Friday, March 30, 2012

Malloy Reforms Whipped

“After Governor Dannel Malloy is put through the political grinder by status quo opposition forces that tend to resist his educational reform, he just might begin to feel, perhaps for the first time in his political life, what some Republican governors before him may have felt when faced with an intractable opposition” –Connecticut Commentary, March 8

It was a bit like watching a baby seal being clubbed to death by hunters.

When the leaders of the Education Committee had finished stripping from Governor Dannel Malloy’s education proposals the principle elements of reform, the remaining limp carcass looked very much like a clubbed and skinned Harp Seal.

All the important legislative decisions that shaped the final product concerning the governor’s reforms were made, according to one news report, behind closed doors in a “marathon meeting [that] included the Education Committee co-chairs — Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, and Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford — along with Ojakian and representatives from the two teachers unions.” Mark Ojakian is the governor’s Chief of Staff and, along with Office of Policy and Management (OPM) Secretary Ben Barnes, a chief representative of the Malloy administration in its frequent negotiations with state unions.

The Education Committee refused to sign off on the governor’s measures to couple teacher salaries and tenure with student performance, choosing instead to study the measures further, thus packaging the Malloy reforms in dry ice. And later the budget writing committee paired back spending Mr. Malloy had proposed to turn around the state’s 12 poorest performing schools, gutting in half the $22.9 million he had assigned to do the job.

Following the evisceration of Mr. Malloy’s education reforms by the Education Committee, the governor sent a message to his Democratic comrades in the General Assembly expressing his displeasure.

President of the Connecticut American Federation of Teachers Sharon Palmer said the closed door meeting was held at an undisclosed Hartford office building to assure privacy from the prying eyes of Connecticut’s media, among others.

Among the “others” were Republican leaders not invited to the discussions, a sequestration that is becoming a hallmark of the Malloy administration. Republican leaders were also excluded, it will be recalled, from budget shaping negotiations involving leading progressive Democrats in the General Assembly -- which pre-approved an unfinished state budget before deliberations were concluded – gubernatorial factotums and union leaders representing SEBAC, a coalition of unions appointed to negotiate contracts with the Malloy administration.

Since the secret meeting was closed to objective scrutiny, the details later released by interested parties are subject to future verification and perhaps should be taken, as Mark Twain used to say, “with a ton of salt.”

According to information tendered by interested parties, the secret meeting on Saturday began at noon and continued until Sunday at 1:30. Those attending the private session disbursed when it became impossible to achieve agreement on “several particular concerns of teachers, including collective bargaining and labor management,” according to a news report, after which matters were referred to the Education Committee, which “re-worked” the bill, apparently to the satisfaction of teacher union representatives present at the undisclosed meeting.

Communications director for AFT Connecticut Eric Bailey said "Obviously, we think the bill was a lot better than it was when it started. The committee’s work of destruction yet incomplete, Mr. Bailey added, “but there is still room for improvement."

Other groups backing Mr. Malloy’s reforms -- ConnCAN, a pro-education reform group, the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, the Connecticut Association of Schools and the Connecticut Business and Industry Association – were understandably dashed.

"It's really hard to say this is reform and this is what's best when most of the voices were excluded," said, chief executive officer of ConnCAN Patrick Riccards. “The vast majority of stakeholders weren't part of the discussion."

As Mayor of Stamford, Mr. Malloy perhaps had grown use to issuing directives that were in short order applied by his administrative troops, some of whom he took into his administration when he became governor. But he ain’t in Kansas anymore. The General Assembly has for a long while been crowded with union dependent legislative leaders of committees who can easily frustrate gubernatorial designs that disappoint powerful unions.

Managing Editor of the Journal Inquirer Chris Powell points to a lapse in political acumen as the cause of the collapse of Mr. Malloy’s educational reforms. If the governor had linked his education reforms to “the biggest tax increase in state history, making the new money for the government class and government's many dependents conditional on serious reform -- no reform, no money,” his reforms might have survived committee clubbing.

But in budget deliberations with SEBAC, Mr. Malloy gave away the store. His factotums arranged a deal with state unions that was, according to union committed legislators such as Edith Prague, an offer unions would have been insane to refuse. When you have given up your principle bargaining chips to the house, further negotiations on other matters will leave you destitute.

One lives and learns.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Fishwrap: Stories that Make No Splash In March

How To Beat Your Wife

According to the Toronto Sun a new book by Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi details the permissible limits of wife beating and spousal control. The book sold out in Toronto.

“Page 45 contains the rights of the husband, which include his wife’s inability to leave ‘his house without his permission,’ and that his wife must ‘fulfil his desires’ and “not allow herself to be untidy ... but should beautify herself for him ...

“In terms of physical punishment, the book advises that a husband may scold her, ‘beat by hand or stick,’ withhold money from her or ‘pull (her) by the ears,’ but should ‘refrain from beating her excessively.’”

Infanticide Is Ethical

The newest Orwellian term for infanticide is, according to William Saletan of Slate Magazine is “after birth abortion.”

Slate, a left of center publication, begins its vigorous attack on permissible infanticide with a reference to the “crazy religious right.” Slate wants us to know that craziness is not limited to certain unspecified religious orders that object on ethical grounds to partial birth abortion.

“Just when you thought the religious right couldn’t get any crazier, with its personhood amendments and its attacks on contraception, here comes the academic left with an even crazier idea: after-birth abortion.

“No, I didn’t make this up. ‘Partial-birth abortion’ is a term invented by pro-lifers. But ‘after-birth abortion’ is a term invented by two philosophers, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva. In the Journal of Medical Ethics…”

The Good News

Researchers, according to a story in the Telegraph, have “discovered that at least 100 of the ‘super-Earths’ may be on our galactic doorstep, at distances of less than 30 light years, or about 180 trillion miles, from the sun.”

There is no bad news. The planets are uninhabited by Russian dictators, Venezuelan strongmen, nutty as a fruitcake wife-beating Salafists, saintly Cuban presidential terrorists looking for yet another international handout,  and American presidents who cannot puttogether a passable budget.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gray Might Face Questions

Kevin Rennie, a Hartford Courant columnist, writes on his blog “Daily Ructionsthat Charles Gray, the “spouse of Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s legal counsel and former Pullman & Comley lawyer Andrew McDonald,” might expect a few questions concerning “the details of his relationship with Pullman & Comley, when he appears before the Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee on Thursday at noon to his nomination to the CAA [Connecticut Airport Authority].”

