Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Sandy Hook Data Dump

After maintaining a four month quarantine on information concerning the Sandy Hook Elementary School slaughter, Danbury State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky dumped some arrest warrant information into Connecticut’s highly speculative media stream. The closely guarded information, released only days before Connecticut’s General Assembly was poised to write bills restricting gun ownership, begs the question: Why now?

When criticized by a few Connecticut reporters and commentators for having withheld information inadvertently released by state police Col. Danny Stebbins during a New Orleans Chiefs of Police conference, investigators suddenly and inexplicably abandoned their often iterated threadbare rational: that releasing information in the arrest warrants would compromise “an active investigation.” They let part of the cat, its nose only, out of the bag.

Apparently the released arrest warrant data was harmless enough to allow Mr. Sedensky to release the data about three months before the criminal investigation will be completed sometime in June.

Journalists, the intended recipients of carefully screened data, do not often enough rely on their best reportorial instincts, which ought to signal to them that artfully edited data is often a craven attempt to slice and dice information for political purposes. If any of the tribunes of the people in Connecticut had asked Governor Dannel Malloy or legislators who need accurate data to write effective laws restricting gun ownership why the data dump -- released months before a criminal investigation is due to be completed but only days before legislators are due to present their final bills -- will not compromise a yet incomplete investigation, the answer to the question is blowing in the wind.

Mr. Sedensky in his media release insisted that “an ongoing and active criminal investigation” to be effective requires the imprisoning of information that may be necessary in an official“ongoing investigation.” The rules of “Professional Responsibility as they apply to prosecutors require that I take steps to not make extra judicial statements that I know or reasonably should know will be disseminated by means of public communication and will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter… the release of any information could potentially jeopardize a future prosecution if evidence were developed to support one. It is not unusual to develop a viable prosecution late in an investigation when one was not contemplated earlier.”

A wide-awake reporter at the Journal Inquirer asked the governor’s Chief of Staff Mark Ojakian, and through him Governor Dannel Malloy, whether Mr. Stebbens would be penalized in any way for having been responsible for the information leak in New Orleans that found its way into a piece written by Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News.

Surely the leak of such carefully quarantined information had a “substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding,” the fig leaf so often cited by investigators who wished to keep data from legislators contemplating bills restricting Second Amendment rights.

Mr. Ojakian’s response was a barely suppressed yawn: “Those conferences take place for law enforcement officials to share information with each other — confidentially, in private — that might help their investigations. We were satisfied with his [Mr. Stebbins’] explanation."

In a piece written for The Connecticut Law Tribune, criminal defense lawyer Norm Pattis, whose specialty lies in torching prosecutorial pretentions, doubted that further charges are pending and ventured to hope that “someone challenges whether the privileges the state claims justifies this cloak and dagger editing are justified.”

Responding to Mr.Sedensky’s new fig leaf that redacted portions of the released affidavits “would identify persons cooperating with the investigation, thus possibly jeopardizing their personal safety and well-being," Mr. Pattis noted, chortling gently behind his hand, “Somehow, I doubt there will be further charges. I hope someone challenges whether the privileges the state claims justifies this cloak and dagger editing are justified… That is an extraordinary claim. From a distance, it appears that Mr. Lanza acted alone. He is dead. His mother, with whom he lived, is also dead, an apparent victim of her son's rampage. Mr. Lanza can hurt no one any longer…”

Did Mr.Sedensky, alone or in concert with others, sneak one past Superior Court Judge John F.Blawie when he asked for judicial permission to deep-six the redacted information?

“Surprising as it may seem,” Mr. Pattis writes, “the state's filing suggests that there is an active investigation of another defendant in the Newtown shooting case, a witness with such incendiary information that his or her safety would be in jeopardy were it to become public.”

Wracked by what U.S. Senator Dick Blumenthal calls the “horror” of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the tortured parents of 26 innocent victims in Newtown must await the lifting of the fig leaf sometime in June, when the final criminal report is released, before their hearts may find rest in the truth that will set them free. In the meantime, they will have to be satisfied with legislation inspired by the rush of circumstances that very likely will not satisfy their curiosity or mitigate their pain.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Amity Shlaes’ Coolidge

Henry Mencken, who scorched most American presidents in his writings, lowered the temperature a bit when he wrote about President Calvin Coolidge: “Counting out Harding as a cipher only, Dr. Coolidge was preceded by one World Saver [Woodrow Wilson] and followed by two more [Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt]. What enlightened American, having to choose between any of them and another Coolidge, would hesitate for an instant? There were no thrills while he reigned, but neither were there any headaches. He had no ideas, and he was not a nuisance.”

Mencken was mostly right about Mr. Coolidge: There were no thrills while he reigned because he attended diligently and persistently to the sometimes quiet but always necessary and indispensable tasks of the presidential office. Never go out to meet trouble,” Coolidge advised. “If you just sit still, nine cases out of ten, someone will intercept it before it reaches you.

While a very good public speaker, Mr. Coolidge was the opposite of a publicity seeking politician. He was no fiery Teddy Roosevelt, still less a world conquering intellectual like Princeton’s Wilson.

In the post-World War I period, the United States was swimming in debt. The national debt, an astounding 28 billion -- nine times the pre-war debt -- was hanging like a damoclean sword over the country.

Enter President Warren Harding, movie star handsome and determined to return the country to what he called “normalcy.” On economic issues, Amity Shales told a group gathered under the banner of the Yankee Institute in Stamford, Mr. Harding’s mind was in the right place, but his wastrel heart wandered. In no time at all, Mr. Harding was swallowed by the Great White Whale. In Washington, it is never your enemies you have to worry about, especially if you keep them close to your chest. Mr. Harding, the crony capitalist of his day, was never able to put a ten foot pole between himself and the beltway barnacles; before you could say “Teapot Dome,” he was up to his knees in friends who “came to Washington to help” -- themselves.

Mr. Harding -- about whom Alice Longworth Roosevelt, the witty daughter of President Teddy Roosevelt, NEVER would have quipped that he had been “weaned on a dill pickle” – had the good grace to die in office shortly after the top blew off Tea Pot Dome. Mr. Harding’s Vice President, “Silent Cal,” armed with the commonsensical prescriptions of the Harding administration minus the peculation, was then sworn into office, and it was the non-show horse who put the roar into the “Roaring 20’s.”

Said Cal, “We need more of the Office Desk and less of the Show Window in politics. Let men in office substitute the midnight oil for the limelight.He and his equally silent partner, Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, proceeded to do just that.

