Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Why The Budget Failed

Plan A failed because neither the Malloy administration nor SEBAC negotiators were able to sell their product to the union rank and file.

Lord knows they tried. But in the end, it was the health package that sunk the final vote. Almost half of the union rank and file voted against Plan A, considered by union negotiators, Malloy administration budget salesmen and a large chunk of Connecticut’s commentariat to be a plan irresistible to rational heads in much of the state.

Moises Padilla, vice president of AFSCME Local 387 at the Cheshire correctional complex, thought early on that Plan A was doomed and made attempts to contact shakers and movers within the Malloy administration to warn them of the impending crack-up, but his calls were not returned by Roy Occhiogrosso, Mr. Malloy’s major-domo.

Following the rank and file vote, which soundly rejected Plan A, union negotiators regrouped and decided the vote would not be formalized for thirty days, later pushing the thirty days out to infinity, a stratagem that can only strike rank and file members of the unions as a means of discounting their vote.

The sticking point, according to Mr. Padilla, is the health care package. Many rank and file members regard changes make by the Malloy administration as an intrusive nose of a universal health care camel, a “social experiment” inserted into a collective bargaining health care plan “in the hopes that it would eventually lead to universal health care, otherwise known as Obamacare or SustiNet, in our state."

“Remove the enhanced health care plan out of this agreement, and it will be ratified. It's as simple as that. I never saw so much anger generated as this enhanced health care agreement,” said Mr. Padilla, a union leader talking truth to power who likely will not be invited to high tea when Mr. Malloy and Mr. Occhiogrosso and Mr. Barnes and other architects of Plan A gather together, along with self anointed union leaders, to celebrate what may be a successful attempt to overthrow a rank and file union vote.

Of course, Mr. Occhigrosso, once a union operative himself, would not put it in such stark terms. Mr. Occhiogrosso was hired in the late 90’s as a union organizer by an AFLCIO group, AFT-Rocky Hill. The governor, Mr. Occhigrosso responded, is working within a tight time frame, and he must – really, MUST – deal with the projected $700 million deficit in the state's unbalanced budget. A budget is unbalanced when expenditures do not equal receipts. Connecticut’s tax receipts and expenditures have been out of balance ever since the budget was approved by the Democrat dominated General Assembly weeks ago. Perhaps someone should share Mr. Occhiogrosso’s anxiety with Superior Court Judge James Graham, who recently expressed doubts in oral argument that he could rule on a suit claiming the budget was unconstitutionally out of balance because the state legislature had neglected to define the term “expenditure.”

"All I would say,” Mr. Occhiogrosso said in response to Mr. Padilla, “is the governor has to proceed as if there is no agreement because, right now, there isn't. If it turns out that SEBAC, through its own internal process, can alter that, it's certainly something the governor would keep an open mind about. But today is June 27. … It's his responsibility to make sure a balanced budget is in place by Thursday."

Mr. Occhiogrosso pointed out that there was “a widow of time,” though the window is open but a sliver, for unions to resolve the situation. In non-politicalese, resolving the situation would mean negating the union vote to reject Plan A, camel objections and all.

Mr. Padilla’s beef, however, does not end with a protest that some union leaders seem a bit too anxious to throw a legitimate union vote into the sharp teeth of politicians who would benefit from the health care changes; it has been pointed out that some politicians eagerly hawking Plan A, such as Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman and State Comptroller Kevin Lembo were co-chairs of the SustiNet board when Ms. Wyman was State Comptroller and Mr. Lembo State Healthcare Advocate.

The union leaders who now seem prepared to suspend the union vote indefinitely insist there is no connection – none at all – between changes in union benefits that would facilitate an easy transition into a SustiNet plan and Mr. Malloy's Plan A, now gurgling beneath the waves.

Mr. Padilla’s union voted against Plan A because members were suspicious of the motives of both union negotiators and reformist Malloy administrators, but other troubling aspects affected the vote as well. Mr. Padilla’s own objections to Plan A are perhaps more comprehensive than Mr. Occhiogrosso would wish.

According to one account, Mr. Padilla said in a statement that prison guards voted against the deal because of "the continued and insatiable appetite for spending; structural, institutional, programmatic or otherwise, including the perception of the ever-growing welfare state, a new state earned income tax credit, a magic bus to nowhere, an unprecedented expansion of UConn, a bloated and redundant bureaucracy, etc., by those in the legislature and the governor's office despite this so-called 'shared sacrifice,' which is being financed on our backs.''

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Donovan’s Plan C?

General Assembly Democrats – i.e. Speaker of the House Chris Donovan and Senate President Don Williams – have not decided firmly to give Governor Dannel Malloy extraordinary rescission authority to remake the state budget after the collapse of Plan A.

Repeating his offer to dominant Democrats in the legislature, Mr. Malloy has said that he would be perfectly willing to implement the dreaded Plan B should the General Assembly confer upon him what amounts to plenipotentiary powers.

But a rift has occurred within the legislature. Mr. Williams is toying with the idea; but his confederate in the House, Mr. Donovan, pleased to have stepped out of the way of the cannons when Mr. Malloy was begging state workers to accept Plan A, now seems to be puffing out his chest, welcoming the bullets.

Mr. Donovan has reminded Mr. Malloy that the General Assembly never agreed to confer upon him an expanded rescissionary authority that would allow the governor to shape the new budget without bothersome legislative interference.

Plan A was hammered out in a sweet, untroubled darkness behind closed doors, without the pointless interference of Republicans in the General Assembly, a process that won Mr. Malloy no friends among Republicans in the legislature.

Surrounded by friendly Democratic faces, Mr. Malloy had no need to romance Republicans. Mr. Malloy and the Democratic caucus rolled Plan A through the legislature without effective resistance, but now the Malloy-Williams-Donovan juggernaut hit an impenetrable wall of resistance in the form of a resolute state union.

The question before the House now is: Who rules – the Donovan caucus, the Williams caucus or Mr. Malloy?

Beyond that question lies a darker question: In politics, things happen in a certain way because prime movers have directed events, either openly or surreptitiously. And occasionally things are not what they appear to be. Successful politicians are those who can see though the public mask to the reality it obscures.

Mr. Donovan’s reassertion of legislative preeminence comes at a most inconvenient time for the besieged Mr. Malloy, whose reputation as can-do shaker and mover has suffered what ancient tragedy writers used to call "a reversal of fortune."

As the fiscal year clock ticks towards its appointed end, Mr. Malloy’s Plan B budget may easily be thrown into German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck sausage maker – which would allow union friendly forces in the General Assembly to shape a Plan C.

The new hybrid plan, some suppose, may include a further shift of “shared sacrifice” from taxpayers to tax consumers. Before Plan A collapsed, the Malloy administration dipped into a surplus to relieve state unions of carrying their previously arranged “fair share,” and it certainly is no secret that progressives in the legislature wish to shift the tax burden through the legislatures relatively new progressive income tax to those earning more than $200,000 per year. It has also been suggested that the fair share born by tax consumers may be mitigated by circumventing the state’s spending cap through means of a declaration of fiscal "exigency.”

If the time frame within which Mr. Malloy is operating is pushed beyond the end of the fiscal year, the game changes, and progressives in the legislature, even those who severely reprimanded state unions for failing to accept a beneficial deal, simply are not used to thinking in terms of cost cuts. The ways of taxation, to misquote Henry David Thoreau, almost always lead downward, especially in an economy tossed on stormy seas. The past few months have convinced some political watchers that downward is the only way progressives are willing to travel. Mr. Donovan and others may have a stronger hand in the new game.

What Ails Connecticut?

Chris Powell, managing editor of the Journal Inquirer and a columnist for the paper, here offers a summary view of the way we are.

Mr. Powell has been playing on these keys for some time, without much effect.

Through a slow process of attrition, Mr. Powell says, Connecticut has ceded much of its powers to various factions, placing the entire state at the mercy of aggressive self interested groups:

“With its extravagant laws for collective bargaining for public employees, Connecticut has put itself under minority rule in the extreme. First the sovereign people have to get the permission of their employees just to operate a government. And then that government's operations are largely determined by a minority of those employees. It's one thing for unions to ensure that they can be taken out on strike only by a supermajority vote; strikes can be long and brutal and any begun with less than the overwhelming support of union members are likely to fail. But a supermajority just to ratify an agreement is something else, especially a supermajority for an agreement acknowledged by both union leaders and their best friends in politics as likely the best in the country.”

The whole column – which those of us who fear for the future of Connecticut would be well advised to tuck into our wallets, so that it may instantly be referenced – may be found here.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Roger Sherman Suit, Oral Arguments And Decision

Superior Court judge James Graham today dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Roger Sherman Liberty Center that challenged the state budget on Constitutional grounds. The state Constitution requires a balanced budget. The center argued since expenditures exceeded revenue outlays when the budget was adopted by the general assembly, Governor Malloy’s Plan A budget was not in balance and therefore unconstitutional.
It was the kind of judicial decision that attempts to square a circle. Only in a court of law is such an exercise not doomed to fail.

