Monday, November 27, 2017

No Time For “Heroes”

Connecticut has had three “heroic” governors within the past four gubernatorial election cycles. Governor Lowell Weicker was the first. His legacy is inseparable from his income tax, and it was his income tax. In a rare moment of humor, Weicker suggested the tax should be named after his Lieutenant Governor, Eunice Groark, who broke a tie in the State Senate, assuring the passage of the income tax bill through the General Assembly sausage making process. Groark declined the honor.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Eros In The “Me Too” Age

The “Me too” movement is a long delayed reaction to libertinism, which is not ordered liberty, liberalism or even libertarianism. The father of libertinism was French revolutionist and eros anarchist the Marquis de Sade, an aristocrat gone bad.  His erotic works, many of them written while a prisoner in the Bastille, combine philosophical discourse with pornography and depict in an approving manner violence, crime and blasphemy against Christianity. A man much ahead of his time, de Sade was among the first notable Europeans to propose abortion as a means of population control. He favored unrestricted freedom free of morality, religion and law. In the 21st century, he might have been richly rewarded as a Hollywood film producer.

Monday, November 20, 2017

2018, The Cast Of Characters

No one quite knows for certain how the play will unroll during the upcoming 2018 elections, but the cast of characters is slowly taking shape.

Last April, Governor Dannel Malloy announced he would not be running for a third term. Said Malloy, a rare emotional hitch in his voice, “I am today announcing that I will not seek a third term as governor. Instead, I will focus all my attention and energy – I will use all of my political capital from now through the end of 2018 – to continue implementing my administration's vision for a more sustainable and vibrant Connecticut economy."

Malloy’s announcement opened a Pandora’s Box.  Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman, who rode shotgun on Governor Dannel Malloy’s coach for eight years, has only recently bowed out of the race. Wyman, it appears, has children and grandchildren whose company, she has belatedly said, she at long last would like to enjoy. Her bow-out, we are to understand, had nothing to do with Malloy’s failed policies.

Comptroller Kevin Lembo, a young progressive relatively unbesmirched by the failed Malloy regime, considered running for governor but, on second thought, bowed out. Mayor of Hartford, Luke Bronin, also has had second thoughts since Wyman’s announcement; he’s back in consideration. Middletown Mayor Dan Drew, the focus of an ethics complaint, is still plugging away, though one of his wings may have been clipped. Mayor of Bridgeport Joe Ganim, an ex-felon who very well might be the poster boy for Malloy’s “second chance society” is making noises. West Hartford Mayor Jonathan Harris, former prosecutor Chris Mattei, former Wall Street finance executive Dita Bhargava and former State Veterans Affairs Commissioner Sean Connolly are all teasing us.

“On the Republican side,” a Hartford paper advises, “Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, Trumbull first selectman Tim Herbst, state Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, former federal official David Walker, state Sen. Toni Boucher and Shelton mayor Mark Lauretti are among a large field.” Peter Lumaj, who has managed to light up conservatives, is yet in an exploring stage, and somewhere off in the distance Joe Visconti, who has described himself as “Trump without the millions,” is breathing heavily.

Most of the chaff will be sifted during the Democrat and Republican nominating conventions, after which the wheat will lie exposed. Until then, opinionators are keeping their powder dry, though it is not difficult to deduce their preferences from editorials and opinion pieces. In the recent past, editorial boards in Connecticut have voted more or less straight Democrat; endorsements of Republicans have been rare. The betting from political watchers outside the magic circle is that editorial boards will by Election Day have learned nothing and forgotten everything. “The land of steady habits” is an expression that may no longer apply to voters, whipped as they have been by progressive lashes, but it still applies in spades to some editorial boards and fake reformers who have committed themselves to an ancient dying creed. 

The truth of the matter is that modern progressivism of a kind practiced in Connecticut -- which favors high taxes, the slavish support of state worker unions, an expansion of the role of government in business decisions, excessive regulations as a means of controlling unsavory business ethics, a view of state government as the principal business investor, a “forward looking” vision that discounts tradition and what G. K. Chesterton used to call “the democracy of the dead,” a utopian outlook that blithely ignores the real-world consequences of superficially appealing policies – is a demonstrable and disastrous failure that has, in the land of steady bad habits,  reduced the prospect of business growth, job creation and most other joys that a pragmatic and realistic polity is heir to. And the people in Connecticut most severely impacted by utopian progressivism are the poor who live in the state’s corrupt and deteriorating cities.

Politicians in the state are no longer in the saddle directing events; indeed, it is events that are now riding politicians – and the rest of us.

The way out of this dark and unwelcoming wood, far more menacing than anything one meets in fairy tales, is the way in – in reverse. You begin to work your way out of the enchanted wood by stopping your advance, reversing course and marching towards the beginning of your journey with a view toward progressing in an opposite direction.

