Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cliffsnotes On Curry And The UConn Health Center

Bill Curry, who twice ran for office as governor, has written for the Hartford Courant an op-ed titled “Reinvented UConn Health Center Is A Plan To Build Our Future On.” The Curry effusion appeared in the paper’s Sunday edition just before the politically rumbustious long holiday weekend.

Because Mr. Curry's prose tends to be both dense and sprightly at the same time, it occurs to me that the student of his set pieces might profit by the equivalent of political Cliffsnotes, and I have supplied some here at the risk of turning Mr. Curry’s poetic performance into stiff analytical prose. Mr. Curry has not been quite as active on the political scene in Connecticut as, say, Mr. Malloy – who, only months into his gubernatorial reign, threatens to approach former Attorney General Richard (now Dick) Blumenthal in ubiquity -- and the notes may be necessary.

As you may have heard,” Mr. Curry begins, “Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has big plans for the University of Connecticut Health Center [UCHC] in Farmington. He wants the state to ante up $254 million in new bond money, part of an $854 million public/private enterprise to renovate research facilities, construct a new patient tower and ambulatory care center and kick-start a program to incubate fledgling bioscience companies, among other things.”

The “As you may have heard” is a subtle touch. Mr. Malloy has not been in the habit of hiding his grand plans for the state under a bushel basket. But the UCHC announcement was an urgent surprise. In his 17 Town Hall visitations, Mr. Malloy had not mentioned his “bold” and expensive UCHC plan -- not once. The announcement clearly was a blow to Republican leader Larry Cafero’s solar plexis. Some conservative pests who constantly harry us about Connecticut’s alarming – so they say – debt obligation were astonished that the governor planned to “invest” nearly $1 billion in what appeared to many a failed enterprise. And when Mr. Curry wrote in his column, “Two things are instantly clear: It's a bold plan, and it's a lot of money,” a far off bell began to tinkle in more cautious minds.

The figures cited by Mr. Curry are soft and, as always, subject to change. Prior to the long Holiday weekend, Governor Malloy said he would find a way to fill a $400 million gap in his budget. Having vowed not to increase the tax load, many supposed Mr. Malloy would wring $400 million from cost reductions. Instead, Mr. Malloy reached into an artificial “surplus,” lifting $325 million from taxpayer’s wallets to backfill the gap. Although the “surplus” – Mr. Malloy now scrupulously avoids using the term – was supposed to have watered Connecticut depleted “rainy day fund.” We now know that a good chuck of it was stuffed into a union piggybank to relieve Mr. Malloy and leaders of the Democratic dominated General Assembly from the necessity of demanding real cost saving measures from the people most responsible for electing him governor.

It is politically shrewd of Mr. Malloy to avoid using the term “surplus,” because his $1 billion surplus is not the result of an exuberant economy. Connecticut’s economy has been weak, and growing weaker the more government expands, ever since Gov. Lowell Weicker of blessed memory saved state government – NOT the state – by instituting an income tax. New Hampshire, which has maintained its non-income tax status, is flourishing, as are other non-income tax low regulatory states. The Malloy surplus is a superfluity artificially produced through the efforts of incompetent or bought accountants working in tandem with an administration that needed a $1 billion surplus to reward unions and offer bread and circuses to a bewitched public. The UConn Health Center is the circus.

On Thursday,” Mr. Curry continues, “legislators listened as university officials and the governor's emissaries pitched the project. Questions were polite and well reasoned, centering mostly on project costs, a seemingly breakneck approval process and the impact on other communities, most notably Hartford. The answers were persuasive, but were they persuasive enough? We'll soon know; Malloy wants his answer by the time the session ends on June 8.”

Mr. Curry’s note on the tenor of the questions – “polite and well reasoned” – is perhaps unnecessary, because his audience was made up of university officials who would benefit from Mr. Malloy’s “bold” and costly UCHC plan. And the “governor’s emissaries” are, after all, the governor’s emissaries. Attendant lords can hardly be expected to offer up critical commentary. The same holds true with the unionized construction workers who appeared on command at an earlier public gathering to applaud Mr. Malloy’s public works project.

A critical review of Mr. Malloy’s bold and expensive venture is unnecessary, according to Mr. Curry. And were it necessary, it would be impossible, because Mr. Malloy wants approval from the General Assembly by June 8. Just as the administration of President Barrack Obama is determined never to let a crisis go to waste, the Malloy administration seems equally determine not to let a potentially wasteful crisis pass critical examination.

Indeed, Mr. Curry invites everyone to “pray the General Assembly says yes” to Mr. Malloy, though a prayer in this instance would seem to be superfluous, since Mr. Malloy and the Democratic dominated General Assembly are sitting not only in the same church but in the same pew. When has the General Assembly said “No” to boondoggly public works projects?

Hardly ever, according to Mr. Curry. Indeed, Mr. Curry tells us, he has in the past often warned against wasteful spending.

For years,” Mr. Curry laments, “I have fought attempts to dump tax dollars into bloated projects that fly the flag of economic development. Best were the ones that never got off the ground; the Kraft stadium, Bridgeport casino and New Haven mall cost millions, but less than if they'd actually been built.

“New London tore itself apart over development, only to be left at the altar by the intended beneficiary, the Pfizer Corp. Hartford thought it hit the jackpot 16 years ago when the state bestowed $1 billion on Adriaen's Landing. If it makes it to a 20th anniversary without even a dress shop or diner on Front Street, someone should apologize.”

The example of Pfizer may even be worse than Mr. Curry supposes. Pfizer accepted tax credits given by a generous Republican governor and Democratic General Assembly, used the tax savings to develop its business, and then, when the credits ran out, packed part of its business off to Massachusetts, formerly and derisively called “Taxachusetts.” Mr. Curry, however, is not prepared to argue from the example he provides that tax credits should not be used by the Malloy administration to lure into the state portable businesses that will migrate out when the political favors disappear.

Mr. Curry distains this “long march of folly” which “casts a shadow now on Malloy” and his grand plan. He adamantly denies that the Malloy venture has not been properly vetted; it may have been over-vetted. The Malloy proposal “is the product of decades of professional analysis, regulatory review and legislative debate.”

To be sure, the analysis, regulatory review and legislative debate did not result in the positive action Mr. Malloy now proposes, which would seem to mean either: a) the exhaustive review was not exhaustive enough, b) the conclusion both Mr. Curry and Mr. Malloy would have preferred became politically waterlogged, or c) the plan had been tried and found wanting too often to resurrect it yet again. Mr. Curry is a proponent of view b): “Most of this plan has been before this legislature many times, only to be drowned each time in a gumbo of Capitol politics.”

But God, or whoever it is Mr. Curry prays to, now has raised up a champion in Mr. Malloy, who will “foreshorten” the quite unnecessary deliberative process of the pettifogging General Assembly. Mr. Malloy has given the General Assembly only a little more than a week to answer Mr. Curry’s prayers.

Mr. Curry’s column ends on a very high note:

What is ingenious in this plan is what's new in it. Unlike past plans, it doesn't just try to solve one institution's fiscal problems or even improve its quality. Malloy wants not just to redevelop the health center but to reorient and retool it. What he's trying to do in Farmington is a microcosm of what he knows he must do for an entire state: Help us to build from our known strengths, new strengths.

“This isn't just another casino, or ballpark or convention center. This could be a future.”

Or it could be the end of a future.

In either case, the matter ought to be fully deliberated in the light of such new circumstances as these: 1) Connecticut’s budget debt is about $4 billion and rising, because inflation is on the up tick. Bailouts from the national government seem improbable, because the national debt is $14 trillion, and rising. Connecticut is spending about $2 billion more a year than it should to regain solvency. Mr. Malloy’s funding plan for the heath center will be financed with $338 million in previously authorized bonds, $254 million in new bonding and $69 million from the health center. The outpatient center would be paid for with $203 in private financing. All these figures are soft, and Connecticut’s bond rating has been lowered because the rating agencies do not believe that the state has attacked its debt properly.

Finally, the most serious objection to Mr. Curry’s call for a hasty decision on nearly $1 billion in new spending was leveled by John Ray in his proverb collection of 1687:

Haste makes waste, and waste makes want, and want makes strife between the good man and his wife."

