Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sedensky’s Preliminary Report And The Sandy Hook Shroud Of Secrecy

Danbury State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky released on Monday a 40 page preliminary report on the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. He has promised to release the full report numbering 2,000 pages sometime or other, perhaps in May. Release of the full report has now been twice delayed.

What, some people now are wondering, is the purpose of the preliminary report? There are no shockers in the document. Very little of the released information, now certified as correct by the preliminary report, can be construed as adversely affecting a prosecution, and indeed the preliminary report confirms that prosecutions were unlikely months ago:

“It is the conclusion of this State’s Attorney that the shooter acted alone and was solely criminally responsible for his actions of that day.  Moreover, none of the evidence developed to date demonstrates probable cause to believe that any other person conspired with the shooter to commit these crimes or aided and abetted him in doing so.
“Unless additional–and at this time unanticipated–evidence is developed, there will be no state criminal prosecution as result of these crimes.”

That datum, and other certified information in the preliminary report, might have been useful to the General Assembly that wrote a gun restriction bill in the absence of the authoritative data such a report might contain. That watershed moment passed long ago. The preliminary report is, among other things, Mr. Sedensky’s attempt to shape an understanding of the full report, when it is released.

The issuance of the criminal report has been a long time coming. One underwhelmed former Editorial Page Editor of a prominent Connecticut paper noted after she had read the preliminary report, “Little in this report is new. My prediction: State's attorney Sedensky will redact so much from the final report that it will look like Morse Code. Why has he insisted on secrecy, fought to keep the 911 tapes secret, and taken longer to issue this report than it took the Warren Commission to report on the JFK's murder?”

We are at the point of memorializing the first year anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre. A year is a long time to wait for an authorized report on a mass slaying. Mr. Sedensky has consistently stated that a full and authorized account of the crime has been delayed because of “an ongoing investigation.” Now that the preliminary report has been brought out of the closet, it may appear to some people that Mr. Sedensky’s explanation was a dodge rather than a reason.

Other police spokesmen have said, much earlier in the investigation, that no future prosecutions were to be expected. There are few direct witnesses to the crime. Adam Lanza, the shooter, was a very thorough mass murderer. Mr. Sedensky’s report confirms he was a single shooter. On the face of it, it would seem there never was anyone to investigate. Mr. Lanza committed suicide, removing himself from the possibility of a prosecution interview. His victims have all died.

Governor Dannel Malloy is a former prosecutor, and even he was beginning to show signs of impatience more than a week before the release of Mr. Sedensky’s preliminary report. Mr. Malloy told reporters in Farmington on November 12, “I’m frustrated that the report has not yet been issued.”

The governor was careful to put some distance between himself and Mr. Sedensky. State attorneys, Mr. Malloy pointed out, are attached to the division of criminal justice, an independent executive branch agency. “So that people understand this,” Mr. Malloy said, “they don’t work for me. So I’ll put it a different way: if they did, this report would be out already. I'm anxious to get this report out to the public, out to you folks," Mr.Malloy told the assembled reporters. "That's what I'm anxious about."

The governor, as well as legislators who did not have available to them a preliminary report when they wrote laws putatively designed to forestall future murderous assaults on Connecticut schools, should insist that the reasons for the unaccountable delay of the full report should be included by Mr. Sedensky in the final full report.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dannel Daedalus Gets Antsy

It’s now official, though it may take some time for Governor Dannel Malloy’s message to trickle down to the members of Connecticut’s all Democratic U.S. Congressional Delegation: “I understand this frustration,” Malloy said. “I’m frustrated. I think the federal government has messed up big time. This couldn’t have been a worse rollout, except in the states that embraced what we’re trying to do. In Connecticut, we're signing up people left and right.”

Mr. Malloy’s “rebuke of the White House over Obamacare” may be found in a short piece in CTMirror, “Malloy rebukes White House over Obamacare.”

