Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Malloy And Crony Capitalist Stimulation

TicketNetwork President Donald Vaccaro got himself into a bit of a pickle at Real Art Ways in Hartford. Excessive stimulation along with a bout of bad manners – the two sometimes hang out together – may have been at the root of Mr. Vaccaro’s undoing.

“Vaccaro, 49, allegedly groped women at an Academy Awards charity event in Hartford,” The Day of New London notes.” The women were apparently not impressed with his well-lubricated ‘charm.’ When he reportedly grabbed one woman around her breasts, a bouncer intervened. Mr. Vaccaro proceeded to dismiss him as a ‘black mother-(insert obvious expletive),’ according to police accounts. They arrested the ticket mogul on various charges, including for a hate crime.”

After his arrest, Mr. Vaccaro’s world melted very quickly. It was remarked in several newspapers that this latest grope was not his first and that once he sued someone for having referred to his business as “ticket scalping.”

Ticket scalpers, as everyone knows, do not receive millions of tax dollars from Governor Dannel Malloy’s “First Five” program, a crony capitalist political venture that dispenses money awards to three kinds of businesses: successful companies that do not need the funds to support their operations; capital poor businesses that may need a hand-up from taxpayers to support operations unfunded by investors; and bribable companies that will accept millions in tax revenue in return for providing, as was the case with TicketNetwork, employment opportunities that cost the state about $7.75 million.

The governor’s office announced in mid-July:

“In consideration of the company’s $15.35 million investment in its facility and commitment to retain 292 jobs and create an additional 200-600 full-time jobs in Connecticut, TicketNetwork will receive up to $7.75 million in state assistance:

“A 10-year, $4.5 million loan from the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) for the purchase of equipment, furniture and fixtures, building acquisition, facility improvements and other eligible project-related activities.

“A 5-year, $1.8 million loan from the Connecticut Development Authority for information technology, furniture and fixtures and other equipment.
“A software engineer training grant ranging from $250,000 for 200 jobs created to $450,000 for 600 jobs created.

“A grant up to $1 million for alternative energy via installation of a fuel cell, wind or solar-powered energy system.”
The state, Mr. Malloy said when he announced his “investment” in TicketNetwork and its serial groping CEO in July 2011, was pleased to shovel tax dollars in the direction of Mr. Vaccaro: “And you know, there’s a certain value to identifying serial entrepreneurs who in their very fiber, in their very bone marrow have the ability to come up with great ideas, great concepts, bring them to the marketplace, prove them and grow them.”

Almost immediately after news reports appeared recounting the awkward incidents involving Mr. Vaccaro, including charges of a hate crime and a threatened suit, politicians who had gratefully accepted his campaign contributions were, according to a report in CTNewsJunkie, “stumbling over themselves” to dump the contributions into charitable organizations: “House Speaker Chris Donovan’s congressional campaign gave $1,000 to the Meriden Women and Families Center, U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy gave his $1,000 to the WOW/NRZ Community Learning Center in Waterbury, and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney gave his $2,400 to a New London shelter and Vernon Community Program.”

Possibly the lurid details included in a suit filed against TicketNetwork in December 2010 by another of Mr. Vaccaro’s female victims – a full seven months before the state decided to shower the CEO with tax revenue -- spurred press conscious politicians to uncouple themselves from Mr. Vaccaro’s generous campaign contributions.

The best and most problem free method of spurring enterprise in the state is by providing a “level playing field,” Senator Dick Blumenthal’s formulation, for both instate and inmigrating business through business tax reductions and regulatory downsizing, certain methods of job growth that violate the ethos of governors and legislators whose ambition it is to micromanage private companies while leaving governmental operations largely untouched.

It remains very much an open question whether Mr. Malloy and his Democratic confederates in the General Assembly would be willing to detach themselves from a crony capitalist polity in which politicians rather than market investors pick economic winners and losers. A capably run financing organization almost certainly would have been more diligent in investing their clients’ funds in an operation a step removed from ticket scalping run by a CEO well known for his political manipulation and alcoholic inspired misogyny. But of course the taxpayer funds “invested” by Mr. Malloy in TicketNetwork were not his, and his “investors” are not likely to trace their bad investment to campaign greedy politicians or manipulative CEOs anxious to take advantage of a pay-to-play scheme that gives them an edge up on competitors not favored by glory seeking command economy politicians.

Progressive Educational Reform

Governor Dannel Malloy is attempting valiantly to upgrade Connecticut’s ancient union encrusted educational establishment. Naturally, he ran into problems with those in the state who defend the status quo, Connecticut’s powerful teacher’s union among them. In a politics of narrow interests, settled opinion is king, because those who have secured their interests, sometimes at the expense of the general good, are understandably reluctant to surrender the golden favors showered upon them by a bought government. God help the man who unsettles settled opinion.

Mr. Malloy has proposed to attach teacher tenure to measurable performance, according to Zach Janowski. As in most businesses, including the sports arena, those who do not measure up will be let go. Among those ardently defending the status quo is once radical Big Thinker Jonathan Pelto, whose associations with teacher unions are warm and cordial. These days, whenever Mr. Pelto attempts to throw his two cents into the conversational ring, he is vigorously assaulted by one or another fervid Malloyalist.

Most recently, gubernatorial Senior Advisor Roy Occhigrosso, dubbed by humorist Colin McEnroe “The Hammer”, took off after the inoffensive Mr. Pelto following a critical piece Mr. Pelto had written on his blog, “Wait, What?” Concerning one of Mr. Pelto’s recent productions, Mr. Occhiogrosso responded, “Jonathan’s screeds have become increasingly delusional as time has gone on. He’s an unstable individual, who’s bitter that he didn’t land a job in the Administration. Although I’m hard pressed to see why anyone would hire him to do anything, he does describe himself as a ‘consultant.’ Is someone paying him to peddle information that’s not true?” One detects in Mr. Occhigrosso’s snake spittle the venom of a competitor. Mr. Pelto and his “screeds” have been rattling around in Democratic politics for about thirty years, during which time he has managed to sound like the choral leader of the Chorus of Crying State Unions (CCSU). But if during this time he had exhibited signs of instability, delusion and bitterness, someone other than Mr. Occhiogrosso would have noticed and perhaps had him committed, as Mr. Occhiogrosso evidently is, to the Malloy administration.

Upon joining the Malloy administration as a senior adviser, Mr. Occhiogrosso resigned as partner in charge of the Hartford office of the Global Strategy Group, a national polling and communication strategy group with a stable of political, corporate and non-profit clients.

Mr. McEnroe, unfailingly effervescent, noted that while Mr. Occhiogrosso’s boss, Mr. Malloy, was “an edgy guy himself… Occhiogrosso — and I say this with love — is proof of the maxim that when you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Roy isn't holding a hammer. He is one. It's as if Newt Gingrich went looking for someone to soften his angry, aggressive side and hired Bill O'Reilly.”

Oddly enough, Mr. Pelto and Mr. Occhigrosso started their political lives on the same side of the progressive barricade. In one of his earlier incarnations, Mr. Occhiogrosso was associated with a UConn Health Center union. His ideological nursemaid was Leo Canty, the Second Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers in Connecticut and a member of AFT Local 3837, University Health Professionals. Mr. Canty, also the Vice President of the Hartford Labor Council, described himself in his campaign literature when he ran for state Representative in the 15th district as “a strong progressive politics activist.”

The real difference between Mr. Pelto and Mr. Occhiogrosso lies in who rather than what they serve. The cleavage apparent between them turns on two questions: Should tenure be used to protect incompetence, and to what extent should some of the functions of public education be privatized?

The partial privatization of a sclerotic public education fiefdom is the great bugaboo of those who would preserve the status quo, however harmful its effects on the public good. In this regard, Mr. Pelto is determined that no progress in this direction should be made. Mr. Occhiogrosso and Mr. Malloy presently appear undecided how they may best exploit the possibility of a partial, carefully controlled privatization of the public education behemoth. Teacher tenure appears to be on the ropes, but Connecticut’s powerful teacher unions have friends inside important General Assembly committees. In the past, it may be recalled, unions have been adept at rope-a-dope feints and surprising recoveries.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Death Penalty Commutation

A decent time having elapsed, sort of, since two multiple murderers had been sentenced to death for having 1) beaten with a baseball bat a husband of a family in Cheshire, 2) forced the husband’s wife to travel to a bank to withdraw funds for the two murderers, 3) raped the wife and one of the daughters, 4) bound the daughters to their beds, 5) set fire to the house, murdering the daughters and their mother, anti-death penalty legislators in the General Assembly are planning once again to file a bill that would prospectively abolish the death penalty, replacing it with a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole. Prospective abolition would leave intact the 11) death penalty sentences of the murderers awaiting justice on Connecticut’s death row.

