Monday, March 30, 2015

The Sunni-Shia War And The Silence Of Connnecticut’s US Congressional Delegation

It’s been a rough few weeks in the Middle East.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come and gone, leaving behind in his wake a stream of petulant objections: Should he or should he not have been invited by partisan Republicans to address the US Congress concerning Iran’s machinations in the Middle East? Democrats in the Congress, we are to understand, are never partisan. One wonders, what is the point in having a party if its members are not permitted to be partisan?

Appearing on Morning Joe shortly after Mr. Netanyahu’s address, US Senator Dick Blumenthal allowed that although the invitation itself was inappropriate, he never-the-less had decided not to boycott Mr. Netanyahu, because Israel and the United States traditionally have been allies. This was a grown-up view of interpersonal relations. Why should a longstanding relationship between two countries fall victim to personal pique? Mr. Blumenthal noted that there was some disagreement as to whether the White House had been advised of the invitation. It had.

To Netanyahu’s assertion that any deal between the US and Iran that would leave in place Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons would be a “bad deal,” Mr. Obama frigidly replied that this determination must await a signed agreement. Even though the provisional agreement has not been submitted to Congress, Mr. Obama has suggested, it would still be binding on the country once the deal has been affirmed by the United Nations. No one yet has asked any of the members of Connecticut’s all Democratic US Congressional Delegation how they feel about a diplomatic hopscotch that dispenses with Constitutional prescriptions. The US Congress is constitutionally obligated to consent to international treaties: No consent, no treaty.    

Mr. Obama has strongly hinted that he need not present the deal to the Congress for affirmation, presumably because the agreement is not a treaty, though it certainly is treaty-like. Some have pointed out that any private arrangement between Mr. Obama and – ultimately -- Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei rests on shifting sands, because even public deals affirmed by Mr. Khamenei are provisional. The Koran permits leaders like Mr. Khamenei to lie to non-Muslims in  order to advance Koranic prime directives, which include deceiving or killing agents of “the Great Satan.”

The leadership in Iran has had a hate-on for America ever since Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, King of Iran from 1941 through 1979, was overthrown by hotheaded Islamic revolutionists. Asked recently whether the “Hate America” doctrine was still in force now that Iran was negotiating an agreement with The Great Satan, Mr. Khamenei is reported to have said – of course “Death to America,” a patriotic outcropping that  may have disappointed but certainly did not dampen either Mr. Kerry or Mr. Obama’s eagerness to strike a deal at any cost with Iran. Mr. Kerry, who once threw some military metals – though not his own – over the White House fence in protest of the Vietnam War, continues to be every bit as hopeful as Mr. Netanyahu is doubtful that the deal struck with Iran will leave the world a safer and merrier place.

When some upstart Republicans notified Iran indirectly that any deal not submitted to the Congress for approval necessarily would not be binding on Congress, they were roundly denounced as saboteurs of the mysterious agreement and fitted with dunce caps.

Ambrose Bierce once defined “diplomacy” as “the patriotic art of lying for one’s country,” and artful Iranian diplomatists certainly are patriotic. Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry, true internationalists, both have been accused of transcending patriotism, a rare high-wire act that in the past has involved lying TO one’s country. If war is – as Clausewitz said it was – “the continuation of politics by other means,” one or another of our internationalist leaders should take note that Iran in particular has outflanked the United States MILITARILY in the Middle East. For purposes of striking a deal with Iran, Mr. Obama has decoupled Iran’s promotion, though its agents, of a Shia-Sunni conflict in the Middle East and the questionable deal with Iran that supposedly would make it impossible for Iran to develop nuclear weapons. The two are intimately connected. Iran or its surrogates now control virtually all the countries touching Saudi Arabia.  Who wins the war determines the deal.  The crescent of countries now surrounding Saudi Arabia – like Israel, traditionally friendly to the United States – bear the diplomatic impress of Iran, traditionally an enemy of the United States and a client state of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, also traditionally an enemy of the United States.

Mr. Obama’s unrealpolitik in the Middle East appears to be to treat friends as if they were enemies and enemies as if they were friends, all part of the internationalist art of lying TO one’s country. One wonders what Mr. Blumenthal really thinks about the new configuration in the Middle East, North Africa, Ukraine, the Baltic states, a disempowered NATO and Democrats in the Congress who smile wryly when Obama and his retinue gives them the Constitutional cold shoulder.  Perhaps Morning Joe should ask him.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Malloy’s War On White Men

“The only middle-aged white men who voted for me were myself and my brothers,” Mr. Malloy told BuzzFeed News. “So if we’re going to rely on middle-aged white men to win Democratic races again — you know, I mean I think we need to speak to a broader audience than middle-aged white men.”

