Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dean vs. Courant

The Hartford Courant, where ink stained wretch Colin McEnroe parks his pen mightier than the sword, spiked his Sunday column on Martha Dean.

McEnroe understands completely. The Courant bars opinion pieces that appear after the first Sunday before an election, mostly for reasons of fairness. A target of an opinion printed a mere two days before election, in this case Dean, would not have sufficient time to answer any manifestly unjust criticisms within such a short time frame.

While McEnroe missed the bell, other political writers at the Courant, not one of whom has during the entire campaign written a commentary that might be considered favorable to Dean, were not so unfortunate, and there are some, Dean among them, who have reason to suspect that all opinions pouring fourth from the Courant concerning Dean are manifestly partisan.

In any case, McEnroe’s column very likely would have been redundant: The Courant already had endorsed Dean’s opponent, George Jepsen, and launched a broadside against a matter of some moment: A few days ago, after the Supreme Court had issued its written opinion on Susan Bysiewicz’s eligibility for the office of attorney general, Dean had filed a motion with the court contesting the eligibility of Jepsen.

Before I proceed, I must insert here a brief confession. I have written columns and blogs myself protesting the Bysiewicz decision. Connecticut’s Supreme Court may have been wrong when it ruled in the Bysiewicz case that a statute requiring prospective attorneys general to be an "attorney at law of at least ten years' active practice at the bar of this state" trumps the state constitution itself, which provides only an age qualification for the position. But the court has ruled, and that’s that.

The court in its recently published decision interpreted the statute, which specifies that prospective attorneys general must be “attorneys at law of at least ten years active practice at the bar of this state,” as indicating that the attorneys mentioned in the statute should be attorneys “with at least some experience litigating cases in court.” This line of interpretation alone is unclear on two points: The decision does not tell us how much experience is “some” nor what kind of experience would qualify a lawyer to be attorney general. The Bysiewicz ruling is fuzzy around the edges and soft in the middle – which means, the court and Connecticut could only benefit by yet another suit forcing it to clarify the inherent ambiguities in its decision.

Such a suit is precisely the one brought by Dean. And for that reason the suit should have been welcomed by all friends of justice who think laws and Supreme Court rulings should be general, clear and fair. The Hartford Courant, to judge by its editorial reproving Dean for bringing the suit, falls outside this category.

“Ms. Dean says Mr. Jepsen lacks experience as a litigator. She has asked that his name be removed from the ballot and that the secretary of the state be prohibited from certifying the attorney general's race until her lawsuit is resolved.” The editorial, printed four days before election and therefore within its own parameters, asks “Does she [Dean] have a case or is her lawsuit a desperate 11th-hour stunt?” And the paper, much before a decision is due from the court, precipitately decides that the suit is an 11th hour stunt.

McEnroe, incidentally, disagreed with the obiter dictum of his paper in an earlier blog post, placing much of the blame for Dean’s “precipitous” suit on the court: “I agree, by the way, that much of the fault lies with the Connecticut Supreme Court. The Court ruled from the bench in May in the case of Bysiewicz v. Dinardo. Then it waited an inexplicable five months to issue a full decision, which finally came Oct. 22, less than two weeks before the election. Come on, guys, get your homework in on time! The decision itself was so muddy as to make it at least understandable that Dean saw it as a potential wedge to game into Jepsen's candidacy.”

The paper raises two easily answered objections: 1) Dean was precipitate in bringing the suit so close to the election (see McEnroe above); 2) By so doing she has revealed herself as being motivated principally by politics.

It is impossible to shake this last charge. Both Dean and Jepsen are engaged in a political campaign, and it is at least reasonable to suppose that politicians so engaged do things for political reasons – in addition to other perhaps more compelling reasons. But the question opinion makers should be considering is not “Do politicians do things for political reasons,” but rather, “Is Dean’s suit necessary?

It is.

Obama Hugs Himes, Blumenthal

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who appeared at times during his campaign to be running once again as attorney general, were photographed Saturday locked in the embrace of President Barack Obama, who visited Bridgeport to give both their campaigns a shove over the finish line.

Himes, who represents a district that in the past has bolted to the Republican end of the political barracks, had previously sought to keep his distance from Mr. Obama. Following polls showing Himes lagging a bit behind his Republican opponent, Dan Debicella, Himes gratefully fell into Mr. Obama’s arms.

Both Mr. Himes and Mr. Blumenthal have attempted during their campaigns to place some political distance between themselves and Mr. Obama, who has been sliding in the polls. Mr. Blumenthal, for instance, has publicly disagreed with Mr. Obama on the utility of bailouts while warmly embracing U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s regulatory bill, and Mr. Himes is not quite as ferocious as Mr. Obama in attacking hedge fund businesses and wealthy CEOs who make their homes in Mr. Himes’ district.

A Map Of State Politics

Heath Fahle, associated with the Yankee Institute, has done a splendid job mapping the possibilities for Republican gains in the General Assembly. If you want to climb the mountain, you have to map the terrain. This is the map. Have a Look.

Under the watchful eye of Christine Stuart of Connecticut News Junkie, some good reporting may still be found in a state in which newspapers have reduced staffs to dangerously low levels.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Endorsements

There have been very few unexpected endorsements from Connecticut’s media, and the almost universal endorsements of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal by the state’s opinion makers were entirely predictable. The status quo media likes status quo candidates.

The status quo candidate will always stress his experience over that of his opponent who, of course, may have little direct experience in politics. Such was the case with Ann Brickley, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate running against Sen. John Larson, a Beltway familiar. The proposition that voters should choose experience in office over inexperience is, of course, fatal to good government. The very existence of an election process argues against cradle to grave politicians. But the settled opinion among many editorial writers in the state is that political experience should be determinative.

For this reason it was a little unsettling, in a positive sense, to read the Register Citizen’s endorsement of Brickley over Larson. The paper reasoned that Mr. Larson had been swallowed up by the Washington whale. His attention, which should have been directed toward his failing state, the paper argued, had been too often directed towards Beltway status.

“We are in the midst of a huge national backlash against Pelosi’s management of taxing and spending policies that affect the economy,” the paper said, “and against the federal health care reform bill that Pelosi and Larson shepherded through Congress… We feel she [Brickley] would bring the 1st District seat back around to being about Connecticut’s interests, after years of having a congressman who long ago got caught up as a key lieutenant in an inside-the-Beltway partisan war that has very little to do with what is good for Torrington, Winsted, New Hartford and our state.”

The paper also noted that Brickley has devoted her efforts in private enterprise to helping companies become more prosperous, not a bad resume line at a time when many Connecticut companies have for years been moving to greener pastures elsewhere. Endorsements of this kind, however, are the exception to the rule.

Mr. Blumenthal has no direct experience as a U.S. Senator, but he has had considerable practice in stroking the media, which had not looked closely at some of the cases he prosecuted in Connecticut. Mr. Blumenthal has been taken mostly at his word, as reflected in those ubiquitous press releases that, for 20 years, have rained down on Connecticut’s media like confetti at a wedding. The indespensible critical attitude one expects in a healthy adversarial media never showed up at the wedding. Many people suspect this is the case because Mr. Blumenthal’s world view, iterated endlessly in his ideologically partisan press releases, dovetails with that of Connecticut’s left of center media.

Mr. Blumenthal’s harrying of businesses, sometimes justified, has been a boon to unions and editorial writers advocating left of center views. It simply is not true that Mr. Blumenthal has directed the bulk of his fire at Big Business. It is not true that his office is capable of representing adequately both the interests of state agencies -- a statutory requirement he labors under, except in those cases in which he declines to do so for ideological reasons – AND the interests of whistleblowers employed in the agencies he is charged with representing. The Dickman case throws this discordant representation into bold relief, a point that should have been an issue in Mr. Blumenthal’s senatorial campaign. It wasn’t.