Much like President Ronald Reagan, Mr. Coolidge’s near miraculous political success may be attributed in part to the underestimation of his opponents. His political experience was fathoms deep and, while he saw no need to keep Alice Roosevelt in bon mots, he was a practiced public speaker who knew a thing or two about budgets and, perhaps more importantly, character: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated failures. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Unlike Mr. Reagan, Mr. Coolidge cut spending, and his persistence in doing so paid rich dividends to the real America, that large and sprawling portion of the country that radiates outward from the insular Washington D.C. Beltway. Applying Mr. Mellon’s “scientific taxation” prescriptions to a post-wartime economy, Coolidge and Harding before him slashed a $27 billion debt to $17.65 billion by cutting taxes and spending, which produced a growth geyser that flooded the treasury with surplus dollars. The abstemious Coolidge won office in a landslide, a clear repudiation of the progressive doctrines of his predecessors, most especially Wilson the World Savior.

During her Stamford address, Ms. Shlaes -- also author of “The Forgotten Man,” a well-received exploration of the Great Depression – was asked whether Mr. Coolidge’s economic prescriptions had in any sense “caused” the depression that followed Mr. Hoover’s reign. She answered in the word most often used by Mr. Coolidge during his two terms in office whenever it was put to him that his budget cuts would irreparably harm the economy – “No.”

Ms. Shlaes’ “Coolidge,” at 461 pages, is heavy enough to hurl at your local progressive but is not heavy reading. In a time in which a destructive progressive resurgence fueled by Barack Obama, the obverse of Coolidge, has opened the door to massive public debt, Ms. Shlaes’ book offers more than a retrospective view of a successful anti-progressive politician: “Coolidge” is a handbook for current politicians who would lead us from the brink of a new depression to the quiet and peaceful shores of normalcy.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Dick And Chris Show

Governor Dannel Malloy at first allowed that legislators who were to create bills assuring Connecticut citizens would not be exposed to another mass murder incident such as had occurred in Sandy Hook should take their time and craft a bill that would suit the purpose. Then he jumped ahead of his own gubernatorial commission and publically announced his own prophylactic measures, for which he received some mild criticism: How was the legislature to write an effective bill in the absence of hard data furnished by three investigatory bodies, the most important of which was the criminal investigation? Apparently, Mr. Malloy took this objection to heart, because he then issued strong signals that the various commissions should be allowed to complete their assignments so that a proper bill might be written.

After all, Mr. Malloy and members of Connecticut’s all Democratic U.S. Congressional delegation – most prominently Senators Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy – had visited Sandy Hook, met with family members of children slain by mass murderer Adam Lanza, and assured them that effective remedies were in the offing, Mr. Blumenthal insisting that national legislation was exceedingly important because state borders are porous and illegal weapons might easily pass through the semi-permeable membrane of state laws. Connecticut already has on its books some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation. Mr. Murphy has been running tight end around the National Rifle Association (NRA), pummeling it defensively whenever he can and at the same time hoping to receive a pass from the anti-weapon team that he might carry to a touchdown.

Several difficulties have intervened. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo quickly rammed through the legislature a ban on certain weapons but neglected to exempt New York policemen from the ban, a major boo-boo. The governor and legislature also launched a ban on magazines that contained more than 7 rounds, only to realize when the applause had died down that there is no company in the United States that produces such a magazine; so the solons in New York prohibited more than 7 rounds in any magazine holding more than 7 rounds, which raises the embarrassing question: How is the law to be enforced in the absence of X-Ray vision glasses that would allow the rearmed New York police to count the number of bullets in an opaque magazine? Mr. Cuomo and the anti-gun nuts in the New York legislature are still struggling with that one.

The moral to these goof-up is: Not only does haste make waste; sometimes, it makes you look incredibly stupid. And state office holders do not want to appear to be imbeciles. Idiot voters in the Unites States, it is generally supposed, are still in the minority.

The Dick and Chris show alighted in Connecticut days after Harry Reid, the Democratic Majority Leader in the U.S. Senate, had buried ardent hopes for a federal ban on assault weapons. Connecticut, much more progressive on this point than most states, already has such a ban. A federal ban is the Holy Grail of senators Blumenthal and Murphy.

Why? Because, as Mr. Blumenthal has been telling us, gun runners, the sort of disreputable folk who sell guns to criminals not legally authorized to use them, easily run around porous state laws; but a federal law… well sir, that’s the ticket!

Now then, it is important to understand that the proposed anti-assault weapon ban that was to have been presented in the U.S. Congress – the Holy Grail of Mr. Blumenthal and Mr. Murphy -- was not shot to death by itchy-fingered members of the NRA. The measure was not put up for a vote in the chamber where Mr. Blumenthal and Mr. Murphy do business -- when they are not hustling Connecticut legislators in their home state to hastily pass a bill in the absence of determining data -- because it was withdrawn by Mr. Reid, whose specialty lies in counting votes. The Democratic votes in a chamber owned by Democrats weren’t there.

Here is the breathless Blumenthal hustle: “Connecticut’s failure to act in the next two weeks will be a detriment when we go to the floor. On the other hand, if Connecticut can act within the next two weeks it will provide a very powerful momentum. It will speak volumes about determination and dedication here to making sure our nation is safer.”

Connecticut legislators, who wish to avoid the trapdoors through which idiot New York politicians have fallen, are pausing to consider hard data soon to be released in affidavits that have been carefully hidden from public view. As Attorney General in Connecticut for more than 20 years before his elevation to the U.S. Senate, Mr. Blumenthal should understand the importance of affidavits in prosecution and bill writing.

Mr. Blumenthal and Mr. Murphy need to get back to work in the Beltway rounding up votes for the Holy Grail in THEIR Democratic dominated Senate.

They should make haste: Time wasted is time lost.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Lawlor’s Penology And The Corpse At The Hearing

During a public hearing on the state’s new Risk Reduction Earned Credit Program, the informational portion of which was devoted to testimony given by politicians rather than the public, there was a dead body in the room, that of Ibrahim Ghazal, murdered by Frankie “The Razor” Resto shortly after Mr. Resto, a violent criminal, had “earned” early release credits from a program that was the brain child of Mike Lawlor, tapped early in his administration by Governor Dannel Malloy to serve as Under Secretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning.

Some of the public figures, notably among them Mr. Lawlor, danced nimbly around the corpse.

Mr. Lawlor, who has been tinkering with penological reform since his days as co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, was able to put some of his ideas into practice after his installation as Connecticut’s prison commissar.

Mr. Lawlor’s career in this regard has been marked by several successes. An early opponent of capital punishment, Mr. Lawlor was doubtless pleased when Connecticut gave up the barbaric practice of putting to death such multiple murderers as Michael Ross. Mr. Ross’ specialty was raping and strangling young women.

Mr. Lawlor, sitting as co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, argued strenuously during an earlier attempt to abolish the death penalty that capital punishment, encumbered as it was by endless appeals, was rarely applied and urged then Governor Jodi Rell “to reach out to our state's prosecutors and judges before taking action. Ask these front-line professionals their off-the-record opinions on whether anyone will ever be executed in Connecticut. I believe that she will be told what many of us have been told - the Connecticut death penalty is a false promise.