There is no one in the state of Connecticut who can with any degree of certitude assert that the state budget is in balance – no one. When Associate Attorney General Perry Zinn-Rowthorn insisted during oral argument that the budget was in balance at its passage, he was simply doing his job.

The budget is not in balance now; it was not in balance when the liberty center brought a suit calling upon the court to declare that the budget was not in balance and therefore unconstitutional; and it is doubtful, now that state unions have rejected Plan A, an out of balance budget scheme that rested upon concessions from unions, that the budget will be balanced for some time to come.

Because the budget was not in balance when adopted by the legislature, the budget is inescapably unconstitutional. The test of budget constitutionality – according to the constitution, but apparently not according to Mr. Graham – is that expenditures cannot exceed revenue. Plan A, now kaput, was short in revenue when the General Assembly adopted the out of balance budget, at the same time relieving the legislature from returning to vote to accept the budget after Plan A had been ratified by the unions – which, as we now know, did not happen.

During oral argument, the judge expressed some reservations at deciding the issue because the General Assembly had not statutorily defined what an expenditure” is. In the absence of a legislative definition, the judge asked, how was the he to decide that a budget was not in balance?

During oral argument, the associate attorney general, depending upon which of the plaintiff’s arguments he wished to dispute, acknowledged both that the budget was and was not in balance.

The judge also queried both lawyers concerning the definition of a “budget.” Is a budget the plan of expenditures adopted by the legislature, or is it a process? Mr. Zinn-Rowthorn argued that even if a budget were not in balance when adopted by a legislature, the court should refrain from issuing a decision on the putative unconstitutionality of a budget if, at some future unspecified date, a process is in place that allows the legislature to re-balance the budget.

The lawyer for the liberty center, Martha Dean, argued that the question of imbalance already had been effectively decided, since Mr. Zinn-Rowthorn had asserted as much in his brief. That issue having been settled, it was incumbent upon the judge to rule that the budget was unconstitutional. Not to do so would be to permit this and any other unconstitutional action by either the governor or the legislature, thereby depriving the citizens of the state of their constitutional protections.

The decision perhaps will surprise only those in the state who have not yet concluded that the judiciary has become a pawn of the Democratic Party, the Attorney General’s office and powerful legislators in the General Assembly who control their salaries.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Aftermath

Following the rejection by state unions of a deal thought to be too good to be true, left of center columnists in the state were grievously disappointed

A columnist watching “Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's union concession plan fall into a death spiral” wondered “what decade some state employees think they live in,” and a Hartford paper mused that state union selfishness would cost unions “support in Connecticut.” Translation: The union’s resistance to a fait accompli firmly established by union leaders and Mr. Malloy will be noted in a few stinging editorials.

But there is something more amazing still than the rejection of Plan A, a budget scheme thought to be less painful for everyone than Mr. Malloy’s alternative Plan B: The state for some time has been permitting a few unelected union negotiators veto power over budgets passed by the legislature, and we have become so used to the ritual we hardly notice that extraordinary powers, constitutionally reserved for governors or legislators, has been delegated to a handful of union budget negotiators. Unions have become a fourth branch of government in Connecticut. And because the union vote is dispositive, it may be argued that unions are more powerful than any of the three branches.

It is through the thoughtless surrender of constitutional powers belonging by right to the three legitimate branches of government that states, at first obliging, ultimately become wards of unions.

So certain was the Malloy administration that Plan A -- pre-approved by dominant Democrats in the legislature -- would not be rejected by the union rank and file, that Mr. Malloy allowed himself to travel to Washington D.C. when the fatal vote was in process, an assurance that came crashing to the ground on bloody Friday when the final vote was tallied.

Just before the roof fell in on Plan A, one of the principle negotiators, sensing the need of a scapegoat, petitioned Attorney General George Jepsen to sink his teeth into the Yankee Institute. Jepsen adroitly passed that political poison pill to state auditors.

Plan A did not fail because its critics were shuttling incorrect assessments to rank and file union members. The union members who voted down Plan A had been fully propagandized by union leaders who, seemingly, wanted them to approve the lesser of two evils. They voted against the plan because they felt, implausible as it may seem, that the plan was not in their best interest. And in the end it was the interest of a narrow – one might almost say narrow-minded -- political faction that determined the general interest, a turn of events that will continue until the legislature reasserts its authority and finds some means of readjusting the horse and cart so that the horse leads and the cart is pulled in a direction that benefits the general interest of the whole state. The union voting system, badly in need of reform, is a Rube Goldberg contraption that only a rocket scientist could pretend to understand.

Speaker of the House Chris Donovan’s political ambition was one of the temporary casualties of the collapse of Plan A.

Mr. Donovan, once a labor and community organizer, had intended to announce his intension to run for the U.S. House in the 5th District but patriotically put off the announcement when some units of AFSCME voted against Mr. Malloy’s attempt at shared sacrifice. When it was feared Plan A was doomed, Mr. Donovan said he felt his proper place was in the General Assembly. Until that moment, many suppose, Mr. Donovan had been careful to keep his fingerprints off union negotiations, a posture he likely will abandon in the near future.

Mr. Malloy’s “shared sacrifice” has taken an inordinate bite out of taxpayer wallets. The bite taken from state workers, mild by most accounts, has diminished during the negotiation process, relieved in part by an artificial “surplus” tucked into the budget. A re-negotiation led by Mr. Donovan in the House and Speaker of the Senate Don Williams, the unions may hope, will reduce it further.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Unions Call Malloy’s Bluff

State worker unions in Connecticut are able to vote on budgets; taxpayers are not, perhaps the best argument in favor of a state budget referendum.

Multiple sources are reporting that the adoption by state unions of Governor Dannel Malloy’s Plan A is failing. Many critics in the state – including the Yankee Institute, union negotiator Larry Dorman’s least favorite conservative outlet -- considered Plan A favorable deal for the unions. AFSME, one of the largest unions in the state has turned a thumbs down to Plan A, and it is said that prison union workers are prepared to vote “No” on the package.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Business to Malloy: Not Again?

Soon after Governor Dannel Malloy announced that he was to begin yet another “listening Tour,” this time among Connecticut businesses, accompanied by his new director of community and economic development, Catherine Smith, The Hartford Business Journal queried the governor:

“Smith gets a pass here. She’s just arriving on the scene. But Malloy should know he can’t play that card again so soon. He is just a matter of weeks removed from a 17-stop listening tour. He’s also been active in making plant tours. He’s heard all he needs to hear. He just chose not to process what he heard.

“Did he not hear that business thought the paid sick leave bill was a horrible signal of a climate that was unfriendly to business?
“Did he not hear that small business is concerned about the double whammy of increasing business taxes and increasing personal taxes for their business profits that run through individual tax filings?
“Did he not hear the frustration with the levels of state employee benefits and the stubborn refusal to roll back state spending?

“Word from the work floors is that Malloy lost his glib, engaging manner the more he didn’t like what he was hearing and turned downright rude at a couple of stops.

“Now we’re going to do it again?”
Listening is one thing; processing information you have gathered from listening and importing it into a future business plan – or, in the governor’s case, a plan for business in the state – is something altogether different.

If the business scheme has been settled before the listening tour, the listener will tend to discount any and all unsettling data that cannot be imported into the prearranged plan.

Unfortunately, this is the course Mr. Malloy followed – one might say religiously – during his last listening tour.” Mr. Malloy, during his tour, was determined that nothing he heard would interfere with Plan A.

During his previous 17 town listening tour, Mr. Malloy got an earful from citizens and groups who hoped to convince the governor that a massive tax increase during a recession would not spur business growth. But, on that occasion, Mr. Malloy had already settled on Plan A, from which was willing to deviate under only one condition: If state worker unions could not be bullied to submit to Plan A, Mr. Malloy then would have recourse to Plan B, a scheme far less favorable to unions and municipalities.

When an investigative reporter from the Yankee Institute volubly objected to to certain features of Plan A, a union negotiator promptly reported the reporter to Attorney General George Jepsen, much in the way some no account sub-thug among Joseph Stalin’s crowd of accolades puffed up with spite would report ideological deviants to the NKVD.

Spokesman for SEBAC Matt O'Connor said the Yankee Institute is anti-worker and has been for years, sufficient reason apparently to waist the attorney general's time.

"The bottom line," said Mr. O'Connor "is the Yankee Institute has some explaining to do,'' I think the Yankee Institute is the one who should be apologizing for attacking working people in this state for the better part of two decades. ... Their actions threaten the quality of life in the state. They're carrying out an agenda that is funded by very powerful, elite, anti-worker interests. That's what they need to apologize for.''

Mr. O'Connor's understandable resentment might be appropriate in letter to the editor of some union partisan media. But as an anti-First Amendment referal to Mr. Jepsen, who promptly passed the ball to the state auditors, it is a bit of a stretch.