Throughout his campaign, Mr. Blumenthal continued to pelt the media with attorney general releases touting his own moral rectitude. In one of those releases, he advised that he would continue to harry an ADVERTISER – unless the advertiser withdrew from its site notices that might have been placed by prostitutes disguised as masseuses, an obvious First Amendment issue Mr. Blumenthal was successful in forcing the California company to adjust its advertising in such a way that it would become more difficult for police to monitor prostitution activity. Significantly, Mr. Blumenthal reached all the way to California in his effort, leaving similar Connecticut advertisers free to ply their ads unmolested.

The suppression of First Amendment rights by an attorney general not authorized by statute to engage in criminal cases should have alarmed the state’s media, if only because all media has a dog in every First Amendment legal tousle. It didn’t. And Mr. Blumenthal’s assault on the First Amendment succeeded, in large part, because Connecticut’s timid pro-Blumenthal media was unwilling to defend an issue that had been a tar baby since the days of Chautauqua and Temperance societies.

Mr. Blumenthal carefully chooses his targets to comport with liberal orthodoxy. His attorney’s general media releases, far more numerous over a 20 year period than his competitor’s campaign ad brochures, were sent out while Mr. Blumenthal was running for the U.S. Senate. Indeed, his role as attorney general was, oddly, the central pillar of his senatorial campaign. Mr. Blumenthal had chosen his marks well. His successor, possibly George Jepsen, the preferred candidate of the state’s media, will not be able to resist the temptation to follow in his predecessors footsteps. Jepsen, politically and emotionally attached to unions and the traditional Democratic Party agenda, has said he would do so, though in a lower key. The attorney general office will be impervious to media criticism that never arrives at its doorstep.

And the absence of such criticism certainly was no bar to media endorsements of Mr. Blumenthal.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Connecticut’s Race To The Bottom

The nonpartisan Tax Foundation has issued a report showing that New York fell from 49th to 50th last year among states that have the worst tax climate in the Nation.

The same report shows Connecticut falling from 38th to 47th, third from the bottom, “because of a new ‘millionaire's bracket’, according to the report.”

Mesmerized by a $3 billion deficit, the Democratic dominated legislature last session affixed the new “millionaire’s bracket” to its income tax, sending Connecticut, relative to other states, into free fall, assuring further flight of businesses and recent graduates to more promising states such as South Dakota, ranked best at number one in the Tax Foundation report, and Alaska, ranked number two.

Zach Janowski of the Yankee Institute turned out a good report on Connecticut's fall from grace.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Separation Of Church And Connecticut

The separation of church and state – an expression first found in a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to Baptists in Danbury and not in the U.S. Constitution – is one of those secular pieties rigidly observed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and others, except when it is not religiously observed.

The Rev. LeRoy Bailey, who had opened First Cathedral church in Bloomfield to students graduating from High Schools within reasonable distance of the cathedral, was set upon by the ever vigilant – except when it is not being vigilant – ACLU, which persuaded a court that the reverend had overstepped putative constitutional strictures. The court shut down the operation, apparently because it felt that students gathering in a church building to celebrate a secular event in the absence of masses and ministers would somehow infect the assembled students with impermissible religious doctrines. One political observer, myself, speculated that the court perhaps believed in homeopathic magic.

And now the unthinkable has happened: Two churches in New Haven have opened their doors to politicians, while the ACLU is sleeping the sleep of the just.

True, the politicians – Linda McMahon and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, both running for U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s soon to be vacant seat in congress -- are not recent graduates of Connecticut schools, but each, according to stories in the New Haven Independent, did attend a church to spread their political gospels. From the point of view of the ACLU, which considered the church and state association in Bloomfield to be impermissible, it should hardly matter at all in these circumstances who is corrupting whom. There were, after all, children in the assembly.

Blumenthal, whose political gathering was held in the basement of a church, should not be able for that reason to shrug off the demanding fiats of the ACLU; the homeopathic magic that polluted graduating students at First Church seeps through stone and floorboard, and on these two more recent occasions ministers of the word were present.

Blumenthal’s evangel for his affair was U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Catholic who has from time to time quarreled publicly with certain unsavory demands of her church. The Catholic Church, its bishops, the Pope and a sizeable chunk of the laity, all frown on abortion and positively snarl at partial birth abortion. Ms. DeLauro’s conscience is at ease with both, as are the unruffled consciences of other putative Catholics in Connecticut’s congressional delegation, prominent among them Mr. Dodd and U.S. Rep. John Larson. Homeopathic magic, it should be observed, has not infected the state’s Catholic members of the Congressional delegation who, presumably, attend services on Sundays, otherwise they would be simpatico with their church’s doctrines.

Church-state affairs in Thomas Hooker’s Connecticut suffered a setback when Politico disclosed recently that Mr. Blumenthal’s campaign aides had discussed “tarring Linda McMahon in cooperation with Planned Parenthood,” the pro-choice abortion providers.

In an e-mail supplied to Politico, "Worst of WWE + women photos," one of the aides breaks out in song: “"Hey all — Grossman is looking for mysoginistic (sic) photos of women and WWE. Planned Parenthood wants to hit LM hard on it,"

Heeding the call, press staffer Marcy Stech e-mailed seven other campaign aides and the State Democratic Party. "What do we got? (sic)"

Andrew Grossman, a top tier Democratic operative with Babylon on the Potomac experience, worked at the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee from 1999 to 2003. In 2004, he was the director of Polling and Targeting for the George Soros-funded group, America Coming Together. In 2005, he founded Wal-Mart Watch. The e-mail, Politico remarks, “seems to raise the question of whether the campaign is coordinating with Planned Parenthood, an outside group.”

It was left to Blumenthal spokesman Ty Matsdorf to offer a non-apology for the attempt to smear McMahon. Apparently, Dick – as we are encouraged to call the attorney general formerly known as Richard – was unavailable for comment, as was Mr. Grossman. Mr. Matsdorf claimed, somewhat implausibly in such a well coordinated campaign, that the Blumenthal effort to tar Mrs. McMahon was uncoordinated. The campaign was simply looking for “an image that would be circulated on Twitter or in a press release, but not in a paid ad campaign of any sort.”

Next Sunday, two days before Election Day, as we head for church to beg forgiveness of our sins, Democrats might to well to send up a prayer that God may bless and coordinate the Blumenthal campaign.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fannie, Freddie, Dodd, Blumenthal And Government Supported Entities

Even the New York Times, a publication that can hardly be accused of harboring black thoughts about the usual culprits in the U.S. Congress, referred last August in a news story to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two quasi-private business enterprises cosseted by the Democratic Congress, as “wards of the state.” Previously, each had been designated a Government Supported Entity (GSE).

In a news story – the editorial board of the Times, predictably listing left, has already predictably endorsed Connecticut’s attorney General Richard Blumenthal for Congress – reporter Gretchen Morgenson snickered that Fannie and Freddie, now become wards of the state sucking the blood from taxpayers, “got just two mentions in the 1,500-page law known as Dodd-Frank: first, when it ordered the Treasury to produce a study on ending the taxpayer-owned status of the companies and, second, in a ‘sense of the Congress’ passage stating that efforts to improve the nation’s mortgage credit system ‘would be incomplete without enactment of meaningful structural reforms’ of Fannie and Freddie.”

“Fannie and Freddie amplified the housing boom by buying mortgages from lenders, allowing them to originate even more loans. They grew into behemoths because they lobbied aggressively and played the Washington political game to a T. But after both companies bought boatloads of risky mortgages, they required a federal rescue…

“Outwardly, Fannie and Freddie wrapped themselves in the American flag and the dream of homeownership. But internally, they were relentless in their pursuit of profits from partners in the mortgage boom. One of their biggest and most steadfast collaborators was Countrywide, the subprime lending machine run by Angelo R. Mozilo.”

OhMyGod!!! as the kids sometimes say. There it is – “Countrywide,” somewhat in the news these days largely owing to an ad recently released by the Linda McMahon campaign that mentions Blumenthal, according to recent polls the heir apparent to Dodd’s seat.

