Monday, March 28, 2011

Markley, The Fly In The Ointment

Newly elected State Sen. Joe Markley has now officially become a fly in the ointment.

"For a guy who has got a $3.3 billion [deficit] in next year's [budget], $647 [million] in this year's would be a concern, I can assure you. I am well aware of it," said Governor Dannel Malloy of himself while making his rounds of towns on his listening tour.

Mr. Markley’s suit, which is centered on a tax/fee Connecticut has attached to electric bills, is holding up bonding money and, for this reason, the state has asked Connecticut’s Supreme Court to expedite its decision.

State Treasurer Denise Nappier has delayed issuing bonds to cover the deficit in the current fiscal year until the matter before the court is decided. It would be necessary to disclose pending litigation in any official statement sent to potential bond investors, and this is the sort of ash sprinkled on a dessert that would discourage bond buyers from scooping up the delicacies.

Mr. Markley’s suit is somewhat embarrassing because the charge on electric bills, a disguised tax, is somewhat embarrassing to an administration that has promised Connecticut taxpayers that budget sleight of hand would not be tolerated in an honest and transparent government.

Initially, the charge on electric bills was levied as a “fee” that would serve as surety for bonds issued to pay for the cost of energy deregulation. Deregulation has been marginally successful in reducing energy costs, but the effort to deregulate the energy market in Connecticut would pay more impressive dividends to energy users if the state were more serious in eliminating energy regulations – which is what deregulation really means. So far, the state has sought to lower energy prices on the demand side through energy conservation. The quicker and more efficient way to lower energy costs is to increase the energy supply and reduce unnecessary regulations that serve as a bar preventing energy suppliers from peddling their wares in Connecticut.

The “fee” was to elapse after the bond money had refreshed state coffers and the costs associated with deregulation had been discharged. But in the meantime the state had accumulated a massive deficit, and it was decided to extend the so called fee indefinitely. Since the now altered fee was designed expressly as a vehicle to transfer money from electric ratepayer’s pockets into the state treasury, the form of the attachment had become, in Mr. Markley’s estimation, an undisguised tax. His suit questioned the authority of the Department of Public Utility Control to collect a tax, and the same suit claimed the tax was inequitable since some rate payers, depending upon which suppliers they had chosen, never paid the fee assessment and would not be charged a tax.

The energy tax would amount to about $100 a year for the average family, but the tax would run into thousands of dollars for businesses and municipalities, which would be recovered by municipalities in the form of higher taxes and by businesses in the from of higher prices for their products and services.

Mr. Malloy has said the Markley suit, if successful, will punch a hole in this year’s $19.2 billion budget of $647 million, the amount of money the state hopes to realize through its surreptitious tax. It is also possible that the suit, provided it is not speedily settled at the Supreme Court level, will be dragged through the courts much in the way Hector was dragged by Achilles around the doomed wall of Troy, making it more difficult for State Treasurer Denise Nappier to issue bonds that will cover the current fiscal year’s deficit.

Mr. Malloy, who railed against the use of bonds to pay off budget deficits in his successful gubernatorial campaign, has said, “I think the fee was fair. I think it was misguided. It's not a public policy I would have otherwise promoted or supported. If you're asking do I believe it to be legal? The answer is yes.”

Mr. Markley – who believes an honest government should approach its debts honorably through its constitutionally authorized taxing powers – admits that his suit would not permit the state to meet its debts dishonorably through fees designed to dupe the electorate; and he acknowledges that his suit, if successful, will open a hole in the budget. Tough love is always tough.

"I feel about it,” Mr. Markley says, as “I would watching a friend, who had been drinking all evening, go back to the ATM one more time to take more money out of the bank. Yes, you might think this is a good idea right now, but when you wake up in the morning, you're going to wish you hadn't taken out any more money."

Connecticut’s highly politicized State Supreme Court, for ill or good, may decide the question of law presented by Mr. Markley’s suit. It can not, and ought not, to decide the political question embedded in it: How crooked and irresponsible do we want the taxing authority in the state of Connecticut to be? That question can be decided only by an awakened citizenry.

Up and Over The Paywall


The NY Times' paywall starts today - a limit of 20 free articles a month. However, they make an exception to articles and blogs linked from blogs.

