Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Retreat From Education Reform

"We have a very fundamental disagreement here. You see this is what happens when you rush. …When you are trying to fly the plane and build it at the same time … you move too quickly, and you end up with controversies” -- Sharon Palmer, president of the American Federation of Teachers Connecticut.

Hours after a USA Today columnist draped around Governor Dannel Malloy’s shoulders the mantle of Roger Sherman, the Connecticut delegate to the Constitutional Convention responsible for offering the “Great Compromise” that unified the convention and paved the way to a ratification of the U.S. Constitution, a wing came off Mr. Malloy’s educational reform plane.

“This month,” USA Today proclaimed, “Connecticut Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy signed into law a compromise bill that could be a blueprint for meaningful education reform in the other 49 states. The bill, which passed with near-unanimous support from Republicans and Democrats, is a broad attack on the state's troubled public schools… Recognizing the dire consequences of failing to fix this problem, the governor and legislators overcame partisan bickering and produced a law that also won the backing of public school administrators and teachers' unions.”

The Palmer quote above may be found in a story titled, ominously, “Teacher Evaluations: January's Dream Agreement Now On The Rocks: Misunderstanding On Key Issue Of Student Test Scores.”

The January “Dream Agreement” is the same “Great Compromise”tooted in the USA Today opinion piece.

The sticking point for teachers and unions concerns the percentage of a teacher's evaluation that would be based on students' performance on tests. Last February, both sides appeared to agree that 45 percent of the evaluation was to be based on "multiple student learning indicators," and half of that measure was to be based on standardized test scores. The present disagreement centers on the remaining 22.5 percent. Teacher unions now insist that this portion of the evaluation should include measures of student performance other than tests, while representatives of school administrators and superintendents insist that this portion of the teacher evaluations could include tests.

This management-labor disagreement -- which would profoundly affect the education reforms proposed by Mr. Malloy, reducing by a considerable amount the role played in education reform by measurable objective data –apparently surfaced only recently within the state's Performance Evaluation Advisory Council, the group charged with producing a compromise plan between teachers and administrators that would implement the reforms Mr. Malloy has insisted are necessary to reduce Connecticut’s first in the nation education gap between performing and non-performing public schools.

The real rift here involves the usual management-worker tug of war: When Mr. Malloy first unscrolled his reforms, his proposed changes seemed to hold out the promise of greater management control over the hiring of good teachers and the firing of inadequate teachers by principals and superintendents. Teacher evaluations linked to student performance, a measurable datum, along with tenure linked to teacher evaluations, would give school managers greater control over the educational product in under-performing public schools.

That lofty ambition soon crashed into a wall of union opposition. Everywhere Mr. Malloy wentto sell his reforms to the real customers of public education – the tax paying publicand the parents of students in under-performing schools, for many years the victims of an inadequate public school education – the governor met with an unbendable opposition on the part of teachers, their union leaders and the usual culprits in the media and academia, all of whom are heavily invested in the maintenance of the status quo.

And the end result of all the palavering is: Non performing schools will receive more money; the schooling net, now approaching cradle to grave union directed “education,” will embrace more students, leading to the hiring of more teachers; teacher evaluations have been rolled back; the coupling of employment and performance as measured by objective data has been loosened; and the state a few days ago was graced with the presence of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who granted Connecticut a waiver from the rigors of the federal No Child Left Behind requirements during the 2013-14 school year.

One news report noted: “Calling the state's evaluation framework ‘meaningful’, Duncan did not weigh in on how much of a teachers' grade should be tied to standardized tests.”

Of course he didn’t. That matter is on the point of being decided by union muscle. Why should politicians intervene vigorously on behalf of students in the state who are receiving a below par education? According to recent figures, one in five Connecticut high school students failed to graduate on time or at all; and of high school students who graduated in 2004, just two in five had earned a degree or certificate from college six years out. Why destroy the fantasy that the majority of teacher evaluations will in any firm sense be coupled to student performance?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

WWE vs. Powell

It doesn’t take much to startle most journalists in Connecticut, many of whom are as lion-shy as gazelles. A growl from a snarling lawyer is in most cases sufficient to quiet the whole herd.

Dismayed by a political column written by Chris Powell of the Journal Inquirer, World Wide Entertainment (WWE) senior vice president of marketing and communications Brian Flinn wrote to Mr. Powell an e-mail threatening to sue if Mr. Powell did not issue a retraction “by June 4, 2012 in as public a manner as that in which you made these false statements.” Should Mr. Powell fail to comply with Mr. Flinn’s demand, “we will seek legal and all available remedies,” the e-mail specifies.

In the e-mail sent to Mr. Powell, copied to many other Connecticut newspapers, Mr. Flinn advises, “This time, WWE is taking a proactive and aggressive approach to ensure that accurate facts and statements are made about our company and brand. This has absolutely nothing to do with politics.”

A threat to sue must mention the word “malice,” and Mr. Flinn’s e-mail does not disappoint: “That you would repeat the false statement that WWE is in the pornography business, after being told of the falsity of that statement, is especially strong evidence of malice.”

In the context of the First Amendment, public officials and public figures must satisfy a standard that proves “actual malice” in order to recover for libel or slander. Legal malice must be committed intentionally without just cause or excuse.

In order to recover damages, WWE would have to show “actual malice” on the part of Mr. Powell. The legal standard for publications is New York Times vs. Sullivan 376 U.S. 254, 84 S. Ct. 710, 11 L. Ed. 2d 686 (1964).

In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that public officials and public figures cannot be awarded damages unless they prove that the person accused of making the false statement did so with knowledge that the statement was false or with reckless disregard as to the truth or falsity of the statement. Demonstrating malice in this context does not require the plaintiff to show that the person uttering the statement showed ill will or hatred toward the public official or public figure.

It is nearly impossible to sustain that standard in a commentary piece. There are multiple difficulties, these among others: Courts have allowed hyperbole in commentary pieces; pornography, more often than not, lies in the eye of the beholder; most often, communications of the kind sent by Mr. Flinn  are intended to curtail free speech, and the First Amendment is a mighty bulwark against the suppression of speech.

This is what Mr. Powell said of Mrs. McMahon in his column: “Her practical qualifications for office did not extend beyond her fantastic wealth, and that wealth derived from the business of violence, pornography, and general raunchy.”

This is what Mr. Flinn said Mr. Powell said in his column: “That you would repeat the false statement that WWE is in the pornography business, after being told of the falsity of that statement, is especially strong evidence of malice.”

In a suit alleging legal malice, a court would likely examine the statement to which Mr. Flinn imputes malice rather more closely than he might like. Mr. Powell is not saying that WWE is in the pornography business. The present tense – “IS in the pornography business” – is important. The subject of the putative “malicious” sentence is also important. Nowhere in the column does Mr. Powell mention WWE. Therefore, Mr. Powell is not repeating “the false statement that WWE is in the pornography business.”

