Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Where’s The Parade?

President Barack Obama is due to end the war in Iraq – with a speech. It should be brought to a close with a parade – several parades, in fact.

Obama no doubt will mention in his speech his own valiant efforts to bring to a close the war in Iraq, without over emphasizing the role played by lesser lights such as ex-President George Bush, whose successful efforts, after frequent failures, to implement a successful war strategy implemented by General David Petraeus were vigorously opposed by congressional Democrats and a left wing media that dubbed Petraeus “General Betray-Us.” Obama's view of the surge at the time it was proposed was not ambivalent.

The left’s misgivings about the war are replicated in statements recently made by Connecticut’s Democratic congressional delegation on the occasion of Obama’s formal declaration announcing an end to direct military engagement by American soldiers in Iraq and the withdrawal of all but 50,000 support troops remaining in the country to serve in an advisory capacity.

Rep. Jim Himes, a 4th District Democrat, is happy that a “sorry” chapter in American foreign policy finally will be closed. “What did we really achieve,” Himes asked, “apart from removing one awful dictator who had nothing to do with Sept. 11th? We paid far, far, far too high a cost to achieve those things.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauro said the Iraq war was “misconceived” and "a colossal waste of resources and people." The situation in Iraq, DeLauro noted, “remains precarious” even though some troops will remain in the country in an advisory capacity.

DeLauro has not ventured an opinion as to whether the precarious situation might have been made more precarious had Democrats been successful in bringing combat troops home before Petraeus’ strategy had been allowed to succeed. Nor has she rated the present precarious situation in Iraq with the present precarious situation in Afghanistan, a war about which she may have misgivings.

Rep. Joe Courtney rated the withdrawal of combat troops “a significant milestone,” warned the U.S. against “taking a victory lap,” and said the “jury is still out” on the question: Did the Iraq war make us safer or not? Courtney lamented the effect that the presumably successful war in Iraq had on the status of the United States: “…we paid a very heavy price in terms of our… standing in the world.”

A reasonable man, Courtney might agree that U.S. standing in the world would have received a more fatal blow had some anti-war Democrats been successful in prematurely withdrawing troops and aid before the Petraeus surge. And, of course, the now successful venture in Iraq, which ridded the country of a mass murdering tyrant and planted the still tender shoots of democracy in his wake, is a grievous disappointment to Iran, a country that thinks of itself as a more vigorous center of Wahhabi doctrine and Hanbali law than Saudi Arabia and – now that it has acquired, with the help of China, a facility to shoot rockets into Israel – a nuclear tipped force to be reckoned with in the Middle East.

A victory lap, and more especially a victory parade, would be crassly premature. But a welcome home parade – several welcome home parades – might be therapeutic and unifying.

Post-war parades are therapeutic because they signal a terminus, permanent or temporary, to a national agony. Welcoming home parades are unifying because they allow those with different viewpoints to stand together in honor of returning troops.

Early in March 2007, Rep. John Larson of the impregnable 1st District unleashed his Iraq Bill, which repealed congressional authority to use force in Iraq. Larson and Sen. Chris Dodd were very much interested at the time of “reversing the Bush doctrine of unilateralism:

“The bill, which is binding,” Larson noted, “would repeal the authorization for use of military force against the Iraq resolution from 2002. It also outlines ways in which the Bush doctrine of unilateralism and preemption have ignored the precedence of past foreign policy and diplomacy; a policy that has exacerbated the situation in Iraq and has forced us to neglect the situation in Afghanistan. It provides for a sense of Congress asking for a new vote on the war in Iraq based on the current situation, calls for abandonment of the Bush doctrine of preemption and unilateralism, while realigning U.S. foreign policy by enhancing diplomatic relations in the region and redirecting critical support to Afghanistan enabling more aggressive pursuit of Osama Bin Laden and other terrorist organizations.”

Larson’s bill, regarded by some as little more than a campaign document, would have made it impossible for Obama, the titular head of Larson’s party, to bring home the remaining American troops to “Welcome Home” parades – one to be held in New York, another in Washington D.C., others in whatever states wish to honor and reward valiant American troops.

In New York, one may imagine the parade winding past a reviewing stand placed at ground zero. And why not invite some prominent imams in the city to share the stand with city leaders, national leaders and people in New York who would welcome a show of solidarity with the same eagerness with which they would welcome home returning American troops?

In Connecticut – if Brad Davis, Mr. Parade, could be persuaded to organize such an event – the reviewing stand might include the new Democratic war hawks who support, with reservations, Obama’s “war of choice” in Afghanistan.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Blumenthal And The Prostitutes

It is sometimes said – humorously, of course – that prostitution is the world’s second oldest profession, the first being politics. True or not, we do know that politicians make political hay of prostitution. It appears that former Attorney General of New York Elliot Spitzer was en exception to this rule, and it was not until late in his sterling career we understood why: Spitzer was indulging on the side. His pastime cost him his job; it almost cost him his wife. One does not condemn one’s own indulgences and escape being tagged a hypocrite, particularly if one is a demagogic attorney general. If you live in a glass bordello, it’s best not to throw stones.

Attorney General of Connecticut Richard Blumenthal has other hobbies; a best guess might be canasta. We know Blumenthal does not shy from condemning prostitution because several months ago he took off after craigslist, a California based company, with a pitchfork. This suggests that, unlike Spitzer, Connecticut’s attorney general does not indulge and therefore is able to attack facilitators of prostitution with great energy.

Blumenthal’s beef with craigslist has evolved over the few months since he sent his first threatening letter to the company.

Now, no attorney general who is not Spitzer likes prostitution. In fact, no Comstockians like prostitution, with the possible exception of the prostitutes and their “Johns,” who just may, this glaring exception aside, be quite moral in other respects. So, craigslist was an easy target for Blumenthal, a stinking heap of disreputable activity in which Blumenthal could plant his flag to convince voters in Connecticut who are not kindly disposed to his candidacy for the U.S. senate to change their minds. Come on now, someone who hates prostitution can’t be all bad.

But there is a problem – several problems, in fact.

Unlike the attorney general of Massachusetts, Blumenthal is only a civil and not a criminal attorney. And even if he were a criminal attorney, no one of the several attorneys general who Blumenthal has joined in attempting to force the owner of craigslist to give up his “social advertising” has yet alleged that such ads as appear in craigslist are illegal. True, the ads fall under the protection of First Amendment rights of free speech. But as President Barack Obama has reminded us in connection with the attempted building of a mosque near the New York crater where the city’s Trade Center once stood – what is constitutional is not always advisable.

The First Amendment is a daunting hurdle, even for such a high stepping attorney general as Blumenthal. If, for example, you successfully harass the owner of craigslist to surrender his First Amendment rights to publish legal ads on his site, can you, in good conscience, withhold your disapproval from Connecticut newspapers and other media outlets that run similar ads? Might not one of your political opponents charge that you have extended the long arm of your displeasure all the way to California, conspicuously reaching outside your own state, where charges that you are playing fast and loose with the First Amendment might sting and harm your chances to realize your life’s ambition – to become, after January, Connecticut’s junior U.S. senator? What happens in California may, one hopes, stay in California.

There are no sharp differences between the ads in craigslist and – just to cite one instance that might excite Blumenthal’s disapproval – similar ads in the Advocate chain of newspapers here in Connecticut. Last June the Hartford Courant ran a story that should have awakened the interests of those investigators in Blumenthal's office who were exploring the connection between service ads and prostitution.

According to the story, a woman arrested for prostitution in Meriden had been soliciting business through ads she placed on websites and in the Hartford Advocate. The sex ads in the Advocate certainly are splashy enough to grab the attention of the wide-awakes in Blumenthal’s office.

Zachary Janowski, the investigative reporter for the Yankee Institute, reports on his blog, Raising Hale, the reaction to Blumenthal’s actions concerning craigslist:

“Advocate publisher Joshua Mamis said Blumenthal’s actions could lead down a slippery slope.

“’I don’t want to be in the business of policing advertisers and policing our community,’ Mamis said.