Such a bill would leave intact the legislature’s power to commute death penalty sentences to life in prison at any time after the General Assembly had abolished the death penalty. Unlike most states, the pardon power in Connecticut is invested in the legislature rather the governor’s office (McLaughlin v. Bronson, 206 Conn. 267 (1988), citing Palka v. Walker, 124 Conn. 121 (1938)). The General Assembly exercised this power until it created the Board of Pardons in 1883. Although the General Assembly had delegated its power of pardon to a board, it never-the-less retains pardon powers; and since the power to commute is considered a part of the pardon power (Attorney General’s Opinion 96-10, citing 59 Am.Jur.2d, Pardon and Parole § 23), it would appear that the legislature may commute death sentences, according to an Office of Legislative Research report.

The anti-death penalty legislators did succeed in passing an abolition bill during the administration of former Republican Governor Jodi Rell, but the governor disappointed them by vetoing it. Current Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy has pledged to sign such a bill should it cross his desk. Encouraged by the governor’s pledge, anti-death penalty proponents in the General Assembly reintroduced their bill after Mr. Malloy’s installation as governor, an effort doomed by two key Democratic legislators one of whom, state Senator Edith Prague, withdrew her support for the measure after having had a conversation with Dr. William Petit, the father of the Cheshire murder victims.

At a time when a jury had convicted and sentenced to death only one of the two Cheshire murderers, the trial of the second murderer being in process, Mrs. Prague emerged from her conversation with Dr. Petit firmly convinced that both murderers should suffer the penalties prescribed for them by a jury of their peers. She expressed herself on this point in rather unforgiving language: “They should bypass the trial and take that second animal and hang him by his penis from a tree out in the middle of Main Street.” At the same time, Mrs. Prague indicated she might support future efforts to abolish the death penalty. But she found it difficult to look Dr. Petit in the face and “not give him something that would make his life a little easier.” The 86 year-old Mrs. Prague since then suffered a mild stroke but returned at the end of January to the General Assembly.

Democratic Senator Andrew Maynard of Stonington, meeting at the same time with Dr. Petit, followed Mrs. Prague’s lead. “It’s a toss-up,” he said, “I don’t support the death penalty broadly but I don’t support repealing it at this time. For my own personal reasons and as a matter of public policy, I don’t think it’s the right way for the state to act. But in this instance there are such mitigating circumstances, in my mind, that I could not in good conscience vote for repeal this year.” The mitigating circumstances having disappeared and the timing being better, Mr. Maynard now says “I’m inclined to support repeal.”

Even without the two wavering senators, there are, according to some head counters, enough votes in the General Assembly to pass the death penalty abolition bill.

The inevitable passage of the bill will unleash a flood of appeals that will at a minimum further delay the executions of Connecticut’s 11 death row inmates. It is almost certain that at some point in the future a Democratic dominated legislature supported by a Democratic governor, all of whom will have been instrumental in abolishing the death penalty, would be morally derelict in resisting the commutation of the death sentences of the 11 prisoners now awaiting execution on death row. The death penalty having been abolished for prospective criminals who in the future might violate Connecticut’s narrowly circumscribed rarely applied death sentence, no moral justification for the death penalty could withstand a call for the commutation of those awaiting execution authorized by a lapsed and outmoded law.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

New And Improved Budget Smoke And Mirrors

Unhappily for Malloyalists everywhere, at least one reporter was not sound asleep when Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration unveiled a PowerPoint presentation at a recent budget briefing showing that the budget will be in balance in 2012-13 and thereafter reap surpluses in 2013-14 of $226 million and $942 in the final year of Mr. Malloy’s gubernatorial term.

“In actuality,” the reporter wrote, “if the administration's estimates for expenditures -- including the conversion to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles -- and revenues are compared, the budget is balanced only in its first year. There's a $424 million shortfall in 2013-14 and a $180 million hole in 2014-15 -- the same year Malloy's budget office projects a nearly $1 billion surplus.” Absent the smoke and mirrors employed by previous Republican governors and Democratic dominated legislatures, future Malloy budgets are not in balance.

The budgetary magic that transforms real deficits into imaginary surpluses rests upon a skill employed by most governors that “takes advantage of the legislature’s and media's optimistic tendencies when it comes to state finances”, according to retired lawmaker William Dyson, formerly the Democratic co-chairman of the state’s Appropriations Committee for 16 years. The more often bad news can be presented as good news, the better, said Mr. Dyson: “The environment there [in the General Assembly] has always been to turn your head and look away from anything bad. There's always been this notion that next year might be better and not something we need to worry about today."

The Malloy administration’s Panglossian outlook rests on the following assumption: Mr. Malloy’s new budget will exceed Connecticut’s in name only “spending cap” by $650 million one year after enactment and by $1.1 billion two years out; however, if it is supposed that the Malloy administration will at some unspecified date in the future abide by the spending cap and actually cut spending below it – then the administration would have realized its PowerPoint predictions.

And if pigs had wings…

The mental gymnastics involved in this mode of thought – if it may be called that – has astounded North Branford Republican Rep. Vincent J. Candelora, who asked the BINGO! question: "How can you say your plan is sustainable if you count ‘cuts’ you haven't made and aren't going to find for another year?"

The magic figures presented during Mr. Malloy’s PowerPoint presentation cast a spell over some reporters who, Mr. Candelora noted, left the room whispering that Mr. Malloy’s budget proposal would result in a “bipartisan love-fest” during the upcoming legislative roustabout. "I've never been optimistic about the media taking the time to pick it apart and understand it," said Mr. Candelora. "I think they do a good job at taking things and getting them at a 30,000-foot level, but I'm not sure that kind of analytical media exists anymore."

And veteran Democratic legislative leader Dyson agrees that the legislature is easily distracted and unaccountably trusting: "I don't think the rank-and-file will pay a lot of attention to the deficit as long as the people with their finger on the pulse aren't worried. They trust all of the heavy hitters, and they will go along with what they suggest."

In the last budget session, Mr. Malloy bravely took some hits from union leaders and perennial critics in the General Assembly during his negotiations with SEBAC. The Democratic dominated General Assembly pre-approved Mr. Malloy’s prospective budget as Dannel struggled alone with the union leaders in the lion’s den. By investing the governor with near plenipotentiary powers, Democratic legislators up for re-election were not forced to leave telltale fingerprints on the final negotiated budget package, a division of labor useful both to the governor and General Assembly Democrats. SEBAC, the coalition of state unions authorized to negotiate contracts with the governor, emerged with a deal in hand so favorable to union interests that Senator Edith Prague, a union well-wisher of long standing, declared somewhat volubly that the union rank and file would be insane to reject the proposal.

“We would receive four years of job security,” union negotiators boasted in a memo to rank and file members, “an extension of our health care and pension plans to 2022, an irrevocable trust fund to insure there will always be retiree health care, three years of wage increases, a reaffirmation of the independence of the state employee health plan, and contract protection lasting through 2016. Additionally, all of the layoffs, anti-union legislation, and faculty/office closures would be reversed.” All in all, the deal was a gold brick for union leaders.

But Gold bricks are expensive, and the expenses will show below the veil once the state abandons its present system of smoke and mirrors accounting and inaugurates Mr. Malloy’s preferred Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). At that point, Mr. Dyson said, "You may hear some suggestions from [legislative] leaders that maybe we ought to be reducing some of the growth in this new budget to remove some of the risk. It has to be done carefully, without looking like there is going to be a fight. But it can be done and it could even solidify the caucus more."

A one party state is so much more efficient when the legislative caucus and the governor are reading from the same script.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Stolen Valor Fraud

The “Stolen Valor Act” punishes with a prison sentence up to six months to a year those who “falsely represent” that they have received any “military decoration or medal.”

The bill has an enviable parentage: In a 1782 military order, George Washington proclaimed, “Should any who are not entitled to the honors have the insolence to assume the badges of them, they shall be severely punished.”

The “Stolen Valor Act” passed though the U.S. Congress without resistance in 2006 and eventually washed up on the shores of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned a conviction under the act, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski deciding: “If false statements are unprotected, then the government can prosecute not only the man who tells tall tales of winning the Congressional Medal of Honor, but also the Jdater who falsely claims he’s Jewish or the dentist who assures you it won’t hurt a bit.”