Mr. Malloy’s plummet in recent polling data marks his distance from those he did not hear during his last listening tour. It is a measure of the governor’s drift from the ideas of others he might more profitably have adopted.

In celebrating Mr. Malloy’s steadfastness in pursuit of Plan A, political commentators in Connecticut were remarking on the governor’s political acuity rather than his sharp business sense. The Hartford Business Journal, unfortunately for Mr. Malloy, is less interested in Democratic Party politics than business. And Mr. Malloy’s dip in the polls is a telling commentary on what he calls Plan A, little more than a scheme to sustain the advantages unions have over taxpayers.

The governor’s communication people are advertising the new “listening tour” as “less structured” than his last spin around the political block, which may mean one of two things: either the governor’s “plan” to boost business activity in Connecticut is not fully formed, in which case their may be room in his new scheme for genuinely creative suggestions – such as the repeal of burdensome business taxes and regulations, the equivalent in the business world of the unfunded mandates so dreaded by municipalities – or the tour is yet another propaganda move to convince naive business people that a government can spur business activity by impositions that create market uncertainty and business flight to states that think less like politicians and more like the editors of the Hartford Business Journal.’

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mr. Livingston Presumes

One of the chief negotiators for SEBAC, the state union coalition negotiating with the administration of Governor Dannel Malloy on union contracts, Daniel Livingston, has written a letter to Attorney General George Jepsen – at one point, early in his career, a lawyer who represented unions – demanding that the attorney general “…investigate and take all appropriate actions authorized by state law” against Yankee Institute investigative reporter Zach Janowski.

Mr. Janowski, Mr. Livingston wrote in his letter, “purports to be an ‘investigative reporter’ and… also publishes a blog under the name of ‘Raising Hale.’”

Mr. Jepsen, however, is not asked in Mr. Livingston’s letter to investigate Mr. Janowski credentials as an “investigative reporter.” This snarky little tidbit is thrown in perhaps to degrade Mr. Janowski who, Mr. Livingston insists in his letter to Mr., Jepsen, has “degraded state workers.” Mr. Jepsen is not asked in Mr. Livingston’s fanciful and intemperate letter to investigate whether Mr. Janowski is an investigative reporter. The blot is there for decorative purposes.

Mr. Jepsen is not asked in Mr. Livingston’s letter to investigate whether Mr. Janowski “degrades” state workers simply because he is a reporter who works for an institution that feels it may be appropriate to outsource state jobs to private institutions as a cost saving measure.

“As part of its political agenda,” Mr. Livingston wrote to Mr. Jepsen, “the Yankee Institute has sought, and continues to seek to attack and degrade public employees, advocate moving their work to private employers, and to delegitimize and destabilize state government.”

The notion that privatizing some aspects of state service for the purpose of saving tax dollars must “deligitimize and destabilize state government” simply hangs in Mr. Livingston’s letter to Mr. Jepsen like a shiny ball on a Christmas tree. The chief purpose of the absurd assertion is to glitter and shine. But Mr. Livingston has not asked Mr. Jepsen to investigate whether, in fact, the privatization of some areas of state service, a practice not uncommon in other states, does in fact “destabilize state government.” Nor has Mr. Livingston asked Mr. Jepsen to investigate whether such measures would of necessity “deligitimize state government.” Determining such matter is perhaps beyond the purview of Mr. Jepsen and the more than 200 lawyers who work for him.

Mr. Livingston asserts in his letter to Mr. Jepsen that, far from being an investigative reporter, Mr. Janowski “is actually employed to write and disseminate propaganda on behalf of the political goals of the Yankee Institute.” In passing, it may be noted that the same might be said of any reporter or political commentator, whatever his political persuation. However, Mr. Livingston does not demand that Mr. Jepsen investigate Mr. Janowski’s many columns with a view to determining whether the several hundred statements made in them are in fact “propaganda.” Mr. Livingston’s derogation in this case was perhaps intended for the many editors of newspapers in Connecticut to whom that letter was dispatched. It cannot be the business of the attorney general’s office to prosecute propaganda or even to determine what portion of stories filed by reporters or which parts of editorials written by political commentators are propaganda. Here, as elsewhere in his letter to Mr. Jepsen, Mr. Livingston’s affirmations likely are intended for other eyes.

“On information and belief,” Mr. Livingston writes to Mr. Jepsen, “the Yankee Institute has determined that its political interests are best served by the defeat of the ratification vote pending for ‘SEBAC 2011,’ a tentative agreement reached on May 27 between the Malloy administration and SEBAC.”

Finally, after all Mr. Livingston’s rhetorical skirmishing, he here presents an assertion Mr. Jepsen might be able as attorney general to sink his teeth into. The problem is that Mr. Livingston’s information and believe is clearly wrong. The Yankee Institute, according to its executive director, Fergus Cullen, has through its sister organization, Yankee Action, taken out “paid advertisements supporting the concessions deal.”

The paid add supporting Mr. Livingston’s view on the negotiations, in part, reads:

“Contact Governor Malloy’s office by dialing 1-800-406-1527 and call your local legislators (search by street address to find your representatives at the Connecticut General Assembly) to tell them: “We need to restore the balance between the public and private sector. I support Gov. Malloy as he seeks concessions from the state employees unions.”
Of course, it is always possible that Mr. Livingston regards such paid advertisements as “propaganda” that “deligitimizes state government.” If so, the promulgation of Mr. Livingston’s views, in his view, can only lead to ruin and the ultimate destruction of the state.

It may seem to impartial observers, if there be such in Connecticut’s media, that Mr. Livingston’s ambition – to persuade the attorney general to intervene on his behalf for the purpose of frustrating the First Amendment and silencing a critic – begins a sharp decline at this point. If it has been established that the Yankee Institute has in fact encouraged the members of Mr. Livingston’s unions to support an agreement that he himself supports – AND IT HAS – Mr. Livingston’s objection to anything written by propagandists for the Yankee Institute frustrates his own designs and contributes to the deligitimization of state government.

After the center joist of Mr. Livingston’s argument has collapsed, we are left with – spite -- and, despite Mr. Livingston's claim to the contrary, a clumbsy atempt to put a gag in the mouth of those who, exercising their First Amendment rights, legitimately disagree with the ambitions of the ambitious Mr. Livingston and other state union leaders. It is not part of the office of attorney general to assist Mr. Livingston in realizing his ambitions.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Suicidal Republicans?

Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy here puts his finger exactly on the right point. It should come as no surprise to anyone that union leaders – who may or may not be acting in the best interest of the rank and file – want to control the propaganda they send to union members. But the Yankee Institute is not a part of the negotiations, and it stands, in respect to those negotiations, exactly as any other news organization might. Attorney General George Jepsen, one may hope, will tell the union “leaders” to take a hike. On the other hand, Mr. Jepsen did represent unions for a stretch as a private attorney before he became attorney general.

There is no doubt where editorial page editors should come down on this question. It’s still a free country – though, God knows, some people are trying to make it less so.

This is the Republican Party Chairman that disgruntled elements in the Republican Party want to replace:

Unions Get a Dose of Yankee Medicine

By Chris Healy

The truth hurts and the Yankee Institute is ladling it out large doses of it. And like a child wincing at gulping Castor oil, the mouth pieces at the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) are gasping. They have accused the conservative think tank with "meddling" or 'misinforming" their membership on the details and implications of the proposed union contracts that being subject to votes by the 34 collective bargaining units.

As part of the Democrat budget farce, which includes a budget out of balance by $400 million, each bargaining unit is now voting on the proposal by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to trim some benefits, delay raises and scramble the financial deck chairs of the state. SEBAC Friday accused the Yankee Institute of sending emails to state employees with fictitious names - raising doubts about the proposed changes in union contracts that are up for approval.

SEBAC says these acts constitute a conspiracy of misinformation. SEBAC has sent a letter to Democrat George Jepsen asking him to investigate Yankee, because they are distributing facts and information in lightening speed to the general public.

Jepsen, who has turned out to be one of the few bright spots of the 2010 Election, is likely to put this request in the outbox. The unions are getting a dose of their own tactics and they are being exposed for their own boorishness.

What is emerging in this public debate is something we used to be call political free speech - which the unions have done a masterful job of monopolizing through its iron-fist control of the Legislature and promulgation of state election laws which constrict the ability of alternative voices from raising the money needed to combat the lies and theft of public wealth by Democrats for two decades.

The Yankee Institute, a once moribund 501-c-3, has emerged as a primary voice for free enterprise, free markets and common sense under the new leadership of Fergus Cullen, former New Hampshire Republican Chairman, Heath Fahle, former Executive Director of the Connecticut Republican Party and reporter Zach Janwoski, an intrepid researcher and reporter.

Cullen knows how to communicate and he knows tactics. He is a smart operator and a disciple of Sun Tzu and a devote reader of the "Art of War." Yankee added a C-4 component that will allow it to take its message to more audiences. It is a welcome to see conservative ideas being brought into the mainstream of political discourse.