Mr. Lawlor’s view carried some weight when the death penalty was finally abolished by the Democrat dominated General Assembly during the early years of the Malloy administration. Lacking the courage of its convictions, the General Assembly produced a measure that exempted those currently on death row from its humane gesture.

In 2003, Mr. Lawlor told the New York Times he favored "alternative ways of combating overcrowding, like making it harder to put people back in prison for technical violations of their parole,” which could result in re-incarceration, “and argued that transfers should be a last resort.” In response to prison overcrowding in 2004, Mr. Lawlor argued strenuously against the expansion of prisons. So persuasive was Mr. Lawlor that the bill, co-sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats, passed unanimously in the Senate and received only token opposition in the House. “The key,” Mr. Lawlor said at the time, “is to resist doing the simple thing -dumping a bunch of money into a new prison."

Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men are often torn asunder. Following the horrific home invasion and multiple murder in Cheshire -- in the course of which two paroled inmates raped two family members and murdered three people, a mother and two young daughters, by setting a house on fire -- Mr. Lawlor never-the-less continued to stump for early release: “Some people say let's put them all in jail. OK, fine, but that means dramatically increasing taxes or shutting down a bunch of colleges."

During a special session called to enact stiffer penalties for home invasion in 2008 following the murder by arson in Cheshire, a new law was passed making home invasion a class A felony, and the parole board under whose supervision the two convicted Cheshire murderers were released was reformed: In fact, the parole board was decimated; heads rolled. Mr. Lawlor at the time opposed efforts to pass a three strikes law, which was defeated. Had a three strikes and you’re out law been in place before the Cheshire murders, Connecticut would have been spared the necessity of housing on death row two murderers, both of whom had lengthy prison records.

Mr. Lawlor’s Risk Reduction Earned Credit Program is the crown jewel of his career in penological reform. In effect, the program repeals Mr. Lawlor’s earlier momentary setbacks.

The putative therapeutic benefits of the hastily launched, poorly conceived program had little effect on Frankie “The Razor” Resto. “The Razor,” so called because he had for some years been in the business of shaking down drug dealers with a razor, was given early release credits under Mr. Lawlor’s program -- even though, according to testimony given to the Judiciary Committee by newly elected State Senator Dante Bartolomeo, Mr. Resto fought while in prison with other inmates, dealt drugs, burnt his mattress, was in other ways an incorrigable prisoner, and unfortunately was never subject to the non-existent “Three-Strikes” law so ardently opposed by Mr. Lawlor.

The law establishing early release credits was passed October 1, 2011 and made retroactive to April 1 (no joke) 2006. Since the provisions of the bill were applied retroactively to 7,589 prisoners, many critics of the program contended that the applied credits were both UNDESERVED and unjust.

Having cashed in his credits, Mr. Resto acquired a gun, likely NOT from a gun show or an authorized dealer, and murdered Mr. Ghazal, whose son Fapyo, present at the hearing and also severely beaten in an earlier robbery at a different store, must in the future refer to his father forevermore in the past tense.

Speaking for every victim of Mr. Lawlor’s program, past, present and future, Mr. Ghazal’s son said at the hearing press conference,“This guy, he destroyed our life. He destroyed my mom’s life. He destroyed my life.” But by the time the real public spoke, Mr. Lawlor and his retinue of subalterns had left the hearing room relatively certain that Mr. Lawlor's utopian prison reforms would not be torn asunder by an obliging judiciary committee over which he once presided as co-chairmen.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sandy Hook Is Waiting

Following a reasonable complaint from Republican leaders in the General Assembly that they lack sufficient data to write legislation that will assure people in Connecticut – and most especially the people of Sandy Hook – that massacres of the kind that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School will not be repeated, Governor Dannel Malloy, who does not take kindly to critical objections, responded with a media release.

“Like many others,” Mr. Malloy wrote, “I was disappointed and angered to learn that certain information about the Newtown shooting had been leaked, specifically with concern for the victims' families who may have been hearing this news for the first time.”

Does Mr. Malloy truly think that the leaked information provided in a Daily News report by Mike Lupica will irreparably compromise the criminal investigation under way by the Chief State’s Attorney and other law enforcement officials?

Mr. Malloy does not seem especially anxious for an answer to this question. But the question is an important one because, depending on the answer to it, reasonable people, news reporters among them, might be able to determine for themselves whether or not the shroud of secrecy surrounding the mass murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School should be lifted so as to allow legislators to write rational and effective bills.

The Chief State’s Attorney has not indicated as a result of the data he has so far assembled that any prosecutions are pending. Adam Lanza, a quite efficient killer, managed to murder 20 school children, 6 staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School and his own mother. There has been some speculation, so far not supported by hard data, that Mr. Lanza’s mother might have been partly responsible for the mayhem by failing to render inaccessible four of the weapons Mr. Lanza carried with him to the school. Indeed, most of the information people in Connecticut and elsewhere have been regurgitating from media reports remains unverified. A final criminal report, we are told, will be completed sometime in June.

The Chief State’s Attorney likely will not prosecute Adam Lanza, because he is dead. His mother likewise is unavailable for questioning. Questions cannot be wrested from any of the brave and heroic school personnel who, unarmed, died in heroic attempts to frustrate Mr. Lanza’s murderous assault. Indeed, should some curious news reporter ask Mr. Malloy, a former prosecutor, who the Chief State’s Attorney intends to prosecute for this heinous crime, what names could he mention?

Until the New Orleans leak, the iron curtain of secrecy surrounding the massacre in Sandy Hook was impenetrable, and in the absence of verified information, speculation and rumor have been rampant. However, it may not seem to most reporters that the data tightly under wraps and released by Mr. Lupica would compromise the ongoing investigation by the Chief State’s Attorney and others closely connected with federal personnel, nor has the Chief State’s Attorney suggested as much.

Following criticism from leading data-starved legislators in the General Assembly, Mr. Malloy wrote in his media release:

“Today, my office contacted the Chief State’s Attorney. I requested, and they have agreed, to release additional information relevant to the investigation and to provide a status on where the investigation currently stands. This information will be provided by Friday, March 29.

“As to what information can reasonably be shared at this time – that is a question that must be left to the State’s Attorney and other law enforcement. As a former prosecutor, I’m sensitive to the need for an independent investigation and believe that we must allow their work to continue without any undue interference.

“Having said all that, I will also say that I am bewildered by the demands of Mr. Cafero and others for a special briefing they claim is necessary in order for them to take a firm position on potential legislative responses to this horrific tragedy.

“To Mr. Cafero and those others I must ask: what more could you possibly need to know?

It might be considered unbusiness-like for Mr. Cafero to respond, “We need to know more than Mike Lupica if we are expected to write rational legislation that will, as Mr. Malloy and members of Connecticut’s U.S Congressional delegation have insisted, prevent future Sandy Hook-like school invasions.” At the very least Mr. Cafero should busy himself making a list of relevant questions the answers to which might aid the General Assembly in writing pertinent legislation.

