Friday, December 31, 2010

The Markley Suit And Fake Taxes

The legal ball that state Senator-elect Joe Markley tossed into the Superior Court has been batted by Judge Henry Cohen back to the Department of Public Utilities Control (DPUC).

Mr. Markley, striking a blow for Connecticut citizens and good government, filed a suit in October against the DPUC for having permitted a fee to appear on energy bills that anyone with half a brain would recognize as a disguised tax.

In 2000, the state legislature initiated energy deregulation in Connecticut. Having made inquiries of the state’s two largest energy distributors concerning the cost of deregulation, legislators were told the bill would run about $1.7 billion. Rather than raise the money for deregulation though a forthright tax, it was decided to pay for deregulation through bonding. The bonds used to pay the cost were securitized by the imposition of a fee on electric bills amounting to about $15 per month. The Competitive Transition Assessment (CTA), which has been appearing on electric bills for a few years, was set to expire in 2011 for one company and 2013 for another.

Through a combination of impudence and imprudence, Connecticut in the meanwhile had accumulated a budget deficit of some $3.5 billion in each of the next two years and beyond. The governor and the legislature, lacking the courage to raise taxes before an upcoming election, as usual stuffed the 2011 budget hole with temporary and dubious fixes, one of which is a brand new tax to be applied as a fee on energy bills. This one -- a so called “fee” with lipstick on it designed to look like Marylyn Monroe, though it is an obvious tax pig – the legislature, with a bow to George Orwell, called the Economic Transition Charge (ETC). Having received no political push back the first time when the legislature secreted a tax in the form of a “fee” in energy bills, a repeat was in order.

Who says you can’t fool all the people all the time?

When Mr. Markey noticed the imposture, he filed a suit contesting the imposition on two grounds: The DPUC, he argued, lacked the authority to implement the tax; and the tax was also inequitable because ratepayers in several districts would not be required to pay it. Judge Cohen recently decided that Mr. Markley had not exhausted all the administrative remedies available to him before filing suit and, while making no decision on the merits of the case, ruled that Mr. Marley should exhaust himself by first seeking a remedy from the DPUC, which is on the order of seeking a missing chicken from the full bellied, satiated and smiling fox in the henhouse. In oral argument, Mr. Markley characterized this route as “a matter of theatre,” showing that there is room in legal pleadings for searing poetry.

To people unused to artful legal subtleties, it may seem obvious that the legislature, suffering from a lack of courage, delegated the DPUC to implement a tax used to securitize bonds the proceeds from which would be dumped into the state’s depleted general fund. Assessments collected from citizens and transferred to the general fund to pay off debts incurred by legislatures are taxes, though these collections have cleverly been styled as “fees” to dupe citizens the legislature has tapped out with taxes.

Perhaps in Utopia one might expect from judges clear, courageous and constitutional rulings. But Connecticut is very far from Utopia. The usual outcome in cases involving taxes is to allow the taxing authority as much liberty as needed to fill state coffers; the whole governmental apparatus, judges being a principle part of the Republic’s tri-partite structure, feeds at the same public trough. Empty bellies and possible joblessness within the public sector are powerful inducements, sometimes more persuasive than measures that truly advance the public good.

According to a luminous story in the Ridgefield Press written by Carrie Schmelkin and Macklin Reid, Mr. Markley, not at all intimidated, has said he intends to press on with his suit. State Senator Toni Boucher and state Rep John Frey, both representing Ridgefield, have placed themselves on the side of the angels and overtaxed citizens. They are certain to be joined by other conscientious legislators courageous enough to confront chicanery and call it by its right name.

The case made by Mr. Markley against this odious hidden tax -- paid by everyone, by the way, including the 80 year old mothers of editorial writers who have not yet muckraked this obvious imposture -- should not be permitted to whither on the judicial vine, even if the courts should decide in favor of legislative duplicity. Preeminently, this subterfuge is a political matter and should be resolved at the voting booth by those people in Connecticut -- Republican, Democratic and Independents -- who refuse to allow themselves to be fooled all the time.

At the very least, these controversial and inappropriate “fees” should figure prominently in upcoming campaigns for legislative seats opened when Governor-elect Malloy reached into the legislature to fill important positions in an administration that he has promised countless times would be forthright, transparent and honest.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What “A Spending Problem” Means

Russell Long of Louisiana, son of the more notorious Huey Long, is famous for having said, “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me. Tax that fellow behind the tree.”

Mr. Long was no stranger to tax laws, having served as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee for several years from 1966 to 1981, after which Republicans assumed control of the Senate. The prominent Democrat was an unashamed proponent of tax breaks for businesses. “I have become convinced,” he once said, “you’re going to have to have capital; if you’re going to have capitalism.” At the same time, he was somewhat wary of “tax reform” which, to his way of thinking, involved a certain amount of political subterfuge: “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me. Tax that fellow behind the tree.”

In Connecticut, the fellows behind the tree are thought to be capitalists “millionaires” earning more than $250,000 per year, most of them quartered in what we have come to call the “Gold Coast.” It is no surprise that “millionaires” in the United States have been down graded since the sixteenth amendment establishing the tax was ratified in 1913, at which time the top tax rate was 7% on incomes above $500,000, about $10 million in 2007 dollars. During World War I, the top rate rose to 77% while the income threshold that deposited millionaires in the top bracket rose to $1,000,000 or $16 million in 2007 dollars. Following the war, the top rate was reduced to 24% and the income threshold for paying this rate fell to a low of $100,000 or $1 million in 2007 dollars. But over time the tax was more broadly levied to include the proletariat. Begun as a tax on millionaires and multi-millionaires, the income tax eventually ended as a tax on pastry cooks and hairdressers. We are the future mysterious fellows behind the tree.

Almost everyone in state government, with the possible exception of Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, has now become convinced that Connecticut has a spending and not a revenue problem. Such was the buried assumption in most Democratic campaigns in this the winter of our discontent.

On Sunday the Hartford Courant, whose editorial page editors several years ago reminded us that the state had a "revenue not a spending problem," repented in sackcloth and ashes, courageously advising legislators in a sprawling 1,400 word editorial, “Agenda: For The State” to -- STOP SPENDING MONEY.

For added emphasis, the paper quoted former Governor and Senator Lowell Weicker, father of the state income tax and a notorious revenue raiser:

“’The spending cuts have to come, and they have got to be huge,’ says former Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr., who solved the state's billion-dollar deficit 20 years ago by instituting a state income tax. ‘It certainly has been spent,’ he says."

Key to understanding the obvious and direct correlation between getting and spending is this golden perception: If you don’t tax it, you can’t spend it.” Its destructive corollary is: If you “solve” a spending problem by raising new revenue, it will not be long before the revenue is spent, producing – this is not rocket science – more debt and, shortly following, more and higher revenue increases. This is how dangerously red permanent budget holes are dug. Given the dialectic “more revenue raising leads ineluctably to more spending,” one may question whether Mr. Weicker’s solution “solved” the state’s deficit, which today is many times larger than it was during the first golden days of Mr. Weicker’s one term administration. When Connecticut’s editorial pontificators grasp the causal connection between getting and spending, their conversion may be complete.

The sorrowful truth is that Connecticut has run out trees behind which may be found mythical taxpayers. The recklessly destructive spending spree that followed the Weicker income tax, and the bottomless abyss of federal spending that has followed the current deep recession, have emptied the forest of hiding spots: There is no painless way to spend money and hand off the bill to the quarter-millionaires Donovan and others suppose will pay it.

Connecticut’s state debt, not counting the state’s massive pension liability, amounts to about $3.5 billion for each of the next three years, which means that Connecticut must reduce its spending by a like number – PERMANENTLY.

But the prospect of permanent reductions in spending have had in the past the same effect upon leaders in the state’s Democratic caucus that water had on the wicked witch of the West in The Wizard Of Oz. And it is very much an open question whether Governor-elect Dan Malloy can convince such leaders as Donovan that the dissolution of the state awaits those who lack the necessary mental and emotional skill set to appreciate the problem and its ONLY sound solution -- STOP SPENDING MONEY.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Colin s Conversion

After the election, when it was finally safe to explore some ideas put forward by Martha Dean in her attorney's general race against Democrat George Jepsen, Courant columnist and NPR radio host Colin McEnroe invited Mrs. Dean on his show to bury the hatchet. Mr. McEnroe had indicated during the campaign that Mrs. Dean ideas were somewhat off the beaten track. He may have picked up this patter from some of his comrades at the paper. What left of center commentators consider outrageous – insulting even -- others who do not share their ideas and prejudices may regard as unconventional, the conventional wisdom among political writers in the Connecticut being liberal to progressive.

None of the issues discussed by Mrs., Dean and Mr. McEnroe during his recent program were new in any sense. At the outset of her campaign, Mrs. Dean did not choose to hide her light under a bushel basket. Her first political statement, made upon entering the race, was fairly comprehensive. No sooner did commentators hear the title of Mrs. Dean’s first utterance, which was titled “Faith, Freedom and Fortune,” than they were in full cry and on the attack.

