated a contract his office signed with his victims and a company that is holding their money in escrow.

Contracts can no more restrain Connecticut’s attorney general than chains could restrain Houdini, and both are artists in the craft of misdirection.

Here is the operative paragraph in the contract signed by Blumenthal’s office:

"The Escrow amount shall be released by escrow agent only after a receipt of an order by a judge of a Superior Court of the State of Connecticut directing: 1) to whom payment is to be made from the escrow account; and (ii) the amount of each payment. In the event that one of the parties shall appeal the order of the Superior Court of the state of Connecticut pursuant to Conn. General. Stat. Section 52-2781 (a)-(c), and said party post a bond sufficient to indemnify the adverse party and the Superior Court issues a stay order pending appeal then the escrow amount shall continue to be held by said Escrow Agent until an entry of a final non-appealable order nor the stay is lifted. In the event no bond is posted or no stay is issued by the superior court then the Escrow Agent shall release the escrowed amount in accordance with the order of the Superior Court.”

Now, it so happenes that Blumenthal is faced with a set of facts and contractual obligations that he finds unpalatable: The trial court judge dismissed the attachment and refused to grant a stay of his decision pending appeal; and the state has failed to post a bond.

This money should be released from escrow.

Why wasn't the money released?

Because Blumenthal no longer likes the terms of the contract he has entered into and has decided not to honor them.

Let's be very clear about what happened: Blumethal's office used a defective affidavit to improperly seize the Hoffman's assets; the trial court dissolved the attachments due to this defect, and now Blumenthal is desperately trying to hold on to the money without posting bond by ignoring the plain language of the escrow contract to which his office is a party.

The contract above specifies that if Blumenthal appeals Judge Bentivegna’s decision – which he recently has done – his office is to post bond so that the Hoffmans might draw from the bond to pay their legal expenses with money that a previous judge has determined was improperly seized through a deceptive affidavit, the Hoffman's expenses having been incurred through Blumenthal’s faulty prosecution.

Blumenthal has not posted the bond, and he has lost his right to maintain his attachment. He is now seeking to use the appellate process to continue to deprive the Hoffmans of their property. It is plain to see that his strategy is to retain improperly seized assets through fruitless appeals in hopes that the Hoffmans will simply give up and go away. Blumenthal knows very well that a lengthy appeal will continue to impair the Hoffmans financially.

Most of us would not wish to live in a system of justice in which attorneys general may seize property with defective affidavits and then run out the court clock until their tortured victims collapse under the weight of such disgusting violations of justice as are evident in Blumenthal’s vengeful prosecution of the Hoffmans.

As concerns injustices committed by his office but no others, Blumenthal has liberal tolerance levels.

One wants to shake the attorney general and ask: Dick, does your mommy know you’re doing this?

Does George Gombossy, consumer watchdog at the Hartford Courant know you're stretching a butterfly on the wheel?

The Specter in the Closet Jumps out, Spooks Democrats

Former pugilist Sen. Harry Reid has reached a private arrangement with defecting former Republican Sen. Arlen Specter that would allow the Specter to retain his seniority, and this has got true-blue Democrats in the senate who have been patiently waiting their turn at the chairmanship trough in a snit, according to a story in The Hill.

“Reid told reporters Tuesday that Specter, who plans to change his party registration to Democrat in May, would not bump any Democrats from plum committee posts this year or next year. But Reid said Specter could invoke what would be three decades of seniority at the start of the 112th Congress.

“’Of course in a year and a half, at the start of every Congress, it’s a new game and Sen. Specter has seniority over a number of people on committees he wants to serve on,’ Reid said.”
An unnamed “senior laymaker” curtly told the Hill, “That’s his deal and not the caucus’s.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Carla Exposed

MailOnLine is reporting that Carla Bruni, the wife of French President Nicholas Sarkosy, here striking a philosophical pose, is about to be exposed.

Bruni had a life before Sarkosy with several men one of whom, philosopher Julien Enthoven, memorialized his non-platonic encounters with her in pics and videos.

This cache, coming to a clip near you soon and given by Enthoven to his brother for safe keeping, has now been stolen by thieves.

What ever happened to French discretion, not to speak of philosophical rectitude?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Specter in the Closet

Arlen Specter has come out of the closet – partially. He has gone over to the Democrats because… because…

Well, no one short of his conscience – the conscience of a moderate – knows why.

But here’s a wholesome guess: Arlen is getting along in years; the power vector has shifted from Republicans to Democrats, which means Republican congressmen can not expect in a government controlled by Democrats to wield any influence as party chairmen.

But Arlen can – if he switches parties and wins.

One expects Democrats to be appreciative and buy the guy off with a chairmanship of something or other.

Better to go out as a traitorous influential dog than a clawless, toothless upright lion.

Obama Less Popular Than Other Presidents

The Washington Times, citing a Gallup April poll, is reporting that only one other president, Bill Clinton, is less popular after his 100 days in office than Barack Obama.

“Mr. Obama's popularity after 100 days,” the Washington Times editorializes, “is the second-lowest for a simple reason: He is more partisan and divisive than his predecessors - including Richard Nixon” and George Bush.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Correlation of Forces in Connecticut

There are five political parties operating in Connecticut: the governor’s party, headed for the past few years by Jodi Rell; the old guard Republican Party; the new Republican Party; the old guard Democrat Party, and progressive Democrats.

Governor Rell and the new Republicans have in the past been at logger heads on important budgetary issues. The new Republicans want a stripped down state managed preferably by a Republican dominated legislature that is fiscally responsible and energetic in the pursuit of conservative economic principles.

Rell will, as she and her predecessor had in the past, reach compromises with the Democrat dominated legislature that will be distasteful to the new Republicans, who hope to be able to mount a convincing campaign against an entrenched Democrat majority.

A similar bifurcation presents itself in the Democrat Party. The diminishing old guard is in the process of being swallowed whole by progressives; occasionally one glimpses a bloody torso dangling from the teeth of the progressive lion. This battle between what use to be called fiscally conservative Democrats and young turks has been raging on and off within the Democrat Party for years.

The vanguard of the Democrat progressive party is made up of unions and “independent” journalists who fancy they are an army of I. F. Stones.

(A footnote on Stone: Active during and after the Stalinist period, Stone was widely regarded by honorable liberals in the United States as the ideal independent journalist. When it recently was shown that Stone was in fact a Soviet spy during the 30’s, many liberals who had idolized him for years barely batted an eyelash. The idols of the political marketplace are like banks; one invests one’s rich load of emotional energy in them, and when it is discovered that the bank is bankrupt, one refuses to face up to it, for fear one’s emotional capital will be depleted.)

There is no vanguard of the New Republicans in Connecticut; merely a few brave soul’s shaking their spears and defending the economic principles of Fredrich Hayek and Ludwig Von Meises, a rearguard action in the era of the widely popular President Barack Obama.

Progressive Democrats, both nationally and in-state, want the rich to pay the lion’s share of their social programs. In fact, they already do.

The party of Rell has balked at this notion not because the governor has a copy of Hayek’s “The Constitution of Liberty” at her beside table from which she quotes to confound progressive spendthrifts in the state legislature, but because she fears the mobile rich may move to more verdant pastures, in addition to which she knows that punishing taxes make new business enterprises go poof.

Progressive Democrats -- like Rett Butler, one of the characters in Margaret Mitchell's 1936 magisterial novel “Gone with the Wind” -- just don’t give a damn.

Rell gives a damn, but she doesn’t give a damn enough to fight the good fight.

One newspaper that is by no means ill disposed towards Rell, having noticed that the governor has offered state employees a guarantee of no layoffs for two years if they make minor, short term concessions in raises and benefits, asks “Is this as tough as she gets as a fiscal hawk?”

The paper dangles before Rell the possibility that she might veto successive budgets until Democrats, brought to their knees, begin seriously to address the state’s $8 billion debt through means other than raising taxes on the rich and struggling corporations, a hackneyed idea presently being explored by the Obama administration to pay for new, long term, expensive social programs. There is only so much milk in the utters of the rich.

Reality seeps in and the paper concludes, “Rell has always talked tough and given the Democrats most of what they wanted in the end. And there is no reason to think it will be otherwise this year.”