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Government Without Firewalls

Both Republican governors John Rowland and Jodi Rell used to refer to themselves as “firewalls,” usually after they had compromised with Democratic leaders in the General Assembly to pass budgets that present Governor Dannel Malloy has often characterized as bags of tricks and treats. Mr. Malloy has insisted that his budget, still being hammered out by his agents and representatives of unions, is, on the other hand, transparent and honest-- a good thing. No tricks or treats there. No smoke, no mirrors, the sort of budget one might expect from a governor wearing a white hat who is not the plaything of special interests.

The firewall disappeared altogether after Mr. Malloy became governor. The Rell-Rowland firewall was not fireproof. Had it been so, Connecticut’s bottom budget line could not have tripled within the space of three governors, and the state would not now rank first in the nation in per capita debt. It would not be losing jobs to New Jersey and New York and Massachusetts. And, of course, Mr. Malloy would not have been faced, coming into office, with a budget deficit larger than that accosting Maverick Governor Lowell Weicker in 1991, which deficit Mr. Weicker resolved by instituting his income tax.

During his campaign for governor, Mr. Weicker used a fiery metaphor to signal to voters that he would not institute an income tax should they elect him governor – because an income tax would be like pouring gas on a fire. And we all know what happens when gas is poured on a fire.

Poof! Allow Democrats in the General Assembly to run an income tax pipeline into the wallets of Connecticut’s long suffering taxpayers and, before you can cry fire in the crowded theatre, the roof of state government will be aflame with extravagant spending. Such was Mr. Weicker dire electioneering warning. And, as it turns out, he was right.

Then came the firewall governors who were not firewalls, the budget compromises between Republican governors and dominant Democrats in the General Assembly and, finally, Mr. Malloy, riding a white horse and calling for “shared sacrifice.”

In the age of YouTube, it has been possible for the Republican resistance in the General Assembly to post a string of embarrassing claims made by Mr. Malloy in the heat of a primary and general election campaign that rivals claims made by Mr. Weicker in that long ago campaign when budget deficits were about one third of what they are presently in the age of Connecticut’s new one party state.

Taxes in the Malloy budget have been raised $1.8 billion, so far. There were no negotiations between Mr. Malloy and taxpayers before Mr. Malloy demanded a “shared sacrifice” of them; though Mr. Malloy was kind enough to present to them his non-negotiable demands at no fewer than 17 Town Hall meetings. And now, Mr. Malloy, striving to tuck the budget to bed before the legislative clock runs out, but finding himself yet in negotiations with unions months after agents of Mr. Malloy first sat down at the table with union hard bargainers, has announced, on a holiday weekend, that $320 million of the nearly $1 billion surplus Mr. Malloy and Democratic leaders had smuggled into their budget, ostensibly to refill the state’s depleted rainy day fund, will be shared with -- unions, reducing the “shared sacrifice” of those who were largely responsible for his re-election.

Naturally, Republicans in the General Assembly, who played no part in Mr. Malloy non-negotiable Plan A, protested somewhat heatedly. Republican House leader Larry Cafero stormed, "The Friday night dump. Is that what it's called? This is the dump of all dumps. Friday night, holiday weekend. ... He [Mr. Malloy] drops the $400 million backfill plan… He uses $320 million of the surplus to make up $400 million in cuts -- $320 million! Classic Malloy. He says one thing, he does the other. Says one thing, does the other.”

And Republicans can be expected to crank out more YouTube clips that might possibly be of use in future campaigns against Democratic legislators – because the Republican Party, which was not permitted to invest in Mr. Malloy’s budget, is not, partly owing to role of agitator and chief Democratic Party scold played by outgoing party chairman Chris Healy, the sleepy, go-along-to-get-along party of yesteryear forced to make do with Democratic budgets winked at by Republican governors.

By any measure of sound economic health Democrats may point to, Connecticut, attached to a breathing tube, is lying stretched out on a gurney in the ER. State Democrats seems to be following the template set by President Barack Obama, Speaker of the U.S. House Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Senate President Harry Read at a time when Democrats enjoyed a veto proof majority in the congress: Never let a crisis go to waste without punishing your political enemies and rewarding your friends.

However, given the condition of the patient, state Democrats likely will have a heck of a time explaining to relatives of the stricken state why they are busying themselves passing budgets and laws that punish entrepreneurial capital, pander to unions, and pad with a surplus a state debt three times larger than the last $7.5 billion pre-income tax budget of former Democratic Governor William O’Neill.

While the state, now lacking any firewall, crumbles in flames, its inmates are forcing through the Democratic dominated legislature hastily written, defective bills abolishing the death penalty, facilitating transgenderism, larding with hidden taxes bills paid by energy consumers, arranging yet another muli-million dollar bail-out of the tax draining UConn Health Center, and collecting surplus money from hard pressed businesses and taxpayers to relieve unions of a good portion the “shared sacrifice” Mr. Malloy once sternly demanded of them, all of it making a queer sort of suicidal sense.

The great Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once said that given the choice of immediate execution or of being slowly trampled to death by geese, he would prefer a quick finish. The people of Connecticut soon will be faced with the same choice.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Democratic Party Chair Nancy DiNardo says the next Republican chair’s name doesn’t matter


While the General Assembly’s Republican leadership might be looking for a new state party chair that’s less of a “talking head,” Democratic Party Chair Nancy DiNardo said the next chair’s name doesn’t matter because the message is clear to almost everyone.

“What Larry Cafero and John McKinney fail to grasp is that it doesn’t matter who their new party chair happens to be,” said DiNardo. “The Republican Party is being dragged farther and farther to the right by their most extreme members and the Tea Party influence. Just look at some of the legislation that their caucuses introduced this year:

· The infamous “birther” bill, influenced by a fringe movement that, after three years, still can’t accept that Barack Obama is our president;
· That shameful amendment to defund Planned Parenthood, an organization responsible for the health of 65,000 men and women in Connecticut each year;
· A mandate requiring ultrasounds prior to the termination of any pregnancy – a blatant assault on a women’s rights and pandering to the far right without any regard for cost or a physician’s determination of medical need...

“Larry and John just don’t get it. While they’re trying to sell a particular brand of politics, their membership is (pushing) the right-wing national Republican Party agenda.”

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Statement from Nancy DiNardo on Chris Healy’s Retirement


“While Chris and I didn’t often agree on the issues, he was always respectful to me, and he worked hard for the Republican Party. We both shared a respect for the importance of political parties, and an understanding of the need for a public political dialogue. The Republican Party’s track record at the polls – especially in this past election cycle, which should have been a great Republican year –was poor, and I can imagine his frustration. I sincerely wish him the best as he moves forward with his life. He’s passionate about what he believes in, and he works hard. I respect both of those traits.

I want to say that what ails the Republican Party isn’t going to be fixed by the selection of a new Chairperson, no matter who it is. The Connecticut Republicans are becoming increasingly irrelevant because they’re being dragged farther and farther to the right by the fringe elements of their own party, and the Tea Party. The positions they hold on a host of issues are out of step with the average Connecticut resident, and they’re bereft of new ideas to help solve Connecticut’s problems. Too often the Republican Party has reduced itself to finding rich people to run in the hopes that somehow money can trump ideas. But as they found out in the last election cycle, democracy isn’t for sale in Connecticut.

The people of Connecticut want what Connecticut Democrats, led by Governor Malloy, are giving them: an honest budget that brings fiscal stability so that we can finally start creating the kinds of good-paying jobs with good benefits that will jumpstart this economy.”

The Dannel Malloy State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition Complex

There is no termination date on the tax increase contract between taxpayers and the Malloy administration – because there is no written contract.

Some of the items in the contract to be signed by the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC), the state union coalition negotiating contracts with Governor Malloy, do have a termination date. For instance, the salaries of state union members, frozen for two years, will unfreeze thereafter and increase by 3% during the following three years.

In such precarious times, it must be liberating for state workers to know that the “shared sacrifice” of salary givebacks has a termination date affixed to it. Actuaries hired by the Malloy administration tell us that the temporary salary freeze will save the state $ 448,402,275, according to a budget fact sheet given out to the state’s media. Because the freeze terminates after two years, the savings to the state is itself temporary, while the salary increase of 9% over three years will be permanent. Other actuarial figures supplied by the Malloy administration may be soft because the times in which we live are a’ changing -- almost daily.

Not so with the tax increase portion of Mr. Malloy’s “shared sacrifice.” The $1.8 billion tax increase, the largest in Connecticut’s history, will permanently dredge dollars from taxpayer’s increasingly depleted resources. There is no such thing within the living memory of any member of the General Assembly, including the long memory of the 86 year old Sen. Edith Prague, as a temporary tax or a temporary tax increase, and it certainly is cold comfort to reflect that the federal income tax at its inception was a two percent levy on millionaires – real millionaires. The income tax now is paid by proletarian waitresses at the local diner.