Rick Green, another left of center columnist at the Courant, began to mutter darkly about Mrs. Dean’s “cyborg blue eyes.” Others thought it necessary to mention Mrs. Dean's divorce. And when Mrs. Dean mentioned nullification in a historical context, it was roundly hinted by some commentators that nullification might lead --  gasp! -- to a new civil war. In pre civil war New England, the fires of nullification began to smolder over the Fugitive Slave Act. For all practical purposes, the New England states practiced nullification when southern slave owners began to appear in Boston to retrieve slaves that had escaped through the underground railroad. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, a federal law supported by Supreme Court decisions, required people in New England to assist in the apprehension of slaves. Henry David Thoreau said his "no" very impolitely in an impassioned piece called “Slavery in Massachusetts,” and Thoreau's version of civil disobedience is simply a polite form of personal nullification. Had Mrs. Dean asked any of her critics whether they might have resisted the Fugitive Slave Act had they been writing at the time, it is a good guess that every one of them would have placed themselves on the side of the anti-slavery angels.

Among Connecticut’s left of center press “Fortune” is regarded as something that ought to be appropriated from what we are now pleased to call “millionaires” – anyone making more than $250,000 a year – whose earnings should be distributed to the needy, the engine of distribution being Connecticut’s relatively new progressive income tax; faith is little more than an indicator that those who have it will be perfectly willing to hop over the First Amendment’s establishment clause and force Buddhists to join the church of Rome; and Freedom is just another word for nothing left to loose.

The meeting between Mr. McEnroe and Mrs. Dean was a peace council, following which Mr. McEnroe offered what appears to be on the face of it a sincere mini-apology hedged about by qualifying reservations:

“I sought a full length interview with Dean because she had recently objected to words on this blog, had called me a jerk, had offered to pray for me.

The full audio of it is here. Just click the play button.

“And it occurred to me, that I didn't know her at all, that I'd covered her two campaigns for attorney general without getting past her easily caricatured persona as a far-right, gun-loving, sharp-elbowed theocrat.”

Given Mr. McEnroe’s left leaning sympathies, he swallowed hard on two occasions:

“The first was when she said that she and George Jepsen had fun as rivals, more so than did other candidates in the 2010 race. It didn't really seem to me that they were having fun. The second was when she brushed off my suggestion that she continued her challenge of Jepsen's eligibility past the election.”

The two public debates between Mrs. Dean and Mr. Jepsen were both enlightening and fun for those attending them; the audiences were rewarded with a stunning display of campaign oratory. Mr. McEnroe easily could have asked any of the lawyers or non-lawyers in attgendance how they rated these confrontations with respect to other more brutish battles among other candidates. Had McEnroe attended the debates with an opened mind or questioned those who did, the recent convert would have discovered that there was no bad blood between Mrs. Dean and Mr. Jepsen, and his fears, at least on this score, would have been laid to rest.

It is true that Mrs. Dean, following a lengthy court finding that Secretary of State Susan Byseiwitz had not the requisite background to qualify as a candidate for attorney general, did challenge Mr. Jensen’s qualifications for the same office. Immediately, it was assumed by commentators hostile to Mrs. Dean’s bid that her court action was, in some sense, invidious. No, Mrs. Dean explained patiently at the time, her action was necessary in view of the court’s earlier decision. Actions brought in court are invidious only when they are unnecessary, and her action was necessary because it would allow the court to decide important issues the court had not covered in its earlier Bysiewicz decision. Indeed, the earlier decision invited a clarification from the court on what constituted acceptable qualifications for the office of attorney general, and a decision on her suit would have removed from Mr. Jenson’s tenure as attorney general any suspicion of doubt concerning his qualifications. All this was “out there,” as commentators sometimes say, much before Mr. McEnroe and the anti-Dean mob suggested that Mrs. Dean was, through an imagined animus, unnecessarily making a pest of herself.

When Mrs. Dean withdrew her suit and offered a handsome concession to Mr. Jepsen, Mr. McEnroe guffawed loudly in his column; Mrs. Dean replied that the notion her concession was insincere was itself insincere, and she called Mr. McEnroe a jerk, allowing that she would pray he amend his ways. Mr. McEnroe said he thought any spiritual renovation had come too late for him, and he extended a cordial invitation to Mrs. Dean so they might clear up some points and bury the hatchet, preferably not in each other’s backs.

Mr. McEnroe’s peace mission was a success. If the usual prejudices of Connecticut’s left of center media had earlier given way rational analysis, it is not unreasonable to suppose that Mrs. Dean -- who spent no tax money on her campaign, did little advertising and yet gave much more richly endowed preferred candidate of the state’s left of center media a pretty good run for his money -- might have had a somewhat better chance at attaining office. But it was not to be. The endorsements of major newspapers in the state still deliver votes to favored candidates.  Connecticut’s media helped to elect the candidates, nearly all Democrats, they wanted in office pretty much across the board.

During his program, Mr. McEnroe questioned Mrs. Dean on her religious affiliation without acknowledging at the time that he used to be the religion writer at the Courant some years ago. And of course his own religious preferences, or lack of them, were kept very much under the rug. But Mr. McEnroe did produce an admission that Mrs. Dean had been received into the Catholic Church. Mrs. Dean's enemies will take note of it.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Andrea Bocelli - Adeste Fideles

O come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of angels;


O come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him,

Christ the Lord.

God of God,
Light of Light,
Lo, He abhors not the Virgin’s womb;
Very God,
Begotten not created;


See how the shepherds,
Summoned to His cradle,
Leaving their flocks, draw nigh to gaze;
We too will thither
Bend our joyful footsteps;


Lo! star-led chieftains,
Magi, Christ adoring,
Offer Him incense, gold, and myrrh;
We to the Christ Child
Bring our hearts’ oblations.


Child, for us sinners
Poor and in the manger,
We would embrace Thee, with love and awe;
Who would not love Thee,
Loving us so dearly?


There shall we see Him,
His Eternal Father's
Everlasting Brightness now veiled under flesh;
We find there,
A Babe in infant clothing;


Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation;
Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!
Glory to God
In the highest;


Yea, Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be glory given;
Word of the Father,
Now in flesh appearing.

On Not Letting A Crisis Go To Waste

Rham Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s campaign guru now running for mayor of Chicago, famously cautioned, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” In the year following Mr. Obama’s accession to the presidency, the Obama administration was able to put into practice Mr. Emanuel’s admonition because Democrats had acquired enough seats in congress to snuff out Republican opposition. It is a considerable understatement to say that the Obama administration then proceeded to spend money like a drunken sailor, and it may be an insult to drunken sailors who, after all, stop spending money when they hit the floor.

Here in Connecticut, owing to accommodating governors and a Democratic dominated legislature, the Obama paradigm has for at least two decades produced red ink by the barrel. On the Republican and Democratic side, people are beginning to think our crisis should not be permitted to go to waste. But solutions differ widely.

The gubernatorial office in Connecticut has now fallen to Democrats who would like to take advantage of their power position to make the Lowell Weicker income tax more progressive. A progressive income tax is one in which a selfish and grasping minority, rich robber barons, pays the brunt of taxes, while the majority, the poor and the working classes, consume services paid with taxes “contributed” by the minority.

There is a steep downside to progressive taxation: If the bulk of a state’s tax revenue is drawn from a wealthy minority, the continued welfare of the majority of tax consumers will depend upon the fluctuating fortunes of the tax suppliers, and when the wealthy are pinched in recessions, the majority of people will feel the pinch though deepening budget deficits. Part of Connecticut’s two year budget hole, about $6 to $8 billion, depending upon whose arithmetic is used, may be put down to an income tax collected from a narrow band of wealthy folk whose fortunes have been diminished by a recession that has severely reduced business activity. Revenue collections diminish when overtaxed businesses recoup costs by moving to states in which taxes are less punishing. A shrinking number of tax payers necessarily reduces tax collections.

Revenue streams drawn from a larger number of people tend to be more stable. This is one of the reasons some economists favor a broad based, flat tax that accommodates the poor through what is called a negative income tax, a feature in the tax code that makes it possible for states to cut back on welfare payments. The floor of the negative income tax is set above the state poverty level, so that people whose income falls below the floor receive a portion of tax payments that will lift them to safety, allowing the state to reduce the welfare bureaucracy that disperses taxes to the needy.

A stable broad based, negative income tax also would allow Connecticut to toss overboard the hundreds of niggling little taxes featured in a stunning report issued months ago by the Yankee Institute. The report, a tightly packed line item listing of taxes and fees is about 30 times the length of this column, and contains such exotic revenue enhancers as fees associated with acquiring a tag to kill a pheasant in the state.

Without question, the most deeply hidden fee collected by the legislature from taxpayers who have been bewitched by political chicanery is the so called Competitive Transmission Assessment (CTA) that has been appearing for some time on Electric Utility bills. In June 2010, the CT General Assembly voted to sell $1.8 billion in future revenue for a $1.3 billion lump sum that was used to help balance the state’s 2010-11 budget. The fee was charged as a surety for bonds sold to cover the cost of what legislators have been pleased to call the “deregulation” of the state’s energy industry.

The surest way to deregulate Connecticut’s costly energy industry is to cut back on regulations. Instead of reducing and streamlining burdensome regulations, the legislature assigned a fee on electric bills to securitize bonds issued to pay for the transition from a regulated to a deregulated market. The fee, approximately $15 per month for residential energy users, was to terminate for one Connecticut energy distributor in 2005 and another in 2011.