No effective opposition may be expected from either old guard Democrats – former Speaker of the state House of Representatives Jim Amann used to be regarded as a “fiscally conservative Democrat” before he “got religion” – or old guard Weicker Republicans now let out to pasture.

And that leaves but one force in the state to confront an army of spenders and their myriad supporters in media land – the new Republicans.

They have no party, no money, no leadership and no support in the media.

But the new Republicans fully expect Democrats in the state to self destruct as people begin to understand that government can only consume wealth; it cannot produce it, which, come to think of it, is one of the guiding principles of the “Constitution of Liberty,” a book Rell and her major domo, Lisa Moody, should have on their bed side tables, for ready reference in the battles to come.

Obama, Europe, Love and Poetry

Every so often, when we fall into a reverie, we depend upon members of the press to pinch us awake.

Europe, Bruce Thornton reminds us in FrontPage Magazine, never loves us so dearly as when we are shedding our blood, sweat and tears in its behalf.

“The love-fest in Europe has not resulted in our NATO allies making anything other than cosmetic changes to its half-baked support of our efforts in Afghanistan. American troops will continue to bear the lion’s share of the burden of fighting and dying, while Europeans train policemen.”

The mercurial Hugo Chavez’s temporary love fest with President Barack Obama is certain to be short lived.

“Obama’s handshake with Hugo Chavez will not stop that autocrat from working against our interests by buddying up with Iran, a state that has the blood of American soldiers on its hands, or by fomenting revolution in neighboring Columbia.”

Servility can only take you so far.

“Nor will that embarrassing bow to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah convince the Saudis to stop funding terrorists or to reform a school system that preaches jihadist intolerance and hatred. And of course, the overtures to Iran will not convince the mother-ship of jihad from abandoning its pursuit of nuclear weaponry and Israel’s destruction. Obama has forgotten Hamlet’s wisdom that “One may smile, and smile, and be a villain.”

The behavior of the villains of the world “is not going to be changed by cosmetic public relations gestures or by legitimizing autocratic regimes by cozying up with dictators. Worse yet, the groveling apologies that have issued from the ‘leader of the free world’ will not give ‘greater moral force and clarity,’ as the President claimed, to our criticisms of human-rights violations or support for terror and revolution. On the contrary, donning the hair shirt of American guilt will only damage our prestige and tell the world that we are weak, that despite our power and wealth we can be had.”

And the coup de grace is delivered, no big surprise here, by President Sarkozy of France,” who said in an off the cuff remark that Obama’s performance in Europe was “weak, inexperienced, and badly briefed.”

A poet during the age of Charles Lamb wrote a verse titled “Love Is Enough” that Lamb reviewed in a single line: “No, it isn’t.”

Obama's diplomacy is regarded by some in Europe and the United States as a poetic effusion, bound at some point to burst on the pin of reality.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dick “Torqemada” Blumenthal vs. the Hoffmans

In March, 2009, Mathew Fitzsimmons, an assistant attorney general in Attorney General Dick Blumenthal’s office, found himself peppered by a battery of uncomfortable questions in Judge James Bentivegna’s Superior Court in a case involving Valerie and David Hoffman.

Before Dick Blumenthal’s office fell on her like a ton of bricks, Valerie Hoffman, a small business woman, owned an herbal internet company, and her husband David was a house builder. A small independent contractor, David would buy land, put a house on it, sell the house and use the proceeds to repeat the process. Any monetary interruption in the business chain, he knew, would prove fatal to his livelihood.

Valerie had been cited by the state’s Consumer Protection department on a few complaints, information that made its way to George Gombossy, recently installed at the Hartford Courant as the paper’s consumer protection bulldog. Because of the connections between the Courant and Dick Blumenthal, whose beaming visage often appears in its pages, the attorney general’s office got involved in the complaint.

Valerie was contacted by an official in the Consumer Protection Department. She agreed with a demand from the department to put in her contract an unorthodox specification that anyone seeking a cancellation should have to make their request by certified mail, which later would prove an impediment for complainants.

In a conversation with Consumer Protection, Valerie asserted that she was scrupulously following commonly accepted business policies. However, because she could not afford legal bills, she made a generous offer to refund those she thought were not entitled to refunds. The state had included in their lists customers who had already been provided with refunds. Additionally, the state solicited candidates for refunds from customer lists provided during discovery proceedings, a process for which Blumenthal’s office was rebuked during a legal proceeding in Maine. Through such solicitations and repeat refunds, Blumenthal’s office managed to increase to $45,000 a payment that should have been in the vicinity of $7,000.

Never-the-less, Valerie agreed to pay the sum, a small fortune for her, at which point she was told by Phil Rosario in the attorney general's office that the arrangement could not be consummated because the issue had “become political.” Blumenthal’s office had raised the stakes; he now wanted $600,000, an arrangement Rosario told her was generous -- because she had embarrassed the attorney general.

“I said what?! Aren’t you supposed to be getting consumers refunded and not wasting tax dollars here? Is this possible? Are you really saying what really matters is Blumenthal looking bad in the paper?”

Valerie was about to learn there was a price she would have to pay for ruffling the feathers of the politically ambitious Blumenthal. Presently, the attorney general, a partisan Democrat, is being recruited by prominent members of his party to challenge two wounded Democrat senators, Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman, who have incurred the wrath of easily provoked progressives.

Thus began for the Hoffman’s the complex litigation process in which the attorney general’s office so excels – an expensive, soul draining, bank account depleting ordeal its victims may reasonably suppose will have on them the same effect as medieval racks and thumbscrews.

Representations, many of which were highly misleading, having been made to a court in an affidavit prepared by Assistant Attorney General Fitzsimmons, Blumenthal’s office was granted, by means of an Ex-Parte Application for Attachment, liens on David Hoffman’s business, as a result of which David’s business activities were fatally frozen. The Hoffmans lost $600,000 on a house in Bethel through an attachment imposed by Blumenthal

“I cried for about a year,” Valerie said.

Distortion, outright fabrication and intimidation are useful techniques for extracting information – and, preferably, a compelled guilty plea – from gang bangers, drug lords and Al Capone types. But these methods usually stop at the courtroom door. Blumenthal’s office employed them expertly on the Hoffmans, and then submitted to a court an affidavit in which Fitzsimmons was the sole affiant. The judge in the case felt compelled to point out to Fitzsimmons that by so doing he would be breaking the rules of professional conduct.

Judges who had a keen appreciation for the niceties of the law and standard litigation processes were not amused by these prosecutorial high jinks.

In a series of court actions that effectively removed Blumenthal’s hobnailed boots from the Hoffman’s throats, courts agreed with the defense that Bumenthal’s office had misrepresented in a sworn affidavit the number of clients harmed by Valerie’s business practices. In his affidavit, Fitzsimmons swore the number was in excess of 240. However many on the list he supplied to the court were not clients; others had already been refunded. Some of the names taken from client lists were out of state; never-the-less they were included in the affidavit, although the attorney general’s legal authority ends at the borders of Connecticut. The attorney general’s star witness crumbled on the stand, acknowledging under examination that she misrepresented when she said she had not signed up for Auto Ship.

The witness also confessed she did not follow the burdensome Consumer Protection certified letter cancellation policy that amended Auto Ship because she just didn’t like it. She could not have been alone; this burdensome requirement, which obliged clients to notify Valerie by certified letter when they wished to opt out of the Auto Ship program, made processing more complex and burdensome to the customer. It also created an unnecessary hostility that Blumenthal later would take advantage of when his office went trolling for disgruntled customers disposed to complain about their treatment.

Most damaging to Blumenthal’s salient against the Hoffmans, Judge Bentivegna, later denigrated by the attorney general’s office as “a rogue backward judge,” ruled that the Hoffman’s assets had been seized with a defective affidavit.

The state was permitted to seize the Hoffman’s assets in an Ex-Parte Application for Attachment. In such cases, the integrity of the affidavit is essential, because the procedure permits the prosecutorial authority to seize assets without a hearing before a judge. The absence of a hearing granted on the strength of a defective affidavit seriously impairs due process rights and violates Constitutional protections.

Blumenthal’s office, the Hoffmans would later argue before Judge Bentivegna, “had two years to secure affidavits from consumers to be used in conjunction with its Ex-Parte Application for Attachment. The State simply chose not to comply with the statutory scheme for attachments requiring that an application be accompanied with an affidavit from a ‘competent’ affiant.”