Responding to a request that his decision be reconsidered, Mr. Kozinski wrote, “Saints may always tell the truth, but for mortals living means lying… Without the robust protections of the First Amendment, the white lies, exaggerations and deceptions that are an integral part of human intercourse would become targets of censorship” interposing the government as a “truth police” armed with” the power to punish.”

Mr. Kozinski’s view of human nature is not a happy one. Surely as a judge he knows that the First Amendment cannot be used to excuse, just to pick at random one example, the “white lies, exaggerations and deceptions” that occasionally will appear in affidavits used by state attorneys general in ex parte proceedings to expropriate business property without which a business cannot continue to operate. Under such circumstances, one expects judges to require even such exalted personages as attorneys general to hew strictly to the truth. Most witnesses in trials swear an oath on sacred scripture to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Judges on these occasions may apply sanctions to such witnesses as, exercising their First Amendment right to lie, subvert justice dispensed by judges armed with the power to punish them.

Some think the decision of the court is, to put it bluntly, batty. One wonders what General Washington might have made of Mr. Kozinski’s mode of reasoning. The judge’s ruling effectively abolishes the distinction upon which the “Stolen Valor Act” solidly rests and blithely assumes Congress cannot shape a law that will apply to those who make false representations concerning medals never awarded to them without legally impairing Jewish daters who misrepresent themselves to women.

Other jurists have ruled that the law seeks to prevent fraud and, precisely because it reprobates fraudulent claims with respect to any “military decoration or medal,” a dentist falsely assuring patients that drilling won’t hurt them need not fear the “Stolen Valor Act” – unless, of course, the dentist has made fraudulent claims relating to medals unearned that may have played some part in securing his employment or other emoluments or special treatment he may not have received in the absence of such claims.

U.S. Circuit Judge Timothy Tymkovich, writing for another panel, pointed out that the U.S. Supreme Court time after time has observed that “false statements of fact do not enjoy constitutional protection, except to the extent necessary to protect more valuable speech.” There is no reason to suppose that upholding a narrowly circumscribed law criminalizing false claims about receiving military honors, the judge wrote, would lead to a “slippery slope where Congress could criminalize an appallingly wide swath of ironic, dramatic, diplomatic, and otherwise polite speech.”

Nor is there any reason why Connecticut’s U.S. Congressional delegation should abstain from responding to the issue because they fear influencing the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, a highly unlikely prospect.

The Barack Obama administration, supported by veterans groups, views the “Stolen Valor Act” as a narrowly crafted bill that protects the system of military awards established during the Revolutionary war by General Washington. Serendipitously, the high court will hear the case on Wednesday, February 22, the First president’s 280th birthday.

By affirming the original “Stolen Valor Act,” Connecticut’s uniformly Democratic U.S. Congressional delegation will be lending its support to a necessary bill preventing frauds from obtaining social benefits that flow to veterans properly awarded medals for honorable service in the military. And U.S. Senator Dick Blumenthal, a former Connecticut Attorney General whose very first piece of legislation upon entering the U.S. Congress was the “Honoring All Veteran’s Act," should be leading the state’s Congressional delegation in an effort to assure that the will of Congress as embodied in the “Stolen Valor Act” should not be frustrated by highly questionable court decisions.

Decisions by judges who could not detect fraud if it bit them on the nose dishonor both the court and veterans, and Senator Blumenthal’s goal, as reported on his U.S. Senate site, “has always been and will remain the same as it is today: to keep faith with our veterans and to honor our promises to them.”

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Republicans and Black History Month

The event was first celebrated during a week in February 1926 that encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

In the middle of Black History Month this year, U.S. Representative Allen West of Florida gave a brief history of Republicans and Blacks from the post-Civil War period to the present:

The Loyal Opposition

You cannot be a loyal opposition unless you are opposed to the reigning power – in Connecticut’s one party state, a General Assembly and a gubernatorial office dominated by Democrats – and are, at the same time, loyal to something other than the present regime. When Republicans in the General Assembly were frozen out of budget negotiations last fiscal year by a “notice me” governor and a Democratic legislature dominated by a single party, the Valley Forge experience forced them to become, perhaps for the first time in several decades, an authentic loyal opposition.

Republican leaders in the state Senate on February 17 published their priorities for the 2012 legislative session. Pointing out the legislature’s constitutional requirement to devote the session in even years to budgetary matters, the Republicans outlined three major goals:

•Strict adherence to the state’s constitutional spending cap;
•No new taxes; and
•No spending increases.
Highlights of the Republican proposals included:

Balancing the Budget
•No tax or spending increases and strict adherence to the constitutional spending cap
•Review of all 2011 Malloy tax hikes
•Require consensus expenditure projections, just as consensus revenues are provided
•Reduce pension liabilities through real pension reform
•Enhance fraud detection in social service programs

Economic Development and Job Creation
•Regulatory reform: moratorium on new regulations, expedited permitting, cost/benefit analysis of existing regulations
•Targeted tax relief: tax incentives for companies who purchase commercial property in CT; repeal the corporate tax surcharge; expand Learn Here Live Here; create a small business reinvestment account
•Increase the dispensing fee for independent pharmacies and eliminate the mail-order requirement in SEBAC
•Cap the gas tax
•Fund the underground storage tank program

Education Reform
•Reform teacher tenure to bring greater accountability into the classroom
•Greater resources for charter schools
•Reject the proposed mandatory regionalization that would force up to 31 small towns with fewer than 1,000 elementary school students to merge with other districts that face losing state aid.

Transparency and Accountability
•Redirect Busway resources elsewhere
•Require DOC to report outcomes related to Early Release of Prisoners
•Reconstitute the watchdog agencies

General Government Reform
•Improve response to natural disasters: centralize coordination of government efforts; performance standards for utilities; require utilities to train municipal employees in how to identify live wires
•Establish Privatization Planning Committee to develop a plan to privatize direct-care.
No one can possibly mistake the directional signals strikingly apparent in the Republican release for a Democratic Party campaign document. One imagines union supported Malloyalists choking on the last mentioned “General Government Reform” measure that privatizes rather than unionizes direct care services. Should Senate President Donald Williams be obliged to swallow that big pill, it would take a Heimlich Maneuver administered by the entire membership of SEBAC to remove it from his throat. Recently, Governor Dannel Malloy made the unionization of private day care workers more likely through executive fiat.

The loyal opposition was offering in the document released to major news outlets a laundry list of Republican Party desiderata. The response from Malloyalists was instantaneous. Mr. Malloy’s chief numbers cruncher in the Office of Policy Management said that Republicans, who for months had been arguing that Democratic budget numbers were partly fictional, had got their budget figures wrong.

It was left to Sen. President Donald Williams to offer a political assessment. Mr. Williams said that the budget process under Mr. Malloy and former Governor Jodi Rell were “like night and day.” He said the economy was improving, and that Democrats in the General Assembly at the end of the fiscal year would turn in a budget that was balanced. And, no stranger to irony and comedy, Mr. Williams said, according to a piece in CTNewsJunkie, he found it comical that Republicans now “’want to be the Bad News Bears’ when two years ago they ‘aided and abetted Rell’s $2 billion deficiency.’ Williams is referring to the mistake Rell made when she released a budget that closed a $6 billion gap, after having admitted it was $8 billion.”

One fancies that the Democrats have found their whipping post in previous pragmatic Republican governors – who, of course, had been forced by superior numbers the Democrats were able to marshal in the General Assembly to accommodate the ruling legislative regime presided over by Big Spenders such as Mr. Williams and union allied Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, now busily running for the U.S. Senate in the 5th District. Mr. Williams and Mr. Malloy have found their George W. Bush in Mrs. Rell and Mr. Rowland. As President Pro Tem of the Senate, Mr. Williams surely realizes that legislators are constitutionally responsible for final budgets.

It is true that Mrs. Rell made mistakes, as did former Governor John Rowland. But for the greater part of the time the two previous Republican governors, as well as former “Maverick” Governor Lowell Weicker, were busy accommodating Mr. Williams, Mr. Donovan and their predecessors. Those accommodations have led ineluctably to an enfeebled Republican Party and Connecticut’s present one party state.

The goals outlined by Republicans this fiscal year suggest that leaders in the party may have learned from history that those who do not learn from history will be doomed to repeat the errors of the past.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

On Gas and Gasbags

According to some reports, gas prices are due to increase as much as 60 cents on the gallon by summer.

Citing rising gas prices, up 83 percent under his tenure, President Barack Obama has called for an extension of the payroll tax cut as a means of providing some relief to a Middle Class hard hit by the malingering Obama recession.

