Monday, August 31, 2009


One day, obesity is boring. Next day, obesity is alarming. What did it?

A 115-paged monograph from the American Council of Science, an organization of scientists who speak to laymen on health and science. It has done much useful work in pesticides and many other issues. Elizabeth M. Whelan, Sc.D., its head, established her reputation years ago with her brilliant book, Toxic Terror.

The monograph contains 17 short readable chapters, each for a different system of diseases, and each followed by footnotes supporting the statements, with full citations to studies, for anyone who wants to see for himself. The monograph is written by Kathleen Meister, M.S., and edited by Ruth Kava, Ph.D. , Gilbert L. Ross, M.D., and Elizabeth Whelan. Each chapter is reviewed by a specialist in the field.

Do you have a friend who has a huge lump on her leg? It is related to diabetes which is related to obesity. Two-thirds of the population of the U.S. is overweight or obese.

Obesity shortens life by 6-7 years. Common now among populations where it had not existed, it increases the risk of heart disease. It is linked to developing cancer, stroke, heart disease and seven (or more) other disease systems, each discussed in a separate chapter.

One of the most prevalent and serious diseases associated with obesity is diabetes. It used to be a disease of the middle-aged but now affects young people as well.
Fourteen million people have diabetes, which is increasing rapidly. Six million do not know that they have it. Deaths of diabetics due to heart disease are increasing.

The process of diabetes is explained in the monograph. The carbohydrates we eat are broken down into glucose, which travel through the blood stream into body cells where it is used as fuel. To accomplish this passage, it must have insulin, which is produced by the pancreas. If the passage doesn’t work, glucose builds up in the blood and is excreted. And the insulin must be constantly replaced.

That’s type 1 diabetes. In Type 2 diabetes, the body has insulin but does not effectively use it “for reasons that are poorly understood,” leaving an excess of insulin in the blood. (Poor understanding, insufficient research, uncertainty as to cause, are apparently common problems in this field.)

Type 2 diabetes is managed by healthy eating, physical exercise, and testing of blood glucose. The purpose is to control blood-levels of glucose. Type 2 is strongly associated with obesity; 85.2% of diabetics are overweight or obese.

Do you know someone who has had a stroke? In the chapter on obesity and neurology, one learns that stroke occurs when the normal blood supply to a portion of the brain is compromised by a blockage of a blood vessel (ischemic stroke) or bleeding from a burst blood vessel. (This fact-filled monograph is full of medical terms which are all defined for laymen.)

Four risk factors for ischemic stroke are high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and smoking. Obesity promotes stroke by increasing the likelihood of developing three of the four—not smoking. Obesity is a “major contributor to preventable deaths.”

Whether the risk of stroke can be reduced by losing weight, has not been established. Research is needed.

A table in the monograph gives Body Mass Index numbers. You can easily read the table to ascertain your Body Mass Index, which tells whether you are normal, overweight, obese, or extremely obese. The table is provided on Internet by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). You enter your height and weight and the computer will tell you what your BMI is. BMI is related to the diseases.

Studies of asthma around the world frequently involve obesity, two recent studies have shown, but it is not known whether obesity causes asthma. (The long hunt for the cause of asthma continues.)

A chapter on obesity and urology discusses incontinence. Increased pressure on the bladder caused by excess weight in the abdominal area is believed to be responsible for increased severity of the problem. Weight loss can decrease “stress incontinence.” In women severely obese, the percentage with “stress incontinence” decreased from 61% before the weigh loss to 12% afterwards.

Body shape can be important, as shown in a study from Finland. Obesity can lie in a thick mass around the waist, the body described as an “apple-shaped.” Or it can lie further down around the hips and buttocks, the mass is known as a “pear-shaped” body. The standard? For waist, 40” in men and 35” in women are too high.

The relation of obesity to Parkinson’s disease has been established, but the association is not to BMI but to the distribution of the person’s fat. Parkinson’s is associated only with waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio, the apple-shaped body.

The risk of diabetes increases with a more central distribution of body fat.

This is but a sampling of the useful intelligence in this gem-laden monograph, which should be made widely available. (Hospitals, pay attention.) Write to ACSH, 1995 Broadway, 2d floor, N.Y. N.Y. 10023 for free copies (but if you have cash to spare, you might send them a contribution).

By Natalie Sirkin

Edward Kennedy’s Mole

Most moralists would have no difficulty with the notion that good people have a flip side; they are sometimes bad. The trick in judging them morally, which ought to be done rarely and with great circumspection, is not to slide into a kind of moral Manichaeism in which you end up saying that the good side of a man redeems the bad side.

It does not.

St. Augustine, who was very bad before his mother drew him into Christianity, may serve as a model. He flew from his sins without having make the mistake of believing that his meritorious works in some sense cancelled the sins.

It took sometime after the late former Sen. Edward Kennedy died for people to get around to noticing that he was, in fashionable parlance, “complex,” which is to say he was riven, as most men are, by sin. Or, if agnostic and atheistic readers prefer a less religiously freighted expression, we might say Kennedy was the victim of “human failings.”

Some of Kennedy’s human failings were monstrous. Kevin Rennie, a Hartford Courant commentator, touches on one of them in a Sunday column that appeared shortly after the senator’s funeral.

“Kennedy,” Rennie wrote, “had an unusual relationship with traditional notions of justice. No one else in American public life could have survived what he did on Chappaquiddick Island on July 18, 1969, and remained in high office.

“He drove off a bridge into water, swam to safety and left 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne dead in the submerged car for at least eight hours, until two men going fishing saw the car in the water. During that time, Kennedy walked a mile to confer with a cousin and a friend, returned to the scene with them, purportedly swam to Edgartown, slept in his hotel room and returned to Chappaquiddick in the morning, all while his liver rid itself of whatever incriminating alcohol he might have consumed.”

Well yes, there was that.

In a repentant mode thereafter, so the narrative goes, Kennedy, casting off his failings, turned his life towards doing good for the poor and helpless among us.

All this is very Catholic: You sin; you repent; you do penance; you are forgiven. You move on. You dedicate your years to doing good. Out of the night, God brings the bright day.

There is something juvenile in this analysis, because it does not account for the chief psychological driver in Kennedy’s character, which is – revolt. He was what French philosopher Albert Camus might call a man in revolt.

How soon after the “tragic accident” in Chappaquiddick did Kennedy resolve to “move on?” Some accounts suggest he moved on immediately after the accident, when he took his first step beyond the first house, yards away from the scene of the accident, where he might have stopped to summon help. After that first step, everything was a flight from the truth, a lie. He had left the best of himself behind on the road that pointed to Mary Jo Kopeckne’s body.

Kennedy said he panicked. But everything he did after that first step – which already placed him miles and years away from his responsibilities – was coldly deliberative.

Kennedy made a choice on that fateful day that has clung to him like a spider’s web ever after: Should I do the right thing, or save my political career? He called in the usual crew, among whom were Ted Sorensen and Robert McNamara. The knights of Camelot did their best for him. His career was saved, his political future assured. It did not disappear in the waters of Poncha Pond.

But it must not be thought that Kennedy alone was haunted by these events.

"It was a cover-up," said Leslie Leland, foreman of the grand jury that considered the case. "All [the authorities] were concerned about was protecting Kennedy."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Chavez Tightens The Noose

Following in Iran’s footsteps, Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, has now made it a crime to protest his oppressions, according to a story in Breitbart.

Jepsen Turns A Corner

George Jepsen, a Hartford lawyer, was a state senate Majority Leader and the former chairman of Connecticut’s state Democratic Party.