So, I'll be linking to NY Times articles and Paul Krugman's blogs here as much as I can. I'm asking all the approved authors here to contribute as well. If you would like to be added as an author to contribute to this effort, please e-mail me at

Here's my first contribution:

Gov. Cuomo Reaches Deal With Lawmakers on Tentative New York State Budget

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Sunday announced a deal with legislative
leaders on a state budget for New York, an agreement that
would end a streak of late budgets for Albany. The agreement
caps increases for education aid and Medicaid, and imposes
other cuts to close a $10 billion projected deficit,
officials said.

Read More:

Paul Krugman:

Columnist Page


Friday, March 25, 2011

Job Fair Cancelled For Lack Of Jobs

In Massachusetts – formerly called Taxachussetts, although its tax structure is a little less formidable than Connecticut’s – a job fair had to be cancelled for lack of jobs, according to the Boston Globe.

The Chairman of the Taunton Employment Task Force, Richard Shafer, said 20-25 employers were necessary for the fair scheduled for April 6, five days beyond April Fool’s Day. However, only 10 tables had been reserved and of those one table was reserved by a non-profit offering human services to job seekers, and three would have been occupied by temporary employment agencies.

The cancellation of the job fair Mr. Shafer said was indicative of the job market in the North East. Companies are still cautious about hiring full time workers.

Here in Connecticut, the job market has remained anemic ever since Connectitax, perhaps attempting to keep up with Taxachussetts, instituted its income tax. Recently, Connectitax has made the Lowell P. Weicker Jr. income tax more progressive and blanketed the state with new taxes and higher rates.

Job seekers in the North East may have better luck seeking opportunities in the states listed below that have no income tax, where costly regulations are not quite so punishing and where the economic skies are not cloudy all day.

Alaska has no individual tax and, like New Hampshire, no state sales tax. Florida has a corporate income tax of 5% and no individual income tax. Its tax on “intangible personal property – stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc. – was abolished in 2007. Nevada has neither an individual income tax nor a corporate income tax. The state hauls in most of its revenue from gaming and sales taxes. While South Dakota levies a corporate income tax on financial institutions, it has no individual income tax -- nor does Tennessee, Texas, Washington or Wyoming, which has no corporate income tax either.

Young job hunters, weary of the scant pickings in Connectitax, no doubt will be heading towards the greener employment pastures listed above after they have graduated from one of the state's increasingly expensieve institutes of higher learning. Illegal aliens whom Connectitax indends to reward with a discounted education will be traveling along with the rest to areas of the country in which job fairs are more like fairs than funerals.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Libya, Connecticut’s Congressional Delegation And The War Powers Resolution

Where were you in 1973?

The Congress of the United States in 1973 was hard at work hammering out the War Powers Resolution, a joint act permitting the president of the Unites States, Richard Nixon at the time, to send the armed forces of United States into action only after obtaining the authorization of the legislative branch of government. An exception was allowed under the resolution if the United States were to come under direct attack or a serious threat of attack.

The War Powers Resolution was an attempt by congress to snatch back from the executive department a presumed constitutional power that had eroded after World War II. During the Korean War, euphemistically called a “conflict,” and the Vietnam War, the United States had marched off to battle without obtaining from congress “a declaration of war.”

Passed by the two-thirds vote in Congress necessary to overcome Mr. Nixon’s veto, the War Powers Resolution required presidents to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action. The measure also prevented troops from remaining in service in an active military theatre for more than 60 days without an a congressional authorization of the use of military force or a formal declaration of war.

No sooner did the War Powers Resolution emerge from the congressional egg than it came under intense scrutiny by those who claimed, for a variety of reasons, that the resolution was unconstitutioal. The power to make war, some argued persuasively, was not an enumerated power, and the resolution, it was said, failed to make the proper distinction between “declaring” a war and “commencing” a war.

Since its passage in 1973, presidents have drafted reports to congress when appropriate stating that a commitment of troops to a live war theatre is “consistant with” the War Powers Act, thus satisfying the executive department position that the congressional resolution is unconstitutional. Since pasage of the resolution, presidents have submitted 118 reports to congress. However constitutionally defective The War Powers Act may be, the congressional instrument has been fairly effective when invoked in requiring the president to keep congress in the loop whenever when troops are sent to various hot spots in the world to do the bidding of, say, the United Nations.