A competent affiant would be one who had personal knowledge of the improprieties alleged in the affidavit, people who could give personal witness to the improprieties.

“Rather, the State used as an affiant a junior Assistant Attorney General who had only been assigned to work on this matter one month prior to his signing his affidavit.

“On cross examination on March 3, 2009, it was established that Fitzsimmons, in fact, did not participate in any of the underlying consumer transactions upon which that State’s enforcement action is based. More importantly, he did not even speak to all of the consumers who purportedly suffered a consumer loss. In sum, Fitzsimmons lacked personal knowledge of the most basic facts to which he sought to testify as an affiant and simply was never “competent” to serve as either an affiant or as a witness.”

The court agreed with this damaging assessment. And the fact that Blumenthal’s office permitted such obvious irregularities suggests that Connecticut’s Attorney General is not as careful as he should be in observing both standard practice and the constitutional rights of those against whom he is litigating. At a very basic level, Valerie had a right to confront her accusers – whose representations were not presented rightly in an affidavit used by the courts to deprive her of her property.

In a court document, Valerie asks why was Fitzsimmons the affiant? “Why was his obviously defective affidavit used by the State?”

That is a question to which no convincing answer yet has been given.

“Although the State has left this riddle unanswered,” Valerie declared in a dourt document, “what is known is that Attorney General Richard Blumenthal was interviewed by an investigative reporter weeks before the lawsuit, and he was forced to admit that his office had taken no action on the Sunrise Herbal Remedy file for two years. (See Hartford Courant New Article Dated March 9, 2007). Although this article was printed after the commencement of the first lawsuit, State of Connecticut v. Sun Rise Herbal Remedy, Docket No. CV-07-4028460-S was filed, a simple review of the article establishes that the interview of Blumenthal took place before the litigation was commenced.

“It is likely that the interview took place shortly before more personnel were assigned to the file, such as junior Assistant Attorney General Fitzsimmons. It is only after the phone call from the Hartford Courant that the State suddenly sprung into action with such vigor and vehemence against the Hoffmans.

“The State then took every consumer compliant on file with the State of Connecticut going back to 2001 (260 complaints) and filed the Fitzsimmons affidavit and sought the maximum penalty ($5,000.00) for exactly 260 allegedly ‘willful’ violations. In so doing the State: (i) included names of people on this list who were already refunded; (2) included those who were out-of-state consumers; and (iii) included those who had never ordered product!

“The ex-parte attachment was based, once again, solely on an affidavit from Fitzsimmons and, once again, claimed a fraudulent transfer of property. The Superior Court of Maine, after oral argument, found there to be no probable cause for fraudulent transfer and ordered the attachment vacated.

“Why? Does the State have any concern about the due process rights of the Hoffmans?

“Apparently not. The State delayed the post-attachment hearing from December 2008 to March 2009 because it sought, with no legal basis or justification, to prevent the defendants from questioning Fitzsimmons at the post-attachment hearing. In short, the State sought nothing less than to prevent the defendants from conducting a meaningful hearing and confronting its only affiant.

“The consequences of the State’s actions in Connecticut and Maine have been financially devastating to David and Valerie Hoffman. The initial attachment and lis pendens in Maine caused a local bank to cancel a credit line needed to complete construction on (a) home needed for mortgage payments on the home in Bethel Connecticut. The lis pendens in Maine continues to encumber a property that is probably worth over Two Million Dollars. Dave Hoffman is presently prevented from gaining access to the equity in (a) property in order to finish construction, to pay daily living costs for his family or his legal bills.

“The ex-parte attachment ... caused the Hoffman’s to default on three separate mortgages on the Bethel property. The Bethel property went into foreclosure. Prior to the commencement of the foreclosures on the Bethel property, Dave Hoffman obtained a buyer who was willing to buy the Bethel property for 1.3 Million dollars. This offer was conveyed to the State with the request that the property be sold and the money left after paying off the mortgages be placed in escrow. The State responded by saying that it was have its “front office” (Attorney General Blumenthal) consider this request. The “front office” did not respond to this request for weeks. In the mean time, the buyer walked away from his offer. Eventually, the State wrote a letter stating that Dave Hoffman could use the statutory process to ask the Court for an approved sale but it still did not indicate if it would object to any such motion. The failure of the “front office” (Attorney General Blumenthal) to respond in a timely manner caused the loss of approximately $600,000.00 dollars in equity in the Bethel home. Eventually, the Bethel property sold after a foreclosure judgment at the distressed price of $885,000.00 dollars. Attorney General Blumenthal and his subordinates knew that not responding timely to the request for a private sale would injury the defendants. Yet, they did not respond on a timely basis.

Perhaps someone in the media can wrest the answers to these questions from Blumenthal

A few days after Valerie’s tormentors were beaten back in Judge Bentivegna’s court, an attorney trying the case suffered a massive coronary, an indication perhaps of the stressful environment in Blumenthal’s office.

Valerie, far more courageous than her persecutors and their enablers in the media, now has legal actions pending against the state of Connecticut in Maine for $6 million, a suit made possible because of prior rulings damaging to Blumenthal. The state has exposed itself to a suit in Connecticut for another $3 million. The Hoffmans are considering an ACLU investigation of Blumenthal and have submitted a grievance against Fitzsimmons that may put his law license in jeopardy.

All this grief and expense – owing to the unnecessarily protracted litigation, those seeking refunds from Valerie still have not received their due -- could have been prevented very early on for about $7,000. But Blumenthal must have his million, an outrageous figure. In the largest CUPTA settlement in history, a multi-billion dollar industry, Microsoft, paid out less money in fines than Blumenthal is seeking from Valerie’s one woman operation herbal business – still in operation and satisfying customers.

If there is a dram of justice left in the courts, the Hoffmans will prevail. Perhaps they may hope that Gombossy will celebrate their vindication in one of his columns. Blumenthal’s wicked prosecution of this case conceivably could result in a torrent of suits brought by other companies similarly abused. The Hoffman’s suit, if successful, will change the way Blumenthal’s office conducts its business.

Small businesses, which do not generally have the resources of too-large-to-fail businesses, should worry. Here we see Blumenthal, cited by the American Enterprise Institute as the worst attorney general in the United States, at the top of his game.

If Blumenthal can use judicial instruments such as an Ex-Parte Application for Attachment to avoid a judicial hearing and, with a defective avidavit, persuade a judge to allow him to seize the personal assets of a business owner, he will be able to deploy such measures to deprive anyone of their property, while riding roughshod over their imprescriptable constitutional rights. Faced with the despoliation of their property by an overweening prosecutor, the first right of the citizen is to be able in court, before a judge, to defend himself from an unlawful taking.

If the Hoffmans do not prevail, they never-the-less will have their honor intact -- bright and undiminished -- to refresh their flagging spirits.

The same cannot be said of Blumenthal and his prosecutors.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Blumie And The Golfers

Pierrot says to Columbine in Edna St. Vincent Millay’s play Aria DeCapo, “Don't stand so near me! I am become a socialist. I love Humanity; but I hate people.”

In the same spirit, one might say that Attorney General Richard Blumenthal loves golf; but he hates golf courses.

Well, (ITALICS) new (END ITALICS) golf courses anyway.

As for environmentalists, Blumenthal loves most passionately those who agree with him.

The others? Eh!

The attorney general does not think that a new golf course at the present time would be economically viable. In view of the 30 percent corporation tax that Blumenthal’s Democrat cohorts in the legislature intend to slap on businesses in the state, it is a chancy proposition that (ITALICS) any (END ITALICS) new Connecticut business will be able to make a go of it. Pity the commentator who suggests that the litigation happy Blumenthal should sue those who wish to destroy the state through improvident taxation; Blumie would no doubt reply that such powers overreach his statutory bounds.

In attempting to stop development of a golf course displeasing to select environmental groups, Blumenthal has adopted what he has called “extraordinarily unusual” tactics.

According to a story in a Hartford paper, the attorney general, “who disagrees with the project's tentative approval by the state Department of Environmental Protection” has threatened suit if the project goes forward.

In order to sue the developer of the golf course, Blumenthal must abandon his statutory requirement to serve in his capacity as a lawyer whose chief obligation is to represent the state in civil litigation matters.