WWE, as others have pointed out, is in a process of transition, and its present rating falls on the non-pornographic side of pornography. The “entertainment” provided by WWE, like the side-shows of P. T. Barnum’s day, are intended to fool the foolish. Virtually all of the set-piecesin the WWE ring are highly scripted. The “Barnum effect” is an actual term used by professors of psychology in which students purposely are gulled into believing invalid results of psychological tests in ethics courses. Deceptions of this kind always involve ethical catches. But courts are not chiefly concerned with ethics: They are concerned with the veracity of charges.

And Mr. Powell, in the line adduced by Mr. Flinn as legally malicious, is making a statement about 1) Mrs. McMahon’s “practical qualifications for office” and 2) Mrs. McMahon’s wealth, which Mr. Powel conjectures “derived from the business of violence, pornography, and general raunch” -- nice distinctions that will be important to a court gathered to rule on the nature of Mr. Powell putative malice.

Of course the court must also decide whether Mr. Powell’s statement breeches the wall erected by other courts interested in preserving both the letter and the spirit of the First Amendment, which allows both Mr. Powell and Mr. Flinn a certain latitude of expression without which  public speech would be matter decided through frivolous legal suits. Absent a presumption in favor of untrammeled speech, even masters of prose such as Honoré de Balzac, self-described as “a galley slave to pen and ink,” would not have been able to write without fear of prosecution the line: “the secret of great fortunes without apparent cause is a crime forgotten”.

The line above from Balzac introduces Mario Puzo’s Godfather, though it is there misquoted as: “Behind every great fortune lies a crime.”

Balzac’s statement is carefully qualified, the improvising somewhat reckless. Most galley slaves to pen and ink depend on courts to take note of such differences.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Veteran’s Day With Dick

Non-Vietnam War Veteran Dick Blumenthal Declines To Apologize For Lying Several Times Concerning His Service In Vietnam

Here Mr. Blumenthal appears in a splendid documentary on “StolenValor,” an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) production. To see video, hit “play video”:

Here are a series of blogs published in ConnecticutCommentary, many of which were also columns touching Mr. Blumenthal’s inability to offer a sufficient apology for his several lies:


Lili Marleen, sung here in English and German by Marlene Dietrich, was one of the most popular songs of World War ll. It was a German marching song, quickly appropriated by all the nations that fought in that war. By 1943, Lili Maleen was being sung in America, England, Russia, Italy, among other nations. It is the song of a solider led through blood and slaughter by a memory of the girl he left behind as she stood bathed in lamplight.

In English, at the café De Paris in 1954

In German. Take note of the flowering hands and fingers.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Memorial Day

The picture above is the only certified photo of Lincoln at Gettysburg

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom— and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Newton Reinvented

In the good old days, before the advent of campaign finance reform, a stretch in prison was no bar to election. Mayor Michael Curley of Boston, a colorful mob-connected figure in Massachusetts politics who made good on his campaign pledge to get the washerwomen of the city off their knees, ran the city from prison. Mr. Curley later rigged out all the washerwomen of Boston with long handled mops.

It may well be the case that a stretch in jail was the booster that rocketed Mr. Curley into a long and eventful career in politics.

Mr. Curley received news that he had been elected to Boston’s Board of Alderman in 1904 while cooling his heels in prison on a fraud conviction: He had fraudulently taken a civil service exam for two men applying for postmen in his district, and the stint in prison helped to burnish his reputation among the poor Irish of Boston as someone who was willing to go to the mat for those in need. During his career in politics, both as Boston Mayor and a U.S. Senator serving in the Congress from 1943 ton 1947, it was not uncommon for the city’s poor and unemployed Irish to line up outside his house in the mornings to speak with him about getting a job or to get a handout of a few dollars to see them through the week.

Running for the Congress against blue-blooded Tom Eliot, the son of a Unitarian minister, grandson of Harvard president Charles Eliot and a former New Deal attorney of sterling reputation backed by Franklin Roosevelt, Mr. Curley anchored his campaign in unvarnished appeals to ethnic, class and religious bigotry, shaking the  communist spook stick against  the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Yankee Eliot: “There is more Americanism in one half of Jim Curley's ass than in that pink body of Tom Eliot." Having won a spot in Congress, Mr. Curley proceeded to compile a voting record in support of the Roosevelt administration that was the envy of New Deal pinkoes everywhere.

Mr. Curley’s long political career ended in 1951 when he suffered an erosion of electoral support. Following his death, two statues honoring Mr. Curley appeared in Faneuil Hall; a bar called “The Purple Shamrock,” one of the mayor’s symbols, popped out of the ground nearby; his house, known during his time as “the house with the shamrock shutters,” became an historical site; and he was immortalized in the film “the Last Hurrah” as the protagonist, Frank Skeffington. Disappointed with the film, Mr. Curley, a shameless self-promoter but always the best guardian of his own reputation, initially threatened to bring legal action against Edwin O’Connor, the author of the novel, but on reflection thought better of it, telling Mr. O’Connor that he most enjoyed “the part where I die.”

Somewhere in Bridgeport, where the old-guard Democratic Party structure still lives and breathes, there may in the future be a spot for a couple of Ernie Newton statues.

An ex-felon and ex-State Senator from Bridgeport, Mr. Newton surprised Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo  when he won the endorsement of the Democratic nominating convention for the 23rd State Senate District, which comprises 75 percent of Bridgeport and a bit of Stratford.

"I have to say I am surprised," Ms. DiNardo said, adding when asked by a reporter if she would discourage voters from returning Mr. Newton to the General Assembly, “I think that's up to that district to make that decision, not me."

Governor Dannel Malloy, known for having in the past actively participated in the campaigns of Democrats formally nominated by his party, appeared to be consulting a similar script.    

When queried by Hartford Courant reporter Jon Lender, Mr. Malloy characterized the race in Bridgeport as “local issue, first and foremost.” He urged voters in Bridgeport to “take into consideration all of the abilities of the people that they have to choose from. It looks like there may three names on the ballot. And so I think the people of Bridgeport have a decision to make. I have to say to you that I’ve long been an advocate of a second-chance society. As a prosecutor, as a governor, as a mayor I’ve advocated for second chances. But ultimately in the political arena that’s a decision for the public to make… I think the public has a balancing act. They have to decide whether … the person has paid a sufficient price, whether they’ve expressed sufficient remorse, whether they have the skill set necessary to do the job. … That’s why we have elections, and I would urge all the voters to vote.”

Mr. Newton offered a much abbreviated concision of the governor’s remarks: "The governor said, `It's the people's decision.’”

Mr. Newton launched into a defense of his record in office, minus the four years he passed in prison for having solicited a $5,000, one of three felonies he was convicted of in 2005: "Felons are people too. They can't say anything about my record in the House or Senate. It was impeccable. If people truly are forgiving, you judge a man on his work ... I paid my debt to society. I ought to be a free man to do whatever it is I want to do with my life."