This is what he has to say in the Hartford Courant about the so called millionaires’ tax:

“The so-called millionaires' tax exacerbates what economists agree is a major defect of our current revenue structure — over-reliance on a narrow, affluent population — which leaves the state's finances highly vulnerable to economic volatility, especially on Wall Street. It also codifies the class warfare ethos of the Democrats (mitigated somewhat by the governor's proposed elimination of the estate tax). This rhetoric gives the wealthy one more reason to shift residency to tax-friendly states, as so many already have, taking their income, local purchases, job creation and philanthropy with them.”
The two or three people in the state who have kept up with this blog might agree that Mr. Jepsen's view is a pretty spare and neat encapsulation of everything said here about the millionaires’ tax for the last year and a half.

There are two possibilities: 1) Mr. Jepsen has fallen away from his reformed progressive party and does not favor despoiling millionaires of their diminishing riches and consigning them to gulags, 2) the light has finally dawned on Mr. Jepsen and he realizes that there ain’t enough water in the millionaires well to tend the garden his progressive party has fussed over for the last three decades , which requires huge transparencies of money and power from citizens to an all devouring state.

Instead of killing the geese that lay the golden eggs, Mr. Jepsen favors raising the income tax to six percent and hedging it about with credits and exemptions that protect poor and middle class-income families.

One wants to ask: protect them from what – the whithering hand of the tax collector?

The poor probably can be best protected through a negative income tax that raises the taxable floor high enough so that they are placed out of harm’s way. But this approach does away with the bureaucracy necessary to administer Mr. Jepsen’s credits and exemptions and so probably will not find favor with Mr. Jepsen.

Such an approach certainly would not find favor with power brokers in the state legislature.

In any case, Mr. Jepsen’s perception is keen, and it will be only a matter of time before he is assailed by the left wing of his party.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Imitation vs Plagiarism

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, what is plagiarism?

Theft, say some editors and bloggers who have noted that the Hartford Courant has lifted some stories from other papers with and sometimes without attribution. In some cases stories have been attributed to source newspapers and then appear later minus the attribution under the byline of Courant staff.

Some of the resulting furor may be found in the commentary section of a post written by Courant columnist Rick Green.

Doug Hardy, an associate editor at the Journal Inquirer, comments:

"If you search the Courant's site for "Journal Inquirer" or "Bristol Press" or several others, you'll pull up a listing of numerous stories from numerous towns where our work has been systematically copied and pasted, occasionally with minor alterations and a smattering of additional attribution from the publication. The full story is being used - not just the headline and/or first sentence and a link back to our sites. I would argue that when you're using a free site vs. a paid site, even the link is a violation of fair use. But I'm not a lawyer. Fortunately, we have a few lawyers available to us to make this argument.

"It appears that the lawyers of the HC's corporate parent are assuming the smaller papers won't call this bluff, and they are betting that we won't have the funds to litigate each individual instance where fair use has been violated (a nice phrase for theft, that is)."

"It's like saying we won't hand over all the money in our pockets after we've been shot in the head. It's ridiculous and even sophomoric to think we're not going to fight this."
Apparently, the Courant was using the work of other reporters on other papers as if these papers were a free AP service. But aggregators are bound to flirt with plagiarism. The real problem is that the Courant, having thrown a good portion of its news staff off the ship, may no longer have the resources to cover town news as it once did. The solution to this problem is not to borrow news on the cheap from other papers but to expand its staff – which is expensive. The paper’s owners are in bankruptcy.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The “Framework” And The Need For Quotes

A day after Republican Gov. Jodi Rell caved in on Democratic demands for an increase in the so called “millionaire tax,” her “breakthrough” was touted by Democratic leaders as providing a “framework” for a future budget “deal.”

Some in the media are calling the cave-in “a sharp reversal.”

Isn’t it nice to know that Orwellian wordsmiths are still with us, long after Orwell wended his way to heaven on angel’s wings?

No doubt the Democrats will want to erect their own house on the “framework” provided by Rell.

No modest cape for them. Progressive tax rates will permit a more lavish life style for tax consumers and tax gatherers. In as much as the deficit now can be liquidated by tax hikes on a minority class rather than by spending cuts, tax consumers and gatherers needn’t be quite as watchful in their future consumption and spending habits. Now that Rell has caved on the matter of a progressive income tax, Connecticut’s new tax system can always be adjusted upwards, so as to spare state and municipal governments the necessity of being prudent and living within their means.

The Rell cave-in permitted Democrats to cancel the special session in which they had threatened to “write their own budget.” The governor, it turns out, was easily spooked. Henry David Thoreau once asked: When a bandit shakes his gun at me and demands, “Your money or your life!” why should I be so anxious to give him my money? But, alas, Thoreau will not be running for governor on the Republican ticket next term.

Democrats determined there was no need for a budget session after Rell had shown herself to be amenable to a “millionaire’s tax?” Rell has proposed to raise the income tax on millionaires and half-millionaires a percentage point, from 5.5 to 6.5 percent, thus making Connecticut’s tax system “progressive.” If one judges progressivism from the actual collection of taxes, Connecticut’s system already is progressive in its present form, since about 40 percent of state revenue is already collected from the state’s millionaires and mini-millionaires.

That resource, however, will be a diminishing one. National Democrats are hoping to be able to tap into rich folk’s deep pockets to pay for their lavish new spending programs, such as President Barack Obama’s preferred single payer – i.e. publicly financed, government run – health care system. By the time Connecticut Democrats begin to plumb those pockets, they will be considerably shallower.

One can only go to the well so many times a day for water before it runs dry.

The special session was easily surrendered by the Democrats.

Following Rell’s cave-in, House Speaker Chris Donovan said, “Generally, we’re encouraged by the governor’s proposal,” adding the caveat, “We see common ground that would serve as a basis for that agreement.”

And according to one report, Senate President Pro Tem Don Williams graciously acknowledged that “the governor’s support of the so called millionaire’s tax was ‘a significant step’ towards reaching a deal.”

Indeed, the step – a complete and utter surrender of principle – was significant: It opens the way to future plundering and will spare Democrats the necessity, in the future, of making economies in the state budget.

House Republican leader Larry Cafero said of the Democrats, “They’ve got to suck it up, find the cuts like every household and every business are doing.”

Cafero is wrong on one count: Businesses, unlike state governments, do not have the ability to make their pricing structure progressive, so that their more wealth clients pay a higher cost for their products and services. Were this the case, companies, like governments, could give their products and services “free” to those could not afford higher prices. When business run into recessionary walls, they must cut back on costs, unlike state and national governments.

Rell, Mr. Cafero’s party leader, has just given Democrats in the legislature a tax structure that will make prudent cost decisions less not more likely.

Democrats are deliriously happy with the gift. On Tuesday, Donovan and Williams led a bunch of children caring balloons to the Capitol to protest the governor’s proposed cuts in the Head Start program – a children’s crusade. Armed with the millionaire’s tax, the crusaders have captured the holy land. Why should they now surrender to Republican marauders?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rell To Republicans: Go Fish

It took while for the lady to collapse.

First Gov. Jodi Rell, who had stuck to her no-tax-increase guns long after the fiscal year ended, proposed a tax increase of half a billion dollars to discharge a deficit of about $2 billion. Waiting in the wings is a much larger deficit of $9 billion. Leading Democrats in the legislature were steadfast in a) refusing to submit any budget and b) insisting upon minimal spending cuts and maximum tax increases.

At the tail end of August, Democrats, after futile private negotiations with the governor, announced that they were preparing to submit their own budget to the legislature.

Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams, said, "We're revising our proposal.''

Speaker of the House Chris Donovan said, “We are preparing a budget.''

According to one report, “Donovan said the Democrats will be reducing the amount of the increase in the state income tax, but he declined to reveal the potential rates or the income thresholds that would be affected. The new plan will offer lower taxes and more spending cuts than the most recent Democratic plan.”