“Allowing this tax cut to expire,” Mr. Obama said, “would make people’s lives harder right now. It would make their choices more difficult. It would be $40 less for groceries to feed your kids; it would be $40 less for the medications you depend on; $40 less to cover bills and the rent; $40 less to take care of an elder parent, or to donate to a church or a charity.”

CNSNews points out, “When Obama entered the White House in January 2009, the city average price for one gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was $1.79, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The figures are in nominal dollars: not adjusted for inflation. Five months later in June, unleaded gasoline was $2.26 per gallon, an increase of 26 percent. By December 2011, the price of regular unleaded gas per gallon was $3.28, an 83 percent increase from January 2009.”

Prices on commodities generally rise for two reasons. Either a shortage of the product or an increase in demand will make gas more expensive; therefore, it follows that an increase in the supply of the product will lower the price of gas. Mr. Obama’s government does not wish to pursue an energy policy that will reduce the price of gas by increasing the supply of the product – easily done by tapping into plentiful supplies both in the United States and Canada -- because the administration wishes to encourage the production of cars that do not use gas. Also, the federal government winks at high gas prices because federal and state revenues rise in direct proportion to increases in the price of gas.

Here in Connecticut, which has the second highest gas tax in the nation, Republican State Senator Len Suzio has crafted a bill that will cap the notorious 7.35 percent Gross Receipts Tax at three dollars a gallon. Without the cap, the hidden gross receipts tax rises in tandem with the rise in the price of gas. The state of Connecticut reaps about 50 cents per gallon of gas from Connecticut’s excise and gross receipt taxes. About 23 cents per gallon is sucked out of taxpayer’s wallets and purses by the aptly named GROSS Receipts Tax. Mr. Suzio’s proposed cap will, of course, mean less tax revenue for the state’s incontinent Big Spenders in the General Assembly, the majority of them Democrats who have not taken a shine to Mr. Suzio’s version of Mr. Obama’s Middle Class tax relief bill.

Democratic Senator Paul Doyle of Wethersfield, for instance, cautioned that “people should not be fooled into thinking the plan will translate to relief at the gas pump… Not only does this proposal fail to rein in out-of-control gas prices, but it would dramatically reduce revenue needed to repair bridges and roads throughout the state, projects that would in turn create jobs. While I appreciate the zeal for tax cuts in general, I find unacceptable any tax cut that does not get passed to consumers at the pump and that could jeopardize the safety of drivers on state roads and bridges… As co-chairman of the committee that fights to protect consumers, I do not believe the proposal would ease the burden of exorbitant gas prices,” said Senator Doyle, who chairs the General Law Committee.

According to news reports, Mr. Doyle promised – tardily, as it happens – “to work with the Department of Consumer Protection and other consumer advocates to explore ways to ensure gasoline wholesalers adhere to Connecticut law and do not pass the cost of the gross receipt tax onto consumers.”

The issue was decided 30 years ago in Mobil Oil Corp versus Dubno. The state of Connecticut sought to prevent oil companies from passing along to consumers the gross receipts tax it imposed on oil. The Supreme Court, rendering a declaratory judgment, found unconstitutional the prohibitive portion of the Connecticut statute -- section 13(b) of Connecticut Public Act 80-71 – because “…it is pre-empted by federal law and thus violates the Supremacy Clause [of the U.S. Constitution].”

Mr. Suzio points out that Mr. Doyle, the co-chairman of the Law Committee, likely does not have “power to overturn Supreme Court decisions.”

Mr. Suzio’s tax cut, no less than the tax cut for which Mr. Obama is agitating, will make it easier for the Middle Class to survive the crushing tax increases imposed upon them by Mr. Malloy, the architect of the largest tax increase in Connecticut’s history, even at the risk of disappointing tax prone Democrats such as Mr. Doyle.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Fish Wrap: Shays To Republican Nominating Conventioneers – Don’t Bother!

In a meeting with the Editorial Board of the Danbury News Times, Republican Party Senate hopeful Chris Shays told editors on Tuesday “he will take his fight for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate to an August primary,” perhaps not the most useful way to influence Republican Party convention delegates to choose him to represent the party in what promises to be an expensive and contentious battle for a U.S. Senate seat presently held by Joe Lieberman.

Mr. Shays had done the math. “Only 25 percent of voters in Connecticut are Republicans,” Mr. Shays says, “and only 20 percent of them vote. So now 5 percent of the electorate are (sic) going to vote in the Republican primary, and of that 5 percent, 2½ percent plus one are going to decide. … We know who those 150,000 voters are who are going to vote and we can target them and make our best case.”

The worry among Republicans is that Mr. Shays' promised primary, should nominating conventioneers once again choose party competitor Linda McMahon as their nominee, will serve only to cripple the chosen nominee of the party in the general election. Former U.S. Representative Rob Simmons hobbled Mrs. McMahon in her congressional battle against present U.S. Senator Dick Blumenthal with an on-again off-again post-nominating convention struggle for the seat. Assuming that Mrs. McMahon once again is chosen by the Republican Party nominating convention to represent the GOP in the general election, Mr. Shays is likely to face the same difficulty in mounting an effective primary campaign as did Mr. Simmons, whose primary effort sputtered because he was unable to raise sufficient funds to mount a serious primary campaign.

On the Democratic side of the campaign barricades, none of the possible candidates vying for Mr. Lieberman’s seat have announced this early in the campaign that they would primary should the Democratic Party nominating convention disappoint them. The likely choice among Democrats attending the nominating convention is present U.S. Representative Chris Murphy who, as an incumbent, will have loads of cash at his disposal in any general election campaign.

As Connecticut’s media never tires of reminding us, Mrs. McMahon’s previous campaign against Mr. Blumenthal -- who was perhaps unbeatable, despite Mr. Simmons’ boast that he could have bested the sainted former attorney general in a general election – was not a sure shot, despite the large sum of money she invested in her campaign. Money does not always guarantee election, but it is very nearly certain that a lack of funds with which to wage a viable general campaign against a popular incumbent U.S. Representative will bend a campaign arc downwards. And the same holds true of internecine primary campaigns.

Political parties have become much poorer campaign financers after campaign finance reforms – written by John McCain and Russ Feingold in the U.S. Senate and Chris Shays and Marty Meehan in the U.S. House – were passed into law. The reforms, as well as a later Supreme Court decision apparently unanticipated by the authors of campaign reform, effectively moved campaign financing from political parties to now notorious Super PACs. If Democratic incumbent Murphy is not presently supported by a Super Pac, he almost certainly will be in any general election campaign against any non-incumbent Republican opponent. Given the disparity in campaign resources between Mr. Murphy and any Republican Party candidate for the U.S. Senate, it would be nearly impossible in a general election for a poorly financed Republican to prevail against a money magnet incumbent.

In the meantime, some Republican Town Committees have shown a cold shoulder to Mr. Shays.

In Coventry, according to Mr. Shays, he was shown the door because Republicans already had already “locked into McMahon, and I’m told not to come even to their Lincoln Day dinner.” And in Trumbull, where Ronald Reagan’s thirteenth commandment is rigorously observed, the chairman, according to Mr. Shays, “said I would not be allowed to say anything negative about my opponent. They don’t want me to confront them with why they shouldn’t be supporting McMahon.”

Certainly, a large part of this frigidity may be related to Mr. Shays’ pledge, prior to the Republican nominating convention, to wage a primary campaign. One hardly expects delegates to a nominating convention, some of whom are associated with Town Committees, to cuddle emotionally with a possible Republican Party nominee who has told them: You know what? Why don’t you just can your pointless nominating convention, since I plan to render inoperative in a primary campaign any decisions you may make at your silly nominating convention.

Mr. Shays may have begun his general campaign a trifle early. This is not the best way to win Republican friends and influence people whose energetic support you may need in a general campaign.

Good News For Bridgeport

It would appear, according to an item by CBS, that Bridgeport, Connecticut is not the most corrupt city in the country. That distinction falls to Chicago, Illinois, President Barack Obama’s old political stomping grounds:

“University of Illinois professor Dick Simpson estimates the cost of corruption at $500 million.

“It’s essentially a corruption tax on citizens who bear the cost of bad behavior (police brutality, bogus contracts, bribes, theft and ghost pay-rolling to name a few) and the costs needed to prosecute it.”

Vote, Or Else

NRA’s “Trigger the Vote” ad is on its way

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Committed Catholic

U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro began her epistle in the New York Post with the following howler: “As both a committed Catholic and a strong advocate of women’s health, I want to applaud the recently released guidelines for preventive health coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” The guidelines Mrs. DeLauro approved have since been redrafted.