All available information should be released to legislative bodies considering relevant bills. It borders upon insanity to expect reasonable legislation from legislators not in possession of the data they need to write the legislation. If it is determined that the information – including Hippa information – will compromise the investigation, that data may be received by relevant committees in camera. If current Hippa regulations prevent the sharing of medical data with legislators who need the data to write bills, change the regulations. Legislators – and the governor -- should have been insisting on briefings and updated briefings all along. It is the lack of hard and accurate data that has slowed the legislative process. No more dawdling! The people of Sandy Hook deserve better than this.

By the way, would it not be proper for U.S. Senator Chris Murphy and other Democrats on Connecticut’s all Democratic U.S. Congressional delegation to direct some of the rhetorical fire aimed at the demonized NRA towards Democrats in the U.S. Senate. Senate leader Harry Reid could not muster enough votes in a body controlled by Democrats to pass an assault rifle ban: Connecticut has one. This commentator reads media reports sedulously, and he cannot recall any of the members of Connecticut’s U.S. Congressional delegation, all Democrats, being invited to express their dismay concerning the withdrawal of the assault weapons ban bill by Senate leader Harry Reid. These are the very people, Mr. Malloy among them, who stood shoulder to shoulder with groups in Newtown that were demanding an assault weapons ban from President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and the U.S. Congress.

What flower pots are they hiding behind now?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What Didn’t They Know And Why Didn’t They Know It?

There has been a journalistic breakthrough in the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass murder case.

It’s always a hopeful sign when journalists rub the sleepy seeds from their eyes and wake up.

Some in Connecticut appear to have been aroused by a story that first appeared in the New York Daily News – significantly NOT in any Connecticut media watering hole. A few days ago, Rick Green of the Hartford Courant speculated on his blog, “Maybe the state police owe us some official details about what happened — before we change laws and spend a lot of the public’s money.” In the future, after all the legislation affecting legal gun ownership has been rolled out, signed, sealed and delivered, the question foremost in everyone’s mind will be, “What didn’t they know and why didn’t’ they know it.”

“Everyone” would include the news community; the two governmental panels assigned, one by the governor and another by the General Assembly, to bring home the data on the basis of which legislators might produce a bill preventing future mass murders of mothers, school children and teachers; the many politicians, both in Connecticut and elsewhere, who have steadfastly insisted that Sandy Hook should be the impetus for legislation that will keep us safe from mass murderers; and most especially the families of the victims in Sandy Hook who, all along, have been hoping the General Assembly and governor might produce preventative legislation.

The journalistic breakthrough occurred in a story filed by Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News.

“What investigators found,” Mr. Lupica wrote, “was a chilling spreadsheet 7 feet long and 4 feet wide that required a special printer, a document that contained Lanza’s obsessive, extensive research — in nine-point font — about mass murders of the past, and even attempted murders.

“’We were told (Lanza) had around 500 people on this sheet,’ a law enforcement veteran told me Saturday night. ‘Names and the number of people killed and the weapons that were used, even the precise make and model of the weapons. It had to have taken years. It sounded like a doctoral thesis; that was the quality of the research.’”
Partial information about the “active murder investigation,” the often repeated formulation of Lieutenant Paul Vance of the Connecticut state police, leaked out of a conference in New Orleans, where people in the know, mostly police investigators, were sharing information with other people in the know. Up to this point, great pains had been taken to assure that authorized data remained bottled up. Most journalists live in the hope that the truth will out –eventually. The truth usually follows in the train of everything else; it’s often the last actor on the stage before the curtain is rung down.

Adam Lanza, it appeared from the New Orleans conference, was a studious killer well versed in the methods of other mass murderers. His beau ideal of the perfect mass murderer was Norway’s Anders Breivik. Connecticut Commentary first mentioned Mr. Breivik in a blog and column titled “Sandy HookShould Teach Us How To Thinkway back in December.

Mr. Lanza apparently was trying to beat Mr. Breivik’s record of 77 dead. Owing to the arrival of first responders armed with substantial firepower, Mr. Lanza fell short of the mark he had set for himself, having committed suicide after murdering 27 people, including his mother. Newtown has since set aside enough money to provide all its schools with armed personnel.

The data that leaked out of the New Orleans conference is important. Diagnosis and data are always important for, say, doctors addressing a disease or legislators writing laws. A law is a prophylactic, a legal preventative. There are no fewer than three commissions charged with sifting through the Sandy Hook data so that legislators might write reasonable laws to prevent future Sandy Hooks. BUT THERE IS LITTLE AUTHORITAIVE DATA that any responsible legislator might consult in writing such a law.

And why not? Well, Mr. Vance will tell you that the “criminal investigation is ongoing.” It may be completed in June, long after all the insufficient prophylactic laws have been written. Will those legal remedies, based on partial or doubtful data be effective in achieving deterrence?

Mr. Breivik was not deterred by Norway’s capital punishment law because Norway has no such law. Connecticut abolished its capital punishment law shortly after a mass murder in Cheshire committed by newly released prisoners, only months before Mr. Lanza took up arms against his mother, 20 school children and 6 teachers.

The General Assembly is proposing to add to a long list of proscribe weapons yet another weapon, the AR-15, produced here in Connecticut and the most often purchased sporting rifle in the United States. Will that do the job? Grave doubts have been raised, not only by members of the NRA, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy’s bete noir of the moment. Most recently, U.S. Senate leader Harry Reid has doomed a federal ban on assault weapons, possibly over the hearty objections of Mr. Murphy and other Democrats in Connecticut who think that state laws prohibiting weapons are insufficient to stop importation from other states.

At the time he shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School, Mr. Lanza was armed with two semi-automatic pistols – the weapon of choice in most cities, including Chicago, murder capital of the United States and the political nursery bed of President Barack Obama – and a shotgun (left in the car – WE THINK – “ongoing investigation,”don’t you know) that would have been as devastating as the Bushmaster rifle he used.

If Mr. Lanza had survived, Connecticut would not have been able to execute him, because there is no capital punishment law in Connecticut prescribing execution for mass murderers or terrorists. Should there be such a law? Tried on terrorist charges in Norway, Mr. Breivik was declared sane by a panel of five judges and sentenced to 21 years in prison, a sentence that can be repeatedly extended by 5 years so long as he is considered a threat to society.

The two repeat offenders who murdered a family in Cheshire could have received early release credits under a program initiated by Mike Lawlor, Governor Dannel Malloy’s Under Secretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning. Indeed under Mr. Lawlor’s early release Risk Reduction Credit Program, two separate prisoners given early release credits already have committed murders in Meriden and Manchester.

The unavailability of authorized hard data on Mr. Lanza’s multiple murder spree should alarm legislators who are poised to add to a growing list of banned weapons yet one more weapon in an effort to deter such crimes as have been committed by Mr. Lanza and Mr. Breivik. Are such legal placeboes palliatives rather than real solutions to real problems?
Everyone in Connecticut – those who fear for the safety of children, legislators, the families of the victims, the tribunes of the people -- should be insisting that the criminal report be released right now. Tomorrow will be too late.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Egg On Malloy's Face

Chris Mathews, the host of Hardball known as the guy with the tingly leg, interviewed Governor Dannel Malloy, and Mr. Malloy managed to unload a quiver of zingers at benighted Republicans who were dawdling over gun legislation.