The Yankee message is getting through to the public at large. The wholesale collapse of the Malloy budget in the public eye began this week by two polls which showed Malloy's popularity at an historic low - due solely to his liberal approach to governance. A poll paid for by the Yankee Institute shows Malloy with a 42 percent approval rating while Quinnipiac, the gold standard for public opinion had the rookie Governor at 37 percent favorable. Malloy' budget was also a stinker, according to the Q Poll, with 50 percent opposing it.

Most people are onto to the big tax increase that will kick in on July 1st and be retroactive to January 1st of this year. And the clock is ticking on union rank and file approval of the kid gloves labor 'concessions" which Malloy and Democrats are boasting will bring the budget to heal. At least 80 percent of all union members must approve the package for it to stick. Amazingly, union members are grousing over the deal they are getting which is pretty sweet by any measure.

With private sector unemployment at 9.1 percent in Connecticut, unemployment for state employees remains at a stubborn 0.0 percent with four years of no layoffs proposed by Gov. Malloy in exchange for postponing raises for two years. Still, two unions have given the package the thumbs down and complained that it was too draconian. You wonder who is living off vapors here - Malloy - who is banking on a $1billion surplus from over-taxation or the union leadership, who feel they are somehow being gamed for putting off raises for two years.

In any event, the public debate has now finally centered on the abject failure of the ruling class - the Democrats - to convince Connecticut taxpayers that the path toward economic recovery and growth is through the meticulous leadership of government and punishing taxes and regulation.

Free speech is a bitch, ain't it?

On The Road Again

The Hartford Courant editorial board gave full warning on Saturday that Governor Dannel Malloy, the Elmer Gantry of progressives, will be on the road again, this time pitching his vision of a progressive utopia to Connecticut’s vanishing business community.

The Courant editorial board seems enthusiastic:

“There isn't a more important or timely subject, considering Connecticut's glacial job-growth performance and the state's tattered, business-unfriendly reputation. At this point, following a legislative session whose results were cheered on by liberals and hissed at by many business interests, the governor and his economic development czar could stand to hang around with a few business people.”
The key to the trip is provided by unnamed “members of Mr. Malloy’s staff”:

“This will not be as structured an enterprise as the post-election ‘town hall’ listening tour taken by Mr. Malloy. The purpose, says his staff, is to "road test" his own ideas and to gather business leaders' in preparation for a special legislative session on job creation to be held, probably, in September.”
Will Mr. Malloy and his troupe be able to convince businessmen, not to mention gullible editorial writers, that jobs can be created by boosting regulations and taxes? Is doubling a business tax surcharge that was to have elapsed one of the rungs on Mr. Malloy's latter to Heaven?  Are there businessmen in the state who will fall for Mr. Malloy’s old time religion?

Are suckers born every minute?

It hardly matters. The whole point of the show is not to convince but to “road test” Mr. Malloy’s job producing ideas. People are little more sounding boards. The old time religion marches on.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pauline Kezer, A Late Entrée For Republican Party Chairman

Former Secretary of State Pauline Kezer slipped through a crack in the open door just as Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy was stepping out quietly into that good night.

In losing Mr. Healy, who had decided to retire as party chairman, the great difficulty for Republicans always was: Who do you replace him with?

The herd of applicants has thinned somewhat since the end of the midterm elections.

By May 24, when Mr. Healy announced he was not running for the position, ten Republicans had announced their availability. By June 14, when Republican Party Central met to interview candidates, several had dropped out in deference to William Aniskovich.

Two days later, columnist Kevin Rennie of the Hartford Courant dropped his stink bomb. Mr. Aniskovich, Mr. Rennie said, had cultivated an unsavory connection with disgraced former Republican Governor John Rowland, now a rehabilitated talk show host, and he had, years earlier while serving in the General Assembly, cheated on his wife.

Mr. Rennie tends to reach for the juggler in his ledes: “Beleaguered Connecticut Republicans have another problem. They are on the verge of electing former philandering state Sen. William Aniskovich as party chairman. His sexual escapades while in the General Assembly, where he served for 14 years, would make Anthony Weiner blush.”

Mr. Rennie argued plausibly that the Democratic Party, much more proficient than the Republican Party at exploiting such foibles, would make mince meat of Mr. Aniskovich, should State Central be foolish enough to anoint him party chairman. Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo was already chomping at the bit. While soon to be former Republican Party Chairman Healy was a loser, Mrs. DiNardo generously allowed, he was not corrupt. Late Thursday on the 16th, Mr. Aniskovich, stoutly defending himself from the amorphous barbs thrown at him by his critics, withdrew his bid as party chairman.

Mrs. Kezer, pressed by several Republican notables to enter the lists for party chairwoman, having announced her availability on June 11, stepped into this mare’s nest at a time when Mr. Rennie’s column, “Adulterous Past Taints GOP Chairman Candidate,” was but a glint in his eye.

Mrs. Kezer’s curriculum vita, which very likely does not include adulterous behavior with aides – though, of course, one should always check these things out beforehand with keepers of the dirt– is impressive.

Currently the trustee and Vice President of the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook, Mrs. Kezer served in the state House of Representatives from 1979-1986; she was Vice Chairman of the Connecticut GOP in the late 1980s and for four years, from 1991-1995, served as Secretary of State.

She is especially proficient in organizing disparate groups of people around principles and purpose.

What Connecticut needs, Mrs. Kezer said, is a renewed structure to make the party proficient: “I would work hard to make sure that we have the best organization that we can have in the state and grow the base of the party membership.”

A genuine leader, Mrs. Kezer said, would “open the doors everywhere and build up the grass roots. Primaries are healthy. I’ve never been afraid of primaries.” She is comfortable, she said, with the tea party people.

Mrs. Kezer agrees with House leader Larry Cafero that party chairmen should not become entrapped in policy issues: “Their job is to manage the process, to make government better with less money. I love to turn things around. As Secretary of State, I revamped the commercial code. A party chairman should be able to get everyone I the same room, marching to the same tune, creating a united focus in which everyone can work together to generate support for candidates. The town committees should be strengthened by making use of the best practices of other successful town committees.” And, Mrs. Kezer said, the revitalization of the party cannot be assured if the party chairman maintains only a cursory interest in the work of vitally important town committees.

Mrs. Kezer appears to be up to date on current issues:

Governor Dannel Malloy is “rash. He flies at something, leaving others no time to think.” The decision he made on the UConn Health Center was narrowly conceived. Mr. Malloy did not sufficiently take into account the “impact of his hasty decision on the medical community.” She does not favor the misuse of the state’s credit card: “No bonding for current expenses.”

And the Republican Party, she said, should stop hiding its light under a basket: The Republican Party must be “the party of reason, not the party of ‘No.’”

The new Republican Party Chairman will be selected June 28 by the 72 GOP delegates of the state central committee.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dodd’s Last Cuban Fling

Laura Colarusso of the Daily Beast reported on former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd’s last trips before becoming a Hollywood mogul:

“And being a short-timer doesn’t have to crimp anyone’s style. Take former Sen. Chris Dodd, the Democrat from Connecticut. After announcing in January 2010 that he wouldn't seek reelection, Dodd traveled to Brazil, Argentina, India, Spain, and the United Kingdom on the taxpayers’ dime. As chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, he signed off on close to $27,000 worth of foreign travel for himself, including a $2,000 trip to Cuba just before leaving office. A spokesman for the Motion Picture Association of America, Dodd’s new employer, said that the former senator’s trips were ‘especially important to bilateral and multilateral relations and the global harmonization of financial regulations.’"
The $2,000 tax payer trip to Cuba possibly was undertaken to bid a fair fond farewell to Cuba’s dictator, Fidel Castro. Mr. Dodd and Mr. Castro have been on friendly speaking terms over the years. And one cannot go to Cuba without leaving some fingerprints on Mr. Castro’s island. The equivalent of Cuba’s CIA takes notes on visits by foreign dignitaries – lots of notes.

Polls Spank Malloy

The most recent poll from the Yankee Institute shows Governor Dannel “The Vozhd” Malloy blowing bubbles below the water line.

“Voters oppose by wide margins every Malloy administration initiative tested in the survey:
• On the budget deal, 57% of voters say the new state budget agreement ‘spends too much and raises taxes too much,’ while 39% describe it as ‘about as good as could be expected given a weak economy.’
• On the labor union concessions, 49% of voters say state employee unions ‘did not give up enough and should have been asked for more,’ while 36% say ‘the unions did give up a lot.’
• By a margin of 60-30%, voters describe the $572 million New Britain busway project as ‘a bad use of taxpayer money.’
• By a margin of 56-25%, voters describe the $864 million UConn Health Center expansion as ‘a bad use of taxpayer money.’”
During the next legislative season, Mr. Malloy plans to travel about the state attempting to convince easily duped businessmen that Plan A, which includes a doubling of the corporate surcharge tax and the largest tax increases in Connecticut’s history, are good for business.

Mr. Malloy’s assault on business in Connecticut is old news to those who follow Connecticut Commentary.