He told a reporter, “Listen, I still got friends in Hartford.” His Democratic comrades in the legislature “know the (legislative) process. I'm a team player. I know how to get things done." Surely, fellow Democrats in the General Assembly and the governor’s office understand the important role Bridgeport had played in statewide elections. After all, Mr. Newton stressed, the city helped Mr. Malloy, the former mayor of Stamford, win a slim victory in 2010.

"The governor needs to get re-elected, and he's going to need my help to do it," said Mr. Newton, according to a CTPost report.

Apparently, the governor, the titular head of the Democratic Party in Connecticut, and Ms. DiNardo, the nominal head of the party, have for the moment taken a hand’s off approach to what may well be Mr. Newton’s “Last Hurrah.” Maybe they saw the movie.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Democrats’ Rowland Problem

One would have thought that former Governor John Rowland would have been safe from criticism after he had wandered into the profession of journalism following his stint in prison for having deprived the citizens of Connecticut of honest services.

As everyone knows, journalism, in the form of gossip, is the second oldest profession in the world, following close on the heels of prostitution which, as we recently have learned, is legal in Cartagena Columbia. Prostitution in Connecticut still is illegal, though an enlightened legislature has long since legalized “gaming” (AKA gambling)in order to tax it and fill the state’s depleted treasury with money gathered by the world’s third oldest profession, politics. Journalism is the natural evolution – some would say the perfection –of gossip. Could it be possible that that the crudely drawn depictions in the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc Cave in France are first attempts at political cartooning made by the prehistoric ancestors of some politician-baiting modern relative?

Though Mr. Rowland had been for some time a member of the world’s third oldest profession, the shadow of the prison lies heavily upon him, even though Mr. Rowland, unlike Ernie Newton – the former state senator from Bridgeport who spent three years in the hoosegow for having evaded taxes and accepted bribes while in office – is not running for political office this year.

A released, rehabilitated and refurbished Mr. Newton, some commentators and reporters surmised prior to the Bridgeport nominating convention, had an even chance of being reelected to his old seat in the General Assembly, newly redesigned following redistricting and kept warm in the intervening years by state Senator Edwin Gomes. At 75 years young, Mr. Gomes, like many urban Democrats, is a magnet for union votes. Unfortunately, he has been rendered frail by recent triple bypass surgery, which opened the door to Mr. Newton, far more vigorous after his prison stay and determined to lift Bridgeport from the ashes.

Stumping in the city last January, Mr. Newton, an amateur evangelist, pithily summed up the Sermon on the Mount: “I've always lived by the philosophy that every sinner has a future and all saints have a past. I haven't been too happy with what I've seen in Bridgeport since I came home. This city needs a leader and I intend to be that person."

Entering the State Senate in 2003, Mr. Newton was appointed by then Senator Kevin Sullivan as Deputy President Pro Tempore, the third-highest leadership position in that august body of eloquent Ciceros. A booster rocket was attached to Mr. Sullivan’s own distinguished political career when he was appointed by Governor Dannel Malloy as the state’s Commissioner of Revenue Services, Connecticut’s chief tax collector. Mr. Newton’s post imprisonment ascendency is good news for Bridgeport and struggling politicians everywhere: Though the high may fall low, they easily bounce back because their nether regions are made of rubber.

As it turns out, the surmises were not farfetched. On May 21st, Mr. Newton was chosen as the Democratic nominee for the 23rd State Senate District, an area covering about 75 percent of Bridgeport and a portion of Stratford.

From Testo’s Restaurant, moments after he was selected to represent the good people of Bridgeport in the State Senate, having snatched victory from the jaws of two non-felonious Democrats both of whom sought to deny Mr. Newton the nomination, Mr. Newton provided some moral uplift to the people of Bridgeport: “The message I am bringing to the people is that it’s time that our community redeem the great promise we have. We have too many, both young and old, that have lost the passion to fight, that have lost the belief that these communities can rise and be great. I am here as an example that our redemption is upon us. It is at our doorstep…. We need the opportunity to work. We need the opportunity to be safe. And we need the opportunity to believe again…whether it’s property taxes, continued improving relations with our police force, jobs for people in our community, cleaner streets and neighborhoods.”

It is said that Mayor Bill Finch frantically had attempted to support the nomination of State Representative Andres Ayala, young, intelligent and not a graduate from Prison U. Possibly, the mayor wanted to spare Bridgeport the contumely he feared might be in the offing from the host of Democrats and political commentators who cannot bear to mention Mr. Rowland’s name without adding the dishonorific “felon.”

When asked if she would discourage voters from returning Newton to the General Assembly, State Democratic Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo, rarely a profile in courage, replied, “I think that's up to that district to make that decision, not me."

Among politicians, Mrs. DiNardo is in the majority. Mr. Fitch is far outnumbered by those who worry that Mr. Fitch needn’t have worried.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Dovovan-Williams Jihad

Speaker of the state House Chris Donovan and President Pro Tem of the state Senate Don Williams have been closeted together discussing two bills: a jobs bill pushed by Governor Dannel Malloy that appears to have bipartisan support in the General Assembly and Mr. Donovan’s signature minimum wage bill.

Mr. Donovan, running for the U.S. Congress in Connecticut’s 5th District, dearly wants to push his bill raising the minimum wage 50 cents over two years through the General Assembly, and to this end he announced last week that he intended to attach his bill to a budget implementer.

After meeting with Mr. Williams for a little more than an hour, Mr. Donovan appeared to be uncertain which donkey’s rear he would attach his tail to, according to a story in CTNewsJunkie.

Mr. Williams, who can count up to 36 without stumbling, is convinced he lacks the votes in the Senate to pass Mr. Donovan’s minimum wage hike, a point he pressed upon Mr. Donovan sometime before the soon to be retired Speaker conditioned passage of the jobs bill in the House upon the passage in the Senate of his signature legislation.  Mr. Donovan declined to present Mr. William’s bill in the House, and both bills expired in the last session.

Mr. Malloy – unlike former Republican governor Jodi Rell, a vigorous political campaigner –could easily throw his support to former state Representative Elizabeth Esty, the wife of Daniel Esty, the governor’s Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).
At the Democratic nominating convention, Mr. Donovan rolled over Mrs. Esty, winning the 5th District nomination by 64 percent of the vote, marshaling 216 votes to Mrs. Esty’s 66. Both Mrs. Esty and Dan Roberti, who garnered 54 votes, qualified to campaign against Mr. Donovan in a primary. The delegate count likely encouraged Mr. Donovan to continue his efforts in persuading Mr. Williams to bring up the minimum wage bill in the Senate.

The introduction into the Senate of Mr. Donovan’s bill, assuming the numbers argue against it, is a politically charged affair. There are compelling reasons to vote against the bill: Minimum wage hikes artificially increase the price of labor, and the price of labor figures in the calculations of small businesses that tend to hire minimum wage workers. Beyond a certain point, businesses operating on a slender profit margin and forced to pay what may be for them an insupportable wage will accommodate the state ordered hike in wages by cutting back on hiring those affected, mostly young people entering the job market for the first time. Businesses that cannot make the cost saving accommodations will go out of business. In the long run, these compelled choices will not invigorate business activity and job production. Should Mr. Donovan’s minimum wage bill pass, Connecticut’s minimum wage will be the highest in the nation. In the long run, Mr. Donovan’s signature minimum wage bill sends to businesses considering moving into the state and instate businesses considering expanding a message that frustrates current efforts to prime the job pump.  