“’Do I know that a massage provider is on the up and up,’ he said. ‘I wouldn’t unless I went there myself.’

“’I don’t think the attorney general knows either,’ Mamis added. ‘It all begs the question, what’s the state’s interest in this?’

“Mamis acknowledged that law enforcement officials have ‘named us in their press releases.’

“He also pointed out that the last prominent attorney general to crack down on prostitution, New York’s Eliot Spitzer, had some trouble later in his career.

“’I’m not implying anything. I’m just having fun,’ Mamis said.”

In yet another story, "The Best Little Whorehouse In New Haven," YaleDailyNews reported on Aug.27 that four months after police had raided Star Sauna in New Haven, a new massage parlor, advertising itself in the New Haven Advocate in the paper’s “Massage/Escort” section, was opened in the same location. Both operations offer table showers and full service sex.

The story, written by Jialu Chen, points out that the Asian connected operation in New Haven may have engaged in sex slave trafficking:

“Two major activities of Asian organized crime networks are the trafficking of women from Korea into the United States and the operation of massage parlors that offer Korean prostitutes, according to “Modern-Day Comfort Women: The U.S. Military, Transnational Crime, and the Trafficking of Women,” an article published in the book, “International Sex Trafficking of Women & Children: Understanding the Global Epidemic.” The author, Donna Hughes of the University of Rhode Island, explain that these networks are usually able to re-open massage parlors within days or even weeks of police raids.”
If Blumenthal – a cross between P.T. Barnum and J. Edgar Hoover -- and his inspectors overlooked such readily available information, it may be because the attorney general’s office, hungry for dollars and well publicized moral uplift yet anxious not to alarm First Amendment supporters in Connecticut, did not want to make a mess in their own back yard.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Blumenthal’s Twin Personas

According to a report in the Hartford Courant, Linda McMahon, Republican candidate for the U.S. congress, has received, on a Freedom of Information request, a copy of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s daily calendar.
The calendar entries are sketchy and unencumbered by red meat, reminiscent of the results of an earlier FOIA request made by various parties interested in Governor Jodi Rell’s daily calendar at a time when the governor was being assaulted by her political opponents as a do-nothing figurehead.

Reporter Daniela Altimari notes:

“If last month's entries are typical, the datebook isn't exactly crammed with events.

“In fact, most dates have just one event listed -- and several pages are completely blank. The remainder of the entries involve public events, interviews and the like.

“A sampling:

“Wed., July 14 11:45 a.m.--Interview here w\Fox 61 re: Craigslist

“Thur., July 15 5-8 p.m.--St. Francis Hospital Cancer Center FR @ home of Mark and Barbara Gordon

“Sat., July 17 11 a.m.-- St. Vincent's Park City Regatta 2010 at Fayerweather Yacht Club

“11 a.m.--Deep River Ancient Muster Parade…”

There is a reason for this, according to Mr. Blumenthal’s spokeswoman Tara Downs:

Blumenthal’s attorney general’s calendar, Downs said, "typically has never included any of his daily internal staff meetings or other activities in the office. His calendar generally has recorded invitations, meetings or events involving the general public and others, whether or not he actually attended the events.

"Because many public events may be perceived as political, few -- if any -- are now included on his office schedule [emphasis mine].

"Nothing has changed about Dick's commitment to fighting for Connecticut consumers and taxpayers."

This last claim – that Blumenthal is committed to fighting for Connecticut consumers and taxpayers – a boast made or implied in virtually all the attorney general’s promotions for U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s soon to be vacant seat in the congress, surely points back to Mr. Blumenthal’s exhaustively covered 20 year career as attorney general.

Public events perceived as political, the public is now given to understand by Ms. Downs, will be rescinded from the attorney general’s calendar of appearances. It is for this reason that the present purged calendar looks so thin and wispy.

The people in Blumenthal’s joint attorney general-U.S. senatorial campaign must have a fine sense of discrimination to tell which of Blumenthal’s attorney general appearances are “non-political” in the sense urged by his political supporters.

In fact, there is little division between the twin aspects of Blumenthal’s public persona. The melding of the two positions, that of attorney general and prospective U.S. senator, suggest it may be prudent for Mr. Blumenthal to resign his position as attorney general while pursuing Mr. Dodd’s seat in the congress.

Others – significantly, George Gombossy, once a consumer protection watchdog for the Hartford Courant – have called for Mr. Blumenthal’s resignation as attorney general for having intentionally misrepresented his military service, a claim that has leeched into Mr. Blumenthal’s senatorial campaign.

The bulwark Mr. Blumenthal hopes to erect between his twin personas – but only when it suits him -- will not hold back the tide.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Blumenthal The Ahab of Attorneys General

Not for nothing was Attorney General Richard Blumenthal kept on the American Enterprise Institute’s first spot listing of worst attorneys general in the United States for the last few years. Only recently did Mr. Blumenthal slip from first place, which presented a rare moment of anguish for the heir apparent to U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s seat in the congress. Blumenthal wore the first place distinction, he said, as a red badge of courage. The AEI is a conservative (read: “bad”) center of sweetness and light, whereas Mr. Blumenthal is, as every careful reader of Connecticut’s icon burnishing media well knows, goodness unalloyed.

Two icon breaking newspapers recently have taken a shot at St. Blumenthal’s solar plexus: the Connecticut Post and the Journal Inquirer, both relying on a comprehensive report written by Bill Cummings, a Post investigative reporter.

Is it possible that some Connecticut papers are heart-sick at being scooped by outliers such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal?

At the center of the criticism aimed at Blumenthal is the dread suspicion that the attorney general, now clumsily juggling his duties as attorney general with his ambitions as a prospective U.S. senator, has used the usufructs of his office unfairly, if legally, to frustrate the severe demands of justice.

"If you are a small business owner,” said attorney Jim Oliver in the Connecticut Post story, “and he sues you for $70,000, and wants $1 million in penalties, life as you know it is over. Your bank accounts are seized. Liens are placed on property and assets. Even if you win, the state will appeal and you will wait another year. You are out if business. You are dead.”

“First the verdict, then the trial,” says the Red Queen in Lewis Carol’s “Alice in Wonderland.” Blumenthal’s inversion might read, “First the punishment, then the trial.” It is a punishment, after all, to deprive a man of the uses of his property before conclusive litigation has affirmed that a charge involving the fraudulent transfer of assets has been made or seriously contemplated.

In the now notorious New England Pellet (NEP) case, an investigator attached to Blumenthal’s office claimed in a sworn affidavit he had reason to believe that the owners of NEP either had or were about to fraudulently transfer assets, the sole claim upon which Blumenthal was able to secure from a judge in an ex parte proceeding the authority to impound the company’s assets. The so called “investigator,” who examined no bank records showing such a transfer, later admitted in a sworn deposition that he had no reason to believe the claim made in his sworn affidavit.

Having first demanded an exorbitant sum in penalties from owners whose assets Blumenthal had impounded, the attorney general, after two years of litigation, settled the case on monetary terms he might have realized from the first without litigation.

The German social critic Karl Kraus, unfriendly to his famous contemporary Sigmund Freud, once said of Freudian psychology that it “was the disease it purports to cure.” In a similar vein, Blumenthal himself causes the problems he purports, in self serving press releases, to cure  -- but only after his victims, deprived of both the means and the spirit to resist what they regard as preposterous “settlements,” collapse in exhaustion at his feet.

And finally, this attorney general cherry picks cases that are likely to cause him the least difficulty with his media homeboys. Before he entered the race for the U.S. Congress, the relentless Dennis House of Face The State questioned Blumenthal, the most popular politician in Connecticut, concerning the attorney general’s apparent reluctance to probe the connections between Dodd and Countrywide.

Below is a faithful transcription of the dialogue pertinent to the issue, along with some explanatory note in [brackets].

There are some interviews in which the public persona of the politician is more than adequately caught. Such is this interview. House could hardly have been aware of its importance at the time. Since the interview -- after which the ethics committee of the senate, still a good old boy’s club, admonished Dodd for being incautious in his relations with Countrywide, an reproof on a par with spitting in one of the senate’s old spittoons – the Wall Street Journal last week, in an explosive editorial, disclosed that Dodd had six mortgages with Countrywide, not the two reported at the time.