The numbers on the latest Quinnipiac poll will not lighten the hearts of Malloy accolades:

Connecticut voters give Gov. Dannel Malloy a negative 38 - 44 percent approval rating, apparently driven by 43 percent who are "dissatisfied" with the new state budget and another 16 percent who are "angry" with the budget, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Only 36 percent described themselves as ‘enthusiastic’ or ‘satisfied’ with the budget.

“Today's results compare with a negative 35 - 40 percent approval rating for Gov. Malloy in a March 9 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll.”

According to a CTMirror report, poll director Doug Schwartz said the low numbers are a reflection of how voters perceive the Malloy budget:

"'His low approval rating is a reflection of how voters feel about his budget,' said Douglas Schwartz, the poll's director. 'Many voters are dissatisfied and some even say they are angry. They think the budget relies too much on tax increases and not enough on spending cuts. They also think the middle class is paying more than its fair share while those with higher incomes aren't paying their fair share.'

"Only 17 percent say the new budget fairly spreads taxes across income groups, while 67 percent say Malloy should have sought higher taxes from people with higher incomes, a view that eroded support in his Democratic base. His tax package is viewed as fair by more Republicans (27 percent) than Democrats (10 percent) or independents (19 percent.)

"'Gov. Dannel Malloy should be doing better in a blue state like Connecticut, but he gets only a 52 percent approval rating among his base of Democrats,' Schwartz said.”
The Republican-Democratic divide may signal the beginning of a class warfare struggle between progressive Democrats and center right elements in both parties.

Having accomplished at the tail end of the flaccid administration of Governor Jodi Rell their aim of adding a progressive feature to the relatively flat Weicker income tax, progressive Democrats in the legislature such as Speaker of the House Chris Donovan and President of the Senate Don Williams have been signaling their eagerness to make the rates tax more steeply progressive. Mr. Malloy’s resistance to the effort is rooted in prudential rather than ideological predilections. But his soft resistance, moderate Democrats and Republicans fear, may easily be overcome.

Mr. Malloy’s effort's in accommodating unions has been much more energetic than his efforts to accommodate, say, Republicans, who are now being cited by Mr. Donovan for their obduracy. Even a slight resistance on the part of Republicans to the Malloy-Williams-Donovan juggernaut is bound to be characterized by Connecticut's new one party state as "extreme", a useful derogation borrowed from Sen. Charles Schumer of New York.

Of course, the Republican objections to a budget that even the left of center New York Times has characterized as “the most liberal in living memory” are hardly extreme. Since Democrats clearly have decided to use their numbers in the General Assembly to establish a progressive regime, the objections, however apposite, will most certainly fall on deaf ears. It is a considerable understatement to say of those who are willfully deaf that they do not care about objections and polls they choose to discount.

Powell On The Malloy Budget

In a brilliant column -- "Is there any future in Connecticut outside of government?" -- managing editor of the Journal Inquirer Chris Powell explores the parallels between 1991, the year in which Governor Lowell Weicker inaugurated his income tax, and 2011, the year of the Vozhd:

“Democratic leaders say voters soon will forgive the tax increases and be glad of state government’s restored solvency. Maybe or maybe not. While the first election after the legislative session of 1991, the session that enacted the state income tax, a session closely analogous to the session just concluded, returned a General Assembly with exactly the same Democratic majority as the one that enacted the income tax, the governor who insisted on the tax, Lowell P. Weicker Jr., was so unpopular that he decided against re-election in 1994 and even left the state for a while.”

Mr. Powell’s column (hit link above) is well worth reading in full.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Enduring Palin

Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, as everyone knows by now, is a lightning rod for progressive dissatisfaction. At some point during her campaign for the Vice Presidency on the Republican ticket, one of her more enterprising critics produced a tea shirt emblazoned on the front with a misogynistic, not to say rude, message: “Sarah Palin Is a c**t.” Some were dissapointed when the tea shirt was not roundly denounced by Mrs. Palin’s usual critics, many of whom were graduates with advanced degrees from the feminist school of politics.

There is no sign of a let-up of Palinphobia among her more respectable critics. A Freedom of Information request having been submitted more than a year ago for the release of e-mails written by Governor Palin, the Washington the Post on Sunday morning offered to its on line readers “a full searchable text… [of] Sarah Palin's e-mails from her time as governor of Alaska from 2006-2008.”

For the politically prurient, here is a partial list of topics:

• In e-mails, hostility toward Big Oil
• Palin had third e-mail account
• In e-mails, a guarded go-getter
• Palin e-mails: No mention to staff of going into labor with Trig
• Palin e-mail release inspires media frenzy
• Palin directed state funds to failing creamery
• Racial concerns raised in Palin e-mails
• Sarah Palin e-mails show constant concern
• Sarah Palin faced Trig rumors from start
• Early interest in vice presidential slot ...

The paper has invited readers to communicate their impressions of the e-mails with Post editors. Reporters at the Washington Post and readers who take the time to peruse the 13,000 e-mails are looking for…? Well… they are looking for dirt -- and that final torpedo that will sink Mrs. Palin’s political career forever.

So far, they haven’t found it, according to Chris Cillizza , a post reporter.

But should the Post or some other rabid anti-Palin news source, perhaps a bilious blogger, find something sinkable in the rest of the e-mails – a text dump of some 24,000 pages – Mrs. Palin might consider offering the Charlie Rangel defense, used by the censured New York congressman of his besieged Democratic colleague, U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner. However offensive his behavior, Mr. Rangel said, Mr. Weiner “wasn't going with prostitutes. He wasn't going out with little boys." Neither, to judge from the e-mails released by the Washington Post, was Mrs. Palin.

The Vozhd

The budget submitted by Governor Dannel Malloy to the Democratic dominated General Assembly and approved by the legislature – although a pending deal between Mr. Malloy and state union workers requiring union givebacks of $1.6 billion had not been affirmed by the unions at its passage – is best seen as the inevitable political end piece of the first Weicker budget.

The presumptions underlying Governor Lowell Weicker’s 1991 budget parallel Mr. Malloy’s. Indeed, the two budgets, as well as the political maneuvering involved in passing them, are nearly mirror images.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Pelosi Changes Mind On Weiner

The decision on whether U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner will remain in the congress should be made, former Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said, by Mr. Weiner and his New York constituents. But over the weekend the lady changed her mind.

Declining to call for Mr. Weiner’s resignation, Mrs. Pelosi had instead asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate whether Weiner misused any government resources. Connecticut U.S. Reps John Larson and Rosa DeLauro concurred.

A recent poll of registered voters in Weiner's district showed 56 percent of those surveyed saying Mr. Weiner should remain in office, while 33 percent said he should be dumped. Mr. Weiner, a seven term Democrat who admitted to sending over the internet sexually explicit photos to half a dozen women over the past three years, declined to resign.

Mr. Weiner received additional support from Rep. Charles Rangel, recently censured by the House last year for ethics violations. Mr. Rangel pointed out that other members of Congress had done things more immoral than Weiner. Mr. Rangel said his Democratic colleague in the House "wasn't going with prostitutes. He wasn't going out with little boys."

Neither was he avoiding the payment of taxes, a charge against Mr. Rangel that may have disappointed some of his constituents, but apparently not in sufficient numbers to deprive Mr. Rangel of his seat among his fellow moralists in the U.S. Congress. This is what Rangel did to merit his censure:

• 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 Republic.

• 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.

“Despite this horrendous record,” the New Haven Register commented at the time, “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, was “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.”

Before Mrs. Pelosi’s turn of mind, Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson, still firmly tied to Mrs. Pelosi’s upon strings, “seemed to indicate Weiner should stay in office while the Ethics Committee goes through what could be a lengthy probe.

"’Leader Pelosi was right to call for an investigation into this matter, and it ought to proceed in as timely a fashion as possible,’ Larson said in a statement to Politico”

Mrs. DeLauro last month introduced along with Mr. Weiner a bill, the National Infrastructure Development Bank Act of 2011, that would create and fund a national bank similar to the European Investment Bank bill. The Rosa DeLauro-Keith Ellison-Anthony Weiner-Steve Israel bill would direct public and private dollars toward transportation, environmental, energy and telecommunications infrastructure projects, according to her web site.

The lay of the land inside the club is startlingly different as one moves outside the magic circle into the real world.

Mrs. Pelosi called for the resignation of Mr. Weiner on Saturday around noon during a slow news period. She urged Mr. Weiner to “seek help without the pressures of being a member of Congress.” Her surprise announcement left Mr. Larson and Mrs. DeLauro dangling awkwardly from their nooses. It will not take either of them long to recover, and a similar announcement may soon be expected from both. Mr. Rangel, however, may be unmoved by such moral heroics. The lay of the land inside the club looks very different after you have been censured.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Hill Announces Candidacy For The U.S. Senate As A Republican

Brian Hill, a former active duty military officer and JAG attorney who has an active law practice in Hartford, has announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate as a Republican.

