Wednesday, September 28, 2011

McMahon’s Second Throw Of The Dice

Linda McMahon having thrown her hat once again into the political ring, the question arises: What are her chances? Mrs. McMahon will run for Senator Joe Lieberman’s soon to be vacant seat in the U.S. Congress.

On the left, the media once again is preparing to draw their long knives from their scabbards. Mrs. McMahon’s background as CEO of World Wide Wrestling, since renamed World Wide Entertainment (WWE), has freed much of the left of the necessity of thinking seriously about her positions, such as they are and will be, on important issues of the day. In lieu of reasoned criticism, Video clips of Man Mountain Indian wrestler Dalip Singh Rana hoisting a victim over his shoulders and slamming him to the mat may be deployed against her, as was the case in her last campaign.

The cast of characters this time around will be different: Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has moved up in the world into the U.S. Senate. He was a formidable opponent for a number of reasons. The Attorney General’s reputation as the St. George of Connecticut politics was difficult for any Republican candidate to overcome. His popularity, larger in Connecticut and more expansive than that of Dalip Singh Rana, much of which was self-generated in a twenty year series of seemingly endless, self-absorbed press releases, tends to clot the analytical synapses of voters’ brains. Going in, Mr. Blumenthal, trailing behind himself a cloud of military murk, enjoyed what turned out to be an insuperable advantage. Mr. Blumenthal lied, several times, concerning his service in the military. He said he had served in Vietnam when he had not and was called out by the New York Times and others. The imposture did him no good, but Mr. Blumenthal squirreled himself away from media stalkers and survived the ordeal un-decapitated. When as a newly minted senator Mr. Blumenthal applied for a position on a committee overseeing veterans, none of his comrades in the congress so much as blinked.

But Mr. Blumenthal is, as is said in the Icelandic sagas, “now out of the story.” And whatever may be said of Democrats vying for Lieberman’s seat, neither U.S. Rep Chris Murphy or his likely primary opponents are Mr. Blumenthal, including former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, whose rubberized reputation easily rebounds from blows that would shatter Mr. Dalip Singh Rana.

The 2012 campaign script is likely to be different as well.

President Barack Obama, the lodestone of the last presidential election, has, according to polls even in bluer than blue Connecticut, fallen out of favor. Mr. Obama’s positives have crashed along with the economy, and no one in Connecticut expects the economy to improve any time soon. The state was ten years recovering from the post-Lowell Weicker recession. The Obama recession will be deeper, longer and more intractable. As jobs go, so goes the presidency. Some so called “moderate” Democrats in the congressional delegation have put a three foot pole between themselves and their Democratic leader; as the economy continues to go sour, the pole, like Pinocchio’s nose, will elongate.

There are differences of strategy between Republicans and Democrats that easily could be exploited by Mrs. McMahon.

Democrats, as a general rule, are concerned with creating jobs, preferably stamped “made in Washington,” for they are not interested in fostering for example energy jobs tied to non-green producers they wish to discredit. Republicans generally busy themselves with increasing prosperity – not the same thing -- and continued prosperity depends to a large extent on an interrupted supply of developed and available energy products. Democrats want to regulate everything but government. Republicans are interested in regulating and reducing targeted rather than general governmental regulations they perceive as binding down a no longer competitive bound Gulliver, the private economy. Democratic programs of a “made in Washington” variety privatize the rewards of companies too big to fail, while at the same time socializing debt, which is assumed by taxpayers. Taxpayers thus bear the costs incurred by failed “too big to fail” companies, while earned profits, including taxpayer subsidies, are parceled out to failed CEOs and somnolent boards of directors.

In the next election, Republicans will be attempting to convert the above paragraph to an easily digestible bumper sticker?

The McMahon campaign must discover some means of corralling women’s votes. Mrs. McMahon very easily could surprise those in the legacy media who suppose her upcoming campaign will be a reprise of her previous losing battle by, for instance, unreeling three or four major speeches on topics of general interest that will satisfy the media’s lust for intellectual probity, not considered to be her strong suit. Those who know Mrs. McMahon well know she is a very quick study passionately committed to certain conservative propositions that just might surprise the state’s blue media. The bump on her – that there is no political there there – is a wildly exaggerated piece of Democratic campaign propaganda.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Governor Of Unions?