But when the state found itself after years of reckless spending facing a budget deficit of $6 to $8 billion, depending upon whose arithmetic one chooses to apply, it decided to create the Economic Transition Charge (ETC), an additional new fee of about $3 per month that will begin appearing on the bills of Connecticut Light and Power customers on Jan. 1, 2011 as the older CTA fees expire. Later in July, that new fee is due to be replaced by an as yet indeterminate Economic Recovery Bond (ERB) charge. Some consider the fees used to pay off the 10 year bonds as disguised taxes because the bonding and the supporting fees will be used to reduce the state’s deficit.

Budget chicanery is never transparent, and it would be distressing to suppose that governor-elect Dan Malloy, who has promised a transparent and forthright administration, will wink at such Orwellian deception. It is a hopeful sign that at least one legislator, senator-elect Joe Markley, saw through the attempt to use electric fees as tax replacements and brought suit against the state’s regulatory apparatus, the Public Utilities Control Commission. Like an ant swallowed by a python, Mr. Markley’s suit is expected to make its way quickly through Connecticut’s clogged court system.

Why? Because the state is broke and Mr. Markley’s suit is holding up the flow into a bottomless black hole of taxes disguised as fees.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Joe Lieberman And His Enemies

U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman’s principled stand in favor of ending the invidious “don’t ask don’t tell” policy in the U.S. military has elevated him to heroic status among some liberals, but the news continues to rasp the more tender consciences of puritanical progressives who feel they must applaud Mr. Lieberman’s efforts even as they strenuously condemn the man.

All this hero worship, Greg Hladky writes in the Fairfield Weekly, is a Washington beltway distortion: “Isn't it interesting how different the Lieberman situation appears down in Washington compared to the Lieberman reality back home?... Lieberman stands virtually no chance of winning the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination.”

Here at home in the progressive camp, Mr. Lieberman’s dark deeds will not easily be forgotten or forgiven. Mr. Hladky ticks off a familiar bill of particulars:

“It wasn't just Lieberman's unquestioning support for the Iraq war that produced the hostility. It wasn't just Joe's affectionate closeness to George W. Bush, or his decision to speak at the 2008 Republican National Convention and campaign for his buddy John McCain and against Barack Obama, or his suggestion that he might support Republican Linda McMahon in Connecticut's U.S. Senate race this year.

“It was all those things and the feeling that Joe has for a long time considered himself better than the Connecticut Democrats who used to believe in him, who used to think they knew who he was.”
Mr. Lieberman’s position and perseverance on the issue of gays in the military received at the more moderate New London Day an encouraging response: “Sen. Lieberman's determination to reverse the policy may help redeem his reputation in his home state, with which he has had a love-hate relationship in recent years.”

The loss of a party primary “due in large part to his unrelenting support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan” forced Mr. Lieberman to run as an independent in 2006 and “compelled him, ill-advisedly, to support John McCain for president in 2008, and ironically the GOP senator from Arizona emerged as one of the most vocal opponents of ‘don't ask, don't tell.’"

Some progressives might quibble somewhat with the word “compelled”; the senator is, after all, a grown man and well above the age of reason. Politicians generally are “compelled” to do or say this and that in the same sense that the denizens of bordellos are compelled to do business with each other. Time and chance have not treated kindly some legislators who bolted their parties to run as independents. Neither Charlie Crist (R-I-Fl) nor Arlen Specter (D-R-D-PA) are serving any longer in the U.S. Congress.

Mr. Lieberman incautiously has left in his wake a rich store of UTube clips tracing the outline of what progressive consider his rank betrayal of the left wing of their party. Could he defend himself, Mr. Lieberman likely would say, along with former President Ronald Reagan, that his party left him, though at least one progressive in Mr. Lieberman’s party, President Barack Obama, has since assuming office veered to the middle on issues of war and peace. Tactically, Mr. Obama’s position on Afghanistan bears a striking resemblance to former President George Bush’s position on Iraq.

Similar campaign killer clips – which save lazy commentators the necessity of thinking seriously about issues – were used successfully to torpedo Linda McMahon’s campaign for the U.S. Senate. These bloody slices of demagoguery are the equivalents of knives drawn across the throats of people who cannot argue with damning visuals: wrestlers slamming each other in the ring, Mr. Lieberman bussing Mr. Bush on the floor of congress. Mrs. McMahon was also unfortunate enough to have earned her millions to self finance her campaign; and while Mr. Lieberman is no multi-millionaire, he does have more than a million campaign bucks socked away under his pillow in case one or another of his potential Democratic challengers should summon the courage to attempt to beard the lion in his den.

Mr. Lieberman’s challengers so far are being coy, perhaps hoping that the senior senator from Connecticut will follow U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s sterling example and leave the senate after his weak points have been sufficiently probed by assassins in the media who really should be supporting term limits.

That’s right, term limits. Good for what ails you, term limits would have the same beneficial effect on a sclerotic political system that the retirements of Mr. Dodd Mrs. Rell this year have had in Connecticut on media sales. When time servers leave the political arena, things begin to pop. People come out of the woodwork to vote, patriotism flutters from every street corner, and nearly everyone sinks happily into the comforting illusion that this time the country as a whole will enjoy, in the immortal world of Mr. Abraham Lincoln “a new burst of freedom.”

Monday, December 20, 2010

Malloy In, Death Out

Editorial page editor of the Norwich Bulletin Ray Hackett notes that in addition to the piddling legislation one might expect of a legislature and government in transition, two important bills are in the legislative hopper awaiting introduction soon after Governor-elect Dan Malloy is sworn in:

“There also are two extremely controversial bills filed guaranteed to serve as major distractions — the repeal of the death penalty and a proposal to allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at Connecticut colleges and universities.

“The Legislature passed a bill last year repealing the death penalty that was vetoed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell. Supporters believe that with Gov.-elect Dan Malloy, the chances of success have improved greatly. Malloy supports the repeal if the measure is not retroactive. That’s a big hurdle to clear, but far from the only problem.”
The timing on death penalty repeal, Mr. Hackett notes, is awkward:

“First, the trial of accused Cheshire home invasion suspect Joshua Komisarjevsky is scheduled to begin in February — the same time lawmakers would be taking up the debate. Obviously, no one considers timing an important issue.

“And second, the two chairmen of the Judiciary Committee where that debate will begin — state Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, and state Rep. Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven, both staunch supporters of repealing the law — are leaving the General Assembly to join Malloy’s administration. Replacements have yet to be named.”

Friday, December 17, 2010

Is Malloy Serious?

How do you know when a politician is serious about what he says? You watch what he does. The assessing requires a careful attention to words measured, as a tailor measures cloth to a pattern, against actions.

Just now, prior to his taking office, most people who write about politics are weighing words and asking themselves important questions concerning Governor-elect Dan Malloy. If campaigns are a theatre of words, holding office is a theatre of action. It will not – because it cannot – be long before Mr. Malloy presents his budget. A budget is not a speech; it is an action plan that will set the future of Connecticut for Mr. Malloy’s first term and beyond, and it is very likely that his budget, after its particulars are finalized by Connecticut’s dominant Democratic legislature, will determine both the fate of Connecticut, now knee deep in red ink, as well as the future of individual legislators. Voters tend to be somewhat impatient with politicians responsible for the failure of states, and Connecticut, by any reasonable measure, is a failing state.

Managing Editor of the Journal Inquirer Chris Powell took the measure of Mr. Malloy in one of his recent columns. “Facing a state budget gap of nearly 20 percent between planned expenditures and likely revenue,” Mr. Powell wrote, “Connecticut state government needs ‘systemic’ changes, Gov.-elect Dan Malloy told a business group breakfast in Hartford this week. What does that mean?

“Does it mean the sort of ‘systemic’ change Connecticut got when the state income tax was enacted in 1991 -- higher taxes and bigger government serving only to diminish Connecticut's quality of life? Probably.”

Mr. Powell wants Mr. Malloy to move Connecticut’s so called “fixed costs” -- “collective bargaining for public employees, binding arbitration of public employee union contracts, public employee pensions, ‘prevailing wage’ requirements for government construction projects” – out of the “fixed” column into the fixable column, because these costs, presently safe from meddling interference from legislators and governors alike, are the most costly costs. Any attempt in the future to cut spending without pruning “fixed costs” necessarily must be an exercise in futility. Bringing such costs into the arena of legislative action would empower the governor and the state legislature to fix such holes in the state’s bucket as its stratospheric pension obligations.

Consider: The pension fund has $9 billion in assets and $21 billion in liabilities, which represents 45% of coverage. But, Mr. Powell writes, “instead of fixing the problem, state government lately has been diverting pension fund contributions and spending them. Fixing the problem -- depositing another $8 billion into the pension fund to reach the actuarial standard of 80 percent coverage -- would consume 42 percent of the current state budget of $19 billion if done in a single year. Even done over four years, a fix would consume 10 percent of the budget.”