The Hartford Courant’s Dan Haar summarized the zinger fest in his column:

“On the NRA and other gun control opponents appealing directly to Republicans with their strategy: ‘These are real profiles in courage, aren’t they?’

“On Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, having it out with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., over a weapons ban on Thursday: ‘They have no shame…It plays well for his constituency and I think he might even believe some of this.’

“On a Washington Post/ABC News poll that shows only a bare majority of 57 percent of Americans favoring an assault weapons ban: ‘There’s a lot of people in Texas, I guess.””

It was all in good fun, and Mr. Mathews reported no unusual tingles coursing up and down his leg.

Days later, Jon Lender of the Courant uncovered a newsworthy story: “Eight days before Adam Lanza used a Bushmaster AR-15 semiautomatic rifle to kill 26 children and women on Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, state officials offered the manufacturer of the gun a development deal to move its corporate headquarters to Connecticut.

“On Dec. 6, a top state economic development official sent the Freedom Group an offer for a $1 million loan at the low annual interest rate of 2 percent for 10 years — plus other incentives for the company to move its headquarters, with 25 top executives, from Madison, N.C., to Stamford.”

Unfortunately, the information provided in Mr. Lender’s story was not available to Mr. Mathews when he interviewed Mr. Malloy on“Hardball,” otherwise Mr. Mathews certainly would have asked the governor at least one hardball question: Why did Mr. Malloy offer the AR15 gun maker a deal to move its corporate headquarters to Connecticut days before he dramatically leapfrogged over three separate investigations to announce breathlessly that he would favor a bill banning the sale in Connecticut of the AR-15?

Maybe next time Mr. Malloy appears on Hardball Mr. Mathews will pop the question. He might also ask Mr. Malloy whether he thinks that Harry Reid, the powerful leader in the U.S. Senate who killed the assault weapons ban “has no shame.”

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy on Energy: Who needs it?

U.S Senator Chris Murphy has made a contribution “to the German Marshall Fund think-tank's Brussels Forum event in the Belgian capital,”according to Public Service Europe.

The discovery and utilization of shale natural gas in the United States, according to the newly elected progressive senator, has given lawmakers a" lazy way out" of making commitments to green technology. "It provides a very convenient excuse for half of the US Congress to sit on the sidelines when it talks about real investment in green energy. I think that's a tragedy."

An “absolute political logjam” on green energy has been produced, according to Mr. Murphy, by the "immense power of global warming deniers and this created a political barrier.

"You already had an enormous political barrier to a major investment in green technology, which is this debate that only happens in the US about the science of global warming. And then on top of it, you've got the convenience of a new enormous stability with respect to shale gas production.

"Many of us believe that the only way that you really incentivize a true green energy revolution in the US is to do what many countries in Europe have done, which is create a real domestic marketplace for it. And you do that either through capping the amount of carbon and allowing people to trade or by putting a new price on carbon with a tax. That can't happen in our political context today."

Let’s take it bit by bit.

The reason energy costs are high in the United States is that there is a product deficit, largely owing to efforts made by legislators such as Mr. Murphy to artificially hike the cost of energy by depriving the market of present resources such as energy from shale extraction. The relatively new technology of fracking is not so much a “lazy way out of making commitments to green technology” as it is an effort to supply a necessary product that is, Mr. Murphy may have noticed, very much in demand. If you increase the product, you reduce the price. Mr. Murphy favors high energy costs because the high cost of energy is a political spook-on-a-stick that can be used to force people to demand so called green energy.

The political logjam in the U.S. Congress and elsewhere has not been caused by an anti-green war on an undeveloped technology. The struggle for low product pricing has been around much longer than green technology. In a competitive free market, product pricing is determined by what Adam Smithy used to call “the invisible hand,” the sum of purchases made by citizens who are not bullied into choosing products by government economic overseers.

The cost of energy in Mr. Murphy’s own state is a drain on business. Among the 10 most expensive states in combined energy costs,Connecticut ranks second, just behind Hawaii, according to some reports the cultural and political nursery bed of President Barack Obama.

Should a bill slowly making its way through the General Assembly pass into law, Connecticut may leap ahead of Hawaii in the national race to cripple the energy sector. As an incentive to encourage forms of energy acceptable to progressives and environmentalists, the state legislature is proposing a bill that would tax oil 1.5 cents per gallon in the first year following passage, increasing by one percent a year until the tax reaches 3.5 cents per gallon in 2015. The tax haul would then be placed in an Energy Efficiency Fund that homeowners may draw upon to underwrite the cost of weatherization, clean burning furnaces and solar panels. Of course, every dedicated fund in the state – including pensions – are either under financed during hard times or raided by legislators before election to reduce deficits arising from their improvident spending. Mr. Obama has recently announced the formation of a similar fund, an Energy SecurityTrust (EST) that would fund clean energy research and development.

Connecticut is a small state that could be energy independent were it to rely on a variety of forms of energy production, including nuclear. But alas, the progressives and the greens in Connecticut are nuclear averse. When Dominion chose Virginia rather than Connecticut as a site for a new nuclear plant, no tears were shed in the governor’s mansion. So long as the price of energy in Mr. Murphy’s state remains high, other low energy cost states will continue to poach Connecticut businesses, established entrepreneurs and recent graduates of the state’s high cost educational establishments.

Shale gas is a natural gas found trapped within shale formations. The governor of Mr. Murphy’s state, not an anti-green, has announced his love affair with this form of energy. So ardent are Governor Dannel Malloy affections that he recently proposed to provide tax credits to home owners in Mr. Murphy’s state who are prudent enough to switch to a lower cost, less polluting form of energy. The tax credits presumably are an effort on the part of Mr. Malloy to tickle the fancy of energy consumers in Connecticut, many of whom will be marching to the polls in a couple of years to vote either for or against Mr. Murphy’s continuance in office, always assuming that voters in Mr. Murphy’s state have not fled to other states that rate much lower than Connecticut on a list of high energy cost states.

It is always possible that Mr. Murphy, a new arrival in the beltway, is very busy mastering protocol in the U.S. Senate. He may have missed the messaging from Mr. Malloy. Or possibly he has not yet had an opportunity to put out feelers to Mr. Obama, whose administration believes that increased shale gas development WILL HELP REDUCE GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS, an eventuality that may not grievously disappoint the folks who received Mr. Murphy’s pro-green missive at the German Marshall Fund think-tank in Belgium.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Spending Problem

A number of conclusions may be drawn from the presidential campaign. Republicans, led by Mitt Romney, lost, and Democrats, led by President Barack Obama, won. That datum you can take to the bank.