Governor Dannel Malloy banged the knuckles of some state unions when SEBAC, a coalition of union leaders, failed to pass what he called “Plan A,” a budget that some legislators friendly to unions thought was inordinately friendly to unions. Sen. Edith Prague, long a supporter of union interests, said at the time she thought union members who had voted down Plan A were mad to have spurned a plan so favorable to their interests.

The governor had concocted at the same time a default Plan B that simply was not a serious contractual proposal; Plan B was designed to bludgeon recalcitrant union members into voting for Plan A. Union leaders, at the behest of the governor, then unilaterally redrafted union rules so as to facilitate a favorable vote on a slightly readjusted Plan A. The intimidation, along with the compliance of union leaders, worked, and Plan A2 finally was adopted by unions months after the General Assembly, dominated by Democrats, had voted to pass Plan A.

There was some grumbling at the time among a few legislators conversant with the separation of power doctrine: They wondered whether, having voted to accept a budget that would in the near future be subject to alterations imposed on it by unions and the governor, they had in essence surrendered their constitutional obligations to an undemocratic plenipotentiary process. But their scruples were not inhibiting, and in due course a budget, thought by some to be out of balance even now, finally was set in concrete. Apparently, constitutional scruples in the constitution state are more easily disposed of now that the state has become a one party operation.

In mid-September, addressing the AFL-CIO annual convention at Foxwoods Casino Mr. Malloy sought to quell fears that the governor’s lifelong affection for unions hadf suffered a rupture. Previously, Mr. Malloy had been making cooing sounds in the direction of Connecticut’s larger business and awarding carefully selected firms millions of dollars as a part of his First Five Plan.

At the event, Mr. Malloy was praised by executive director of AFSCME Council 4 Sal Luciano for being one of the few governors in the nation that had decided to raise taxes to balance his budget. Mr. Luciano thought much of the anger over the concession agreement between unions and the governor could be traced to poor communications and pronounced himself pleased that the pro-union governor had not declared war on labor: “It’s the first time in a long time we’ve had a governor that hasn’t actively declared war on the labor movement.”

The governor was bathed in warm applause when, contrasting himself with other more brutal governors, he said the final agreement between unions and the executive office was a necessary linchpin “to making sure we did not have to take apart our higher educational system. That was a lynchpin to making sure we didn’t have to cut aid to every municipality in the state.”

Mr. Malloy “delivered” to unions recently by issuing an executive order that will pave the way for the unionization of day care workers and personal care attendants. The order, some queasy legislators say, violates an explicit separation of legislative and executive powers and may be Mr. Malloy’s way of further soothing union restiveness.

Following his soothing address before AFSCME, Mr. Malloy hopped down to Greenwich to assure hedge fund managers he was not, as they might have supposed wrongly from his address to AFSCME, antagonistic towards the captains of industry and Wall Street. The hedgies fear excessive regulation, and the governor showed up to soften their angst.

“There is too much regulation and decisions are made far too slowly,” the governor told the group in his keynote address at the Connecticut Hedge Fund Association’s Global Alpha Forum. “Let me very clear I’m not interested in more regulation. I’m trying to streamline regulation. We know the old adage that time is money… we need to move more rapidly and responsively.”

One newspaper noted that “In a further assurance to an industry that an audience member termed the state’s ‘crown jewel,’ Malloy said that he is not in favor of moving to regulate beyond federal policy.”

The governor gave no indication that he would be willing to work with Connecticut’s wall-to-wall Democratic congressional delegation to lop off the Dodd-Frank bill some regulatory hydra heads. Nor has he been asked by the legacy media whether he intends to lobby other Democrats in the U.S. Congress to pare back onerous federal regulations on behalf of his new hedgie friends. The locution – “Let me very clear I’m not interested in more…” – was last used by the governor in multiple pre-campaign speeches with reference to tax increases. As it turned out, Mr. Malloy was not unfriendly to new taxes.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Will Lieberman’s Endorsement Of Shays Matter?