Mr. Malloy’s rebuke, it should be noticed, does not touch the essence of the Affordable Care Act, more popularly known as Obamacare. The act itself, he thinks, is praiseworthy, but its execution leaves much to be desired – unlike Mr. Malloy’s own flawless roll-out of the Connecticut Obamacare exchange.

Right from the get-go, Mr. Malloy stepped boldly, even eagerly, on the Obamacare plank. Unforeseen – actually, they were foreseen – technical problems arose, called “glitches” by the White House, and the roll-out flopped so dramatically that even President Barack Obama’s Stakhanovite supporters, as well as the president himself,  were forced to admit the Obamacare launch was an abject failure. The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart, for instance, was not amused.

“The bad” was on Mr. Obama, said Mr. Obama --  just before he tossed his problem to Mr. Malloy.

“They shifted their problem to me, and I don’t appreciate it,” said Mr. Malloy, according to CTMirror.

The problem shift occurred when Mr. Obama, under pressure from former President Bill Clinton to keep his often stated promise that the little folk could keep their insurance policies if they liked them, kept his promise, causing supporters in blue states such as Mr. Malloy’s considerable agita.

Obamacare was all along designed to shift people out of their preferred insurance plans into Obamacare. The forcible push towards Obamacare was to follow on an insistence that insurance companies deep-six plans considered “substandard” by the new insurance mavens in the Obama administration. Under pressure to abandon plans that, for instance, did not require men to purchase maternity coverage, the insurance companies bowed to White House pressure and canceled their so called “substandard” plans. In point of fact, the substandard plans were designed to appeal to a diverse marketplace: In the real marketplace outside the walls of the Washington D.C. Beltway, needs determine the nature of sellable products; inside the Beltway, political considerations determine public needs.

When Mr. Obama, purely for political reasons, caved under pressure from Mr. Clinton and numberless incumbent Democratic Congressmen whose seats would have been threatened by broken promises, the diverse plans abandoned by the insurance companies could not, purely as a practical matter, be restored. Humpty Dumpty had already fallen from the wall. The insurance companies also had ventured far out on the Obamacare plank, along with Mr. Malloy. What drew them there was an artful measure in the Obamacare law that would force young people by means of monetary penalties to purchase insurance policies they did not need or want.

By restoring his promise – for a year only – Mr. Obama created a big problem.

The astute Obama-watcher will notice that this big problem – How is it possible to finance Obamacare if the president allows substandard policies, if only for a year, to remain, washing away the breakwater that prevents the monetizing of Obamacare? – is not a technical glitch. It is essential to the success of Obamacare.

One supposes that Mr. Malloy and the Malloyalists, the brightest brains ever assembled in Connecticut to assist Mr. Malloy in re-inventing what used to be called “the insurance capital of the world,” understand all this better than more pedestrian geniuses.  But it simply is not in the political interests of Democratic Party power brokers in Connecticut publicly to notice big problems. And so, all the political chatter is of technological glitches foisted by imbecilic federal agents upon a Democratic regime in Connecticut that now feels it must put some distance between itself and a technologically incompetent president whose vision – the radical readjustment of a sixth of the U.S. economy – remains, never-the-less, doable.

This unearthly hubris is a larger problem still; it torched the wings of Daedalus and may yet incinerate the ambitions of progressive utopianists in Connecticut. It will not dissipate until the architects of disaster are removed from office.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Soucy, Plunkitt And The Dovonan Sting Operation

The FBI’s singing canary in the Donovan probe, “labor activist” Ray Soucy, was not given prison time for the part he had played in the attempted corruption of former Speaker of the State House Chris Donovan.

“A labor activist at the center of an attempt two years ago to kill a tax on tobacco by bribing a top state lawmaker with tens of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign money was sentenced Monday to three years probation, the first six months to be served at a halfway house.”