According to Mr. Rennie:

“Pullman & Comley had more than a good friend in the room when the Connecticut Airport Authority rejected considerably lower bids from two other firms and hired the Bridgeport-based law firm to serve as its counsel. It had a former client in authority member Charles Gray, spouse of Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s legal counsel and former Pullman & Comley lawyer Andrew McDonald.”

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Courant On Tax Relief

The canned response to any attempt to lower taxes in Connecticut goes something like this: In the grand scheme of things, savings from the proposed tax reduction will be insignificant. And the computed savings, in any case, will deplete money made available to the state that is used for noble and necessary purposes such as, not to be too bitterly sardonic, miss-educating urban school children for several decades.

Thus does the Hartford Courant vociferously object in an editorial to a decision made by Democrats in Connecticut’s General Assembly to cap the state’s gross receipt tax on gas for one year only.

The title of the paper’s March 24 editorial is “Gas Tax Cap Is Showboating.” Apparently, political showboating in the future is to be frowned upon by editorial editors and writers at the Courant.

A few days before the editorial appeared, Democrats in the General Assembly had devised a TEMPORARY ONE YEAR ONLY cap on the state’s gross receipts tax, a charge placed by the General Assembly on gas upon its arrival in the port of New Haven. The aptly named “gross receipt tax,” in addition to the excise tax on gas at the pump, increases the dollar price of a gallon of gas in Connecticut by about 50 cents, 25 cents for the gross receipt tax and 25 cents for the excise tax at the pump – the highest gas tax in the nation

Connecticut is one of the few states that charge a gross receipt tax, initially levied to pay for upkeep on the state’s transportation infrastructure. Over the years, as so often happens with “dedicated” funds in the tax and spend state, the gross receipts tax revenue stream was partly diverted into the General Fund. The Courant notes in its editorial that last year only half of the $334.5 million generated by the receipts tax, about $165.3, tricked down from the taxing authority into the state’s transportation fund, although the Federal Highway Administration last year ranked 75 percent of Connecticut’s road in “less than good” repair. The state adds its 7.53% Gross Receipts Tax to each wholesale gasoline sale.

The gross receipts tax is especially pernicious because the tax rises automatically with increases in the price of gas and is, unlike the excise tax shown at the pump, hidden from the consumers’ view, an ideal tax for politicians wary of voter’s disapproval at a time when citizens in the state already have been harshly punished by the largest General Assembly sanctioned tax increase in state history.

The super-tax increase, larger even than the massive increase in taxes and consequent spending following the Courant supported Lowell Weicker income tax in 1991, was levied by the first Democratic governor in more than 20 years on sales and service transactions that conscientious editorial writers at the paper doubtless consider, viewing each separately, far more insignificant than the “cost” to state government incurred by a temporary cap on the gross receipts tax. A partial list of new taxes imposed by Mr. Malloy, with the concurrence of the Democratic dominated General Assembly, may be found at the Connecticut Commentary site.

The Courant in its editorial does not oppose the temporary tax relief that would follow upon passage of the Democratic bill because the bill itself, which caps the tax only for one year, is a preposterous fraud.

Pushed over the edge by Len Suzio, a populist Republican who has called for the elimination of the gross receipts tax, Democrats in the General Assembly up for re-election produced a bill that would cap the tax temporarily, a measure designed to fool all of the people some of the time, just long enough to secure the elections of Democratic legislators who favor permanent tax increases and temporary tax relief.

No, the Courant objects, here and always, to ANY tax relief – permanent or temporary – a shameless and reckless position when the ever-rising tide of spending in Connecticut is fatally lowering the level of business activity that former President John Kennedy once said would lift all the boats. The demand-siders on the editorial board of the paper further insist that only a reduction in demand – and not an increase in supply – can reduce the price of gas at the pump, a notion that any economist worth his salt would consider juvenile and anti-historical.

There is not a single economist, living or dead, who does not believe that the price of a product can be lowered by an increase in its supply. When President John Kennedy said that a rising would lift all the boats – a, phrase borrowed by his speechwriter from the regional New England Council chamber of commerce – the president was announcing his intention to spur business activity by reducing tax rates. This is what Mr. Kennedy said:

“It is increasingly clear that no matter what party is in power, so long as our national security needs keep rising, an economy hampered by restrictive tax rates will never produce enough revenues to balance our budget just as it will never produce enough jobs or enough profits… In short, it is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now."

When thought itself has been replaced by the seeming irresistible urge of left of center environmental purists at Connecticut’s only state-wide newspaper to array one’s unexamined prejudices in print, legislative policy – disastrously – will follow suit.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

RINOs And The Buckley Rule

Commentary magazine asks in its March 22 edition whether it is ever OK for the Republican Party, incontestably conservative, to support a RINO (Republican in name only) candidate for office.

The RINO in question is former U.S. Representative Chris Shays, now running for U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman’s soon to be vacant seat in Connecticut. RINOism, writer Jonathan Tobin points out, “is synonymous with betrayal of principle and mushy statism… Shays is more or less what most people think of when they hear the term RINO. In his 21 years representing Fairfield County in Congress Shays voted more often with liberals than conservatives… On abortion, gun control, campaign finance reform and other conservative litmus test issues, Shays was on the liberal side of the spectrum. He also angered many by ditching his party on the war in Iraq in 2006 by calling for a troop withdrawal, a tilt to the left that helped hold onto his seat for one more term.” Congressman Shays voted with the majority Republicans 76.8% of the time, the majority of Democrats 57.9% of the time, and missed 2.5% of the votes.

Connecticut’s Republican Party had tolerated U.S. Senator Lowell Weicker, a RINO Maverick, for ten years. Mr. Weicker was a U.S. Representative for two years, from 69-71 and a U.S. Senator for eight years, from 89-71. Thereafter, he became Governor of Connecticut, giving birth to the state’s income tax, a measure he forced through the legislature after having said in his campaign for governor that instituting an income tax to settle a billion dollar budget deficit would be “like pouring gas on a fire.” The income tax passed into law in 1991, and the spending fires have burned brightly ever since.

When Mr. Lieberman challenged Mr. Weicker, the Republican Party in the state finally was able cut the umbilical cord that had attached it to a charging RINO who had described himself approvingly as “the turd in the Republican Party punchbowl.”

Gored once by a charging RINO, Republicans thereafter were twice shy. Mr. Shays is a pleasant man, well-spoken, obviously intelligent, and his candidacies for the U.S. House were supported by Republicans in his state for more than twenty years. Mr. Shays lost his House seat to a Democrat who was equally pleasant, well-spoken and intelligent. On the far left side of the political barricades in Connecticut, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes is considered a DINO, a Democrat in name only. The seat captured by the moderate Democrat had been a Republican fiefdom for forty years. Throughout the Northeast, Republican moderates running against Democrats perceived to be more moderate than, say, Leon Trotsky have been unceremoniously turned out of office. When Mr. Shays left the Congress, he was the very last Republican moderate in New England. Given the choice between a Republican RINO and a moderate Democrat, voters – including Independents, a majority of whom may be disaffected Democrats – were casting their ballots for moderate Democrats rather than ersatz Republicans.