The McMahon ad was put under the microscope a few days ago by Hartford Courant scrutinizers and found wanting. The ad touches an important point, gently but inadequately. The Courant misses the critical point entirely -- this point: All the so called GSEs have failed miserably. But they failed upwards – because they were Government Backed Entities. Fannie, Freddie and Countrywide were too well connected with Washington insiders to fail. In the private marketplace, failure means bankruptcy, scowling judges, ransacked investors and, at the margin, possible jail terms for CEO frauds. In a command business structure in which Washington decides what business are to succeed or fail, GSEs, underwritten by taxpayers, are resuscitated when they fail -- by taxpayers. That is what a bailout is: It involves a taxpayer infusion of funds to politically connected businesses that are too big to fail engineered by a paternalistic government committed to a command economy that has become too big to fail.

This should be the issue in all Connecticut’s congressional campaigns: How long can any administration in Washington continue to shuttle the wealth of the nation to failed enterprises before the wealth is depleted?

Angelo Mozilo, the CEO of Countrywide, it should be noted, is not in jail. A settlement was made in his case, with the energetic assistance of more than a dozen state attorneys general, Blumenthal prominent among them. The settlement having been made, Blumenthal, who should have been monitoring his settlement, was distressed, we discover from recent news reports – really distressed, and surprised too, very surprised, indeed shocked – that Mozilo’s patrons in Washington took care of Countrywide and other of its GSE co-conspirators such as the Bank of America, which purchased Countrywide’s fraudulent mortgages, by passing along the bill to taxpayers.

It turns out, after all the sleight of hand, that taxpayers who contribute to pension funds will be picking up the tab. Billing pensioners is nothing new in Connecticut where, under a Democratic regime that claims to represent the interests of teachers and firefighter and other public servants, pension funds are regularly raided by legislators and governors, while political benefactors such as John Larson and Blumenthal look the other way.

We should draw two indispensable lessons from the Countrywide-Fannie-Freddie-Bank of America affair: 1) Monopolies such as Countrywide, Fannie and Freddie cannot be formed without the willing participation of governing officials such as Dodd and Barney Frank who afford them privileges not enjoyed by their competitors in a diverse free market, and 2) Any business savvy enough to become a cosseted GSE has acquired enough friends in Congress and the Obama administration to pass along to others any comeuppance served up with great fanfare by Blumenthal and his cohorts.

Blumenthal’s response to Bank of America’s great escape from sanctions thought by Blumenthal to have been imposed on them by the attorneys general is further evidence that the people of Connecticut should vote someone other than him to send to Congress.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Courant Endorses Blumenthal, Malloy

Unsurprisingly – Connecticut Commentary predicted it nearly two weeks ago – the Hartford Courant has endorsed Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, for the U.S. Senate and Dan Malloy for Governor. The Courant is a left of center paper that generally endorses incumbent Democrats or such Republicans as are indistinguishable from Democrats.

The kinds of politicians generally supported by the paper have given us this year a state deficit that some expect will expand in the near future to $4 billion, the only state in the nation that has lost population, a state and municipal tax burden that ranks 38th in the country, a property tax collection that is number two in the nation, the fourth highest gas tax in the country and a return on every dollar sent to Washington in taxes of 69 cents.

In the gubernatorial race, the paper is willing to wing it with Mr. Malloy. Voting for Mr. Malloy, the paper avers, “requires a leap of faith that he is not, as Mr. Foley charges, in the pocket of the public employees unions… Engaging the unions is not being rolled by them…” except when engaging the unions is being rolled by them. The Courant should sit down and have a candid chat with the outgoing much rolled Republican governor, a moderate, the only kind of Republican the paper is willing to tolerate.

Actually, Malloy, despite his credentials as a union conciliator, very likely will have the same problem as Rell with liberal Democrats tied to unions through sympathetic leaders in the legislature and campaign contributions, more about which later.

Blumenthal, Bysiewicz And The First Amendment

The person who has written most sensibly about Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz and a recent Connecticut Supreme Court decision that did not allow Bysiewicz to run for attorney general in a Democratic primary, largely because Bysiewicz ran afoul of a statute requiring a candidate for the office to have completed a certain number of years in the active practice of law, is Chris Powell, the Managing Editor of the Journal Inquirer.

Powell pointed out that the statute itself contravenes a constitutional provision that sets only an age requirement for the office. The constitutional provision cannot by definition be unconstitutional. Therefore, the contravening statute must be unconstitutional.

This political hand grenade was tossed to the Supreme Court by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, and the court, Powell reasoned, had got it wrong.

By setting other requirements not demanded by the state constitutional, the court, practically speaking, may have invalidated the constitutional provision, which was intended to open a wide door of liberty to attorney general candidates. Bysiewicz remarked wryly after the court’s decision that, under the auspices of Connecticut’s Supreme Court, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan could not have been appointed to the highest court in the land. Kagan, who came out of academia, had no practical experience at the bar.

Left undebated as the Bysiewicz decision wended its way through the court was the question: Why is practical legal experience at the bar more important than administrative experience in the attorney general’s office?

It might have been interesting to ask Blumenthal after the court decision had come down whether he thought Connecticut’s Supreme Court had got this one right. But the moment passed, and the hand grenade blue up Bysiewicz’s restless ambition, for the moment.

Now, once again, Bysiewicz finds herself in the pickle jar – this time on a matter of First Amendment rights.

Linda McMahon, Blumenthal’s Republican opponent vying for U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s seat, is the former CEO of World Wide Wrestling (WWE). Under protest from Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy and others, a spokesman for Bysiewicz, Av Harris, has issued a press release on behalf of Bysiewicz denying that the secretary of state issued a formal ban on the wearing of WWE gear at polling places.

According to a Hartford Courant report, while Bysiewicz has not issued a “formal ban” on the gear, “the issue has been discussed informally with local registrars. Harris said it will be left to the discretion of local poll workers whether to ask voters to remove their wrestling gear when they are inside the polling place.”

Through informal discussions, the First Amendment grenade has been placed in the hands of poll workers, according to Bysiewicz’s spokesman:

"If the poll workers feel like the wearing of WWE paraphernalia is in any way interfering with the voting [process], they can ask the individual to cover it up or leave and come back with something else on. We're aware that this is may be an issue and were prepared to evaluate every case on an individual basis.”

At this point, one would like the attorney general – who has sent out to the media a number of press releases on First Amendment issues recently, two of which would restrain advertisers from running material on social service sites the attorney general considers repugnant – to man up and retrieve the grenade from the poor poll workers.

Do voters have a First Amendment right to wear wrestling gear to the polls?

Some First Amendment scholars, very possibly a U.S. Supreme Court justice who has no practical experience at the bar, may believe they might. Some in Connecticut’s media may believe they do. Cynics who may think the secretary of state is in this instance carrying water for the Democratic Party and in particular for Blumenthal, who stands to benefit from intimidated McMahon voters, would be instantly disabused of their corrosive cynicism should the ambitious, lean and hungry attorney general put a quick stop to the abuse of the First Amendment by issuing one of his frequent advisories instantly reproduced by all the First Amendment lovers in the media.

Someone surely will put the question to Blumenthal, hopefully before voters compelled to strip by poll watchers enter voting areas to exercise their franchise and their First Amendment rights in November.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Murphy And Friends

Cardinal John Henry Newman, who was violently attacked by the media of his day and responded with a more than adequate self defense, the “Apologia Pro Vita Sua,” used to say, “Throw enough dirt and some will stick – stick but not stain.” But Newman could not have been familiar with modern modes of politicking: UTube videos, blogs written by furious partisans, offshore political operations that are little more than "non-partisan" campaign finance producing operations in disguise, and sleepy eyed journalists, themselves partisan, who are willing to overlook their mud splattered political opponents.

But a bright warning line ought to be drawn somewhere.

An ad approved by embattled U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy that craftily connects Sam Caliguiri with former Waterbury Mayor Phil Giordano throws a bucket of mud on Caliguri’s reputation. Mr. Murphy’s challenger is, after all, a politician and ought not to expect to remain unbloodied in a hotly contested political campaign. Even so, the Murphy ad sets a new floor and ceiling to shameless political advertising.