“Our country is in trouble,” Mr. Hill said. “We have too much debt; a Congress that doesn't respect the Constitution; bureaucrats who do not recognize the people, and an unprecedented attack on the freedoms of business. The consequences of these policies and the culture of dependency they create can be seen by the failure in our inner cities and through the tragic destruction of many working class families oppressed by the welfare state. I am running because I know that to get America back on her feet we need to get the government out of the way.”

The owner of BKH & Associates, a law firm in downtown Hartford, Mr. Hill is a Connecticut native licensed to practice law in Connecticut, the U.S. Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and the Court of Federal Claims. He is a member of the Hartford Country Bar Association, Metro Hartford Alliance, and numerous other professional organizations and associations. Mr. Hill is a resident of Windsor. His campaign website may be found here.

UBS To Connecticut: Top This

Further evidence, as if any were necessary, that “leveling the playing field” between Connecticut and New York tilts the playing field in favor of New York, Massachusetts and  New Jersey -- whose job hungry governor, Chris Christie, is waiting over the line to catch Connecticut businesses that tumble into his hands –  is offered by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of the Big Apple.

There has been some chatter that USB, the large Swiss bank that has its North American headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, Governor Dannel Malloy’s old political stomping grounds, may move back to New York, a prospect that has Mr. Bloomberg swooning with delight, though he manages to conceal his expectant joy in the usual political Blah, according to CBS in New York:

“Asked what it would mean, Mayor Michael Bloomberg had a bullet list.

“’More jobs, more tax base, great thing. I’ve been saying for the last ten years there’s a reason to come to New York – not knocking Stamford or any other place,’ said Bloomberg. ‘People want to live here. And, places like Stamford, there’s a great raison d’être to live there, but there’s also one for New York, and I think it depends on who you’re trying to attract for your company.’

“Bloomberg said the value proposition of New York is that this is the intellectual capital of the world.

“’This is where young people in particular, but also even people my age, want to come. Cultural institutions, the challenge of working with others who are motivated - the best and the brightest. All this builds on itself,’ said Bloomberg, who added that there is a reason why New York’s population keeps growing...

“UBS left New York City 15 years ago and has reportedly been looking at the thus far unbuilt Three World Trade Center and at a Brooklyn location.”

Connecticut lost much of the luster that attracts business when former Governor Lowell Weicker saddled it with an income tax. The Democratic dominated General Assembly has since rigged the Weicker tax with a new progressive feature that will in the future allow its progressive General Assembly to dun the millionaires huddled in the state’s so called “gold Coast,” which does not shine as brightly as it once did. The state has since imposed on its citizens the largest tax increases in Connecticut’s history, part of Mr. Malloy’s “shared sacrifice” budget.

Governor Andrew “No New Taxes” Cuomo of New York will no doubt be delighted to welcome home USB, a business version of the prodigal son.

Amazon.com To Connecticut -- Get Lost!

Notices from Amazon.com (see below) are in the e-mail. The most poignant line in the "flake off" letter is this one: “If you are not currently a resident of Connecticut, or if you are relocating to another state in the near future, you can manage the details of your Associates account here.” Ah yes, a future connection with Amazon.com beckons – from more tax friendly states elsewhere.

Thanks Governor Danell Maloy. Thanks House Speaker Chris Donovan. Thanks President of the Senate Don Williams. The recipient of the letter below was an independent seller of hard to find books, a small business man now looking for a job in hardscrabble Connecticut.

From: Amazon.com Associates Program [mailto:associates-autoresponse@amazon.com]
Sent: Friday, June 10, 2011 5:05 AM
Subject: Notice of Contract Termination Due to New Connecticut Law

For well over a decade, the Amazon Associates Program has worked with thousands of Connecticut residents. Unfortunately, the budget signed by Governor Malloy contains a sales tax provision that compels us to terminate this program for Connecticut-based participants effective immediately. It specifically imposes the collection of taxes from consumers on sales by online retailers – including but not limited to those referred by Connecticut-based affiliates like you – even if those retailers have no physical presence in the state.
We opposed this new tax law because it is unconstitutional and counterproductive. It was supported by big-box retailers, most of which are based outside Connecticut, that seek to harm the affiliate advertising programs of their competitors. Similar legislation in other states has led to job and income losses, and little, if any, new tax revenue. We deeply regret that we must take this action.
As a result of the new law, contracts with all Connecticut residents participating in the Amazon Associates Program will be terminated today, June 10, 2011. Those Connecticut residents will no longer receive advertising fees for sales referred to Amazon.com, Endless.com, MYHABIT.COM or SmallParts.com. Please be assured that all qualifying advertising fees earned on or before today, June 10, 2011, will be processed and paid in full in accordance with the regular payment schedule.

You are receiving this email because our records indicate that you are a resident of Connecticut. If you are not currently a resident of Connecticut, or if you are relocating to another state in the near future, you can manage the details of your Associates account here. And if you relocate to another state after June 10, 2011, please contact us for reinstatement into the Amazon Associates Program.

To avoid confusion, we would like to clarify that this development will only impact our ability to offer the Associates Program to Connecticut residents and will not affect their ability to purchase from www.amazon.com.

We have enjoyed working with you and other Connecticut-based participants in the Amazon Associates Program and, if this situation is rectified, would very much welcome the opportunity to re-open our Associates Program to Connecticut residents.


The Amazon Associates Team

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Idiot “Comedian” Apologizes To Palin, Sort Of

Former Governor of Alaska and Republican nominee for Vice President Sarah Palin snaked her way into Massachusetts through Connecticut with minimal notice. But when she arrived in the Patriot State, she was besieged by ill-wishers after she had “mangled” a historical reference to Paul Revere’s ride.

In a 2’fer, an assassination “joke” by “comedian” Christopher Titus targeted both Sarah Palin and the Kennedy family.

Mr. Titus joked that if Sarah Palin became president, he would “hang out on the grassy knoll all the time, just loaded and ready," after which he offered an apology:
“While sitting in a comedy club with another comedian doing a podcast after listening to Sarah Palin’s stupid comments about Paul Revere -- something we all learned about in the first grade -- I popped off. More than anything, I made a joke about a horrible tragedy that befell a great President. To the Kennedy family, my heartfelt apologies. To Ms. Palin’s family, this would infuriate me if it were said about my family. Apologies to you as well.”
Sadly, Mr. Titus’ remarks, which drew a few laughs, followed an assassination attempt upon Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, immediately after which the country was treated to charges that Tea Party Patriots had in some sense been responsible for the atmosphere of incivility that possibly had motivated the assassin, Jared Lee Loughner, a nut whose political predispositions certainly had not been drawn from the abused Tea Party Patriots.

Mr. Titus then proceeded to chip away at his generous Palin apology:
“The comment was based on the fact that America has set the bar so low with what we accept as a possible leader. Just imagine Sarah Palin sitting in a negotiation with Putin, Ahmadinejad or Hu Jin Tao. Let’s all take a deep breath."
However, it turns out that Paul Revere did warn the British that the Americans were armed against them, according to the Boston Herald:

“In fact, Revere’s own account of the ride in a 1798 letter seems to back up Palin’s claim. Revere describes how after his capture by British officers, he warned them “there would be five hundred Americans there in a short time for I had alarmed the Country all the way up.”
Wes Pruden of the Washington Times, with some help from Brendan McConville, a history professor at Boston University, here sets the historical record straight:

Only now it turns out that she was right about Paul Revere’s midnight ride and the press claque was wrong. Even the professors say so, though they’re grudging to the point of churlishness. “Basically,” says Brendan McConville, a history professor at Boston University, “when Paul Revere was stopped by the British, he did say to them, ‘Look, there is a mobilization going on that you’ll be confronting.’” Revere, an honest tradesman, probably didn’t employ “professor-speak” in the heat of the moment, with words like “mobilization” and “confronting,” but we can take the point. In the account of the most famous midnight ride in American history, the professor says, “the British are aware as they’re marching down the countryside they hear church bells ringing—she was right about that—and warning shots being fired. That’s accurate.”

Mr. Titus offered no apology to Mr. Revere or to his first grade history teacher, who must at some point have told Mr. Titus that everyone warned by Mr. Revere during his ride was British, the separation from Britain having occurred years after Mr. Revere’s much celebrated ride.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Office Of Fiscal Analysis To Malloy: Your Budget Doesn’t Compute

The guys and gals who work at the Office of Fiscal Analysis (OFA) are the “go to” people for legislators who do not carry an Encyclopedia Britannica around in their heads. Throw some number on the floor before them and they can tell you if the numbers are accurate or fictional. Even on a bad day, they can tell you how many angels fit on the head of a pin. And in our statistical age, when every “non-partisan” agency is connected at the hip to fiercely partisan politicians, the OFA is genuinely non-partisan -- in the way that math or water is non-partisan.

Having examined the estimated savings in the Governor Dannel Malloy-SEBAC budget, the OFA has found that 60% of the savings claims made therein are UNVERIFIABLE.