House: You are an astute politician. You’ve won many elections. How did he [Dodd, at the time suffering persistent questioning concerning his reluctance to release mortgage contracts he has signed with Countrywide] get into something like this mess?

Blumenthal: You know, he actually has apologized for not disclosing earlier what he did with respect to those mortgages. Now, I have sued Countrywide. I took Countrywide to court to get money back for people Countrywide misled and deceived. That corporation has a lot of answering to do. And I believe that Chris Dodd may regret having waited to disclose some of these facts. But there’s no evidence of wrongdoing on his part, any more than victims who were misled or deceived by countrywide.

House: If countrywide said said, “All right Mr. Blumenthal, we’re going to let you see the documents, but you can’t make copies of them, and you have only a short amount of time like the reporter [who viewed them]. Would that be acceptable?

Blumenthal [cracking a smile]: Well, we subpoena documents. We don’t voluntarily, necessarily accept the representations that are made to us by companies like countrywide. But Chris Dodd has disclosed those documents, has disclosed the facts, and I believe -- the bottom line – that the people of Connecticut will accept his explanation and re-elect him in 2010.

House: I think this new poll shows that 42 percent more people distrust him than do [trust him]. And many people want to see those papers. They’re not satisfied with the answers. And if this gentleman who works for Countrywide comes out and, you know, it’s determined that he’s telling the truth and the senator did know he was getting preferential treatment – then how does that look?

Blumenthal: Again, you know, we can speculate on a variety of potential circumstances that could arise in the future. What we know now is that he [Dodd] has shown the documents, and if he ethics committee of the senate discloses those documents, or if he does, then we can draw conclusions based on those facts.

House: If the ethics committee comes out and determines that Sen. Dodd did commit some wrongdoing along the way, would you challenge him in a primary?

Blumenthal: I have no plans to challenge Chris Dodd in a primary. I have no reason to think there is anything that we will find from the ethics committee that will conflict with what he [Dodd] has said so far. And there is no evidence of wrongdoing. And again, he apologized. He may well regret not having disclosed those documents sooner, because it would have taken a lot of the mystery and questions [out of it].

House: If you were his political advisor, would you tell him to do that?

Blumenthal: He has better political advisors than I, and I…

House: Some might argue with that [laughter], considering your poll numbers.

Blumenthal: [Here, by way of answer, Blumenthal flourishes his attorney general’s red cape] But, you know, I’m doing my job. I’m focused on the challenges and opportunities I have. We’re taking [on] Countrywide again, to sanction them for their breaking security. We’re trying to do something about gender bias in our insurance programs and, of course, internet safety, the challenges of social networking, predatory pornography and [other] initiatives just within the past week. I have plenty to do.

House: You know, the [U.S.] senate seats [in Connecticut] have been held since the 1980’s by the same two men. Do you ever secretly wish to yourself: I wish there were, like, term limits? [Explosive laughter] I mean, you’ve said you want to be a senator, and these opportunities just aren’t coming up.

Blumenthal: You know, the longer I live, the more important I think are having things like: my kids are healthy, everybody’s fine, I love what I do. How could I wish for more? And if I wish for more, the old saying is: Be careful what you wish for. We have two senators, and they’ve served Connecticut. And I enjoy the job I have right now, and I’m going to be asking the people of Connecticut to renew my contract in 2010.

House: Good enough. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, nice to see you again. Thanks for being with us.
The disclosure made by the Wall Street Journal that Dodd had obtained from Countrywide four more mortgages than were reported at the time of the House-Blumenthal interview places the issue of the non-disclosure of facts back on the front burner. In the interview above, Blumenthal manages to sound the notes of a defense attorney when Dodd is before the bar of public opinion, a posture he regularly spurns when pursuing, Ahab-like, his targets of investigation. But now that other of Dodd’s mortgages have been inserted into what House calls in his interview with Blumenthal “this mess,” both  Dodd and Blumenthal , to filch a phrase from the attorney general, “have a lot of answering to do.”

Perhaps House should invite both Democrats, one a departing senator and the other his possible replacement, to appear jointly on his program. House is a more efficient inquisitor than some of the members in the good old boy’s congressional ethics committee. House has no subpoena powers but, even so, he does manage to get answers.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dodd Can't Get No Respect

"Daily Kos"  – a.k.a. Markos Moulitsas, the V.I. Lenin of the progressive movement in the United States, is hot on Elizabeth Warren, President Barack Obama’s prospective choice for the “soon to be born” Consumer Protection Financial Bureau, one of the many mansions in Dodd’s vast regulatory bill, now out of utero in the U.S. Congress.

The Consumer Protection Financial Bureau, as conceived by Dodd in his massive regulatory scheme, will resemble, when fully functioning, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal on steroids. In the entire nation, no industry will be safe from federal molestation, no tear will go unnoticed or unwiped.

Once hot on Warren himself, according Mouletsas, Dodd’s ardor has now cooled:

“Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd has for weeks called into doubt whether Elizabeth Warren can be confirmed to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But for the first time this week, Dodd has called into question whether she's qualified for the job, reversing his earlier position…

“Dodd claims he'll support her if Obama nominates her, but it's clear he's leading the charge for Democrats who don't want to step out on a limb and publicly take her on. He'll be gone from the Senate in January, so he has nothing to lose by carrying water for corporatist, Wall Street-owned Dems. Or maybe his close proximity to Joe Lieberman is rubbing off.”

And, of course, on this site and other frantic progressive watering holes, any mention of the affable Lieberman opens the mandatory scatological sluice gates.

“Really,” Moulitsas fumes, “for a guy that could lay claim to a decent legacy in the Senate [the honorable Chris Dodd], he sure is going out as an asshole.”

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Blumenthal, The Inside Outsider

"Sen. Dodd and I agree on many things, but we also disagree on many things. I'm not reluctant to say that I've never been a part of Washington. I've never been an insider. And I'm happy to be running to stand up for ordinary people." – Democratic Party Nominee Richard Blumenthal

It strains credulity to view Mr. Blumenthal as a political outsider. He has been, variously in his long political career, an administrative assistant to U.S. Senator Abraham Ribbicoff; an aid to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, later a U.S. senator, when Mr. Moynihan was an assistant in President Richard Nixon's White House in 1969; a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun in 1974; U.S. Attorney for Connecticut at the ripe young age of 31; and a volunteer council for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Mr. Blumenthal also wrote for the Washington Post newspaper. These are all Beltway connections. Additionally, Mr. Blumenthal served in the Connecticut State House of Representatives representing the 145th District, and in 1987 he won a special election to fulfill a vacancy in the state Senate at the age of 41. Elected in 1990 as Connecticut’s Attorney General, Mr. Blumenthal has served in that capacity for 20 years. This is not the resume of a political outsider.

In the face of Mr. Blumenthal’s newly minted claim to the contrary, Gregory B. Hladky of the New Haven Advocate noted, somewhat archly, “Looks like Blumenthal's once again handed a self-made baseball bat to Republican Linda McMahon and asked her to whop him over the head.”

The whops were not long in coming:

Statement by Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy Concerning Dick Blumenthal’s Conversion to Free Market Principles and Statements Attacking Sen. Dodd

“’Dick Blumenthal has now abandoned all modicum of decency and courage. He is engaged in moral shape shifting to save his dying campaign.’

“’Tomorrow he might announce he is for off shore drilling and supports extending the Bush Tax cuts – even for Linda McMahon. Oh, and look for him to oppose the mosque near Ground Zero.’”

Mr. Blumenthal, This Is Your Wake Up Call

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s lead, a robust 40% when he first entered the U.S. senate race, has now been whittled down to 7%. The whole of the loss cannot be attributed to his casual relationship with the truth, and only part of it can be put down to Linda McMahon’s millions.

The lady sure knows how to advertise.