Apparently, the two worthies were not asked by reporters why they could not submit their “revised plan” before the fiscal year ended.

The following day, Rell – possibly after negotiations with her shadow governor, chief aide Lisa Moody, decided to jump in front of the freight train.

Newspapers reported that Rell was having nagging second thoughts about the budget. The lady would present a new, revised budget. These second thoughts followed close on the heels of the Democrat’s announcement they would present their own budget and go it alone.

Rell’s proposal surrendered to Democrats half a loaf. Folding on the principle she had been ardently defending – no new taxes -- Rell’s new budget plan includes a raise in the state income tax to 6.5 percent on couples earning more than $1 million per year and individuals earning more than $500,000 per year. The current maximum rate is 5 percent.

This is Rell’s version of the millionaire’s tax Democrat leaders in the House and Senate, Don Williams and Chris Donovan, have been lusting after. The increase in Rell’s revised budget, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2009, is expected to hall in more than $1 billion in the next two years. In addition, Rell is proposing to cut the sales tax back a half a percentage point to 5.5 percent. Pointing to a survey, the governor expects her proposed cut in the sales tax to produce 8,300 jobs.

"This is a huge, huge boost to our economy,'' Rell enthused.

Over in neighboring Rhode Island, the Republican governor has proposed to deal with the state's deficit by shutting down state government for 12 days.

There was no immediate indication that Democrats, who had threatened to present their own budget in the legislature, would agree to Rell’s terms of surrender.

What to make of all this?

What Rell’s new proposal really does is to cut no-tax-increase Republicans out of the negotiation loop. From this point onward, Republican opposition to any final agreement made between the governor and leaders in the legislature may be safely discounted.

Rell and Moody, sometimes praised in the media for her disposition to bargain pragmatically with the Democratic opposition, are now in the ring alone with President Pro Tem of the Senate Don Williams and Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, who used to be a union steward and is no stranger to bargaining.

The Democrats have a veto proof majority in the legislature and could, assuming the leaders were to marshal sufficient votes, override a gubernatorial veto.

It is as if, prior to the battle of The Little Big Horn, General George Custer were to dismiss his troops and attack the overwhelming force arrayed against him alone, accompanied by his chief scout and his accountant.

But here is nothing unusual in this arrangement. As Yogi Berra might say: “It’s Déjà vu all over again.” This is the third time Gov. Rell has proposed to increase taxes.

This time, it will be a take.

Republican Party Ditched By Governor

The Harford Courant is reporting that Gov. Rell has reversed her stance on the budget from February: “… Rell would raise the state income tax to 6.5 percent on couples earning more than $1 million per year and individuals earning more than $500,000 per year. The current maximum rate is 5 percent.”

The tax increase, retroactive to Jan. 1,2009, is expected to hall in more than $1 billion in the next two years. In addition, the sales tax would be cut a half a percent to 5.5 percent.

Pointing to a survey, Rell expects the cut in the sales tax to produce 8,300 jobs.

There is no indication at present that the Democrats, who have promised to produce their own budget, will agree to any of these terms. What the new plan really does is to cut no-tax-increase Republicans out of the negotiation loop.

Democrats Produce A Budget

On Thursday, state Democratic legislators will be presenting in the legislature their first non-fictional budget since the fiscal year closed weeks ago.

Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams, said, "We're revising our proposal.''

And Speaker of the House Chris Donovan said, “"We are preparing a budget.''

According to one report, “Donovan said the Democrats will be reducing the amount of the increase in the state income tax, but he declined to reveal the potential rates or the income thresholds that would be affected. The new plan will offer lower taxes and more spending cuts than the most recent Democratic plan.”

Apparently, the two worthies were not asked by reporters why they could not submit their “revised plan” before the fiscal year ended. Why disturb the universe?

Time, says the poet T.S. Elliot, there will be time “for visions and revisions that time will soon erase.

Kennedy Dies

The United States, and especially American politicians, is best and most accurately seen from afar.

The Guardian’s report on the late Sen. Edward Kennedy’s political career is what the Brits might call “spot on.,” so far the finest-- by which I mean the most accurate and unsentimental -- review of Edward Kennedy's trip to the top of the political greasy poll.

All the warts and angel wings are here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Diplomacy in Iran Fails: Back To Bush

President Barack Obama’s Iran policy now has run aground on rocky reality.

A New York magazine has taken a poke at what is left of President Barack Obama’s Iran policy:

“Barack Obama took office with a bold promise of “an extended hand” to Iran. But then came the fraudulent Iranian election and its brutal aftermath, circumstances that made Obama’s challenge more difficult. Obama may now understandably have no appetite for talking to such a patently diabolical regime. (“Told ya!,” cry the Bushies.)”

“Come September, Obama has said, ‘We will re-evaluate Iran’s posture’ toward negotiations.”

Posture eh?

"And even if Obama is still willing to talk, Tehran may be too internally divided to serve as a reliable negotiating partner. That’s why White House officials are all but resigned to the futility of direct diplomacy. Former State Department official Nicholas Burns, perhaps the Bush foreign team’s most dovish voice on Iran, predicts that ‘even if negotiations are held this autumn, they will fail.’ And if that happens, administration officials say, Obama will have little choice but to start to clench his own fist.”

It seems that a “Green Revolution” got in the way of Obama’s diplomacy, and this point, Secretary of Sate Hillary Clinton is threatening reprisals:

“That means turning the screws on Tehran through what Hillary Clinton has vowed will be ‘crippling sanctions.’”

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Down, Down, Down

"The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 27% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -14. These figures mark the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President. The previous low of -12 was reached on July 30 (see trends)."

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Rell And The Democrats: The Rough-up Didn’t Work

After bipartisan budget talks broke down, Rell summoned three reporters to her office before whom she displayed her "frustration."

A story in one paper notes:

"The bipartisan budget talks began in late June, even before the last fiscal year ended on June 30. Recently, five days of negotiations led to only $9 million in cuts each year in a state budget of more than $18 billion a year, Rell said.

“The biggest sticking point is that the Democrats want to raise taxes and fees by $1.8 billion, which Rell has strongly rejected. She has countered with a package that would raise taxes and fees by more than $500 million, including pushing the state's cigarette tax to $3 per pack, up from the current $2 per pack.”
Five days of negotiations have produced $9 million in cuts. The expression “an elephant giving birth to a mouse” comes to mind.

The Democratic grand design, apparently, was to run out the clock on the fiscal year, move negotiations from the public square to private negotiations, beat up the governor through leaks to the media suggesting she was unwilling to negotiate in good faith, and have their way with her.

It didn’t work, not yet anyway.

Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, the 9 million dollar man, held a news conference preceding Rell’s at which, according to the report, he appeared to be unusually animated:

“Before Rell spoke, House Speaker Christopher Donovan of Meriden held an impassioned news conference on Friday, strongly criticizing Rell's proposed cuts in health care. Donovan is known for his low-key style, and budget watchers said he was clearly more energized than usual on Friday.

"’The Democrats refuse to make these cuts,’ Donovan declared as he stood in front of fellow legislators and citizens who would be affected by Rell's plans.”

Let’s do the math.

Democratic leaders -- Donovan in the House and President Pro Tem of the State Senate Don Williams -- want to raise taxes and fees by $1.8 billion dollars. After 52 days and multiple bi-partisan meetings, the Democrats have agreed to cut spending by $9 million dollars. Now, $1.8 billion is $1,800,000,000; and $9 million is .5% of $1.8 billion.

So then, after 52 days of sweaty negotiations between the governor and a thimble full of Republicans, Democratic leaders Donovan and Williams have agreed to reduce spending by .5%; the rest of the deficit is to be collected in tax payments from mini-millionaires, itching to flee, but for now huddled against the storm in Connecticut’s wealthy communities.