The golf course project has already received temporary approval from Department of Environmental Protection, and Blumenthal is required by statute – as it happens, the very law that created the modern attorney general’s office -- to represent the interests of state agencies, even those, such as the state Department of Environmental Protection, that occasionally make pronouncements distressing to the attorney general.

The series of events that led Blumenthal to leap over his statutory responsibilities in an effort to satisfy environmental groups that fall outside his purview is much less interesting than the fact that Blumenthal, by taking such a course, has divested himself of all statutory authority and left the state without effective legal representation to defend itself from a suit threatened by the attorney general acting, one hopes, in his capacity as a private citizen.

Such measures are more than “extraordinarily unusual.” They are perversely subversive, and probably should be regarded as illegal.

In the news story, Blumenthal assured the public that the developer of the golf course, Roland Betts, confessed in the course of a conversation in which Blumenthal was a participant that he could not make a go of the project unless part of it were devoted to housing.

The story does not mention what hat – that of the attorney general representing the interests of the state Department of Environmental Protection, or that of a private suit happy lawyer representing the interests of environmental lobbying groups he favors – Blumenthal was wearing at the time Betts told the attorney general that, at some future date, he might want to include housing as a component in his project.

Blumenthal, as is his wont, hubristically and immediately overstepped his authority. Convinced Betts had misrepresented himself before the state Department Environmental Protection, Blumenthal switched horses midstream, now threatening to sue Betts and, one imagines, the DEP that Blumenthal is by law supposed to be representing in litigation matters.

It may be important to point out that if (ITALICS) in the future (END ITALICS) Betts applied for housing permits, the state could well refuse him at that time. Betts’s present application, approved by the DEP, does not feature housing in plan for which the developer has received a temporary permit.

Should this mess come before a judge, one may hope the judge may have the presence of mind to notice that Blumenthal’s office has no standing when it sheds its statutory responsibilities and decides to represent the interests of lobbying groups mobilized against private developers who have been given a permit by the very agency Blumenthal is by law supposed to be representing.

It would take but one clear headed judge worth his salt to knock this nonsense into a cocked hat. But may Connecticut judges who lave the law are intimidated by Blumenthal’s bullying tactics and his facilitators on the Judiciary Committee. It is perhaps too much to expect courage of them.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Ortega Chides Obama, Hillary Dances

At the Latin American Summit in Trinidad, President of Nicaragua Daniel Ortega, no longer the gun toting communist dictator who moved Indian tribes around throughout his country as if they were pieces on a chess board, did what hard-boiled anti-American revolutionary pimps do best: He unfurled a fifty minute stem winder accusing the United States of everything but successfully overthrowing the Cuban dictatorship of the Castro brothers.

Ortega was determined not to let the usual crisis in Latin America go to waste and, despite warm overtures from the American president, he was in no mood to re-write his harangue.

It has been reported that President Barack Obama sat placidly through the discourse, occasionally taking notes.

Confronted later during a photo opportunity with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and asked what he thought of the speech, “Obama said, “"It was 50 minutes long. That's what I thought."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, asked twice to comment on the speech, danced around the question. Said the Secretary of State, “I thought the cultural performance was fascinating… To have those first class Caribbean entertainers on all on one stage and to see how much was done in such a small amount of space, I was overwhelmed."

The wife of former President Bill Clinton is not easily overwhelmed, though in the past she has been known to dance away from nagging questioners.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Hartford Tea Party

“A little frightening how you cats jump straight to revolutionary violence when faced with a political loss. I know you’re joking here, but that shit is for real for a whole lot of people” – a frightened blogger

Okay, let’s at least try to get the history of the Boston Tea Party right. There were genuine revolutionists among the “Indians” who threw the tea into Boston harbor. The principle organizer was Sam Adams, as fine a made in America revolutionist as you are likely to find anywhere.

But the issue that propelled the dumping was THE TEA.

In an attempt to save the East India Company, an early government supported entity (GSE), the British government gave a subsidy to the company in the form of a tax reduction that allowed the company to reduce the price of its tea. Americans drank a lot of tea in those days because Starbucks as yet was not in business, and the British knew they could undercut the market by lowering the price of tea produced by their principle GSE. So they loaded all the tea from their warehouses ships – and they had a lot of it, because the American had for sometime been buying their tea from Holland – and shipped it to Boston.

The merchants in Boston did not want to disturb their tea business and resented the GSE scam; so it was pretty easy for Sam Adams, a much better community organizer than Barack Obama, to turn Boston against the British.

The British government was always over-reacting. When the British imposed a stamp act on their colony, Bostonians resisted the act and managed to get it rolled back. Then came the Townsend Act and the so called Intolerable Acts. These were attempts by the British government to collect from Bostonians revenues that the government needed to protect their shipping from the likes of Sam Adams and the merchants of Boston, who were free traders.

The Bostonians resented that they were taxed to provide revenue to a far away government used by the government to pay for unruly troops to monitor the trade of Boston merchants, bully citizens on the street and knock young boys on the head with their rifle buts.

One thing led to another, shots were fired, and the rest is history.

Now, there are several lessons here, the most important of which is that GSE’s are bad. Pity we had to learn this lesson all over again with Countrywide, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mack and other government sponsored entities and support systems like AIG.

I was at the Harford tea party and am happy to report back that no shots were fired. The phrase most often repeated at the party by the revelers was something along the lines of, “Lets take our country back.”

This may help leftist who fear revolution to breath easier.

The signs displayed by the revelers were humorous mostly – “Hell No! We won’t Owe,” “America’s Newest Minority, Taxpayers,” “Honk If You’re Paying My Mortgage,” “Chris Dodd, Resign.”

And, best of all, Richard Blumenthal was not in attendance.

The movement itself is probably bigger than parties. No doubt people will try to appropriate it for their own purposes. We now have a government too big to fail attempting to bailout companies too big to fail. This suggests the problem with the companies is – they’re too big. I’ve said elsewhere that Fannie, Freddie, Countrywide and AIG were government supported entities, really government supported monopolies. So was the East India Company. The reaction to all this from the Bostonians was instinctively right. There is a connection between government created entities that are big and a deprivation of liberty. The same is true of Big Government, which wants to regulate everything but itself. That is the spirit I find animating this movement. And it was infectious at the rally. All this movement needs is a Sam Adams. As for revolution, we are the sons of revolution. The only thing to fear about revolution is fear itself.

First, it’s important to understand the principle involved. GSE’s (government supported entities) enjoy a tilted playing field in the free market because the government in such cases provides favored companies with advantages not available to other of its competitors. In a free market, such favored companies will necessarily drive others from the field, Companies too big to fail are too big for a reason. As competitors disappear, the favored companies tend to become monopolies. In an economy in which securities add to profits, the drive towards monopoly will be accelerated.

This is what happened in the case of Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, Countrywide and also AIG, which provided fail safe insurance to institutions buying new toxic products from AIG and others.

Over a period of time, GSE’s tend to become monopolies – in the case of Fannie and Freddie, with the assistance of legislators who had a political interest in providing mortgages to people who could not afford down payments or even monthly mortgage payments. The combination of legislative easements, the evisceration over several decades of Glass-Steagall and regulatory failure resulted in a lowering of banking standards, easy credit and high credit rating for dubious products and services, all of which has contributed to the mess we see before us.

It’s interesting, I think, to consult the assessment of a non-Tory publication like Worker’s World:

“Today, Fannie Mae is a publicly-traded company on the stock market. Its primary aim is to accumulate huge profits for its corporate heads and big-time investors.

“Fannie Mae is a Government Sponsored Enterprise (GSE)—a monopoly with special privileges, including borrowing money below market-interest rates, exemption from state and local taxes, and a credit line at the U.S. Treasury.

“It is the largest non-bank financial services company in the world. Fannie Mae and its junior partner, nicknamed Freddie Mac, have grown rich on these freebies. Their combined assets are 45 percent greater than those of the nation’s largest bank. On the other hand, their combined debt is equal to 46 percent of the current national debt.”
The way into the problem itself suggests a way out.

Instead of creating monopolistic structures through special interest legislation, the free market should be enabled by beating down monopolies. The US government would never allow a single media source to dominate the information sector; still less would legislators create the conditions under which this would be possible. Legislation insuring a free market in ideas, everyone will agree, would enhance the spirit of the First Amendment.