Republican Party internecine quarrels arise over the “why”questions. Why did Mitt Romney lose? Why did Mr. Obama win? What are Republicans doing right, and what are they doing wrong?

Within the Republican Party, there are two schools of thought. The schools are as old and venerable as the modern Republican Party, which sprang, pretty much full-blown, from the brain of the late Bill Buckley.

One school holds that Republicans are not moderate enough to appeal to moderate Republicans and Democrats. This premise founders on the following datum: In Connecticut, centrist Democrats have been routed by progressives, a progressive being a liberal raised to the 10thpower. There is no longer a live and effective middle to Connecticut’s state Democratic Party. Most of the Democrats enjoying power positions in their party have abandoned the liberal ship for the progressive dinghy.

Some few commentators who continue to speak reverently of“the vital center” are simply remembering with great affection a political order that has vanished in Connecticut and, perhaps more broadly, in New England.

An opposing school holds that Republicans are not conservative enough. Moderate Republicans in the Northeast, they point out, are a vanishing species. In Connecticut alone, moderate Republicans have fallen to Democratic opponents in numbers too astonishing to ignore. U.S. Representatives Nancy Johnson, Rob Simmons and Chis Shays all were defeated in office by purportedly moderate Democrats who now style themselves progressives. Indeed, Chris Shays was the last moderate Republican U.S. House member in New England.

The fallen Republican bodies seem to cinch the argument of those on the right who say that moderatism – if one may invent a word – is responsible for Republican losses in the Northeast. A robust conservatism elsewhere in the country continues to produce congressional and gubernatorial winners. In Connecticut, the entire U.S. Congressional delegation is Democratic and progressive. Both houses of the General Assembly are dominated by Democrats. And in 2011, Dannel Malloy, for many years mayor of Stamford, became the first Democratic governor in the state since former Governor William O’Neill hung up his spurs more than 20 years earlier.

Running on a “shared sacrifice” slogan, according to which everyone in the state should bear their fair share of misery, Mr. Malloy was able, by cutting Republicans out of budget negotiations, to push through the Democratic dominated General Assembly the largest tax increase in state history. Some Republicans quipped at the time that Mr. Malloy, always an aggressive political competitor, may have felt himself in competition with former Governor Lowell Weicker, a self-styled “maverick” Republican who had imposed upon Connecticut the state’s secondlargest tax increase. The Weicker income tax had been resisted vigorously by previous Democratic governors William O’Neill and Ella Grasso.

Mr. Malloy’s promised savings were largely amorphous, which hardly seems a fair shared sacrifice. Even after he had imposed the largest tax increase in the state’s history, Mr. Malloy has had great difficulty balancing his budgets.

Recently Mr. Malloy has been criticized by Republican state legislators – two of whom, Larry Cafero, a member of the state House for 14 years, and John McKinney, a member of the state Senate for as many years -- as having adopted discreditable budget balancing methods, a charge deployed effectively by Mr. Malloy during his first campaign against his two Republican predecessors, Governors Jodi Rell and John Rowland. Like President Barack Obama, Mr. Malloy inherited his red ink.

Both Mrs. Rell, often criticized by Connecticut’s left of center media as an indolent governor, and Mr. Rowland, were styled as Republican “firewalls” who thwarted improvident spending. In truth, neither was effective in preventing the Democratic dominated General Assembly from readjusting Republican budgets to accommodate more spending. Taxation and consequent spending have increased under a Democratic regime that regards firewalls as momentary obstacles to be overcome.

Indeed, spending is a problem Republicans, both nationally and in Connecticut, seem powerless to confront. The rhetorical ammo that might be effectively discharged in a campaign against improvident spending is simply absent. The central pillar of the Romney campaign was not improvident spending but rather over taxation and consequent economic anemia.

The last president who put a sizable dent in spending, budget reduction and taxes was Calvin Coolidge, styled by Amity Shlaes, the author of“Coolidge,” as “the Great Refrainer.” Even the sainted Ronald Reagan spent money like a class-warfare intoxicated Democrat; the federal budget rose by over a third during his administration. Connecticut’s Yankee Institute will host Ms. Shlaes, who believes Mr. Coolidge may serve a model for a reinvigorated Republican Party, at the Stamford Sheraton on March 28. Information is available here.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Malloy On The Stump

It should surprise no one that Governor Dannel Malloy is on the road again selling the usual product. This time, because elections are looming, he will be followed by Republican candidates for governor anxious to peddle their own prescriptions for what ails us.

Returning from a Middletown town hall meeting, though some in the audience objected to the format, Mr. Malloy sent around a sermon to the Hartford Courant. He began by noting that “Every budget is about setting priorities. That's true for every family in Connecticut, especially during tough economic times. It is equally true for state government.” Indeed, are we to suppose that President Barack Obama has set no priorities because he had presented no budget to Congress during his first term?

When middle class families in Connecticut encounter hard times, they cut back on spending, a remedy for budgetary red ink unknown in Washington and many states, including Connecticut. That is because workers in the private sector in Connecticut cannot force their employers to raise their wages. In this respect, private enterprise is qualitatively different than government. When a government runs into hard times, it may raise taxes and usually does. That is because governments find it painful to say “no” to those who use and provide their services. Independent Governor Lowell Weicker responded to a pre-income tax deficit by instituting a new income tax. Governor Dannel Malloy’s Democratic forebearers, Governors Ella Grasso and O’Neill resisted the effortless solution to which Mr. Weicker and Mr. Malloy so easily succumbed. Tax raisers in Connecticut are always careful to sugar their bitter pill with a bit of honey: “We don’t like taxes any more than you do, honey.” But they slather on the taxes anyway, heedless of predictable consequences. Connecticut’s present budget is three times larger than Mr. O’Neill’s last pre-income tax budget, and the bottom line increase in our budgets is a true measure of spending increases.

So then, the precipitous increase in budgets strongly suggests that the priorities of the governors who followed Mr. O’Neill lay in raising taxes rather than in cutting spending. Mr. Malloy’s tax increase was the largest in state history, and his spending cuts, to judge from the massive revenue increase in his first budget, were not commensurate with his tax increases -- which, come to think of it, is the very definition of “shared sacrifice,” Mr. Malloy’s campaign slogan when he first ran for governor.

In his latest sermon, Mr. Malloy notes that he has become an old hand at town hall meetings, having “done more than 30 of these town hall events since taking office.” He values such gatherings not only because they give him an opportunity to peddle his product from a bully pulpit, but more importantly because “they present the best opportunity for me to listen directly to the concerns of my fellow Connecticut residents.” And “Based on what I heard in Middletown, it is clearer to me than ever that many people share some simple, common-sense perspectives on what our state needs.”

Fortunately for Mr. Malloy, what he hears from citizens at these town meetings conforms precisely to his own prescriptions, which he is certain will bring prosperity and good fortune to the middle class in his state: “Connecticut's middle class doesn't need any more burdens. The middle class needs some breaks,” especially in these difficult days following “the worst recession since the Great Depression, and with a national economy that continues to grow too slowly.”