Connecticut’s debt, the largest per capita debt in the nation, is so deeply rooted that one might reasonably conclude the state no longer has the luxury of protecting large areas of spending by removing them from ordinary legislative action. The present system of governance, in which huge swaths of spending are designated untouchable as “fixed costs,” is part of the architecture of government-by-special-interests. It is becoming increasingly apparent that professions of special interests are conspiracies against the general interest and the common good. Removing areas of spending from cuts made by elected representatives is a recipe for accelerated spending and tax increases. If 75% of the state’s fixed costs are untouchable, only 25% of state debt may be reduced through spending cuts; or, to put it another way, 75% of increased costs MUST be resolved through tax increases, which is why, come to think of it, spending in Connecticut has increased so dramatically since the institution of the income tax. Last year, the Democratic legislature made the tax more progressive. The Promethian hill we climb, only to have the rock roll down to the bottom once we reach the top, IS the fixed costs structure. Tax increase are permissions to spend; it does not take long for a government that has forbidden itself to cut “fixed costs” to rise to the occasion.

Preparing to attack some of these problems, Mr. Malloy recently addressed two seemingly antagonistic groups. The MetroHartford Alliance is a group devoted to spurring business activity. Hearing Mr. Malloy lament that Connecticut ranks 35th among states in a pro business environment, members of the group no doubt were encouraged to think that the speaker was prepared to offer painful but effective remedial action. The members of the second group, the Working Families Party, a union scheme to elect friendly politicians, were as delighted to hear from a politician they helped to elect to office the soothing message that he was committed to maintain an ever broadening safety that would secure the interests of unionized workers.

No one should doubt Mr. Malloy’s ability to turn heads and hearts with words; in this, he bears a striking resemblance to the nation’s sweet tongued president, Barack Obama, whose political agenda Mr. Malloy enthusiastically embraces. Beyond words lie actions. It is by their actions that political actors will be judged – not by the intent of the actors, but rather by the practical consequences of their actions.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lieberman For Sale

Lucian, the second century satirist, once wrote a dialogue called “The Sale of Creeds” in which he held up to ridicule such famous philosophers as Socrates, Diogenes and Pythagoras. In Lucian’s drama, some of the philosophers were a bit of a hard sell.

Only a few weeks ago, to judge from commentary in Connecticut’s press, U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman might have been sold at bargain prices. But now comes a piece in Politico that raises his price considerably.

Some leading Democrats and Republicans -- not among them Chris Healy, still the state’s Republican Party chieftain, though Mr. Healy himself recently sought to auction himself off as a National Republican Party Chairman – would be happy to purchase Mr. Lieberman, mostly for tactical reasons.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Politico reports, “is quietly urging the Connecticut lawmaker to run for a fifth Senate term in 2012 — and to stick with the Democratic side of the aisle.” Now that the House has fallen to Republicans and the Democratic veto proof majority in congress has been compromised, every Democratic vote is far too precious to lose to provincial state party politics.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, also is tugging at Mr. Lieberman’s sleeve. He has engaged Mr. Lieberman in “friendly banter,” imploring Mr. Lieberman to join the Republican Conference and run for the GOP nomination in 2012. And noted conservative Sen. Jim DeMint said, “We’d love to have him.” Compared to Democrats, Mr. DeMint said, “We’re all conservatives.” Perhaps Mr. DeMint was also bantering.

It is true that Mr. Lieberman has lined up with some Republicans on matters involving foreign policy, but his voting record on domestic issues places him squarely in the Democratic camp. Should he switch parties, Mr. Lieberman would be one of the most liberal Republicans in the senate. According to the Poole Report of contested votes in the current session, Mr. Lieberman is more liberal than Claire McCaskill, James Webb, Bill Nelson and Ben Nelson, all of whom, according to Politico, “will run for re-election in 2012 as well, and whose seats DeMint will surely want to target with his PAC.” Currently, Mr. Lieberman is leading the fight for a repeal of the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy affecting gays in the military, a position that has forced some virulent anti-Lieberman opponents in the progressive wing of the party to cough up a reluctant approval, much in the way a cat disgorges a hairball.

It may not be true that all politics is local; in the mid-term election, some Democrats fell on policy swords fashioned in Washington D.C. But it is true that all local politics is local, and Mr. Lieberman has long been shown the door by the left wing of Connecticut’s Democratic Party. The Republican Party bench in Connecticut has been considerably strengthened since Mr. Lieberman, having lost a primary to Ned Lamont, went on to win in a general election in which Republicans fielded a candidate who commanded few votes.

Even though President Barack Obama is what my dear departed mom might have called a testa dura, the national administration, assuming it is not suicidal, must be somewhat chastened by the mid-term elections. If so, national Democrats may steer a more moderate course in both domestic and foreign policy, compromising when possible with Republicans, hoping thereby to curb right wing enthusiasm. That strategy will help Mr. Lieberman, even as it will dampen the ardor of progressive to radical Democrats who hate Mr. Lieberman and will not he satisfied with anything less than his abject humiliation. Towards the end of the Weicker years, many Republicans felt the same way about the ex-senator and governor who once characterized himself, aptly, as “the turd in the Republican Party punchbowl.”

It is a long way yet to Tipperary, and much can happen to turn tides before the next national elections. Mr. Obama has lost a good deal of his magnetic force; the late minister of peace and amity, Richard Holbrooke, fairly admitted on his deathbed, according to a report in the infallible Washington Post, that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable, though others disagree; the Tea Party still wants to dump politicians in the Potomac; the flat-lining national economy is being supported by Chinese bankers who are fondling our national junk; and more than half the world feels about us the way starry eyed progressives feel about Mr. Lieberman.

A very messy place, the world both inside and outside the United States will not be any neater by the time the next elections roll around. At present, commentators should take their cue from weathermen: The coming storm is too far off to make rational predictions concerning who will be in or out of congress in the next few years.

Holbrooke Dies

Richard Holbrooke, the diplomat sent out by various presidents to sow harmony and accord in nettlesome places such as Bosnia, Pakistan and Afghanistan, died from a tear in his aorta, literally a broken heart. Before passing on to that great peace conference in the sky, Mr. Holbrooke had a brief contretemps with his surgeon, who told him it was important that he relax before the operation.

Holbrooke: “I can’t relax. I’m worried about Afghanistan and Pakistan."

According to a report in the Washington Post, Holbrooke’s last words were: “You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan,” not quite as revealing as the reputed last words of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche – “More mask” – but close.

In a dusty New York Times article, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was given the job in the Obama administration that Mr. Holbrooke wanted, characterized the late peacemaker’s diplomacy as “the kind of robust, persistent, determined diplomacy the president intends to pursue.” Reminded of his sometime overbearing qualities, Mrs. Clinton responded in mock surprise, “Gee, I’d never heard that he could be any of those things before" and, turning serious, added “Occasionally he has to be, you know, brought down to earth and reined in.”

A cartoon by Bob Englehart of the Hartford Courant shows Mr. Holbrooke advancing on a starry night in which an exploding star heralds “Peace on Earth.”

To be sure, Holbrooke, at the tail end of his career, was handed a tough card. Brief eras of peace on earth historically have followed conclusive wars. Successful diplomacy is aided by successful wars. Successful wars are most often hampered by inept diplomacy. It was much easier for the Prime Minister of Britain to negotiate with the Germans after the successful prosecution of World War II; negotiations with Hitler’s regime before the conclusion of the war were not, as Prime Minister Chamberlain discovered, a road to peace.

Possibly Holbrooke realized the limits of diplomacy during wartime; if so, the realization could only have added to his frustration, now mercifully over.

God loves the peacemakers, we are told. Those who believe in the Christian message will have the courage to think that Mr.Holbrooke, no longer brought down to earth, has been raised up and is, at last, at peace.

Good Morning Governor-Elect Malloy – More Debt

Over at “Raising Hale,” investigative reporter for the Yankee Institute Zach Janowski lifted up another rock and found underneath it more state debt.

"Connecticut’s unpaid obligation to provide healthcare benefits for retirees could reach $40 billion by 2017 if elected officials fail to act, according to a December estimate."

Bottom line: “Milliman (a firm that produces estimates for the Comptroller’s office) estimated the state will owe nearly $45 billion of healthcare benefits to retirees in 2017.”

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New Haven Register Raps DeLauro, Larson

U.S. Reps Rosa DeLauro and John Larson, both from safe Democratic districts, voted against censuring disgraced U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel before they voted for censuring him, according to a story in the New Haven Register.

Rangel was head of the powerful House tax writing committee before he decided to cheat on his taxes.

This is what Rangel did:

• He paid discount rates for his three rent controlled apartments in New York when, legally, he was eligible only for a single unit.

• He failed to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets on congressional disclosure forms.

• He failed to pay taxes on rental income from a home in the Dominican Republican.

• He saved a tax loophole worth many millions of dollars for an oil drilling company that donated to a school to be named for Rangel at City College of New York.

• He violated ethics rules by soliciting for the school on congressional stationery and using taxpayer money to mail his fund-raising requests.

The paper commented on the defection of Larson and DeLauro:

“Despite this horrendous record, two members of the state’s congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-1, and U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-3, thought Rangel’s conduct merited only a reprimand, instead of censure, the harshest condemnation short of expulsion from Congress.

“The pair voted to reprimand Rangel, apparently agreeing with one supporter of the measure that nothing Rangel did was dishonest or corrupt. When that measure was soundly defeated, DeLauro and Larson voted for censure.”
The Larson-DeLauro vote for a reprimand, the paper averred is “a symptom of the insiders club in Washington that allowed Rangel to think he could do what he wanted, regardless of the laws and rules he had sworn to uphold.”