Mrs. DeLauro approves birth control, she said, because “We know that improved access to birth control is directly linked to declines in maternal and infant mortality and helps to reduce unintended pregnancies.” No kidding. The kind of “birth control” commended by Mrs. DeLauro and Planned Parenthood would, of course, include contraceptives, abortion and other means of fetal destruction in the Planned Parenthood medicine cabinet. Birth preventatives prevent births, and the decline in birth rates leads to reductions in “unintended pregnancies’ and “infant mortality.” If you employ means that cause pre-birth mortality, you will have less infant mortality because you will have fewer infants.

The Catholic Church to which Mrs. DeLauro is committed is also concerned with women’s health and infant mortality, which is why the church runs hospitals.

Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford was founded in 1897 and opened formally the same year under the direction of Mother Ann Valencia, a French nun of indefatigable energy and faith. The founding and early history of the growth of the hospital was celebrated – the word is here used deliberately – in an historical novel written by the late Father John Bond titled “So Falls The Elm Tree.” The early history of the hospital is inseparable from the history and motivations of its hands on founder, Mother Valencia.

Because she was French, Mother Valencia knew very well what a hospital should be. The word itself is derived from the Old French “hospital” a shelter for the needy. The original meaning of the word is preserved in the English spinoff “hospitable.” At first, the word signified a “guest house,” later a house where then poor were cared for. The word did not become associated with our understanding of a modern hospital, a place where the sick are treated, until much later in the 16th century.

From the founding of Saint Francis Hospital to 1908, when Ellen O'Flaherty, M.D., became the first woman to be named to Saint Francis staff, Mother Valencia, in her halting English, established a school of nursing and facilitated the chartering of Saint Francis by the State of Connecticut (1899), witnessed the blessing of the cornerstone on Collins Street (1900), oversaw the construction of a new building that provided an additional 52 beds (1901), marshaled the Sisters of Saint Francis in fighting a deadly scarlet fever epidemic in Hartford (1903), oversaw the construction of yet another building that provided 120 more beds (1904) and welcomed the first baby born in the hospital’s newly established obstetrical service (1906). Mother Valencia died in 1937 after having overseen every significant development in the life of Saint Francis Hospital.

If Hollywood were truly interested in making films celebrating the life of heroic women, it could not do better than to fashion Father Bonn’s inspiring book into a film that might go far in explaining how and why Mrs. DeLauro’s Roman Catholic Church founded hospitals. Hint: It was not to facilitate abortions or to provide “Morning after pills” to desperately confused women.

Catholic hospitals and other outreach institutions of the church, such as soup kitchens and Catholic Schools, are part of the religious mission of the church. The entire Church, lay and cleric, is called upon to care for the poor and wretched. The distinction between the clerical church and the larger Catholic Church of lay people who are, no less than clerics, called upon by their faith to love their neighbors and care for those who cannot fend for themselves is a false distinction. Religion is a matter of the head and heart, not a matter of brick, stone and clerical administration. The real Catholic Church is the communion of the faithful, living and dead. Why should anyone suppose that a Catholic nurse working in a Catholic or non-Catholic hospital is less Catholic than her local priest?

The Orwellian titled “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” as interpreted by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and heartily approved by Mrs. DeLauro, a committed Catholic, forced Catholic Hospitals such as Saint Francis to provide its employees with “health services” that include the dispensing of “morning after” pills and fetal killing medicines that Planned Parenthood itself regards as abortion inducing chemicals.

Meeting a wall of opposition to what was regarded by many American voters — some Christians, some Jews, some Muslims, some ornery constitutionalists – as an attack on what might be called the historic American consensus on religion and government, the Obama administration regrouped around a proposition that may all along have been its default position: The administration now intends to press insurance companies to provide for “free” payment for health services that some Christians, Jews and Muslims find offensively irreligious. Just as war is diplomacy by other means, so Mr. Obama’s readjusted attack on religious ethics, by the expedient of laundering objectionable payments through insurance companies – itself a dubious constitutional process -- is a continuation by other means of a long simmering secular war on primary religious institutions.

The moral – the reader will please excuse the language – of what appears be an unremitting assault on religious institutions in the United States might be summed up in two propositions: If at first you don’t succeed in destroying the historic balance between church and state in this the home of religious freedom, try, try again; the way to breach the impassable wall of Troy is through a destructive Trojan Horse, a seeming gift, in the belly of which are secreted opposition forces that, gaining entry by hook and crook, will open the gates to the besiegers. Some so-called Catholics, passionately committed to the destruction of their church, may most quickly be found leading the charge from the horse’s rear end.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The State Of Malloy

There is no question that Governor Malloy shakes things up. But when the fizz settles, you find yourself holding the same old bottle of beer – only now it’s flat.

“The budget is everything to Malloy,” former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Curry told a New York Times reporter, after which Mr. Curry issued a timely warning: “The last thing you want is a sequel to a fiscal crisis.”

National Democrats could not produce a budget, even though they controlled both houses of the U.S. Congress and the White House. The day that President Barack Obama delivered his “State of the Union” address marked the thousandth day the nation had hobbled along without a budget.

The budget situation in Connecticut is not quite that bad. Both houses of the General Assembly have been controlled by Democrats for decades. During the last election, state Democrats captured the governor’s office for the first time in more than twenty years. Taking a page from former “Maverick” Governor Lowell Weicker, the father of Connecticut’s income tax, Governor Malloy inaugurated the largest tax increase in state history, a record previously held by Mr. Weicker. The Malloyalists have said the budget is balanced, but voices in other rooms say “No.”

The expected “savings” in Mr. Malloy’s budget could not be verified by the state’ non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis on the day it was submitted for approval to the General Assembly. News outlets recently have reported that Connecticut is running a deficit following the largest tax increase in its history, but the prospective red ink has not tamed the inclination of Democrats to recklessly spend other people’s money. Even drunken sailors stop spending when they pass out on the curb; not so with the Democratic controlled General Assembly. Mr. Malloy’s budget prospectus includes more unaffordable Big Think spending.

Persistent critics of Mr. Malloy point out that he tied at least one of his busy hands behind his back in concluding a deal with unions in which current state workers agreed to a wage freeze for two years followed by three percent increases for nine years and a no-layoff pledge for four years, a sweetheart union deal that, given a faltering economy, easily could prompt Mr. Curry’s feared “sequel to Connecticut’s budget crisis.” Should Mr. Malloy feel the itch to cut spending on state employees’ salaries or woefully underfunded pension benefits, he will not be able to scratch it for nine years out. Indeed, Mr. Malloy’s revised Plan A budget deal is one of the reasons why Edith Prague – other than Speaker of the House and announced Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate Chris Donovan, perhaps the most ardent union supporter in the known universe – said during the unions-Malloy Kabuki contract negotiations that SEBAC union negotiators would be insane to reject Mr. Malloy’s more than generous offer.

Mr. Malloy’s first budget, pre-approved by the General Assembly before negotiations with unions had been completed, was deconstructed and reconstructed after contentious negotiations between the governor and SEBAC, a coalition of unions authorized to negotiate contracts with the administrations’ budget handlers. In his “State of the State” address, Mr. Malloy mentioned his first budget as an instrument that had “bridged a $3.5 billion deficit, implemented Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, and reached an agreement with our state’s public employees that will save taxpayers twenty one and a half billion dollars over the next 20 years.” Every proposition in that statement has been hotly disputed, but there was no mention of disputed budget figures in Mr. Malloy’s presentation the real subject of which was “me,” “myself” and “I”.

A current Office of Fiscal Analysis’ Overview of Governor Malloy’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget shows an increase in spending, an increase in taxes, a disappearing surplus, consolidations that produce no savings, a savings decrease and some confusing motion in the bottom line of the budget – none of which is uplifting. Here’s hoping the relevant legislative committees read the report.

Just for the record, Mr. Malloy mentioned the word “I” eighty nine times in his “State of the State” address. His more modest predecessor, former Governor Jodi Rell, mentioned the word “I” in her 2006 “State of the State” address 46 times. Former Governor John Rowland used the “I” word 14 times during his 2004 State of the State address. Former Governor Lowell Weicker, the father of Connecticut’s income tax, made use of the word 18 times in his 1993 State of the State address. No stranger to the word “I” -- Mr. Weicker auto-biography “Maverick” was reviewed by columnist and Managing Editor of the Journal Inquirer Chris Powell under the title “Mr. Bluster Saves The World" -- has been known to overuse the first person singular in his philippics. It is no mean solipsistic accomplishment that Mr. Malloy has outstripped his most energetic predecessor by a perhaps unsurpassable margin.