Connecticut’s majority Democratic Party is full of “labor activists.” It’s only a slight stretch to say Governor Dannel Malloy, who has marched on the picket line with union workers, is himself a “labor activist.” Mr. Malloy pledged his troth to unions when he was in the political nursery, and he has renewed his vows several times during his administration, most notably when his first budget was on the drawing boards.

However, few labor activists are as colorful as Mr. Soucy, Connecticut’s equivalent of George Washington Plunkitt, a Tammany Hall boss in New York City who ran his political operation from a bootblack stand. Mr. Plunkitt – “I seen my opportunities, and I took’em”  – was on his way out even before he was interviewed several times by reporter William Riordan, who later stitched together his embarrassingly frank interviews in a small book, “Plunkitt of Tammany Hall.”  Mr. Plunkitt claimed he was casualty of the then new civil service system, the bane and ruination of political parties. Mr. Plunkitt’s Democratic Party, it may be noticed, has since adapted to the new reality and now counts unions and civil service workers as the I-joist of the Democratic Party.

The FBI wired Mr.  Soucy and provided him with a script with which he might ensnare the people – some young, others inexperienced in the ways of political lifers -- who surrounded Speaker of the State House Chris Donovan, then running for a U.S. Congressional seat left vacant by Chris Murphy, now a U.S. Senator.  The rancid odor issuing from the FBI sting operation persuaded Mr. Donovan to withdraw his Congressional bid in favor of Democrat Elizabeth Esty. The small-fry were easily ensnared. At some point during the FBI sting operation, the cover was blown – when and by whom we may never know – and most of the incumbent big fish, with some effort, swam upstream.

Hauling in the net, the Feds successfully prosecuted Mr. Donovan’s campaign manager, lower level campaign workers, and some benighted smoke shop owners drawn into the sting by George Washington Plunkitt Soucy, who teased fraudulent campaign donations from them by explaining that money made the wheels go round at the state Capitol. Or, as Mr. Soucy colorfully put it, “Politics is about the Benjamins. [Ben Franklin’s mug is on the highly inflated hundred dollar bill] This game runs on one thing -- dollars."

 "Chris Murphy will do anything in the (expletive deleted) world for me because he remembers that I was the first one to believe in and invest in him. That's how the system works."

After Mr. Soucy tells a wired FBI informant, Patrick Castagna, that he has been sowing the political ground in $10,000 increments, Mr. Castagna, the FBI straight man, doubts whether $10,000 is sufficient to buy a Connecticut politician. Inflation, after all, has taken a bite out of the purchasing power of the dollar.

Says Soucy, “The $10,000 was to let him know you are serious....We're dealing with politicians. We're not dealing with the mob [pause]. It's a close second."

“Pictures [the Benjamins again] they're worth a thousand words. The guy running in the 5th District [former House Speaker Chris Donovan] he got 10 pictures [a $10,000 campaign contribution].”

When all the dirt was flushed down the drain, “the guy running in the 5th District” gave up his campaign, and the FBI, thanks to the wired Soucy, managed to send a few Donovan subalterns to prison. But not Soucy the singing canary. The well connected union leader, now on probation, will spend six months in a half-way house because, according to one report,
“Soucy [sic] recordings and his help in raising and delivering about $28,000 in cash were instrumental in the indictments of two Donovan campaign officers and five roll-your-own owners or employees.”

The guys who got the Benjamins were inconvenienced but emerged unscathed from the FBI sting.

Mr. Plunkitt tells us why:

“Understand, I ain’t defendin‘ politicians of today who steal. The politician who steals is worse than a thief. He is a fool. With the grand opportunities all around for the man with a political pull, there’s no excuse for stealin’ a cent. The point I want to make is that if there is some stealin‘ in politics, it don’t mean that the politicians of 1905 are, as a class, worse than them of 1835. It just means that the old-timers had nothin’ to steal, while the politicians now are surrounded by all kinds of temptations and some of them naturally—the fool ones—buck up against the penal code.”