Mr. Giordano is the odious mayor who was sent to prison for having had sexual relations with the daughters of a prostitute in Waterbury. The object of the Murphy ad is to hitch Caliguri to the Giordano stench, hoping that some of the odor will radiate outward to voters who may be persuaded by it to vote for the more fragrant Mr. Murphy.

The ad, “Caligiuri And Friends”  -- already denounced, but not ardently or often enough, by some reputable papers --  charges, “When Waterbury Mayor Phil Giordano went to jail for unspeakable crimes, many called for his impeachment. Instead, his Number Two man, Sam Caligiuri, negotiated a deal to allow the mayor to keep his salary and title while in prison.”

Not disclosed in the ad: 1) The negotiated settlement put Mr. Giordano in jail; 2) it spared the city, more furious with Mr. Giordano even than the slander-mongers who wrote the Murphy ad and signed off on it, the ordeal of a protracted impeachment which, while staining the city’s reputation, never-the-less would have been a political boon to Democrats; 3) most convictions for political offenses are negotiated rather than prosecuted. Such was the case with former Gov. John Rowland, former mayor of Bridgeport Joe Ganim and former Bridgeport state Rep. Ernie Newton, now out of prison and vowing to campaign for prominent Democrats in Murphy’s district; 4) Caligiuri turned Waterbury around during a trying period for the city, retiring from his position as acting mayor when his term had been fulfilled; 5 if you throw enough dirt, some will stick – stick but not stain.

Ads such as these offend the good conscience. They seek to take a strength -- Caliguiri led Waterbury through the wilderness -- and turn it into a moral deficit, at the expense of what everyone but committed partisans know to be the truth. People who endorse this junk-thought have lost all sight of the only bearing that matters. We should willingly submit to the dignity of truth, which is independent of us, and not use it as a tool of the moment to gratify our own ambitions. When truth wrapped in chains follows ambition, an honest conscience should recoil at the sight.

And it will. There are indications that people are bone weary with these fact-based truths. They want authenticity. They want the whole truth, not the half lie politicians dangle before them to purchase their votes.

The Murphy ad cannot be linked. According to a message attached to the ad on a newspaper site, it has been privatized. “This is a private video,” the message reads, “If you have been sent this video, please be sure you accept the sender’s friend request.”

Who would wish to befriend such mud slingers? As an alternative, voters who find ads such as these morally repugnant will have the opportunity to cast the sender and his friends into political oblivion on November 2.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

20th Senatorial District Candidates Meet Voters

Monday night, October 18, 2010 candidates from the 20th Senatorial District, including state representatives, met the voters at the New London Senior Center in a “debate” sponsored by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Children First of SE CT, and the League of Women Voters. Audience submitted questions were asked by Paul Choiniere, Editorial Page Editor of the New London DAY. Each candidate was given the opportunity to deliver an opening and closing statement.

Opening Statements.
Incumbents Senator Andrea Stillman (D) of Waterford (20th), and Representatives Elizabeth “Betsy” Ritter (D) of Waterford(38th ), Ed Jutila (D) of East Lyme(37th), and Ernie Hewitt (D(39th)) of New London briefly summarized their terms and committee assignments. Hewitt finished with “I enjoy what I am doing.”
Challengers Dan Docker (R) for Senate(20th) and Representative candidates Anthony “Tony” Siragusa(R) of Montville(38th), Holly Cheesman (R) of East Lyme(37th), and Andrew Lockwood (R) of New London (39th) decried the condition of the state’s finances and the perceived do nothing attitude of the current incumbents. Docker said the state was headed toward “social and economic ruin” and citizens were only responsible to “self, family, and God” for their actions. Lockwood noted that Hartford needed representative who would “just say NO.” Cheesman noted that the state has not created any new jobs in the recent past.

Question 1– What is your stand on legalizing Marijuana?
All candidates expressed support for the “medical use of Marijuana” but not for legalization. There was some talk about the difference between decriminalization and legalization. Hewitt noted concern for young people whose lives were ruined by conviction of possession of one “joint”.

Question2 – What are your specific ideas for reducing size of state budget (and for incumbents – Why didn’t you take action earlier to prevent this crisis?
Again, the responses were somewhat predictable. Stillman and Ritter agreed that this was the focus of the election. Ritter noted that”Slash and Burn” was an ineffective approach. Ritter and Jutila both discussed “results based accounting” and the need of executive branch support Hewitt pointed out that eighty (80) percent of budget was untouchable. The Challengers agreed that spending must be cut, and cut now. Cheesman stated that cuts would have to start with give backs from state employees.

Question 3 – Will Aid to Municipalities and Education Cost Sharing (ECS) Grants be adjusted or remain at the same level next year?
All candidates agreed with varying degrees of emphasis that “everything was on the table” for consideration but the impact on towns and cities of reducing municipal aid or the ECS grants However, Mr. Docker noted that he would rather that the local government receive citizen’s dollars than the “bags of money” that are sent to Hartford. Mr. Hewitt proposed cutting deputy commissioners rather than cutting municipal aid. Ms. Stillman noted that passing the deficit to the towns and cities was not a good idea.

Question 4 – (for incumbents) How could you vote for “unbalanced”budgets in the past few years?
Stillman, Ritter, Jutila, and Hewitt noted that the budget process is a series of negotiations, especially with the governor. The budgets appeared to be balanced when passed and were the best possible. They all expected next year’s budget negotiations to be very difficult. The Challengers noted that there were not significant spending cuts and someone needs to go to Hartford to cut spending.

Questions 5 & 6
These questions were specifically to Representative Ernie Hewitt and his opponent Andrew Lockwood - Should English be the official language of the State of Connecticut – Hewitt answered Yes.
For Lockwood – How will you help small business? Lock wood answered that tax dollars should stay in New London and not go to Hartford. Corporate taxes should be cut to permit more investment in the business, not the government.

Question 7 - What should the State be doing to help business?
Representative Jutila responded with the medical phrase “do no harm”. The Republican challengers generally stated that regulations should be reduced, taxes reduced and the market left to its devices. The incumbents pointed out the need to improve the infrastructure, reform education to insure a qualified work force, and lowering the costs of doing business in CT.

Question 8 – Why is it necessary to get local and state police concurrence to get a pistol permit in CT?
Both incumbents and challengers did not see much problems in the current requirements to receive a permit in CT. They called on their personal experience in answering this question and asked the questioner to see them off line for his/her specific problem. All said that it was worth looking at if there really was a problem.

Question 9 – Should the State have a Civil Service System like the federal government with a salary cap?
The candidates noted that many federal salaries were higher than the similar position in state government so that shifting to the federal system may not save any dollars. This question gave the candidates another chance to say the “everything is on the table” in search of cost savings and a balanced budget. Mr. Docker reemphasized his contention that “government does not create jobs.” He also decried the role of unions in “protecting state employees”

Closing Statements:
Incumbents noted the complexity of the problem facing state government and pointed out their experience would permit them to find solutions in a more effective manner and again noted that “everything is on the table.”
Challengers claimed that the incumbents had had their chance and not taken appropriate action. It was time for new blood to break up the status quo in Hartford.

Overall, it was a civil statement of the ideas of the various candidates on the few questions asked. No candidate was long on specifics due to the shorted period of each response. However, it was evident that this election does provide a choice for the electorate. The incumbent Democrats acknowledge the dire straits of the state’s economy and finances and promise fixes without major destruction by cutting with care and precision. The Republican challengers propose a whole sale change with immediate cuts in spending across the board without regard to the need or importance of a program or agency. Take your pick.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Larson-Brickley-Krayeske-Hutchinson Debate

Two weeks before Connecticut voters are due to troop to the polls, U.S. Rep John Larson debated his opponents – Republican Ann Brickley, Green Party candidate Ken Krayeske and Socialist Action candidate Chris Hutchinson – at the West Hartford Town Hall. According to one report, Mr. Larson appeared “annoying.” The journalist who turned in the report surely meant to say that Mr. Larson looked “annoyed,” though it is unclear from the report which of the three burrs under his saddle irritated him most.

Those who could not attend the debate may find it on Ameriborn News. Following the debate in West Hartford, three more are scheduled.