In the short run, minimum wage hikes are campaign boosters, a staple political product of the fevered progressive on the make. In the long run, we are all dead. The long run is for chumps; it’s the short run that gets you elected and re-elected, particularly in a one party state in which left of center Democrats depend upon unions to prime the voting pump. Caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place, Democrats in the General Assembly would rather not commit themselves publically to a vote on the minimum wage bill.

At the moment, Mr. Donovan is focused on attaching his bill to some viable legislative vehicle. Using a budget implementer to ferry his minimum wage hike through the General Assembly, some Democratic legislators think, might jeopardize the more politically attractive  bi-partisan jobs bill. Asked by the reporter for CTNewsJunkie whether he thought such a prospect was likely, Mr. Donovan replied, “We’re hoping to make everybody happy. That’s what we’re trying to do.”    

Mr. Donovan has already loosed his moorings to the tattered remains of what some benighted traditionalists still insist on calling the Democratic Party’s moderate “vital center.” There is no center, merely epicenters colliding with each other.  Mr. Donovan purports to represent the future of state Democratic Party politics, solidly union connected, firmly centered in the state’s cities, unapologetically progressive and rather impatient with the stuffy old guard of the Democratic Party.   

The new dawning day needs a new vanguard. Mr. Donovan is prepared to lead. Followers will find the welcome mat put out before the door to utopia.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Death Penalty Aftershocks

The repeal of the death penalty has produced some aftershocks. Of course, the real aftershocks will arrive after the next heinous murder, though it should be said that the multiple murders of Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky have set a high bar.
These two worthies beat a husband with a baseball bat, tied him in the cellar of his house, forced his wife to draw out thousands of dollars from a bank, raped her, raped one of the daughters, tied both daughters to their beds, set fire to both, sprinkled the house with gasoline and murdered all inside but Dr. William Petit, who managed to escape and afterward demand the death penalty for Mr. Hayes and Mr. Komisarjevsky, readily granted to him by two separate juries. In Connecticut, death penalty cases require both a jury trial and a death penalty hearing.
Somewhat like Ishmael of Moby Dick fame, Mr. Petit was a lone survivor, a rather chatty one, determined to seek justice for his wrecked Pequod. Anti-death penalty proponents found it difficult to empathize with Dr. Pettis’ thirst for justice, but they could not do other than to sympathize with his plight.
State Senator Edith Prague, long an opponent of the death penalty, sympathized enough to change her consistent vote against the death penalty, frustrating an earlier attempt to abolish it. Mrs. Prague emerged from a private conversation with Mr. Petit and pronounced the following doom upon Joshua Komisarjevsky, one of the two murderers, rapists and arsonists: He should be hung "by his penis from a tree out in the middle of Main Street.''   After the trials and sentences were imposed, the inertia of Mrs. Prague’s office as a reliable vote for abolition gave her second thoughts, and she voted in favor of a morally indefensible bill that abolished the death penalty prospectively, retaining it for the 11 prisoners awaiting death on death row.
The prospective abolition of the death penalty provided a political trap door for politicians who wanted – for all the wrong reasons – to abolish the death penalty without opening themselves to charges they were indifferent to Mr. Petit’s unfortunate ordeal. The juridical problem of executing in the future 11 men in the absence of a law authorizing execution was of little concern to the cowards in the legislature, many of them lawyers, who voted in favor of a partial, self-lapsing abolition that would cost them fewer lost votes.

Theoretically, it is possible to extend to murderers who commit heinous crimes a balm of mercy, sequestering them in prison for life without possibility of parole, a stiff punishment said by some to be worse than execution, but there are, after all, limits to mercy. It proved politically difficult for opponents of the death penalty to abolish capital punishment for the 11 men who actually, not theoretically, had committed heinous murders. The entire so called “debate” on abolition of the death penalty in the General Assembly was pushed forward by theoretical bullies. Theoretically, it is possible for an innocent man to be found guilty of felony murder – but this has not happened in Connecticut in the past half century, and no one in the General Assembly would vouch for the innocence of the two murderers tried, found guilty and executed within that time period. So with most of the other arguments put forward in the General Assembly favoring abolition, most of them addressed in Connecticut Commentary.
The argumentative structure for abolition was little more than an elaborate theoretical Potemkin Village. Theoretically, all the houses and factories look like houses and factories; but no one can live or work in the structures because they are mere facades, theoretical constructs that allow legislators to abolish capital punishment and then execute men in the absence of a law prescribing death as a punishment for their crimes. In the real non-theoretical world, such actions of a lawless state would be called murder. In the real world, the abolitionists began by decrying just sentences as “state murder” and have ended by sanctioning state murder.
The theoretical has become the real, and the real has become the theoretical. This is what happens when professors and lawyers rather than shoemakers and chimney sweepers become legislators. It is why Bill Buckley used to say that he would rather be governed by the first hundred people picked at random from the phone book than the faculty of Harvard law school.
Republican endorsed candidate for the U.S. House seat in the 5th District Andrew Roraback wandered into this mare’s nest when he reversed his position on abolition and, surprising some, Mr. Petit among them, voted against the abolition bill. However, not all flips in politics are flops among the cognescenti. Wasn’t Mr. Roraback giving Dr. Petit exactly what he wanted, asked one liberal columnist?
No, thought Dr. Petit, roaring back at Roraback, “When we met with Sen. Roraback, we respected his initial position to oppose the Death Penalty. His comments Wednesday, in our minds, cast doubt on whether Sen. Roraback has any core convictions on important issues.”
Mr. Roraback voted against the bill, he said, not because he wanted to flip on an issue that was unpopular with Republicans delegates poised to vote for or against him in the nominating convention, but rather because the bill was a transparent fraud.
On a third vote by delegates at the Republican Party nominating convention, Mr. Roraback was chosen as the nominee for the 5th District Congressional by a very slender margin over his opponent Lisa Wilson-Foley, who had brushed up against the Democrat’s favorite tar baby, former Governor-And-Felon John Rowland.
Unlike former State-Senator-And-Felon-Ernie-Newton, who spent three years in the clinker for accepting bribes and is now running for his old seat in Bridgeport, Mr. Rowland, a conservative radio commentator, has yet to offer himself as Republican Party candidate for office. None of the tar from the Newton baby has rubbed off on Democratic politicians in the state, and the silence issuing from the moral epigones now roasting Mr. Rowland is deafening.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Unbought Republican Nominating Convention