Well said.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Amazing Greeks

Check this out. It may be Greek to you, but to the ancient Greeks it was a mathematical computer that forecasted celestial events.


By Natalie Sirkin

“The federal bureaucracies en masse are exogenous factors weighing on an economy that is taxed, regulated and coerced almost to death” -- Donald A. Benedetti

The rationale for the food-safety act is food-contamination. Has there been any? Indeed there has. Examples are E. Coli and salmonella outbreaks in peanuts, eggs, lettuce, peppers, potatoes, spinach, and a million pounds recalled of sausage and salami. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 5,000 people die every year from food-contamination and 76,000 people are hospitalized.

These problems come from large-scale industrial food production or industrial agriculture, not from the small farmers covered by the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010—but “one size fits all.” Safety is the rationale for the bill, fueled by competition to industrial agriculture from organic farmers whose business is growing rapidly.

The Senate’s food safety bill, S.510, passed easily last December 7 with a vote of 73-25. But the bill contains provisions calling for fees which, like taxes, add to the revenue of the government, that the Constitution says must originate in the House. So the following day, December 8, the House bill was taken up in the House and, amidst lobbying by hundreds of thousands opponents, it squeezed through by 212-206.

Originally, food safety was a House bill, HR 2749, passed long ago in June of 2009. It gives the Food and Drug Administration the right to recall food products. The Senate bill mandates more frequent inspections of food-processing plants. It requires food makers to have food-safety plans. It even gives authority and responsibility to the Environment Protection Agency to assist state, local, and tribal governments in decontaminating and recovering from food emergencies.

FDA can conduct warrantless searches of business records even if there is no evidence that a law was broken.

FDA is empowered to quarantine an entire contaminated output over a wide geographic area. Prior to this bill, FDA could do those things but needed a warrant.

Businesses, associations, importers, and other entrepreneurs involved in production, storage, and transportation of food must register, which costs $500. That provision has been deleted from the Senate bill for firms whose revenue is under $500,000 in the most recent three years and who sell directly to consumers or restaurants within 275 miles of where the food is produced. (Most of the provisions noted in this column are in the original House bill, which the representatives considered superior to the Senate bill.)

The House bill declares that if you have a garden and have sold some surplus to your neighbor, you have to register.

FDA can without good reason descend upon a food maker’s place of business, search it, and make off with produce or books of record. The cause for the raid could be trite. The owner could have advertised—and this has happened—that food supplements could lower the blood-sugar levels of pets or that vitamin keep animals healthy.

The bill demands fees which can be “ruinously expensive” for small farmers.

In the event of a “major contamination” or an emergency, all farms will be put under the Homeland Security Department.

The language is vague. The House bill mandates FDA to facilitate “harmonization of American food laws with Codex Alimentarius,” a controversial international reference standard drawn up by the United Nations in the 1960s.

Paperwork infractions are subject to a fine of $500,000 for a single offense. Violation of an FDA regulation is subject to a fine of up to $100,000 or ten years in prison. Organic farmers or retailers could be subjected to requirements contravening their standards, like use of pesticides or fertilizers.

The bill gives the FDA the right to dictate how crops are grown and how food is produced. FDA can determine that seeds are not “safe” unless the crop is genetically modified. It can require all farms to adopt the modification.

In short, FDA bureaucrats are the central planners of 21st century agriculture. Lacking the knowledge and experience of farmers, they have the authority of Maoist dictators. Mao dictated “deep plowing, close planting, and heavy fertilization,” that every Chinese peasant had to follow, which produced “catastrophic crop failures,” according to sinologists Miriam and Ivan London in their article “The Other China, Hunger.” The Londons studied China and Chinese agriculture over ten years. The food shortage developed into a nation-wide famine, starving over fifty million to death in 1959 through 1962 and beyond. Parallels notwithstanding, of course no one could imagine that that could ever happen here.

Incidentally, the FDA does not control all food. The Department of Agriculture still has jurisdiction over 20 percent, including cup cakes in bakeries.

Food-safety whistleblower Dr. Shiv Chopra of Canada comments:

“If accepted [the food-safety bill] would preclude the public’s right to grow, own, trade, transport, share, feed and eat each and every food that nature makes. It will become the most offensive authority against the cultivation, trade and consumption of food . . .”

By Natalie Sirkin


Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Scales Fall From Some Democrat’s Eyes

That sound we hear is the scales falling from the eyes of prominent Democrats.

For the first time in 20 years the funds Connecticut holds to meet its pension obligations has dipped below 50 percent, according to an actuarial valuation prepared by Cavanaugh Macdonald Consulting of Kennesaw, Ga.

The fund, now at a 45% level, is due to dip further when another $100 million pension contribution deferred in the current year kicks in.

The state legislature has been dipping into the fund to pay for budget deficits as often as key legislators thought no one would notice.

Winking at the many pilferings of the fund in the past, some Democrats have now awakened to their responsibilities.

"We know we have to get things back on track," said Rep. John Geragosian, D-New Britain. Mr. Geragosian, co-chairman of the legislature's Appropriations Committee, is now fully awake and on the job.

"This is one of many challenges that we have to begin dealing with in the next session,” Mr. Geragosian said.

Bully for him; better late than never; wonderful what a new Democratic governor has done for drowsy Democratic legislators… and so on and so forth.

CtMirror reports: “A May 2009 concession deal negotiated by Gov. M. Jodi Rell and ratified by state employee unions and the General Assembly deferred $214 million in pension contributions over the past two fiscal years, and allowed another $100 million deferral this year.”

These deferrals were little more than gimmicks, and having campaigned on a “no gimmick” platform, it is expected that Governor-elect Dan Malloy will be able to reduce the debt burden through union concessions.

Both the state debt, projected at $3.67 billion for the next fiscal year, and long term pension obligations no doubt weigh heavily on the minds of the incoming governor and Democratic legislative leaders, now fully awake.

Mr. Malloy has offered no details concerning concessions from state workers, but his passion to right the ship of state peeks through his rhetoric.

The depressing figures, Mr. Malloy said, provide yet “another reminder of just how deep a hole our state is in. The news is grim, the decisions are tough and the sacrifices will be many in order to get Connecticut's fiscal house in order. But let me be clear: we will get there."

There is some indication that we will not get there by bonding. Some large bonding issues, including funding of $81 million for 38 new rail cars, were thrown into doubt recently when two prominent Democrats – U.S. Senator-elect Richard Blumenthal and Lieutenant Governor-elect Nancy Wyman -- failed to show up at a bond hearing. During his campaign for the senate, Mr. Blumenthal joked that he had been known to show up at garage sales. The media noticed his absence.

Mr. Blumenthal begged off, he said, because “I thought that it was inappropriate for me to vote on major bonding decisions just a few weeks before my leaving office and a newly elected administration assuming responsibility for huge state budget challenges."

Apparently, Mr. Blumenthal is not at all worried that the continuing cataract of press releases issuing from the attorney general’s office under his name will force incoming attorney general George Jepsen to press forward with litigation preferred by Mr. Blumenthal before Mr. Jepsen has had an opportunity to review the legacy left him by the senator-elect. During his own campaign, Mr. Jepsen indicated he might plot a somewhat different course than Mr. Blumenthal.

When Mr. Blumenthal arrives in congress, he will find a man-sized budget deficit awaiting him. Here in Connecticut, he has missed a rare opportunity to practice voting “no” on measures that are unaffordable, given the depth of Connecticut’s red ink. In deference to a conscientious regard for duty, not to mention his future congressional constituents, Mr. Blumenthal easily could have showed up at the meeting and voted “yes”, “no” or abstained from voting, giving his reasons for doing so to Connecticut voters. Slinking off to congress having avoided a vote important to Connecticut taxpayers marks a timid ending to a career as an attorney general full of pluck and seemingly endless public visibility.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Malloy To Democrats: No Rising Tide Anytime Soon

John Kennedy, a president who was more conservative than most people are willing to acknowledge, is famous for having said that a rising tide lifts all the boats. He meant that in periods of economic growth increasing business activity favors everyone, rich and poor alike. The same tide that lifts yachts lifts dinghies. The same inrushing tide that makes gold plated investors squeal with delight also fills the coffers of state and national treasuries, portions of which are distributed to the needy.

Governor-elect Dan Malloy, waiting anxiously to step into Governor Jodi Rell’s shoes, has been insistent on the point that the tide will not rise anytime soon in Connecticut, one of the last of the smaller boats to be lifted as recessions recede on the crest of rising waters. During the last recession in the early 90s, it took Connecticut a full ten years to recover jobs lost in the state during the recession. That was more than a decade ago, and since that time, times have changed considerably.

The former insurance capital of the world took a hit because insurance companies, now roughly battered by a recession as well as a command economy engineered in Washington DC, took a hit. Connecticut’s treasury relies on wealth producers in the finance industry. When financial houses took a hit during the current recession, the tide that filled Connecticut’s treasury when the good times rolled receded, resulting in a massive budget gap.

In the good old days, Republican governors and a Democratic majority in the legislature recklessly increased spending, more than doubling the budget within the administrations of three governors. Betting that the good times would last forever, Democratic legislative leaders and the outgoing governor fiddled while Connecticut burned. They are fiddling still – waiting and hoping a high tide might rescue them from the necessity of telling the interests they so generously represent that they must do more with less.