Lately, and most surprisingly, Mrs. Brickley has crept up on Mr. Larson in the polls, a mere seven points separating the two.

Mr. Krayeske is best known for having been arrested by over-exuberant Harford police some years ago while innocently interrupting a parade and taking some pictures of Gov. Jodi Rell. He also confronted UConn coach Jim Calhoun with questions concerning his salary, and this produced some verbal fireworks during which the coach advised Mr. Krayeske to “Shut up.” Far from shutting up, Krayeske, a lawyer recently admitted to Connecticut’s bar, threw his hat into the ring in the First District.

Brickley’s resume is much fuller than those of Mr. Krayeske or Mr. Hutchinson. Mrs. Brickley is a licensed engineer, former employee of United Technologies and General Electric who now owns her own business consulting firm. Larson, one of the goodest of good old boys in the U.S. Congress, is the present executor of a seat that has been held by Democrats for the last five decades. Before Larson, the seat was owned by Barbara Kennelly, daughter of the last real Democratic Party boss in Connecticut. Mrs. Kennelly held the seat for 17 years. After the passing of her father, John Bailey, certain traditional party functions were outsourced: Anti-Republican and anti-Democratic crusher ads are now being shown and financed by extra-party functionaries; incumbent politicians are expected to raise their own campaign funds; and campaign strategies tend to be written by beltway Hessians.

This year, some incumbents – partly owing to the rise of the much reviled Tea Party movement – are having a rough go of it, and Mr. Larson’s sense of unease is shared by many. Among active voters, both Democrats and unaffiliateds each outnumber Republicans by a more than two to one margin. Mr. Larson’s slippage in the polls is directly related to dissatisfaction with Beltway solutions to the lingering recession, high taxes, out of control spending, bottomless deficits, malingering foreign wars and President Barack Obama’s drooping ratings among Independents and some Democrats.

On a sliding scale from socialist to capitalist, Mr. Hutchinson, who favors a 100% tax on rich people, would rank first, followed by Mr. Krayeske, Mr. Larson and Mrs. Brickley.

Mr. Hutchinson did not reveal in the debate in which town he plans to locate his gulag to house dispossessed kulaks, but West Hartford, a relatively wealthy town, dotted here and there with houses that reek of ill gotten riches and fortunes to be confiscated under the Hutchinson dispensation, would seem to be an obvious choice. In the matter of taxing entrepreneurial profits, Mr. Krayeske favors turning back the clock to the Reagan era in which taxes on the redundantly rich were at 50% of income. The problem with wealth confiscations is this: Under Mr. Hutchinson’s 100% plan, wealth can only be confiscated once. Wealth having been confiscated and dispersed, possibly to teachers, what is the Mr. Hutchinson’s Second Year Plan? When all the cows have been butchered and eaten, when there is no more milk in the udders -- when there are no more udders -- whence comes the milk? If I rob everything Peter has and give it to Paul in year one, how do I satisfy Paul’s expectations in year two? How do you share the wealth when there is no wealth to share?

The enduring problem in politics is how to milk the cow gently and in such a way that the cow, after the taxing process, will thank you for the stroking. Mr. Larson would tax robustly – probably not the best idea in a recession -- while Mrs. Brickley would tax more prudently. Even Huey Long, from whose progressive program Franklin Roosevelt borrowed heavily, reduced taxes during the depression.

And the cows? If the stroking is brutal, they will move elsewhere, where the shadow of the gulag does not disturb their peaceful grazing.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Blumenthal, Affidavits And Court Fraud

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s latest media release announcing his plans to lead an investigation into “allegedly defective legal documents filed by banks in thousands of foreclosures nationwide” is written, as usual, in the heroic mode.

Although the legal documents are “allegedly” defective, the banks, according to Mr. Blumenthal, “broke the law, papering the courts with defective documents to railroad consumers into fast, possibly fraudulent foreclosures.” Mr. Blumenthal’s summary judgment – the banks broke the law – precedes a careful investigation that may or may not support his prejudgment.

According to the press release, Mr. Blumenthal’s “powerful multi-state investigation will hold big banks accountable, determining how and why they broke the law.”

There is a certain dissonance in Mr. Blumenthal’s media releases that those in the media who receive them – this one was sent to over 40 recipients and media outlets – have grown used to over the years. If the investigation into “allegedly defective legal documents” is yet pending, it cannot be possible for Mr. Blumenthal to have determined so far in advance of his “powerful multi-state investigation” that the banks “broke the law, papering the courts with defective documents to railroad consumers into fast, possibly fraudulent foreclosures (emphasis mine).”

At the center of Mr. Blumenthal’s pending investigation are “robo-signers” at some banks “who allegedly failed to verify the accuracy of foreclosure affidavits and have documents properly notarized, as required by law.” In his media release, Blumenthal warned that “Filing defective foreclosure documents is potentially a fraud on the court, which can result in dismissal of foreclosure cases and underlying mortgages.”

Some of Mr. Blumenthal’s business targets might find the attorney general’s concern for accurate affidavits – filed by others – particularly touching. In the New England Pellet (NEP) case, Mr. Blumenthal’s “investigator,” since retired for medical reasons, supplied to a judge an affidavit in which he swore under oath he had reason to believe that the principles of New England Pellet either had or were about to fraudulently transfer assets. On the strength of that sworn assertion alone, the judge, in an ex parte proceeding – one in which the party accused in the affidavit is not present before the judge to answer the charge – authorized Mr. Blumenthal to impound NEP’s business assets. Such impoundments have two immediate effects: First, the business is effectively shut down, leaving in its wake all customers the business can no longer service; and second, the targets of prosecution are deprived of the means of obtaining an adequate defense to challenge the untried charges in court.

From Mr. Blumenthal’s point of view, the greater the number of dissatisfied customers a targeted company leaves behind as it disappears beneath seemingly endless waves of litigation the better. Complainants are worth thousands of dollars per head in fines that Mr. Blumenthal is able to collect, enabling him to boast that his office pays for itself through its prosecutorial zeal.

"If you are a small business owner,” NEP lawyer Jim Oliver told a reporter for the Connecticut Post, “and he [Mr. Blumenthal] sues you for $70,000, and wants $1 million in penalties, life as you know it is over. Your bank accounts are seized. Liens are placed on property and assets. Even if you win, the state will appeal and you will wait another year. You are out if business. You are dead.”

In the NEP case, one of the principals in the business was in such distress that he attempted suicide. NEP’s lawyer deposed the then retired “investigator” who admitted in his sworn deposition that he was unfamiliar with Connecticut’s Fraudulent Transfer Act; that he had not check bank records to verify the charge made in his sworn affidavit that NEP’s principals either had or were about to fraudulently transfer assets; and finally, the retired investigator acknowledged that he never had sufficient reason to believe that the principals of the business either had or were about to fraudulently transfer assets when he signed his affidavit. The assertions made in the sworn deposition under oath strongly suggested perjury. But before the perjury issue could go to trial, Mr. Blumenthal settled the then two year old case.

In the now notorious Computer Plus Center of East Hartford case, the principal of the company Mr. Blumenthal drove out of business, Gina Malapanis, was arrested at her home and led off in handcuffs. A jury that got a gander at one of Mr. Blumenthal’s affidavits in that case, awarded Malapanis $18 million, later reduced by an understanding trial court judge to $1.83 million. If Malapanis wants to rest contentedly in the assurance that justice had been served in a case she had won months ago, she’ll just have to wait in line. Mr. Blumenthal is appealing the ruling.

One of the Assistant Attorneys General who lost the Malapanis case is now the campaign director for Democratic attorney general nominee George Jepsen, formerly a campaign chairman of the Democratic Party. In two debates with Republican attorney general nominee Martha Dean, Jepsen allowed that Mr. Blumenthal had done a marvelous job as attorney general, and he cited the usual big marquee cases. But it is the little guy who is crushed under the wheels of Mr. Blumenthal’s litigatory juggernaut – not Big Tobacco or Big Banking or Big Business. Large business entities can easily afford gold plated lawyers to support their interests or, when appropriate, make cash settlements they pass on to their customers in the form of higher prices. When large suit-proof companies targeted by Mr. Blumenthal continue in business, the costs of such settlements come from the pockets of customers whose consumer interests Mr. Blumenthal purportedly represents.