And, of course, other taxes have gone up. Connecticut’s new budget reduces the threshold on estate and gift taxes; raises the income tax retroactively to January 1, 2011 on individuals with taxable income over $50,000 and joint filers whose income exceeds $100,000; slaps an Amazon tax on internet sales, increases the number of tax brackets from 3 to 6 and imposes a 20% surcharge on corporations for 2012 and 2013.

While Mr. Malloy has suggested that unions accept his budget and blame him for the sacrifices he is asking unions members to make, not all the members of unions presently negotiating contracts with the Malloy administration are sanguine, according to a recent Associated Press report:

“Despite the promise of no layoffs for four years, three years of wage increases following a two-year freeze and the continuation of coveted benefits such as pensions, retiree health care and longevity bonuses, there's skepticism and leeriness about the deal among many of the state's 45,000 unionized workers. Some want promises that big businesses and wealthy taxpayers will be asked to pay more if they agree to givebacks. Some simply want to see the details.”

An attempt by the Malloy administration to unveil the details of the Malloy-SEBAC deal to Connecticut’s media at Rentschler Field in East Hartford met with mixed success. Noting that the budget falls about $400 million short of projected expenditures, editorial departments of some newspapers wanted to see the actual rabbit drawn from the hat at the conclusion of union negotiations before they bestowed their blessing upon a tax increase even larger than that imposed in the 1991 Weicker budget, which featured Connecticut’s new state income tax.

Almost no one but committed leftists and boilerplate union demagogues are encouraging Mr. Malloy to conduct further raids on the profits of Connecticut businesses, some of which already have picked up stakes and moved all or part of their operations to more business friendly environments elsewhere. It turns out that “elsewhere” – at least in the case of Precision Camera And Video, Pfizer and Yardley Technical Products http://donpesci.blogspot.com/2011/05/dannel-in-wonderland.html is across the border into nearby states. As an additional bump out the door, Connecticut has slapped a corporation surcharge on homegrown businesses that have not yet explored alternative sites in, say, New Hampshire, a state that – lacking a Weicker or a Bill Cibes to jam an income tax proposal through its legislature – maintains its low tax, low regulatory status. Of the nine states without income taxes, all but one, Alaska, saw more people migrating in than out from 2000 to 2008. Connecticut has been losing population to other states ever since it adopted its income tax.

Any lesson that may be gleaned from such data is certain to be lost on a Democratic controlled General Assembly and governor poised to push through the legislature a bill fervently supported by the redundant Connecticut Working Party, little more than an annex of the Democratic Party,
that would require companies with more than 50 workers to provide up to five sick days a year for employees and new hires who had put in 520 hours on the job.

Nice work -- if you can get it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Real Budget Deal

Fresh from the Democratic Party’s web site, here is Democratic Party chieftain Nancy DiNardo’s reaction to the budget deal that Gov. Dannel Malloy wrested from union representatives:

“Thank you to Governor Malloy, Lt. Governor Wyman, the state employees, and the Democratic leadership in the Assembly for this major accomplishment. This is a critical first step, and there is more work to do, but this is definitely a good day for Connecticut taxpayers. This is what shared sacrifice and real leadership looks like.” - Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo
Though particulars of the deal were not revealed during the weeks of closed door negotiations, a broad outline of the Malloy administration-union deal, according to news reports, involved a union give back of $1.6 billion, $400 million short of Mr. Malloy’s earlier stated goal of $2 billion in the biennium budget. The savings shortfall is to be recovered from resources other than tax increases, according to the governor’s office.

Tucked into the present budget is a surplus of $1 billion that may be deposited in the state’s depleted “rainy day” fund or spent to finance a $900 million improvement of the state’s newest dollar-swallowing White Elephant, the University of Connecticut Health Center, or some other state financial “need” that will arise in the near future. Political columnist George Will defines a “need” as “a want that’s more than 24 hours old.” Needs of this kind have driven Connecticut to the brink of bankruptcy, and the state’s new one party infrastructure will not lessen its neediness.

Mr. Malloy intends to liquidate the greater part of Connecticut’s red ink, the largest per capita deficit in the nation, through a $ 1.4 billion tax increase that Mrs. DiNardo feels is “good for taxpayers.” The Democratic budget – no Republicans in the General Assembly were permitted to adjust it, or even breathe upon it – is the first entirely partisan budget that has seen the light of day in decades. This fiscal term, the Democrats control both the governor’s office and the General Assembly by a margin that renders collegiality among different Party members unnecessary.

Deferring to unions, the governor approved a four year “no lay off” clause that would be irrevocable even if, in future days, the red ink were to rise to cover Mrs. DiNardo’s ankles. The governor also extended the union agreement an additional five years. Unions leaders agreed to forgo raises for two years, after which salaries will increase at 3 percent for three years. Dreaded lay offs were removed from the bargaining table, and the governor considerably narrowed union give backs when, even before serious negotiations had begun, he steadfastly resolved to maintain the state’s obligations to municipalities, effectively removing the need for “shared sacrifice” at the town level -- all in all not a bad deal for the unions.

Before the doors were bolted shut on negotiations, Mr. Malloy suggested that union leaders and Democratic members of the General Assembly should quickly accept his proposal and lay on him the expected political blame arising from taxpayer and union dissatisfaction.

The Democratic budget raised taxes at a time when the governors of contiguous states had forwarded budgets that raised no taxes. Connecticut’s Democratic budget doubles the corporate surcharge during the nation’s deepest and most prolonged recession in many years, when many businesses – as opposed to the unsinkable CEOs of some of “too large to fail” businesses – are suffering rising costs and business slowdowns.

In Massachusetts, once derided in Connecticut as Taxachussetts, the Democratic legislature attacked collective bargaining, one of the more aggressive escalators of governmental costs. Republican leader John McKinney referred obliquely to the Massachusetts miracle in his senate response to the partisan Democratic budget when he said that Connecticut’s sister state had done things that “would be unthinkable” in the Democratic dominated General Assembly.

In a story in CTMirror, Mark Pazniokas was one of the few reporters in the state who noted that Mr. Malloy this year had an infrequent opportunity to drive down the costs of union contracts that would not occur again until 2017, “three years after the next gubernatorial election,’ when current union contracts on pension and health benefits expired.

Gubernatorial leverage in union negotiations, in other words, is limited by the date of expiration on union contracts, an arrangement that gives unions an inestimable edge in negotiations with elected representatives in the state that unions would doubtless prefer to maintain, for it prevents governors and legislators from pressuring unions to make deals that Mrs. DiNardo, the head of the Democratic Party, amusingly considers a boon to taxpayers. There is no movement afoot in Connecticut’s new one party state to redress this costly imbalance; neither will union reliant Democrats challenge binding arbitration

Friday, May 13, 2011

Bysiewicz Revididus

Former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, now running for U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman’s soon to be vacated seat along side U.S. Rep Chris Murphy, may have had her front grill dented a bit in recent days, but it must be said the lady now is in fearsome forward motion.

Mrs. Bysiewicz has called for U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan as soon as practicable and, by so doing, got a jump on the laggard Mr. Murphy, who has been advertising himself in different venues as the progressive’s progressive.

The modern progressives, nearly all of them Democrats, not so long ago were bestirring themselves as anti-war zealots. Who can forget Cindy Sheehan’s often reported march on former President George Bush’s Crawford, Texas ranch?

During the Bush presidency, the air crackled with fervent calls by then presidential campaigner Barack Obama to shut down the Iraq war shortly after the Petraeus surge had been launched. The progressives were hot on closing down GITMO, still open for business. A not yet dead Sen. Edward Kennedy and several excitable congresspersons were besieged by leftists in the Democratic Party to start an investigation that might, God willing, lead to impeachment proceedings against the president and his dark star, former Vice President Dick Cheney. A bill of particulars, eerily resembling Mr. Obama’s venture into Libya, was drawn up by Ronnie Dugger and published in the Texas Observer:

“Bush announced in 2002 his illegal presidential policy that the United States can and will attack other nations first, waging war on them, when he so decides. He is now waging, as if he were doing it in our names, a bloody war of aggression against Iraq, which on the face of it is a crime against humanity under the Nuremberg principles that we and our allies established and enforced with hangings after World War II.”
These were heady times.