In 2007, Illinois Senator Barack Obama was interviewd by the Boston Globe and asked, “In what circumstances, if any, would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use-of-force authorization from Congress?”

It would not fall within the constitutional authority of the president, Mr. Obama replied, "to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” While the president has a duty to protect and defend the United States as commander in chief, “History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.”

Asked about the constitutional propriety of ordering a strike on Iran’s nuclear capabilities, a situation that involved no direct threat against the United States, Mr. Obama replied, “As for the specific question about bombing suspected nuclear sites, I recently introduced S.J. Res. 23, which states in part that ‘any offensive military action taken by the United States against Iran must be explicitly authorized by Congress.’”

That was then.

Libya presents no direct threat to the United States and, unlike Iran, it voluntarily agreed to give up the possibility of producing nuclear weapons a few years ago. Mr. Obama, who asserted in a congressional resolution HE INTRODUCED four years ago that the president should obtain the authorization of congress when bombing a nation that presents no immediate threat to the United States, has ordered the bombing of Libya after consulting the United Nations rather than the U.S. Congress.

The Libyan intervention has passed muster with Connecticut’s newest senator. Dick Blumenthal, who characterized the intervention as “prudent, decisive action -- with limited scope and duration -- that we are undertaking along with our NATO allies… requested by the Arab League and supported strongly by the UN.”

Mr. Blumenthal, formerly Connecticut’s attorney general, neither mentioned the War Powers Resolution nor gave the slightest indication that it played a part in his approval of Mr. Obama’s intervention. Other members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation, however, have expressed serious reservations. The “first 48 to 72 hours [of sustained bombing] don't look like a supportive role," said U.S. Rep Joe Courtney. Mr. Courtney recommended that the congress, then on a one week recess, be called back into session so that it could be given the opportunity to question top administration officials.

Rep. John Larson registered “deep concern.” The congressman was concerned with a possible ground war and even went so far as to mention the “V” word: “While the president has been very clear that this is not their intention, that wasn't the intention when we sent advisors into Vietnam either.” Having convened a conference to discuss the Libyan intervention, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, according to one report, “said there was broad consensus among House Democrats of the need for an official congressional briefing. There was ‘a great deal of skepticism about the time, the mission, the purpose,’ he said.”

The war Powers Resolution, it hardly needs to be said, does not require the president of the United States to seek the approval of the United Nations before committing U.S. troops in a hot war. Because the president committed troops without so much as a wink in the direction of congress, it is doubtful that his “prudent action” is even “consistent with” the War Powers Resolution.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The New Poor And The New Social Order

There are actually two social-political orders, conservative and liberal, one of which, depending upon one’s ideological proclivities, apparently has been constructed by the devil. Both views are rooted in sociological perceptions.

A dependable sociology will reason from facts, which are, according to Jim Manzi writing in National Affairs, both prophetic and distressing.

Surveying the last half century, Mr. Manzi can not help but notice a deplorable cultural bifurcation: “Increasingly, our country is segregated into high-income groups with a tendency to bourgeois norms, and low-income groups experiencing profound social breakdown.”

Mr. Manzi traces the collapse of bourgeois morality to a longstanding academic and avant garde assault on traditional social norms associated with the left in the 1960’s. By the 1970’s, “attitudes and behaviors began to change on a mass scale.” But every radical social action leads ineluctably to an equal and opposite reaction; and the resistance, when it arrived, was both economic and social.

Beginning with the Nixon administration and trailing into the Reagan administration, the reaction concerned itself with questions of social cohesion and stability, inextricably linked, conservatives and libertarians argued at the time, with the promotion of economic growth and vitality.

The partly successful response did not touch what Manzi calls “the other side of the coin.” The animated opposition failed to notice that economic dynamism could be “harmful to social cohesion.” Inexorably, “the cultural foundations of democratic capitalism were collapsing. Crime rates, illegitimacy, drug use, and many other measures of social dysfunction were all on the rise, seemingly without limit.”