George Will’s definition of a “need” – a want that’s 24 hours old – is especially pertinent in the Malloy administration.

Surely in the course of 30 Connecticut town hall meetings, someone must have whispered in Mr. Malloy's ear that cuts in spending proportional to his tax increases might help middle class tax payers balance their own budgets. God, we are told, whispers to us in the whirlwind because He wishes us to attend to his message and wants us to learn how to listen. Perhaps Mr. Malloy has not been attentive to the whisperings of the state’s middle class: He is a very busy guy, and never busier than when he is telling the middle class to cough up a few more bucks he might distribute to Connecticut’s prosperous insurance companies, one of which is moving its in-state operations to South Carolina.

The simplest and truest way to give the middle class a break is to reduce their taxes – or, at the very least, not to raise their taxes –thus leaving them in command of their own salaries and futures. Mr. Malloy has done quite the opposite.

But never mind honey, here comes the honey: “That's why my budget contains no new taxes and puts us on a path to reinstating the sales tax exemption on clothing valued under $50. And that's why my budget would do away with the single most burdensome, most regressive and most unfair tax in our state — the car tax.”

Ah yes, the car tax. The car tax is a levy imposed by, collected by and spent by town governments. A short time after Mr. Malloy imposed upon Connecticut the largest tax increase in its history, the Yankee Institute, a right of center think tank, published a list of Mr. Malloy’s new taxes, many of which were regressive. Any imposition levied on a taxpayer who cannot comfortably pay the tax without depriving himself of necessary income is a regressive tax. Mr. Malloy’s revenueincreases spanned 25 categories of taxes and eliminated exemptions in about 37 different categories. The elimination of town property taxes on cars worth less than $28,571, which municipalities depend upon to finance their operations, is an invitation to municipal governments to either raise property taxes on middle class owners of houses or to cut town budgets. It takes little political courage for state politicians to eliminate someone else's tax. If Mr. Malloy wants to help the middle class by reducing state taxes, the list produced by the Yankee Institute presents some golden opportunities for him.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

How To Pre-Edit A Town Hall Meeting

Real Town Hall meetings can be a bit unruly, a test both for citizens and their representatives -- but not if they are pre-edit by Governor Dannel Malloy’s Malloyalists.

The format in a Middletown Town Hall meeting obliged residents to fill out a sign-up sheet stating their names and the topic of their questions, according to a report in the Middletown Press:“The governor’s staff selected questions based on subject matter, according to Andrew Doba, a spokesman for the governor.”

Five minutes into the meeting, one woman, perhaps more used to uncensored Town Hall meetings than either the governor or his media director, protested, “This is supposed to be a town hall meeting, sir.” Residents, she said, “should be able to voice their opinions.”

If the citizen protesting the curbs on free speech at Town Hall meetingshad submitted her protest to Mr. Doba, her objection likely would never have been raised publicly.

A brief interrogatory between Dave Berry of Glastonbury and the governor surfaced when Mr. Berry, pointing out that police officers were armed, asked the governor whether he thought Mr. Berry’s life was less precious than theirs. He asked the governor, “Do you think that your life is more important than mine?”

Mr. Malloy advised Mr. Berry “if you pass a background check, you get to keep [your gun].”

The motive behind the new firearms restrictions he prefers, Mr. Malloy said, referring in particular to the five-year ban on gun ownership for those convicted of drunk driving, is that “if we find out some reason why you shouldn’t have that gun, then you shouldn’t have that gun.”

Mr. Berry, no doubt imagining he was participating in a real Town Hall meeting, responded “I don’t know what drunk driving has to do with gun ownership,” and the scripted questioning continued.

Mr. Berry and the Middletown non-participants in Mr. Malloy’s road show may be unaware that there is a well-documented connection between the kind of mass-murders that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School and psychotropic drugs.

Perhaps at his next scripted Town Hall meeting Mr. Malloy’s media editor will allow a question on the subject. That one, at Wesleyan University’s Beckham Hall Friday at 11AM, will be devoted to a discussion of mental health issues.

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Citizen’s Case Against The Malloy-Lawlor Early Release Program

When the Democratic dominated General Assembly perhaps unwittingly passed Bill HB 6650 establishing a Risk Reduction Earned Credits program for some prisoners incarcerated for violent crimes, the opposition from Republicans was nearly instantaneous. Then State Senator Len Suzio took the lead in agitating against the program. He was not alone.

In a June 6, 2011 media release,State Senator Joe Markley said that the program “amounts to a jail break.” Mr. Markley went on to list the categories of violent prisoners eligible for early release under the program:

Manslaughter in the first degree (with intent to cause serious injury)

Sexual assault in the first degree (sex with someone under the age of 13)

Kidnapping in the first degree (intent to inflict physical injury)

Arson in the first degree (intent to destroy an inhabited building)

Employing a minor in an obscene performance

Importing child pornography

Contaminating a public water supply or food supply for terrorist purposes

Injury or risk of injury to, or impairing morals of, children

Abandonment of child under the age of six years

Firearms trafficking (knowingly giving a firearm to someone barred from firearm possession)

Cruelty to animals (possessing an animal for fighting, intentionally killing a police dog)”

After two credited criminals celebrated their early release by murdering two shopkeepers, one in Meriden and one in Manchester, some media outlets began to take notice of deficiencies in the program. But even so, the drumbeat against early release was hardly ear-shattering. Mr. Lawlor and Mr. Malloy hunkered down and hoped for a reduction in the decibel level.

Connecticut Victims Advocate Michelle Cruz stirred the pot when, representing the interests of victimized families -- her job -- she publically petitioned for an end to the program after the early release of prisoner Kezlyn Mendez, charged with the murder of a store clerk in Manchester. Ms. Cruz’s job was put on the auction block by Mr. Malloy, and she has now been replaced by Garvin Ambrose, a political operative from Cook County, Illinois, murder capital of the United States. Mr. Ambrose was cited by a victims advocate group in Illinois as having been insufficiently concerned with the rights of crime victims.

The early release of Frankie “The Razor” Resto, so called because in freedom he was known for shaking down drug dealers with a razor, proved somewhat difficult to justify.

Mr. Resto was, by all accounts, an incorrigible prisoner. Behind bars he dealt drugs, racked up a disciplinary record that should have made him ineligible for early release and burned his mattress. The Lawlor-Malloy early release program was applied retroactively to the violent prisoners noted above in Mr. Markley’s press release, which means that in many cases accessibility to the program did not depend on good behavior. While serving time for a 2006 robbery conviction, Mr. Resto was allotted 199 days of credits toward early release. In Mr. Resto’s case, a violent prisoner was rewarded with early release credits for behavior that should have extended his sentence. The Lawlor-Malloy program was all carrot and no stick. Once out of jail, Mr. Resto illegally acquired a gun and murdered Ibraham Ghazal, the co-owner of an EZMart store in Meriden, according to arrest records.

