Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Last Laugh -- January

January came in like a lion and went out like a lion, leaving behind in its wake a pile of snow and bone chilling winds that would make even the most fervent acolyte of global warming curse Al Gore, the high priest of the cult. GW cultists these days insist on calling their peculiar faith “climate change,” which is probably what Mr. Mark Twain had in mind when he said, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a minute; it’ll change,” or words to that effect. A neighbor across the lake, Tony Procrastinate (not his real name) who has just given up the last of the New Year’s resolutions he made at the beginning of the month, insists that Winter dumped three feet of snow on his property, and it is pointless to try to convince him that his snow footage is an accumulative figure, the present couple of feet having been added to the unshoveled couple of feet left over from the last storm. Mr. Procrastinate neglected to clean up his property last time because… well, he had turned his New Year’s resolutions into the pawn shop. His expostulations are to be taken, as Mr. Mark Twain said, “with a ton of salt… Speaking of Mr. Twain, one of his books, “Huckleberry Finn,” has been put on the endangered list because Mr. Twain overused the so called “N” word. An expurgated version was produced in which the offensive word, in addition to the word “slave” and its variants, was unceremoniously tossed out. This produced vigorous controversy; the debate is still unfolding, but those who argue that offensive words in literature ought to be maintained as historical artifacts appear to be besting their opponents. Mr. Twain would be pleased he has caused so much controversy more than 125 years after his book was first published in England in December 1884, probably during a snow storm.

Something borrowed, something plagerized? President Barack Obama borrowed heavily from others in his mellifluous second State of the Union Address, without bothering to assign attributions, and the lifting, bordering on plagiarism, did not escape the notice of Alvin Felzenberg in U.S. News And World Report. Mr. Felzenberg teaches courses at the University of Pennsylvania, George Washington University, and Johns Hopkins University, schools that generally frown on plagiarism or any of its first or second cousins. Mr. Obama did properly attribute a idea or two from the late Robert Kennedy, after which point he pilfered shamelessly from President Woodrow Wilson, a larval progressive, New York Governor Mario Cuomo, now showing signs of a dangerous drift to the right, the late Maggie Thatcher, former Prime Minister of Britain and a lover of all things American, and even former President Dwight Eisenhower, not known for his florid oratory. Mr. Newt Gingrich thinks Mr. Obama borrowed the theme of his second State of the Union address from Mr. Gingrich. “When I first heard that President Obama was using ‘winning the future’ as the theme of his state of the union, I thought it was ironically funny,” Mr. Gingrich wrote in a commentary piece released by Yahoo News. “I wrote a book, ‘Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract with America’ in 2005.” In addition, Mr. Obama borrowed from President Ronald Reagan the practice of inviting extraordinary citizens to sit beside the First Lady in the House gallery as the president recounted their notable achievements. There are, tucked away in the nation, people who think the Obama administration would be much improved if it were to plagiarize Mr. Reagan’s economic methodology.

Things are looking up for the 84 year old scion of Playboy Magazine, Mr. Hugh Hefner, who recently became engaged to Miss Crystal Harris, 60 years his junior. Mr. Hefner appears to go though women like the proverbial knife through butter and, so far, has avoided, perhaps through a judicious use of birth control, problems that beset Hollywood half-men who unadvisedly toss their wives on the ash heap of history, take up with younger women, marry them, get them pregnant and, at the end of a year or so, when both have exhausted their amours, are left to pay huge sums of money for the support of children who will, in their later years, come to despise them. No such nonsense for Hef, who has been around that block almost as often as your usual sheik. However, even Hef falls far short of the record set by King Tamba of Banarus, whose harem in the 6th century BCE reputedly held 16,000 apparently contented women. This was before the age of Viagra, and Mr. Tamba’s relationships with his various wives was more stable than the more evanescent hitch-up with Miss Harris is likely to be.

Karl Krapek, former president and chief operating officer for United Technologies Corp. and Chairman of the Connecticut State University System, did not survive the month. Having served on the board for 16 years, Mr. Krapek was told by Commissioner of Higher Education Michael Meotti to vacate the premises, according to a story in the Hartford Courant. The paper quoted trustee Peter Rosa on the termination: “He [Mr. Krapek] had gotten a call from the commissioner of higher education, Mike Meotti, who had suggested that the governor had indicated that he was going to go in a different direction and accordingly he was asking chair people of the various boards … to step down. It wasn't personal." The impersonal firing should signal, some budget hawks fervently hope, a wholesale dismantling of CSUS, a featherbed former Governor Lowell Weicker had prepared for Bill Cibes, Weicker’s Office of Policy and Management chief. In an odd twist, just as January was hobbling to a close, Governor Dannel (as he now prefers to be called) Malloy denied he had ordered Mr. Krapeck’s resignation. The governor issued the following statement: “I can certainly understand, given the trials and trepidations of that board and some of the decisions they've made in the last year, that he opted to resign.” The governor then credited Mr. Krapeck with a degree of literacy and prescience appropriate to the office he resigned: “I think everyone is capable of reading the writing on the wall, and sometimes that writing doesn't exist but maybe they're just ahead of it."

February looms darkly. A pit of red ink, snakes, creepy things, toads the size of Jupiter, slithering debt, the option of bankruptcy – perhaps too precipitously withdrawn from the table by Mr. Malloy -- and Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, the leader of the Democratic Party caucus in the General Assembly, all await Mr. Malloy as February leers over the horizon. Mr. Ken Dixon, a writer at the Connecticut Post, reminds us that Mr. Donovan, affable on the outside, unbending union steel on the inside, is the principle gate-keeper of the budget Mr. Malloy will present to the General Assembly. In the past, Mr. Donovan has been rather obstreperous – just ask the easily intimidated former Governor Jodi Rell – and it is an open question whether Mr. Donovan is prepared to accept the too modest spending cuts anticipated in Mr. Malloy’s upcoming budget presentation in February, the most momentous month in the calendar. On February 16th the die will be cast, the Rubicon crossed.

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