Later in the decade and continuing through today, American society re-normalized, but the new normal is different than the old normal:

“To begin with, certain strands of the old bourgeois consensus have frayed, and others have simply disappeared, at least for some parts of the population. The wealthier and better-educated segments of our society, for example, have re-established the primacy of stable families and revived their intolerance of crime and public disorder. But they have combined this return to tradition with very non-traditional attitudes about sex, masculinity, and overt piety.”
Most importantly, the partial social restoration did not trickle down to what the well-to-do used to call, disparagingly, the lower orders. Among the wealthier and better educated segments of American society today, the primacy of stable families and a healthy intolerance of crime and public disorder has revived; not so among the poor. Consider:
 “Women without high-school diplomas are now about three times as likely to divorce within ten years of their first marriage than their college-educated counterparts… the estimated percentage of 15-year-olds living with both of their biological parents is far lower in the United States than in Western Europe.” In 1965, “almost no mothers with any level of education reported that they had never been married. While this is still true of mothers who have finished college, only 3 percent of whom were never married, the figure among mothers with no more than a high school education and incomes below $20,000 is an astounding 25 percent. About 70% of African-American children — as well as most Hispanic children — are born to unmarried mothers.”
Among the middle and upper classes, what Manzi calls “the Old Wasp Ascendency” has been reconstructed on much different platforms:

“Political correctness serves the same basic function for this cohort that ‘good manners’ did for an earlier elite; environmentalism increasingly stands in for the ethic of controlling impulses so as to live within limits; and an expensive, competitive school culture — from pre-K play groups up through graduate school — socializes the new elite for constructive competition among peers. These Americans have even re-created the old WASP aesthetic preference for the antique, authentic, and pseudo-utilitarian at the expense of vulgar displays of wealth. In many cases, they live in literally the same homes as the previous upper class.”

This social paradigm, appropriate for a vigorous capitalistic economy, serves the new elite well enough. The old WASP elite, supported by a much different moral, religious and sociological matrix, was able to pass along prosperity and well-being to those on a lower rung of the social latter. It is very much an open question whether the new order is capable of showering similar blessings upon the fatherless 70 percent of African American children who receive very different messages from their subcultures, sociological offshoots of the anarchic 1960s.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Most Ridiculous Lawsuit of the Month - Cast Your Vote!

Today I stumbled upon this useful internet resource highlighting some of the most severe (and often comical) abuses of our legal system and allowing user to vote for the "Most Ridiculous Lawsuit of The Month."

Is it the Maryland man who brought a discrimination suit against a local nail salon for charging men more than women for manicures?  Or perhaps the accused arsonist here in Connecticut, now suing insurance company for investigating his crime?

Pay a visit and cast your vote, and check out the archived polls from previous months to continue your fun.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Is Malloy Serious?

Speaking before the Bridgeport Regional Business Council at a lunchtime program attended by 325 people, Governor Dannel Malloy, according to a story in the Connecticut Post, claimed “to be more fiscally conservative than the last ‘two or three governors,’ Republicans John Rowland and M. Jodi Rell, as well as Lowell P. Weicker Jr., an independent.”

It is not reported that any of the business people present guffawed.

If one judges by deeds rather than words, which is how one should measure the acts of governors, none of the governors preceding Mr. Malloy were fiscal conservatives.

The growth in state spending since Mr. Weicker – here described as an “independent,” though during his career in politics Mr. Weicker preferred the term Republican “Maverick,” the self aggrandizing, boastful title of his autobiography – suggests that the three governors preceding Mr. Malloy were liberal spenders, though some of them seemed to talk a good conservative game.

It is true that one of them, former Governor John Rowland, described himself as a “firewall” that prevented spending from increasing at a more rapid rate. The term “firewall” was a metaphor that referred back to Mr. Weicker’s quaint notion that an income tax levied during his administration would have the same effect on Connecticut’s economy as gas thrown on a fire. It did. During his first election as governor, Mr. Rowland vowed to repeal Mr. Weicker’s income tax. He didn’t.

The last Democratic budget under former Governor William O’Neill was about $7.5 billion. The present budget under Mr. Malloy is about $20 billion. In other words, within the time frame of three governors, two of whom were Republicans and one an anti-Republican Maverick, the budget nearly tripled in size. During this period of putative “fiscal conservative” governors, an income tax was levied, pension funds were raided, the income tax later was made more progressive, budget deficits were paid through bonding, and the dominant Democratic General Assembly mucked though a period of accelerating indebtedness by entertaining itself with the notion that Connecticut had a revenue rather than a spending problem. These are not the identifying marks of fiscal conservativism.

Perhaps what Mr. Malloy wanted to convey to the business men and women before him in Bridgeport and elsewhere in the state was that, unlike his predecessors, his budget message was a serious one.