Where’s My Surplus?

Below is an excerpt from the Office of Fiscal Analysis’ Overview of Governor Malloy’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget. Spending is increased, taxes are increased, the surplus all but disappears, consolidations produce no real savings, savings decrease and there is some confusing motion in the bottom line of the budget – none of which is good. Here’s hoping the relevant legislative committees read the report.

Highlights of OFA Synopsis of FY 13 Revised Budget Appropriations

Synopsis of Governor s FY 13 Revised Budget Appropriations Committee Hearing

February 9, 2012

1:00 PM


The following is intended to provide information on the Governor’s FY 13 Revised Budget for the Appropriations Committee as background for the OPM presentation. Since the budget was released only recently, we have tried to highlight the major areas of interest rather than provide a comprehensive analysis of the budget and revenue plan. Such analysis will be undertaken by the Committee with the assistance of OFA staff in the coming weeks.


Original FY 13 Budget Balance - The original FY 13 budget contained a $488.5 million General Fund surplus. Assuming the use of $50.0 million in funds for GAAP reserve and a projected decrease in FY 13 revenues (based on the January 17, 2012 consensus), the current balance for FY 13 stands at $299.8 million (assuming no change in bottom-line spending). The growth rate between the original FY 12 and FY 13 budgets is 1.3% (General Fund and all funds).

Governor’s Revised FY 13 Budget Balance - The Governor’s FY 13 Revised Budget increases spending by a net $313.9 million in the General Fund ($329.0 million in all funds). It also increases revenue by a net $15.7 million. When factoring in the loss of $138.7 million in projected revenue as a result of the January 17th consensus, the revised budget achieves a balance of $51.6 million in the General Fund. Assuming the use of $50.0 million in funds for a GAAP reserve, the balance is $1.6 million. The growth rate between the original FY 12 and the revised FY 13 budget is 3.1% (3.2% for all funds).

Lapses (Bottom-Line Reductions) - The original FY 13 budget contains $1.0 billion in various lapses (in all funds). Of this amount, $901.2 million relates to the labor management savings (Revised SEBAC 2011 Agreement).

The Governor’s revised budget: (1) eliminates the $901.2 million in SEBAC lapses (reductions) from the bottom of the budget, (2) moves $647.9 million of these reductions directly into individual agency budgets (see Appendix B for agency list), and (3) increases the existing Legislative branch lapses by $2.0 million, and (4) increases the Judicial branch lapses by $4.8 million.

Agency Consolidations/Program Transfers - The revised budget consolidates 13 state agencies into six agencies (five current and one new agency). This reduces the total number of state agencies from 59 to 52 (a 11.9% reduction). There does not appear to be savings or position reductions attributable to these consolidations. Detail on these consolidations appears within the “Financial Tables” section.

In addition, the revised budget transfers various programs and functions across several state agencies. A table listing the significant transfers of programs and functions between agencies along with the funding and associated positions appears within the “Financial Tables” section.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Murphy’s Line In The Sand

Appearing on “Face the State” with Dennis House, U.S. Representative Chris Murphy, who has announced his candidacy for Senator Joe Lieberman’s soon to be vacant seat, passionately defended an administrative edict that would require members of some religious faiths to commit what boilerplate secularists and practical atheists winkingly call “sin.”

“We need to draw a line in the sand,” Mr. Murphy told Mr. House. “Enough is enough, a women, where ever she works, has a right to a full range of reproductive health care; that should be the law of the land.”

It may have escaped Mr. Murphy’s notice that the edict promulgated by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius forcing religious affiliated institutions, hospitals and schools among them, to dispense contraceptives, some of which are abortifacients, and to offer sterilization under the so called "Affordable Care Act” is not a LAW in the strict sense. Congress has not written a bill that when signed by the president becomes a law compelling orthodox Christians, Jews and Muslims to choose between their religious obligations and their duties as citizens. As a plus for legislators, Government by edict spares vote conscious politicians the embarrassing necessity of putting their fingerprints on bills that may induce a “no” vote during election season.

President Obama’s administrative edict does not go quite so far as Mr. Murphy’s “line in the sand” non-negotiable demand.

Nuns, for instance, are women who associate with churches, and yet the administrative edict does not require their employers to supply them with birth control pills, contraceptives and morning after abortifacients. Under Mr. Murphy’s line in the sand rule, even nuns would have a right to the full range of options supplied by Planned Parenthood, and employers who balked at providing them with such “health services” would be subject to crippling fines. Mr. Obama’s administrative edict imposes obligations, the news media continually tells us, not on “churches” as such but on religious people working in businesses associated with religious institutions. The opposition to the administrative edict from Catholic hospitals, for instance, has been very insistent, and those who argue that constitutionally protected religious rights inhere in people rather than administrative instruments such as churches do after all have a point.

Mr. Murphy perhaps will agree that drawn lines, must pass constitutional muster. And then too there is that little impediment in the First Amendment preventing congress from passing laws that infringe upon “the exercise of religion.” Mr. Murphy is familiar with this clause because he has passionately invoked it in the past on other occasions.

When Lowes home goods stores pulled their ads from a TV program called “All American Muslim,” Mr. Murphy took to the well of the House to condemn Lowes’ anti-religious bias:

“Murphy: This is a major American company rubberstamping basic foundational bigotry against a major American religious group. This nation was founded on the premise of religious freedom, and this body should never remain silent when a group of people is marginalized just because they worship a different God. And though we certainly have got more important things to worry about -- like the economy – it’s traditionally during bad economic times that this kind of social marginalization has been at its worst, because people don’t speak up against it.”

Mr. Murphy also opened a rhetorical front on (Keith) Olbermann’s program,

“Olberman: How important is this issue to freedom of expression in this country?

“Murphy: Well listen, there’s nothing more basic to the founding of America than that you can come here and practice whatever religion you choose. And the fact is that this latest action [the withdrawal of a Lowes ad from the television program “All American Muslim”] is part of a really troubling pattern of running mosques out of town, of stopping people from teaching the history of Islamic nations in schools. You know, we used to celebrate the fact that you could practice any religion that you wanted in this country. It is a complete re-write of the strongest part of American history to allow this kind of garbage to continue. Look, Lowes is a good American company. Umm… this is way out of step with their commitment to the community we live in, and that’s why I still have maybe this unrepentant optimism that they’re gonna change their mind.”

Mr. Murphy’s is a fulsome defense of the historic posture of federal and state governments towards religion in the United States that even a Catholic Bishop might endorse. It is true the Catholic Church has more theological skin in this political game than other faiths, but it would be a fatal mistake should other religious faiths assume that an edict dismantling Catholic theology would leave them untouched. Jews, Protestants and Muslims, a sometimes scorned profession hotly defended by Mr. Murphy numerous times on constitutional grounds, also provide educational and social services.

Yet one would wrongly suppose that a fervid First Amendment supporting Non-Denominational Christian such as Mr. Murphy would readily understand that an administrative rule, possibly unconstitutional and certainly hostile to the American consensus on religion, that attacks one faith is an assault on all faiths. Ardently supporting the Obama administration’s rule, Mr. Murphy patronizingly claims, “I certainly have a lot of sympathy for the church's argument, but if you're talking about Catholic hospitals and universities, these are institutions that are integrated into the community and [have] public funding streams ... [they] have already crossed the firm boundary between church and state.''

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Politics Of Abortion

A Connecticut political commentator noted on his blog that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave a trifling gift of $250,000 to Planned Parenthood in the wake of its jihad to force the Susan G. Komen Foundation to reconsider its momentary pledge to cut its own grants to the nation’s premier abortion provider.

Not to be too obvious, but Mr. Bloomberg is multimillionaire Democratic POLITICIAN, and supporting Planned Parenthood is advantageous politics for liberals and progressives.

Planned Parenthood is not new to politics. The commentator pointed out that the politically muscular abortion provider “jumped into the 2010 Connecticut U.S. Senate campaign against pro-choice Republican Linda McMahon. Democratic candidate Richard Blumenthal’s press staff member Marcy Stech sent an October 22, 2010 email to seven others seeking ‘mysoginistic photos of women and WWE. Planned Parenthood wants to hit LM hard on it. What do we got?’ Stech was doing the bidding of Democratic consultant Andrew Grossman who appears to have had information from inside non-profit Planned Parenthood.”