An endorsement by current U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman in the race for the senate seat he will vacate when his term expires just might, unlike the usual light-as-air endorsements of has-been politicians, carry some weight.

Mr. Lieberman is loathed by Democratic leftists in Connecticut. Hell hath no fury like that of a progressive scorned.

Progressive radicals, feeling their oats, were prepared to rejoice heartily and even strew a few rose petals at the senator’s feet had he yielded to them following the Lieberman-Lamont primary, which was won by progressive heartthrob Ned Lamont. Mr. Lieberman, however, was not prepared to go quietly into that good night of whipped politicians; and so, having lost the primary, he challenged Mr. Lamont in a three way general election – and won.

This was not the way to win friends and influence Connecticut progressives. If the progressive movement in Connecticut had an imam in it, a political fatwa would have been urged against Mr. Lieberman by progressives such as former Lamont campaign director Tom Swan, the head of the far left Connecticut Citizens Action Group (CCAG).

Mr. Lieberman’s political activity in the senate following his general election defeat of Mr. Lamont has only enraged the progressives further. While Mr. Lieberman, a professed Independent, has caucused with Democrats in the Senate, he has, on some issues of importance to progressives -- war and peace, for example -- gone his own way. Mr. Lieberman’s primary loss to Mr. Lamont , the senator claimed, liberated him to be his own man. In this, he has followed in the wake of another party-independent, former senator and governor, no-man-but-yours Lowell Weicker, infamous for using his party as a foil to advance his own political interests.

Now comes what may be Mr. Lieberman’s final bow-out blow – a possible endorsement of Republican Chris Shays for Mr. Lieberman’s’ soon to be open seat. According to a recent report in “The Hill,” Mr. Shays, who has announced he intends to challenge in a Republican primary former WWE CEO Linda McMahon, is a longtime friend and colleague of Mr. Lieberman.

Mr. Lieberman does carry some weight in what used to be called moderate wing of the Democratic Party, but in recent years that wing has been clipped by lean and hungry progressives, even as the moderate wing of the Republican Party has moved rightward. The political gap between Republicans and Democrats over the past couple of decades has not become deeper or wider; but as bridges continue to be burned, the gap becomes more and more unbridgeable. Friendly gestures across the political aisle are now considered treacherous displays of near treason by those in warring camps with knives in their brains. The vital center now has been cleft in two. There are two moderate centers, a remnant in New England within the Republican Party and a Southern moderate faction within the Democratic Party.

Mr. Shays is part of New England’s nearly vanished moderate Republican nub, and though he has said his eyes are fixed on the general election prize, he must get over the hump of a primary to compete in a general election. A world has changed since Mr. Shays last strutted his moderation in the U.S. House of Representatives. Losing a race to present U.S. Rep. Jim Himes in 2008, Mr. Shays, who following his defeat left Connecticut for points south, became the last Republican moderate in New England, the first time in almost 150 years that no Republican represented the New England states in the nation’s capital.

Some have accused Mr. Shays of being a carpetbagger, a foolish claim easily disposed of. The real sticking point is that, the political vectors having changed radically since Mr. Shays left the congress, time may have made of moderation a pointless exercise in futility.

Where is the point where a moderate may safely stand as Connecticut and the union both totter towards a Grecian denouement?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Greenberg Calls Upon Donovan To Quit Redistricting Committee

Mark Greenberg, a Republican running for the House in the 5th District, has called upon Chis Donovan, the Democratic Speaker of the state House running for the same seat, to step down from the redistricting commission that will recommend new borders for Connecticut’s five U.S. House of Representative districts.
The committee is split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, and Mr. Donovan is the only member of the commission who will be seeking higher office.

Other members of the commission are:

Senator Martin Looney, (D, 11th District)
Representative Sandy Nafis, (D, Newington)
Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams, (D, 29th District)
Minority Leader Representative Lawrence Cafero, (R, 142nd District)
Senator Len Fasano, (R, 34th District)
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, (R, 28th District)
Representative Arthur O'Neill, (R, 69th District)

“Chris Donovan,” Mr. Greenberg noted in a press release, “is a declared candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 5th District and his participation on the redistricting commission is as blatant a conflict of interest as I have ever seen. In fact, I’m surprised that Chris does not see this for himself.