Connecticut, as must seem obvious to nearly everyone by now, is a deep blue state. There is not a single Republican moderate in its uniformly progressive U.S. Congressional delegation, all of whom have over the years been washed away. The media in Connecticut is left of center, much preferring moderate, adaptable Republicans to principled conservatives -- which, come to think of it, is why Maverick Weicker had such a long run in office.

The Democratic Party in Connecticut is better at caging votes than their counterparts in the Republican Party. Over the years, the state GOP has dwindled in numbers, importance and power. The more moderate and obliging it became the more adventuresome and authoritarian its opponents became. Owing to campaign finance reform, state parties are no longer able to choose and fund promising candidates. The financing arms of both parties have moved off-shore; SuperPacs now finance politicians of choice, while state parties go a’ begging.

The whole political superstructure has changed, most dramatically in Connecticut. And this means that many of the old assumptions are no longer reliable. Political prognostication has become little more than shot in the dark, a deduction from premises that no longer exist in reality. We live, as the Chinese philosopher says, in interesting times.

So then, is it OK for the Republican Party in Connecticut to support a RINO to run against the likely Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, present U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, who has, in the course of his campaigns, managed to make himself a desirable candidate to progressives, moderates and the state’s left of center media?

Some conservatives answer the question by adducing “The Buckley Rule” – that in any political contest, conservatives should support the most conservative candidate likely to win. However, it should be noted 1) that the rule elucidated by William Buckley applies only to candidacies involving conservatives, and 2) not all Republicans are conservative. The most honest answer to the question posed by Commentary is: We do not have enough reliable information to answer the question. The underlying presumption that among Republican candidates ONLY Mr. Shays can win the election cannot be verified until the final votes are counted.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Political Weight Classes

President Barack Obama likes pugilistic metaphors, not surprising from someone who sprouted from the nursery bed of Chicago politics. But the Danes are watching.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Blumenthal Hearts Bechard

It might have proved embarrassing, but a senatorial duck saved the day.

Former Speaker of Connecticut’s House of Representatives Jim Amann had received a call from U.S. Senator Dick Blumenthal, formerly the state’s Attorney General and a shameless media hound, asking if the senator could participate in a press availability at which Mr. Amann and Raymond Bechard, author of a book deploring sexual slavery on the Berlin Turnpike, were to announce their support of a bill that would hold publishers legally liable for accepting ads that might, or might not, lead to acts of prostitution.

Mr. Amann said “Sure!” And why not? Rare is the congressman who can resist bathing in the waters of moral rectitude. Mr. Blumenthal, as the state’s Comstockian attorney general, had dipped his toes in constitutionally troubled waters before.

Mr. Amann, somewhat like former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd, who cashed in his senatorial chits to become a one percenter in Tinseltown, is into film. Mr. Bechard, author of a book about sexual slavery on the Berlin Turnpike in this “the land of steady habits” is interested in turning his book into a documentary.

A bill legally punishing publishers who run ads that may or may not involve prostitution presumes that sleepy ad copyists and publishers KNOW that an ad displaying the business profile of Madam X has ended in an illegal sexual act. An illegal act must actually occur before the heavy hand of the law dispossesses PRESUMED offenders of their property and liberty.

Many of the ads are transparent invitations to sex romps: “JUSTICE Upscale Companion looking to meet Generous Gentlemen. ALL RATES ARE FULL SERVICE No Hidden Fees Tall 5’8" … Beautiful Long-haired Curvy Italian Redhead.”

Any publisher of such an ad may strongly suspect that JUSTICE’s services are not the sort offered by lawyers or attorneys general. But there is many a slip between a seemingly salacious ad and the act of prostitution. It is the business of police rather than publishers of newspapers and internet ad sites to uncover the connection. Not surprisingly, it is precisely such ads that provide certifiable leads to officers of the law that allow them to make a case against those placing the ads offering illegal services. To carry possible arrests beyond those whose actions break the law is, at least in respect of publishers, to invite the displeasure of justices whose duty it is to uphold such untidy obstacles to prosecution as the First Amendment to the Constitution, still the law of the land -- even in Connecticut.

At a time when Dr. Johnson was reporting debates in the House of Commons, a member restated the doctrine of nulla poena sine lege: “That where there is no law there is no transgression is a maxim not only established by universal consent, but in itself evident and undeniable; and it is, Sir, surely no less certain that where there is no transgression here can be no punishment.” The bill supported by Mr. Blumenthal, Mr. Amann and Mr. Bechard seeks to assign a punishment that is itself prohibited by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which, most unfortunately, protects speech that offends Comstockian attorneys general, booksellers and armature documentarians.

A little over two years ago, then Attorney General Blumenthal sued Mr. Bechard, operator of the Old Saybrook-based " Ahava Kids," whom he accused of misusing thousands of dollars in charitable contributions. Mr. Blumenthal said of Mr. Bechard in one of his philippics sent as a news release to dozens of media outlets, “This individual, essentially, wasted, squandered, misused and misappropriated this money.” Mr. Bechard, said Mr. Blumenthal, “claimed to help victims of human trafficking and distribute AIDS medications to orphaned children in third world countries.” Mr. Blumenthal further charged that Mr. Bechard, who operated four businesses out of his home, had channeled $67,000 through phony firms. “As much as $100,000 was taken from the cause of aiding orphan children with AIDS and victims of human trafficking," Attorney General Blumenthal reported at the time, according to News 8 WTNH.

It is not known whether Mr. Blumenthal’s still pending charges against Mr. Bechard will in due course be dismissed by present Attorney General George Jepsen. Mr. Jepsen has disposed of hundreds of cases Mr. Blumenthal left behind as his legacy to the incoming attorney general. One reporter noticed that Mr. Blumenthal and Mr. Bechard, the man he sued two years earlier, had become strange bedfellows at the media opportunity and wondered whether the senator had forgotten the connection.

More likely the senator, drawn to media opportunities as Johns are drawn to bordellos, recalled his past efforts in threatening Craigslist and could not resist one more strut before the cameras. After all, no one likes traffickers in human flesh or sexual slavery, and here was an opportunity to display one’s moral rectitude, piling up future votes at the same time, a fatal cocktail for the below-average politician on the make. Mr. Blumenthal ducked out before any compromising questions concerning his suit against Mr. Bechard could be asked.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cynthia Farahat And Egypt

Cynthia Farahat, an Egyptian political activist, writer and researcher, has more real courage than any American politician I can name, and she knows more about James Madison than most.