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Obama Switcheroo, Connecticut’s Congressional Delegation, And the Band Played On

An Obamacare supporter had just finished explaining on Facebook that Obamacare, once fully implemented, would ring out of the private insurance market all those expensive and useless “substandard” plans when, hesto presto, Mr. Obama, under pressure from Democratic notables such as former President Bill Clinton to keep his promise that insurance purchasers will be able to keep their insurance plans, announced during one of his infrequent press conferences that everyone he had promised could keep their plans could, following his change of mind, keep their plans.

The Obamacare Facebook supporter fell silent and went on to other matters.

Wrinkles began to appear in the smooth winding sheets of the usual Obama supporters.  Jon Stewart impaled Mr. Obama on his news/comedy show The Daily Show:

Following Mr. Obama’s switcheroo, Mark Steyn wrote in National Review a paragraph that ought to be put to music and sung to the Beltway maestros at the president's next press availability:

“Ooooo-kay. So, if I follow correctly, the smartest president ever is not smart enough to ensure that his website works; he’s not smart enough to inquire of others as to whether his website works; he’s not smart enough to check that his website works before he goes out and tells people what a great website experience they’re in for. But he is smart enough to know that he’s not stupid enough to go around bragging about how well it works if he’d already been informed that it doesn’t work. So he’s smart enough to know that if he’d known what he didn’t know he’d know enough not to let it be known that he knew nothing. The country’s in the very best of hands.”

No one yet has criticized Mr. Obama for having defaulted on his implicit deal with the insurance companies. For as long as insurance companies have been in business, no insurance CEO has been able, prior to Obamacare, to force purchasers to buy plans they did not want or need. Obamacare, when fully implemented, will force young people into the insurance market by levying a tax (the Supreme Court’s verbiage) on those who perversely decline to purchase a product they do not want or need.

The implementation of this market magic has now been delayed by a year. When the country has moved beyond the mid-term elections, Obamacare once again will purge the insurance market of “substandard” products, prodding the young folk into the insurance market by means of fines (non-Supreme Court verbiage) levied against their best interests.

The Obama shape shifting caused one Hartford paper to lament that “every time Connecticut takes a step forward with health insurance, the federal government smacks us two steps back.”

In a year, however, the destructive Obamacare juggernaut will be back in business. The current “fix,” it seems to some Obamacare critics, is but a temporary measure on the way to a universal health care system.

Under a single payer system, private insurance companies, no longer able to compete with a public insurance system backed by taxpayer dollar, tend to become boutique insurance suppliers servicing clients who can afford higher premiums and tailored plans. The temporary “fix,” will create a necessary temporary uncertainty in the private insurance market – assuming major insurance suppliers swallow the bait thrown out to them by a beleaguered White House -- a roiling chaos almost certain to be followed by calls for a universal health care system.

Connecticut, home to major insurance companies and still heavily reliant on its insurance sector, used to be known as “the insurance capital of the world.” The uncertainty in insurance markets created by Obamacare, the relentless rhetorical bashing insurance companies have been subject to by the Obama administration, the prospect of universal health care and the consequent pairing back of insurance products, are bound to affect Connecticut disproportionately, both in terms of jobs lost and diminished tax revenues.

None of these very real possibilities have been considered seriously by the members of Connecticut’s Democratic U.S. Congressional Delegation, Obamacare enthusiasts all. Governor Dannel Malloy, rudely smacked down by Mr. Obama’s latest U-turn on his signature piece of legislation, appears unperturbed by possible job losses in Connecticut’s still vibrant insurance industry, not to mention consequent reductions in state revenue.

In the distance one sees, looming in the fog, the tip of a menacing iceberg. Aboard the ship of state, all is merry; the crew presses forward; the passengers are in a celebratory mood; the captain, champagne glass in hand, is about to toast to a successful journey; the band is playing a comforting waltz; the dance floor is crowded.

Full speed ahead.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Secrecy, The One Party State And The Public Interest

So then, what’s wrong with secrecy in politics?