“A declared candidate sitting on the panel that is recommending new district boundaries gives the absolute worst appearance. Our elected officials must be committed to transparent and open government. By not stepping down, Chris Donovan is engaging in the same old back-room politics and seeking an unfair political advantage. If he refuses to step down, I believe Connecticut voters will see right through his true motives.”

Perhaps. But the true motives of any legislative mover in the General Assembly are hardly transparent. Mr. Donovan – the Speaker of the State House, a position comparable in influence to President of the Senate Don Williams, both of whom steer the business of the General Assembly – is hardly an equal among equals.

In the political barnyard, George Orwell noted in his novel “Animal Farm,” everyone is equal; but the pigs are more equal. Both the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House wield more influence than any other legislative members of the Gerrymander Commission.

So inordinate is Donovan's influence in the General Assembly that at times the Speaker has overturned the gubernatorial ambitions of both Republicans and Democrats. Last June, when SEBAC and Governor Dannel Malloy were pulling budgetary taffy, the coalition of state unions having rejected the governor’s Plan A, Mr. Malloy wanted the General Assembly (read: Mr. Donovan and Mr. Williams) to pass a bill that would calculate pension payouts without including overtime pay.

The bill passed in the Senate but met grief in the House when Mr. Donovan, long a step-and-fetch-it for unions, refused to bring it up for a vote.

Much later, after Mr. Malloy touched SEBAC with his cattle prod, forcing union leaders to accede to PlanA2, the governor was asked by Hartford Courant reporter Jon Lender what should happen now with the bill in the House.
While the SEBAC-Malloy-Donovan-Williams boosted from three to five years the pension calculation method employed for new employees hired since July, tens of thousands of employees were untouched by the more severe pension calculations – until 2022, ten years down the road.

Never mind, said Mr. Malloy, overtime in the future would be reduced through better management practices. Mr. Donovan, now running for the U.S. House in the Connecticut’s 5th District, no doubt appreciated Mr. Malloy’s accommodation. Mr. Donovan will need union support to give him an edge over his competitors in the upcoming election.

The now infamous Gerrymander – a district so shaped by influential politicians to give them an advantage they might not otherwise enjoy in a (small “d”) democratic election – was named after governor of Massachusetts Elbridge Gerry, who signed a bill that redrew state election districts, one of which was so distorted that it resembled in outline a salamander.

The Gerrymander Commission should not permit Mr. Donovan, the largest and most influential pig in the legislative barnyard, to shape a district he hopes to claim in a democratic election. Mr. Donovan is the only legislative member in the above list currently running in a U.S, Senate district that may change as a result of his participation in the committee over which he will wield, by virtue of his position as House leader, an inordinate influence.

Mr. Donovan should withdraw from the commission. Failing that, he should be booted out for the following reason: The Speaker’s participation will forever taint a process that should be non-partisan, fair and un-piggy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Blumenthal’s Two Faces

A newspaper has noted in an editorial rough-up of U.S. Senator Dick Blumenthal that energy costs in Connecticut are among the highest in the nation, owing in part to the former attorney general’s itchy trigger finger.

As an AG with attitude, Mr. Blumenthal, who even now understands little about how the free market works, very quickly intervened in a host of self-serving situations to prevent an increase in the supply of widely available energy products.

The easiest, quickest and most rational way to reduce the cost of a product is to increase its supply. When we have a surfeit of oranges or gas or any other consumable product, the price of the product is reduced and the consumer benefits from the abundant supply because his monthly costs are correspondingly reduced, which means he has more money to spend on products that may disappoint some politicians such as Mr. Blumenthal – say, gas guzzling cars or wine, women and song – but the trickling down to consumers of abundant low cost products is what keeps the country humming along.

When, during his successful run for the U.S. Senate, Mr. Blumenthal’s Republican opponent asked the attorney general to explain how a job was created, the poor thing stumbled like a doe with its hoof caught in a snare through a tortuous and wrongheaded explanation. He hobbled along on his shattered foot as best he could, but his answer suggested that all the good and acceptable products would in the future be stamped “made in Washington D.C.”