Ms. Farahat co-founded the Liberal Egyptian Party (2006-2008) and served as a member of its political committee. In 2008-2009, she was program coordinator and program officer at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty in Cairo, a multi-national free market think tank. She was a founder of the Masr El-Om (Mother Egypt) Party and was a member of its political committee (2004-2006). She has published in National Review, Middle East Quarterly, and in other publications in both English and Arabic. In December 2011, Ms. Farahat testified before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the US House of Representatives on the roots of the persecution of the Coptic Christian minority in her native Egypt. She is a fellow at the Middle East Forum and the Center for Security Policy.

More about the persecution of the Copts may be found here.

Donovan’s Minimum Wage “Compromise”

Speaker of the State House of Representatives Chris Donovan, actively running for the U.S. Congress in Connecticut’s 5th District, apparently has “compromised” on his most recent bill that would have hiked the state’s minimum wage 75 cents on July 1 and another 75 cents a year later, establishing in Connecticut, the land of steady spending habits, yet another first: the state with the highest minimum wage in the nation.

Donovan’s compromise is a bit like that of Solomon’s, who proposed that a baby whose parentage had been questioned should be cut in half with a sword, each half to be parceled out to the disputing mothers. Solomon’s inelegant solution, offered as a ploy to ferret out the real mother, would have resulted in a dead baby. Mr. Donovan – perhaps in order to demonstrate his willingness to compromise should he ever reach the U.S. House of Representatives – has now offered a more “moderate” proposal: The Labor and Public Employees Committee recently voted 8-3, with the consent of the Speaker, to trim back Mr. Donovan’s minimum wage hike. Mr. Donovan’s compromise bill raises the minimum wage by 50 cents to $8.25 in each of the next two years, future raises to be pegged automatically to the consumer price index.

With whom, it may be asked, was Mr. Donovan compromising when he shaved 25 cents off his initial minimum wage proposal and then indexed future boosts to the steady and reliable escalation in the consumer price index -- which, like taxes, always goes up and never comes down? One of the reasons the consumer price index will be going up in the post-Barrack Obama era has to do with inflation. When the national government prints too much paper money, it devalues the purchasing power of the dollar. The decrease in the purchasing power of the dollar means that it takes more dollars to buy a loaf of bread or a gallon of gas or a politician for sale. This increases the price of goods, and tying wage increases to the price of goods protects favored interests – such as union members inclined to vote for Mr. Donovan – from the ravages of inflation caused by legislative spendthrifts such as Mr. Donovan.

Most Republicans in the General Assembly, Senator Tony Guglielmo of Stafford dissenting, sincerely believe that the Donovan “compromise” will result in a dead baby. In any case, Mr. Donovan, who prefers force majeure to compromise and is a former organizer for the Service Employees International Union, has not been inclined to compromise with Republicans in the General Assembly on budget matters because, as Napoleon once pointed out to the pope of the day, the Vatican opposition to his hubristic ambition was short on battalions. The opposition to Mr. Donovan’s Solomonic decision to increase the minimum wage is more likely to come from queasy Democrats.

And why, it may be asked, are Democratic big spenders in Connecticut’s General Assembly all of a sudden queasy. Well, elections are nigh; that’s one thing. There are indications that Connecticut’s plane, headed at full speed toward the hills, will sooner or later crash into the mountain; that’s another. Governor Dannel Malloy during his first few months in office, with the concurrence of unionized state workers, levied a broad-based Matterhorn sized tax increase on pretty much everyone in the state, tapping out future income tax resources; that’s another thing. And then there’s this: With the concurrence Speaker Donovan and President of the Senate Don Williams, General Assembly Democrats progressivized the income tax, instituted a New Earned Income Tax Credit without offering offsets in welfare payments and levied a new charge on businesses, although for years spendthrift Democrats in the General Assembly have been witnessing promising entrepreneurs and businesses leeching into other states less prone to punishing regulations and taxes.

Under the progressive regime favored by Mr. Donovan, destructive increases in taxation and regulation – yet another hidden tax passed on by businesses to consumers – simply rearrange chairs on a sinking Titanic. Any artificial increase in Mr. Donovan’s minimum wage beyond the point of diminishing returns will force businesses that cannot afford the increase to a) raise prices and reduce market share in a competitive economy, b) lay off workers and compel other employees to take up the slack without proper remuneration, and c) shut down business that likely employ the low income workers Mr. Donovan hopes to enrich through legislative means.

Other Democrats running against Mr. Donovan for the coveted 5th District Congressional seat presently held by U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy have pushed themselves so far left of center during the primary that it is doubtful any of them will be able to raise reasonable objections to Mr. Donovan’s destructive bill or his candidacy for the U.S. Congress.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Malloy in Bethel

Governor Malloy appeared in Bethel to defend his educational reform proposals, and the going was not quite as rough as Mr. Malloy’s past appearances.

At Wilber Cross High School, the heckling, mostly from teachers, was blistering. Towards the end of the meeting in New Haven, union president David Cicarella conceded, according to one press report, “It doesn't do any good hooting and hollering at the guy.” Teacher unions have not conceded much to Mr. Malloy concerning his proposals to remake education in Connecticut.

Rhetorical grapeshot was fired in Bethel, but Mr. Malloy easily deflected it, perhaps because Bethel Superintendent Kevin Smith had advised the crowd to be on their best behavior, but possibly, as I like to think, because Bethelites are unusually cordial.

My wife and I lived in Bethel – the name means “house of God” – for eight peaceful and fruitful years, not very far from the brilliant white church where P.T. Barnum’s father, Philo, and his mother, Irena, rest in peace beneath the sod. On the occasion of the unveiling of a fountain given by the then famous showman to his home town, Mr. Barnum said:

“Among all the varied scenes of an active and eventful life, crowded with strange incidents of struggle and excitement, of joy and sorrow, taking me often through foreign lands and bringing me face to face with the King in his palace and the peasant in his turf-covered hut, I have invariably cherished with most affectionate remembrance the place of my birth, the old village meeting house, without steeple or bell, where in its square family pew I sweltered in summer and shivered through my Sunday-school lessons in winter, and the old schoolhouse where the ferule, the birchen rod and rattan did active duty, and which deserved and received a liberal share.”