Mr. Malloy’s message is that taxes will be increased by $1.8 billion and spending will be cut by $2 billion. But what is the objective measure of a serious proposal? Surely it is the conformity of words and deeds. We know a man is serious in what he says if he does what he says. It is fairly easy for a Democratic governor working cheek by jowl with a Democratic legislature to raise taxes; indeed, it has been easy for Mr. Malloy’s predecessors, none of whom were Democrats, to raise taxes with the concurrence of a dominant Democratic legislature – which is how the pre-income tax budget rose to its present unsustainable level so quickly. Those who believed that Connecticut had been suffering from a revenue rather than a spending problem were always willing – eager even – to alleviate the state’s agony through tax increases.

But spending cuts? Now, there’s a problem. Mr. Malloy’s spending cut proposal went down the throats state employee union leaders like a porcupine with its quills extended. Some union leaders, reaching for the last jar of peanut butter in an empty pantry, hope to settle the state’s budget deficit by making the state’s progressive income tax more progressive for so called “millionaires” who earn more than $200,000 per year. Most liberals would be satisfied with an arrangement in which spending cuts are short term and temporary while tax increases are permanent. The Brights who write commentary for Connecticut’s left of center media are convinced that the spending cuts proposed by Mr. Malloy cannot be wrung from state workers, Mr. Malloy insisting there is no third way: Connecticut must be both compassionate and competitive.

And so the battle for the future – never has it appeared more bleak – is now joined at a time when a 70 percent majority in Connecticut, according to the first Quinnipiac University Poll taken in the new administration, are “dissatisfied with the way things are going in the state, and no elected official in [the] survey has an approval rating above 50 percent."

The same poll shows voters supporting a wage freeze for state employees (68 percent) and layoffs (50 percent) in the absence of concessions by union leaders who, if past practice is a guide to the future, almost certainly will spurn permanent spending cuts. Of those polled, 48 percent say the Malloy plan increases taxes on the wealthy too little. But Mr. Malloy is unwilling to build tax bridges connecting Connecticut and contiguous states over which entrepreneurial capital may travel into the outstretched hands of Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and Democratic Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo, as well as job poachers in states in which spending spirals will be less destructive to businesses.

The unfolding battle will be won by the party that is most resolute, and the answer to the question “Is Mr. Malloy serious?” will not be long in coming.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Common Sense And Capital Punishment

Following are some points made to a legislative committee considering the abolition of the death penalty in Connecticut and its replacement by life in prison without the possibility of parole, along with some common sense comments:

Capital punishment entails a grave and present danger that the innocent will be convicted and executed. There is no evidence of this in Connecticut in the modern period. Only two people have suffered capital punishment in the last half decade: Joseph “Mad Dog” Taborsky and Michael Ross. There is no question that both were guilty; which is to say, both committed the crimes of which they were accused. Mr. Taborsky, executed in 1960 for capital felonies committed in 1950, killed six people and shot, pistol whipped or injured others in a series of particularly henious crimes that became known at the time as “The Mad Dog Killings.” Mr. Ross was executed in 2005 after having been convicted of the rapes and strangulations of several young women. Mr. Ross’ last two victims were 14 years old; he raped and strangled one of the young girls while the other, incapacitated in the back seat of his car, was forced to watch. Then he killed her as well.

Capital punishment is cruel and unusual. That is a matter of public sentiment, which changes according to circumstances. As a general rule, a majority of Connecticut citizens would not agree that the form of capital punishment employed in Connecticut, death by injection, is cruel. It may be argued that capital punishment is “unusual,” if by the term one means rarely employed, or employed only when certain circumstances are met. In the case of the two criminals executed in Connecticut, both were multiple murderers; both were vicious criminals; and both certainly did commit the crimes of which they had been accused.

Capital punishment is not a deterrent. To misquote former President Bill Clinton, it all depends on what one means by “deterrent.” That argument may proceed until doomsday without effective resolution. In crimes of passion, there is some evidence to suggest that capital punishment would not deter people from committing murder. In deliberate crimes, murders are either accidental, in the precise sense of the term, or intentional. In both cases, it may be impossible to measure scientifically the deterrent value of capital punishment, since the person deterred would be a future capital felon. How is one to gather scientific information from people who may or may not in the future commit capitol felonies? The thing is not possible. It seems reasonable to assert that punishment deters, and those who insist it does not are really arguing in favor of the abolition of all forms of punishment, including slapping the hands of children who steal from cookie jars. The most one may reasonably say is that life in prison without parole AND capital punishment both may deter future crimes committed by the person punished, one more effectively than the other, since it is possible for prisoners to commit crimes while in prison, while it is not possible for an expired person to flout the law.