As attorney general, Mr. Blumenthal’s quarrel with Connecticut’s energy suppliers centered upon the energy product itself; even now he regards some energy products – nuclear, oil derivatives and other affordable resources frowned upon by radical neo-pagan Greens – as the devil’s paw, toxic to Mother Earth and less friendly than, say, bird slaughtering wind turbines and other futuristic unaffordable and undeveloped energy sources.

If Mr. Blumenthal “was responsible for anything,” the paper observed, “it was choking off supply while demand was increasing, and that meant rising rates for families and businesses. Indeed, while he was attorney general, inflation-adjusted electric rates in the state rose almost six times faster than the national average.”

Now that Mr. Blumenthal has moved from the attorney general’s office to the U.S. Senate, he is finding it difficult to leave behind his old public persona. Old habits die hard. The new face Mr. Blumenthal will unveil as he progresses up the Beltway ladder -- a senator “who is willing to work hard for Connecticut” -- is yet in its fetal stage. The new mask is not yet in place on either of Mr. Blumenthal’s faces.

And so, when Connecticut Light and Power (CL&P) intimated it might raise rates to cover losses from the recent tropical storm, an unforgiving and relentless Mr. Blumenthal dashed off one of his attorney general philippics denouncing the energy supplier.

Sure, the hurricane -- downgraded in Connecticut to a tropical storm – resulted in unusual expenditures. But now, when some householders in the state were suffering from the battering, was no time to recover costs by raising prices. Mr. Blumenthal did not in his letter suggest a more convenient time.

Mr. Blumenthal was troubled, very troubled, by a suggestion made in a state-wide newspaper that CL&P “will be considering steps to recoup financial losses from this storm by raising utility rates on the very customers who have been left without power. This suggestion for raising rates is unacceptable. I urge CL&P to immediately and publicly disavow and abandon this idea and assure the people of Connecticut that they will not be forced to bear this additional burden.”

There was no immediate disavowal forthcoming and, had Mr. Blumenthal retained his options as attorney general, his profound disappointment would have been accompanied by a threat to sue the toxic producing energy suppliers, thus reducing their obscene profit margin, thus forcing CL&P to maintain costs through attrition – worker reduction, a reliance on out of state staff and resources, annoying expedients that make it less possible for energy suppliers to respond with alacrity to occasional tropical storms that race through the state like media hungry politicians who leave in their wake shattered economies and businesses too big to fail that ultimately must be rescued by frequent transfusions of taxpayer’s blood.

And so the merry dance goes on and on, benefiting lawyers who live in regulatory webs like spiders, politicians on the make, and sundry other public nuisances – but not those consumers who ultimately bear the costs of political excess.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Shays Promises Slugfest

In a brief interview with Hartford Courant writer Rick Green, former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays has given an indication that he will pull no punches in his likely Republican Party primary with Linda McMahon.

Mr. Shays told Mr. Green that Mrs. McMahon’s record as a former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) will be an issue in his campaign.

"Her record and her conduct,” Mr. Shays said, “are an important part of the process. Everything that she's done is going to be an important part of the campaign. I'm not going to take punches. I'm not a Quaker."

Mr. Green writes that Mr. Shays “also promised to stick to his moderate Republican roots. ‘I'm not going to try to win the primary and lose the general election.’"

A possible battle between Mr. Shays and Mrs. McMahon is certain – provided Mr. Shays sticks to his script – to have a “déjà vu all over again” flavor to it, Mr. Shays serving as a double for former Rep. Rob Simmons, who lost to Mrs. McMahon in a Republican Primary and was rather peevish about his loss.

Both Mr. Simmons and Mr. Shays were “moderate” Republicans, each of whom lost to fairly moderate Democratic contenders. Mr. Shays had the distinction of being the last moderate Republican congressman in New England, the breed having died out with him.

Mr. Shays is not quite ready for a re-run. The former congressman left Connecticut for parts South after his loss and may have a little boning up to do on national issues before he takes a hammer to Mrs. McMahon’s likely run for office.