President Barack Obama, Donovan and Williams’ nominal leader, also has his eye on the wallets of millionaires and mini-millionaires. The federal deficit over the next 10 years is about $10 trillion, $2 trillion more than the accountants in the administration had figured.

What this means is that any new program proposed by Democrats begins with an additional add on cost of $1 trillion a year. But not to worry: Obama and the Democrats have promised that no one making under $250,000 will absorb the insupportable costs of, say, the president’s new Health Care plan, which begins $1 trillion in debt for each of the next ten years and will, according to independent number crunchers in the congressional budget office, cost much more than the propaganda for the plan initially suggested.

In the meantime, millionaires and mini-millionaires, across the nation and in Connecticut, have suffered a reversal of fortune. Their reduced conditions have put a serious crimp in state revenues. A large part of the deficit Williams and Donovan have tearfully struggled to discharge during their absurdly prolonged secret negotiations with the governor has been owing to the reduced circumstances of the mini-millionaires from whom they wish to collect 99.5% of the deficit, the remaining .5% to be recovered from budget cuts.

Wonderful! Just wonderful! Connecticut’s thoughtless, irresponsible, spendthrift legislature hard at work in the vineyards of demagoguery!

Across the state, some people – none of whom work in Connecticut’s dwindling media -- are beginning to ask: Can we have an election right now, please?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Gubernatorial Legislative Budget Standoff

Most media outlets in Connecticut have called for a speedy resolution of budget negotiations now being held in camera by the governor, a few Republicans and leaders of the Democratic controlled legislature.

The problem here is that all these so called budget “negotiations” are being held behind closed doors, out of view of the public. So, one must accept at their word conflicting reports of the discussions.

Naturally, there are two widely divergent accounts of the secret meetings.

Here’s what we know: Rell and the Republicans are heavily outnumbered. The Democrats could, if they wished, pass their own preferred budget over Rell’s objections. Indeed, she has challenged them to do just this. It is possible they declined for politically expedient reasons: It was not in their long term interest to present a bill during the regular session in public square.

In the past, Republican governors and the thimble full of Republicans in the legislature have shown themselves to be amenable to pressure from Democrats. But in the past, the question was: How do we spend budget surpluses? Answer -- quickly and thoroughly, without a thought for the morrow.

What makes negotiations different this time is a crippling budget deficit.

Both Republicans and Democrats have staked out their positions: Democrats want little or no cuts in public service, and they want a permanent readjustment upwards in the income tax, so that the so called “rich” -- mini-millionaires now proportionally assuming the brunt of taxes -- will pay more of their “fair share.” They have proposed a crippling 30% increase in corporation taxes. A good part of the deficit, in the meantime, has been caused precisely by the disproportion in tax payments surrendered by Connecticut’s Gold Coast malefactors of great wealth: The recession has diminished their income, and consequently they have ended up paying less in taxes, resulting in less revenue for the state.

To offset this loss and to prevent a spiraling increase in spending, Republicans want more budget cuts.

The Democrats’ first public offer was to raise taxes to cover the deficit. Presently the Democrats want to boost taxes and fees by $1.8 billion; Rell wants to raise taxes and fees by more than $500 million.

Their fish wasn’t going to fly, and the Democrats knew it when they made the offer.

In the meantime, after the clock had been run out and the fiscal year ended, public negotiations gave way to secret negotiations.

At this point, the discussion moved from open legislative hearings to secret conclaves. Neither the public nor the tribunes of the people were admitted to the proceedings. As a result, the media became dependent on reports leaked from various press offices.

Amazingly, the “right to know” media has not called for an end to these secret negotiations. Indeed, it has encouraged them. These are the same people who scream and stamp their feet when the public’s business is conducted in private.

Republicans, never too wise in the ways of politics, should move in the future to end all non-public bipartisan budget discussions. It borders on insanity to put pressure through freedom of information complaints on private negotiations of public business while at the same time winking at back room budget negotiations. The budget touches the lives and liberties of more people in Connecticut than any other single legislative effort, and responsible media in the state should be ashamed to support any process that makes such decisions less transparent than, say, jury deliberations.

After the backroom doors are jarred open, Republicans should insist on a state budget referendum. There is already a precedent for budget referenda in towns across the state. If budget cap busting politicians are unwilling to control costs, let the public, not yet owned by special interests, have a hand in it.

“Together,we can,” would be a nifty campaign slogan.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Where Have All The Netroots Gone, Long Time Passing?

Stanley Greenberg, the husband of U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro and a notable pollster, presented respondents at the Netroots Nation
conference with a list of policy priorities, and asked, according to a report in the Washington Examiner, “’Please indicate which two you think progressive activists should be focusing their attention and efforts on the most.’ The winner was passing comprehensive health care reform, with 60 percent, and number two was passing ‘green energy policies that address environmental concerns,’ with 22 percent. Tied for eighth place, named by just eight percent of respondents, was ‘working to end our military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.’”

A veteran of a few Netroot Nation conferences, chief political correspondent of the Washington Examiner Byron York thinks that war has pretty much dropped of the usually militantly anti-war netroot radar screen.

And Greenberg’s poll seems to confirm York’s suspicion:

“Then Greenberg asked which one of those issues ‘do you, personally, spend the most time advancing currently?’ The winner was health care reform, with 23 percent, and second place was ‘working to elect progressive candidates in the 2010 elections,’ with 16 percent. In 11th place -- at the very bottom of the list -- was working to end our military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.’ Just one percent of Netroots Nations attendees listed that as their most important personal priority.”

What a difference a president makes. During the Bush administration, the anti-war crowd was burbling with indignation.

But, be of good cheer, netrooters: Cindy Sheehan is still waving the netroot anti-war banner, this time in toney Martha’s Vinyard, a step up from Crawford, Texas.

The problem is – Sheehan appears to have fallen off the radar screens of most major news outlets, along with former President George Bush.


Economist Arthur Laffer in a beautiful column in the August 5 Wall Street Journal tells why, though we need improvement, we don’t need health-care reform.

Laffer starts off with the proposition that people like their health care; 70% of them are satisfied with it. Pollster Scott Rasmussen writes that in early August, 68% of American voters rated their insurance as “good or excellent,” with 74% rating the quality of their health care as good or excellent, and 50% believing that if ObamaCare becomes law, the quality of health care will decline (WSJ August 7).

Polling last February, Rasmussen found that by 2 to 1, no matter how bad things are, Congress can always make them worse. Then why not give up the idea of reforming health care and just repair it? Some 55% think it could be improved.

The problem is not quality but cost, which is so high that it certainly means higher taxes, probably inflation, and conceivably even bankruptcy. Medicare has unfunded obligations amounting to $36 trillion. “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples money,” as Margaret Thatcher has said.

What Laffer found in his research on the U.S. economy is that a $1-trillion increase in government subsidies is accompanied by higher health-care expenditures and lower growth of the economy.

There is nothing to stop consumers from seeking more than they need as long as they do not pay for it. They don’t care about cost. Only the doctors and drug companies care about cost. If the doctor is free, there is no reason why consumer-patients should not go to the doctor even when all they have to complain about is a hangnail.

Consumers are provided with quality care at very little direct cost to themselves. The problem, according to Laffer, is that there is a huge gap between what health care costs the specific provider, and what that provider receives towards the cost. How to bring those two closer together? Answer: Involve the consumer in the process.

Under the ObamaCare reform, who—beside the usual taxpayers—pays? Small businesses because their insurance costs will be so high; they will have to fire some employees. And large employers, who will have to pay 2% to 8% of payroll if they do not insure their employees. And the rich, who can flee. Unemployment will rise. Medicare cost is presently, in the midst of a recession-depression, increasing at 11% a year.