Mr. Barnum is a much underrated character. He first discovered then exploited and entertained the Middle Class. Mayor of Bridgeport and a legislator, Mr. Barnum was an able politician and as humorous and fetching a storyteller as Mark Twain:

"When I was but ten years old, newspapers came only once a week. The man who brought us the week's papers came up from Norwalk, and drove through this section with newspapers for subscribers and pins and needles for customers. He was called Uncle Silliman. I can remember well his weekly visit through Bethel, and his queer cry. On coming to a house or village he would shout, 'News! News! The Lord reigns!' One time he passed our schoolhouse when a snowstorm was prevailing. He shouted: 'News! News! The Lord reigns - and snows a little.'”

The crowd that listened on that day to the 71 year-old Barnum would have appreciated the subtle humor: The same “Uncle Silliman” who delivered the news supplied his customers with “pins and needles.” Newspapers during Barnum’s day were somewhat prickley, and the birched Bethelites who heard him were much less schooled and more educated than their modern counterparts in some of the underperforming urban schools Mr. Malloy is attempting to reform, apparently without the consent of unions.

Whether it was because the Lord reigned in Bethel or because the teachers of Mr. Barnum’s day made liberal use of birch rods, pretty much everyone who attended school in his home town could read the rare newspapers Mr. Silliman distributed. Mr. Barnum later exploited their literacy by drawing crowds of people into his Circus through ads; in addition to inventing the Middle Class, Mr. Barnum is also the father of modern advertising. It may shock newsreaders who have bought into the so-called “objective reporting” of journalists to learn that some the news stories covering Mr. Barnum’s educational lyceums were written by Mr. Barnum. It was not uncommon in those days for newspaper editors to accept for publication “stories” written by the subjects covered in the stories, their authorship disguised by false by-lines.

It is not at all surprising that Mr. Malloy has not been able to sell his reforms to unionized teachers. The reforms proposed by Mr. Malloy will, after all, change their world. And Mr. Malloy, somewhat like an overbearing teacher, is insisting that a no-excuse pedagogy should not fall back on the usual palliatives: We must eliminate poverty before we can educate urban students; the fault lies with broken families, drug addiction, gangs, disruptive students and other social pathologies, certainly not with dedicated teachers; give us smaller classes; we need longer school years; end standardized testing; give us more money -- pass around the birch rods.

Mr. Barnum, whose unique talents perfectly fitted him for a modern world full of politics and showmanship, had much the easier time of it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

When Is A Spending Cap Not A Cap?

"'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

"'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

"'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master— that's all.' – Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll

A spending cap is a measure that prevents legislatures from appropriating money after a certain level of acquisition has been reached. The Connecticut spending cap is pegged to increases in the average growth rate of Connecticut’s personal income (PI) or the annual rate of inflation measured by the growth of the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Connecticut’s spending cap was added to the Constitution State’s Constitution as a surety to the public that legislators would live within their means at a time when the General Assembly was poised to vote in favor of an income tax proposed by former Governor And Spendthrift Lowell Weicker who, when last heard from on the alarming growth of spending in Connecticut, was rubbing his noggin and muttering, “Where did it [the surpluses brought in over the years by the Weicker income tax] all go?”

They spent it, you poor naive ninny. They spent it. What did you think they were going to do with the windfall riches you showered upon them?

Over the years, the two Republican governors who followed Mr. Weicker into office and the Democratic dominated General Assembly surreptitiously raised spending levels by loftily ignoring the cap, always a paper ball and chain. A signal that something was wrong with the Constitutional spending cap was obvious from the first; the legislature pointedly did not initiate a bill to implement the cap after the Weicker income tax was instituted. The purpose of the cap was never to bind a spendthrift legislature. It was meant as a head-fake to convince wavering legislators that, should they pass into law Mr. Weicker’s income tax, the General Assembly – which, in our constitutional form of government, is in charge of spending and appropriations – would not allow spending to rise beyond a prescribed level.

This was the era of confusion, doubt and duplicity. Then, along came Governor Dannel Malloy The Just, who promised in a campaign heard round the world to blow away all the smoke and smash all the mirrors utilized by his dishonest, two-faced predecessors.

There would be no sleight of hand in the Malloy administration. The days of Republican and faux Republican governors were OVER. Mr. Malloy, the first Democratic governor in more than 20 years, said several times during his campaign that he was not – NO, NOT – considering tax increases. Before radio talk show host Dan Lovallo was given the boot by The Talk of Connecticut, Mr. Lovallo used Mr. Malloy’s several campaign disclaimers as a lead into his show, followed by a notice that the speaker had initiated the largest tax increases in the history of Connecticut, leaving even Weicker the Bold eating Mr. Malloy’s dust.

There are numerous ways – some honest, others dishonest – to raise the ceiling on Connecticut’s spending cap. A governor might persuade the public that raising the cap would be in the public’s interest. But since the cap is a Constitutional provision, boosting it would entail convening a convention to change the Constitution, which in turn would leave the door open to measures decidedly unappealing to the Democratic dominated legislature. Constitutional conventions are Pandora boxes in reverse. Open Pandora’s Box and evils fly out; open a constitutional convention and “evils,” remembering always that “evil” is in the mind of the beholder, fly in. At a constitutional convention, it might be possible to propose ballot and initiative measures, operative in many states but frowned upon in Connecticut, the land of steady habits, by the state’s habitual power brokers.

In essence, the Constitutional spending cap is itself an unusually effective head-fake. Since implementing legislation was not passed at the time the cap was woven into the Constitution, the state is not operating under the Constitutional cap. Spending levels in the state are determined by a statute that was operative BEFORE the cap was included as a Constitutional provision. The current Connecticut state spending rule uses the larger of the rate of inflation or the growth in personal income as the basis on which, fiscal year after fiscal year, most state spending can grow. The statutory cap is easily circumvented whenever the governor and the General Assembly find such circumventions politically expedient. The governor has merely to sign a declaration of fiscal "exigency," after which the legislature can expend dollars in excess of the cap upon a 60 percent vote of approval in both chambers.

The inventive Malloy administration has found yet another way to “honor” the inoperative Constitutional cap while relieving any possible pressure to restrain spending -- by removing costly items from the list governed by the statute that purportedly “controls” spending.

So then, we have in Connecticut an inoperative constitutional cap on spending combined with sleight of hand political accounting that will considerably lessen spending restraint by moving costly items such as state pensions from the ancient statute that has never efficiently controlled spending.

But there are no smoke and mirrors in Mr. Malloy’s government, NO SMOKE, NO MIRRORS in this rare, Alice in Wonderland environment in which a word – “cap,” for instance -- means, as Humpty Dumpty used to say, “just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.”