In the meantime, Mr. Shay’s Democratic opponents also will outfit themselves with brass knuckles. On the Democratic side, present U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy and former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz will be struggling for an opportunity to meet the winner of the Republican Primary on the field of battle, and neither Democratic candidate is a Quaker.

Mr. Murphy, who defeated long term U.S. Rep Nancy Johnson, also regarded as a moderate Republican, is on his way to becoming a perpetual politician. His very first job in politics was as an intern to U.S. Senator Chris Dodd, now a Hollywood mogul; he managed Charlotte Koskoff’s near upset campaign against Mrs. Johnson, and also worked for a couple of years in the late 90’s for then State Senate Majority Leader George Jepsen, now Connecticut’s Attorney General. Mr. Murphy’s work record is unblemished by any connection with the real world economy. Mrs. Bysiewicz recent political background needs no introduction, beyond noting that comparisons have been made between her and Lady Macbeth. Neither of the two Democrats are inept in exploiting the logs in the eyes of their Republican opponents, and both would be delighted to see blood on the Republican Party primary floor.

Mr. Shays’ record in office is not without blemish. One may expect Democratic operatives to make much ado about Mr. Shays’ former felonious campaign manager, Michael Sohn, who absconded with more than $250,000 in money filched from Mr. Shays’ 2008 campaign against present Rep. Jim Himes, widely regarded as more moderate than, say, the tempestuous John Larson, a U.S. 1st District Rep who will be replaced by a Republican moments after Hell freezes over.

It is not precisely accurate to say that Mr. Sohn took money from Mr. Shays. The ten most generous donors in the 2008 campaign were individuals and PACs associated with large financial firms, and the money was stolen from them. Mr. Sohn may have been, at least in sprit, a larval Democrat in supposing that the ill-gotten gains of the super-rich were in some sense his due.

There is a delicate irony associated with Mr. Shays’ troubles that is not likely to be noticed by thuggish roustabouts in both the Republican and Democratic Parties who are interested in bruising Mrs. McMahon because of her unsavory association with wrestlers or Mr. Shays because of his fatal inattention to the felonious Mr. Sohn.

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP), a group whose mission it is to promote and defend citizens' First Amendment political rights of speech, assembly, and petition, noting that Shays had for well over a decade “fought tirelessly to enact greater restrictions on campaign speech, finally succeeding with the passage of the Shays-Meehan (or "McCain-Feingold") bill in 2002,” observed, following Mr. Sohn’s arrest, “…it is ironic that the Shays campaign may now face added penalties from the Federal Election Commission. It seems a bit absurd, but that's how it works when campaigns are victims of embezzlement - the embezzler is usually someone with the ability to alter campaign finance reports in order to cover his tracks, so as a result the campaign files false reports with the FEC.”

Noting that corruption inheres in corrupt individuals, CCP wondered whether Mr. Shays ever would be forced to face “the cruelest moment of all - will Mr. Sohn's actions force Mr. Shays to realize that he spent much of his political career attempting to restrict the speech of his fellow private citizens, without accomplishing much of anything having to do with public corruption?”

It is a point not likely to be pressed by Mr. Shays’ possible Democratic opponents, some of whom look upon campaign finance reform as the holy grail of politics. But there are vigorous Constitutional proponents around every corner in the Republican Party barracks for whom Mr. Shays’ ardent support of McCain-Feingold – the campaign finance bill that was supposed to eliminate corruption – remains a red flag waved before a bull’s nose. And these folks, talking a page from Barry Goldwater’s adage that moderation in the pursuit of liberty may be a vice, are not Quakers.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

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Friday, September 2, 2011

The Skeletons In Blumenthal’s Closet

Very quietly – much too quietly – Attorney General George Jepsen has closed “513 of the 699 whistleblower cases he inherited from his predecessor, former Attorney general Richard Blumenthal, according to a storycirculated by The Associated Press (AP) and published in the Washington Post.