Rationing, as in Great Britain and Canada, is inevitable. Indeed, signs of rationing have already appeared. Medicare has stopped paying for virtual colonoscopies and has directives or payment policies on the use of certain cancer drugs, diagnostic tools, and asthma medications.

Repair can be instituted and costs controlled by changing certain policies: mandating minimum coverage; mandating that pre-existing health conditions not be ignored; state laws preventing insurance companies from competing across state lines (in Georgia, private policies are available at less than $100 a month); equalizing taxes on employers and individuals that impose higher taxes on individuals’ insuring themselves; tort reform ending ruinous lawsuits that force doctors to call for every imaginable superfluous test to insure against lawsuits. These policies increase costs without increasing revenue.

And, adds John Mackey of Whole Foods Market, we should improve poor health by exercise and diet. Three-fourths of health-care spending is for health problems involving diet and lifestyle behavior (WSJ August 12).

Critics agree that a way must be found to involve the consumer-patient in the cost of Medicare. The process, says Laffer, must be “patient-centered.” When the cost of one’s visit to the doctor’s office is borne by the patient, he will not look upon the doctor as free. He will take an interest in the cost, even perhaps inquire of the doctor how much his visit is costing. When enough patients ask this question, the doctor may post his costs.

These are what patients want: “immediate, measurable ways to make health care more accessible and affordable without jeopardizing quality, individual choice, or personalized care.” We have superb medical care and must not do anything to lose it.

Laffer urges that individuals own their own individual insurance policies, which should have low premiums and high deductibles. They should have their own Health Savings Accounts to pay their medical costs. Senator Tom Coburn, a cancer survivor and a doctor, would give every family $5600 for a Health Savings Account. Senator McCain would give everyone a voucher.

Economist Laffer gained fame as the creator of the Laffer Curve, which shows the relation between tax rates and tax revenue. Lower tax rates stimulate entrepreneurs and investors to change their policies, improving economic growth. High tax rates repel entrepreneurs and investors.

That theme appears in Laffer’s book, "The End of Prosperity: How Higher Taxes Will Doom the Economy—If We Let It Happen." He recently fled from the high-taxing state of California to low-taxing Tennessee. His research on the U.S. economy is available on The Prognosis For National Health Care Insurance.

By Natalie Sirkin

A Notice From The Courant

From: "Savastra, Andrea"
Sent: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 2:34:28 PM
Subject: Hartford Courant Statement On George Gombossy Matter

We read your recent postings in regard to George Gombossy and are forwarding an official company statement in response. Thank you.

Company Statement:

The overriding consideration on stories reported by the Hartford Courant is making sure the facts are thoroughly checked out and correct. Our advertisers have no influence on what we report, including stories that may include them. This is a long time Courant policy.

Our readers and advertisers do and should expect us to report stories we know are accurate and fully reported. George Gombossy’s story needs and is receiving additional checking and verification. This is a common practice required by our editors with all Courant news stories, including columns by Mr. Gombossy, and while employed with the Courant, he was well aware of this and accepted and followed this policy over the years.

While Mr. Gombossy's position was eliminated, he was made aware of the newly-defined consumer reporter position that will be combined with our newspaper, television station and Web site. He did not express interest.

Andrea Savastra

Corporate Affairs & Communications Consultant

Hartford Courant/WTIC/WTXX - TV



I'm always surprised when anyone reads anything I write.

The blog entrée was a very short notice that did contain a link, a story in the New York Times that features Ms. Hazell’s responses to assertions made by Mr. Gombossy. I think it’s a pretty fair account of the issues on both sides.

But I do want you to know that as a courtesy to you I am publishing your letter to me on the blog.

Perhaps you’ll humor me by answering a couple of questions.

You write, “Our readers and advertisers do and should expect us to report stories we know are accurate and fully reported. George Gombossy’s story needs and is receiving additional checking and verification.”

What was it in the story that alerted some watchdog at the Courant that Mr. Gombossy’s story needed checking and verification?

He is getting much of his information from Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, and I think Mr. Gombossy mentions that this is the only time he had written a story relying on information from the attorney general’s office that had been challenged by the paper.

You write that the paper’s fact checking policy “… is a common practice required by our editors with all Courant news stories, including columns by Mr. Gombossy, and while employed with the Courant, he was well aware of this and accepted and followed this policy over the years.”

Am I to assume that every story written by Mr. Gombossy that contains information supplied to him by the attorney general’s office has been similarly treated?

Just curious,


Gombossy Fired?

The New York Times has the most complete report on the contretemps between the Hartford Courant and George Gombossy, whose position at the Courant has been eliminated.

Gombossy, an employee at the Courant for 40 years, 3 as a consumer protection watchdog, insists he was let go because he had written a column critical of Sleepys, a mattress company that is a prime Courant advertiser.

The paper insists that Gombossy’s job was eliminated as a result of the paper’s reorganization involving Fox News. Gombosy has detailed his version of the events on his own blogsite “Connecticut Watchdog.”

Monday, August 17, 2009

Schiff, the Libertarian

The last collection of Bill Buckley’s columns, “Happy Days Were Here Again” (note the past tense), is subtitled “Reflections of a Libertarian Journalist.”

The book is about pretty much everything that interested Buckley, which is to say – it’s about everything.

But the subtitle is telling: “a libertarian journalist?”

Who knew?

Libertarianism has gotten a bad rap because it has been purposely, maliciously misunderstood, usually by pettifogging statists, the sort of people who believe that that the bread one earns by the sweat of one’s brow would be ever so much more tasty and nutritious if it fell to humankind like manna from heaven; or, better still, if it were first collected by demagogues in Washington DC and then parceled out to us, with a sizable bite taken by altruistic congresspersons, presidents and supreme court justices.

The libertarian is the guy who thinks most of the bread should remain with the brow that sweats, which is not to say that the poor should be fed from crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table. The poor, the libertarian believes, should be given a seat at the free market table. He is also the guy who, Buckley-like, believes that no business is too big to fail.

“I desire, perversely,” Buckley said in 1981 in a commencement address at the Cornell University Graduate School of Business, “to sing a song of praise to failure; as well as, of course, to success; and to urge that we reappraise the dialectical voltage generated by these two polarities… Public policy must tolerate, indeed anticipate, economic failure (emphasis original).”

Buckley’s notion is that the dialectical paring – success/failure – is not a mutually exclusive one: To the extent that societies make failure impossible, they make success impossible. To put it in other words: Abolish failure and you abolish risk taking; abolish risk taking and you abolish forward motion; abolish forward motion and you abolish progressive civilization, with all its attendant ills, including rich folk huddled together on Connecticut’s Gold Coast.

These perceptions often drive liberals batty because they are unwilling to surrender what has been for them a successful political narrative, part of which is that rich people are all Shylocks eager for their pound of flesh and that wealth creation is a zero sum game: When the rich lose, the poor win.

Peter Schiff is a libertarian economist who attained a measure of glory three years ago by forecasting the economic crises now upon us. Donors to his possible senatorial campaign think he might be able to start a mini-revolution in what has been called hyperbolically the greatest deliberative body on earth after he unhorses U.S. Senator Chris Dodd, who is not a libertarian, which is why Schiff’s donors recently ponied up the goodly sum of $ 880,777 in a money bomb.

He’s also a great tease.

Though Schiff has stuck his toe diffidently in the political waters, he has not yet taken the plunge into a pool now becoming, for Republicans vying for a senatorial seat, crowded. Dodd, an old political war horse, faces Rob Simmons, a moderate Republican veteran of the U.S. House, Sam Caligiuri, a state senator who has billed himself, somewhat like Schiff, as an agent of change in an epoch that appears to be in an anti-incumbent mood. And there is even a woman gladiator, World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon, banging her shield and anxious to enter the fray.