Mrs. McMahon’s considerable fortune permits her to sidestep the usual power brokers, including the mainstream media (MSM), who recently stepped up, to little avail, to revive former Rep. Rob Simmon’s moribund and penniless campaign. The MSM has contracted McMahonphobia in part because she is rich. The MSM has always suffered from pecuniaphobia. Note to the reader, if there is a reader: Don’t bother to look it up. The word has been newly minted from the Latin "money" (pecunia) and "fear of" (phobia) and, as its step-father, I fully expect to be credited whenever it is used.

This annoying sidestepping steams the MSM because they want a hand at determining events. In the old days, when the good old boys in the smoke filed rooms determined the make-up of political tickets, esteemed representatives of the MSM were in the room with the rest – political bosses, captains of industry, union leaders, campaign financiers -- smoking up a storm and determining the fate of state and nation.

Times change.

But why does it make sense, some Blumenthal watchers are asking, for the patron saint of citizens oppressed by lawless capitalism to pass his campaign days drowsing in a coffin and declining to confront Mrs. McMahon at every possible opportunity?

Mr. Blumenthal is a perfect target for ad-battering – ONLY if he absents himself from frequent direct engagement. Eventually, even given the support of the MSM he has earned during 20 years of truckling to it as attorney general, that 7% will be whittled away to zero, at which point people are bound to wonder: What are ya a’feared of Mr. Blumenthal?

As attorney general, a righteous wind of 200 and more lawyers at his back, Mr. Blumenthal has been a familiar actor on Connecticut’s political stage for two decades, and no one, during his many press conferences, has seen him blanched, timid, hanging back, drooping with anomie, listless, non-confrontational, docile.

Is this sad sack, some are now wondering, the battling attorney general who brought the cancer causing tobacco industry to heel, fearlessly confronted the makers of Fruit Loops, and valiantly protested erotic service ads on Craig’s list but not, unaccountably, in Connecticut’s Advocate newspapers?

When, Mr. Blumenthal’s fan base is asking, will Achilles come out of his tent and do battle? What the deuce is all the moping about?

Although Mr. Blumenthal has been running for U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s soon to be abandoned seat ever since Mr. Dodd threw in the towel months ago, there is not a single person in Connecticut who could tell you what Mr. Blumenthal’s position is on an array of important issues. His thin soup U.S. Senate campaign site is full of the most glittering generalities.

President Barack Obama, the nominal head of the national Democratic Party, announced on August 14, during an Iftar meal at the White House for Muslims breaking their Ramadan fast, his position on the siting of an Islamic mosque and cultural center close to the cavity in New York where once stood the World Trade Center towers destroyed on 9-11 by jihadist terrorists. The issue certainly is a matter of some importance to Connecticut and other states contiguous to New York. Many Connecticut citizens died in the attack.

Mr. Obama said the United States could not deny a recognized religion, Islam, the same constitutional rights that other religions in the United States enjoy. Muslims, he said “have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country," which includes “the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan… This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are." New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who favors the building of the Mosque and cultural center, dubbed the president’s remarks a "clarion defense of the freedom of religion."

One looks in vain for a similar clarion call in Mr. Blumenthal’s campaign site, which is passing strange, since 9-11 directly touched hearts and minds in Connecticut with its red tooth and claw. Mr. Blumenthal also has a direct family connection to important properties in New York. His wife’s family owns the Empire State Building and other significant properties in the city. In addition, Mr. Blumenthal, as attorney general, has prided himself on a thoroughgoing understanding of both property and constitutional law.

It is a little disconcerting for those who admire such a bold and active attorney general to watch his mind and heart break down as he moves from his present position towards the U.S. congress. If five months before possibly being sworn in as Connecticut’s junior U.S. senator, Mr. Blumenthal cannot venture an opinion on matters of such moment to Connecticut, why should anyone trust him to come down on the right side of all the other important issues unaddressed on his campaign site?

Best on Blumenthal

Possibly the best single piece of journalism written on Attorney General Richard Blumenthal – that has not been written BY Mr. Blumenthal – is this one turned out by Bill Cummings, an investigative reporter for the Connecticut Post.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Obama, The Mosque And Property Rights

President Barack Obama and family stuck their toes in Florida for 26 hours on their way to a ten day family stay at toney Martha’s Vineyard. Peter Nichols of the Tribune’s Washington Bureau explains the motivation for the trip:

“Having urged people to visit the Gulf Coast, the Obamas risked looking elitist, so White House aides arranged the trip to the Florida Panhandle. They got the pictures they wanted. Obama took a dip in the bay and high-fived his daughter, who made a hole in one at a miniature golf course.”
While in Florida, Mr. Obama stuck his toe, once again, into the New York mosque-cultural center controversy.

While he appeared have approved the building of a mosque and cultural center a little more than a stone’s throw from the place where, more than 9 years ago, jihadi terrorists had rubblized the World Trade Center Twin Towers, Mr. Obama now began to massage the message. The nineth anniversary of the terrorist incident in New York is coming around this September 11th.

The earlier message of the former constitutional law professor – that the U.S. Constitution makes no distinction between various faiths but extends the religious protections of the first Amendment to all alike – remained unchanged in Mr. Obama’s new formulation; however, the president wanted his critics to understand that he was not commenting on the “wisdom” of siting the mosque and cultural center so close to the crater where the towers once stood:

"I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there," said the vacationing president.”
Nichols supplies the obvious gloss:

“He was not necessarily endorsing ‘the wisdom’ of putting a mosque at that location. Rather, the former constitutional law professor said he was standing up for the landowners' right to put a mosque on private property, even if the building would be near the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.”
Some of Mr. Obama’s fiercest critics would consider the president’s new found concern for property rights touching. Others on the left who favor those programs of Mr. Obama that impinge on property rights may well consider the emphasis Mr. Obama has placed on them dangerous and alarming.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Essential Blumenthal

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, some Blumenthal watchers will tell you, cannot be left unattended. Like a toddler used to the steadying hand of his nanny, Mr. Blumenthal topples easily when he is left to himself. Propped up by his subalterns – numerous attorneys in his office and, now that he is the front runner in a campaign for the U.S. Congress, any political adepts the Beltway can spare in an important election season for congressional Democrats – Mr. Blumenthal expertly navigates past the political shoals. Left to himself, he shivers the timbers of his handlers.

Recently, Mr. Blumenthal traveled to the Norwalk Inn to celebrate a victory of sorts. Almost eight years ago, the owner of the inn purchased an adjoining property, intending to knock down a house in disrepair that squatted on the property. The owner had no difficulty getting from the town a demolition permit, and he bought the property intending to demolish the long vacant house, which would permit him to expand the Norwalk Inn horizontally.

But the owner’s plans were soon torn asunder. It turned out that the house the property owner wished to level once stood on Grumman’s Hill, no longer there, from which British Revolutionary War Gen. William Tryon watched his troops looting and burning Norwalk. A legend, since discredited, held that Tryon sat in a rocking chair on the hill. The dilapidated house, its windows boarded up and its porch sagging, was very much in need of a patron to restore it.

Blumenthal’s office decided that the patron should be the owner of the Inn, who apparently had purchased a litigatory albatross. In vain did the owner produce his demolition permit. The house, set in an historic district since 1986, was considered historically significant.

Litigation commenced -- and continued for six grueling years, in the course of which, arguing the case himself in Superior Court, Blumenthal maintained the owner had purposely neglected the house he proposed to demolish, frozen for half a dozen years in complex litigation, because he wanted the house to collapse in ruins. Leveling such a meretricious charge is not an effective way to gain friends and influence people, nor could it possibly have improved any negotiation process. The charge urged against Blumenthal by those who oppose his high handed tactics is that he is 90% stick and 10% carrot.

Blumenthal’s charge, as well as the seeming unending litigation, stung because the owner had four years earlier, according to a November, 2006 story in the Norwalk Advocate, proposed to all the disputants in the controversy an offer he thought they could not refuse. The owner offered to refurbish the house or sell it for a dollar to preservationists if he could be certain he would be allowed to add to the Norwalk Inn a third floor, without which he would not be able to afford the rehabilitation.