All this rhetorical effluvia was launched before President Barack Obama began to morph into Mr. Bush, at least in matters of foreign policy. Domestic policy wise, the president still stands staunchly a bit to the right of Senator Karl Marx. But even here, disappointed progressive Democrats have noticed some unfortunate slippage.

Mrs. Bysiewicz’s bold and unambiguous call for a removal of troops from what has been called “the graveyard of empires” opens the door, unfortunately for Democrats, to a reconsideration of Mr. Obama’s “war of choice” in Afghanistan.

A few weeks ago, dark star Cheney characterized the assassination of Osama bin Laden as "a tremendous achievement for the military and intelligence professionals who carried out this important mission." And the ex-Vice President even went so far as to bestow a compliment on the Democratic president: “I also want to congratulate President Obama and the members of his national security team.” And then Mr. Cheney predictably went and spoiled it all, warning that the war on terror must continue. "Al Qaeda,” said Mr. Cheney “remains a dangerous enemy. Though bin Laden is dead, the war goes on."

Mrs. Bysiewicz and Mr. Murphy, both courting the progressive vote in bluer than blue Connecticut, beg to differ with Mr. Cheney and, perhaps more importantly, with each other.

On a return trip from Afghanistan, Mr. Murphy sent out to his progressive supporters an e-mail in which he said he supported a withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan but favored a “long standing presence” in the country.
He was vigorously attacked by Mrs. Bysiewicz, who said “"I strongly disagree with Congressman Murphy on this issue." Mrs. Bysiewitz also took a roundhouse swipe at retiring Sen. Lieberman: “Connecticut Democrats deserve a replacement to Senator Joe Lieberman who will consistently be progressive on removing US troops from Afghanistan."

Following the dust up, former chairman of the Democratic State Central Committee John Droney, long a Lieberman supporter and a political realist, archly observed that the most leftward liberal of the two would want to capture the affections of progressives in a primary race. Mrs. Bysiewicz’s linking of Mr. Murphy and Mr. Lieberman, reviled by progressives, therefore might be a politically astute move.

Mr. Murphy affected a fetching bewilderment. What ever could Mrs. Bysiewicz mean? Does she favor a withdrawl of troops, like, tomorrow?

Possibly not.

Neither of the two Democratic contenders for the U.S. Senate have been asked a question put to presidential spokesperson Jay Carney in a recent press gaggle. Asked on May 13 whether the Obama administration was prepared to ask Congress for approval to continue the participation in the no-fly zone in Libya, the president’s official spokesman, Jay Carney, responded,“I don’t have anything with regard to the 60-day issue, if that’s what you’re referring to.”

Unlike Mr. Obama, who sought authority from the United Nations rather than the U.S. Congress when he ordered the bombing of Libya, Mr. Bush was in compliance with the War Powers Act, which requires the president to seek authority from Congress 60 days after engaging in a war theatre.

The clock on the War Powers Act is ticking. Are the two Democratic contenders for Mr. Lieberman’s seat in the congress concerned?

Possibly not.

The Trouble With Plan A

There were several things wrong with Plan B, the most important of which was that it was not proposed by the Malloy administration as a serious effort to control spending, the pink elephant in budget room. But Plan A as currently constructed does not control spending either, because spending in Connecticut is driven by entitlements, long term union contracts and binding arbitration, cost escalators left untouched by Plan A.

Plan B was never more than a pistol held to the temples of union negotiators who had resisted the gubernatorial dictates of Plan A.

Conceived as a threat, Plan B was presented to the general public as a threat, and its conception and presentation were received by the general public in the same spirit. Indeed, Governor Dannel Malloy and both leaders of the Democratic dominated General Assembly, President of the Senate Don Williams and Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, repeatedly and roundly condemned Plan B even as it was presented, as a cruel default budget plan. Plan B was not Mr. Malloy’s preferred option, the governor said repeatedly.

State Senator Edith Prague, during her 28 years in the General Assembly a devoted union supporter, fairly fainted when she got a gander at Plan B, every Democrat’s mock-up of what they think a Republican budget might have looked like if union operatives had failed to turn out a sufficient number of votes in two of Connecticut’s principal cities during the gubernatorial election, which votes drove the election in Mr. Malloy’s favor by the slimmest of margins and prevented a Republican victory.

"This Plan B takes my breath away,'' said the vice chairwoman of the budget-writing appropriations committee.”It's so unbelievable what it would do to the state of Connecticut. I can't believe these cuts. This is the worst I have seen.''

Plan B passed along Mr. Malloy’s “shared sacrifice” to municipalities by threatening to cut state grants to towns. Among Democrats, it has been supposed that such cuts would result in higher property taxes. But, in fact, such cuts, accompanied by reductions in state mandates, easily could have resulted in cost saving measures within municipalities that might have rolled back than Plan A the tsunami of spending that threatens to beggar the state. Towns, through budget referendums, have been much more successful in reducing costs than have legislators in the Democratic dominated General Assembly.

When Republican leader John McKinney rose in the state senate to protest the Democratic hegemon that had produced a budget without a single Republican fingerprint on it, he touched very lightly on the recent strange doings within the Massachusetts legislature, dominated even more heavily by Democrats, “if one could believe such a thing,” than the General Assembly in Connecticut.

Perhaps to spare the fidgeting Mr. Williams seated beside him, Mr. McKinney did not let the words “repeal binding arbitration” fall from his lips. He spoke in general terms of the Massachusetts legislature having done things that would astonish and appall Democrats in Connecticut. In fact, the Massachusetts legislature, fitfully attempting to regain control of spending, had produced bill abolishing binding arbitration.

Binding arbitration, entitlements and long term union contracts have this in common: They all bind future governors and legislators and are, for that reason, profoundly anti-republican. At the center of republican government lies the notion that a legislature should not be able to bind its successor. The republican ideal is that the people, through their elected representatives, should be able to shape the future. Costly entitlements frustrate republican government. By way of example, the entitlement liabilities of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security amount to $75 trillion, five times the Gross Domestic Product. The national debt is pegged upwards of $14 trillion; but toss in state and municipal debt and the figure balloons to $140 trillion. These are chains that bind. In attempting to repeal binding arbitration, the Democratic dominated Massachusetts legislature is seeking to throw off a few links of the chain to clear the future of roadblocks that prevent a profitable forward movement.

Managing Editor of the Journal Inquirer Chris Powell, who also writes a column in the paper, is one of the best budget commentators in the state. Mr. Powell has been calling upon the Democratic dominated General Assembly to abolish binding arbitration for years, to no avail. Recently his admonitions have had some success – in Wisconsin. And now in Massachussetts. The whirlpool of common sense is edging closer.

In a recent column the very title of which may cause Mrs. Prague to swoon -- “On to Plan B where we should have started” -- Mr. Powell greeted Plan B as a feint in the right direction. With some modifications favorable to unions – the Democratic legislature shaved nearly half a billion off state worker’s “shared sacrifice,” saved municipalities the trouble of pairing down union contracts and pushed effective reform beyond the governors first term -- the General Assembly has now installed Plan A, a much less serious reform package than Plan B. Because tax payers in Connecticut have no union, there were no negotiations that might have affected the tax increases – which includes a budget surplus -- Democrats have thrown like a yoke over the citizens of the state.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bloggers aren't Journalists and Vice Versa

You can't expect blogs or bloggers to follow the true rules of journalism. Heck, most journalists don't honor those rules. Blogging (although few newspaper people know it) has it's own set of rules.

One of the major offenses that have occurred in the newspapers' rush to start blogging is the unacknowledged edit. This is when a paper prints one version of an article in the printed paper or magazine but changes the content online. An egregious example happened last week when the Milford Mirror actually erased a paragraph containing a quote from the Chairman of the Board of Aldermen. You can't change history.  Another example in the same article was a date change for a meeting. It would have been preferable to have a line through the original text to indicate a change. Also there is a protocol when making changes [OR UPDATES] to an online story.

Let's try to edumacate one another.

Help us take the Connecticut Republican Party back!

Should we prevail and return the party to it's rightful owners (registered Republicans) no one will need to spend a day downloading data to find this stuff.

    Payroll and staff expenses should be there too.

    We'll put it all online on the ctgop.org site.

    We've allowed poor stewardship of our donors dollars, and it has to stop.

    It's no wonder our base is dismayed, disgusted, disenchanted, and disengaged.
The state party should answer to, and behave like our Town Committees.

Our Town Committees work, they win more often than they lose (we control over 
half the municipal governments in CT right now) and not one of them would
put up with what  you'll see below.

