Sunday, June 8, 2014

Politics Down Under

The Republican Party in the South is, as everyone knows, more robust than it is in, say, New England. In true-blue Connecticut, the GOP barely makes a ripple.

While on vacation in Arizona, Mrs. Pesci's attention was drawn to some political ads, the most entertaining of which featured Joni Ernst, then in a primary battle for an open seat with a fellow Republican whose ads were more cookie cutterish. Let down by a president whose impenetrable “friends and enemies list” has confused the traditional friends and enemies of the United States, Andree was amused by some of the more aggressive GOP political ads we saw while in Arizona.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Connecticut's Tax And Spend See-Saw

Governor Dannel Malloy has a rough and tumble personality. Even his friends and political associates acknowledge that he has “sharp elbows,” but one of Connecticut’s prominent public pulse takers, director of the Quinnipiac University poll Douglas Schwartz, notes that there are more important issues in elections than likeability: “…the economy is clearly the most important issue in this year's governor’s election.”

Romney-bitten Republicans have heard this one before. Former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign was all about the economy, stupid. President Barack Obama version of economic ills was highly bowdlerized, and well-padded with what frightened Republicans call “social issues.” Republicans – especially in Connecticut, where the party is awash in “fiscal conservatives” – consistently retreat with their pants on fire from social issues, leaving the field entirely to Democrats, with predictable results.

 The economy is a broad and touchy subject and, like a porcupine, full of sharp quills. Incumbent chief executives who during the course of their term in office have had ample opportunity to devise and implement solutions to a sluggish economy will insist that any continuing sluggishness is due primarily to the ineptitude of their predecessors. They are not always as quick to note that their predecessors also are responsible for the good fruits incumbents invariably attribute to themselves. But that’s politics, and a savvy politician who cannot shuck off on those preceding him the troubles for which he is responsible -- while at the same time taking credit, Chanticleer-like, for the rising of the morning sun -- perhaps ought to be selling used cars.

Some solutions to chronic debt work, others don’t. On Election Day, November 4, 2014, Connecticut voters will have had the advantage of monitoring for four years Mr. Malloy’s solutions to an anemic economy. The chief solution Mr. Malloy hit upon during his first term is not very different from that of one of his gubernatorial predecessors whom he has declined to swipe with his sharp elbows.

In response to a massive debt in 1991, Mr. Weicker pushed through the General Assembly an income tax bill that raised the revenue ceiling to meet a debt caused by improvident spending and in so doing forever changed the economic posture of Connecticut. Mr. Malloy, facing an almost identical debt, pushed through the Democratic dominated General Assembly the largest tax increase in state history. Despite Mr. Malloy’s tax hike, whoever is elected governor in 2014 will be facing a debt comparable to that faced by Mr. Weicker a quarter century ago. Debt-wise, we are back at square one.

What reasonable deductions may be drawn from Connecticut’s recent economic history? There are several.

Spending is tied inextricably to tax increases: As taxes increase, spending increases. And this is why tax increases are not an effective solution to debt, which is caused by spending and can be reduced in the long term only by spending cuts.

A tax increase – better still, borrowing, which shifts debt payments forward to children yet unborn -- may be an efficient means of meeting an immediate debt, but the unintended consequences of tax increases are, to put it mildly, destructive to the economy for a host of reasons.

Tax increases are economic disincentives. The money taken from a person or company in taxes must be replaced somehow if the person or company, suffering the consequences of a continuing economic slowdown, is to maintain a precarious status quo. Faced with a prospective deficit, persons and companies do the same thing that government should do to maintain equilibrium: They cut spending or they attempt somehow to increase their incoming revenue. A person who cannot afford to pay additional taxes might get another job, always a difficult chore in a stagnant economy. A business seeking to maintain its income stream might lay off workers, dip into its R&D reserves, raise the price of its goods or services, if possible, or move its operations elsewhere. Then too, every dollar removed from the private to the public market place is a dollar that cannot be spent by a person whose prudent spending may stimulate the economy, or a company that otherwise might have used the dollar to increase the real wealth of the state, thus increasing the total revenue available to the state to discharge its own debts. The less disposable income people have, the more difficult it will be to raise revenue. The more revenue a state has at its disposal, the less inclined it will be to govern its own ferocious inclination to spend tax monies.

“Them that’s got shall get; them that ain’t shall loose” applies as well to governments as to the unrepentant rich.  