During his campaign for Attorney General, Mr. Jepsen was pressed by Republican candidate for attorney general Martha Dean quickly dispose of cases handled by Mr. Blumenthal during his 20 year tenure. Mrs. Dean ran for attorney general twice, once against the popular Mr. Blumenthal in 2002 and again in 2010. In the course of the Jepsen-Dean debates, Mr. Jepsen seemed particularly sensitive to delays in resolving such cases, and Mrs. Dean was insistent that, should she be selected as attorney general, she would immediately institute a review of Mr. Blumenthal’s crippling backlog and close cases that never should have been prosecuted, tendering apologies to those of Mr. Blumenthal’s litigation victims who were left for years to hang on hooks in the attorney general’s own private torture chambers. A good many of Mr. Blumenthal’s suits against persons and companies were left unresolved after more than four years of litigation.

In virtually all his prosecutions, Mr. Blumenthal sent out press releases to most, if not all, Connecticut media outlets. The recipient of one of Mr. Blumenthal’s press releases dutifully would advertise the prosecution, occasionally printing the releases almost verbatim, as well as subsequent releases relating to the case at most stages of a long and tortuous litigation process. National outlets were also inundated with media releases that, we now discover, were unnecessarily destructive to 513 of Mr. Blumenthal’s targets.
Unfortunately, not as many news outlets as have printed press releases relating to the cases closed by Mr. Jepsen will print follow up stories concerning the vindication of the victims of Mr. Blumenthal’s unnecessary prosecutions.

Mr. Jepsen, who told the AP in an interview that many of the probes he dismissed “lacked merit,” is to be congratulated for having acted so expeditiously in his review. The number of cases dismissed in which “something meaningfully wrong is going on,” Mr. Jepsen told the AP, was small.

Matt O’Connor of SEBAC, a coalition of state employee unions, remarked that he could not recall “such a large number of whistleblower cases being closed. But because allegations of fraud or shoddy work by government agencies and contractors are protected from public release, he said there’s no way to know why Jepsen acted.”

Jepsen said he terminated several probes of companies and organizations, according to the AP report, “because he and the companies settled the dispute ‘or it may be that there’s not very much there.’”

Mr. Jepsen warned that public officials should tread carefully in those cases in which the regulation of business and job creation was at stake and invited a comparison between himself and Mr. Blumenthal. He said of himself, “I’m a pretty low-key person. I like to see all sides of an issue before I jump in. My background academically and professionally and politically is non-confrontational. We do plenty of litigation here but I just generally view litigation ought to be as a last resort.”
Jepsen noted that he “has been a political ally of Blumenthal’s for decades, even working as an intern for Blumenthal in 1979, and that any contrast between the two is ‘really more my own style and background’than it is about policy differences,” according to the AP report.

Mr. Blumenthal responded to the implied charges of incompetence in the AOP story with a mixture of injured innocence and chutzpah.

Refusing to comment decision made by his successor, Mr. Blumenthal said he kept cases open even though they were not active because, according to the AOP story, “important information could always develop later. He said he had no knowledge of which cases were closed and declined to comment on differences between his and Jepsen’s approaches to the job.”

Mr. Blumenthal -- who used his accomplishments as attorney general as a springboard to higher office as a Democratic U.S. Senator – told the AP “I would say very emphatically my record speaks for itself, for my aggressive and proactive approach to law enforcement to protect business people, consumers, all the people of Connecticut.”

The AP, the recipient of thousands of Blumenthal press releases over the years, noted in its story that Mr. Jepsen’s approach “is a marked contrast to Blumenthal, who was elected to the U.S. Senate last year after 20 years as attorney general. Blumenthal sued numerous companies over allegations of consumer rip-offs, illegal dumping and violations of workers’ rights in the name of agencies such as the Department of Consumer Protection and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.”

At some point – one hopes against hope – Mr. Jepsen will post on the attorney general’s website a list of the 315 cases Mr. Blumenthal improperly prosecuted as attorney general by case name and docket number so that journalists in the state may review then in the light of Mr. Jepsen’s review and dismissals.