During her campaign against present U.S. Senator Dick Blumenthal, Mrs. McMahon staked out what she considered to be a moderately reasonable position on abortion. “I am pro-choice,” she said, “however, I oppose partial-birth abortion and federal funding of abortions unless the life of the mother is at stake. I'm in favor of parental notification/parental consent legislation.” Polls consistently show that her position aligns with majority opinion in the United States.

Mr. Blumenthal’s views on abortion were more encompassing and very much in line with that of Planned Parenthood, which is why the “non-politicized” organization threw its backing to Mr. Blumenthal in his successful journey from his position in Connecticut as attorney general to the U.S. Senate:

“I will fight to protect a woman's right to choose and ensure that abortion remains safe, legal and rare. I have strongly and consistently opposed measures infringing upon women's reproductive rights.
While abortion in the United States certainly is legal, it is not rare. The number of abortions performed per year in the United States as of 1996 were 1.37 million. Black women were more than 3 times as likely as white women to have an abortion, and Hispanic women were roughly 2 times as likely.

During his campaign, Mr. Blumenthal boasted, “I brought the first lawsuit to enforce the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which makes it a crime for demonstrators to use force or block access to reproductive health facilities. I obtained a permanent injunction against protestors who refused to comply with a court order to keep away from clinic entrances in Connecticut… I filed suit to halt enforcement of the so-called Provider Conscience Rule. When Walmart announced that it would ban "Plan B" emergency contraceptives in its stores, I worked to ensure that no Connecticut retailer could refuse to stock emergency contraception.”

The “emergency contraception” to which Mr. Blumenthal refers is Plan B, Plan B One Step, Next Choice and Ella “morning after” pills. The controversy over whether
“emergency contraceptives” may in some circumstances act as abortifacients continues to rage across the fruited plain, from sea to shining sea. Those who argue that “emergency contraceptives” may be aborifacients point out that fertilization – the union of a female ovum or egg and male sperm, considered by most scientists as the beginning of human life – occurs in the fallopian tube. If emergency contraception chemicals are ingested after fertilization has occurred, the lining of the uterus is altered in such a way as to cause the woman’s body to reject the living human embryo, implantation is prevented, the birth cycle is fatally interrupted, and natural development of the embryo is aborted.

The discussion may seem to some academic if the prospective mother chooses to avail herself of the services of Planned Parenthood, because the premiere abortion provider in the country utilizes other means to prevent even late term birth.

Mrs. McMahon was not alone in objecting to a procedure characterized by the late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan as “virtual infanticide.” Fully 70 percent of Americans consistently disapprove of a “health service” that would treat a nearly born infant as if it were the remains of a meal to be ground up in a waste disposal unit. A ban on partial birth abortion was signed into law by President George Bush in 2003, over the hearty objections of former President Bill Clinton and President Obama when Mr. Obama was an Illinois state Representative.

As an Illinois state Representative, Mr. Obama voted “present” on seven votes concerning issues relating to abortion. A “present” vote effectively functions as a “no” vote in Illinois because legislative rules specify that only “yes” votes count towards the passage of a bill. Voting “present” therefore is a backdoor, cowardly way of voting since “present” votes make it difficult for opponents to use such votes against candidates in campaign advertisements.

Here is a full list of Obama's seven 'present' or “No” votes on issues related to abortion, as reported by the Washington Post:

“In 1997:

“SB 230 Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. Senate approved bill 44-7, with five senators voting present, including Obama.

“HB 382 Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. House version, passed Illinois State Senate, adopted as law. Under the bill, doctors who perform partial-birth abortions could be sent to prison for one to three years. The woman would not be held liable.

“In 200: HB 1900 Parental Notice of Abortion Act. Bill passed 38-10, with nine present votes, including Obama.

“SB 562 Parental Notice of Abortion Act. Bill passed Senate 39-7, with 11 present votes, including Obama.

SB 1093 Law to protect Liveborn children. Bill passed 34-6, with 12 present, including Obama.

“SB 1094 Bill to protect children born as result of induced labor abortion. Bill passed 33-6, with 13 present, including Obama.

“SB 1095 Bill defining ‘born alive’ defines ‘born-alive infant’ to include infant ‘born alive at any stage of development.’ Bill passed 34-5, with nine present, including Obama.”
As attorney general, Mr. Blumenthal has been spared the indignity of voting for or against bills that would require infants born alive during “botched” abortions to be allowed to die from medical neglect. Mr. Blumenthal has not yet covered himself in ignominy by voting on such measures; his likely votes on similar bills can only be deduced from his fulsome support of Planned Parenthood’s agenda.

Most political watchers would be very surprised if Mr. Blumenthal drifted very far Mr. Obama’s thus far successful attempt by executive fiat to impose on observant religious laypeople Planned Parenthood measures that most certainly will cause faithful believers to choose between intolerable “health care” dictats and their own religious obligations. A number of Mr. Blumenthal’s comrades in Connecticut’s U.S. Congressional delegation fully support the president; though, lucky for them, it will not be necessary to effectuate an executive department dictat through the usual democratic legislative process.

Neither Mr. Blumenthal nor any of the Democrats in Connecticut single party congressional delegation are clamoring to vote up or down on the measure, because they do not wish to put their fingerprints on such a divisive ruling so close to an election. What a pity these timid legislators have not been allowed to vote “present.”

Friday, February 3, 2012

Eric Holder, The First African-American Nixon

The important thing to remember about Watergate – other than the notorious cover-up, the stonewalling, the raft of lies told to the media, the imperious claims of “executive privilege” – is that nobody died there.

Some of the principal presidential miscreants responsible for Watergate were rounded up, paraded before various congressional committees and suitably harassed by the media. Some of them sang to avoid a term in jail, others went to the hoosegow. A grand jury indicted the “Watergate Seven” – President Richard Nixon’s Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Attorney General John Mitchell, Charles Colson, Gordon C. Strachan, Robert Mardian and Kenneth Parkinson -- in March of 1974, and Mr. Nixon was secretly named as an unindicted co-conspirator. Mr. Nixon, Time Magazine said, was undergoing “daily Hell and very little trust.”

The fires of Hell were stoked and the trust disappeared altogether when a “smoking gun” tape was produced showing Mr. Nixon approving a plan to cover up a break-in at Democratic headquarters by his own operatives. Mr. Nixon’s own lawyers said of the tape that it “proved that the President had lied to the nation, to his closest aides, and to his own lawyers – for more than two years." Shortly after the tape came to light, a contingent of notable Republicans, Barry Goldwater among them, persuaded the president to resign his office.

The unraveling of Watergate began in 1973 after Chief Minority Counsel Fred Thompson asked White House assistant Alexander Butterfield in front of a live television audience whether he was "aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the President?" Following Butterfield’s disclosure of the taping system, the tapes were subpoenaed by both the special prosecutor and the U.S. Senate. Claiming executive privilege as President of the United States, Mr. Nixon refused to release them. When the special prosecutor insisted, he was summarily fired. Access to the tapes was decided in July of 1974 by the Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously that claims of executive privilege were void.

When the curtain was rung down on the Watergate scandal, 69 government officials had been charged and 48 were found guilty. It was a glorious mess that began with a presidential approved plan to bug Democratic Party headquarters and ended with the destruction of a president.

But no one died.

Currently the U.S. Senate is investigating a botched operation in which Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was murdered in December 2010 by persons whose guns were supplied to them courtesy of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The bureau, operating under the auspices of the Justice Department, lost track of more than 1,400 weapons sold to low-level straw purchasers believed to be supplying Mexican drug gangs and other criminals. About half the weapons connected to suspects in the investigation were recovered, some of which were utilized in crime scenes in both Mexico the United States. Terry was murdered in Nogales, Arizona. Mr. Terry’s family has advised the U.S. government that if it does not respond to its inquiries concerning Mr. Terry’s murder, it will face a $25 million lawsuit.

When asked at a Senate hearing whether his assistants, Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler or Assistant Attorney Lanny Breuer, the head of the department's Criminal Division, ever authorized gunwalking or the tactics employed in Fast and Furious, Holder said not to his knowledge: "Not only did I not authorize those tactics, when I found out about them I told the field and everybody in the United States Department of Justice that those tactics had to stop. That they were not acceptable and that gunwalking was to stop. That was what my reaction [was] to my finding out about the use of that technique."

Questioned as to whether he had been forthright in responding to requests of the House Oversight and Government Relations Committee led by Chairman Darrell Issa, a California Republican, Mr. Holder assured the committed, "There's no attempt at any kind of cover-up. We're not going to be hiding behind any kind of privileges or anything.”