The inn’s owner, according to the news report, “cited an offer he made in 2002 to save the home if he could build a third story on the inn. Current zoning regulations do not allow a third story.”

The Inn’s owner needed help with a zoning board. He got six years of litigation in the neck.

"The last five years, where were you?” he asked. “We have made offers to you. Nobody responded."

More litigation ensued.

Four years after the knout of litigation, everyone apparently got what they wanted. The owner would restore the house in ruins, a casualty of protracted litigation. It was the time consuming litigation – not any attempt by the owner of the ruined house to sabotage his own property – that brought the house to its knees.

The breakthrough moment came when State Senator Bob Duff and State Representative Larry Cafero intervened to unfreeze the ice. Cafero -- who served as a mediator during the successful year-long negotiation prior to the resolution of the problems – gave a presentation showing the improvements that would be made both to the Norwalk Inn and the historically significant wreck of a house.

Now, at the tail end of the painful process, Mr. Blumenthal would have his moment before the cameras.

At the end of the presentation, Mr. Blumenthal made some brief remarks, as did the President of the Norwalk Preservation Trust and the owner of the inn, pleased that at long last -- pending zoning approval -- he would be given his additional story, without which he could not pick up the tab for repairs. An awkward moment occurred, when Blumenthal mentioned that such legal struggles as occurred during the preceding six years sometimes made friends of the bitterest enemies.

At the end of Mr. Blumenthal’s remarks, Mr. Cafareo said, “Are there any questions? Okay,” and everyone stepped off the dais. There was no pause between Mr. Cafero’s terminal question and his “Okay.” The cameras were immediately shut off.

No one asked the owner of the property if he intended to vote for Mr. Blumenthal, his newfound friend, during the upcoming U.S. senate election.

The cookies provided by the Norwalk Inn owner were irresistible. Mr. Blumenthal, having been suitably attended by the lawyers that came with him and his staff, left on his own steam after a bit of mingling. No awkward moments were recorded after the cameras had been quickly shut down. No hard questions were asked of Mr. Blumenthal. And the abstemious Mr. Blumenthal ate no cookies.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Romash Rage

Mark Davis, a respected newsman at News Channel 8, was made to eat his mic by Marla Romash, a Blumenthal gatekeeper up from the Sodom on the Potomac who used to practice journalism here in Connecticut.

Ms. Romash was both a political flack and a reporter of some merit back in the day.

She even had a robust sense of humor. Once asked whether she liked politics, Ms. Romash -- who ate, drank and slept politics -- brought the house down by saying she liked it better than sex.

Apparently, Washington has made Ms. Romash somewhat barren in the humor department. Or it may be that close association with Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has had an effect on the lady’s once ironclad but jovial nerves.

Dick -- the prospective U.S. senator has invited those who report on him to call him, more familiarly, Dick, instead of Richard, a formal mouthful -- does tend to emit deadly serious vibes. Mr. Blumenthal really does seem anxious to break away from his handlers and let it all hang out. But alas, professional flack deflectors such as Ms. Romash are paid handsome sums to beat down this tendency whenever it raises its rebellious head, even at the risk of chipping Mr. Davis’ teeth.

Monday, August 09, 2010

The Chameleon Factor, Authenticity, And The General Election

A chameleon will change its color, depending upon the place in which it finds itself, so as to make itself invisible to predators. Large animals have powerful toothy, bone splitting jaws to see them past precarious moments.

Small animals have their wits.

I saw my first chameleon when my wife and I were visiting Savannah, Georgia. I had taken my coffee out to a brick enclosed courtyard and from the corner of my eye perceived a motion in the plush ivy. I froze when I saw the chameleon because, never having seen one before at close range, I wished to observe it moving stealthily not a foot from the cup. Rotating its pin-hole of an eye, it passed from brick to ivy, changing color in its course from brick red to ivy green. When I made a sudden movement, it was up and over the wall like a marine at boot camp.

Some politicians are like chameleons, others not.

Martha Dean, the Republican nominee for attorney general this year, opened her campaign last March with all flags flying. Her opening campaign statement, more literary than most, left nothing to the imagination.

Dean said she did not wish to hide, chameleon like, in the usual political brush. And so, on the day she announced, friend and foe were treated to her opinions on matters of all kinds. She revered the state and federal constitutions and vowed to trim her behavior as attorney general to their strictures. Among rights enumerated in the federal constitution, was the right to bear arms, and she did not see why that right should be any more abridged than the right to freedom of speech or assembly. A little more than a month after her announcement, the Supreme Court, clearing its throat on the matter of whether the right to bear arms related to militias or individual citizens, gave her position on the second amendment some heft.

In the course of her campaign, Dean sought to answer forthrightly questions on capital punishment. She was not in favor of it, though later she seemed to admit certain exceptions. This is a sign of sanity: There is no rule on earth, said the great Cardinal Newman, to which there is not at least one exception. Dean thought it might be useful if firearm safety courses were taught in schools.

Many of these subjects were political tripwires. She danced light-footedly over them, certain that positions on political matters outside the purview of the office for which she was contending could not affect decisions she would make as attorney general. In fact, her principle objection to the present attorney general was that Richard Blumenthal had, in the course of his 20 years as attorney general, unnecessarily politicized his office.

Dean is not a chameleon, which is why her campaign early on struck a responsive chord among tea party activists and a handful of journalists in Connecticut who regularly beg shilly-shallying politicians to man up and take a firm position on this or that question in dispute. Tea party activists tend to support politicians who both make constitutional commitments and are unafraid to defend sometimes politically inauspicious positions. There is something in a Tea Party activist that does not like a chameleon, the sort of politician who in his first month in office will turn from bright red to deep blue depending upon the environment in which he finds himself.

This distrust of Mr. Politician-Looking-Both-Ways – the chameleon’s right and left eye each can rotate 180 degrees in different directions at the same time -- is a trait Tea Party folk share in common with many independents.

Blumenthal, now moving steadily from attorney general to U.S. senator, is, some would say, a chameleon’s chameleon. The attorney general and prospective U.S. senator has displayed a positive genius for sensing the political background, usually liberal, in which he finds himself and so audaciously conforming himself to it that one cannot see him, either on the brick or passing through the ivy. Startle him, and he is over the wall in an instant, like a marine in boot camp.

The chameleon factor will be important to many voters in the upcoming general election.

So, for that matter, will authenticity.

At a very basic level, authenticity involves a direct correlation between what is said and what is done. The hypocrite is the opposite of the authentic politician, be he liberal or conservative. Authenticity does not fear compromise. It is willing to make a deal. But the authentic politician is not willing to deal away his political patrimony, or his spine. In this sense, the late Edward Kennedy was authentically liberal. Reaching outside of active politics, we might say the late Bill Buckley was authentically conservative.

As a general rule, those new to politics cannot bring a political background with them because they are, politically, blank slates. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage. A prospective politician without a political background, like a man without a country, ought not to have our undivided trust – until he unfurls his flag. This is why it is important before a general election to force the political newcomer to show what stuff he is made of. We may flee from the evil we know; but, to turn a phrase of Will Rogers, it’s not what you know about politicians that can hurt you -- it’s what you think you know, and don’t.

Losing Iraq? And Lamduckery

Why Lose Iraq Now?

“The thousands of American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars that have gone to stabilizing Iraq,” is in danger of being compromised, according to Marisa Sullivan, deputy director of the Institute for the Study of War, writing in The Hill.

Charles Krauthammer On Lamduckery

Life as a politician does not end when the politician decides to throw in the towel. Sen. Chris Dodd has months to go before he rests; so, for that matter does retiring Gov. Jodi Rell. Dodd and Rell are both lame ducks. But should anyone suppose lame ducks are dead ducks, Charles Krauthammer offers a warning. The prospect of re-election is a restraint. Remove the restraint, and you have left but two internal restraints: honor and shame.

When the lame duck congress returns after the upcoming elections, Krauthammer writes, “The only thing holding the Democrats back would be shame, a Washington commodity in chronically short supply. To pass in a lame-duck session major legislation so unpopular that Democrats had no chance of passing it in regular session -- after major Democratic losses signifying a withdrawal of the mandate implicitly granted in 2008 -- would be an egregious violation of elementary democratic norms.