Unspecified structural changes in Connecticut’s operations and finances should have been implemented long ago, Mr. Malloy told the House Democratic majority in a recent speech.

"They should've been done earlier. They should have been done by the governor. They should have been done by the legislature. Now I have to do them." Democrats, he noted, have pinned their hopes on a recovery. But reality dictates a different course. “We've got to turn the corner on that, and our aspirations are undoubtedly going to be delayed."

Recognizing that the state budget has for years over promised, Republicans who acknowledge that some tax increases may be necessary this time around will favor permanent spending cuts and temporary self lapsing tax increases. Democrats, as usual, will favor temporary spending cuts and permanent tax increases, preferably levied on those they imagine “can afford to pay.”

The coming political struggle will turn on these pivots, Republicans very likely will favor a broad based income tax less subject to downturns in the economy, while Democrats will favor, as usual, a more volatile progressive tax on so called “millionaires” who earn more than $250,000 per year.

It remains an open question whether Mr. Malloy will be able to navigate successfully in these roiling waters. Speaker of the House Chris Donovan listened patiently to Mr. Malloy’s remarks, but it is well known that he and his House caucus have not in the past bowed their necks to inevitable structural changes involving significant long term union sacrifices.

Mr. Malloy will present his first budget to the Democratic dominated General Assembly in February. Acknowledging there will be disagreements between the new governor and his caucus, Mr. Dovovan, who appears to have some reservations concerning a possible bailout from Washington under a regime no longer dominated by a national Democratic veto-proof majority, has expressed his willingness to “dialogue” with Mr. Malloy, a baby step in what may be a more promising direction.

During his tete a tete with Donovan’s caucus, Mr. Malloy sought fairly to distribute blame for the misapprehension that Connecticut’s economy will be self repairing without sacrifices made by responsible legislators. All but a handful of people within the Democratic caucus, Malloy told a reporter, fell into the mistaken notion that good times were a’ coming round the bend. The members of the Democratic caucus he addressed were not bad people; they were “overly optimistic.”

After February, when Mr. Malloy presents his budget to the Democratic dominated legislature, what V. I. Lenin used to call the “correlation of forces” will be much clearer.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Dick Blumenthal Chooses VP Of Abortion Provider As Chief Of Staff

U.S. Senator-elect Dick Blumenthal, the attorney general formerly known as “Richard,” has chosen as his chief of staff Laurie Rubiner, vice president for public policy for abortion provider Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA).

“A couple of months ago,” Courant columnist Kevin Rennie notes on his blog, “Planned Parenthood went on the hunt for ‘misogynistic photos of women and WWE.’ They wanted to use them against Republican Linda McMahon in her race against Blumenthal, according to a Politico report. The McMahon campaign raised questions at the time of coordination between Blumenthal’s campaign and Planned Parenthood. Those charges look today like they were on target.”

Did He Or Didn’t He?

Both Sen. Chris Dodd and Governor Jodi Rell, two long serving Connecticut politicos, are retiring. Mrs. Rell, who made a name for herself as an ethicist following the collapse of Governor John Rowland’s administration, has been roundly criticized for tapping lobbyists to pay for her send-off, which included a testimonial dinner that raised an estimated $60,000 for an endowment to help establish a public service education center in her name at the University of Hartford.

Mr. Dodd is doubtful that departing politicians should be memorialized by having such things as bridges and roads named after them. No bridges please, he told WFSB’s Dennis House on “Face The State.” Of course, if the name is attached to something appropriate, then that would be appropriate. The University of Connecticut named a building housing the Senator Tom Dodd archives after his father.

Chris Dodd’s legacy will be christened by a leftist organization, Connecticut Citizens Action Group on Friday, December 10. The invitation honoring Dodd, according to a piece in the Hartford Courant written by Chris Keating, was sent out to pretty much everyone who is anyone in Connecticut’s Democratic Party:

“The invitation covers most of the entire Democratic hierarchy in the state most of the entire Democratic hierarchy in the state, including U.S. Reps. John B. Larson, Rosa DeLauro, Chris Murphy, and Joe Courtney. The state's constitutional officers will also be there - Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, Comptroller Nancy Wyman, Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, and Treasurer Denise Nappier.

“Among legislators, the group includes House Speaker Chris Donovan, House Majority Leader and soon-to-be-Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, and Sen. Edith Prague, among others.

“The invitation includes a wide variety of present and former officeholders, union activists, lobbyists, and party stalwarts, including Judy Blei, Catherine Blinder, Frank Borges, Leo Canty, Nick Carbone, Luis Cotto, Scot X. Esdaile, Paul Filson, Laura Jordan, Mary Phil Guinan, Rick Melita, David Pudlin, Simsbury First Selectman Mary Glassman, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, state AFL-CIO chief John Olsen, and Ted Kennedy, Jr., among others.”

One name conspicuously missing on the invitation is Sen. Joe Lieberman who, Mr. Keating notes, “praised Dodd recently on the floor of the Senate after Dodd's farewell speech.”

Tom Swan, the longtime head of CCAG and also the campaign manager of Ned Lamont’s unsuccessful bid for Mr. Lieberman’s seat in congress, was asked by Keating whether he invited Lieberman to the legacy celebration.

Mr. Swan answered, “He may have gotten an invitation,” which may be translated into anti-Lieberman verbiage as, “He may not have gotten an invitation.”

Surely Mr. Swan, knows whether he or someone in his organization sent Mr. Lieberman an invitation.

Mr. Keating, who is exquisitely polite, did not press the issue. Nor has anyone asked whether Mr. Swan’s liberal lobbying group ought to be in the business of arranging a legacy party for a politician who had in the past cut his jib to Connecticut’s progressive winds, sometimes at the insistence of CCAG lobbyists.

According to Mr. Keating, Mr. Swan characterized Dodd’s actions in congress, no doubt influenced by progressive lobbyists who in turn have been influenced by CCAG, as "’one of the most accomplished legacies of anyone who has served in that institution’ in Washington, D.C. - naming health care reform, credit card reform, and financial reform.

"’CCAG is honored that he was willing to celebrate his legacy and career with us,’ Swan said. ‘It will be a good event. We promise it will not be a boring, dull event.’”

Mr. Swan and Mr. Dodd have not always read from the same page. However, it would have been a far more interesting gathering had Mr. Swan both sent an invitation to Mr. Lieberman and publicized his invitation prior to the event.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Markley Finds DPUC Taxing

The election of Joe Markley to the Connecticut’s General Assembly as a senator is, in the estimation of some Republican activists, on a par with dropping holy water into Hell.

Mr. Markley has shed a few pounds since he first entered the Assembly a little more than a quarter of a century earlier during the Reagan ascendancy. He now looks like a svelte and convivial Mitch Miller, the hair on his head having over the years migrated to his chin.

But looks, as they say, are deceptive. Mr. Markley can quote Shakespeare in polite company; he is more analytical than the usual latte lapping liberal, an adept stump speaker and dead serious about the pernicious effects increasing taxes have on a foundering economy. There is some indication that he’s familiar with Ludwig von Mises’ views on methodological individualism. Mr. Markley is a serious conservative, not at all a lightweight easily dismissed as a Tea Party insurrectionist motivated largely by undifferentiated anger, the usual critical spittle liberals throw at thoughtful oppositionists -- which is not to say that Mr. Markley cannot on occasion be sharp, a estimable virtue that may stand him in good stead in Connecticut’s abysmally arrogant and tin-eared legislature.

These days, perhaps in order to avoid offending perpetually huffy liberals, Mr. Markley describes himself as “a very relaxed firebrand.”

Most recently, Mr. Markley has challenged in court an insufferable presumption of the Department of Public Utility Control, which apparently considers itself a proper tax collecting agency.

When Connecticut transitioned to competitive electric markets some years ago, the state imposed an assessment on electric companies to assure a smooth transition. The assessment, due to expire in 2010 for Connecticut Light & Power customers and in 2013 for customers of United Illuminating, has now been extended indefinitely by a public act that transforms the fee into the kind of tax gimmick that Governor-elect Dan Malloy frowned upon during his election campaign.

Money from the continuing Competitive Transition Assessment (CTA) will be used, under Public Act 10-179, to fund Economic Recovery Revenue Bonds (ERRBs) sold to fund the state’s burgeoning deficit. Before Mr. Markey filed his suit, the state had anticipated selling about $1.3 billion in ERRBs to finance its growing debt, but in mid-November state Treasurer Denise Nappier wrote in a letter to Gov. Jodi Rell, much criticized by leading Democrats for having relied overmuch on gimmicks to balance state budgets, that “There is a potential legal issue that may well affect the timing of the sale, of which you may or may not be aware. Senator-elect Markley has filed a law suit alleging that the underlying statute authorizing the sale of ERRBs supported by utility revenue is an unconstitutional taking. Until this litigation is resolved, our ability to go into the market is questionable.”

In his suit, Mr. Markley argues that the continuing assessment under the new financing order is “will be a direct tax on all electric ratepayers in the State of Connecticut, unrelated to public service companies and utilities.”