Friday, March 9, 2012

Scalia At Wesleyan

Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Antonin Scalia is perhaps the nation’s foremost advocate and interpreter of orginalism, a mode of constitutional interpretation. The chief business of the Supreme Court, both originalists and non-originalists will agree, lies in Constitutional interpretation, a task that no Supreme Court justice may responsibly avoid.

Mr. Scalia’s views on originalism have been widely disseminated; the justice has not in the past hidden his light under a bushel basket. An address on orginalism delivered twenty three years ago at the University of Cincinnati during the William Howard Taft Constitutional Law Lecture is available to every reporter in the state at the click of a mouse.

In that widely available lecture, Mr. Scalia dilates on the defects of non-orginalist interpretation. Briefly, non-orginalism binds constitutional interpretation to what has been called “the living constitution,” which is to say the constitution as interpreted by justices of the moment who feel that the ancient provisions of the constitution must be translated with reference to current sociological considerations that carry greater weight than historical interpretation.

The origanalist interpreter acknowledges that some language in the Constitution may be ambiguous and in need of interpretation. Faced with a difficult constitutional term, the originalist will first consider the constitutional text. Not every Constitutional referent is ambiguous, but some are. If the referent is unclear, he then will seek its meaning in other contemporary texts such as state constitutions, constitutional deliberations, newspaper accounts, historical journals and the like. In Mr. Scalia’s understanding, proponents of a “living constitution” may dispense with such bothersome tasks, because the non-originalist is engaged in a procrustean effort to trim the appendages of the Constitution so they may better fit the bed of modernist subjective interpretation.

If one does not give proper weight to the original meaning of the Constitution, the document itself becomes a mere fantasy in the minds of judicial interpreters -- judicial interpretation as fad, and there is nothing so impermanent, changeable and fickle, G. K. Chesterton reminds us, as a fad. Under this scheme of interpretation, interpretive responsibilities simply disappear, and constitutional meaning becomes a meaning of the moment loosed from constitutional moorings.

Mr. Scalia is concerned with moorings and bindings and constitutional interpretive boundaries, as any reporter might have discovered by reading his twenty-three-year-old University of Cincinnati lecture, one always hopes, in preparation for reporting on the justice’s Wesleyan lecture.

Mr. Scalia arrived at the university at about twelve noon. He graciously spent about ten hours at Wesleyan, lunching with the students, talking with students and faculty, giving a well prepared lecture that lasted more than an hour, entertaining questions afterwards, and commenting good naturedly on the antics of professional protesters who unfurled banners wrong side out, so that the message on them was obscured, and sprinkled those attending the lecture with a shower of condoms. These happy warriors, some of whom were veterans of the ""Occupy Wall Street" movement, bearing signs outside, one of which read “The GOP Hates Women”, left the premises before Mr. Scalia explained that non-originalists were more likely than originalists to deprive them of their First Amendment rights of free speech, originalists being bound by constitutional provisions the import of which are made clear by hard historical research, while non-originalists rely on a capricious, ever changing interpretive standard that is faddish and subject to the fanciful imaginations of fallible justices.

Both originalist and non-originalists, Mr. Scalia said in his address, may make errors in judgment; and, in fact, Mr. Scalia mentioned in his address an instance in which, on reflection, he determined that the consequences of one his own originalist interpretation was too severe to be borne. But, he insisted, orginalism, while not error free, a least applies a measurable standard to judicial interpretation. Its great virtue is that its rigorous standard binds judges and leaves people free, while non-orginalism frees the judicial imagination and more often deprives people of their constitutional liberties.

An excellent report on Mr. Scalia’s appearance at Weselyan by David Lat may be found on his site, “Above the Law”

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Dannel Rell

Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel, that thou may’st shake the superflux to them, and show the heavens more just – Lear, from Shakespeare’s “King Lear.”

After Governor Dannel Malloy is put through the political grinder by status quo opposition forces that tend to resist his educational reform, he just might begin to feel, perhaps for the first time in his political life, what some Republican governors before him may have felt when faced with an intractable opposition.

Mr. Malloy’s’ educational reforms spring from reasonable premises: Some schools are better than other schools; the surest means of improving deficient schools is to note the important pedagogical differences between the two, discover what works in the better schools and replicate it in the poorer schools. Among things that don’t work as well as they should, particularly in failing urban schools, are some deficient teachers. They should be identified and counseled; if remediation does not improve them, they should be discharged, and administrators should not have to jump the moon to insure their replacement. The surest means of singling out poor teachers is to tie their teaching performance to teaching outcomes.

As promised, Mr. Malloy has taken his premises on the road. On March 5, he displayed his reforms to a Chamber of Commerce gathering in Waterbury and was cordially received by a sizable group. Following his brief presentation, Mr. Malloy asked for questions from the floor: “What? No one wants to yell at me?” Half a dozen questions were asked of the governor, after which he departed, skin intact.

The next day, Mr. Malloy – perhaps the most peripatetic chief executive the state has seen in living memory – traveled to a high-performing school district in West Hartford, there to confront teachers chiefly concerned with those provisions of Mr. Malloy’s reform package that touch upon how educators are evaluated and paid. The 370 seats in the school auditorium Mr. Malloy visited were occupied by teachers from the region. Another 45 heard the proceedings from an overflow room, and more than 100 other teachers had been turned away, according to local officials.

Here was Dannel in the lion’s den; here was Lear on the heath, raked by a fierce storm.

Mr. Malloy did not quote the passage from Shakespeare above, but he did say, more prosaically, “You think about how hard this might be for you to make the changes required here. Think about how hard it would be to live raising a child in a city with a school district that is not meeting that child's needs."

His education package, Mr. Malloy told the teachers, contained reasonable and necessary proposals to reform teacher evaluations and tenure. Tenure is the lock on the closed shop of teacher unions in Connecticut. And here was the governor, surrounded by more than 400 teachers, shamelessly picking at the lock.

Outside the room, teachers were organizing the opposition. And inside the room, Democratic politicians in the audience – including the influential co-chairman of the General Assembly’s Education Committee, Representative Andrew Fleishmann – were nervously fidgeting. Mr. Fleischmann, according to one news report, will lay himself over troubled water and attempt to “bridge a politically uncomfortable gap Malloy has opened with unionized teachers.”