This is not the same thing as muzzling a media source that in a competitive marketplace has risen to the top. It is rather the adoption of a legislative ethic that says, “First, do no harm.” In a genuinely democratic economy, only government can create monopolies. Prohibitions should rest on that side, as indeed they do in the First Amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law…”

The sense among tea party participants in Hartford was that the present crisis – never permitted in the age of Rham Emmanuel to go to waste -- has in great part been caused by the same unresponsive government to which the petitioners in Hartford were directing their messages.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Yanks Are Coming

A citizen of Castro’s Cuba, a hotel cook and taxi cab driver, perhaps weary of the slender tips he has been receiving since Castro came to power in 1956 , takes a drag in his cigarette outside the Xanadu hotel, built in the 1920’a by U.S. millionaire Irenee du Pont de Nemours and expropriated by the Castro regime, and tells a Reuters reporter, “Not one person here has anything against the Americans. Let them come to Varadero in their boats or whatever because for us the Americans mean one thing -- more money.”

Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez speculates whether the “Cuba sí, Yankee no!" proposition is destined for the ash can of history. Supposing the island is to be flooded by U.S. Tourists, she wonders, “What would party militants think if they were told to accept those who until recently they were told to hate?"

Bloomberg news reports that Latin American “leaders” such as the Castro brothers and Hugo Chavez will press President Barack Obama for an end to the Cuban embargo put in place by his predecessor John Kennedy:

“Obama, born six months before President John F. Kennedy imposed the embargo, isn’t prepared to support ending it. Instead, he will likely try to satisfy the leaders at the April 17-19 summit in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, with less ambitious steps -- such as repealing restrictions on family visits and remittances to Cuba that were imposed by former President George W. Bush.

“Obama said in May he’s taking his cues from predecessor Franklin Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s “Good Neighbor” policy, announced in 1933, temporarily ended a long history of U.S. armed intervention in Latin America and ushered in an era of unprecedented hemispheric prosperity.

“For his effort, Roosevelt was praised in a 1936 calypso, ‘FDR in Trinidad,’ commemorating his stopover in the Caribbean island during a 28-day cruise to Latin America.

“Obama, who has yet to set foot in the region, is already the subject of 20 steel-drum tunes, says Ray Funk, a calypso expert in Fairbanks, Alaska. The most widely played, Funk says, is one called ‘Barack the Magnificent.’”

Breibart news is reporting that Obama has "directed his administration Monday to allow unlimited travel and money transfers by Cuban Americans to family in Cuba, and to take other steps to ease U.S. restrictions on the island, a senior administration official told The Associated Press."

The Obama Chavez Meet And Greet

In mid-April, Obama dutifully showed up at Summit of the Americas in Trinidad, and all went swimmingly.

The autocratic Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, a Castro satrap, presented President Barack Obama with a thirty year old book titled "The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent" by Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano.

Chavez is something of a bibliophile. During one of his rants at the United Nation, in the course of which he spoke of Obama’s predecessor as the devil, the Latin American autocrat flourished a book by Noam Chomsky called “Hegemony or Survival,” which appeared to have resonated with Obama.

For Latin American wannabe dictators, such books are the ideological equivalent of romantic bodice rippers.

Obama received with some grace a book that accuses nearly all of his modern predecessors with the spoliation of Latin America, and the following day Chavez was featured on the front page of the New York Times, smiling his toothy smile. In an editorial written after Obama signaled that he would permit travel to Cuba by family members, the Times observed that such steps “did not go far enough. We believe the economic embargo should be completely lifted.”

"I think it was a good moment," Chavez said later. "I think President Obama is an intelligent man, compared to the previous U.S. president."

Those who have heard Obama speak in disparaging terms about his predecessor might agree that, at least on this point, the feelings between the two American leaders were mutual,

"I'm not going to speak for Cuba,” Chavez said. “It's not up to me... all of us here are friends of Cuba, and we hope the United States will be, too.”

An entente from president of Cuba Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother, that Cuba would be willing to discuss everything with the United States, including the release of political prisoners, thawed the hearts of some crisis managers in the Obama administration.

It would be a profound error on the part of the United States to connect the release of political prisoners with any diplomatic openings towards their jailers. The United States ought to make it clear to the Chavez and the Castros that political prisoners should be released without the expectation of favors in return.

Unlike the Aztecs, not mentioned in Galeano book, the United States should not willingly deal in the trading of flesh for profit.

Bad Times for Dodd

U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, arrows hanging from his Achilles heel, has a full page to himself in the right leaning Washington Times.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Borderless Blumenthal: There Ought to Be a Law

In attempting to stop development of a golf course displeasing to some environmental groups, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has adopted what he has called “extraordinarily unusual” tactics.

According to a story in the Harford Courant, Blumenthal, “who disagrees with the project's tentative approval by the state Department of Environmental Protection” has threatened to sue if the project goes forward.

In order to sue the developers of the golf course, Blumenthal must abandon his statutory requirement to serve in his capacity as a lawyer whose chief obligation is to represent the state in civil litigatory matters. The golf course project has already received temporary approval from Department of Environmental Protection, and Blumenthal is by law required to represent the interests of that state agency.

The series of events that led Blumenthal to leap over his statutory responsibilities in an effort to satisfy environmental groups that fall outside his purview is much less interesting than the fact that Blumenthal, by taking such a course, has divested himself of all statutory authority and left the state without effective legal representation to defend itself from a suit threatened by the attorney general acting, presumably, in his capacity as a private citizen.

Such measures are more than “extraordinarily unusual.” They are perversely subversive, and probably should be illegal.

If Blumenthal wishes to surrender his legal obligations and enter the lists as a private attorney representing some pet interest, he should resign from office.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

John Larson’s Fleas

Anyone kindly disposed towards John Larson might have told him that if he lay down with dogs, he might get up with a few fleas.

They apparently didn’t, and he did.

The Journal Inquirer has reported in a flashy first page story, “Larson on the hot seat,” that the popular representative of the impregnable 1st District had struck up a very close friendship with earmark king Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, now under scrutiny, for the second time, by the FBI.

Murtha and Larson were drawn together through their opposition to the war in Iraq, for all practical purposes now considered won by the good guys, although Murtha insisted as early as June, 2006 that the American presence in Iraq was more dangerous to world peace than nuclear threats from North Korea or Iran.

The FBI didn’t get their man on the first try, an ABSCAM sting operation launched in several years ago in which agents disguised as Arab sheiks attempted to entice legislators to accept bribes in return for political favors.

In a hilarious video still floating around on the internet, Murtha refused the bribe and suggested the sheiks might instead want to make a contribution to one of his distressed constituents. The video leaves the strong impression that in Murtha the fake sheiks had met a man who was willing to deal.

And congressman Murtha, a member of the House Appropriations Committee and Chairman of its Defense Subcommittee, has been dealing ever since.

An old time pol, Murtha is on good terms with earmarks, which allow powerful chairmen of various committees to assemble votes on favored measures from party stalwarts who have received allotments to keep them in the good graces of their constituents back home. In political parlance, this is called bringing home the bacon, the earmark being the bacon. The official definition of an earmark, as provided by the US Office of Management and Budget, is: “…funds provided by the Congress for projects or programs where the congressional direction (in bill or report language) circumvents Executive Branch merit-based or competitive allocation processes, or specifies the location or recipient, or otherwise curtails the ability of the Executive Branch to manage critical aspects of the funds allocation process.”

So long as earmarks are kept within the congressional family, they present little difficulty.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has cited Murtha as one of the 20 most corrupt members in Congress. When Murtha steered defense appropriations to clients of KSA Consulting, which employed his brother Robert, and the PMA Group, founded by a former Murtha senior staffer on the Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Defense, Paul Magliocchetti, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), listed Murtha under “Five Members to Watch” in its Second Annual Most Corrupt Members of Congress Report.

The FBI, now investigating campaign contributions make by Magliocchetti and others, was watching.

Murtha arranged $299 million last year in earmarks for PMA and received $775,000 in campaign contributions linked to Murtha’s former senior staffer.

This is a no, no.

Larson now has been connected with these entangling alliances. Both his campaign committee and his leadership political action committee, a device that allows entrenched incumbents to purchase the allegiance of fellow legislators through campaign finance transfers, have collected $42,350 from both PMA Group’s corporate PAC and individuals linked to the firm, according to the JI report.