Before she tucked her gubernatorial campaign to bed, Martha Dean raised a point in her stump speech that was both an eye opener and a reliable applause line: “People in Connecticut are finished. They’re done.” Ms. Dean meant – it is no longer possible to raise taxes to meet a deficit. After boosting taxes to satisfy appropriations that had tripled within the space of four governors, the revenue well has now gone dry. There is no more juice in the lemon. If you raise taxes on people, their own budgets will be pushed into the red. If you raise taxes on companies, they will move to secure the profitability of their operations. It’s over – done – fini. You can’t make lemonade from a lemon peel.

Flashback – 1988. Democrats, who have controlled and shaped Connecticut’s budgets for a half century, have just pushed through a budget that calls for neither tax increases nor budget cuts. Mourning the passing of budget surpluses, Governor William O’Neill, considered a fiscal conservative, never-the-less stresses the need for spending increases, which will be paid out of the state’s “rainy day fund.”

Republicans grouse that Democrats have depleted a fund that was to be used for emergencies only. House Minority Leader Robert G. Jaekle, the New York Times reported, rose in opposition to the measure: ''It's a very dishonest budget, and I'm very disappointed,'' Mr. Jaekle said.

Senate President pro tem John B. Larson of East Hartford responded, ''I think 11 percent [increase in spending] is justified. That's why we have a rainy day fund, so we can offset potential problems.”

From there, Democrats moved the budget forward. Mr. O’Neill’s 1988 budget was $6.8 billion.

And now?

Revenue sources in the general fund, FY 2013 ($ in millions)[7]
Sales tax
Personal income tax
Corporate income tax
Gaming tax
Other taxes and fees
Per capita revenue**
Per capita figures are calculated by taking the state's total revenues and dividing by the number of state residents according to United States Census estimates for 2013.[8]
Source: National Association of State Budget Officers

According to a January 2014 report by the nonprofit organization State Budget Solutions, Connecticut had a state debt of over $112 billion. Its state debt per capita was $31,298. The report revealed that state governments faced a combined $5.1 trillion in debt, 33 percent of annual gross state product. The obligation amounts to $16,178 per capita in the nation. A bulk of the state debt -- 79 percent -- was linked to unfunded public pensions.

Such are the very expensive fruits of progressivism and one party government.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Kerry At Yale

The good news is that Secretary of State John Kerry is not Ayaan Hersi Ali, and therefore his address to Yale graduates on College Class Day was not cancelled by a tremulous administration responding to charges that the appointed speaker had needlessly denigrated Islam. Yale, one may be thankful, is not Brandeis University, which first announced plans that it would bestow an honorary degree on Hersi Ali and later cancelled her invitation to speak at the college when students and Muslim organizations became restive.

Mr. Kerry, assuredly, is no Hersi Ali. His comments concerning the murderous assault on Christians by Muslim Salafists in the Middle East and Africa are so mild and inoffensive as to be barely noticed at all. 
Nor is Mr. Kerry Condoleezza Rice, currently a professor of Political Economy in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University and  the first African American in U.S. history to be appointed Secretary of State. Ms. Rice graciously declined the invitation to speak at Rutgers University when students at the university professed to be agitated by former President George Bush’s Iraq War.

Ms. Rice fell victim to academic indignation when leaders of the university’s Islamic organizations, Ahluk Bayt, MuslimGirl and the Muslim Student Organization wrote a letter to Rutgers’ President charging that Ms. Rice, in her official capacity as Secretary of State, had been guilty of “grave human rights violations, defrauding the American public” and unequivocally supporting “enhanced torture tactics.”

“During a six-hour ‘occupation’ of a campus office building,” one news outlet reported, “demonstrators labeled Rice a ‘war criminal’ and suggested that her rightful place was not in front of a college commencement crowd but in the docket.”

The President of Rutgers showed some spine by refusing to withdraw the invitation, but Ms. Rice declined to appear because, she said, the invitation “has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time.”

Mr. Kerry’s invitation to speak was not protested by Yale students. Nor was President Barack Obama denounced by aggrieved Islamic student organizations for having sent Navy Seals into a sovereign nation to assassinate Osama bin Ladin, a charismatic, Islamic “religious leader. Protesting that the war in Iraq was the wrong war, Mr. Obama disengaged and committed many more American troops to “the right war” in Afghanistan, a collection of warlike tribes sometimes called by historians “the graveyard of empires.”

During his self-effacing remarks at Yale, Mr. Kerry may have unintentionally appropriated a line from T.S. Elliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions
Which a minute will reverse.