“Perhaps shame will constrain the Democrats. But that is not to be counted on. It didn't stop them from pushing through a health-care reform the public didn't want by means of "reconciliation" maneuvers and without a single Republican vote in either chamber -- something unprecedented in American history for a reform of such scope and magnitude.”

Citizens For Change Asks Candidates To Commit to Policies

A day before the primaries, Citizens For Change (CFC) has released the names of those candidates who thus far have “publicly committed to the people of Connecticut that they will address the numerous public policy challenges confronting our state and our nation,” according to the group’s press release.
CFC is inviting all candidates to sign its COMMITMENT FOR CONNECTICUT documents the group has made available on its website at http://www.cfc.us/.

Richard Olivastro, a spokesman for CFC, said that 17 candidates have led the way for others by signing the documents. They are:

United States Senate: Peter Schiff

United States House of Representatives: Mark Greenberg, Dan Reale, Rob Merkle, Justin
Bernier, Scott DeShefy; LT Governor: Mark Boughton

CT Attorney General: Stephen Fournier

CT Treasurer: Jeff Wright

CT Secretary of the State: Jerry Farrell

CT State House: Kathryn Brown, Ken Nelson, John Searles, Malvi Lennon
CT State Senate: Neil Nichols, David Pia, Len Suzio.

Those visiting the site may also sign an online Declaration of Independence.

CFC will be sponsoring an upcoming CFC 'Caucus For Citizens' session. Those wishing to attend posted sessions may register online at the CT Public Policy Coalition site: www.CTPPC.org, and Media professionals are invited to register for inclusion on CFC's Media Special Access List on the http://www.ctppc.org/ website.

Mr. Olivastro has provided contact information should there be any questions.

Contact: Richard Olivastro
Email: RichOlivastro@gmail.com
800.742.4773 (O)
251-367-4556 (C)
860.677.4440 (H)

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Garber’s Swift Boat Ads And Dean’s Challenge

Ross Garber waited quite a while before expressing his interest in running for attorney general as a Republican. This sort of thing may be inconvenient to party nominated candidates, but so long as it’s still a free country, Mr. Garber is free to be his potty old self, and everyone else in the party should be prepared to humor him.

But Mr. Garber now has chosen to wrest votes from attorney general party nominee Martha Dean through a series of “swift-boating” ads. “Swift-boating” is a term that came into currency during the presidential run of Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts when it was felt by Kerry’s supporters that his opponents were pumping false and toxic ads into the political bloodstream.

Garber so far has released, a little more than a week before the primary, two swift-boat ads, either one of which is worthy of the most shameless of ex-President Richard Nixon’s worst subalterns.

The Garber-garbage ads tears out of context a Dean quote suggesting an honest discussion concerning the decriminalization of some drugs, plops butchered quotes into the more lurid of the brochures and surrounds it with pictures of crack dealers and discarded drug paraphernalia. Rick Green, a columnist and blogger for the Hartford Courant ran without comment pictures of the ad on his blog site.

This is the first of Mr. Garber’s ads posted with minimal comment on Mr. Green’s blog site:

The back of the brochure shows a placid and smiling Mr. Garber and a drug user bending listlessly over a bottle of liquor. Perhaps the despondent drug user has just read Mr. Garber’s political ad.

Even political writers who have placed themselves sympathetically and politically in Mr. Garber’s corner and have occasionally indulged in slipshod mud-slinging – Mr. Green, for instance, thinks “Mad Martha,” as he calls Mrs. Dean, has “cyborg blue eyes” – must have been a bit unsettled by such scurrilous brochures.

So, the question arises: What to do about last minute Tricky Dickey ads sent out so near a primary that they cannot be effectively challenged?

The intent of such ads is to capture the campaign narrative through a series of red herrings that, issued close to primary D-Day, cannot be effectively answered. Dean’s response to a charge that she would facilitate drug dealing would not fit on the bumper sticker of a car, still less in a campaign brochure. And relying on John Henry Newman’s remark that “if you fling mud, some will stick; stick but not stain” seems hardly appropriate, because that kind of a permissive, turn-the-other-cheek posture is not a sufficient discouragement to those proficient in the fine art of mud-slinging.

One could reply in kind with a brochure, for instance, showing Ross -- a lawyer who has chosen to build up his new law practice by defending political crooks -- surrounded by notorious mobsters such as Al Capone, with lurid shots of the bloody bodies left behind after the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. But if one’s objection to mud slinging is that it falls beyond the bounds of civil discourse, one can hardly engage in compensating scurrilities one abhors.

One real reporter at the Courant noted in one of his dispatches that Mrs. Dean said only that she would welcome an intelligent discussion, presumably among knowledgeable people interested in the decriminalization of drug use, with a view to settling the problem by means more effective than those currently in use.

Both Mr. Garber and Mr. Green seem to be unaware that the decriminalization discussion has been floating around for decades. Indeed, some ideological barriers that have long separated conservatives and liberals on the question of decriminalization were dismantled years ago by two of the most prominent conservatives of our time, William Buckley and noble prize winning economist Milton Friedman.

“Liberals at the Courant took issue with Dean’s remark that the legislature should consider drug legalization, a political position long embraced by some liberals and others who even now wince when they consider that prisons are bursting at the seams with people arrested for relatively minor drug offenses. It has been years since conservative economist Milton Friedman plausibly argued that the legalization of some drugs would relieve social problems. More than seven years ago, Bill Buckley shocked his brethren by agitating for the legalization of marijuana as a test to probe the question: Would legalization be more harmful than a present policy that packs jails mostly with young black men drawn into gangs by the lure of lawless money making.”

The passage quoted above is taken from an earlier blog and column -- which included embedded links that carry the reader to a column by Mr. Buckley and a video interview with Mr. Friedman. It answers a challenge presented by Green on his blog:


“You sound like a true RINO. Decriminalize drugs? I don't recall many conservatives advancing this cause.

“Mad Martha deserves everything she gets. She ought to have the backbone to defend her own viewpoints.


In the meantime, Dean’s suggestion really should bear fruit. There should be a discussion in the state on the benefits of continuing a costly drug criminalization program that, some conservatives and enlightened liberals would be willing to argue, has turned the distribution of drugs in the poorer parts of cities over to criminals who are not likely to be thwarted by Mr. Garber’s and Mr. Green’s opposition to alternative strategies proposed by Buckley, Friedman and these guys:

See Chris Powell's column here.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The 10 Percenter: McMahon to Blumenthal – Boo!

A Quinnipiac poll brings to Linda McMahon, the Republican Party nominee for the U.S. senate, some glad tidings.

Since her campaign opened, McMahon has reduced from 40 to10 percent a lead in the polls enjoyed by present Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. In the past month, she has reduced Blumenthal’s lead from 17 to 10 percent.

The message to Blumenthal ought to be plain – engage. He will not be able to coast into office on the strength of his perceived reputation as a crusading attorney general filing suits galore on behalf of consumers oppressed by greedy businessmen.

Blumenthal’s last and best hope, before McMahon begins to examine closely in ads his record as attorney general, Blumenthal’s strong suit, is to hope against hope that Rob Simmons, who has little resources to conduct an aggressive general election campaign, can pull his fat out of the fire by defeating McMahon in the August 10th Republican Party primary.

Blumenthal is joined in this hope by those in the state’s media who are favorably disposed to Blumenthal.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Letters, We Get Letters, Larson to Dems – Be Bold

Democratic leaders in the U.S. House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Caucus Chairman John Larson, have sent out to their troops a memo that outlines the general defense House members will be using during the election season to deflect impertinent charges from their Republicans opponents.

The memo is about two pages long, considerably less than the 2,319 page Dodd-Frank Bill that reorganizes American enterprise or the 1,990 page Health Care Bill that, for the first time in U.S. history, compels young American citizens to purchase a product, health insurance, they may not want or need. Given the brevity of the letter, Connecticut’s Democratic U.S. congressional delegation might even read it. Most congresspersons, including the issuers of the memo, neglected to read either the Health Care or the Dodd-Frank bill in it’s entirety, and Pelosi famously quipped about one or the other or both of them that they would have to be passed so that House members who voted for them would know what’s in them.