Dodd, with a mild caveat, has been given a clean bill of health on U.S. Senate ethics rules violations by some senators who, poll show, are less trustworthy than clunker car salesmen. Though Dodd has been “exonerated” by his pals on the senate ethics committee, most of whom couldn’t find Al Capone if he were hiding under their beds, he has miles to go before he sleeps – and the woods are dark and deep.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Worst Interview of the Year

The host, someone named Ed, apparently was afflicted with guestess interruptus.

Ousted Honduran President Robs Bank, Paper reports

The Washington Times is reporting that “Honduran officials are investigating allegations that President Manuel Zelaya and his chief of staff stole millions of dollars from the central bank before the military ousted Mr. Zelaya last month, according to a senior Honduran official, government documents and other evidence.”

The report include a bank security video showing officials of the ousted Zelaya administration “entering the bank June 24 and withdrawing large amounts of Honduran currency.”

The money, about $2.2 million was taken, “was driven to the office of Mr. Zelaya's chief of staff, Enrique Flores Lanza, according to depositions by three witnesses to Honduran prosecutors.”

It is thought that Zelaya intended to use the cash in connection with an unconstitutional referendum that, had it been successful, would have allowed Zelaya to serve a second term as president. Honduras’ constitution limits presidents to a single term.

The ousted Zelaya government is represented in the Honduran embassy in Washington by acting spokesman Juan Carlos Montoya, who said, "There are no checks and balances."

The interim government, said Montoya, controls "the media and own the three branches of the state. The day of the coup d'etat, they sent Mr. Zelaya away instead of holding him for a trial. Nothing that comes out of the de facto government has credibility."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Caligiuri in Coventry

Sam Caligiuri, a second term state senator representing Connecticut’s 16th district – Southington, Wolcott, parts of Cheshire and Waterbury -- announced his run against U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd early in April, and in mid-August Caligiuri turned up at Coventry Town Hall to address the Republican Town Committee.

Caligiuri is the deputy minority leader of the Senate Republican Caucus and serves on five legislative committees. He is the ranking member on both the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee and the Insurance and Real Estate Committee.

In 2007, he earned the distinction of being the only state senator of either party to vote against the state budget, a matter of principle, according to Caligiuri. The budget exceeded the state’s spending cap and would lead, Caligiuri predicted, to insupportable state deficits.

The legislatures’ penchant for spending surpluses, its leftward drift, the country’s collapsing national economy, and political inattentiveness to the signs of the times all conspired to make Caligiuri a prophet unloved by the Democratic shakers and movers in the state senate.

After announcing his intention to run against Dodd, word went out in the chamber that programs initiated and supported by Caligiuri were to be blocked. But the founder of the Three Strikes Coalition, a grassroots organization determined to pass into law a three strikes and you’re out provision for violent offenders, proved to be determined fellow who had in the past shown his ability to form effective coalitions in a legislature dominated by Democrats.

In 2008, he was one of only two Republicans in the General Assembly to support an increase in the minimum wage; in 2009, one of his top priorities is to strengthen Connecticut's equal pay laws for women.

The Coventry crowd was well informed and eager to ask pointed questions. Caligiuri was as eager to answer them.

Why had he taken a pledge to limit his service in the senate to two terms?

His experience in Waterbury had been instructive for him. He had gone to a hospital to have knee surgery and discovered just before he had been put under by the anesthesiologist that he had become, by a stroke of fate, Mayor of Waterbury. He was next in line for the position after then Mayor Philip Giordano had been booted out.

As in some fairytale, Caligiuri woke to find himself in charge of a besieged castle. He was able to turn around the emotionally drained city both spiritually and economically by energetically working across the political barricades to install needed reforms. The usual political opposition was cut off at the knees after he had announced that he would leave office at the expiration of his term. Also, he was convinced that there was a direct relationship between time served in office and the possibility of corruption. One’s moral antibodies appear to be compromised by the temptations that worm their way into the souls of long serving incumbents.

“That is why Dodd has become corrupted.” Sometimes, Caligiuri said, “It is necessary to lead by example.” And then too, the notion that one's job is to terminate after a reasonable period of time clears the mind wonderfully and is, though most incumbents would find it hard to believe, enabling.

Dodd’s questionable relationship with the now defunct Countrywide is but the nose of the camel in his tent. Now that the senate inquiry into Dodd’s relationship with Angelo Mozilo, chairman of the board and CEO of the now defunct Countrywide has been completed, Caligiuri has asked Dodd to “request the Ethics Committee to release online the 18,000 pages of documents compiled concerning him, so that the evidence they have compiled concerning the facts of his conduct is clear to independent reviewers who are not Senators.”

What does Caligiuri think of a “public option” in health care?

It’s too pricy, unnecessarily invasive and would be destructive, according to most polls, to that part of the health care apparatus that works well for people who like their insurance; which is not to say that reforms are unnecessary. If your car has a flat tire, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel; you have to fix the flat.

“We need a real discussion and bipartisan problem-solving, not an unsustainable plan that replaces our current system with bureaucrats in Washington deciding what the lives of Americans are worth, how much care we can get, when we can get it, and ultimately if we get the needed care at all.”

Though he has been underexposed in the Republican race for Dodd’s seat so far, Caligiuri appears to be thoughtful, independent, unafraid -- and sane. Following his vote against Connecticut’s swollen budget, one newspaper said of him that he was the last sane man in the legislature, and Caligiuri wears the compliment, fittingly, like a red badge of courage.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Democratic Dip

First, the Rassmussen presidential poll. This is called a trend line:

News on the state front is no better. Arlen Specter, who changes political parties the way many people change socks, is also taking a whipping:

Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter is feeling the heat of the health care debate. He now trails Republican Pat Toomey by double digits in an early look at the potential 2010 race. Two months ago, Specter led by double digits. Most Pennsylvania voters oppose the Congressional health care reform effort. Also, Specter’s lead is shrinking in his Democratic Primary match-up with Congressman Joe Sestak.

The Democratic Health Care Plan is out of favor:

Public support for the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats has fallen to a new low as just 42% of U.S. voters now favor the plan. That’s down five points from two weeks ago and down eight points from six weeks ago.

And in state races the polls show that the time for change may be at hand.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

From the Horse’s Mouth: Selections from Science Czar and Neo-Malthusian John Holdern

With minimal editing, here are some choice selections from the oeuvre of John Holdern, President Barack Obama’s science czar, courtesy of Matt Barber.

Mr. Holdern is a Harvard professor and a self styled “neo-Malthusian.

On the regulation of population growth: “There exists ample authority under which population growth could be regulated. It has been concluded that compulsory population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing Constitution if the population crisis became sufficiently severe to endanger the society.”

On adding sterilants to drinking water: "[a]dding a sterilant to drinking water or staple foods is a suggestion that seems to horrify people more than most proposals for involuntary fertility control," such an approach would have to "meet some rather stiff requirements; uniformly effective; of dangerous or unpleasant side effects;" and pass both PETA and AARP muster by having "no effect on members of the opposite sex, children, old people, pets, or livestock."

On comprehensive planetary regulation: "…a comprehensive Planetary Regime could control the development, administration, conservation, and distribution of all natural resources, renewable or nonrenewable. The Planetary Regime might be given responsibility for determining the optimum population for the world and for each region and for arbitrating various countries' shares within their regional limits."

On the benefits of sterilizing women over men: "…sterilizing women after their second or third child" may be more practical than sterilizing men, and the science czar proposes a "long-term sterilizing capsule that could be implanted under the skin" at puberty and then "might be removable, with official permission, for a limited number of births."