Concerning the inaccurate affidavits the banks are said to have used, Mr. Blumenthal writes sternly in his press release, doffing his hat to the rule of law: “Bankers routinely invoke the rule of law to demand repayment of predatory mortgages they peddled to consumers. The rule of law – requiring proper legal procedure and documentation -- must apply equally to bankers. Bankers created this monstrous mess, threatening to unfairly force consumers from their homes and undermine their property rights. We will demand accountability and corrective action to resolve this injustice.”

In the interest of reforming possible frauds on courts in his own office, Mr. Blumenthal should copy to his assistant attorneys general the sharp reproofs in his press release.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Vote For Jim Himes?

Are you one of the many disappointed by Jim Himes' performance? I am.

I'm disappointed by not only his support of tax breaks for the rich, but his particularly insensitive way of defending his position. ("In my district $250,000 a year isn't a lot of money.")

I'm disappointed by his failure to support Speaker Nancy Pelosi and his determination to "go rogue" in opposition to deficit spending despite high unemployment ( and with the exception, remember of tax breaks for the rich.)

I'm disappointed by his vote against the Democratic Jobs Bill,

This legislation brings jobs to Main Street by increasing credit for small businesses, rebuilding the infrastructure of America, and keeping police and fireman and teachers on the job.
As we create jobs for Americans, we are doing so in a fiscally responsible way. These investments are fully paid for by redirecting TARP funds from Wall Street to Main Street.
And for those hit hardest by the deep recession, this bill provides emergency relief: extending unemployment benefits, help with health benefits for those out of work, and protecting health coverage for millions through Medicaid.
In short, this legislation creates jobs, helps meet the needs of those who are unemployed, and puts us America back on a path to prosperity.
CT Votes:
Courtney, DeLauro, Larson, Murphy: Yes
Himes: NO

his efforts to help his Wall Street friends by limiting the effects of the Consumer Protection Act, his vote against the Tax Extenders Act of 2009,

Jim Himes was one of only 10 Democrats, and the only Democrat from Connecticut, to vote against the Tax Extenders Act of 2009 which 239 Democrats and 2 Republicans supported.
The Tax Extenders Act of 2009 would provide individuals and businesses with approximately $30 billion in tax relief in 2009 by extending for one year (through 2010) more than forty provisions that are scheduled to expire at the end of 2009. This $30 billion in tax relief includes more than $5 billion in individual tax relief and more than $17 billion in business tax relief. The Tax Extenders Act of 2009 also extends more than $7 billion of tax provisions that encourage charitable contributions, provide community development incentives, provide tax relief in the event of a Presidentially-declared disaster, and support the deployment of alternative vehicles and alternative fuels.

his vote against the Permanent Estate Tax Relief for Families, Farmers, and Small Businesses Act of 2009,

Jim Himes was the only representative from Connecticut, and only one of 26 Democrats nationally to vote with the Republicans, against the Democratic sponsored Permanent Estate Tax Relief for Families, Farmers, and Small Businesses Act of 2009 which retained a $3,500,000 estate tax exemption per person and $7,000,000 for married couples. 225 Democrats voted for it. Apparently $3,500,000 was not enough for Jim's rich Greenwich friends to pass to their kids, or $7,000,000 to their wives?

and his support of "pay-as-you-go-legislation."

I'm disappointed by his failure to renounce pharmacy industry ads praising his non-existent efforts to support reform, his op-ed in the Greenwich Time, which called for a public option only if it were available on a level playing field, and reform in general only if it involved massive changes in how health care decisions are made and compensated, a totally unrealistic goal, and most recently, in a meeting with the editorial board of the Stamford Advocate, where he praised delaying the vote on health care reform.

In the light of the above how can progressives vote for Jim Himes? (Independents, conservative Democrats, and mainstream Connecticut Republicans are free to view all of the above as reasons to vote FOR Jim Himes.)

Here's how: Any failure to vote for Jim Himes is tantamount to a vote for anti-women's rights, extreme right winger, Dan Debicella. So go into the voting booth, hold your nose with your left hand, and vote for Jim Himes on the Working Families line with your right hand.

Voting on the Working Families line will let Jim know that he can't continue to rely on our support with this kind of voting record.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Courant Prepares To Endorse Malloy-Blumenthal

The editors of the Hartford Courant are preparing to endorse Dan Malloy as governor.

As governor, Malloy will sign a death penalty abolition bill earlier passed by the General Assembly, which has been dominated these many years by the Democratic Party. The bill abolishing the death penalty -- vetoed by Gov. Jodi Rell, who asserted that the death penalty was appropriate in some cases -- passed the legislature over heated Republican opposition during the assembly’s last session. Incumbent Democrats who signed off on the death penalty abolition bill likely do not expect their numbers in the legislature to be so depleted in the November elections as to make it impossible for a Democratic dominated assembly to pass the bill with Governor Malloy at the helm.

In an editorial printed in the Courant three weeks before Election Day, “Repeal The Death Penalty,” the paper asserts that the trials of Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky should not be an impediment to the abolition legislation the paper approves.

The “horrific” Cheshire murder trials likely will but should not “have a definitive impact on whether death by lethal injection continues to be a punishment option in this state,” according to the editorial. “We hope that it does not — that lawmakers and the next governor can summon the courage to substitute life in prison without parole as the ultimate penalty for capital crimes.”

The paper notes that a bill abolishing the death penalty would not affect capital felony prisoners convicted before the bill had been passed. An ex post facto rule of law, according to which laws cannot be retroactively applied to people whose actions were legal before laws prohibiting them were passed, still is observed broadly in the United States by most lawyers and jurists willing to bind themselves with adamantine Constitutional strictures. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal appears to have flouted that rule, binding on all lesser mortals, in the Pricilla Dickman case.

The editorial notes, “In last Tuesday's gubernatorial debate, Democrat Dan Malloy said he would, if elected, sign a bill that repeals the death penalty, but only going forward. That is, repeal would not apply to death sentences that stem from legal proceedings already underway.”

Abolition of the death penalty in Connecticut is being driven forward entirely by moral considerations. The Catholic Church and other religious institutions, as well as a secular media that considers execution for capital crimes to be morally repugnant, are in the vanguard of the abolition movement. No one seriously pretends that in the modern period criminals executed in Connecticut have been unjustly punished. The claim that capital felony punishment had been unjustly visited upon Michael Ross, one of two offenders executed in the state in the last 50 years, was always absurd.

In states like Texas, of course, things are different. Capital punishment opponents who often employ the canard that an accused might be unjustly convicted in Connecticut generally point to cases outside the state. No one, least of all the Courant, mentions that in Texas the governor is permitted to commute a capital felony sentence to life in prison if files a timely petition to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles that is signed by the governor.

The Courant has not yet asked Malloy whether as governor he would seek a like authority from a Democratic dominated legislature that had sent him a death penalty abolition bill he has promised to sign.

It is morally deracinated to seek abolition of the death penalty on moral grounds without also seeking some way to avert capital punishment in cases in which it has been imposed. It is impossible to conceive of a moral opposition to, say, slavery that would emancipate no slave currently held in bondage under a, emancipation declaration. After the legislature has found a way to abolish the death penalty, it will find a way to emancipate those convicted of capital punishment under a discarded law, perhaps by giving the new Democratic governor an commutation option like one that may be invoked by the governor of Texas.

In the meantime, Hayes, awaiting his just punishment under a law that will be abolished by a Democratic legislature allied with a Democratic governor, is preparing for his penalty phase trial.

Having been convicted of murdering a mother and two daughters in a fashion that even the most conscience stricken editors and columnists at the Courant consider heinous and depraved, Hayes’ lawyer, borrowing an leaf from Attorney General Blumenthal’s playbook, is preparing to argue to the jury that convicted his client that the capital felony charge should be overthrown because it would be too expensive to carry the cumbersome capital felony process through to its just end.