“Larson, a six term incumbent who serves on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee,” the paper reported, “obtained a $400,000 earmark for the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, which last year paid PMA $25,000 to represent it.”

And – where have we heard this before? -- the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, “which is sited in the East Hartford Campus of United Technologies Corps, “is headed by former Larson chief of staff Elliot Ginsberg, and got the money for a project called ‘Catalyst: Explorations in Aerospace and Innovation Education,” according to the JI report.

Larson, who has given to charity some of the questionable donations, has admitted he knew that his former aide was represented by the group headed by Murtha’s former aide. He defended his earmark, according to the JI report, “saying it shouldn’t be questioned ‘unless you think that getting science and mathematics instruction for underprivileged kids in Hartford in a program that the state Department of Education is fostering is a bad idea.’

“He added: ‘I thought it was pretty routine, that it was standard in terms of the kind of thing it was.’”

Well, among certain kinds of U. S. Representatives, such things are routine.

The FBI will determine whether they are also punishable.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Taxing Times

A professor from Yale and a professional politician, New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Friedan, have got together in the New England Journal of Medicine and decided that sugar sweeteners in beverages are not good for kids.

This is not a shocking surprise. New York is broke and much in need of tax money these days.

The two have proposed taxing sugary sweet things out of existence, using the tax on smelly cigarettes as their template. Just as tobacco is bad for kids and grow-ups, so are sugar substitutes bad for kids.

These pathological behaviors must be abolished.

As soon as kids, the last refuge of scoundrels, are mentioned in any political connection, one may be certain that there will be tax-Hell to pay, and so it is in this case.

It would be pointless to argue that sugary sweet things are good for kids. They aren’t; never were, never will be. We all know this because when we were kids and reached for the candy, kept out of hand usually in some inaccessible cabinet, daddy – still the best prophylactic preventative for errant behavior – shoved a piece of fruit in our hands and said something like, “Why don’t you kids go out and play?”

We knew from his tone that daddy was not soliciting our opinion on the question.

But that was in the good old days when there were daddies. In certain urban human landscapes, daddies are as rare as Yale professor Kelly Brownell and Mr. Friedan -- the New York politician now hungry for tax dollars, as are most of his brethren politicians -- hope sugary snacks may someday be, assuming the New York state legislature is current in its subscription to the New England Journal of Medicine.

I do not seek here to challenge any of these presuppositions: candy, taken immoderately, is bad for kids; tobacco, taken immoderately, is bad for grown-ups.

Putting aside our cynicism – What these pull-a-rabbit-from-the-hat magicians really want is more tax money to spend recklessly on programs that produce unintended social pathologies -- let’s pause over the proposition, unchallenged by Mr. Brownell and Mr. Friedan, that confiscatory taxation may be used to adjust errant behavior.
"Taxes on tobacco products have been highly effective in reducing consumption, and data indicate that higher prices also reduce soda consumption. A review conducted by Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity suggested that for every 10% increase in price, consumption decreases by 7.8%. An industry trade publication reported even larger reductions: as prices of carbonated soft drinks increased by 6.8%, sales dropped by 7.8%, and as Coca-Cola prices increased by 12%, sales dropped by 14.6%.5 Such studies — and the economic principles that support their findings — suggest that a tax on sugared beverages would encourage consumers to switch to more healthful beverages, which would lead to reduced caloric intake and less weight gain."

Revenue generation, the two authors note, "can further increase the societal benefits of a tax on soft drinks. A penny-per-ounce excise tax would raise an estimated $1.2 billion in New York State alone. In times of economic hardship, taxes that both generate this much revenue and promote health are better options than revenue initiatives that may have adverse effects."

We operate on this principle all the time. The inordinately high tobacco tax reduces consumption and leads to an excess of entrepreneurial activity among the criminal class, whom we hope to catch and shove in jail. If we are successful, the tax dollars we have collected will flow from smokers to prison wardens. And let us cross our fingers and hope that our legislation is not too successful: A tax that abolished smoking would also abolish the tax on smoking.

When the decriminalists among us argue that pot, shall we say, should be decriminalized, they are averting to the same principle. Legalize pot and control its distribution through taxes, they say, and in this way you will deprive the criminal element of its product and reap tax rewards that might be better spent on procuring daddies for inner city young boys teetering on the edge of criminality.

The principal involved is simple: Whatever you tax or regulate, for regulation is nothing but a hidden tax, tends to disappear. The corollary of the proposition is this: Tax receipts from errant behavior then may be used to rectify social pathologies -- fat kids or fatherless urban landscapes.

Of course, precisely what social pathologies will be eradicated, once our fists are full of tax dollars, and by whom, are political matters.

Some of us in the twilight of our years, remembering our vanishing whole and healthy families, are beginning to think that social pathologies in the cities are not likely to be settled by separating kids from sugar – when they have been caused by social engineers and their abettors in the media and helping professions who have succeeded in separating young boys from their daddies.

The solution is at hand: Tax what you wish to eradicate, the social pathologies associated with broken families, and use the money to support really supportive social structures -- intact families.

How about a confiscatory tax on divorce lawyers, mischievous social engineers, legislators who abolish what we wish to preserve – jobs, a little jingle in the pocket at the end of the workday, daddies – and, if you insist, sugary sweet things for the kids?

Now, let’s go out and play.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Retain the Death Penalty for Special Cases

Lets take this one step by step.

In a recent editorial, the Hartford Courant inveighs against Connecticut’s death penalty law.

“A legislative committee,” the paper advises, “has taken a brave step toward abolishing Connecticut's death penalty, a law that is all but unworkable, not to mention expensive, unfair and risky."

The bill abolishing the death penalty was brought forward by the same folk who recently sought unsuccessfully to deprive Catholic bishops of their responsibility, in an apostolic structure, of determining the finances of their organization. The Catholic Church also opposes the death penalty, for legitimate religious reasons.

Now, why does the paper think that bringing forth such a bill is “brave?” It may be right, according to the revised religious precepts of the Catholic Church, but why is it brave? Is the opposition to the death penalty in Connecticut so fierce and unrelenting that those who have petitioned for its abolition are in some sense threatened? The Courant does not say.

And why is the death penalty law – in Connecticut – unworkable? What does it mean to say that the law is unworkable? And if it is unworkable – impossible to execute? – what is the point of the editorial arguing for its abolition? Surely, the Courant objects to the law because it has worked -- as it happens, twice -- in the last fifty years.

Why is the execution of the death penalty in Connecticut expensive? Would opponents of the death penalty put their objections back in their scabbards if the death penalty in Connecticut were cheap and more workable than it appears to be?

Not likely.

Is the death penalty, as it has been enacted in Connecticut, unfair? When we descend from flighty theoretical arguments to the facts on the ground, has the imposition of the death penalty in Connecticut been “unfair” or “unjust” or “risky?

“By unfair,” the editorial continues, “we refer to the lopsided application of such laws nationwide. Minorities make up more than half of death row inmates.”

But very nearly the reverse is true in Connecticut. There have been only two executions in the state within the past half century. Neither of the persons executed were members of the minority.

“Minorities make up more than half of death row inmates.”

Majorities make up far more than half of the Judiciary Committee. Are the bills produced by that committee inherently unjust because minorities are underrepresented?

“By risky, we mean that 130 death row inmates have been exonerated around the nation in the past decade. There is evidence that others who were executed might have been innocent.”

But not in Connecticut.

“By expensive, we refer to the cost of the endless appeals that make Connecticut's law practically unworkable.”

One of the reasons it is expensive to carry out the death penalty in Connecticut is that the state has imposed a system that makes it nearly impossible to execute an innocent man or woman.

Michael Ross, the last person to be executed under Connecticut’s liberal death penalty law, enjoyed twelve or more years of litigation before justice was served upon him. An extraordinary intervention by a partisan judge, Robert Chatigny, was instrumental in postponing Ross’ imminent execution the day before he was to be executed. That intervention – a farcical display in the course of which Judge Chatigny threatened to pull the law license of Ross’ council if he did not persuade Ross to permit yet another fruitless hearing – added to the expense of Ross’ ordeal. No one at the time, least of all the Courant, complained of the unnecessary expense.

“Finally, the death penalty puts the state in the morally compromising position of committing the act for which it is punishing someone.”