Former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then a Democrat from New York, was the chairman of a congressional commission that in the post-Cold War period inquired into the uses of governmental secrecy. Moynihan felt that a “culture of secrecy” had pervaded the U.S. government and its intelligence services for 80 years, starting with the Espionage Act of 1917.

The Commission’s findings were presented to President Bill Clinton in 1997. As part of his presentation, Mr. Moynihan secured the release of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Venona file, which documented Soviet espionage efforts in the United States during the preceding 50 years, a treasure trove of information that ought to have been released much earlier.

Moynihan’s view of unnecessary secrecy might be summed up as follows: In many cases, governmental secrecy IS the disease it purports to cure. The information in custody of the FBI for 50 years provided data necessary for Congressional overview of foreign policy. Good government depends on the public vetting of data necessary for good government, and this axiom applies to all forms of governmental secrecy.

This same view, that secrecy in government damages the constitutional fabric of the Republic, animated Connecticut’s Freedom of Information (FOI) law, which was promulgated in 1975. A broad brush law that applies to both municipal and state agencies, Connecticut’s Freedom of Information law placed windows in formerly insular smoke filled back rooms so that citizens could more easily discharge their watchdog roles as the primary guardians of liberty and good government in the state.

Most people believe that the free flow of information is necessary to prevent politicians from pilfering the government for their own private nefarious purposes, and that certainly is true. But the primary purpose of the Connecticut’s FOI law, as well as similar laws enacted in other states, is to assure good government – a government shorn of the secrecy necessary to politicians who seek secretly to act against the public’s interest.

So, the answer to the question “What’s wrong with secrecy in politics?” is that good government in a constitutional Republic such as ours cannot be maintained in the absence of transparency. In a Republic of laws not of men, the people and not its governors or judges are the final arbiters of good government. Just as in the private marketplace creativity and the free flow of information is essential to wealth creation, so in the public arena transparency is essential to good government.

Even in a state government with strong FOI regulations, many are the ways of concealing government operations. When it comes to drawing the veil over open government processes, the Malloy administration is no slouch.

Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration recently came under fire when a Hartford political columnist who had filed an FOI complaint discovered that Malloyalists were using non-official e-mails to correspond with each other concerning state business. Work on Mr. Malloy’s first two budgets was effectively concealed from Republican legislators who, for the first time since the state had elected a Democratic governor, were excluded from budget negotiations. A budget is a government’s action plan for the fiscal year. A major penological reform initiated by Mike Lawlor, Mr. Malloy’s Under Secretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning, was launched through an implementer bill, a haystack of legislation originally designed to implement bills already considered and approved by the General Assembly. Mr. Lawlor’s needle, the Risk Reduction Earned Credit Program, a new piece of legislation not reviewed by relevant legislative committees, was cleverly concealed in an omnibus implementer bill. Republican legislators thus far have been unable to prevail upon Mr. Lawlor to exclude from his program violent criminals convicted of manslaughter, assault in the first degree, rape and other violent crimes. A state senator who petitioned Mr. Lawlor for information that would allow the legislature to gauge the effect of Mr. Lawlor’s “get out of jail early” credits on recidivism rates has, he says, been given the runaround. A criminal report concerning a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School has not yet been released; the General Assembly voted in favor of a gun restriction bill without the advantage of having seen the authoritative data included in the criminal report, the release of which has been twice delayed by Danbury State Attorney Stephen Sedensky on the grounds that the criminal investigation is still open – even though the prospect of future prosecutions is not likely.

Whatever else all this concealment and dodging represents – it is NOT transparency. The Malloy administration, particularly since Democrats now control both the General Assembly and the governor’s office, very well may be the most secretive government in living memory, and the itch to conceal from the public the public’s business certainly is not in keeping with the spirit that nearly forty years ago inspired Connecticut legislators to pass the state’s Freedom of Information law.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Harp Brigade

No seasoned political watcher in New Haven will be much surprised by the gaggle of 14 karat Democrats who showed up at St. Luke’s Parish Hall to lend their support to state Senator Toni Harp in her bid to replace John DeStefano as the Elm City’s mayor.