While teacher unions have agreed to accept Mr. Malloy’s “framework” for education reform, no one has yet agreed to link the agreed upon framework to certification, tenure and salary, many union affiliated teachers now say. The framework, the governor and others not afflicted with reformophobia insist, is inoperable without the linkage. There is no point to an educational reform that does not link desired outcomes with certification, tenure and salary. Unless sticks and carrots are associated with desired outcomes, there is no incentive for achieving ANY desirable purpose. In the real world outside of education – and even in classrooms in which good student performance is rewarded with high grades, the pedagogical equivalent of a salary increase – the delinking of rewards and sanctions to measurable performance leads ineluctably to poor performance which, in Connecticut’s dystopian educational environment, occasionally serves as its own reward.

After Mr. Malloy had left the building, Mr. Fleischmann huddled with a couple of hundred teachers in a closed door meeting during which he heard objections to Mr. Malloy’s reforms, a subject of continuing negotiations with Democratic legislators who control the General Assembly, teachers and the Malloy administration.

Mr. Fleischmann pointed out the state legislature is a co-equal branch of government that is expected to refine gubernatorial proposals, a responsibility Democrats in the legislature shucked off on the governor when Mr. Malloy entered into contractual negotiations with unions that refined his first budget. At that time, legislators such as Fleischmann pre-approved a budget that was by no means a final product, choosing instead to let the gubernatorial lamb lay down with union lions and iron out their differences.

This time around, Mr. Fleischmann is more than anxious to exercise his constitutional responsibilities – which may or may not refine out of a final educational reform package such Malloy reforms as do not sit well with status quo pedagogues.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tammany McDonald

When bright-eyed reformists of the early 1900’s were making a stab at political reform, George Washington Plunkitt of Tammany Hall gave an interview with news reporter William Riordan and, making what he thought was a necessary distinction between “honest graft” and the usual garden variety, spilled the beans, as they say in the now smokeless filled rooms where political friends still scratch each other’s backs.

“Everybody is talkin' these days about Tammany men growin' rich on graft, but nobody thinks of drawin' the distinction between honest graft and dishonest graft. There's all the difference in the world between the two. Yes, many of our men have grown rich in politics. I have myself. I've made a big fortune out of the game, and I'm gettin' richer every day, but I've not gone in for dishonest graft--blackmailin' gamblers, saloon‑keepers, disorderly people, etc.--and neither has any of the men who have made big fortunes in politics.

“There's an honest graft, and I'm an example of how it works. I might sum up the whole thing by sayin': 'I seen my opportunities and I took 'em.'  Just let me explain by examples. My party's in power in the city, and it's goin' to undertake a lot of public improvements. Well, I'm tipped off, say, that they're going to lay out a new park at a certain place.

“I see my opportunity and I take it. I go to that place and I buy up all the land I can in the neighborhood. Then the board of this or that makes its plan public, and there is a rush to get my land, which nobody cared particular for before. Ain't it perfectly honest to charge a good price and make a profit on my investment and foresight? Of course, it is. Well, that's honest graft."

And here is Mr. Plunkitt on the value of political friendships:

"I've told you how I got rich by honest graft. Now, let me tell you that most politicians who are accused of robbin' the city get rich the same way. They didn't steal a dollar from the city treasury. They just seen their opportunities and took them. That is why, when a reform administration comes in and spends a half million dollars in tryin' to find the public robberies they talked about in the campaign, they don't find them.

"The books are always all right. The money in the city treasury is all right. Everything is all right. All they can show is that the Tammany heads of departments looked after their friends, within the law, and gave them what opportunities they could to make honest graft. Now, let me tell you that's never goin' to hurt Tammany with the people. Every good man looks after his friends, and any man who doesn't isn't likely to be popular. If I have a good thing to hand out in private life, I give it to a friend. Why shouldn't I do the same in public life?”
Someone in Connecticut – likely NOT in the Malloy administration – should give Dave Altimari of the Hartford Courant this year’s William Riordan award for honesty in Tammany Hall reporting.

Here is Mr. Altimari’s opener for a story on the “honest grafters” in the Malloy administration:

“As Pullman & Comley attorney John Stafstrom walked into a room to pitch his law firm's proposal to win a lucrative contract with the Connecticut Airport Authority, it was unlikely he worried about receiving an unfriendly reception.

“Sitting across from his six-member team at the Jan. 31 interview was authority member Charles R. Gray, a longtime friend who attended Stafstrom's wedding in June 2010.

“Gray attended with his spouse, Andrew J. McDonald, who at the time was a partner at the Bridgeport law firm and is now Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's general counsel. McDonald, in his capacity as a justice of the peace, married Stafstrom and Dennis Murphy, who went on to become the deputy commissioner of labor in the Malloy administration.”
Soon after Mr. McDonald was safely ensconced as Mr. Malloy’s general council, the lawyers at his former law firm, Pullman & Comley, saw their opportunities and took’em.

In vain will other lawyers and political watchers scout out illegalities in an insider arrangement that speeds cash from the state coffers to Pullman & Comley, the loamy and fertile political nursery bed from which Mr. McDonald sprang: “The money in the city treasury is all right. Everything is all right. All they can show is that the Tammany heads of departments looked after their friends, within the law, and gave them what opportunities they could to make honest graft.”

The books will be in order.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Huey Donovan

"We can tax the millionaires in Washington and we can make Connecticut a better place for working families” – 5th District Democratic U.S. House candidate Chris Donovan

"Don't tax you, don't tax me. Tax the guy behind the tree"—Russell Long

Even the most progressive politician of his day, Russell’s father Huey Long, knew the scheme wouldn’t work; but it was a winner as a populist campaign pitch. Within the Democratic Party of his day, Russell was acknowledged as an authority on tax law. As such, he became an ardent advocate of tax breaks for business. “I have become convinced,” said Russell, most certainly not a chip off his father’s progressive block, “you're going to have to have capital if you're going to have capitalism."

One suspects that progressive leader of the state House of Representatives Chris Donovan knows this. However, the deathless scheme, endemic in the Democratic Party, to convince the tax paying public that someone may be found – perhaps hiding behind a tree in Washington – to pay debts incurred by reckless politicians marches on and on and on.

Even Governor Dannel Malloy, who styles himself a progressive, focused in his first budget on broadening the tax base. A revenue stream that depends chiefly on the ups and downs of Wall Street fed millionaires, a great number of whom in Connecticut are hedge fund managers, is doomed to fail. There are, in Connecticut and the nation, too few millionaires chasing too many debts.

Mr. Donovan is one of three Democrats vying for the seat in the U.S. House of Representatives soon to be left vacant by U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, who has set his sights on U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman’s soon to be vacant seat. Former state representative Elizabeth Esty, whose husband Daniel was appointed Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) by Mr. Malloy last and Daniel Roberti are also announced candidates. On the Republican side of the barricades, Justin Bernier, a member of former Governor Jodi Rell's cabinet who ran for the seat in 2010, Mike Clark, chairman of the Farmington Town Council and a former FBI agent, businesswoman Lisa Wilson-Foley, businessman Mark Greenberg, who also ran in 2010, and state senator Andrew Roraback are campaigning for the seat.