The bad news was brought to the attention of the general public by Keith Phaneuf of CTMirror:

“Nonpartisan legislative analysts say they can vouch for less than 40 percent of the $1.6 billion in labor savings figured into the next biennial budget, and are unable to assess the rest--more than $1 billion--because of unanswered questions or insufficient data, according to a memo submitted late Monday to the General Assembly.”

Not to worry, say the epigones of transparency in the Malloy administration and their Democratic chorus in the General Assembly, the savings are real. The Malloy administration paid a good chunk of cash to an actuarial consulting firm outside of state government – perhaps the first and last time the Malloy administration will outsource state business – to produce the figures they needed to show a balanced budget.

Then the massive budget documentation was dumped on the doorstep of the ladies and gents at the OFA for verification. No dice, said the OFA: “Please note that at this time we are unable to determine or verify the levels that are contained in these estimates in many cases," OFA Director Alan Calandro wrote in a memo to Republican House leader Larry Cafero.

No actuarial analysis had been offered to OFA to support a contention that $67 million would be saved by increasing penalties for senior employees who retire earlier than the normal age; OFA could not determine from the figures provided to them how much would be saved by a new hybrid retirement plan for higher education employees; the Malloy administration had not provided to OFA their assumptions in support of a claim that health care provision would save the state $245.9 million in two years; the OFA lacked documentation to support a claim made by the Malloy administration that a new Health Enhancement Program would reduce health care claims by 4 percent in the first year and 10 percent in the second; OFA intimated that the new health care plan, which relies on preventative services, might increase costs, figures not provided in the administration’s savings estimates. The OFA Memo to Cafero goes on and on, piling up doubtful “savings.”.

The OFA’s aspersions are regarded by Office of Policy and Management Secretary Benjamin Barnes as a “delaying tactic” to prevent speedy approval of the Malloy-Williams-Donovan-SEBAC budget. Mr. Barnes has acknowledged that some savings targets amounting to $345 million were of necessity poorly defined. The OFA could not affirm such savings because “information as to how savings were estimated has not been provided."

The OFA’s inability to verify the cost savings in the Malloy budget has not disturbed the  equanimity of Senior Malloy advisor Roy Occhiogrosso, who said, despite the OFA’s misgivings, that the Malloy administration and the unions were “confident in the numbers.” But then Mr. Occhiogrosso’s confidence is unbounded – even when he is told by Mr. Malloy’s OPM Director that $345 million of the reputed savings boosting his confidence is questionable.

The budget itself rests upon $1.6 billion in union givebacks that will not be given back until the budget has been passed by the union dependent Democratic Party cohort in the General Assembly, whose confidence matches that of Mr. Occhiogrosso.

This year’s $40 billion two year budget has a novel twist to it: The budget is pre-approved, which means the General Assembly will pass a bill that rests on unassured, assumed savings: Union have not yet approved contracts that include expected givebacks of $1.6 billion.

Following seven hours of debate, Republican Senator Andrew Roraback, a 17 year veteran of the General Assembly, offered an amendment requiring the Democratic dominated legislature to return in special session to vote on the SEBAC agreement. Addressing Lieutenant governor Nancy Wyman, Mr. Roraback said:

“It doesn't feel right, Madam President. If this bill passes, we will all drive blindly into the night, asking ourselves, 'What was it that we just did?'… I can't ever remember a time in the history of this body when we have pre-approved a contract change. ... Yet, we're ratifying something that is in the ether. ... I have never before seen anything that remotely resembles the process of this bill. ... It is customary for the horse to come first and then the cart.''

Mr. Roraback’s amendment was defeated, and confident majority Democrats in the legislature promptly voted in favor of putting the cart before the horse.


June 9, 2011

Yankee institute investigative reporter Zach Janowski reports in Raising Hale:

“The actuarial estimates and other documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request show how the state will save $1 billion by implementing a union concession agreement negotiated by Gov. Dannel Malloy’s administration.

“However, the documents do not include support for the $1.6 billion total claimed by the administration.”

At first glance, it appears that the Malloy administration inflated the savings figures supplied to it by the actuarial firm, Milliman, the administration hired to account for the savings the Malloy administration hoped to realize.

“Internal documents from OPM confirm the value of the freezing wages is $448.4 million over two years.

“A May 12 memo from the actuarial firm Milliman supports $290.5 million in healthcare savings over two years, short of the $391.3 million claimed by the administration.

“Correspondence with actuarial firm Cavanaugh Macdonald confirms $279.8 million in pension savings over two years, $200 million less than the administration’s estimate of $485.2 million.”

Moreover, pension savings are not static and cannot be gauged by simply adding them up:

"Each change has the potential to reduce the value of the other changes. For example, a wage freeze reduces the value of future benefits – and therefore the value of future savings.”

The figures used to support Mr. Malloy’s budget are not only soft; they may be rotten.

Rand Paul on Liberty

Rand Paul, lover of liberty, explains the connection between abortion and toilets.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Weiner And The Etiquette Of Admission

The first rule is this: If you are going to put yourself through the trouble of admission, no qualifiers will be allowed. You cannot say, “Yes, it is true that I allowed my bachelor’s pad in Washington D.C. to be used by an acquaintance as a bordello servicing both gay and straight clients, but…

A “but” is a backdoor exit to your national humiliation and will not escape the notice of the usually soporific mainstream media, which tends to be more forgiving of so called “sins of the flesh” committed by Democrats such as U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, an out of the closet gay guy who, several years ago, provided one of his friends the opportunity to frolic with his clients in his Washington D.C. bordello. Mr. Frank was exposed by the frothing right wing media. The exposure, however, put no serious dent in the congressman’s bumper; and, after a few months, Mr. Frank was permitted to get along with his congressional business, joining former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd, now a Hollywood mogul, in imposing strangling regulations on American businesses during a recession that Democrats had hoped would elide into a mini-depression, the better to save the country through FDR-like public works programs.

The second rule is this: Don’t weep, don’t cringe, and don’t drag your long suffering wife – or, in Mr. Frank’s case, partner – into your sordid affairs. If your wife, partner, paramour refuses to stand by you in your hour of trial, try to accept the rebuff with a tortured but understanding smile.

The third rule is this: If you plead guilty publicly to untoward behavior – fetchingly kicking a foot in the next stall in a men’s room, little realizing that the gent sitting on the toilet beside you is a vice cop; or producing a child out of wedlock with your mistress while running as Vice President of the United States; or confessing, better late than never, to your faithful wife that you had produced a child ten years earlier with one of the servants; or, as in the case with the much humiliated Anthony Weiner of New York, sending erotic twitters here and there, accompanied with graphic pictures – inflict upon yourself a suitable penance.

And the fourth and final rule is this: So behave in life and with others that your mom and dad, diseased or living, may not be embarrassed by your self indulgent stupidity, in this life or the next.

Mr. Weiner violated all these rules, as well as the overarching rule stressed by Mark Twain, humorist and social philosopher: A man, said Mr. Twain, may commit numerous breaches of the law and yet get away with all these, particularly if he is a politician or person of means who has in hand a good lawyer; but let a man commit one offense against convention – and he is a goner. There is no hope for him.

Proceeding backwards through the rules:

1) Considering Mr. Weiner’s public confession, it is likely that he is incapable of making the proper distinction between illegalities that may be got round and conventions that cannot be hurtled. It is true that modernity has thrown to the dogs many of the conventions that might have inhibited our parents; a certain amount of confusion may therefore be tolerated. On the other hand, Mr. Weiner is not a man easily confused and, at least in respect to conservative conventions, he has been pointedly intolerant.

2) Mr. Weiner, having confessed to his sins, refrained from imposing a suitable penance upon himself. He will not give up his office. And he has challenged such moral adepts as Nancy Pelosi to bring on the Grand Inquisitors. Go ahead, set the dogs of the House Ethics Committee upon me – just go ahead. One prominent Democrat suggested that former President Bill Clinton, who had in the past an unfortunate brush with White House convention, might have a word with Mr. Weiner and encourage his speedy exit.

3) Mr. Weiner wept, cringed and brought his innocent wife into the affair.

4) Mr. Weiner’s apology was decorated with “buts,” some subtly implied. For instance, Mr. Weiner said he had sent to a complete stranger a picture showing a bulge below his pelvis “… as a joke.” One commentator groused that he wondered whether Mr. Weiner’s wife would have considered that twitter funny. Possibly not.

Andrew Brietbart, the Publisher of Big Government who outed Mr. Weiner’s frat house behavior, has now said he possesses a picture sent by Mr. Weiner to yet another female stranger showing Mr. Weiner showing off his wiener. From delicacy and pity, Mr. Brietbart has said, he would not release the picture. But in these days of twitter and facebooks, there are WikiLeakers crouching behind every bush, waiting to waylay unconventional congressmen such as Mr. Weiner with promises of blackmail: “Halt there Weiner – your favors or your life!”

A final reason why Mr. Weiner should leave politics behind, repair his bruised marriage, and get a real job in the real world – like Mr. Dodd.