In connection with one case settled after much litigation, Connecticut Commentary noted that Mr. Blumenthal had been much in the habit of hanging his victims on litigation hooks for long periods of time, during which they became progressively poorer as their reputation were battered by Mr. Blumenthal’s artfully worded press releases. Those who relied on Mr. Blumenthal’s many releases, one likes to think, have some obligation in restoring the reputation and public standing of those who – in 513 of the 699 whistleblower cases Mr. Blumenthal litigated – were innocent as charged. A legislative review of the cases dismissed by Mr. Jepsen, with a view to establishing a less personalized method of prosecuting cases in the attorney general's office, would not be out of order.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Quantifying Media Bias

It is often said, mostly by conservatives, that the main stream media is biased in a liberal direction. Over the years, some studies confirming bias have drifted in: Slate magazine, for instance, polled its writers and discovered – big surprise! – that about 90 percent of the lads and ladies identified themselves as liberal. A similar poll among the writers at, say, National Review likely would show a like degree of bias in a conservative direction. But these are not hard news sites.

Some time ago, a more “scientific” study was done in connection with major news outlets, and again – big surprise! – the pollsters discovered that a preponderance of mainstream news writers were liberal. The authors of that study may or may not have been surprised to discover the Wall Street Journal’s news pages -- not its commentary pages, which are widely recognized as conservative – rate, according to a study done by Tim Groseclose, as the most liberal in the nation.

Until Mr. Groseclose, then a professor of political science and economics at UCLA and Jeffrey Milyo, then a public policy professor at the University of Chicago and now holder of an endowed chair in social sciences at the University of Missouri, first published in 2005 a scientific study of media bias in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, a Harvard University publication widely regarded in academia as one of the four top scholarly economic journals on in the country, there was no reliable scientific methodology to quantify bias in news outlets.

Having first produced a method that allowed a rigorous quantitative analysis, the two discovered that most major American news outlets, which included newspapers such as the Washington Post and the New York Times, newsweeklies such as Time and Newsweek, newsweekly television shows such as CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News, and Internet sites such as – big surprise! -- the Drudge Report contained a sharp liberal bias.

After assigning an ADA-based number to the members of the House and Senate, Groseclose and Milyo then examined the frequency with which individual members of Congress, in bolstering their floor and committee arguments, cited the research of various think tanks and advocacy groups around Washington and elsewhere—organizations such as the Heritage Foundation and the Brookings Institution. By combining the frequency numbers with the PQs of the members of Congress, Groseclose and Milyo were able to assign PQs to the top 50 cited think tanks themselves—a far more objective way, in their thinking, to assign an ideological perspective to a think tank than simply to assume, for example, that the Heritage Foundation is conservative and the Sierra Club is liberal.

In a third step, Groseclose and Milyo quantified the frequency with which stories by reporters for various news outlets cited research and quoted spokesmen from those same think tanks as they fleshed out the facts that they reported. That enabled the two to calculate the outlets’ slant quotient, or SQ. As Groseclose and Milyo pointed out (and as Groseclose reiterates in Left Turn), the news stories themselves were seldom false or inaccurate. There was almost never anything intentionally dishonest about the reporting. It was just that the reporters presented their stories in a way that reflected, probably unconsciously, the reporters’ liberal ideological leanings. They used material from liberal think tanks and advocacy groups far more frequently than material from the tanks’ conservative opposite numbers. They highlighted or omitted facts as their personal political predilections dictated, even though their stories, in an effort to maintain journalistic impartiality, might contain a quotation or two from spokesmen for the conservative side.

In a review of Mr. Groseclose’s new book, “Left Turn,” Charlot Adams reports in the Weekly Standard:

“The range of SQs that Groseclose and Milyo calculated was shocking. The most liberally biased news outlet proved to be the Wall Street Journal (its news pages, that is, not its conservative editorial and opinion pages). The WSJ turned out to have the slant quotient of the average Democrat, about 85, only a few points below the 89.2 PQ of the late Ted Kennedy. Of the rest of the mainstream media, only Fox News (with an SQ of about 42) and the Washington Times (with an SQ of about 40) registered below the midpoint—and both outlets are way more liberal in their reporting than the average Republican, whose PQ is less than 20. The Drudge Report, although regarded as troglodytic by progressives, has an SQ of around 50—that is, its reporting is about as centrist as the average American voter these days.”

Matt Drudge, centrist – who woulda thunk it?