Focusing all his attention on his visionary schemes for Connecticut and spending his depleted political capital, Malloy recently effectively vetoed the efforts of both Democrats and Republicans to restore in a bi-partisan budget crippling reductions in state aid to municipalities he had previously imposed, a provocative move that elicited from mild-mannered State Representative Tami Zawistowski, “Outrageous that the Governor unilaterally cut $91 million from education aid to our towns - well beyond the reductions in the legislatively approved budget.” The larger part of Malloy’s legacy when he finally leaves office will be that he had his way with both Republicans and Democrats in the General Assembly.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Reformers Club, A Satire

Overheard in the MidRoad Diner during a meeting of the Reformers Club

The difference between God and Governor Malloy --“God is less concerned than [Dannel] Malloy when people question Him.”

Those early body-building pics of Republican House leader Themis Klarides circulating in the desk drawers of oppo-researchers -- “I’m still waiting for one of Connecticut’s opinionators to write, maybe in a column, that Klarides can easily bench-press many of her political opponents. She likes sports, contact sports too. Otherwise, why would she have gotten involved in politics?”

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Associate Justice McDonald Should Have Recused Himself

Sir James George Frazier, author of “The Golden Bough,” an examination of pre-literate, pre-Christian social mores among primitives, tells the story of a ritualistic punishment involving a murder. The foul deed was done with a knife. The village elders gather together in a hut and call witnesses to give testimony. First the presumed murderer is closely interrogated, then the family of the victim. Last of all, the knife is called to testify. Closely examined, it is pronounced guilty and suitably punished by the elders, who execute the weapon by throwing it in the river. Scapegoats are sometimes used for the same purpose; they are guilt receptacles that receive blood-guilt and are afterwards destroyed.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Trump And the Upcoming Connecticut Campaigns

President Donald Trump does not like the press he is receiving. The press – we now call it the media, because bloggers and ideologues with knives in their brains have been folded into it – convinced of its moral rectitude, begs to differ. Trump’s press notices would be very much different if he were the media, and his twitter activity has been taken by some as an attempt to offset this lamentable deficiency. Trump has been setting the day’s press calendar by tweet-twerking. He is, his Democratic and Republican opponents insist, the presidential equivalent of the-guy-in-a-bathrobe-in-his-mom’s-cellar turning the world upside down by loosing upon it nuclear tipped declarations. To Trump, tweets may be no more than a new colorful crayon in his box of tricks. To the contra-Trump media, they are a threat that must be disposed of, as the sixties radicals used to say, “by any means necessary.”

Friday, November 10, 2017

Progressive Scorpions, Republican Frogs

Democrats, the ruling party in the General Assembly for the past thirty years, have been very hard on Connecticut. Most economists worth consulting agree that the state is under water, blowing bubbles, and all the usual stratagems to which Democrats have in the past resorted to pull the near corpse aboard – tax increases, more regulations, moving budget money from one or another “lockbox” in order to cover deficits, plundering the rich – have only made festering problems worse.

The General Assembly now has produced a compromise budget, and some thoughtful analysts have argued that this compromise will compromise a winning Republican campaign in 2018.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Why Texas Matters

Almost immediately after a gunman entered a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas and mowed down the congregation with what the media refers to imprecisely as “an assault weapon” – what weapon used in the commission of a mass murder is not an assault weapon? -- Senators Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy of Connecticut unscrolled their pitch: 1) assault weapons are murderous, 2) prayer is pointless and 3) send campaign cash our way.

Prescinded from their analysis was the nub of the matter – the truth which, like the devil, lies in the details.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

The Malloy Court

Chief Justice of Connecticut’s Supreme Court Chase Rogers is retiring after 11 years. There are murmurs at the State Capital that Associate Justice Andrew McDonald might fill the vacancy. When all vacancies are filled, Governor Dannel Malloy will have appointed 6 of 7 Justices to the Court.

McDonald, the youngest Justice on the court, was the lame-duck Governor's Chief Legal Counsel before he was appointed to  the Court by Malloy in 2013. McDonald had been with the Governor since Malloy’s salad days as Mayor of Stamford. Malloy’s Chief Counsels and political staff have been particularly favored during his administration. Luke Bronin, presently Mayor of Hartford, a city teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and in need of frequent cash transfusions from the state, also had served as Chief Counsel to Malloy.

Birds Of A Feather, Weicker And Malloy

“He deserves a going-out a lot more glorious than the one that the Democrats handed him,” former Governor and Senator Lowell Weicker said of Governor Dannel Malloy, who had been disinvited to budget talks between legislative Democrats and Republicans. “The legislature dumped him,” Weicker added. “I don’t think that necessarily stands to the glory of the Democratic legislators.”

Birds of a feather flock together.

There is little difference in governing style between Weicker and departing lame-duck Governor Dannel Malloy. Both are autocratic and manipulative; both relied heavily on tax increases to fill budget deficit holes; and both claim not to be guided by popularity polls, lofty governors transcending the grubby hoi-polloi. Both were highly unpopular as governors, Weicker because he muscled an income tax through the General Assembly, and Malloy as the author of both the largest and the second largest tax increases in state history. The tax hike in the current budget – which, for the first time throughout the Malloy administration, bears Republican fingerprints -- is a, relatively speaking, modest $1 billion.

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