Obviously the party by-laws need some looking after.
The office of Chair simply has too much autonomous authority without seeking so much as
an "Okay that sounds good"  from the committee itself.

In fact we should insist on some changes regardless of who takes the chair, if I do we'll move
quickly to do so,  just in case I drop dead or something.

You can decide for yourselves what expenditures were unnecessary; but of the 271K you'll see
here I'd bet you'll agree that at least 150K of it was a waste.

Expenditures of a Dubious Value.

Why only 9% of Connecticut Republican Party money is spent directly on candidates.
Barker Specialty Co. Inc.CheshireCT20100603$710.222010 Convention Lanyards-Hats
Barker Specialty has a had a link on the CT Democratic website in the past, and are Democrats.
Why would we give them our business?

Brooklawn StrategiesSouthportCT20100923$1,300.00Maintenance and Staffing
Brooklawn StrategiesSouthportCT20101006$1,300.00Maintenance and Staffing
Brooklawn StrategiesSouthportCT20101021$650.00Maintenance and Staffing
Brooklawn StrategiesSouthportCT20101021$650.00Maintenance and Staffing
Brooklawn StrategiesSouthportCT20101112$1,300.00Maintenance and Staffing
Brooklawn StrategiesSouthportCT20101122$104.93Food For Workers
Staffing? We had a huge payroll in September & October and volunteers too.Total:$5,304.93
Campaign SolutionsAlexandriaVA20100205$112.55Service Fee
Campaign SolutionsAlexandriaVA20100222$2,360.11Web Maintenance-PARTY Fundraising
Campaign SolutionsAlexandriaVA20100305$52.90Service fee
Campaign SolutionsAlexandriaVA20100402$97.94Service Fee
Campaign SolutionsAlexandriaVA20100420$225.00Web Maintenance-PARTY Fundraising
Campaign SolutionsAlexandriaVA20100429$918.96Web Maintenance-PARTY Fundraising
Campaign SolutionsAlexandriaVA20100507$668.77Service Fee-PARTY Fundraising
Campaign SolutionsAlexandriaVA20100604$1,497.15Service Fee
Campaign SolutionsAlexandriaVA20100614$648.00Website Maintenance
Campaign SolutionsAlexandriaVA20100702$231.77Service Fee
Campaign SolutionsAlexandriaVA20100715$525.00Website Maintenance
Campaign SolutionsAlexandriaVA20100720$46.14Service Fee
Campaign SolutionsAlexandriaVA20100806$256.75Service Fee
Campaign SolutionsAlexandriaVA20100809$375.00Website Maintenance
Campaign SolutionsAlexandriaVA20100907$208.54Service Fee
Campaign SolutionsAlexandriaVA20100913$54.03Website-Domain Name
Campaign SolutionsAlexandriaVA20101013$438.19Service Fee
Campaign SolutionsAlexandriaVA20101018$1,164.66Service Fee
Campaign SolutionsAlexandriaVA20101021$750.00Web Maintenance
Campaign SolutionsAlexandriaVA20101105$499.32Service Fee
Campaign SolutionsAlexandriaVA20101108$1,500.00Web Maintenance
Campaign SolutionsAlexandriaVA20101208$28.82Service Fee
Twelve thousand dollars for an out of state web service?Total:$12,659.60
We could easily have someone on staff part time to do that and more.
CD Inc.AlexandriaVA20101028$50,000.00Generic GOTV Web Ad
CD Inc.AlexandriaVA20101102$15,000.00Generic GOTV Web Ad
Sixty - Five thousand for a WEB AD?Total:$65,000.00
Direct Mail SystemsClearwaterFL20100113$2,576.28Direct Mail-PARTY Fundraising
Direct Mail SystemsClearwaterFL20100222$4,604.10Direct Mail-PARTY Fundraising
Direct Mail SystemsClearwaterFL20100329$876.15Postage-PARTY Fundraising
Direct Mail SystemsClearwaterFL20100415$1,880.00Postage-PARTY Fundraising
Direct Mail SystemsClearwaterFL20100429$8,434.11Direct Mail-PARTY Fundraising
Direct Mail SystemsClearwaterFL20100603$6,191.99Direct Mail-PARTY Fundraising
Direct Mail SystemsClearwaterFL20100617$775.50Direct Mail-PARTY Fundraising
Direct Mail SystemsClearwaterFL20100726$2,292.55Direct Mail-PARTY Fundraising
Direct Mail SystemsClearwaterFL20100907$595.00Direct Mail-PARTY Fundraising
Direct Mail SystemsClearwaterFL20100920$210.00Postage-PARTY Fundraising
Direct Mail SystemsClearwaterFL20101008$379.50Postage-PARTY Fundraising
There's plenty of Republican Mailing operations in Connecticut.Total:$28,815.18
FLS Connect LLCSaint PaulMN20100222$4,802.00Telemarketing-PARTY Fundraising
FLS Connect LLCSaint PaulMN20100527$550.00Telemarketing-PARTY Fundraising
FLS Connect LLCSaint PaulMN20100603$11,060.48Telemarketing-PARTY Fundraising
FLS Connect LLCSaint PaulMN20100715$7,625.00Telemarketing-PARTY Fundraising
FLS Connect LLCSaint PaulMN20100820$3,951.95Telemarketing-PARTY Fundraising
FLS Connect LLCSaint PaulMN20100922$2,189.00Telemarketing-PARTY Fundraising
FLS Connect LLCSaint PaulMN20100930$2,272.00Telemarketing-PARTY Fundraising
FLS Connect LLCSaint PaulMN20101015$4,978.00Telemarketing-PARTY Fundraising
FLS Connect LLCSaint PaulMN20101019$230.90Printing-Generic Mapbooks
FLS Connect LLCSaint PaulMN20101021$1,700.00Telemarketing-PARTY Vol.Recruitment
FLS Connect LLCSaint PaulMN20101026$300.35Telemarketing-PARTY Vol.Recruitment
FLS Connect LLCSaint PaulMN20101028$4,716.80GOTV CALLS-INKIND
FLS Connect LLCSaint PaulMN20101028$4,146.24GOTV CALLS-INKIND
FLS Connect LLCSaint PaulMN20101029$223.40Printing-Generic Mapbooks
FLS Connect LLCSaint PaulMN20101101$1,103.21Generic GOTV Calls
FLS Connect LLCSaint PaulMN20101101$21,550.80Generic GOTV Calls
FLS Connect LLCSaint PaulMN20101101$40,256.40Generic GOTV Calls
FLS Connect LLCSaint PaulMN20101108$130.64GOTV CALLS-INKIND
FLS Connect LLCSaint PaulMN20101108$192.03GOTV CALLS-INKIND
FLS Connect LLCSaint PaulMN20101110$1,653.00Telemarketing-PARTY Fundraising
Consider the number of volunteers we had phoning last fall plus our multiple staffed offices.Total:$113,632.20
Grassroots TargetingAlexandriaVA20100913$21,000.00Microtargeting-Generic
Grassroots TargetingAlexandriaVA20100930$21,000.00Microtargeting-Generic
Whatever "Microtargeting" is - it didn't work did it? Total:$42,000.00
SMARTechChattanoogaTN20100817$1,465.93Telephone-Polling-Non Allocable
SMARTechChattanoogaTN20100826$859.43Telephone-Polling-Non Allocable
SMARTechChattanoogaTN20101012$899.85Telephone Polling-Non Allocable
Out of state vendor retained despite massive number of volunteers and paid staff on hand.Total:$3,225.21
Expenditures of dubious value total: $271,347.34

Plan B Lifts Off

Governor Dannel Malloy today announced “After more than two months of talks, I'm afraid that my administration and the state employee unions have not reached agreement. Our talks have been respectful and forthright so far, and I remain willing to continue the discussions if the unions are willing to do so. However, we must all be willing to work toward a settlement that Connecticut taxpayers can afford in the long run.”

Negotiations between the governor’s office and union leaders were not entirely leak proof. There were indications that the talks had been going no where, but no one was willing to speak on the record. The sticking point from the union side was that negotiators were unwilling to succumb to the size of the givebacks, said to be $20,000 per year per state worker.

In the absence of an agreement – really more a capitulation than an agreement – Mr. Malloy announced today that lay off notices would be sent out immediately:

“I have directed OPM to begin issuing layoff notices in an orderly fashion to the first 4,742 state employees. Those layoffs will result in savings of approximately $455 million. I've also directed OPM to begin the process necessary to cut an additional $545 million in spending; those cuts, many of them programmatic, will be spread across state government, and will, in all likelihood, result in additional layoffs.