Everyone who is anyone in Democratic Party politics showed up to row the Harp boat successfully ashore, although former Mayor of New Haven John DeStefano, notably absent, did not on this occasion join the chorus of prominent Democrats pledging their support to Mrs. Harp.

A New Haven paper reported: “Harp, a Democrat, employed a VIP lineup of top politicians in her party to pump up a room of over 120 supporters at St. Luke’s Parish Hall at 111 Whalley Ave. Among those who appeared on her behalf: U.S. Sens. Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, state Sens. Martin Looney and Don Williams, and state Reps. Pat Dillon, Gary Holder-Winfield, and Roland Lemar.”

Encomiums sweetened the air. The ubiquitous Governor Dannel Malloy was on hand. Noting the array of fellow Democrats prepared to support Mrs. Harp, Mr. Malloy said the presence of so many twinkling stars “tells you how important in our minds New Haven is.” City votes were crucial in launching Mr. Malloy into the governor’s office, and for many years Democrats have “owned” most of the larger cities in Connecticut. It is commonly acknowledged that whoever wins a Democratic primary in New Haven will carry the election.

U.S. Senator Chis Murphy -- on his way to Europe in an attempt to salvage the sagging reputation of the star spangled administration of President Barrack Obama following disclosures that American spooks had tapped the cell phone of Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel – called Mrs. Harp a champion of the disenfranchised at the state Capitol and encouraged the crowd to “work your butts off” on election day for the wife of the recently departed Wendell Harp.

According to several news reports, the late Mr. Harp was one of the city’s most egregious tax scofflaws.

Upon his demise, Mr. Harp’s business, Renaissance Management, was taken over by Mrs. Harp’s son, who now faces a $1.1 million sales tax liability resulting from a long standing dispute with the state Department of Revenue Services settled in the department’s favor through a 2003 ruling by the state Supreme Court. Mr. Harp’s settlement payments were laconic and sporadic. Accrued interest over the years has “pushed Renaissance Management to the number one slot on a list of 100 delinquent businesses,” according to one news account.

Mr. Blumenthal has come a long way baby since as a crusading Attorney General the quick to sue Blumenthal hounded in-state businesses that for one reason or another had strayed from the path of righteousness.  As a U.S. Senator Mr. Blumenthal now not only winks at tax scofflaws in his own state; he unblushingly campaigns for them on their behalf.

But Mr. Blumenthal is not alone. When Mrs. Harp was elected the first woman mayor of New Haven – “New Haven needs a woman Mayor,” said Mr. Malloy on the primary campaign stump -- the lights of the Democratic Party in Connecticut were greatly responsible for hoisting her petard. When all the votes had been counted in New Haven’s 30 wards, Mrs. Harp had overcome a challenge by Justin Elicker by a fairly narrow margin, considering the political circumstances: Having lost to Mrs. Harp in a Democratic primary, Mr. Elicker mounted a challenge as a petitioning candidate. Petitioning candidates running against political party insiders generally do not do as well.

The Republican Party in Connecticut, which has little or no presence in the state’s larger cities, would have been delighted with Mr. Elicker’s figures: The final tally was 11,353 votes for Mrs. Harp and 9,416 votes for Mr. Elicker -- 54.66 percent to 45.34 percent, not a bad showing for a politician campaigning outside the political party box.

But no cigar.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bonding, The Budget And Corporate Welfare

When Mark Twain said ““Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well," he might easily have been talking about bonding.

Usually a state sells bonds to pay for long term capital projects. But like any political practice, the selling of bonds may be subject to abuse. The use of bonding to pay off current expenses that ought to be discharged through tax increases or spending decreases is considered a “no, no” among agencies that rate state bonding. The practice, however, is a “yes, yes” among politicians who want to avoid either the unpleasant option of raising taxes or the equally unpleasant option of cutting spending. The beauty of bonding for such politicians is that it allows them to escape the wrath of voters who understandably resent tax increases imposed to pay for current budget expenses and improvident spending. The downside to bonding abuse is that current expenses are carried into the future, a benefit for cowardly politicians charged to the future generation on a “buy now pay later” plan.