This is a page taken directly from the President Barrack Obama campaign playbook. Perceiving that the Democratic Party had been steadily losing votes among working class whites, Mr. Obama, during his first campaign, managed to form a new epicentric coalition that relied on “support among communities of color, educated whites, Millennials, single women, and seculars,” according to a review in the New York Times of a report written by Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

In the General Assembly Pipeline – More Death And Taxes Please

The chief executive proposes, but the legislature disposes; this old chestnut, possibly as ancient as the Republic, has never been truer. Just now, progressive Democrats in the General Assembly are setting about disposing of Governor Dannel Malloy’s no tax increase pledge, iterated numerous times during Mr. Malloy’s late gubernatorial campaign. Of course, the governor himself already has disposed of his George H. W. Bush-like vow – “Read my lips. No new taxes.” Mr. Malloy’s submitted budget boosts tax receipts by about $840 million -- still not enough, apparently, to keep up with chronic budget deficits.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Rowland Conviction, Unfinished Business

Here is a chicken or the egg question: In political corruption cases, should the targeting of suspects for prosecution precede or follow the investigation?

Most of us would agree that the targeting of conspirators and co-conspirators in political corruption trials should follow an investigation, because it is the investigation itself that determines culpability.

“First the verdict, then the trial,” says the Queen of Hearts in the topsy-turvy world of Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass.” The world confronted by Alice in Wonderland is supposed to be inverted, the way images are seen in a mirror. But in the real world, we want verdicts to follow trials and targeting in political corruption trials to follow complete and exhaustive investigations.

At some point in the corruption investigation of John Rowland, prosecutors decided to target Mr. Rowland as conspirator number one. Other apparently less important conspirators in the case were Brian Foley, the owner of Apple Rehab, and his wife Lisa Wilson Foley, then running in a Republican Party primary for the US House in Connecticut’s 5th District. At the time the investigation was opened, none of the principals involved were active politicians: Mr. Rowland, a former governor rebounding from an earlier corruption conviction, was a radio talk show host; Lisa Wilson Foley was an aspiring politician who previously had never held political office; and her husband, Brian Foley, was the founder of a lucrative business.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Towards A State Zoning Board, Malloy’s Pig In A Poke

“[Governor Dannel] Malloy has proposed House Bill 6851 now before the Legislature. It would create an 11-member quasi-public agency and give it control of train station projects statewide.

“The agency would be called the Connecticut Transit Corridor Development Authority. Four members would be appointed by the governor and three by other political leaders in the Legislature. The other four members would be state commissioners, whose jobs are bestowed by the governor.

“The new authority would have the power to seize property within half a mile of any train station, enter into contracts with private developers, build what projects it chose and sell bonds to finance them.”

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Rowland’s Last Stand

It would take someone like Murray Kempton to do justice to the Rowland “tragedy,” admittedly a much misused and overused term. Unfortunately, Mr. Kempton – ever the gentleman, friend to the lonely and crushed – died in 1997, and we shall not see his like again.

Bill Buckley, whose like we shall not see again, said of Kempton that he was a “socialist — a sworn enemy of all anti-Communist legislation, sworn friend of militant unions” also “the finest writer in the newspaper profession,” disposing of a “wit and irony and a compassion which is sometimes unruly.” Buckley, who had a genius for friendship, then added that Mr. Kempton was “a great artist and a great friend.”

Innocence, of course, is the essence of tragedy, and we know after a trial and an appeal – soon to be followed by more appeals, until Mr. Rowland runs out of money, at which point all the lawyers will disappear – that Mr. Rowland is NOT innocent. Mr. Kempton would not have focused on the trial or the appeal or the ravenous ill-wishers who have been swarming about Mr. Rowland since he first appeared on the political scene way back in 1980. There is nothing left of Mr. Rowland but picked-over political bones.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Hillary’s Enemies On The Left: The Feast Of Cannibals

The Democratic left, mostly progressives these days, is not sweet on presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. Signs of displeasure are everywhere.

Bill Curry, who ran for governor of Connecticut -- losing twice to Republican Governor John Rowland, now on his way to prison for the second time -- has laid out in Salon  the progressive brief against Mrs. Clinton.  Mr. Curry, once White House counselor to President Bill Clinton, has determined that Mrs. Clinton, former First Lady, former U.S. Senator, former Secretary of State in the Obama Administration, is squishy on progressive issues dear to Mr. Curry’s heart.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

UTC Selling The Silver?