In an “only In America” moment, Elliot Spitzer, the former disgraced but now rehabilitated Mayor of New York, on June 9 discussed Mr. Weiner’s legal problems with Jonathan Turley on CNN’s “in the Arena.”

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Pot And Transgenderism: Democrats And Their Social Gospel

Pot smokers in the state might want to send an e-mail thanks and big busses to Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman, who broke a 18-18 tie in the Senate on a bill that decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana, if they can navigate the keyboard.

Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, explained the raison d’etre of the bill: "We are not enforcing the use of illegal drugs. We strongly disapprove of their use, but we're trying to realign their punishment that is more appropriate.” Mr. Looney said the state, which apparently can’t chew gum and walk at the same time, “should be focusing its scarce criminal justice resources on dangerous offenders,” according to a story in the Stamford Advocate. It’s not clear how anyone might “enforce the use of illegal drugs.” It is clear that sloppy thought leads ineluctably to sloppy language.

Sen. Toni Boucher, who opposes the legalization of marijuana, was able to prevail upon her Democratic colleagues to amend the bill so that persons caught three times with less than a half ounce of the once illegal substance would be required to seek drug treatment. The Democratic majority in the senate entertained Ms. Boucher’s unenforceable provision, some suspect, because she was not a Republican.

Governor Malloy praised his Democratic colleagues in the Senate for having passed the pot bill:

“I applaud the Connecticut State Senate for passing these common sense reforms to our criminal justice system. The punishment should fit the crime. Let’s be clear – we are not making marijuana legal and we are not allowing people who use it and get caught to avoid the repercussions. But we are acknowledging the reality that we are doing more harm than good when we prosecute people who are caught using marijuana – needlessly stigmatizing them in a way we would not if they were caught drinking underage, for example, and disproportionately affecting minorities. As a former prosecutor in Brooklyn, my opinion on this issue was formed a long time ago. While our focus will continue to be on prevention and juvenile offenders will be referred to court officials for treatment, this proposal frees up more of our police and prosecutors to fight violent crime. I’m pleased that the Senate took this action, and I urge the House of Representatives to take up the measure and pass it, as well.”
According to CelebStoner, the Malloy family has had its brushes with pot laws before:

“Now, 23, Ben Malloy has had legal problems since his father was mayor of Stamford. On Feb. 27, 2007 he was charged with possession of less than four ounces of pot in Greenwich. Malloy received no jail time but was placed on probation, which he violated on Mar. 3. 2009 when he was arrested again, this time in Darien, when he and a friend were charged with first-degree armed robbery (they tried to rip off some weed using a BB gun). Malloy pled guilty and was given five years' probation.”
It has been a busy week for Democrats in the General Assembly. In addition to decriminalizing the possession of small quantities of pot, majority Democrats in the legislature also passed, over the futile objections of social conservatives and mothers against unseemly bathroom incidents, a bill granting, in the words of Mr. Malloy’s press agents, “protections from gender identity discrimination.” The precise meaning of this phrase, found in one of Mr. Malloy’s press releases, is uncertain. The bill does not offer protection for women who wander into men's bathrooms; nor does it offer protections for men who wander into women's bathrooms. In both cases, gender differences will continue to be observed in polite society, and the law will punish those who fail to make proper distinction between men and women. The bill supported by majority Democrats in the General Assembly obliterates such useless distinctions and offers protection to people whose gender identity is indiscriminate. Perhaps, celebrating the immanent passage of the pot bill, Mr. Malloy’s press agents were indulging in small quantities of the stuff when they wrote their release. A message from Mr. Malloy was clearer:
“This bill is another step forward in the fight for equal rights for all of Connecticut’s citizens, and it’s the right thing to do. It’s difficult enough for people who are grappling with the issue of their gender identity, and discrimination against them has no place in our society. Connecticut has lead the way in other civil rights issues and I’m proud to be able to support and sign this bill.”
No one yet in the General Assembly has produced a bill protecting polygamists from discriminatory laws, even though polygamy is practiced in such enlightened corners of the world as Saudi Arabia. Indeed, Islam looks with favor on polygamy, and a fair reading of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects religious freedom, would seem to support a social convention enshrined in law in many countries where the religion of Islam is practiced. Perhaps Mr. Looney and Mr. Malloy might turn their attention to such antique and unjust laws here in the United States as prohibit polygamy. Social prohibitions of this kind can only be unseemly in a state that has courageously lead the way on other important civil rights issues.

Malloy s GAAP Falls Through The Gap: Trouble In Paradise

Much fuss was made during the gubernatorial campaign by former Mayor of Stamford Dannel (then Dan) Malloy concerning the adoption of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), the subject of Governor Malloy’s very first Executive Order.

The old way of accounting, which had given rise to budget finagling that allowed governors and legislators less scrupulous than Mr. Malloy to fudge budget figures, was supposed to give way to GAAP, an accounting process that would scrub politics of distasteful gimmickry.

“An implementer bill passed Tuesday by the House,” according to a story in CTNewsJunkie, “postpones the full implementation of GAAP until 2014 and eliminates the $1.5 billion deficit a transition to GAAP would create. But it also promises to spend about $100 million a year over the next 15 years starting in 2014 to pay down the $1.5 billion GAAP deficit and in order to ensure that deficit doesn’t grow it allocates about $75 million in fiscal year 2013 and $50 million in 2014.”

Zach Janowski, an investigative reporter for the Yankee Institute, has reported that if GAAP were operative right now, Mr. Malloy’s projected two year surplus would disappear altogether and be replaced by yet another wearisome deficit.

So, its rather a good thing – from the point of view of politicians less scrupulous than Mr. Malloy -- that GAAP has, so to speak, fallen through a legislative gap.

Ben Barns, Mr. Malloy’s budget director, adamantly denies that GAAP is being delayed: “We’re not delaying the implementation of GAAP, we’re beginning to amortize the cumulative unfunded GAAP liability starting in two years. We are moving as quickly as practical to implement GAAP. We’re intending our budget be balanced on a GAAP basis from inception through final audit starting with 2012. So I think the notion that we’re delaying GAAP is completely unfounded. It’s not the case.”

House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero begs to differ. GAAP was Mr. Malloy’s “cause celeb” in January when he took office; he signed an executive order that said “I’ll try to do my best to implement GAAP”; in February, Mr. Malloy made GAAP a conspicuous part of his budget proposal, vowing that a portion of the surplus would be used to cover the cost of the transition to GAAP, Mr. Cafero said. Following the postponement of the transition until the next biennium, “All we know now,” Mr. Cafero said, “is that we have a governor who says one thing and does another.”

The General Assembly has put forward a 15-year plan to eliminate the accumulated GAAP deficit of $100 million. That reform is bound to collide with a General Assembly that has over the years grown comfortable with a smoke and mirrors budgeting that allows politicians to hide dying bodies under the rug.

And Connecticut itself may be a dying body, according to a report recently issued by the Institute for Truth in Accounting and the Comeback America Initiative.

The fundamental accounting difference between GAAP and Connecticut’s current modified cash accounting (MCA) is that revenue is recorded when earned in GAAP; Connecticut, utilizing MCA records revenue when cash is received.

“What they try to do under this political math,” said Sheila Weinberg, founder and CEO of the Institute for Truth in Accounting, is push any revenues into a current year budget and push any expenses out of it. “It’s just manipulation of the numbers. That’s what got the corporations in trouble. A lot of corporate leaders are sitting in jail just for games like this.”

The number fudging merely obscures but does not settle underlying problems.

“While Connecticut reported total assets of $29.7 billion,” Connecticut Budget Watch reported, “the Institute’s review of the state’s 2010 financial report revealed that there are $44 billion of off-balance sheet retirement obligations. More than $18.7 billion of the State’s assets cannot be easily converted to cash to pay state bills of $74.5 billion as they come due. These assets consist of capital assets, including infrastructure, buildings and land, and assets the use of which is restricted by law or contract. The State does not have the funds needed to pay for $63.5 billion of state obligations.

Each taxpayer’s share of this financial burden equals $49,000.

To put it in simple terms, Connecticut has spent far more than it has collected in tax revenue. As a result, every taxpayer in the state now owes the state $49,000. When state assets are sufficient to pay off the obligations – and not before – the Connecticut’s books will be in balance. In addition, one of the methods the Malloy administration has settled upon to partially redress the imbalance, retroactive tax collections, may be unconstitutional, according to former Comptroller General of the United States David Walker, the founder and CEO of the Comeback America Initiative.

“It is not normal or advisable to have retroactive tax increases,” Walker said. “Retroactive increases have been successfully challenged in court. If such an increase is challenged legally, there will be both budget and accounting implications.”

Mr. Malloy’s spokesman, Juliet Manalan, said, “The Governor is not concerned that the budget will be challenged on Constitutional grounds.”

The state’s asset shortfall and $63.5 billion in state obligations ought to be an issue of greater concern.

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