The campaign to-do memo is recorded below for posterity:

July 30, 2010

Dear Democratic Colleague:

Now it is time to define the choice America faces. We are moving America forward, not back.

You have worked tirelessly for 19 months to move America forward, begin to restore Main Street values, and create jobs here at home. We are on track to create more net new jobs this year than President Bush created over his entire eight-year term. Our advocacy for Americans who work for a living— in the face of relentless opposition by Wall Street and the big bankers, Big Oil, and the health insurance industry— has defined our Caucus.
We will move America forward in a New Direction, toward a more broadly shared prosperity—investing in America’s small businesses, clean energy jobs, and middle-class families. We will revitalize a manufacturing base that shrunk by 4.6 million American jobs under the last Administration—because when we Make it in America, we lead the world. And we will bring down our deficit by putting Americans back to work and making the difficult decisions that were deferred over the last decade.

We are not going back to the same failed Bush policies that cost us more than 8 million jobs—and threatened to destroy 8 million more without our intervention, according to independent economists. We are not going back to failed policies that exploded our deficit in order to give tax breaks to those who don’t need them—and those whose recklessness caused the mess we are in.

Americans living paycheck to paycheck—or without a paycheck—can’t afford to go back.

We must use the coming weeks to make this choice crystal clear. The President will be leading the charge. We want the power of all of our voices to convey these messages, so we ask you to plan public events and media interactions in your district around weekly themes—if they work for you. We will be driving these messages at the national level.

August 2—Fighting For The Middle Class: “Make it in America” Week

We are wrapping up a Congressional work period with a series of bills to promote a Make it in America manufacturing revival. Members can also highlight Recovery Act jobs in your districts. Republicans in Congress have sided incessantly with big corporations shipping jobs overseas and Wall Street bankers who helped cause the meltdown.

August 9 – Fighting for the Middle Class: Protecting Social Security Week

The 75th anniversary of Social Security is August 14. Members can highlight how, once again, this bedrock promise is under assault from Congressional Republicans seeking to privatize and cut Social Security that Americans have earned. Democrats will protect and strengthen Social Security.

August 16 – Fighting for the Middle Class: Consumer Protection Week

As students head back to college and families head out for back-to-school shopping, it’s a good time to highlight the strong consumer protections enacted by this Congress. Republicans sided with the Big Banks over students when we made college more affordable. Republicans fought a first-ever consumer protection agency and split over a Credit Cardholders Bill of Rights. And as we continue the drumbeat on the Patient’s Bill of Rights giving Americans and their doctors control over their health care, Republicans would repeal long overdue protections for Americans if they get sick or have a pre-existing condition.

August 23—Fighting for the Middle Class: Small Business Week

Our economic recovery must be powered by small businesses. This Congress has enacted 8 separate tax cuts for small businesses, made health insurance more affordable, and fought to get credit flowing—time and again, over Republican opposition. This week, Senate Republicans moved to block billions of dollars of private-sector lending for small businesses.

August 30—Troops & Veterans Week

Since 2007, a Democratic-led Congress has made historic investments in services for our veterans. After eight years of insufficient support under Republicans, since 2007, we have increased funding for veterans health care and benefits by 70 percent, providing over 10,000 new claims processors to reduce case backlogs, 3,389 doctors, 14,316 nurses, 145 community-based outpatient clinics, and 92 new vet centers. We have improved troop pay and equipment, and improved conditions for military families. Around the August 31st deadline to get combat troops out of Iraq, Members can focus on the promise being kept.

September 6—Fighting for the Middle Class: “Make it in America”

In September, we will keep working on legislation to rebuild American manufacturing and make America the world’s leader in innovative technologies, after a decade of damage to our economy. Members can highlight our top priority—creating jobs here in America— as we head back for the next work period.

Please find enclosed two pocket cards to help you deliver this message. The first is our main argument, Moving America Forward, Not Back; and the second is Protecting Social Security at 75 Years. You should have already received a pocket card on Make it in America, our manufacturing strategy; as well as our message on national security.

Thank you for your service, for your leadership, and for representing working Americans in some of the most important debates of our era. Please have a productive and pleasant District Work Period. We look forward to seeing you, in your districts and in September.

Best regards,
Nancy Pelosi
Steny Hoyer
Majority Leader
James E. Clyburn
Majority Whip
John Larson
In addition to the memo, Larson is sending around a to-do card that might fit snugly into a wallet or purse, so that Democrats on the campaign trail can whip it out if ever they are asked a pointed question by Rick Green – which is not too likely.

The memo reads:
Be Bold, be bold, but not too bold
Lest the marrow of thy bones run cold
Green, in the meanwhile, had jumped the turnstile so that he might register for the primaries as a Republican and vote for Ross Garber as attorney general, thus calling upon his head the curses of his entire family, but for his grandfather, who had a grudge for some reason against the sainted Franklin Roosevelt.

Responding to this traitorous abandonment of his party, one imagines a stalwart Democrat whose ancestors did vote for FDR responding: “Someone lock the barn door before this horses’ ass gets a chance to sneak back in,” the beer infused anti-Green Democrat drinking to the health of departing U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd and praising God for having gerrymandered Larson's 1st District.

“Long may Larson wave."

Monday, August 02, 2010

A Preview Of A Post-Primary Gubernatorial Campaign

Primaries are coming to a close in less than a week. It can’t happen soon enough.

Primaries are a distortion medium. People will have noticed that while general elections are matter, primaries are anti-matter. A Democratic politician blown to the left in a primary has only a few months before the general election to make his way to the right, and the same drama occurs among Republicans, though the motion is in the opposite direction. It is said on these occasions that Democrats, courting unions and progressives in the primary, find it necessary to address themselves in the general election to moderates within their party, as well as unaffiliated voters. Republicans, drifting right during primaries, face the same conundrum. Promises made during primaries are often abandoned during general elections. All this shape shifting distorts politics.

But what’s the alternative? That IS the problem. From the point of view of party people, the alternative – doing away with primaries – is unthinkable, and perhaps undoable. So, we are stuck with the beast. Not only are primaries a distortion medium; they are a distraction, and a dangerous one at that.

Primaries invite members of the same church, sitting practically in the same pew, to attack each other tooth and claw, with predictable results.

Take the gubernatorial race in Connecticut as a case in point. On the Democratic side, we see Ned Lamont and Dan Malloy making personal attacks upon each other, instead of more profitably addressing themselves to the issues. Malloy has said for years in his self promotion activities as mayor of Stamford that he helped to draw about 5,000 jobs into the city. Very likely, his intervention DID result in companies moving into Stamford during the late boom, bringing jobs with them. During the primary campaign, Lamont, hoping to dress himself in the garb of a Democrat whose principal interest is job growth, discovered a net loss of jobs in Stamford that might be attributed to Malloy.

He salivated.

Now, a net loss in jobs over a period of years does not necessarily mean that Malloy had not been instrumental in attracting business to Stamford; in fact, the net job loss may have been 5,000 jobs less had Malloy not intervened to attract businesses to his city. But never mind all that. In a primary in which the two contestants do not differ greatly on issues that matter, some means must be found to distinguish between the two – and so we get misleading attack ads, poisonous, meretriciously edited UTube clips, highly partisan bloggers with their brains on fire, trackers shadowing primary contestants hoping they might be able to record for some future attack ad a verbal slip or a hypocritical assertion, and all the rest of the political detritus thrown to the surface by a largely successful attack on the traditional two party system. Remember, primaries were DESIGNED to sap the party system. They have been successful. And, of course, campaign finance regulations are a godsend.

What to make of the claim that primaries are good?

They ARE good. Democratic primaries are good for Republicans, and Republican primaries are good for Democrats. No Republican cares much when Lamont bites off Malloy’s ear in a primary. The same is true on the Democratic side. Republican primary attacks on, say, Linda McMahon boost the prospects of her likely Democratic Party opponent in the general election.