"I want to be clear that this is not the road I wanted to go down. I didn't want to lay people off, and I didn't want to make additional spending cuts beyond the $780 million in spending we've already cut.

"But I have no choice. I promised the people of Connecticut that I would change the way we do business in Hartford. I promised to deliver a budget that is balanced with no gimmicks, and I will.”
In his press release, Mr. Malloy said that the savings he hoped to realize in his negotiations with union leaders were “predicated on two principles: we need to achieve the short-term savings necessary to balance this budget, and we need long-term, structural savings in order to make state government sustainable. To do so, I am attempting to bring the benefits enjoyed by state employees -- wages, healthcare, and pension benefits -- more in line with those enjoyed by their counterparts in the private sector and in the federal workforce."

The talks likely stalled on benefit package reforms as well.

In response to Mr. Malloy’s most recent announcement, the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition this morning posted the following statement on its website:

"The discussions have been extraordinarily complex and demand our continued efforts to find mutual resolution.

"SEBAC is disappointed the administration has decided to begin issuing layoff notices. We have said time and again that laying off workers, whether in the public or private sector, and slashing vital public services will prove disastrous to our shared goal of creating jobs and rebuilding the middle class - especially at a time when our 9.1% unemployment rate is already higher than the national average.”

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Unconstitutional Budget? So What?

There is, so far, only one semi-official response to a recent suit brought by the Roger Sherman Liberty Center against a budget fashioned by Governor Dannel Malloy and the Democratic Party caucus in the General Assembly. Republicans were not permitted to handle the sausage during the budget process, which unfolded in private behind closed doors.

The liberty center argues that the budget is unconstitutional because, absent concessions from state labor unions, the budget is not in balance, as required by the state constitution.

There is no doubt the state constitution requires a balance budget. The constitutional language is unambiguous:

“The amount of general budget expenditures authorized for any fiscal year shall not exceed the estimated amount of revenue for such a fiscal year.”

There is no doubt the budget was not in balance at the time it was written into law and signed by Mr. Malloy. Negotiations between agents of Mr. Malloy and union leaders had not been concluded, and the union give backs required by Mr. Malloy that would have create a balanced budget have not yet, days out from the signing of the legislation, been given back. Thus, the amount of general budget expenditures authorized in the Malloy budget exceeded the revenues for the fiscal year.

Ergo, as the logicians say, there is no doubt the state’s operative budget is unconstitutional.

Mr. Malloy’s communications director, Roy Occhiogrosso, did not even bother to deny it. The law suit, he said, will be mooted once the union give backs materialize. Signed on the bottom line give backs are expected some time after Mr. Malloy’s attempts to intimidate union negociators prove successful. Presently, the budget is unconstitutional… but just you wait.

Ryan McKeen, a lawyer, considers the suit “stupid.” His blog is titled, “Even If CT’s Budget Is Unconstitutional….So What?”

Assuming the suit is successful, mr. McKeen argues, “The Court is not going to write a budget – it can’t. Like it or not, writing the budget is the legislature’s job.”

So then, we have from Mr. Malloy through his back door, Mr. Occhiogrosso, a noisy yawn, and a legal salon weighs in with a “So what?”

A robber robs a bank and is arrested. Brought to justice in Mr. McKeen’s court, the robber tells judge McKeen that his plan all along was to return the money to the bank. He is in negotiations with his confederates and feels certain that they will allow the return. His wife also has urged him to return the ill gotten gains. And he loves his wife, dearly. Judge McKeen rules that the arrest is stupid. True, the robber broke the law, but any ninny should understand that the law will be unbroken once the money is returned and, really, who expects judges to tell repentant bank robbers what to do? They can’t. They just can’t.

The spokesperson for the bank robber assures the media that the man’s negotiations with his confederates will in time be successful, at which point the charges against his boss will be mooted.

What’s to worry?

So, the governor and Democratic legislative leaders produced an unconstitutional budget that has a hole in it big enough to float a battleship and a half dozen submarines.

So what?

On the labor front, it is by no means certain that state worker union negotiators will agree to give backs amounting to about $20,000 per pay check. But Mr. Malloy has a pistol – Budget B – pressed to the temple of the negotiators. The governor has given union chieftains a few extra days to submit to Budget A, or else.

One uber-liberal, writing in the Hartford Advocate, has asserted that the budget demands presented to union leaders were all along a false front: Mr. Malloy wants to slash spending and then, Nero like, wash his hands of blame. It was the guy at the other end of the pistol’s barrel who was obstreperous.

And so the state stumbles forward into a brave new world in which massive tax increases will be permanent and union givebacks temporary.

The latest bad news is a survey in Chief Executive Magazine of 55 business leaders showing Connecticut, once a business powerhouse, limping along in 44th place in a listing of best states in which to do business.

But really – so what? Who expects anyone to do anything about it? They can’t. They just can’t.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Offensive, Desperate and Divisive Republican Rhetoric

Statement from Chairwoman DiNardo:

“The bizarre rhetoric we have seen this week from the increasingly-extreme CT Republicans has reached a new and embarrassing low. While our country is coming together around the death of Osama bin Laden, and our state is coming together around the ideas of shared sacrifice, leading CT Republicans are doing their best to divide us. From suggesting Democrats are taking advantage of bin Laden’s death to comparing the Governor’s budget to Hurricane Katrina, right-wing Republicans like Chris Healy and Senator John Kissel do nothing but divide Americans and show just how out-of-touch and delusional they and their party are becoming.”

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

bin Laden At Room Temperature

Here is former Speaker of the U.S. House Nancy Pelosi on the importance AND insignificance of the late Osama bin Laden:

Then, September 7, 2006: “[E]ven if [Osama bin Laden] is caught tomorrow, it is five years too late. He has done more damage the longer he has been out there. But, in fact, the damage that he has done ... is done. And even to capture him now I don't think makes us any safer.”

Now: “The death of Osama bin Laden marks the most significant development in our fight against al-Qaida. ... I salute President Obama, his national security team, Director Panetta, our men and women in the intelligence community and military, and other nations who supported this effort for their leadership in achieving this major accomplishment. ... [T]he death of Osama bin Laden is historic…”

Note the use of the word “historic.” Anything that happened yesterday is historic. This overused locution parallels the word “interesting” in modern times.

If your wife or GF, having dyed her hair blue with bright streaks of orange and yellow, asks you “What do you think of my hair do?” you are expected to show sufficient enthusiasm. In a pinch, you might mutter “Interesting,” but generally this will be regarded by your wife or GF as a failure of nerve, and you may expect the usual dressing down.

In using the word “historic,” a vacuous emotional place holder, Mrs. Pelosi was simply following political protocol: One of her aides had shoved a statement under her nose; she read it. We should not be too hard on her.

The truth is that, operationally, Mr. bin Laden was and is dispensable. He had outlived his usefulness. The occasional grainy videos had become… well, interesting.

The news media is now fluttering around the question: HOW was Mr. bin Laden dispatched.

Early propaganda from the White House had Mr. bin Laden cowering behind the skirts of his wife or possibly armed with a knife in his teeth or fingering a grenade in his pocket. The brave woman stepped forward; she was shot in the leg. Mr. bin Laden took a bullet above one of his eyes, creating a “gruesome” gash that has itself become problematic. Pictures were taken, apparently to convince terrorist doubters that the right man had been sent heavenward by Navy Seals.

It turns out that some of this was bunkum. Mr. bin Laden was unarmed. In the confusion of the moment, he had failed to raise his hands in surrender. Had he done so, his life would have been spared. Possibly he might have been transported to the United States and given a civil trial, as recommended by presidential campaigner Barack Obama, Chris Dodd, now a Hollywood lobbyist, and other Democrats who, at the time, favored wrapping terrorists in the rights and immunities available under the U.S. Constitution to non-terrorists citizens of the USA.

Among the people gathered at the White House watching the assault on the millionaire’s well fortified compound, a hand grenade’s throw from one of the principal military institutions in Pakistan, was the president, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, et al. Mr. Dodd was addressing the Media Institute, an Arlington, Va.-based think tank and didn’t make the showing as a Hollywood guest. The group was watching the historic event IN REAL TIME, which means they likely saw Mr. bin Laden stubbornly refusing to surrender.

And yet, the news-shapers at the White House still got it wrong.

The gruesome gash left by that bullet hole in the forehead presents yet another problem.