At the same time, Mr. Holder pointedly refused in written testimony before the investigating committee to produce “additional deliberative materials about the response to congressional oversight or media requests that postdate the commencement of congressional review.”

And his rational for refusing to disclose information demanded by Congress is that such disclosure would “chill” relations between the executive and legislative branches “if our internal communications concerning our responses to congressional oversight were disclosed to Congress” and perhaps violate “the constitutionally-protected separation of powers.”

Mr. Holder’s written statement might easily have been composed by some legal functionary in the Nixon administration prior to the disclosure of the “smoking gun” tape:

“As I testified in a previous hearing, the Department does not intend to produce additional deliberative materials about the response to congressional oversight or media requests that postdate the commencement of congressional review. This decision is consistent with the long-standing approach taken by the Department, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, and reflects concerns for the constitutionally-protected separation of powers.

“Prior administrations have recognized that robust internal communications would be chilled, and the Executive Branch’s ability to respond to oversight requests thereby impeded, if our internal communications concerning our responses to congressional oversight were disclosed to Congress. For both Branches, this would be an undesirable outcome. The appropriate functioning of the separation of powers requires that Executive Branch officials have the ability to communicate confidentially as they discuss how to respond to inquiries from Congress. I want to note that the separation of powers concerns are particularly acute here, because the Committee has sought information about open criminal investigations and prosecutions. This has required Department officials to confer about how to accommodate congressional oversight interests while also ensuring that critical ongoing law enforcement decision-making is not compromised, and is free from even the appearance of political influence. Such candid internal deliberations are necessary to preserve the independence, integrity, and effectiveness of the Department’s law enforcement activities and would be chilled by disclosure to Congress of such materials. Just as we have worked to accommodate the Committee’s legitimate oversight needs, I trust that the Committee will equally recognize the Executive Branch’s constitutional interests and will work with us to avoid further conflict on this matter.”
The Senate investigating committee has pledged to press on. What the committee may need is a Watergate “deep throat,” a more courageous and steadfast news media, and perhaps a little assistance from ethically upright Democratic U.S. Senators such as newly installed Senator Richard Blumenthal who, as Attorney general of Connecticut, had been intolerant of law breakers, constitutional scoffers and morally disoriented politicians.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Obamacare Mandate Prompts Lawsuits

Mandates in the health care law promulgated and supported by President Barack Obama’s administration already have produced some related push back from the United States Supreme Court.

If the matter of health care mandates reaches the high court, it will be heard by justices who have already overwhelmingly affirmed that the First Amendment provides exceptions to religious employers.

In a recent case involving the right of a Lutheran school to fire an employee, Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, declared that the U.S. Constitution does not permit “government interference with an internal church decision that affects the faith and mission of the church itself,” a ruling that legal scholars regard as the court’s most significant declaration on religious freedom in two decades.

The unanimous 9-0 decision represented a dramatic defeat for the Obama administration, which argued in the case that in firing a teacher the school was not exempt from civil rights claims. In its decision, the Supreme Court said that the First Amendment extends “special solicitude to the rights of religious organizations” when making decisions about their employees.

The decision reifies the spirit of the First Amendment.

President Obama’s health care mandate requires all health plans, private and public, to provide “preventive services” for “free,” a category that includes vaccines, and routine screenings for cholesterol checkups and mammograms. Starting this year, however, the mandate also includes coverage of all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, including contraception, sterilization procedures, and “emergency contraception,” as the FDA calls the Plan B, Plan B One-Step, Next Choice, and Ella “morning-after” pills, considered by some as an abortifacient.

The Obamacare mandate would force religious institutions to violate inescapable religious precepts. The First Amendment accommodates religious establishments and prevents the state from trammeling rights of conscience. No state governed by the Constitution should demand that religious minded individuals do what CANNOT be done without violating their conscience as informed by the teachings of their churches. The mandate also asserts inaccurately that preventive services the state demands from private and in some cases religious enterprises are “free.” Where a payment for a service is collected from others, it is an abuse of language to characterize the service as “free.” There is no such thing as a “free” lunch, and there is no such thing as “free” medical services.

In forbidding the U.S. Congress – and by extension organs of government at the state level and agencies of every kind – from making laws respecting the establishment of religion or PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF, the same Constitution the president has sworn to uphold acknowledges the importance of accommodations. And it is not unimportant to notice that within the First Amendment it is the state that is called upon to accommodate religion, not the other way around.

In a letter to Isaac Tiffany written in 1819, Thomas Jefferson described such accommodation and labeled its absence as a form of tyranny: "Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law,' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual."

The mandates supported by Mr. Obama in his health care assault on the First Amendment already have produced a number of suits. Hannah Smith, a former law clerk to Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Clarence Thomas, has filed two college suits on behalf of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

The Lutheran school case, Ms. Smith said, was “a stinging rebuke to the Obama administration’s extremely narrow view of religious liberty. I was shocked they went ahead with this quest to force religious groups to pay for abortion drugs in violation of their religious convictions.”

Her suits claim the Obama mandate violates both the 1st Amendment and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prohibits the government from putting a “substantial burden” on religious liberty.

To say the mandate imposes a substantial burden on religious liberty is a considerable understatement. Hospitals affiliated with religious institutions would under the mandate be faced with a false choice destructive of liberty: A religiously affiliated hospital may either choose to violate its religious precepts and implement the rule; or it may choose to bar its doors to patients not formally members of the supporting religious institution, a Hobson’s choice that even a Deist such as Jefferson -- and perhaps a few morally astute legislators in Connecticut’s Democratic Congressional delegation -- would have regarded as being hostile to religion, unconstitutional and for these reasons alone -- foreign to the American consensus.

Connecticut Defense Cuts Breakdown Economic Impact Report

Connecticut Defense Breakdown Economic Impact Report

Defense Contracts by Congressional District (est.), Connecticut, 2010

Sorted by Congressional District

Go to to view detailed reports on Connecticut counties, cities, Congressional Districts, industries, small businesses and information on sources and methodology.

9%: In 2012, President Obama limited U.S. military capability to fighting one "regional conflict" and one "holding action." Defense budgets for 2013-2021 were cut $487 billion -- a 9% cut, at a minimum.

18%: "Sequestration," required by law in 2011, mandates $500 billion more in 2013-2021 defense cuts -- an 18% cut, at a minimum. President Obama said he will veto any changes Congress makes.

Be Prepared: In 2013 these cuts in defense jobs and businesses will hit Connecticut counties, cities and industries. This report shows how "National Average" defense budget reductions of at least 9% and 18% could affect Connecticut, using actual 2010 Connecticut data.

Ask Questions: In 2012, Congress and President Obama will decide on the specific defense budget cuts. In the next 6 months, find out if these defense cuts affect your community more -- or less -- than this national average. See for reports on cities, counties, industries and more.

State Contract Year District Contract Count $ Amount Reduction by 9.0% Reduction by 18.0%

Connecticut 2010 1st - John B. Larson (D) 2,125 $3,269,056,612 -$294,215,107 -$588,430,214
Connecticut 2010 2nd - Joe Courtney (D) 1,634 $3,696,313,118 -$332,668,194 -$665,336,388
Connecticut 2010 3rd - Rosa L. DeLauro (D) 1,898 $1,971,408,854 -$177,426,804 -$354,853,608
Connecticut 2010 4th - Jim Himes (D) 1,866 $2,338,074,661 -$210,426,728 -$420,853,456
Connecticut 2010 5th - Christopher S. Murphy (D) 1,323 $198,762,838 -$17,888,656 -$35,777,312
TOTAL 8,846 $11,473,616,083 -$1,032,625,489 -$2,065,250,978

A Note on the Breakdown by Congressional District

Calculated totals of Revenues and number of contracts for Defense contracts for each congressional district are estimates, because the amounts are aggregated by zip code, and a single zip code may include portions of two or more congressional districts.

To obtain these estimated total revenues for any given congressional district, the following algorithm was used:

1. If the zip code was located only in a single district, the amounts (number of contracts, dollar amount) for that zip code were assigned in full to that district.
2. If a zip code was located across multiple districts, the amounts (number of contracts, dollar amount) were divided by the number of districts shown in the listing, and assigned to each of those districts. Rounding errors were adjusted in the final district of the sequence, so that the total amounts remain the same overall. Whole dollars (no cents) were used in each such distribution.

The results are therefore of necessity approximate. CSP has developed a custom report for individual congressional districts, available on request, which provides contractor data for all zip codes that lie completely or partially within a given congressional district. In this way, researchers who request the report can determine the location of contracts for the district on a block by block basis.