According to Markley, nowhere “is the DPUC given the authority to tax residents, businesses or other entities of the State of Connecticut, unrelated to the public service companies. Under the new financing order, the CTA revenues will be a direct tax on all electric ratepayers in the State of Connecticut, unrelated to public service companies and utilities.” Not only is the new order an unconstitutional tax, but the tax itself is unfairly collected because it would not impact electric consumers serviced by municipal electric companies that never had to pay the original CTA.

Mr. Markley’s suit very likely will not be bouncing around in Connecticut’s judicial jungle for too long. In a state used to utilizing gimmicks to plug holes in its budget, any interruption of the money flow quickly engages the interests of tax consumers both inside and outside the legislature. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is required by statute to represent the DPUC on this one. One would like to imagine that Mr. Blumenthal is secretly disappointed because his compassionate heart, usually beating in unison with oppressed and duped consumers, is not on this occasion fully engaged in Mr. Markley’s struggle to bring state agencies in line with constitutional strictures.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Welcome To The One Party State

Governor-elect Dan Malloy, with an impressive assist from big cities such and Bridgeport and New Haven, won the election with enough votes to satisfy pretty nearly everyone, including outgoing Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, which means that Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley, who had pledged during the campaign to settle the state’s massive debt without an tax increase, lost.

The winners in the elections decide all important matters, including the two most important questions in politics: What is to be done, and who decides what is to be done? The answer to the second questions is heavily implicated, as the cops might say, in the first question, since deciders map the future.

Connecticut has now become a one party state, all the deciders being Democrats. For the foreseeable future, the Republican Party will be a loyal opposition that lacks the power to oppose, except on those rare occasions when it may make common cause with moderate legislative Democrats or a governor who has placed himself in opposition to a dominant Democratic legislative caucus. The real power vectors are to be found in the governor’s office and the state legislature, both commanded by Democrats, ever obedient to their traditional interests.

Occasionally, the media may play a role in shaping the direction of these vectors; but in a one party state, its countervailing influence is much diminished. And in a one party state in which the media leans to the left – welcome to Connecticut – the media, as a traditional left of center opposition useful in states that lean to the right, tends to disappear into a power structure that like-mindedly leans to the left, co-opted by a system of governance in which the enemy lies always to its right. Useful news, as opposed to cleverly concealed party propaganda, is for the most part opposition reporting. News is most alive, alert and visible when the media opposes the status quo. It disappears altogether when the media assents internally to a left or right regime. In a one party state in which both the government and the media are either left or right of center, news consumers tend towards cynicism and news producers lose their customers.

Government in a one party state tends to be conducted through movable caucuses that operate behind impenetrable veils either with the assistance or reprobation of a media that is entirely dependant on news shaped by unchallenged governors, administrators and legislators, all working in tandem to advance the interests of the governing sector.

To put it briefly, the power vectors in a one party state bend towards authoritarian rather than democratic means and solutions. In a one party state in which both the media and the governing power is reflexively leftist -- welcome to Connecticut – a feeble opposition from the right can easily be ignored. In a one party state in which an assenting media permits itself to be absorbed by the governing power, intelligent opposition, including the corrective opposition one expects in a vibrant democracy, tends to disappear.

One party states on the right tend to eliminate opposition on the left; one party states on the left tend to eliminate opposition on the right.

The most important attribute of a vibrant democracy is opposition to the status quo.

It is not difficult to paint a picture of the status quo in Connecticut. The General Assembly has been dominated for years by Democrats. Republican governors have done little more than tap the breaks on the state’s forward moving, increasingly progressive spending machine. The inability of two Republican governors and a faux Republican governor, Lowell Weicker, to reign in spending is one of the principal marks of a one party state. For two decades, there has been little effective opposition to spending from the state’s left of center media. And even now that a crippling recession is growling wolf-like at the door, important media outlets continue to insist that scarce money should be dumped into dubious projects such as an improved rail line that will more efficiently carry a hand full of employed commuters across a state teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. The state’s current bonding debt is a little less than $20 billion; its budget debt two years out is about $6 billion.

With the ascension of a Democratic governor, the possibility of an effective opposition to a continuing status quo that will render Connecticut uncompetitive with other states, once the weight of a recession is removed, becomes ever more remote.

That is why some small “d” democrats now are sifting through Mr. Malloy’s past and recent media interviews for indications that he is not captive to a political narrative incapable of restoring Connecticut’s competitive edge in a post recession period. Some cynics would be satisfied with an unambiguous signal that Mr. Malloy’s brake foot is in good order. So far, there is little reason for celebration.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Mr. Dodd's Valedictory Speech

The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones."

So said Mark Anthony in William Shakespeare’s “Julius Cesar” during Cesar’s funeral oration. Anthony, who took no part in the assassination of Cesar, the bloody work of Brutus and others, all honorable men, was determined that the good Cesar did should not be buried with his bones and that the evil done by his assassins should not outlive them.

U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s farewell speech before the senate serves a like purpose. Farewell speeches by senators of long standing and exit interviews recorded in newspapers are like brief autobiographies, and there never yet was an autobiographer who was not the hero of his own reminiscences. Eventually, the encomiums are overwritten by sober historians far removed from the partisan atmosphere that colors all the deeds, evil and good, of their subjects.

Mr. Dodd’s errors in office lie just beneath memory’s skin. His three decades in the senate are hardly ancient history. It may be recalled – though not of course by Mr. Dodd, and especially not in a farewell address to his colleagues in the U.S. Senate -- that Mr. Dodd was the senator who, to speak metaphorically, assassinated the Roosevelt era Glass Steagall Act, a measure that prevented rapacious financial institutions from meddling with the bankbooks of Mr. Dodd’s constituents, as noted by Managing Editor of the Journal Inquirer Chris Powell:

“I suspect,” Mr. Powell noted in an interview a little over a year ago, “that Connecticut's Senate election will be determined more by doubts about Dodd's personal integrity than by doubts about his record, particularly his long subservience to Wall Street. That will be too bad, since, in providing what turned out to be the crucial support for the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act and thereby letting commercial banks and investment houses merge, Dodd bears as much responsibility as anyone for the collapse of the world financial system. His Irish "cottage" and the terms of his mortgages are trivial by comparison, not that those things don't imply his having lost touch with Connecticut, a sense of entitlement as part of the ruling class.”

The crushing Dodd-Frank regulatory bill  may be Mr. Dodd’s feeble attempt at repentance.

It will not be long before the regulations in that bill are offset by exceptions awarded by the commanders of the nation’s new command economy in Washington. Companies too big to fail – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, for instance, both Government Sponsored Entities (GSEs) responsible for the swelling housing bubble the bursting of which preceded the collapse of the mortgage industry in the United States – always have been able to purchase the ears of congressmen prepared to dole out tax dollars to favored failing enterprises.

Before Mr. Mr. Dodd decided not to run for re-election, the Chairman of the Banking committee, always attentive to opportunities, was hauling in campaign dough from major financial institutions, among them Countrywide, the now bankrupt GSE whose CEO, the odious Angelo Mozillo, regarded Mr. Dodd as a “Friend Of Angelo.” Mr. Dodd recently pointed to a lack of reform in Fannie and Freddie as one of the biggest gaps in the new legislation.

In his Senate Swan Song, Mr. Dodd also lamented that “Powerful financial interests, free to throw money about with little transparency, have corrupted the basic principles underlying our representative democracy. And, as a result, our political system at the federal level is completely dysfunctional."

He signed off by quoting from 2 Timothy 4:1 – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

The author of those words, concerned that Christians following him in later years would “turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths,” earned his crown of suffering and kept the faith by dying for it. St. Paul suffered martyrdom near Rome at a place called Aquae Salviae (now Tre Fontane), somewhat east of the Ostian Way, about two miles from the splendid Basilica of San Paolo fuori le mura, which marks his burial place.

Mr. Dodd, no doubt, will enjoy a more pleasant end. It has been rumored that Mr. Dodd has been offered a job as chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America. Should Mr. Dodd accept the position, he will earn a handsome salary of a little over a million a year. Should he decline the offer, his future still promises to be more remunerative than that of St. Paul -- and his final years less agonizing.

Monday, November 29, 2010

CCX, the Short Happy Life of CO2

It became clear to Professor Richard Sandor that Global Warming offered a great opportunity to investors to decrease carbon dioxide and make a profit. Since CO2 is in everything, energy would have to be decreased. How is this to be done? By permitting the voluntary trading of carbon credits by buyers and sellers.

Manufacturers emitting CO2 would need a permit to increase the CO2 they needed to produce. Firms having a surplus of permits, having no need of the surplus, would be able to sell the surplus in the free market to the manufacturers needing it.

So Richard Sandor, professor of business at Northwestern University in Chicago, applied to the Joyce Foundation in Chicago for a $1.1 million start-up grant for voluntary buying and selling permits-to-emit carbon dioxide. Between 1994 and 2002, Barack Obama sat on the Board of the Joyce Foundation.

Sandor’s voluntary exchange system would be available and might become mandatory—and profitable—with the passing of a Cap-and-Trade bill. The exchange might become very valuable, and might ultimately involve $10 trillion. (Environmentalists thought $500 billion.)

Sandor, for his creativity and ingenuity, was named “Hero of the Planet” by TIME Magazine in 2002 and “Hero of the Environment” in 2007.