The hullaballoo that arose the last time Linda McMahon ran for the U.S. Senate against the sainted and irreproachable Attorney GeneralRichard Blumenthal was that the lady was attempting to buy the election.
She did spend $50 million, mostly on campaign literature and salaries for overpriced advisors, and the wife of then Republican campaign chairman Chris Healy was on her staff. Moreover, the lady had minimal political experience, and yet here she was attempting to leap into the U.S. Congressional pool where she would be swimming with such congressional sharks as former U.S. Senator from Connecticut Chris Dodd, who following his retirement flew off to Hollywood, there to become Tinseltown’s chief lobbyist, after having assured everyone that he would never – no, never – become a lobbyist.
Mr. Dodd himself leapt into the U.S. Congress without much political experience under his belt. He served as a volunteer in the Peace Corp, Dominican Republic chapter, from 1966 to 1968, joined the Army Reserve, serving until 1975, thus avoiding active duty service in Viet Nam, and was swept into Congress as a part of the "Watergate Class of '74." Mr. Dodd’s political lineage as the son of former U.S Senator Tom Dodd gave him an edge over his competitors that even the $50 million squandered by Mrs. McMahon could not buy.
As everyone knows, Mrs. McMahon, having secured the nomination of the Republican convention, lost her last campaign for the Senate to Mr. Blumenthal. Though Mrs. McMahon had a money advantage over Mr. Blumenthal, also a millionaire from Greenwich, Mr. Blumenthal clearly had a media advantage over Mrs. McMahon. So frequent were Mr. Blumenthal’s press availabilities during his 20 year run as Attorney General that they gave rise to the often heard remark: there is no more dangerous spot in Connecticut than that between a TV camera and Mr. Blumenthal. In the U.S. Senate, Mr. Blumenthal has lost a great deal of his state notoriety sheen.
It is not at all surprising that Connecticut’s media, working cheek by jowl for decades with a left of center Democratic majority, has taken on a blue tincture. Not so much unfair as unwilling to operate out of the usual incumbent box, the media presents a problem for most minority candidates who fall to the right of, say, former U.S. Senator Chis Dodd, now a Hollywood mogul, or U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, who reconfigured as an Independent after having served social liberals in the senate for more than 20 years. Mr. Lieberman was dumped by the Democratic Party in a primary, purportedly for conspiring with the enemy. He endorsed U.S. Senator John McCain for president and, though vowing to decouple himself from the current struggle for his seat, has professed warm feeling for former U.S. Representative Chis Shays, a congressional colleague of long standing.
This time around, Mrs. McMahon will face a tough primary opponent in Mr. Shays. The McMahon-Shays tousle has a déjà vu all over again scent to it. Mrs. McMahon’s last Republican Party primary opponent was former U.S. Representative Rob Simmons, whose campaign blinked on and off because Mr. Simmons, thought by some a tougher opponent of Mr. Blumenthal, was conserving his campaign cash. Despite the Democratic Party howl raised against Republicans as being the party of the rich, Republican state parties that have lost to Democrats the bulk of their moderate front line troops are the poor cousins of politics. During the last election, U.S. Rep John Larson, who holds the safest seat this side of Beijing, China, outspend his Republican Party opponent by a ratio of $7,871to $1.
Should Mrs. McMahon survive Mr. Shays in a primary, she will likely face the Democratic Party nominee for the U.S. Senate, current U.S. Representative Chris Murphy who, whatever his political merits, is no Dick Blumenthal. So teflon-proof was Mr. Blumenthal that he was able to survive a stolen valor charge that he had several times falsely claimed active service in Vietnam. Frequent media availabilities over a twenty year period in Connecticut politics do have their advantages.
The redoubtable Susan Bysiewicz will be a tough primary opponent for Mr. Murphy, driving him leftward in a state seemingly beginning to show a bit of buyer’s remorse over the hard-charging, sweet talking President Barack Obama.
At the conclusion of the Republican Party nominating convention, Mrs. McMahon received 61 percent of the delegate vote; Mr. Shays, who distained to ask delegates to vote for him and vowed prior to the convention to engage in a primary, received a more slender 32 percent. Mrs. McMahon’s advantage in delegate votes was the result of superior hustle. At the opening of the convention, Mrs. McMahon produced a list of supporters that included 95 Republican Town Chairs, 33 Republican Town Vice Chairs, 20 Republican Town Secretaries and 13 Republican Town Treasures, more than 250 “grass roots leaders,” she said in a press release. Thelady put some miles on her boots to earn such support.
These figures, however, will not be sufficient to convince hard boiled opponents that Mrs. McMahon did not BUY the convention. Watch for it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Malvi And The Emotive Idea

In his film “America, America,” loosely based on the life of his uncle, filmmaker Elia Kazan puts his thumb squarely on the very pulse of immigrants, not only the Greeks in Turkish Anatolia fleeing oppression, but all immigrants, whatever their point of origin.
To the “oppressed and huddled masses” seeking to pass through the golden door of Lady Liberty, the America of Kazan’s uncle was less a nation than an emotive idea.
What idea?

In introducing Malvi Lennon of Windsor to a gathering that had come together in West Simsbury to support her candidacy as a Republicancandidate for the Connecticut State Senate in the 2nd District, former U.S. Representative Rob Simmons, recently installed as the new Chairman of Connecticut’s Yankee Institute, mentioned that the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba during the administration of President John Kennedy remained fresh in his mind because one of his supervisors at the CIA was among the first to land on the beach.
Mrs. Lennon was 6 years old when her father was swept up by Communist dictator Fidel Castro’s storm troopers following the failed invasion. He was, of course, interrogated, and following his prolonged interrogation, her father returned to his house so frightfully altered that the young child shrank from him and hid behind her mother.
There in her father’s pain, agony and humiliation, even a little terrorized child might have sensed the emotive idea of America: In America, the state, conceived as the servant of the people, did not intrude itself at every opportunity between the citizen and his lawful ambitions. There it was still possible for an energetic man or woman to leave to his children the real time legacy of his sweat and tears.
Malvi arrived in the United States in 1968. Her mother, a pharmacist by training who accepted a job in a factory, and her father, who found work in a beverage distributorship, left all their belongings behind in Castro’s Cuba, settling first in East Orange, New Jersey and later moving to Tampa Florida, where Malvi attended High School and later Hillsborough Community College.
She began her career in insurance with Aetna, moving to Connecticut as a claims adjuster for numerous municipalities and agencies as a part of her responsibilities with the Connecticut Inter-Local Risk Management Agency, there acquiring intimate knowledge of the relevant local, state, and federal regulations, working closely with individuals at all levels of the public sector.

In 2005, a little more than three decades after her father and mother left Cuba behind, Malvi finally accomplished her lifelong dream of owning her own business, the Lennon Claim Services, which she now operates with her husband Robert.
The weight of her life experience has convinced her that the key to prosperity in Connecticut and the United States is to be found in the increasingly rare and unique freedoms made possible by American democracy and free enterprise. Unlike other American citizens whose fathers and mothers have not felt on their flesh the lash of socialist deprivation, Malvi, should she be successful in her campaign, will bring into office with her a vital background of dreams fulfilled and a real understanding of life beyond the parameters of that emotive idea that for decades has drawn immigrants to America.