In February 2011, Aetna Insurance Company’s CEO, Mark Bertolini told a Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce breakfast group that Connecticut was not a profitable place to do business.

“Connecticut,” said Mr. Bertolini, “falls very, very low on the list as an environment to locate employees . . . in large part because of the tax structure, the cost of living, which is now approaching, all in, the cost of locating an employee in New York City.”

The Malloy administration quickly moved to shower Aetna with preferments, and Aetna’s honcho offered a weak apology, promising Mr. Malloy on a stack of bibles that his company would not hightail it to another state but continue to maintain its headquarters in Connecticut. He was grateful that Mr. Malloy, agitated by the possible loss of tax revenue, had opened Connecticut’s treasury to Aetna. Mr. Malloy in turn was grateful that Aetna would continue to remain in the spot, here to be plundered by tax starved government officials.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

How To Fix Connecticut, Three Steps

Stop financing failure. Rather than providing tax and regulatory relief to all businesses in Connecticut, Governor Dannel Malloy’s progressive government is content with boosting taxes on all businesses in the state – the highest taxed state in the nation, by the way --  and then parceling out to select businesses special exemptions, temporary tax relief and loan forgiveness; a select business is one selected by government officials for special favors, often in return for compensating favors such as campaign contributions or assistance. Campaign finance regulations, a gift offered by incumbent politicians to themselves, obscure the quid pro quo determinant in such transactions that would in a sound and ethical system of government send all involved to a stretch in the slammer.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Progressive Connection, Malloy and His General Assembly

Legislators – and, of course, Governor Dannel Malloy – are staring down the barrels of a double gauge biennial deficit: $1.3 billion in 2015-16, and $1.4 billion in 2016-17. Mr. Malloy’s current budget increases the revenue stream by about $900 million through the usual means: the elimination of exemptions, borrowing and increasing entrepreneurial taxes.

A flawed spending cap nudges legislators in the direction of spending cuts, never popular among big-spending progressives, or, more likely, tax increases, which are increasingly unpopular among flat-lining taxpayers; those who consume taxes, the permanent government, naturally are not averse to tax increases. It’s easy to give candy to a baby, difficult to snatch it away.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Malloy As Capo dei Capi Of The Democratic Governors Association

Governor Dannel Malloy has been chosen by his gubernatorial peers to head the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) as Chairman in 2016. Did they choose wisely?

Though he claims – as most governors would -- that he has no national ambitions, Mr. Malloy’s slip, so to speak, is showing. Even as governor of the state, large ambitions course through his veins. He is very comfortable appearing on national programs with a pencil in hand that he gleefully sticks in the eye of one promising Republican politician after another. Governor of New Jersey Chris Christy is a favorite target, and recently Mr. Malloy has been throwing porcupine quills in the direction of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Mr. Malloy appears to enjoy the rough and tumble of politics, though his own skin is painfully thin.

Friday, March 06, 2015

The Book Of Kells

If ever you are in Dublin – heaven for bibliophiles – be sure to see the Book Of Kells here:

Andree and I visited Iona some time back. There one sees some ruins of the Viking raids on the island. It was from here that Christianity, a new beam of light and wonder, spread to Europe. Iona, where ST Columba worked his wonders, and later Kells, are the crib of Western Christianity.

The great question the Book of Kells answers is this: In a sacked world, where beauty itself is ground underfoot, how does the human heart answer despair?

Answer: By snatching beauty from the ruins of a fallen world.

 And THAT is the Book Of Kells.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Undervaluing Deficits

There will be time, there will be time 
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet…
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions
And for a hundred visions and revisions
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

These lines, clipped from T.S. Eliot’s poem The Love-Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock, might easily describe the “visions and revisions” of Connecticut’s here-again, gone-again budget deficits.

Kevin Lembo – so far, Connecticut’s straight-shooting Comptroller – revised his deficit estimate early in March by $40 million, not the only revision in Governor Dannel Malloy’s second term. The boost in the deficit figure, Mr. Lembo said, was the result in part of an over-estimation of revenue the state had expected to collect from capital gains taxes paid through the personal income tax.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Down And Out In Hartford

Shortly after Governor Dannel Malloy presented his budget to the Democratic dominated General Assembly, a cataract of critical comments washed over his administration.

Noting the governor had passed along to the legislature a highly problematic budget, one commentator sniffed, “If the state budget is a football game, rather than a tragi-comic version of naked beer pong, then Gov. Dan Malloy admitted the other day to punting on third down at the bank robbery.” No compliment was intended.

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