The prospect of such a system of exchanges attracted ALGore’s Generation Investment Management and several former partners of Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs itself bought a 10% stake in it in 2006. Motorola, DuPont, Ford, and hundreds of other investors joined in, seeking a seat at a new capacious Global Warming table. Franklin Raines, CEO of Fannie Mae, figured out how to extend carbon-trading on the exchange to include residences. He purchased it and got a patent on it.

The Waxman-Markey Cap-and-Trade bill passed the House. But by the time the Kerry-Boxer Cap-and-Trade bill was to be brought to the Senate, the recession had begun and ClimateGate was emerging. The ClimateGate scandal developed as e-mails from the Climate Research Unit of East Anglia University divulged the manipulation of data to conceal the decline in global warmth.

The Senate was unlikely to pass the bill. The two biggest losers were AlGore and Goldman Sachs, according to Investors Business Daily.

Sandor sold his 16.5% interest in what had become his Chicago Climate Change Exchange (CCCX) for $98.6 million, making him the hero of still another population subgroup, the “take the money and run,” records the Investors Business Daily.

How well did ALGore and Goldman Sachs do on balance? Steve Milloy, blogger of Pajamas Media and the source of this intelligence, does not hazard an answer.

On October 21, the Chicago Climate Exchange announced the end of carbon trading. The Exchange was sold for $600 million to the Intercontinental Exchange, which is traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The price had fallen to ten cents for a ton of CO2. (The highest price ever reached was $7.)

The failure of the CCCX was completely overlooked by the media. They never even mentioned it, as a lexus-nexus search has indicated. The news was ultimately published in a short editorial, “Cap and Retreat,” in The Wall Street Journal of November 20-21. (Whether any other medium mentioned CCCX’s failure between the time of the lexus-nexus and November 20-21, is not known.)

That’s not the end of climate exchanges, however. A climate exchange exists in Europe (ECX). It exists in countries that have signed the Kyoto Protocol, for that document mandates carbon caps. The U.S. never signed the Protocol.

So too does the selling and buying of permits-to-emit CO2 exist or potentially exist in California. An attempt to postpone it was defeated in the November 2 election. The defeated provision would have suspended the carbon-emissions cap requirement till the California unemployment rate should have fallen to 5.5%. (Its rate was then 12.4%.) Californians perhaps misunderstood the provision, for it will impose enormous costs on them.

How does this happen? The U.S. Government is supposed to set a cap on the total amount of CO2 that can be emitted nationally. Companies then sell or buy permits to cover their excess of CO2 tonnage, or their need for it, in their production process. Over time, the government regularly reduces the total.

The amount companies buy is comparable to a tax, which is why The Wall Street Journal always refers to the bill not as Cap-and-Trade but as Cap and Tax.

The tax—the cost of the permit—is passed on to every customer, at level after level if there is more than one level, and to the eventual consumer, in the goods or services he buys.

The objective of the law is to raise the price that consumers have to pay. That will raise the cost of gas and electricity, so that consumers will consume less. The added cost will appear in everything consumers buy or use. It is thought to become the highest of all taxes.

It is estimated that the annual cost to a California family of four would be $1,870 by 2020, and $6,800 for a family of four by 2035. In Britain, which has been living with this carbon-cutting tax for a few years, an average family pays $1,300 a year.

Sic transit “North America’s only cap-and-trade system for all six greenhouse gases, with global affiliates and projects worldwide,” as the CCCX called itself.

By Natalie Sirkin

The Moody-Bannon

With the departure of the Jodi Rell administration – all good things must end – Lisa Moody, a punching bag for people who did not want, for whatever reason, to punch Mrs. Rell, will also leave the stage, to be replaced by Tim Bannon, Gov. Elect-Dan Malloy’s Chief of Staff.

Mr. Bannon, among other accomplishments, is the very first gubernatorial chief of staff in Connecticut to have appeared as a character in a comic strip. T.F. Bannon, of the firm Torts, Tarts & Torque, an early character in Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury,” was patterned after Mr. Bannon, a school chum of Trudeau’s when the two were terrorizing Yale together, Mr Bannon as chairman and Mr. Trudeau as Editor in Chief of the Yale Record, America's oldest humor magazine.

The use of a major domo to deflect criticism from the chief is considerably older than the friendship between Mr. Bannon and Mr. Trudeau, who likely will not reinsert Mr. Bannon into his strip any time soon.

Though she was perfectly capable of thinking for herself, Queen Victoria had Disraeli to serve as a buffer protecting the Queen from the slings and arrows deployed against her administration from Fleet Street. George Bush’s straw man was Vice President Dick Cheney, said to be his brain mostly because the president, like Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Bannon a graduate of Yale, was thought to have none. That is how Mr. Bush, wandering through Mr. Trudeau’s panels as an empty-headed Roman warrior’s helmet, was depicted in Mr. Trudeau’s strip. One looks in vain to Mr. Trudeau’s for a similar comic treatment of President Barack Obama, whose vices do not include the bogeyman of Yale graduates -- stupidity.

It is obvious that Mr. Trudeau likes Mr. Bannon, whom he describes as “brilliant, competent and integrity itself.” Affection is a wet blanket that stifles the burning embers of comedy. Most political cartoonists are unapologetically fierce. What is the point of having absolute power if you are not willing to abuse it, a famous caricaturist once asked?

No, given Mr. Trudeau’s obvious tilt to the left, it will not do to poke fun at the Malloy regime, which promises to be, on the state level, a repeat in a minor key of the national script rolling out of Mr. Obama’s administration: Get the economy moving again with large-scale capital spending projects; turn the millionaires, hereafter defined as anyone making more than $250,000 per annum, upside down and shake the money from their pockets into the state treasury; spend more money on education -- there can never be too many failing urban public schools; phone Washington and beg for handouts; phone businesses elsewhere in the nation and try to sell them on a state that has a crushing debt, two fiscal years out, of upwards of $6 billion; and prepare to mount a sturdy defense of the Malloy administration by riffing on the theme – it was my predecessors fault; I’m just trying to administer the mess left me by Rell-Moody.

To some extent, Ms. Moody played the same straw man part for Mrs. Rell, a governor who, as a creature of the legislature, was for that reason too willing to arrange collapsing compromises with Democratic leaders fixated on spending tax money lavishly and swelling the ranks of their union supporters.

The lamb that has survived the slaughter is bound to have a cousinly regard for the lamb led to the slaughter. "I think he's one of the smartest people I've ever met,'' Moody said of Bannon.” He's a man of uncommon intellect. He has very high integrity, is very much a hard worker, and he will thrive as chief of staff. He's going to learn to become a juggler, a confidant, a task-master on occasion, a buffer, and a constant multi-tasker.''

At this point, the skies are empty and blue. But major unaddressed problems do not disappear when administrations change. If Mr. Malloy is serious about cutting spending, as his campaign rhetoric indicated, his struggle in office will be similar to that of Rell-Moody, and there is every reason to believe that Mr. Malloy, whose cranial matter appears to be in good order, will sometimes stumble, possibly over the feet of Speaker of the House Chris Dovovan.

No administration is entirely transparent or fault free. When the pratfalls occur, Mr. Bannon, taskmaster and buffer, will be on hand to upright his boss and even, should the occasion warrant, take a media bullet for him. It will be very interesting to see at that point whether Connecticut's left of center media will applaud him for his self sacrificial bravery.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

Boardwalk Blumenthal’s Pungent Prose

A media release on the day after Thanksgiving – Don’t these guys ever give it a rest? – provides a perfect example of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s pungent  prose.

Mr. Blumenthal, who resembles no one so much as the odious, libidinally tortured Agent Nelson Van Alden on “Boardwalk Empire,” this time has been smitten by a credit card issued under sex-pot Kim Kardashian’s name, the infamous Kardashian Kard.

Here is the unexpurgated media memo from the attorney general:

“Lose it before you use it -- ought to be this card’s motto,” Blumenthal said.

“Keeping up with the Kardashians is impossible using these cards -- laden with pernicious and predatory fees that swallow card value.

“These cards are feckless financial tools designed to promptly diminish in value with virtually every transaction -- and even when consumers don’t use the card at all.

“This card -- or kard -- appears to specifically target young adults in evoking the name and image of the Kardashian family who showcase lives of luxury and extravagance. Known for their reality show -- Keeping up with the Kardashians -- the family is marketing a dangerous financial fantasy.

“Ironically, the Kardashian Kard will distance consumers from the financial abundance key to the Kardashian’s lifestyle. Consumers lose money before they can use it with this card.

“The card is filled with gotcha fees and charges, such as $99.95 annual fees, $7.95 monthly fees (after the first year), ATM withdrawal fees, bill pay fees, loading fees -- and even charges for talking to a live operator at their service center, and a card cancellation fee.

“My office is seeking more details from University National Bank -- the card issuer -- about its numerous fees and financial penalties, and raising concerns about potential threats to consumers, particularly young adults.”

There is more, but all good things, must have an end – even Mr. Blumenthal’s shameless self promotion.

His replacement, George Jepsen, promises to be more modest in fulfilling the apparently limitless responsibilities of his office. Whether Mr. Jepsen plans to refer Ms. Kardashian to criminal authorities for prosecution is not known at this time.

Asked to comment on Mr. Blumenthal’s letters to her, Ms. Kardashian might have remarked, “Blumenthal who?”

Some in Connecticut would envy Ms. Kardashian her blissful ignorance.

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