Tammy Z And The Real Deal

When I last talked to Tami Z – her smile can be seen from Pluto – my thought was: Here’s luck for the Republican Party.

Mrs. Zawistowski is a Republican candidate for State Representative in the 61st District, which includes Suffield, East Granby and Windsor, CT.

She is a business owner at a time when business is suffering under the hammer blows of a Democratic assault on free enterprise and a woman who very likely will be able to withstand the laughably absurd charge that the Republican Party is prosecuting a “war against women,” the Dem’s new all-purpose bumper-sticker slogan for Campaign 2012.

Tami Z -- Republican of the Year in 2011, Small Business Leader of the Year 2011, former Executive Vice President of Northeast Savings in Hartford, former Assistant Director of the UConn Center for Real Estate and Economic Studies, the Vice Chair of East Granby Board of Finance – presently is the owner of Resource Books, LLC.

Beyond all this, Tami Z, who has made her own way in the world, has lived her eventful life with her eyes opened.

A large part of the campaign strategy employed by incumbent Democrats this year will be to refocus public attention from Connecticut’s continuing economic downslide – and, more importantly, the destructive prescriptions offered by incumbents to solve such problems as entrepreneurial flight from Connecticut’s punishing high taxes and burdensome regulations – to sexy campaign formulas scripted by National Democrats in Washington DC, the same crew of Chicago politicians  who have not been able to produce a balanced budget in three years. Hence “the Republican war on women.”

Both Connecticut’s governor and most cob-webbed covered Democratic incumbents in the state – too few of whom are women – have signed on to the same script. The real operative slogans of the current Democratic Party in Connecticut are: 1) “There is no enemy to the left,” one of the reasons the party has drifted so far from its roots; and 2) “Permanent tax increases, temporary cost savings.”

That is what the state’s first Democratic governor in more than 20 years and the state’s Democratic dominated General Assembly have and will continue to deliver: a steady policy drift leftward, higher taxes, and temporary cost savings.

Tami Z knows that, despite the too ardent Democratic Party claims to the contrary, women already are IN THE BOAT to which President John Kennedy made reference when he said “A rising tide lifts all the boats,” thereafter cutting taxes and simplifying regulations to spur a stalled economy.

When the tide rises, women prosper as well as men. When the tide is in recession, they suffer the same deprivations – which fall most heavily on those who are struggling to make their way in a world full of false promises and solutions that drive real progress backwards.

Such women, she told me, will no longer be satisfied with political slogans, the equivalent of romantic sweet talk. Their eyes are open. They want the Real Deal.

Tami Z’s campaign site is here.

Her Facebook page is here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Anita Moncrief Blows The Whistle On ACORN

Part 1

Part 2

Malloy’s Meanderings

Governor Dannel Malloy has been traveling a lot.
 A reporter has now put a price tag on the governor’s meanderings:

“That road show has helped fuel a jump in overtime pay for Malloy's 11-member security detail of state troopers. They have earned a total of nearly $700,000 in overtime since the governor took office. His two drivers alone made a total of more than $150,000 in overtime during that period.
“Malloy's driving costs exceed those of the two previous governors. The highest 12-month cost for former Gov. John G. Rowland's driver was $134,000 in salary and overtime. The highest 12-month figure for Gov. M. Jodi Rell's driver was $129,000, state records indicate.”
This is what we used to call in more frugal days – when, for instance, the national debt was less than $5 trillion and much of Europe, addicted to failed socialist programs, was not on the verge of collapse – a pretty penny.
Has the money been well spent?
Has the money been well spent?

In a word, no.
Mr. Malloy’s criticisms of preceding governors were well received during his gubernatorial campaign. The governor promised then, as he has said scores of times since, to balance the budget without employing what he regarded as deceitful budget gimmickry. The state budget was to be refigured according to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles GAAP, which would prevent future governors, including Mr. Malloy, from resorting to discreditable accounting devises to balance budgets: No more shifting accounts receivables and payables across fiscal years to achieve faux balances.
The new math in the new Malloy administration was to be transparent and real. During his first round of visitations after the election, Mr. Malloy’s budget program was nowhere near as transparent as the promised changes in accounting procedures. He traveled here, he traveled there, along with his troop of expensive state troopers, but gave very little indication of his course as governor, beyond stressing that his programs would rely on both tax increases and spending cuts. His peregrinations were a combination of listening tour and a launching ground for the good-bad news, minus specifics, later to be worked out by the governor, all the governor’s men, unions and, just possibly, Republican leaders in the General Assembly.
As it happened, Republicans were cut out of budget negotiations between the governor and union leaders; the resulting budget may never have been in balance; massive tax increases were implemented; GAPP accounting is dallying in the hallway; millions have been shifted within accounts to discharge a continuing budget deficit; and some projected savings, cost reductions to be achieved through suggestions made by state workers for instance, were never traced by the Malloy administration. Budget chief, Benjamin Barnes, the secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, told a Journal Inquirer reporter recently “that he never created a system for tracking how employees’ ideas saved — or didn’t save — money.” And, as Managing Editor of the JI Chris Powell notes inhis latest column, “government in Connecticut has gotten bigger, more pervasive, more expensive, and more complicated, a mechanism only Rube Goldberg could appreciate”
The governor and the Democratic dominated General Assembly, dependent upon unions for votes and political grunt work, have steadfastly avoided other more practical, efficient and certain means of cost cutting. One suspects that the mere mention of the phrase “privatization” of some state services is likely to have on union subservient Democrats the same effect as water had in that memorable scene in the “Wizard of Oz” in which an accidentally dousing caused the Wicked Witch of the East to shrivel into a cloud of insubstantial smoke.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Some Winners And Losers

In card games, the country and western song tells us, “you gotta know when to hold them and when to fold them.” In politics, you gotta know when and how to take a victory lap after you’ve folded.

Following Connecticut’s remarkably jam-packed “short” legislative session, Republicans and Democrats took the usual victory lap in their rhetorical chariots. But winners and losers there were.
Republicans in the General Assembly were rolled over by superior numbers; nothing unusual there. They lost. And they will continue to lose pending that day when voters in Connecticut unite to “throw the bums out,” an American version of the Marxist battle cry: “Workers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains, and a world to win.”

Karl Marx may have been an economic dufus, but he certainly was a suburb ad-man and, were he alive today, might have made a valuable contribution to the 5th District U.S. Congressional ambitions of, say, Chris Donovan – also a loser. In a Machiavellian power struggle with Senate President Don Williams, Mr. Donovan held hostage, in a vain attempt to force Senate leaders to bring his doomed minimum wage increase bill to a vote, a bi-partisan jobs bill that some say likely would have passed. As time ran out in the session, both bills sunk beneath the waves. The jobs bill – a pearl of great price for Democrats who had hoped to be able to use the bill to convince voters in the upcoming elections they were not hostile to business interests – was the cause of some recriminations following the close of the session.