Bonding puts off until the day after tomorrow payment for obligations that ought to be met today by those responsible for incurring debts.

Bonding for current expenses was one of Mr. Malloy’s bĂȘtes noire when he was running for the governor’s office, and a change from a modified cash basis system to a Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) system was the candidate’s answer to budgetary skulduggery that had led to unmanageable budget deficits.

Pointing to the delinquencies of his two Republican predecessors, Mr. Malloy was compelled, he said, to institute the largest tax increase in Connecticut history, second only to the tax increase that followed Governor Lowell Weicker’s income tax. Requiring revenues under GAAP to be counted in the year they are received necessarily created a budget differential of some $1.2 billion. Initially, Mr. Malloy had planned to bridge the gap through budgetary savings. The recovery that Panglossian Democrats in the General Assembly hoped might flood the state’s treasury with sufficient funds to pay down the differential never materialized, and Mr. Malloy now has decided to pay down the $1.2 billion gap through bonding. The funds generated through bonding will be dedicated to this purpose unless, according to one news account, “there’s an emergency,” in which case the money may be used for some other purpose following a three-fifths vote in the Democratic dominated General Assembly. It is not unheard of for governors in Connecticut to declare budget emergencies. 

During the fag end of the last legislative session, the Democratic dominated General Assembly ordered Connecticut State Treasurer Denise Nappier to borrow $750 million to facilitate the conversion to GAAP.  The decision to borrow rather than saving the money to pay down the differential will cost the state more than $200 million in interest over the life of the bonds.

The Malloy bonds naturally “improved” the state’s cash flow and, for the first time in many moons – prior to the elections too -- state Comptroller Kevin Lembo was able to predict a small budget surplus.  Cash flow is improved whenever taxes are increased or bonding is used to generate funds that are not made available in a depressed economy.

No political skullduggery here – just business as usual in a state addicted to chronic spending.

On the Republican side of the political barricades, Mr. Malloy’s decision to pay for the  differential by bonding rather than by the means he had first settled upon – save money in the state’s piggy bank and use it to convert to GAAP – produced  a forceful objection from Republican Party gubernatorial hopeful  John McKinney.

“Appropriating real dollars to reduce the state’s GAAP deficit,” Mr. McKinney said, “would have been an honest and direct way of dealing with the problem, and I would have supported those efforts. But that’s not what the governor is doing. Instead, he is borrowing in order to kick that commitment down the road another two years.”

For Democrats, GAAP has become the equivalent of a budget chastity belt. However, it is never an adjustable belt that assures chastity. A chastened big spender would understand that budget deficits are caused by the disposition to spend. And there is little or no acknowledgement among members of Connecticut’s spending class that spending must be curtailed or that excessive regulation – which always drives up business costs – must be pared back. Everywhere, big spenders await the “rising tide that will lift all the boats,” an expression employed by President John Kennedy in his well-known speech to the Economic Club of New York in 1962, in the course of which Mr. Kennedy said:

 “The final and best means of strengthening demands among consumers and business is to reduce the burden on private income and the deterrents to private initiative which are imposed by our present tax system – and this administration pledged itself last summer to an across-the-board, top-to-bottom cut in personal and corporate income taxes to be enacted and become effective in 1963.”

Mr. Malloy has instead used what little money he found in Connecticut’s debt ridden budget to advance a destructive crony capitalist program, which involves giving rare tax dollars to companies he bribes for the pleasure of doing business in the state, including profitable mega-companies or smaller companies that use abused taxpayers to finance their moves from one town to another.