On Birth Prevention: "Why should the law not be able to prevent a person from having more than two children?... compulsory population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing Constitution. [N]either the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution mentions a right to reproduce."

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lamont And The Buck; It Doesn’t Stop Anywhere

Ned Lamont -- the Greenwich millionaire who with an assist from former governor and senator Lowell Weicker, the father of Connecticut’s income tax, Bill Cibes, the godfather of Connecticut’s income tax, and Tom D’Amore, for many years Weicker’s top aide, ran and won a primary against Sen. Joe Lieberman but lost the general election -- has now resurfaced with the three above mentioned gentlemen in tow.

Mr. Lamont has launched a broadside against Governor Jodi Rell on a popular blog site called Connecticut Local Politics.

Gov. Rell presently is in camera with Democratic budget leaders. The governor and Democratic legislative leaders are desperately trying to come up with a budget that a) does not sink the good ship Connecticut with yet more burdensome taxes and regulations, and b) is acceptable to state workers and union leaders, the state’s permanent shadow government.

These two goals may be irreconcilable, but that is not the point of Mr. Lamont's most recent broadside, perhaps an early Democratic campaign document, which begins: “There must be a plaque on Governor Rell’s desk which reads, ‘The buck doesn’t stop here.’

“Her recent op-ed piece in Sunday’s Hartford Courant was a classic example of blame-shifting for the state’s ongoing budget crisis. Crying, ‘the legislature made me do it,’ is a thin excuse for someone who has held the title of CEO of the State of Connecticut for the past five years– five years during which our state should have been implementing a strategy to lift Connecticut from the bottom of the heap in job growth and new business start-ups.”

All this sound promising. One begins to think: Perhaps Democrats really do have a plan up their magician’s sleeves. Mr. Lamont, one is anxious to believe, must have a solution – though so far it has escaped the notice of the Democratic leadership in the legislature – that will boost job growth and new business start-ups.

He seems so brave.

Just listen; “In her budget address to the legislature this past February, Governor Rell stated that, ‘the bloat of bureaucracy is no longer affordable.’ But that so-called bloat was never affordable, it was ramped up on her watch, and it has now become a long-term problem we are forced to solve with short-term fixes that will weaken Connecticut’s competitive position in future years.”

This is a promising start. So then, how do we prick the bureaucracy bubble?

We must, Mr. Lamont advises, “upgrade information technology to reduce costs and increase efficiency,” balance “the costs and effectiveness of drug treatment versus incarceration,” achieve “fundamental health care reform (can you say Sustinet?),” strategically target capital spending…”

Some of the ideas proposed by Cibes, Lamont, D'Amore et al have been cribbed from Mr. David Osborne, the author of "The Price of Government: Getting the Results We Need in an Age of Permanent Fiscal Crisis," a book that is all the rage among political cognoscenti, including Gov. Rell who, though not an ideologue, apparently approves some of Mr.Osbourne's notions.

So then, does Mr. Lamont advise replacing nursing homes with home care, since no cost saving would be involved in sustaining both? And does he expect any push back from unionized nursing home health care workers when he tries to deprive them of their jobs or reduce their saleries?

Will the shift in programs be revenue neutral or will it cost more money -- again? Remember, the income tax was set so high that the legislature was awash in surpluses for decades. They were quickly spent.

Will drug treatment replace incarceration for drug crimes? To reduce spending it is necessary to do much more than “strategically target” state dollars; it will be necessary to refuse state dollars to people and groups now receiving them.

Who are these people? What groups should be de-financed?

If Mr. Lamont has answers to these questions, he is keeping the answers up his sleeve.

Mr. Lamont writes on CLP, “Governor Rell writes that Connecticut cannot tax its way to prosperity, but her budget instead tries to borrow, securitize, and cost-shift our way out of this severe deficit.

“Borrowing: her biggest ‘labor savings’ simply borrows from the state pension fund by incenting (sic) our best workers to retire with additional pension bennies, and by failing to fund our pension obligations. Connecticut has one of the most underfunded state pensions in the country, but it will fail on someone else’s watch, so…’

So… will Mr. Lamont’s choice for governor fully fund state pensions, and is this measure likely to reduce the state deficit in the absence of higher taxes? Or does he plan to increase state taxes (which ones?) to fund depleted pensions?

Given that the state has absorbed billion dollar surpluses nearly every fiscal year before the downturn in the economy, whose fault is that that those surpluses were not dedicated to replenishing pension funds? Is this a shared responsibility between the last three governors and the Democratic dominated legislature? Or should the buck be laid at the feet of the governors alone, one of whom was Weicker?

Mr. Lamont doers not approve of cost shifting devises: “… let’s pay our Medicaid doctors a little less; not to worry, small business can make up the difference with higher premiums.”

It must distress Mr. Lamont grievously that Senate Democrats wanted to partially finance their new Health Care spending plan by taxing Medicare, importing hundreds of thousands of new beneficiaries on to the health care rolls without increasing taxes on the middle class or hiring new care providers, and passing the bill to Mr. Lamont’s children and his children’s children.

Mr. Lamont’s distress, however, has not been registered in anything he’s written lately.

Gov. Rell’s tax cuts, he writes, “are piecemeal and ill-considered: cuts in internet access to our libraries and schools, cuts in economic development money, cuts to the Connecticut Innovations Fund, the Connecticut Economic Resource Council and the Connecticut Technology Council — all of which are at the forefront of attracting and keeping good paying jobs and businesses. While we may unilaterally disarm, other states competing for our jobs and workers are not cutting these types of initiatives.”

All very true. During the last state recession, which followed closely on the heels of former Gov. Weicker’s gift to frazzled politicians, the state income tax, it took Connecticut nearly a decade to recover lost jobs. This time around, Mr. Lamont points to a study showing Connecticut will rank “…dead last in regaining lost jobs: sometime ‘after 2015.’”

Perhaps Mr. Lamont should be asked to list a dozen non-piecemeal and effective cuts that his favorite nominee for governor – Could it be Cibes? -- should propose.

Put-up time passed by long ago.

The culprits, according to Mr. Lamont are “… the high cost of housing, an aging transportation system, a gaping educational divide, high energy costs, one of the oldest populations and highest property taxes.”

There is no mention in his campaign broadside of high taxes, out of control spending or the ambitions of lean and hungry Democratic legislative leaders who, having saddled the state with an income tax, now wish to punish entrepreneurial capital by levying a crippling tax on corporations that, Mr. Lamont will agree, have fled the state in search of more business friendly environments. Seven states -- Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming -- have no income tax.

There is no need to sweat these details though, because: “…We don’t need armchair critics. That’s why for the past year William Cibes and I engaged business and labor and nonprofit leaders from across the state who came together around a strategic framework for our state’s future, which you can read more about at”

The last time Bill Cibes had a blueprint to erect a “strategic framework for our state’s future,” he was soundly rejected by a majority of state voters. It was Cibes who ran the honest campaign for a state income tax. In this effort, he was defeated by Lowell Weicker who, having been defeated in a senatorial race by Joe Lieberman, ran for governor as an independent. During his campaign Weicker threw an ocean of cold water on the notion of an income tax. But having won, he hired Cibes as his budget chief. Together, the two made history by instituting an income tax. Weicker, a faux Republican, was succeeded by Gov. John Rowland, who promised to repeal the income tax. He didn’t.

Now we have come full circle back to square one: The current two year budget deficit is larger than the last pre-Weicker state budget.

“We need to maximize our advantages and address our deficiencies – starting with an honest budget,” Mr Lamont writes. “The budget buck passing needs to stop here and now; the Governor still has time to get all the stakeholders around the table and make smart, tough choices which do not shortchange Connecticut’s future.