The Democrat’s “social agenda” is dancing in the winner’s circle: In this and previous legislative sessions, Democrats were able to repeal Connecticut’s rarely used death penalty; pass legislation that will facilitate to unionization of some health care workers; legalize the medical use of marijuana; codify marriage for gay partners following a court imposed order; and pass an omnibus tax bill that in the future will be used to finance more left of center social legislation.

Generally, the expression “social agenda” is most often used by left of center politicians and commentators to thwart the feeble attempts of social conservatives to retain the remnants of Western civilization, but both parties strenuously support much different social agendas, and the term itself is useless except as a political battering ram to breech and lay low social norms, a perennial occupation of the left following the French Revolution. Robespierre's battle cry, it will be recalled, was that men would lose their chains only when “the last monarch is strangled with the intestines of the last priest.”

All legislation – but perhaps most especially budgets bills – have social implications. The term “social legislation” is at best a misleading redundancy: No bill passed in the General Assembly is without social effect; and if there were such a bill, it would be wholly unnecessary, because legislation that produces no change at all leaves the status quo undisturbed. A more accurate, though less politically charged descriptive tag, would make a distinction between various kinds of change.
Mr. Malloy’s glowing summary of his 16 months in office is a celebration of what he calls “positive, meaningful changes.”

One may dispute the figures offered by the governor that in his view demonstrated a Connecticut economy blown forward by progressive gusts of political winds issuing from a forward looking General Assembly.

Mr. Malloy paused in his victory lap to salute “Design Build legislation” and “project labor agreements,” both of which certainly will make life more placid for unions, and in the process “create thousands of good paying jobs.”

Both “positive changes” will increase the price of labor and create a closed shop environment for private bidders on state construction jobs. Since construction jobs such as these are financed through taxes, one may expect taxes to increase proportionally – not a problem for a governor and Democratic dominated legislature that together have imposed on Connecticut the largest tax increase in the state’s sometimes parsimonious history.

Neither the governor, who has put himself before the public as a forward looking progressive, nor progressive Democrats in the General Assembly may reasonably object when they are called men and women of the left. Both the left and the right believe in the efficacy of what the governor calls “positive meaningful change.” They most often come to blow concerning the instruments of change. Broadly speaking – there are, of course, exceptions – the right affirms that social norms should inform politics, while the left affirms that politics should reform social norms. This is why Mr. Malloy feels so comfortable in his summation of the recently concluded short legislative session using the word “change” and its variants no fewer than 15 times in a brief ten minute address to legislators who had, said the governor, “Over the course of the last 16 months… pushed through more change through these two chambers than has occurred in Connecticut in a long time.”

Somewhere off in the distance one hears an insistent voice whispering in the whirlwind: Not all change is efficacious.

Donovan's Progress

Senate President Don Williams, after speaking with a number of senators concerning a bill supported by House Speaker Chris Donovan to raise the minimum wage, conveyed the disappointing news to Mr. Donovan through a text message: Mr. Donovan’s bill simply did not have enough support in the chamber to pass. Mr. Williams said he resorted to a text message, according to one report, “because he feared once senators started to leave the caucus room word would leak out.” Caucuses in both chambers of the General Assembly have been leak proof since Dannel Malloy had been elected governor.

Unused to taking bad news for an answer, Mr. Donovan, retiring this year as Speaker, supposed that members in the Senate misunderstood how his scaled down proposal of a 50 cent hike in Connecticut’s present minimum wage -- at $8.25 the fourth highest in the country -- would be seamlessly meshed with tips given waitresses and bartenders. Mr. Donovan would see to it they were furnished with the right information and, ever ebullient, said he remained confident that the Senate would take up the bill before the session ended this year.

“People said I didn’t have the votes in the House,” Mr. Donovan enthused. “We got 88 votes here.”
High minimum wage enforcements by legislatures correlate with the percentage of union workers in a state, and in this respect Connecticut also excels, rating seventh highest in the nation with a unionized workforce of 16.7%.

The resistance to Mr. Donovan’s bill, Mr. Williams said, centered on timing: “They [members of the Democratic caucus in the Senate] felt the economic times were not right. They’ve supported minimum wage increases in the past. They strongly supported the Earned Income Tax Credit last year which provides a significant boost to low-income workers.” And, of course, the Democratic majority in the General Assembly also supported a guaranteed wage increase of three percent each fiscal year for state union workers nine years out as a part of its budget package, still wretchedly out of balance, according to recent figures supplied by the state’s Democratic Comptroller.

The same Democratic Majority in the General Assembly passed without much political fallout the largest tax increase in Connecticut history, topping even the bite taken out of taxpayer’s wallets by former Maverick Governor Lowell Weicker, who bullied the income tax through a compliant Democratic majority in the General Assembly more than twenty years ago.

The same Democratic Majority in the General Assembly passed in its current session a bill abolishing the death penalty for murderers who commit heinous crimes in the future -- but not, alas, for the 11 convicted murderers currently awaiting execution, all of whom have been desperately praying for abolition -- this despite polls showing that a majority of the abolitionist’s constituents favored retention of the death penalty for the kind of depraved crimes that have so richly earned the Connecticut 11 a trip to Death Row. Some attorneys and court watchers in Connecticut have predicted that the exception in the death penalty abolition bill will be vacated by an appeal court on constitutional grounds, and ethicists have argued that the exception is morally indefensible: If the General Assembly has abolished the death penalty because enlightened legislators regard such a barbaric punishment as morally indefensible, what is the moral justification of applying a repealed law to prisoners remaining on Death Row?

 The same Democratic dominated General Assembly voted to legalize medical marijuana, approved an unaffordable bus line tagged by its opponents as “the bus to nowhere,” provided nearly $1 billion in funding to save the UConn Health Center – yet again -- and, with the governor’s concurrence, shoveled millions of tax dollars into the maw of prosperous Connecticut companies as a part of Mr. Malloy’s “First Five” program.

Perhaps Mr. Williams sensed a note of exhaustion among the Democratic members of his caucus, or a fear that voters in the upcoming elections might for once take notice of the spending proclivities of his accomplices in this the age of $5 trillion dollar national budget deficits. The news that Connecticut’s budget is in the red – yet again – by about $300 million following the state’s historic tax increase bounced off Mr. Donovan’s cranium like a rubber ball off a rock.

 “What we have now,” Mr. Williams said before Mr. Donovan’s bill was left on the General Assembly's cutting room floor, “are pretty challenging economic times, with employers struggling and the fact that Connecticut’s minimum wage is higher than New York, it’s higher than Massachusetts, it’s higher than Rhode Island.”

Mr. Donovan, this year running for the U.S. House in Connecticut’s 5th District, has little to fear, little knowledge about how the real economy works in the real world, and a shortage of common sense, attributes that may fit him perfectly for a lifetime of service in the U.S. Congress.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Hillary, HELP!