The ham-fisted attempt by the Malloy administration to sanitize the predictable effects of its flawed early release program by ridding the political stage of opponents pointing to the blood on the floor may not succeed.

After political operatives in the General Assembly bound by party ties to the governor successfully smothered Republican introduced bills to eliminate the program and bills introduced by Senators Paul Doyle of Wethersfield and John Kissel of Enfield to exclude violent prisoners from the program, Senator Joe Markey forced the Judiciary Committee to draft and schedule legislation for a public hearing by resorting to a petitioning procedure authorized in the General Assembly’s joint rules.

A bill conceived by Mr. Markley and state Representative Alfred Adnolfi of Cheshire that first proposed to prevent the violent convicts categorized above from participating in the early release program has now been redrafted and resubmitted. Mr. Lawlor recently told the Waterbury Republican American that he "had no problem" accepting a bill adding language to the current legislation clarifying that violent offenders cannot earn credits towards early release. On other occasions he has said that that the early release program would not work if his program allowing credits to the categories of crimes listed by Mr. Markley were to be altered. A citizens’ petition designed to catch the eye of those legislators who, perhaps unwittingly, have facilitated two murders in Connecticut communities may be found here.

A citizens’ petition designed to catch the eye of those legislators who, perhaps unwittingly, have facilitated two murders in Connecticut communities may be found here.

Governance in a Constitutional Republic, particularly when it impacts the safety of citizens, is too important to be left to artful politicians. The petition should be widely circulated and signed. The hearing should be well attended. When good citizens are silent, liberty and safety are put on the auction block.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Devil In Blumenthal’s Details

The expression “the devil is in the details,” first appearing in print in 1975, is a variation of an earlier expression, “The good God is in the detail,”sometimes attributed to Gustave Flaubert. Both expressions point to the importance of detail, what we moderns call verifiable data or facts.

Politicians, to no one’s surprise, sometimes traffic in facts, sometimes not.

In a recent copyrighted story in the Hartford Courant, U.S. Senator Dick Blumenthal is shown expressing his disdain for the devilish details surrounding the Sandy Hook massacre: “Blumenthal dismissed the statistics and legal intricacies and focused on Begg and Heslin sitting at the witness table. He said, ‘Some or all of those 20 beautiful children and six great educators would be alive today if assault weapons had been banned along with high capacity magazines.’"

Mr. Blumenthal was speaking to reporters on the record following testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee of one of the parents of the children, 20 in number, who were slain in Sandy Hook Elementary School.

As expected, the testimony was heart rending. Only a heart of stone could fail to be moved by the personal testimony of Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old-son, Jesse Lewis, was murdered in the savage attack.

Also present during the testimony was the sister of Victoria Soto, one of the heroic figures in the Sandy Hook mass murderer.

Ms. Soto was the First Grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School who managed to save children’s lives by hiding several of them in a closet. When Adam Lanza entered her classroom after having killed fifteen students and two teachers, she told him, with great presence of mind, that the children were in the auditorium. Some students ran from their hiding place and Mr. Lanza shot them, also shooting Ms. Soto who, in an attempt to save their lives, threw herself in death’s path.

“We don’t want our sister to die for no reason,”Jillian Soto told the host of MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.” Courage runs deep in the Soto family.

“We lost our sister, tragically,” said Jillian, “and we are now honoring her by fighting for her name and for change–in her name, and all the other victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School and all the other school shootings. We don’t just want her to be a statistic. We want her to be known for who she is and the amazing teacher that she was -- the amazing sister she was -- and ask for something, demand that something be done so that nobody else has to go through this.”

“So that nobody else has to go through this…” These words should not be taken as a pointless rhetorical incantation. We should not allow the devil to ease a pathway for us around the details; for, if we do, we cannot arrive at a legislative destination that will assure family members of the innocent children slaughtered in Sandy Hook that other parents will not, like them, weep tears of blood when their innocent children are accosted by gunmen in what used to be considered here in Connecticut a sanctuary of peace and joy -- and this means that legislators must master the details, or the faults in their legislation will ride them like devils.

The architect of the federal bill preferred by Mr. Blumenthal is U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. The Feinstein bill bans future sales of assault weapons, already illegal under Connecticut law, while permitting current owners to retain their weapons and, as such, would not have prevented Adam Lanza from acquiring the weapon he used to slaughter children in Sandy Hook. A confiscation of such weapons legally owned by their purchasers might have prevented Mr. Lanza’s use of the AR15, a semi-automatic long rifle, but then Mr. Lanza arrived at the school armed with two equally lethal handguns, the weapon of choice in urban areas where the preponderance of murders occur. Only a little less than three percent of homicides in 2011 were committed with long rifles. The Feinstein bill also limits easily replaceable magazines to ten bullets. According to a story the details of which have not been verified by the official criminal report, not due until the summer, Mr. Lanza replaced his thirty round magazines after having fired 15 rounds. The shotgun he left in the car and the two hand guns he carried with him into the school would have been as devastating.

When Mr. Blumenthal said, focusing dramatically on Mr. Heslin and dismissing as “unimportant”statistics and legal intricacies, “Some or all of those 20 beautiful children and six great educators would be alive today if assault weapons had been banned along with high capacity magazines," he was telling what Mark Twain used to call a stretcher, not that he will ever be reproved for it by the right people. Mr. Blumenthal, formerly an attorney general, did, after all, include the slither word “some” in his stretcher.

Back home, Democratic leaders in the General Assembly were spooking their brother legislators. The president pro tem of the Senate Don Williams and Majority Leader Martin Looney wrote a letter to their colleagues demanding that a legislative committee complete its work on time; and the bill presented to the General Assembly, they said, would be“emergency certified.”

An "emergency certified bill" is one that short circuits the legislative process because an “emergency”requiring short circuiting is at hand. The short circuiting, fortunately for legislators who do not wish to leave unsightly fingerprints on the resulting bill, renders hearings on proposed bills unnecessary. There is no emergency, only a legislative stampede made in Washington. Convenient emergencies of this kind are the enemy of the good and a shameless dereliction of legislative responsibility. If legislators don't want to create effective bills, they should find another means of employment.

The one notable Democratic legislator who appears to be committed to a tried and sure legislative process designed to produce efficacious legislation is Democratic Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey. Mr.Sharkey is reluctant to sign on to emergency legislation the provisions of which have not been approved by the General Assembly appointed bipartisan task force. Apparently, Mr. Sharkey prefers a more comprehensive bill written by Connecticut legislators for citizens of Connecticut. Hearings on proposed legislation allow legislators to shape bills with a view to particular circumstances. The notion that the General Assembly should be stampeded in its deliberations simply to meet a schedule imposed from Washington DC is more than preposterous; it is dangerous because it subverts a republican constitutional order and will likely produce a product useful only to politicians concerned with campaign sound bites.