Capital Punishment is a form of vengeance, rather than a form of justice. Those who make this claim ought to be asked to distinguish between acts of vengeance and acts of justice. Some people believe they receive parking tickets because police officers are vengeful; others believe judges impose sentences because judges are vengeful. Generally speaking, most of us may feel a judicial process is not a form of vengeance if it includes: a) a police investigation, b) an arraignment before a judge, c) a trial before a jury, d) the rendering of a verdict after due deliberation, e) sentencing before a judge, f) yet another trial before a jury to determine the whether the capital punishment sentence is appropriate, g) an affirmation of the sentence, occasionally by a different jury, and… appeals as numerous as stars in the celestial vault. In fact, the time distance between original conviction and final disposition in Connecticut is so lengthy that former co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee and criminal justice professor Michael Lawlor advanced the thesis, before he was tapped by Governor Dannel Malloy to serve as undersecretary for criminal justice policy and planning at the Office of Policy and Management, that in the post-Ross period no one in Connecticut found guilty of capital punishment would be so punished unless they, like Mr. Ross, “want to die.” Vengeance, on the other hand, is what happens when a couple of modern day Huns descend on a family, incapacitate the father by tying him up in the basement and beating him with a baseball bat, take the mother to a bank and force her to withdraw money, rape one of the daughters of the family, rape the mother and kill all in the house but the father, who miraculously escapes, by setting fire to the victims in order to cover up the crime. Such deliberately cruel and unusual deeds smack of vengeance, whether directed at the victims or at society through the victims.

Capital punishment is prohibitively expensive. It isn’t.

The capital punishment process takes too severe an emotional toll on the family members of victims to justify its imposition. The emotional toll can be reduced by streamlining the process.

Life in prison without possibility of parole is sufficient punishment for the kinds of crime committed by Ross and the two worthies tried for the Cheshire murders. Assume a scenario more likely than the possibility that someone in Connecticut will be convicted of a capital crime he did not commit -- namely, that a person serving a life sentence without parole manages to commit another capital crime while incarcerated. Under such circumstances, would a life sentence with out parole attached to yet another life sentence without parole be a just punishment?

Capital punishment violates religious proscriptions. This, at least, is a reasonable and perhaps unanswerable argument for the abolition of the death penalty. But in Connecticut we are much in the habit of winking at religious proscriptions, while getting on as best we can with our sinful, imperfect lives.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Freedom of Information and the Public Good

Governor Dannel Malloy, hoping to save some small change, has proposed to fold the Freedom of Information Commission into a new administrative agency that would house the Freedom of Information Commission, the Office of State Ethics, the Elections Enforcement Commission, the Judicial Review Council and the State Contracting Standards Board.

This proposal has run into a buzz saw, particularly as it affects The Freedom of Information Commission.

News publications rely on an independent commission to shine a light on decisions made by various agencies that affect the welfare of the entire state. The possibility of changing decisions that restrict liberty or violate the precepts of justice depends upon a faithful distribution of facts that, in some cases, state agencies hope to thwart.

In most cases, as Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan well knew, secrecy is the enemy of good government, which is why, when the state legislature passed the Freedom of Information bill in 1975, it used in describing its intent heroic language that might easily been borrowed from the founders of the country who left their imprint on both the U.S, Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

In passing the bill creating the FOI commission, Connecticut’s legislature affirmed that it was doing so because it understood:

“ … that secrecy in government is inherently inconsistent with a true democracy, that the people have a right to be fully informed of the action taken by public agencies in order that they may retain control over the instruments they have created; that the people do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them; that the people in delegating authority do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for them to know and that it is the intent of the law that actions taken by public agencies be taken openly and their deliberations be conducted openly and that the record of all public agencies be open to the public except in those instances where a superior public interest requires confidentiality.”
In his book “Secrecy,” Mr. Moynihan acknowledged that there is a need, particularly in foreign affairs and war, for secrecy and deception. Wishing to strike a cautionary note, even in areas in which it is understood that secrecy is necessary, Mr. Moynihan reached back to political analyst, advisor and diplomat George Kennan, the architect of the “containment” policy the United States employed so effectively against the Soviet Union at the end of World War II.