“As Warren Buffet commented on the national recession, ‘When the tide goes out, you can see who’s been swimming naked.’ Sadly, Connecticut has been swimming naked for a long time, most recently under Governor Rell’s leadership. This economic downturn should have been our wake up call. Don’t let the Governor hit the snooze button once again.”

Final budgets are made, as Mr. Lamont will soon see, by the dominant political party – his party. The governor proposes; the legislature disposes. And long before Connecticut’s tide began to recede, the state legislature was dominated by Democrats who had a penchant for burying their heads deep in the sand while wagging their bums in the air and pointing accusing fingers at Republican governors.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Revolution And Toilet Paper

The sons and daughters of the revolution are running out of toilet paper in Cuba, according to a Reuters report.

“Cuba's financial reserves have been depleted by increased spending for imports and reduced export income, which has forced the communist-led government to take extraordinary measures to keep the economy afloat.

"’The corporation has taken all the steps so that at the end of the year there will be an important importation of toilet paper,’ an official with state conglomerate Cimex said on state-run Radio Rebelde.

“The shipment will enable the state-run company ‘to supply this demand that today is presenting problems,’ he said.”

Why, it may be asked, don’t the sons and daughters of the revolution make their own toilet paper, thus lowering the price that Cubans pay for more expensive imports?

Cash poor Cuba, under the enlightened administration of the Castro brothers, does make some toilet paper. However, it does not have the cash to purchase the raw material to produce the product in large enough quantities.

And so, the brights in Cuba have hit upon a solution: cut other imports by 20%.

Cuba imports 60% of its food.

But won’t the reduction in imports create more scarcity elsewhere in Cuba’s command economy?

Yes and no.

“Despite the shortages,” Reuters tells us, “prices will be cut between 5 percent and 27 percent for some food, drugs and personal hygiene products, officials said.”

The perfect solution; wish away the problem.

Fidel Castro’s brother Raul, current president for life in Cuba, has been complaining lately that Cubans are not as productive as they might be, and he has hit upon a novel solution. According to the Reuters report, “He has taken various steps to boost output, including putting more state-owned land in private hands and pushing for salaries to be based on productivity.”

This may sound like creeping capitalism to his brother Cubans in Miami, where there are no shortages of toilet paper.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Is Nothing Sacred?

The as yet unnamed 23 year old Greek woman is almost certain to be regarded as a heroine when she returns home to the island of Crete.

Fondled by a drunken Briton who had quite literally let his pants down, the woman poured her drink, a Sabucco, on the offender’s genitals and, when he bounder did not desist, set fire to his manly parts with her cigarette lighter.

The woman immediately turned herself into authorities, while the gent was taken to a hospital.

The TelegraphCoUK has all the salacious details.

‘Police said that the incident took place at a club in the Greek resort town of Malia. The British man, who police have also not yet identified, allegedly took off his pants there and waved his genitals at a number girls. He is then said to have ‘forcefully fondled’ the Greek woman and asked her to hold his genitals.”

The lessons here seem to be obvious: Be polite when drunk; read Euripides’ Medea before going on Greek vacations; and don’t mess with Cretan women.

Non-coincidentally, “Squeaky” Fromme, a consort of mass murderer Charlie Manson (not to be confused with the singer) is set to be released, according to a CNN report.

Ms. Fromme received a life in prison term for attempting to assassinate former President Gerald Ford, perhaps the least offensive American president in the last 50 years.

And, according to a recent Hartford Courant report, the besieged US Sen. Chris Dodd has received a go to heaven pass from a congressional ethics committee.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Sen. McCaskill Meets Her Constituents

On July 27, a representative from Sen. Claire McCaskill office appeared at a town meeting in St. Louis Missouri. Her intention was to listen closely to the concerns McCaskill’s constituents were having with President Barrack Obama’s Health Care bill and report back to her.

McCaskill is the former prosecutor and state auditor that came to Obama’s aid following his defeat of then Sen. Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary that led eventually to his capture of the White House. She was considered Obama’s top surrogate during the campaign, offering guidance on possible vice presidential candidates, and her name surfaced as a possible running mate.

She got an earful.

Here is a sampling of what a town meeting should be.

And here the estimable Tim Bishop, U.S. Rep. from New York's 1st District, meets his constituents:

Monday, August 03, 2009

Rennie To Rell: Y’er Out

Hartford Courant columnist Kevin Rennie thinks Gov. Jodi Rell lost the ballgame when she agreed to raise taxes: “When Rell proposed $391 million in tax increases on Thursday, she upended her ability to negotiate effectively with Democrats, who sound chillingly gleeful at the prospect of making Connecticut a more difficult place to be productive. Rell's declaration that she can't find any more spending cuts sets a ceiling on those. Then she established what will likely be the floor on tax increases with her proposal.”

Democrats, owing to their majority in both state houses, can easily raise the roof, and the floor too; give'em an inch and they'll take your back yard.

This is typical Republican gubernatorial strategy.

Rennie writes from the belly of the whale. The Harford Courant, in a recent editorial excoriates the governor for not having proposed tax increases earlier. The budget “crisis” might have been resolved “weeks ago if Gov. M. Jodi Rell had only admitted that tax increases, along with spending cuts and borrowing, had to be part of closing the huge, $8.56 billion budget gap.

“For months, Mrs. Rell stubbornly and unrealistically low-balled deficit projections, allowing her to construct budget proposals with no tax increases for fiscal 2010 and 2011 — and allowing her to hammer Democrats for being taxing fools. That drove the two sides far apart.”

The Courant then goes on to reprove the Democrats for being a wee bit too greedy: “The Democratic-controlled Appropriations and Finance committees also approved a new budget plan Thursday. It calls for $1.8 billion in new taxes and fees — considerably more than the governor asks for but down from the $2.5 billion in additional revenue over two years contained in a Democratic budget recently vetoed by the governor.

“Our sense in general is that Mrs. Rell asks for too little in new taxes to balance the budget and the Democrats still ask too much.”

No doubt the warring parties will reach a compromise that does not unsettle the editors of the Courant, most of whom want to spend the dough on their own pet projects.

Who says the roaring 90's are over?

It’s very important to diagnose the problem correctly. The Courant, and Democrats generally, will not agree that Connecticut has a spending problem. They – especially when Michele Jacklin was the paper’s chief political columnist – have invariably insisted that the state has a revenue problem. There are two parties of opinion here: those who insist that deficits should be discharged by spending decreases; and those who insist that deficits should be discharged through revenue increases.

One party will concentrate its attention and efforts at revenue enhancements, while the other will concentrate on spending cuts.

The proper question to be put to Democrats is: If you have now agreed to revenue enhancements of$1.8 billion, why did you previously demand tax increases of $2.5 billion?

It is a question that the editorial board of the Courant is incapable of putting to the leadership of the Democratic Party, because it will expose the imposture in this little economic morality play that has occurred in the post income tax period between Democrats and opposition governors, two of them Republicans and one an ex-maverick Republican.

When Gov. Rell writes that this is not an ideological battle, she is wrong. It is an ideological battle, and the consequences of that battle have been writ large on a national and international stage.

We can either learn from those experiences or not.

Connecticut citizens grappling the state with bloody fingernails may hope that the leadership of the state Republican Party – minus the governor – knows how to read history.

Whether they do or not, we shall see.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

After The Spending Comes the Taxing

ABC news Chief Washington Correspondent and "This Week" Host George Stephanopoulos
says that tax scofflaw Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner may be contemplating increasing income taxes on the Middle Class: “To get the economy back on track, will President Barack Obama have to break his pledge not to raise taxes on 95 percent of Americans? In a ‘This Week’ exclusive, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner told me, ‘We’re going to have to do what’s necessary.’”

Big surprise there.

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