Jonathan Kantrowitz, an intelligent progressive blogger who has taken a sudden interest in Rob Simmons’ on-again-off-again campaign candidly admits that quarrels among Republican primary opponents make him dizzy with joy. Simmons is now cool on committing troops to Afghanistan, or so he claims in his latest ad, which has made him attractive to anti-war progressives. Even Blumenthal, these days, appears to be banging the war drums in sinc with President Barack Obama’s plans in Afghanistan, leaving progressive to clutch at the straws Simmons holds out to them.

There is no Democratic primary for the U.S. senate seat soon to be left vacant by a retiring Chris Dodd. So far, Republicans have had to rely on the self destructive tendencies of present Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, the Democratic Party endorsed candidate. And in this, they have not been disappointed. Blumenthal has rusted up somewhat since he last engaged in a real political campaign, though he has, in the course of his 20 year run as attorney general, become adept at self-promotion. Owing to recent embarrassments – Blumenthal claimed falsely to have served in Vietnam, an almost certain poison pill for other ambitious American politicians – his handlers have kept him from the public arena, a strategy that is not likely to eradicate the rust spots.

In the general election, in any case, politics will return to normalcy, and there are some who hope against hope that we then may get on with important discussions of the issues. The danger is that all the personal attacks during the primaries will be internalized. Political parties have feelings too.

What should the issues be in the general gubernatorial campaign?

In less than two weeks, dazed Republicans and Democrats will go to the polls and choose their respective nominees for governor. The Democrat will be either Dan Malloy or Ned Lamont. The Republican will be either Tom Foley or Mike Fedele, currently the state’s Lieutenant Governor.

Foley’s strong suit is that he has no organic attachments to a Republican Party that has been unable, owing to its small numbers in the legislature, to reform public policy. The governor also has been far less effective in this regard than, say, Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. Foley is a fresh face and a fresh mind, a businessman of some accomplishments. Fedele, also an accomplished businessman, has been tied to the apron strings of present Governor Jodi Rell, a popular chief executive who has been unable to shake the view of her, promoted by Democrats, as a caretaker governor.

The most severe problem facing an incoming Republican or Democratic governor is the state’s insolvency. Christie, confronting a comparable challenge – New Jersey has the heaviest debt load of any state -- waged a straight up conservative campaign in which he vowed to reduce his state’s debts though spending cuts. As governor, he has largely lived up to his pledges, incurring the undying enmity of the governing class and New Jersey’s influential media outlets.

In a hard fought campaign, Christie prevailed over multi-millionaire Jon Corzine.

Having inherited a $2.2 billion deficit and a projected deficit of $10.7 billion, relative to the state's $29.3 billion budget, he attacked and closed the $2,2 billion gap by accepting 375 of 378 suggested freezes and spending cuts; in eight weeks in office, he cut $13 billion. Property taxes in New Jersey, as in Connecticut, rise in direct proportion to increases in teacher’s salaries and benefits. Christie proposed a 2.5 cap on annual increases and then proceeded to ask teacher unions to make sacrifices, including unpaid furloughs and reductions on benefits. There was considerable push back on every front. Here is a post-campaign Governor Christie jousting with a reporter:

Watching Christie operate, many Republicans are asking themselves: Can we order up a likeminded governor in Connecticut? Do either of the prospective Republican candidates have the whatchacallits to follow Christie where courageous moderate Republican governors have never gone before?

The general impression among most voters is that many Democrats are holding on and waiting for changing circumstances, a national recovery from a deepening recession, to lift all the state’s boats. Other less sanguine Democrats pray that the windy effusions of one of the two Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls may change once the primary distortion medium is put behind him.


When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he did not have enough votes to pass a Cap-and-Trade bill, there was a noticeable sigh of relief. But regulations as a substitute was not necessarily a good thing.

Cap and Trade was not new. It was used to control sulfur emissions in order to diminish acid rain. The bill passed the House, by a slight margin, 219-212. But industry brought a lawsuit challenging it, and the court held that it was illegal. Senators Kerry and Lieberman and (till he dropped out) Lindsey Graham were working on the bill when Mr. Reid found he did not have the 60 votes needed to break a C&T filibuster.

If C&T was out, and nobody was ready to introduce as an alternative a bill to tax carbon, the situation gave EPA the opportunity to take the lead..

In theory, congressional C&T legislation could be superior to regulations by EPA. EPA’s capability in writing regulations is limited by law. EPA requires applicants to use the best most advanced existing technology. But suppose another way were found that would be cheaper or more efficient than best existing technology. EPA could not permit it, but a law could, or an amendment added to the law. As utility executives pointed out, Congress “has more freedom than EPA to set up a system using incentives and, possibly, a trading mechanism, to gradually reduce” greenhouse emissions. Even EPA Administrator Jackson agreed. But the Court having held that C&T is illegal, she was willing, eager, and able to write regulations.

EPA’s rationale was that C&T would “save lives” and improve health. EPA always makes that argument. Where are the dead bodies of those who died before EPA’s new regulation was adopted? Where are the data that prove its regulations “improve health”? There is no evidence.

In 2007 the U.S. Supreme Court held in Massachusetts vs. EPA that the EPA must determine whether greenhouse gases (GHG) from new motor vehicles cause or contribute to air pollution that may “reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare,” or whether “the science is too uncertain” to know. (Enter an opportunity for EPA to use the precautionary principle encouraging wrong-thinking actions or activities based on insufficient or no science.)

The Supreme Court did not instruct EPA to regulate carbon dioxide. It gave EPA that option.

EPA was required to produce an “endangerment finding.” It published its Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act on July 30, 2008. It held two public hearings and received 380,000 public comments. On April l7, 2009, EPA published its 133-paged endangerment finding.

Administrator Jackson chose to announce EPA’s take-over of GHG emissions at the Copenhagen Climate Conference of countries which had convened to commit themselves to decreasing GHG emissions. Her announcement established EPA’s claim for leadership in the global climate effort.

Carbon dioxide and (declared the Supreme Court) methane and four other gases are air-pollutants that could—not should, but could—be regulated under the Clean Air Act if they may reasonably be anticipated to threaten public health or welfare.

Just days before the Copenhagen climate conference, there suddenly burst an explosion of thousands of hacked e-mails from the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia. To strengthen the case for global warming, they oozed corruption in basic temperature records, maintained by the scientific advocates of the theory of man-made global warming.

To Administrator Jackson, these ClimateGate e-mails don’t matter. They are about glacial matters, which is international and don’t concern EPA.

To five states, industry, and conservative organizations, they are of concern. Scores of industry groups were joined by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Freedom Works, the Science and Environmental Policy Project, and the Southeastern Legal Foundation. New York City and sixteen states sought to intervene on behalf of EPA.

The lawsuits ask the U.S. Circuit Court to review EPA’s determination that human health and welfare are endangered by the six “pollutants” (besides CO2 and methane, they are nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride).

Jackson, for the scientific and technological basis of her endangerment finding, had relied chiefly on the controversial 4th annual report of the UN’s IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

Legally, EPA is vulnerable, but politically? Is the Clean Air Act to be used to reduce emissions that lead to climate change? “It should be up to us in Congress to set the policy of this country, not [EPA] an unelected bureaucrat,” argued Senator Lisa Murkowski. She introduced in the Senate a “disapproval resolution” which lost, 47-53.

Representative Marsha Blackburn had a bill to limit regulation of carbon-dioxide emissions to human health, and not to climate change.

Majority Leader Reid announced that he will present a “scaled-back” energy bill which will not provide for C&T.

In the end, will EPA have complete control over the supply and use of energy? “If EPA moves forward and begins regulating stationary sources, it will open the door for them to regulate everything from industrial facilities to farms to even American homes,” warned the National Association of Manufacturers’ President John Engler. Already a news account of February reported that the EPA’s plans for the following month were “to finalize new greenhouse gas rules for automobiles and large stationary sources.”

By Natalie Sirkin

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