Kennan warned that those employing secrecy and methods of disinformation, even when advisable, should beware of the "the erection of false pretenses and elaborate efforts to deceive… We easily become ourselves, the sufferers from these methods of deception. For they inculcate in their authors, as well as their intended victims, unlimited cynicism, causing them to lose all realistic understanding of the inter-relationship, in what they are doing, of means and ends."

The freedom of information legislation passed by the General Assembly in 1975 makes the people of the state of Connecticut, not governors and administrations of the public’s business, the custodians of its own public records, and by doing so it sets as a watchdog over a future in which politicians are inclined to steal the liberties of the people a public alert to its responsibilities as citizens.

The end of secrecy is to clothe deeds in darkness, which may, when the liberties of the people are in danger from foreign foes, be a necessary evil. But a putatively democratic government that uses these means to clothe in darkness its own deeds, cannot do so without making an enemy of the people whose general interests it is bound to defend and maintain. And by so doing, by erecting false pretenses and elaborate deceptions, they become themselves, as Mr. Kennan and Mr. Moynihan affirmed “sufferers from their own methods of deception.”

It is one thing to fool by deceptions an enemy in war; quite another, through deception and manipulation, to make an enemy of people who in a healthy democracy one claims to represent. The first should be reluctantly tolerated, the second deplored by democrats everywhere and always. And a Freedom of Information Commission the members of which retain their freedom to embarrass governors and administrations by ripping from their false faces a veil of secrecy they employ to advance their own interests is a necessary means of advancing the cause of justice and democracy among us.

Far from eviscerating the means employed by the Freedom of Information Commission to bring to public notice the misdeeds of public figures, the sometimes feeble powers of the commission should be enhanced, according to past FOI commissioner Andy Thibault, who maintains a blog at Cool Justice Report.

In a column published in the Register Citizen, Mr. offers some modest reforms that would make the FOI Commission more effective:

  • “Increase the maximum fine for FOI violations from $1,000 to $10,000 or more.

  • “Ensure that those who violate their oaths of office by suppressing public information and are not acting under the color of law pay the fines themselves.

  • “Require municipalities and state agencies who use taxpayer money to suppress public information to disclose the legal fees they incur on a daily basis.

  • “Stop the Attorney General’s office from automatically representing state agencies that suppress public information. This could result in significant staff reductions.

  • “Conduct a comprehensive statewide audit of all the money wasted by municipalities and state agencies to suppress public information. Hint: The FOI law is a tool for this. Because the governor needs those records to do his job, it wouldn’t cost him any money.

  • “Close loopholes that allow public servants to hide documentation of legal fees they generate, e.g., municipalities or school boards using the cloak of insurance arrangements to hide a virtual welfare state for hack lawyers.

  • “Vigorously enforce subpoenas compelling public officials to appear before the FOI Commission. If necessary, hire some cops from Wisconsin to tackle them.”

For reasons that may seem obvious to anyone who has consistently read this blog, the prohibition on the attorney general’s office is much overdue.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

It's all over


It's all over - any lingering doubts about who would be the Democratic candidate for Senate in 2012 should be resolved by this press release:

Today, Congressman Chris Murphy (CT-5) announced that Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, and State Comptroller Kevin Lembo are endorsing his candidacy for U.S. Senate. These early endorsements come on the heels of Murphy receiving the support of dozens of Democratic leaders from throughout the 5th District, and over 2,000 Democratic and progressive activists from across the state.

“I enthusiastically endorse Chris Murphy’s candidacy for the United States Senate. As a Congressman and, before that, as a State Senator, Chris is and has always been a tireless advocate for the citizens of Connecticut. He is a proven leader on numerous issues, including banning smoking in the workplace to protect the health of our citizens and strengthening Buy American laws to grow jobs domestically. I am confident that Chris will be a strong voice in the US Senate and will continue to fight for the citizens of Connecticut and for the principles that have made America great,” said Attorney General George Jepsen.