What does this mean? Would the Courant object to imprisonment imposed upon kidnappers because the punishment in that case would be similar to the crime? Should courts be permitted to impose fines on embezzlers?

“Everyone is entitled to due process, even convicted killers. Michael Ross, the only death row inmate to be executed in Connecticut in decades, asked to die. Yet his case was made only after it was laid out again and again in agonizing detail that must have been horribly hard on the families of his victims.

“State Sen. Mary Anne Handley said it best: ‘The death penalty is neither swift nor certain. It may even be certain that it's not going to happen.’"

Well, it most certainly would not happen in unusually compelling circumstances, if Ms. Handley has her way. What just punishment would Handley suggest in the case of an incarcerated capital felon sentenced to life in prison who murders a guard or another prisoner in a riot? Would a second a fruitless life term in prison satisfy Ms. Handley’s yearning for justice? And would she object to life in prison sentences for juvenile gang members convicted of capital felonies if it could be shown that a life sentence without parole were prohibitively expensive?

“It is heart-rending to hear the testimony of Dr. William Petit Jr., whose wife and daughters were tormented and murdered in a 2007 home invasion. He favors the death penalty for the killers and views anything less as an injustice. It is not difficult to sympathize with his plight.”

But apparently there is limit to all things, including sympathy, and on the point of capital punishment, the ideologues at the Courant are quite out of sympathy at the moment. An ideologue may be defined as someone who refuse, usually on religious or ideological grounds, to make a distinction in the fitness of punishment apportioned to a) those who commit planned multiple murderers and b) those sentence to life in prison for having committed lesser crimes.

“But the state has an obligation to separate justice from revenge.”

Indeed, it does. And those quick to pull moral triggers also have an obligation to make distinctions between justice and revenge. Such fine distinctions are not always appreciated by ideologues who wish to see the death penalty abolished, no matter the circumstances surrounding the crime.

Michael Ross coldly and brutally strangled and murdered his eight victims, raping most of them. Two of the last people he murdered were fourteen year old girls. Ross picked them up in his car, raped and strangled one, while the other watched, and then raped and strangled the second, disposing of her body near one of those quaint New England field stone fences that wind through pastureland returned to the forest.

His was as nearly perfect an act of vengeance as can be imagined.

Ross, on the other hand, was given the benefit of a trial, during which he was found guilty by jury number one. He was sentenced to death in a separate legal proceeding by a second jury. Numerous appeals were filed on his behalf, with his concurrence, by a court appointed public defender. Twelve expensive years elapsed between the time Ross murdered the two fourteen year old girls and his execution. As the time for his execution grew near, Ross gave up further appeals, instructing his lawyers that he no longer wished to put the family members of his victims through further agony. Its was the very same people who object to the interminable duration of death penalty cases that then proceeded to further prolong Ross’ just punishment.

Whatever this protracted litigatory process may be – it cannot truthfully be described as revenge. Juries, far removed from emotionally determinants, are not vengeful: They are deliberative.

“Changes in the law approved by the Judiciary Committee and headed for a House vote would bring swifter closure for victims by consigning those convicted of capital crimes to life in prison without parole. Locking up a killer for the rest of his days, where he can ponder his crime and his fate, seems a more potent punishment than putting him out of his misery."

This special pleading is at least as odd as that of the patricide who having murdered both his parent proceeds to throw himself on the mercy of the court as an orphan. We are first told that a seemingly endless process of adjudication is necessary to assure that justice is served; next we are told, by those very people who have insisted on the endless process, that because the process is long, the punishment must be waived in favor of a punishment that is longer and may be, they insist, more cruel than the abolished punishment.

But life in prison without parole is subject to the same vagaries as capital punishment, and as the Courant has not proposed to do away with habeas corpus – over Sen. Chris Dodd’s vehement objections – the punishment promises to be every bit as expensive, if not more so, than the death penalty.

“Gov. M. Jodi Rell has restated her belief in the death penalty, foreshadowing a veto should the changes go through. She should take her cues from New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. Last month, he signed a law repealing his state's death penalty even though he personally supports it. He cited the error-prone judicial system, noting the death row inmates who have been exonerated in the past decade, including four in New Mexico.

“The state's goal should be to keep society safe. It can accomplish that without the expectation of executions that rarely if ever take place. “

This argument – that capital punishment ought to be abolished because it is rare – is a prime example of the circular logic of the born ideologue. It is humane and just that capital punishment should be rare. We do not wish to visit capital punishment on those who, to stretch for an absurd example, oppose capital punishment. Broadening the punishment in this way would expand it and make it less rare, at which point, one supposes, the editorial board of the Courant would quickly abandon the notion that a rare imposition of the punishment is inherently unjust.

The ideologue perversely refuses to argue from specific cases. The Courant has not shown that any of the rare – two -- capital executions in Connecticut over the past half century are unjust, because they were not unjust. Neither were they acts of vengeance.

The paper constructs its brittle arguments for the abolition of the death penalty by referring to cases outside Connecticut. It points to possible unjust applications of the death penalty in New Mexico. It might as well have pointed to Italy in the 15th century, where the fiery religious preacher Savonarola went up in a puff of smoke, mostly for having irritated rich Italian bankers like the Medici, or Soviet Russia in the 20th, a state that executed priests for bringing the forbidden word to atheist ideologues.

We know full well that all punishments may be abused; those abuses ought to be abolished. But the truth of the matter is that the death penalty in Connecticut has not been applied abusively or thoughtlessly or vengefully. It has been applied rarely – and justly.

Sunday, April 05, 2009


Europe in Decline: Obama's Trip

President Barack Obama has returned from Europe empty handed. If he had gone there to persuade friendly heads of state in Europe to lend a fighting hand in his new military venture in Afghanistan, the trip must be counted a failure, according to the New York Times, one of the president’s innumerable media cheerleaders:

“With protesters raging outside, NATO leaders on Saturday gave a tepid troop commitment to President Obama’s escalating campaign in Afghanistan, mostly committing soldiers only to a temporary security duty…

“Despite a glowing reception and widespread praise for Mr. Obama’s style and aims, his calls for a more lasting European troop increase for Afghanistan were politely brushed aside, as they had been in negotiations leading up to the meeting.

“As expected, European allies agreed to provide up to 5,000 new troops for Afghanistan, the White House said Saturday. But 3,000 of them are to be deployed only temporarily to provide security for the August elections in Afghanistan.”

Surly anarchist prevented a visit to a cancer hospital in Strasbourg by Carla Bruni, French President’s Nicholas Sarkozy’s model wife and First Lady Michelle Obama, according to the Telegraph.

"’We've had to cancel a planned visit to the hospice because of the danger to all involved,’ said a spokesman for the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

“Michelle Obama meets Carla Bruni-Sarkozy for the first time. His glamorous wife, former model Miss Bruni, had been due to visit the sick and the dying in the centre of the ancient city, on France's border with Germany.

“But determined thugs, many wearing balaclavas and ski masks to hide their faces from police were doing everything they could to disrupts the carefully arranged programme.

“Some 1,000 protesters chanted and waved banners outside the hospice, accusing the leaders' wives of being ‘spoiled tools of capitalism’, according to one banner.”

The ravishingly beautiful Bruni for some reason gave a chilly greeting to the new American president, perhaps a show of Gallic offishness. It is a little unusual to find the plaything of so many drooling men to be less affectionate than, say, the Queen of England, who suffered a back rub from the First Lady and appeared to be warm and affectionate towards the new president.

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez appears to be warming towards President Obama. The mercurial fascist often has issued warnings concerning the evils of capitalism:

“’It's impossible that capitalism can regulate the monster that is the world financial system, it's impossible,’ Chavez told Venezuela's state TV late Thursday. ‘Capitalism needs to go down. It has to end. And we must take a transitional road to a new model that we call socialism.’

Very likely, Mr. Chavez has heard of President Obama’s rebuke to a gaggle of bankers who shuffled to the White House in search of bailout funds:

“My administration,” the president warned the beggars, “is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Why Not Sen. Blumie?

If newspapers were musical compositions, Chris Powell of the Journal Inquirer, a publication that for years has been following U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s entangling alliances with Big Business, might very well be Bach.