In May, 1990, arguing against Bill H.B. 5542, which when passed made death penalty convictions less burdensome for prosecutors by requiring courts to issue a death penalty when aggravating factors outweighed mitigating factors, Blumenthal advised:

“The death penalty not only lacks any deterrent affect. It is also been proven to be more expensive to impose than any kind of prison term. It is more expensive to house and continue the convictions, maintain the convictions of those who have been convicted and sentenced to death. That is a fact that has been proven again, and again, throughout the country. And it is the reason along with all the others, that most countries in Western Europe do not have the death penalty. Most New England States do not have it. We are one of the few in the region that does.

“So I urge my fellow members in this Circle, for all those reasons, to reject this amendment. Once again, we have a measure, a proposed statute with surface appeal, seductive on its face. But in reality it will not accomplish the purposes that its proponents say it will.”

The Courant also believes that it is too expensive in Connecticut to execute Hayes and Komisarjevsy: “As we have for decades, The Courant continues to oppose the death penalty because it has been unworkable and is expensive, unfair, risky and morally compromising.”

Especially, morally compromising: “Finally, the death penalty puts the state in a morally compromised position. As horrible as some crimes are and as evil as many of the perpetrators may be, the state should not be in their same business, the business of death.”

One supposes it would compromise the morals of the Courant to endorse as governor a candidate who approves the death penalty. That would be Republican candidate Tom Folly. The flip-flopable Blumenthal, by reversing himself on the death penalty -- as a senatorial candidate, he now approves it – has introduced a new wrinkle into Courant editorial processing: How can the paper justify itself morally by supporting both Malloy and Blumenthal?

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And the Courant is adept at finding ways out of moral swamps.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Love In The Ruins

We have all heard the expression “love conquers all.” In the West, such sentiments have become tiresome and trite, but in countries where the rough hand of oppression pushes against both freedom and love, it is possible to find both flowering in the underground. If a Romeo and Juliet were to arise in Iran – not an impossible prospect, since there one finds a rare beauty of the heart, always modest – the forces that militate against the most human of emotions would be scattered.

Even If I Am Crushed Into Powder, I Will Embrace You With The Ashes

And in China, an enemy of the people, Liu Xiaobao, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Part of his acceptance statement shows that even in the dungeon the truly human heart is capable of celebrating love and freedom.

“I have no enemies, and no hatred. None of the police who monitored, arrested and interrogated me, the prosecutors who prosecuted me, or the judges who sentence me, are my enemies. While I’m unable to accept your surveillance, arrest, prosecution or sentencing, I respect your professions and personalities.....

“I firmly believe that China’s political progress will never stop, and I’m full of optimistic expectations of freedom coming to China in the future, because no force can block the human desire for freedom. China will eventually become a country of the rule of law in which human rights are supreme. I’m also looking forward to such progress being reflected in the trial of this case, and look forward to the full court’s just verdict ——one that can stand the test of history.

“Ask me what has been my most fortunate experience of the past two decades, and I’d say it was gaining the selfless love of my wife, Liu Xia. She cannot be present in the courtroom today, but I still want to tell you, my sweetheart, that I'm confident that your love for me will be as always. Over the years, in my non-free life, our love has contained bitterness imposed by the external environment, but is boundless in afterthought. I am sentenced to a visible prison while you are waiting in an invisible one. Your love is sunlight that transcends prison walls and bars, stroking every inch of my skin, warming my every cell, letting me maintain my inner calm, magnanimous and bright, so that every minute in prison is full of meaning. But my love for you is full of guilt and regret, sometimes heavy enough hobble my steps. I am a hard stone in the wilderness, putting up with the pummeling of raging storms, and too cold for anyone to dare touch. But my love is hard, sharp, and can penetrate any obstacles. Even if I am crushed into powder, I will embrace you with the ashes....

“I hope to be the last victim of China’s endless literary inquisition, and that after this no one else will ever be jailed for their speech.

“Freedom of expression is the basis of human rights, the source of humanity and the mother of truth. To block freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, to strangle humanity and to suppress the truth.

“I do not feel guilty for following my constitutional right to freedom of expression, for fulfilling my social responsibility as a Chinese citizen. Even if accused of it, I would have no complaints.”

Thursday, October 7, 2010


In 1835, Benjamin Disraeli, then a young man on the cusp of a promising political career, achieved anonymity. Under cover of a pseudonym, Disraeli began to belabor his political opponents in a series of columns written for The Morning Post, a political journal of the day.

Something of a dandy – Disraeli’s manner of dressing easily might have brought a blush to the cheek of Lady Gaga – the future prime minister of Britain and accomplished novelist had a way with words. He was, without question, one of the most captivating rhetoricians of his time.

John Campbell, later to become the first Baron Campbell, was, Disraeli wrote, “a base-born Scotchman, a son of the manse, that course Pict,” a “booing, fawning, jobbing progeny of haggis and cockaleekie.” Daniel O’Connell, a Member of Parliament for Dublin, one of Disraeli’s most persistent critics, was “an incendiary and a traitor.” Not to be bested, O’Connell replied in kind that Disraeli was “a living liar,” a “miscreant” who possessed “all the necessary requisites of perfidy, selfishness, depravity, want of principle etc. which would qualify him for the change from Radical to Conservative. His name shows that he is of Jewish origin. I do not use it as a term of reproach; there are many most respectable Jews. But here are, as in every other people, some of the lowest and most disgusting grade of moral turpitude; and of those I look upon Mr. Disraeli as the worst.”

Having once killed a man in a duel, Campbell had taken a vow not to fight again on the field of honor. Unable to challenge to a duel a man who had foresworn dueling, Disraeli sought satisfaction from Campbell’s son: “I beg that you, or someone of his [father’s] blood, may attempt to avenge the inextinguishable hatred with which I shall pursue his existence.”

Young Campbell politely declined the offer.

The 19th century was a rough and tumble time for ambitious politicians on their way up the greasy pole.

Put the mask of anonymity on a politician, give him a hiding place in the underground, and he will be puffed up with a superfluity of courage and vitriol. Abraham Lincoln narrowly avoided a duel challenge that arose as a result of a pseudonymous piece attributed to him by an aggrieved politician.

Few of the quarrelsome politicians of the 19th century would be surprised by some of the 21st century’s highly misleading and suggestive political ads. Most modern ads are endorsed by the politicians who benefit by them. Some are produced by groups that support this or that political saint of the moment. As always in these matters, haste goeth before what Mark Twain might have called “a stretcher.” Fortunately, there are among us some conscientious journalists not yet poisoned by partisanship, who track the stretchers, half truths, glittering generalities and outright fabrications.

The latest Blumenthal anti-McMahon ad is a piece of fiction that five minutes careful attention by a conscientious journalist would have exploded. The centerpiece of the ad rests on the false notion that McMahon said she would favor a reduction in the minimum wage.

That was never said. McMahon simply noted that the minimum wage set by congress, like any wage, may be pegged too high. When it is pegged too high, the cost of labor is driven up and low wage jobs begin to disappear. The price of labor, like the price of any product, will remain unpurchased if it is too expensive. In fact, that is precisely what is happening with increasing frequency in many cities. Those who suffer from an inflated minimum wage are primarily young people acquiring their first jobs, many of them young African Americans in search of a little extra cash and a job fetching line in their resumes.

McMahon’s remark that the level at which the minimum wage is set should concern congress was quickly “translated” by her political opponents and quick as a wink a revised version appeared in newspaper headlines and political ads in which McMahon was said to have favored a reduction in the minimum wage. Blumenthal hastily put out an ad pumping the false claim at the end of which the attorney general, who appears not to know how jobs are created, pointedly did not assert that he approved the false message.

An anti-Blumenthal ad put out by the U.S. Chamber Of Commerce is rather bracing, but it falls far short of being false.