"I am so proud to stand with my colleagues in support of Chris Murphy's bid to become Connecticut's next U.S. Senator," said Secretary of the State Denise Merrill. "From the moment I met Chris in his first days as a state representative, I was instantly impressed by his sharp intellect, his work ethic, and his courage. Chris has never shied away from the tough fights, like taking on the pharmaceutical industry to make sure working families and seniors had access to affordable prescription drugs. Chris is a visionary and he has done a stellar job representing the 5th Congressional District. I look forward to electing Chris Murphy to the Senate, because all of our state will surely benefit from his leadership."

"I'm proud to stand in support of Chris' candidacy for the U.S. Senate. Connecticut needs and deserves a Senator who is a problem solver - someone who knows how to make the wheels of Washington turn for the benefit of Connecticut residents. A dedicated public servant who has demonstrated a willingness to fight for the people of the 5th Congressional District, Chris brings new and innovative ideas to support the hopes and aspirations of working families. I've worked closely with Chris on issues of health care, workforce development, and consumer protection, and I look forward to continuing that work when he is elected as our next U.S. Senator," said Lembo.

“George, Denise and Kevin are incredible public servants for our state, and I’m so honored to have their support this early in the campaign. They are part of a growing coalition that will seamlessly stretch from the top leadership of our party down to the indespensible grassroots. As all three just won statewide office, I couldn't imagine a better team to lean on for guidance as I continue to introduce myself to people across Connecticut,” said Murphy.

Meanwhile Susan B. has sent out a list of 125 endorsers, almost all from her neck of the woods, and the most prominent being 4 DTC chairs and 2 state representatives. I'd give you a link, but the list doesn't appear on her website. In fact, almost nothing does appear there.

Is Malloy Bullying Or Merely Posturing?


Does it make a difference really which one it is?

Jon Pelto points out the absurdity of Governor Malloy's dependence on an extra billiion dollars a year in state employee give-backs to balance his proposed budget:

Governor Malloy’s entire budget is based on state employees agreeing to make $2 billion dollars in wage and benefit concessions.

Anyone familiar with Connecticut’s state budget knows it is a number that literally cannot be achieved and the Governor purposely put out a number that is designed to fail.

Disguised as shared sacrifice, the Governor’s proposal is scapegoating of the worst kind since he has repeatedly connected his demands to the state employees with the warning that if the state employees fail to provide $1 billion in annual savings, he will be forced to shred the safety net and lay-off thousands of employees at a time the unemployment rate makes it clear that many of those laid off will not be able to find jobs.

Malloy has been very clear. If state employees don’t come up with a billion dollars in concessions - this year - the most vulnerable and needy people among us will be hurt and the fault will lie squarely with the state employees and no one else.

Even today, as the Malloy Administration and the state employee unions prepare to officially sit down for the first time, Malloy’s chief political advisor said that the “governor hopes and expects the talks to be productive and will produce the money that's necessary to help balance the budget."

The money necessary to balance the budget?

The facts could not be clearer.

Take away any and all pay raises for state employees. Institute a dozen furlough days to cut their pay by 5 percent, blow their healthcare co-pays and deductions through the roof and the budget savings comes to about $388 million next year.

Cut pay by 10% and you still don’t top $500 million in savings – far, far short of the $1 billion Malloy says he must have this year, yet alone the other $1 billion next year.

I like to believe that Malloy doesn't really mean any of this - he's just posturing for public consumption and will say, look, I tried, but we really do have to raise taxes more (on the rich!)

Jon takes a more negative view:

Saying that his budget is balanced when he knows it is not and then setting up Connecticut’s state employees to take the fall is more than a gimmick, it is nothing short of a mean-spirited form of bullying...setting up Connecticut’s state employees to become public enemy #1.

Not My Kind of Democrat


From Jim Himes' Congressional Office:

Himes Highlighted as Centrist Legislator by National Journal

Mar 1 2011

In a ranking released this week of most conservative to most liberal Members of Congress, National Journal placed Representative Jim Himes (CT-4) among the 50 most centrist legislators in the U.S. House of Representatives. An accompanying article describes 2010 as “more polarized last year than in any other year since the rankings began.” Despite this partisan environment, Himes maintained an independent voting record that reflects the nature of Connecticut’s Fourth Congressional District.

Key Facts:
• Himes’ composite score is listed as 46% Conservative, 54% Liberal.
• Rankings were compiled from 93 key votes in 2010.