Consider the lede line on Powell’s most recent column, “Anyone can beat Dodd – why not Blumenthal":

“Now that the latest Quinnipiac Universality poll has found that any Republican who has not worked for AIG could defeat U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd by a mile…”

Powell points to a story in The Washington Times in which a top executive from AIG “whose derivative instruments ruined the company and the world financial system, Joseph Cassano, conducted a political fund raising operation at the company for Dodd just after the 2006 election, as Dodd ascended to the chairman of the senate Banking Committee, whereupon Dodd continued to help insure that Cassano’s deadly inventions escaped government regulation.”

Some Democrats, frightened that Dodd might lose his seat to Republicans when the senator will be up for re-election in 2010, are casting about wildly for a suitable replacement, and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, whose popularity ratings rival those of popular Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell, has been mentioned in this connection.

“Even if the party lacks the leadership and principle to solve the Dodd problem,” Powell writes, it might still have the ambition – that is, the longsuffering ambition of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. 63, who for 15 of his nearly 20 years as attorney general has been waiting patiently for a Democratic Senate nomination to open up. While such a nomination may open up in 2012, upon the expiration of the term of rogue Democratic Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, who seems to have alienated most Democrats, that is 3 ½ years away, when Blumenthal will be 66 and looking even less like the representative of the next generation.”

Powell acknowledges that Blumenthal’s “insufferable” yearning for “contrived pretexts for publicity” may present a problem. But then white horses are very visible, and the Democrat Party may just need a rider on a white horse to save Dodd’s seat for Democrats, a posture that for Blumenthal appears to be effortless.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Throw the Bums Out

There were hints very early on, for those paying attention, that Democrats in Connecticut’s General Assembly preferred tax increases to spending cuts as a means of liquidating the state’s spiraling deficit. Perhaps the chief evidence is that in the past spendthrift Democrats have always preferred to fill deepening deficit pot holes with tax dollars.

New England is not exactly a safe haven for heavy breathing tax payers. We are no British Virgin Islands, where the weather is balmy and the tax climate is propitious for business. The BVI has only 21,000 people —but over 400,000 registered International Business Corporations, second only to Hong Kong in total number.

One of the reasons Connecticut has lost so much business to South Carolina, to pick at random just one Southern state where taxes are less punishing, is that plucked taxpayers flee fleecing states for pretty much the same reason that householders flee flaming houses: They don’t want their britches to catch on fire.

The budget architects in Connecticut’s Democrat controlled General Assembly very likely were watching New York before they presented their own plan. The budgets of states addicted to spending have sometimes served as a template for Connecticut’s legislature, also hooked on spending. Drowning in deficits, New York’s Democrat controlled legislature decided to eschew meaningful spending reductions in favor of dunning the state’s disappearing fleet of millionaires who, sadly, will not be moving any time soon to Connecticut.

Financial advisors to the rich are even now telling their clients to incorporate their businesses in Campione d’Italia, a dot of a town in Italy surrounded by Switzerland, which is to tax havens what America used to be to the struggling masses yearning to breath free of the kind of budgets regularly produced in New York -- and now Connecticut.

The New York Assembly already has passed nine bills authorizing a budget increasing income tax rates on top earners, expanding mandatory bottle deposits to water and softening tough Rockefeller-era drug sentencing laws.

Connecticut’s tax increases will be retro-active, which means that the government intends to reach back before the new tax code was established to seize monies not available under the previous dispensation. If the courts regard tax money as property – and what else is it? – ex-post facto tax laws may be a constitutionally unwarrantable seizure of property.

Connecticut Democrats have proposed raising current top tax rates from 5 to 6 percent for quarter millionaire couples who earn jointly more than $250,000 annually; the rate will increase to 7 percent for half millionaires who earn more than $500,000 a year and 7.5 percent for incomes above $750,000, topping out at a 60 percent increase for those wishing to incorporate elsewhere or move to Campione d’Italia rather than New York or Connecticut.

The unimaginative Democrats in Connecticut’s General Assembly borrowed their tax template from similarly unimaginative Democrats in New York. Though there are slight differences – we tax children’s bicycle helmets; they tax water --the two tax plans, in every important respect, are virtually indistinguishable from each other.

This budget does not only represent a collapse of imagination. A budget is a state’s destiny because it reaches into and shapes the future. This one says to the wealthy, “Shut up and die.” It says to the middle class, “Kiss your children goodbye.” It says to your children, “Kiss your future goodbye.” When the state’s children graduate from one of Connecticut’s well provided colleges, they will leave the state behind in search of jobs that the state legislature has taxed out of existence.

As a prefiguration of the future, consider this: One of the many new taxes that spilled out of the brains of Democrats who ought to be voted out of office is a tax on tax preparation services.

That insult alone ought to serve as a convincing reason to throw these bums out .

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Judiciary to Churches: Drop Dead

The state Judiciary Committee, headed by co-chairs Andrew McDonald and Michael Lawlor, seems to be unwilling or unable to accommodate religious proscriptions.

The panel recently rejected an amendment to a technical bill drafted to reshape laws allowing court-ordered same sex marriages.

The amendment to the enabling legislation, offered by Democratic Rep. Bruce Morris, would have insured that religious organizations would not be forced by law to participate in activities prohibited by some churches.

While the enabling legislation passed the committee on a 30-10 vote, the amendment that, according to one news account, would have “specified that organizations affiliated with religious groups wouldn’t be compelled to take actions that contradicted their religious convictions” was defeated by the Judiciary Committee. A few weeks ago, the panel put forth a bill that would have reformed the apostolic nature of the Catholic Church.

The two co-chairmen of the Judiciary Committee, both of whom are gay, have in the past locked horns with Catholic prelates on other religious questions.

The amendment was offered because it was feared the bill, which authorizes gay and lesbian marriages, might have forced religious institutions such as the Knights of Columbus, which rents out meeting-hall space to the general public, to accommodate a same-sex couple looking to host a marriage ceremony there.

The Knights are not alone in this regard. The First Cathedral Church in Bloomfield, which averages about 100 special events per year, according to its internet site, rents out its hall to various groups.

According to the news report, “Sen. Mary Ann Handley, D-Manchester, the Judiciary Committee’s vice chairwoman, said that while no clergy could be forced to witness or participate in a religious service against their convictions, allowing businesses to limit the sale of public goods and services on the basis of orientation would cross a dangerous line.”

There is a serpentine twist in this logic. Ms. Handley insists that no “business” should be permitted exceptions to the legislation before her committee. And then by voting down an amendment that implicitly makes a proper distinction between a business and a church, she opens the way for activities that the churches, following their precepts, wish to avoid. Apparently, the definition of a “church,” in Ms. Handley’s view, is limited to its clergy, not the laity. However, it is generally regarded that churches are the body of the faithful, which would include both the laity and clerics. If such is the case, laws that violate religious precepts are equally harmful to both.

George Bernard Shaw used to saw that every profession was a conspiracy against the laity. Distinctions of a kind preferred by the Judiciary Committee simply guarantee that the legislative conspiracy will injure only the laity, never the clerics.

The Judiciary Committee seems to have come round to the view that any legislation favoring religious institutions is, for some unexplained reason, unconstitutional. Nothing could be further from the truth. By prohibiting the US Congress from making laws favoring one religious faith above another and by offering constitutional assurances that the US Congress should make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion, the founders intended that diverse churches should prosper in this country from sea to shining sea. It does not add to the faithful prospects of any church when a legislature refuses to make legitimate accommodations towards that end.

The Judiciary Committee seems to have come round to the view that any legislation favoring religious institutions is, for some unexplained reason, unconstitutional. Nothing could be further from the truth. By prohibiting the US Congress from making laws favoring one religious faith above another and by offering constitutional assurances that the US Congress should make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion, the founders intended that diverse churches should prosper in this country from sea to shining sea. It does not add to the faithful prospects of any church when a legislature refuses to make legitimate accommodations towards that end.

On a non-related issue, the Judiciary Committee also approved a bill that will decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The bill is not likely to survive Gov. Jodi Rell’s veto or House Minority Leader Larry Cafero’s objection: “What is the message we as legislators will send to them when we decriminalize marijuana?”

Mr. Cafero has not asked what the Judiciary Committee was high on when it recently attempted unsuccessfully to alter the apostolic structure of the Catholic Church.

Probably something more potent than marijuana.

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