This one begins with a distressed lady sitting at a table, possibly filing out a job application for a position that may not be available. Written on the floor in red letters are the words “Rising Unemployment,” followed by a voice over, “Rising unemployment means families are suffering. And after 40 years in politics, can Richard Blumenthal handle the truth about his record… He’s been crushing small businesses for years with thousands of frivolous lawsuits, forcing some to close. His sue first and ask questions later stampede has earned him the worst attorney general in the nation in 2007”

A little chastening, but nothing to fight a duel over.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Day After The Great Debate

Admirers of the Douglas-Lincoln debates may be disappointed when they discover that the Blumenthal-McMahon debates will not determine the election. In fact, the Douglas-Lincoln debates very likely did not of themselves determine the presidential election held two years later in 1860. Then as now, events were in the saddle and rode men. Ours is a time that will be tutored by events we have haughtily ignored.

In Lincoln’s day, public debates reached the people through a highly partisan press, and speeches, as well as debates, were more polished and sonorous. Lincoln stands as a bridge between the tail end of the post Edwardian age and the modern period -- best represented by the bloody casualty figures at Gettysburg and the beginnings of the great fortunes of the rapacious robber barons of The Gilded Age, a heaping up of personal wealth that could not have been accomplished in the absence of a command economy, itself the result of the Civil War.

In Lincoln’s day, the media was little more than a bifurcated party organ; the Republicans had their press, as did the Democrats. The most accurate record of Lincoln’s speeches appeared in the opposition Democratic press, because Democratic media lackeys were not interested in embellishing Lincoln’s public addresses, an office they performed only for Douglas. The opposite is also true: Douglas’ speeches were most accurately represented in the opposition Republican press, coming as they did straight from a stenographic record.

In the post modern age – that would be us – voters in the know have come of age and are fully capable of reading between the lines of Connecticut’s left of center media reports.

Ned Lamont probably was right when he scored the Blumenthal-McMahon “debate” – really an extended press conference – as a draw. Winners in such contests are determined not so much by a studious examination of what is said but rather by expectation gaps.

Going into the debate, the state’s left of center media had Mrs. McMahon put down on their scoring cards as a light weight contender unwise to the ways of duplicitous Washington. Mr. Blumenthal, puffed up by the media over a 20 year period as St. George the dragon killer, at one time was expected to roll over the novice and uncover her, once for all, as a dissolute rich lady unbothered by drug use and necrophilia. In the debate, Mrs. McMahon failed to live down to these low expectations of her. And somewhere on his path to glory, Mr. Blumenthal fell from grace when it was discovered by an out of state newspaper that he lied about his service record, blighting a two decade old self contrived narrative. Those in the media who believe that only cradle-to-grave representation is fit service in the U.S Congress were disappointed.

The expectation going in was that Mr. Blumenthal would recover sufficiently from his lethargy, and he did not disappoint, though much of his presentation was boiler-pate bumper sticker.

Mr. Blumenthal was caught in somewhat of a snare when Mrs. McMahon asked him to describe how wealth – as in Adam Smith’s “The Wealth Of Nations” -- is produced. Answer: Not through attorney general suits.

One of the questioners ought to have asked Mr. Blumenthal how, in a command economy in which the minimum wage is determined outside the market place in the smoke free back rooms of Congress and the White House, he would know when the minimum wage was set too high or too low.

Mrs. McMahon very likely would have been able to answer the question. This was exactly her worry when the minimum wage question came up in an earlier venue. Her answer as to whether she would support a minimum wage got her in Dutch with rhetoricians in Mr. Blumenthal’s smoke free back rooms. An ad was quickly produced proclaiming that Mrs. McMahon wanted to reduce or abolish the minimum wage. One real reporter, Paul Bass of the New Haven Independent, noted the claim was bogus. But nearly everyone else went along with the imposture, happily manureing Mr. Blumenthal’s verdant pastures. Mrs. McMahon has come to expect such partisanship from the state’s status quo media.

In Lincoln’s time a politician forced to suffer the buffetings from a hostile press, were he wealthy enough, might have started his own newspaper. Or he might have bought the services of a rival paper. Or he might have purchased the affections of an editor or two with a polite bribe. In the post modern period, we have ads. In Connecticut, where reporters and editors have stopped digging for the truth about their pet politicians, one must be grateful for small favors.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dan Malloy And The Death Penalty

On the question of the death penalty, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Dan Malloy has decided to stand on principle.

His principle may be a little hard for the usual Connecticut pragmatist to discern.

The Steven Hayes trial is winding up in New Haven, and on Monday Hayes’ jury will begin deliberations. Hayes, who along with Joshua Komisarjevsky has been accused of murdering an entire family in Cheshire, with the exception of the family’s father who survived the slaughter, is a candidate for execution.

The two are accused of breaking into a house in Cheshire, beating with a baseball bat and incapacitating the father of the family, forcing the wife to withdraw money from a bank, raping the wife, raping one of the 14 year-old daughters, dousing her with gasoline and setting the house on fire. Three people died as a result of their crime spree.

Hayes more or less acknowledged his part in the murders when he agreed to plead guilty on the condition that state prosecutors would waive the death penalty in favor of life in prison. The prosecutors, perhaps more pragmatic than Malloy, said no.

“Listen,” Malloy told Hartford Courant reporter Christopher Keating, my position on the death penalty is long-lived. I prosecuted four homicide cases — had convictions in all of those cases. Sent people away for 25 to life…I'm the guy who had to sit down with families who had lost a loved one… Having said that, we know that there is precious little connection, if any, documented between the existence of the death penalty in a state and the homicide rate. We know that it has been unfairly, or at least disproportionately, applied to men and women of color. And then when you consider the difference in the race of the victim of the homicide, that becomes an even larger discrepancy… So, based on a number of factors, I would rather we lock people up for the rest of their lives and throw away the key.”

Malloy’s job as a prosecutor is not relevant to the case at hand. No one need question Malloy’s capacity for sympathy. Statisticians might fasten on Malloy’s claim that there is little documentary evidence that capital punishment affects capital crime. How could definitive evidence emerge? Is there definitive evidence showing that life in prison for capital offenders would lower the rate of capitol felonies? For such data to emerge, we would have to know of a certainty that a prospective crime had not been committed because the criminal who had not committed the crime declined to do so for fear of punishment. That data, even if it could be assembled, would be worthless because it would rely on the word of the convicted criminal – and criminals in some cases are not addicted to truth, which is why they are called “cons.”

Suppose the impossible – that it could be it could be shown life in prison terms for capital felonies did not deter capital felony – to what extent would it be justifiable to use that questionable datum to persuade others to abolish life terms for capital felonies?

The deterrent value of capital punishment is a rose herring, if not a red herring.

Other politicians, facing the risk of contumely from the state’s media, have cited their objection to capital punishment for religious reasons, but Malloy has perhaps wisely avoided such principled religious strictures.

The question whether in modern times capital punishment cases have been unfairly brought in Connecticut is easily answered. In the last 50 years, only two people have been executed in the state. Both were white men. “We know, “Malloy alleges as one of his reasons for opposing the death penalty “that it has been unfairly, or at least disproportionately, applied to men and women of color.” But not in the state over which Malloy wishes to govern as chief executive. Connecticut has avoided the disproportion that offends Malloy who, as governor, very likely will effect the abolition of capital punishment in his state. The overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature already has produced a bill abolishing capital punishment that was vetoed by the grace of Governor Jodi Rell. In a Malloy administration, the threat of capital punishment will no longer hang over the fevered bows of those who may in the future commit crimes as horrific as the Cheshire murders. Convicted capital offenders serving life sentences needn’t fear capital punishment if they manage to kill a guard or another prisoner. In a post abolition administration, such criminals would face the horror of yet another life sentence attached to their life sentence.

Indeed, the Cheshire trial has occasioned at least one recent conversion. A Democratic state legislator who steadfastly voted in favor of abolition reversed himself, his principles having collided with his pragmatism. A Quinnipiac University Poll taken in November 2007 demonstrated that 73 percent of those polled, some of whom will be voting for or against Malloy, declared that Hayes and Komisarjevsky should be executed.

Quietly, behind the scene, faithful Democrats are urging Malloy to walk back his opposition to the death penalty.