Most Republicans running for office who have some personal experience with business are familiar with the principle underlying business flight, which may be stated as follows: Whatever you tax tends to disappear. If you tax millionaire hedge fund operators who live in Fairfield’s Gold Coast, both hedge fund businesses and its employees will leech out of the state in search of more favorable profit margins elsewhere. Mr. Malloy has been known to worry in public that Connecticut’s neighboring states would benefit from exorbitant taxes on hedge fund millionaires, however popular and politically beneficial the prospect of taxing millionaires might be to progressive politicians. Like water, businesses flow from high cost to low coast states, and taxes are one of the controllable components of the cost of doing business.

Mr. Donovan favors taxing millionaires to pay for a budget that has increased threefold since the last Democratic governor in Connecticut, William O’Neil, held office. And it is quite simply an exercise in futility to point out to him that the state is not suffering from a revenue problem. The threefold increase in state spending within a little more than two decades is undeniable proof that the state is suffering from a spending problem the present Speaker of the State House of Representative has no interest in addressing.

The same principle of disappearing opportunities applies to politically inspired increases in the minimum wage, a populist measure supported by Mr. Donovan, whose ambition it is to propel Connecticut into first place among states that impose the highest minimum wage. Beyond a certain level, the minimum wage forces companies that cannot afford it to cut back on employment or go out of business. Costly boosts in the minimum wage affects only those employers whose profit margins are slight. Capital rich mega-companies will be able to absorb Mr. Donovan’s impositions, but these are not companies that hire workers who have in the past been paid the kind of wages Mr. Donovan hopes to boost through his minimum wage legislation.

People with little or no working history are those most likely to be adversely impacted by Mr. Donovan’s bill. Low income workers and teenagers in blighted urban areas who hope to place their feet on the bottom rung of the ladder of success will find that the rungs have been hacked off by legislators in a Democratic dominated General Assembly who for reasons of political expedience had yielded to Mr. Donovan’s anti-business ideology.

A business that might hire a child of the city making his way valiantly and honorably through circumstances Mr. Donovan little understands needs capital to pay his workers’ wages. Mr. Donovan has yet to be convinced that you cannot have capitalism without capital. If he succeeds in making his way to the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, home of the magic money tree, it is possible he may never learn what children of the city already know: When the profit margins of businessmen who are likely to hire them is reduced, the prospect of their being hired is proportionally reduced.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Malloy And The Supremes

Taking his education reform show on the road, Governor Dannel Malloy on Thursday crashed into former Bridgeport Board of Education member Maria Pereira, one of the plaintiffs in a successful suit that overturned the dismantling of a Bridgeport Board of Education.

"On Tuesday, the Supreme Court overturned your administration's illegal takeover of the Bridgeport Board of Education," Mrs. Pereira told Mr. Malloy in a packed room at the Village South Center for Community Life in Hartford, "and I want to know if your plans to reform our schools are all about disenfranchising parents in schools all over the state like you're attempting to do in Bridgeport?"

Mr. Malloy attempted to deflect the question by asking Ms. Pereira, “How happy are you with the Bridgeport schools?"

Ms. Pereira acknowledged that the school system could use improvement. “No, the Bridgeport Board of Education hasn’t done a good job in the last 20 years,” she responded. “It’s been controlled by Democrats, that’s why. This is a democracy, not tyranny.” Ms. Pereira quickly turned the conversation back to its original track: “For you to say that we don't have the intelligence to have Bridgeport voters do the right thing …this is democracy, not tyranny."

“When Pereira was done speaking,” according to a report in CTNewsJunkie, “Malloy began to respond. When Pereira tried to interject, the governor told her she was done speaking at that point and went on to explain his position regarding the Bridgeport Public Schools.”

“Tyranny,” Mr. Malloy responded, “is sending the children to a school, year after year after year, knowing that it is performing at a rate that will not allow the vast majority of children … to compete." The governor aimed a well-deserved kick in the pants to the board of education that had been illegally supplanted with his approval. The governor said he didn’t want the state to take over failing school districts, but "Your school board basically threw up their hands and ran away."

The Supreme Court days earlier had ruled that the Malloy administration violated state law when it took over the board’s operations, purging the board without having first initiated the required retraining of the members it replaced before the takeover. Justice Peter Zarella, who authored the majority opinion, wrote that the State Board of Education “does not have the authority to authorize reconstitution until it first requires the local board to undergo and complete training.”

The court’s decision, the governor said, was “undoubtedly right," after which Mr. Malloy, almost reflexively, hustled any responsibility for illegal actions out the back door: “The prior education commissioner should have made sure that should have been done.” The present Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, began his term on October 1 2011, six months before the Malloy administration disbanded the Bridgeport Board of Education, time enough, one would suppose, to allow Mr. Pryor to consult with Mr. Malloy's General Counsel, Andrew J. McDonald, who having served in the state Senate from 2003 to 2011 is no stranger to proper legislative processes.

Following the Supreme Court’s nearly unanimous decision, Mayor of Bridgeport Bill Finch urged the governor and others to circumvent the court’s ruling through a bill that “fixed” the court’s objection by means of a questionable legislative maneuver. If the law could be changed retroactively so as to apply to board members already discharged, the governor need not be put to the trouble of complying with the court decision by a) re-installing the original dismissed board, b) retraining defective members of the board, and c) reconstituting the board as necessary after the legal proprieties have been observed.

The difficulty with the shortcut being tossed around by the governor and legislators is that Supreme Court justices, as a rule, do not appreciate questionable legislative circumventions of their most recent “undoubtedly right” rulings. The court did not rule substantively on the underlying constitutional question that lawyer Norm Pattis is likely to press if the decision of the court is effectively circumvented by political legerdemain: May a constitutionally authorized democratic process of election be subverted by the governor of the state?

The court’s recent ruling presages serious difficulties with the Malloy administration educational reform package. The Malloy reform package, which seems to promise a speedy resolution to the problem of incompetent teachers, also holds out to replaceable teachers a process that would require retraining and reevaluation before discharge. If teacher tenure may be regarded as the shut door in a unionized closed shop, the retraining of incompetent teachers is the lock on that door. The provision in Mr. Malloy’s reform package that would require retaining before dismissal would, like teacher tenure itself, inhibit for long periods of time a necessary corrective to the “tyranny” the governor inveighed against in his remarks to Ms. Pereira.