Pictures of Mr. bin Laden after he had been assassinated had been taken. One shows Mr. bin Laden being deposited in the ocean. In deference to Islamic burial rites, the body was washed and wrapped in a shroud before being fed to the fishes. It appears that burial at sea was a faux pas; according to some Islamic scholars, the body should have been properly interred or delivered to a relative who might have accepted it. Another picture showing Mr. bin Laden’s facial wound is said to be GRUSEOME.

Should the pictures be released or not?

The United States has not developed a protocol concerning the publication of gruesome assassination pictures.

Perhaps Ms. Pelosi might be urged to venture her unscripted opinion on the matter.

How Many Battalions Have The Republicans?

It was Napoleon who remarked, when the Pope of the day objected to his take over of Italy, that God was on the side of the big battalions. And when Pope Pius XII criticized Stalin, the atheist totalitarian asked menacingly: How many battalions has the Pope?

Numbers in legislatures are determinative.

Governor Dannel Malloy, borrowing a page from President Barack Obama, has often been heard to complain during his 17 Town Meetings that he had inherited seemingly insoluble problems from previous governors and legislatures. The bitter medicine he was proposing as a solution to massive budget distortions certainly would not be pleasant, but it was necessary; so, open wide and swallow.

Dr. Malloy’s medicine includes tax increased across the board of more than $1.4 billion and cost savings to be rung out of the hides of state union workers in the amount of $2 billion.

Those who heard Mr. Malloy at the town meeting swallowed hard but gave some indication, at least in Mr. Malloy’s understanding, that they were willing to accept his proposition. And so the governor raised taxes and inserted in the budget, now adopted by the Democratic controlled General Assembly, a place holder cost reduction figure he expected to recover from unions in negotiations not completed at the time the budget had been passed.

If Mr. Malloy does not receive from union negotiators the concessions he needs to balance his book, he has promised to spank them with Budget B, which will be very nasty.

The tax hikes – big surprise! -- are such as will provide Mr. Malloy with a budget surplus of $1 billion. A surplus is, by definition, excess tax money over and above the amount necessary to pay for budgeted state spending. There may have been people in the crowds that greeted Mr. Malloy’s bitter prescription who might have understandably resented the $1 billion surplus which, had it been returned, might have stimulated Connecticut’s economy, now languishing in intensive care. Their voices were not heard as the Democratic majority in the General Assembly and Mr. Malloy crafted their budget.

Democrats in the General Assembly argued against protesting Republicans that the tax overcharge – that is what a surplus is – was necessary because former legislators had squandered “rainy day” funds to pay for their improvident spending. The irony that the legislators making the argument were the very legislators who had improvidently squandered the funds in the first place was lost on humorless Democrats in the General Assembly who were once again overtaxing the people in Mr. Malloy’s Town Hall meeting -- so that they could produce a surplus in a time of great need and misery as a fix to their improvident spending habit.

In his message to the House that quickly passed his budget hours after it shot through the Senate – numbers are determinative -- Mr. Malloy characterized his budget as “balanced and honest,” containing “none of the gimmicks that helped get us into this mess. It will provide the stability we need to foster much-needed job creation – which is everyone’s top goal.”

Mr. Malloy placed on his own shoulders the burden of reaching “an agreement with our fellow state employees [state union members] and to present it to the legislature for ratification. I remain hopeful that we’ll get there. If we don’t, I remain committed to presenting an alternative budget to the General Assembly in the next couple of weeks. Make no mistake: come July 1, Connecticut will have an honest, balanced budget in place. No smoke, no mirrors. A solid foundation for the future.”

The Malloy budget increases taxes, will realize a surplus of $1 billion, and has in it a savings gap of $2 billion that Mr. Malloy, now dependant on the kindness of strangers, hopes to recover from state union members. There are those within the Democratic caucus who doubt that Mr. Malloy will be able to squeeze approximately $20,000 per year from state workers; if so, the expected $1 billion surplus may provide the governor with a cushy default position.

The expected surplus is smoke, it is mirrors. And it’s the oldest budget trick in the in the usual bag of tricks deployed by the permanent government to save itself the trouble of spilling Democratic blood on the floor of the General Assembly. Permanent budget cuts of $2 billion stretching out for 20 years and temporary tax increases might have provided a solid foundation for the future. The Massachusetts legislature, overwhelmingly Democratic, is providing for the future by attempting to end collective bargaining, which impoverishes taxpayers and enriches the overbooking class.

The Malloy budget is more of the same: permanent tax increases and -- after the unions have finished with him – temporary cost savings.

When all the smoke has cleared, when the usual mirrors have been pack away for another day, voters in Connecticut should take note: If you want a different result, vote in a different government.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Malloy Budget Passes Senate

Alleging that the budget that passed through the Connecticut state senate would lead to job creation, the ultimate goal of Democrats in the General Assembly, Gov. Dannel Malloy, seemingly pleased that his budget sailed through the senate without serious revision, thanked Senate President Don Williams, Majority Leader Marty Looney, Appropriations Chairman Toni Harp and Finance Chairman Eileen Daily in particular. “They took the budget I proposed, they made it better, and they passed it,” said Mr. Malloy in the following press release:

“The Senators who voted for this budget early this morning should be commended for making the tough decisions necessary to begin the process of getting Connecticut’s fiscal house in order. That was a tough vote to make, but it was the right vote to make. It was a vote for an honest budget, one that’s balanced with no gimmicks, and one that will stabilize the state’s finances and lead to our ultimate goal: job creation. I’d like to thank Senate President Don Williams, Majority Leader Marty Looney, Appropriations Chairman Toni Harp and Finance Chairman Eileen Daily in particular. They took the budget I proposed, they made it better, and they passed it.”
The budget, which includes the largest tax increase in state history, passed the senate by a narrow margin of 19 to 17, three Democrats -- senators Joan Hartley of Waterbury, Gayle Slossberg of Milford, and Edward Meyer of Guilford -- voting against the measure. The marathon debate on the budget ended at 3:00 in the morning. The $40.2 billion two year budget increases spending by 2.14 percent in the first year and 2.32 percent in the second year.

Republicans, who had no hand in shaping the budget hammered out by Democrats behind closed doors, said the tax increases were too high and would produce a surplus of $1 billion in the span of two years. Democrats answered that the surplus is needed to pay off debt and replenish the “rainy day fund" depleted by former Governor Jodi Rell and the Democrats, who have habitually voted for a tax increases they knew were too high. Ever since the income tax had been written into law, Connecticut’s Democratic dominated legislature and its three previous governors have used frequent billion dollar surpluses to boost an ever increasing level of spending.

One need only imagine a drunken sailor in a bar staring with steely determination at a pretty woman to have perfect picture of the effect surpluses generally have on high spenders in and outside the state legislature.

Mr. Malloy was roundly denounced by Republican leaders for having cut them out of the budget decision making process.

Noting that Mr. Malloy had dangled before them a promise of bi-partisan cooperation on the budget, Republican leader Larry Cafero concluded that the governor was “unwilling to compromise, unwilling to listen, headstrong, and not willing to be flexible. It's his way or the highway.”

Sen. Steward McKinney asked pointedly during debate on the budget, “How can you be open for business when you have a 100 percent increase on the corporate surcharge? You cannot preach and talk and scream and say we're open for business and increase the corporate surcharge. At some point, the talk is hollow and meaningless.''

Mr. Malloy’s aversion to dealing with minority Republicans in the General Assembly is reminiscent of the strategy employed by President Barack Obama in pushing through a veto proof congress contested measures that much of the country disapproved of. In a subsequent election, many of the congresspersons who hanged together with Mr. Obama later were hanged separately in the mid-term elections.

Prior to the passage of his budget in the senate, Mr. Malloy, seeking to distinguish himself from his Republican contemporary in New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie, presented his tax increases as fair and equitable. Amid measures designed to attack spending, Mr. Malloy had deployed “a new way.” Mr. Christie and, surprisingly, Democratic Governor of New York Mario Cuomo both had submitted budgets that contained no tax increases. Mr. Malloy’s budget has a massive doughnut hole in it. Although the Democratic dominated senate passed Mr. Malloy’s plan, the budget was not in balance at passage because state unions, called upon by Mr. Malloy to give back $2 billion in order to balance the budget, are still negotiating the give backs with the governor’s office.

Over in Massachusetts, once derided by nutmeggers as Taxachussetts and now called Wisconsin East, the Democratic denominated House overwhelmingly pushed through a measure that considerably reduces the political heft of unions by eliminating collective bargaining.