Very likely because he is wise in the ways of Chinese fascism and also because he knows his family has been put in jeopardy by his daring escape from house arrest, Chen Guangcheng,  a blind activist who has publically called attention to Communist China’s forced abortion policy, will not go gentle into that good night.
Chen’s safety and the safety of his family now rest on his ability to publicize his plight.
After his escape from Chinese thugs who previously had beaten both Chen and his wife, the Chinese human rights activist took refuge for several days in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. On the eve of important talks between the U.S. and China, most certainly a feather in President Barack Obama’s campaign cap, this orphan from oppression showed up on the doorstep of the embassy, generally considered for purposes of international law a piece of the U.S. mainland.
When Chen stepped into the American Embassy in Bejing, he set his foot on the same American shore over which the Statue of Liberty lifts its lamp:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
"Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
"The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
"Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
"I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
And there is no embassy official, no Obama administration official, no Secretary of State who does not know that in leaving the embassy Chen traveled from freedom back to prison.

Very quickly, arrangements were made between the U.S. and China to cough up what must have seemed to U.S. and Chinese diplomats a bothersome political hairball. Hours after Chen’s plight appeared in newspapers across the United States and Europe, the prisoner was out of the embassy and on his way to a hospital, there to be treated for a for an injury he had sustained during his flight from house arrest to the U.S. Embassy. Arrangements had been made to keep Chen in China. Since the trumped up charges against him had not been dropped – the prisoner had been accused of damaging property and "organizing a mob to disturb traffic" – the U.S. Embassy refugee American diplomats turned over to his persecutors was still a prisoner.

At the hospital, Chen called a hearing, according to a story in the The Hill, “set up to explore his efforts to leave China and escape persecution.

"’I want to meet with Secretary Clinton,’ he said on the phone. ‘I hope I can get more help from her. I also want to thank her face to face.’
“Chen added that he is most concerned with his family, and said, ‘I really want to know what's going on with them.’"
Mrs. Clinton, who has often spoken out against oppression by authoritarian regimes other than China, no doubt wishes to be of service.

According to the most recent report in the New York Times,  Mrs Clinton announced “she was encouraged by a statement earlier on Friday from China’s Foreign Ministry that said Mr. Chen could apply to study outside China. The proposal appeared to offer the possibility of a breakthrough in the crisis.”

However, totalitarian regimes are famous for holding family members as hostage to insure the “good behavior” of outspoken foreign travelers, and Mrs. Clinton made no mention of Chen’s family, which seems to be his primary concern.

President of China Aid Bob Fu seems confident, according to a report in the Heritage Foundation, that Bejing would be amenable to U.S. demands for asylum for Chen and his family.

If the U.S. government and President Obama have the will and determination to help do that, I think the Chinese government will let them go,”Mr. Fu said.

Chen told Mr. Fu that he “felt pressure to leave,” a charge denied by American officials.

Heritage reported in its story:

“But according to Fu, an American official relayed threats from the Chinese government that Gaungcheng’s wife and children would be returned to Shandong, which Fu described as “hell” for the abuse in captivity they have received in there for the past seven years, if Gaungcheng did not leave the American embassy.

“Hu wondered why American officials would relay the threat of returning them to their home-turned-prison if not to encourage Gaungcheng to return to Chinese soil.”

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Is He Rell Yet?

For General Assembly Democrats determined to frustrate Governor Dannel Malloy’s education reform plan, the most recent projected budget deficits came just in time. Ben Barnes, Mr. Malloy’s money cruncher at the Office of Policy Management (OPM), and Comptroller Kevin Lembo, after dickering over the red figures, have agreed that the budget is in deficit by about $200 million; the real deficit is probably closer top $300 million. 

Mr. Malloy’s education reform plan includes features that have not earned him many friends among teachers, union officials and Jonathan Pelto.

The Malloy plan calls for additional spending on high performing charter schools, financing that in a shrinking economy progressive Democrats in the General Assembly yoked at the knees to union interests insist might better be spent padding the salaries of unionized public school workers. The governor’s reform initiative also seeks to connect hiring and firing to pedagogical performance; and, in the process attempting to facilitate improvement in low performing schools, the governor has touched and been jolted by the usual electrically charged third rail of Connecticut politics – teacher tenure. Mr. Malloy’s ambition to tie tenure to job performance has made hairs stand up on the necks of union vote-dependent Democrats in the General Assembly.

Legislation gate keepers within the relevant committees were determined to ditch the Malloy education reforms as untimely and expensive.

During the unlamented administrations of former Republican Governors Jodi Rell and John Rowland, Democratic committee chairmen in the General Assembly successfully resisted efforts on the part of “firewall” governors to limit spending. With the ascendancy of Mr. Malloy, the first Democratic governor in more than 20 years, chronic spenders in the legislature hoped that taxes would be increased, thus removing from progressive Democrats in the General Assembly a bothersome pressure to reduce spending. They were not disappointed: Mr. Malloy astonished even former Maverick Governor Lowell Weicker, father of state income tax, by levying on recession ravaged nutmeggers the largest tax increase in state history.

“Mine’s bigger than yours,” Mr. Malloy easily could have boasted to Mr. Weicker. Where in heaven’s name, Mr. Weicker wondered a couple of years passed, did all the surpluses generated by his income tax go?

As it happened, neither Mr. Weicker nor Mr. Rowland nor Mrs. Rell were fully functioning firewalls. Had the gubernatorial firewalls prevented spending, the bottom line of Connecticut’s budget would not have increased threefold since the last pre-income tax budget of former Governor William O’Neill. It became the fashion during the post-O’Neill period for left of center political commentators and politicians in the state to lament that Connecticut was not suffering from a spending addiction; the state, it was agreed by all, had a “revenue problem.” That fashion has not gone out of style in the Malloy administration which, to put the matter plainly, is not interested in spending cuts that bleed.

Waiting-for-Godot progressive Democrats still believe the tide they have lowered by means of punishing regulations and high taxes will lift their boats – at some magical moment in the future. Mr. Barns attributes the current deficit to lower than usual tax receipts, most certainly the result of the diminishing returns all the governor’s men should attribute to high taxes, burdensome regulations and improvident spending. Mr. Malloy, with a bow to previous sleight of hand governors he has vigorously spanked in the past, proposed this year to patch the most recent deficit by shifting funds.  Asked to defend the administration’s latest budget shifting gimmickry, the governor – Wait for it! – described the state’s plunge into economic idiocy as “basically a revenue problem” certain to disappear when the state's economic fortunes improve, sometime after the governor is out-rigged with a magic wand.

Mr. Malloy has been no more successful than his predecessors in controlling spending. But he may well be the first Democratic governor in living memory to have been rebuked by a spending addicted Democratic General Assembly for having proposed educational spending increases that are untimely and expensive.

Not to dash any utopian dreams, but it would be rash to suppose that this objection by tax devouring progressives in the General Assembly signals a disposition among dominant Democrats to cut spending. It is merely a convenient cloaking device utilized by committee leaders to abort educational reforms that impact union interests leading Democrats in the General Assembly have sworn to defend with their political lives, their sacred honor and our money – for votes.

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