Lifting all the boats is not a progressive specialty, and it is doubtful that John Kennedy could be elected dog catcher circa 2014 anywhere in progressive, crony capitalist Connecticut.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Murphy’s European Apology Tour

U.S. Senator Chis Murphy plans to travel to Europe on an apology tour, according to a brief notice in a Hartford paper.

“Over the last several months,” Mr. Murphy wrote in a media release, “our European allies have raised legitimate concerns about the nature and scope of U.S. intelligence programs, and I agree that at times, U.S. surveillance programs have not been conducted with the appropriate restraint and security, both in the United States and in Europe. While foreign citizens do not enjoy the same constitutional protections as American citizens, the United States should have processes in place that assure non-U.S. citizens that all possible steps are being taken to limit the scope of our surveillance programs so that we are targeting only the information absolutely necessary to find and catch individuals who pose a security threat to the United States and our allies. My goal for these meetings will be to help cement the overall relationship between the United States and Europe and discuss surveillance programs in our countries.”

The brief news account does not mention where Mr. Murphy plans to travel in Europe -- Germany, France, Spain, England or the Vatican.

Mrs. Pesci and I just returned from France, whose socialist president, more unpopular in his own county than president Barack Obama is at home, still feels the whip and lash of an out of control American spy agency.

Germany’s head of state, Chancellor Angela Merkel, heatedly objected when she discovered -- thanks to Edward Snowden and his patron, Russian President Vladimir Putin -- that the Americans had tapped her private cell phone.

That item made the news four days running before we boarded the plane for home.

Presidential flack catcher Jay Carney’s various attempts to explain away the obvious have made him a laughing stock throughout Europe.  In a first response to European unease, Mr. Carney assured Ms. Merkel on behalf of the president that the United States is not nor would in the future tap the cell phone line of Germany’s head of state. It took news broadcasters about one hour to note that Mr. Carney had agilely danced around the question: Has the Obama administration in the past tapped the private phone lines of Ms. Merkel? It has been reported that Ms. Merkle’s phone lines have been under siege for more than ten years.
European grown-ups understand that nations do spy on each other – but tapping the private line of a European head of state suggested to them that a time honored line had been crossed.

Just before boarding an airline for home, we found that the Obama administration had tapped the Pope’s phone lines. Someone in the airport joked that the Obama administration was perhaps seeking how best to obtain an indulgence for its many secular sins.

The second most prominent story during the weeks we were in Europe concerned the spectacular failure of the launch of Obamacare.

A stevedore who tied our boat to a pier in Arles joked, “Here come the Americans. They are all FBI agents.” He was joking of course, but clearly there was a scorpion’s sting in his remark.

If Mr. Murphy does alight in Germany during his apology tour, it is possible he may bump into Mr. Snowden who, according to a recent news report, has expressed interest in testifying in a German inquiry into U.S. spying.

The Washington Post has reported that Snowden’s appearance in Germany would be contingent upon a pledge that Germany would not shuttle the accused felon to the United States. The possible testimony of Mr. Snowden in Germany, the paper reported, “puts Merkel into a tight spot. German voters are furious with the U.S. government over the spying revelations, and allowing Snowden into Germany would be a popular move. But the Obama administration has made clear that it is willing to go to great lengths to retrieve Snowden — including, said Bolivian President Evo Morales this summer, forcing the leader of a sovereign country to make an emergency landing because of suspicions that Snowden was on his jet.”

“If there were the possibility to hear Snowden as a witness,” said Thomas Oppermann, a Social Democrat who heads Germany’s parliamentary intelligence oversight committee, “without bringing him into danger and completely ruining the German-USA relationship, we should use it.”

Unless Mr. Murphy is willing to travel through Europe on his knees, begging pardon of every European he meets, he will not be warmly received. It may be more useful for him to stay home, iron the wrinkles out of Obamacare, work to construct a passable budget – Mr. Obama’s first since achieving office -- and apologize to the Europeans from afar, where he will be safe from the taunts of stevedores and European schoolchildren.