“It’s pretty stunning,” the president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO said. “These are the same Democrats that all these labor unions elected.”

The most accurate way to describe Mr. Malloy’s budget is – not stunning: It raises taxes, does not touch the wellsprings of public debt, provides the usual billion dollar surplus and is has not produced fevered objections from the free spending left, with the possible exception of uber-liberal Jonathan Pelto.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Obama Gets Osama

After having made certain by DNA analysis that they had gotten their man, dead rather than alive, Osama bin Laden’s body was committed to the fishes. This was probably a good idea: The burial is compliant with Islamic rites, which specifies near immediate disposition of the dead; and the disposal of the remains makes it less likely that terrorists who drew energy from Mr. bin Laden’s presence will have a martyr’s site to which they can repair to pray and plot ways to blow up non-military civilians such as those who died on 9-11.

Here in the United States, one could hear champagne corks popping shortly after the glad tidings were disclosed in a 15 minute address to the nation by President Barack Obama. Mr. Obama said justice had been served at the hands of the Navy Seals, who dispatched Mr. bin Laden after a brief firefight.

Mr. bin Laden was shot in the head, according to officials, after he and his bodyguards resisted the assault. The assaulters bagged three adult males, including one of Mr. bin Laden's sons, and a woman used as shield by Mr. bin Laden. Two other women were injured.

In his remarks, Mr. Obama identified Mr. bin Laden as a terrorist who had violated Islamic precepts by targeting civilians and other Islamic co-religionists.

The austere millionaire – Mr. bin Laden inherited his millions from his father, a master builder and contractor in Saudi Arabia – was said to have spent his last days in a “costly, custom-built hideout” three quarters of a mile distant from a Pakistani military academy, his operational influence in Afghanistan having been degraded many years before. The war in Afghanistan is being waged by the Taliban, not al Qaeda, the group founded by Mr. bin Laden.

Never-the-less, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a warning to the Taliban shortly after the fish began nibbling on Mr. bin Laden’s toes.

“You cannot wait us out, you cannot defeat us, but you can make the choice to abandon al Qaeda and participate in a peaceful political process,” said Mrs. Clinton, regarded by some as having persuaded Mr. Obama to take a firmer hand in those areas of the Middle East -- such as Egypt, Syria and Libya -- in which the seeds of democracy appear to have produced tender shoots. Such shoots, it should be said, have a way of putting forth dark blossoms, quasi-religious theocrats who quickly stamp out dangerous democratic eruptions, replacing them with more or less permanent quasi-religious thugocracies.

Here at home in Connecticut, reaction to the mission by members of the state’s congressional delegation was nearly instantaneous.

A historic moment, said U.S. Rep John Larson “rivaled only by the demise of Adolf Hitler,” a fanciful stretch. One of Mr. Larson’s aides should seize from Mr. Larson’s vocabulary the words “rivaled only by” and impound them.

The state’s very junior senator, Dick Blumenthal, soon to become Connecticut’s senior senator upon Senator Joe Lieberman’s retirement, characterized the killing of Mr. bin Laden as “a significant turning point in the war on terror,” an overcooked sentiment. Any progress in overcoming terrorism in greater Arabia will be a slow slog. The terrorist hydra will survive without one of its heads. Mr. Blumenthal might benefit from a conference with Mr. Lieberman.

Due deference, for once, was shown by both the president and senators to former President George Bush, an indication that Mr. Bush’s long nightmare as a perceived political booby may be coming to an end.

And indeed, Mr. Obama, much to the dismay of anti-war zealots in the Democratic Party, has copied much of Mr. Bush’s foreign policy, expanding to three the war fronts that the American military is now engaged in, all without a peep from Connecticut’s congressional delegation, most of whom benefited in their campaign from the former president’s overly aggressive foreign policy. The road to Mr. bin Laden's killing was paved with information provided from CIA black sites through interrogations of Kahlid Sheik Mohammed. The GITMO prison is still functioning, despite Mr. Obama’s pledge to shut the place down during his presidential campaign. And the effort to try in civilian court the real mastermind of 9-11, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, has finally been abandoned by Mr. Obama’s hapless Attorney General Eric Holder. Mr. Mohammed will be tried by a military tribunal.

There are some tactical differences between the two commanders-in chief: Mr. Bush captured and water boarded Mr. Mohammed, extracting from him actionable intelligence used to frustrate future terrorist plots against the United States; Mr. Obama fed Mr. bin Laden to the fishes.

It may be something of a plus that Mr. Osama, unlike Mr. Mohammed, won’t be talking to any American defense attorneys.


According to a later Barack Obama administration report on May 3, Mr. bin Ladin was not armed when he was shot, nor did he use his wife as a human shield. The assaulters were acting on orders to kill Mr. bin Ladin.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Campaign Finance Reform Flip… Flop… Flip…

Someone – no one is certain who did it – dismembered the non-partisan State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC), and the heart and liver of the thing ended up in the Secretary of State’s office.

The elections commission is supposed to prevent the kind of hanky panky that is the life and blood of machine party politics. The need for such a committee was felt after former Governor John Rowland, now a respected radio commentator and member of the fourth estate, was packed off to jail for having “deprived the state of honest services.”

Governor Dannel Malloy, the titular head of the dominant Democratic Party machine in Connecticut, has combined some agencies, supposedly as a cost saving measure, and that is how the body parts of the SEEC came to be parceled out to various agencies. This dismemberment, the leftist watchdog group Common Cause says, has considerably emasculated the hound of fair elections heaven.

The relevant watchdog agencies during the late mid-term elections nodded assent to a measure adopted by the Democratic controlled General Assembly that dumped millions of dollars into the campaign coffers of then gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy – and just in time too, because the Democratic hopeful was in danger of being outspent by his Republican opponent, Tom Foley. So, when the high court ruled unconstitutional that portion of the nation’s complex campaign finance law that automatically would have would have supplied Mr. Malloy with tax generated funds to equalize money prospectively “spent” by Mr. Foley, Democrats in Connecticut’s General Assembly wrote a bill awarding to Mr. Malloy additional tax funds to redress the imbalance, thus depriving the state of the honest services of Mr. Foley, who lost to Mr. Malloy by the slenderest of margins. Money, as we had been told countless times by fair election folk, mattered.

It’s all very complicated. Legislation that attempts to square circles generally becomes so Byzantine that only seasoned politicians can understand it, the better to manipulate complex laws to their advantage. As laws and political processes become increasingly complicated, the violations of those laws, now subject to nuanced interpretation, tend to disappear in the maze of complexity. This is what has happened to national campaign finance regulation and its derivative permutations in the states. Confusingly complex laws, adrenaline to lawyers, are the enemy both of the good and the perfect.

In any case, the non-partisan superintending state agency commissioned to enforce campaign finance laws – portions of which some jurists have declared unconstitutional -- had been dismembered, a casualty of the pinched times in which we live. Under Mr. Malloy’s cost savings hatchet, the Freedom of Information Commission has met a similar fate.

Over on the left, an alarm was raised by Common Cause. The Malloy reforms of watchdog agencies, the left breathlessly warned, had seemingly removed the fox from the henhouse; but, in practice, Mr. Malloy’s economies, made necessary by shrinking resources, had put the hens directly in the mouths of the foxes. The Secretary of State office was to superintend the SEEC.

Late on Sunday, one of the wiser heads in the Democratic caucus may have asked: How can a partisan political office, the Secretary of State, be expected to rule in a non-partisan manner on questions involving campaign finance getting and spending? Called upon to decide a question of campaign funding that would either enrich or impoverish Democrats, how would the question have been decided by former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, an intensely partisan politician now running for Sen. Joe Lieberman’s seat in the U.S. Congress? Can the fox really be trusted not to close his mouth on the hen that reform has fortuitously put in his teeth?

Reason struck like lighting late on Sunday and, at the last minute, Democrats in the legislature and Mr. Malloy decided to leave well enough alone and retain the independence of the SEEC. It will remain a self standing, independent agency.

As an amusing sidebar to this issue, it may be noted that when longtime reporter Mark Pazniokas set out toward the Capitol, lance in hand, determined to find out who wrote the silly pro-fox bill, he returned empty handed to CTMirror after having tilted with all the relevant windmills, his lance shattered: For some inexplicable reason, no one he interviewed in the Malloy administration or in the Democratic dominated legislature could tell him who wrote that portion of the bill that placed hen in the fox’s teeth.