Mr. Kerry advised graduating Yale students to tie their courage to the hitching post or, as Lady Macbeth says, “But screw your courage to the sticking place, and we'll not fail.”

Said Mr. Kerry, “Class of 2014, your job is to disturb the universe. You have to reject that these problems are too big, so don't weigh in." Courage must not “fall victim to the slow suffocation of conventional wisdom.”

For a good part of his life, Mr. Kerry said, hidebound institutions and conventional government had responded laconically to society’s “felt needs.” As examples of the incapacity of government to respond quickly and adequately to “felt needs,” Mr. Kerry mentioned  the Civil Rights Movement, the Clean Air Act and, according to a report in a Hartford paper, “ the ending of the war in Vietnam.”

Ah yes – Vietnam. Mr. Kerry is something of an authority on the Vietnam years, a national agony that corresponded neatly with the breakdown of authority in colleges: Spitting at returning troops, non-negotiable demands made of college deans by students occupying his office, and a highly fictionalized view of the role played by soldiers in Vietnam were all characteristics of the age of protest. The students to whom Mr. Kerry directed his remarks at Yale, unlike the Secretary of State, have no personal recollection of the Vietnam War era. They depend for an accurate remembrance of times past upon such as Mr. Kerry, one of the disturbers of the universe during the Vietnam period.

Upon his return from service in Vietnam, Mr. Kerry was not one of the troops spat upon by war protesters, possibly because he eagerly joined their protests as a member of the "Vietnam Veterans Against the War.” Invited to testify before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs in 1971, Mr. Kerry pulled out all the anti-Vietnam War stops, and then some.  He and other returning soldiers whom he contrasted in his testimony to Thomas Paine’s “sunshine patriots” had just finished conducting in Detroit an investigation into war crimes committed by American troops in Vietnam. In his Congressional testimony, Mr. Kerry reported the findings of the “Winter Soldiers” with which he strongly identified. He wished to emphasize that the details he was providing to the Congress were:

… not isolated incidents, but crimes committed on a day to day basis, with the full awareness of officers at every level of command. It’s impossible to describe to you what did happen in Detroit, the emotions in the room, the feelings of the men who were reliving their experiences in Vietnam. But they did. They relieved the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do. They told the stories of times they personally raped, cut off the ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and  turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown (sic) up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, raised villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam, in addition to the normal ravage of war, in addition to the very particular ravaging which is done by the power of this country. We called this investigation the “winter solider” investigation…

Mr. Kerry’s graphic description of war crimes committed by American troops in Vietnam – “… not isolated incidents, but crimes committed on a day to day basis, with the full awareness of officers at every level of command” – did not prove a bar to his long career in the U.S. Senate, his bid for the presidency in 2004 or his appointment as U.S. Secretary of State following the resignation, presumably for health reasons, of possible Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

During his presidential bid, Mr. Kerry campaigned in opposition to the Iraq War, having voted two years earlier in favor of a measure authorizing then President George Bush to use force in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Such pirouetting is not uncommon among congressmen who decide they are presidential material.

Yale students who may have expected a heroic anti-Vietnam War protester to launch verbal missiles at Islamic terrorists who have only recently cut off the ears and arms and heads of Christians in the Middle East and Northern Africa very likely were disappointed in Mr. Kerry’s College Class Day address, a good part of which was devoted to the ravages to the environment caused by an over-reliance on oil.

China and Vladimir Putin’s Russia have just concluded a multi-billion dollar oil deal, shredding whatever serious sanctions might be imposed by Mr. Kerry on a proto-Stalinist Russia now busily dismembering Ukraine.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Russia’s Doors, Putin’s Time

There are, and always have been, three doors to Russia, every one of which has been jealously guarded first by Russian Czars and in the Communist era by Russian Czars posing as proletarian workers such as Josef Stalin. There is a Western point of access (Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic states), a Middle Eastern point of access (Afghanistan, Iran) and a Southern point of access (China). Access doors open both ways and, depending upon one’s point of view, President of Russia Vladimir Putin has now either opened or shut all the doors. It would be paradoxical, though never-the-less true, to say he has shut the doors by opening them.

Mr. Putin was featured as Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” in 2007. That year, China’s leader Hu Jintao was featured as a runner up.

Mr. Putin seemed to be on his way out, Time noted: “His final year as Russia's President has been his most successful yet. At home, he secured his political future. Abroad, he expanded his outsize—if not always benign—influence on global affairs.”

But in communist “post-communist” Russia, things are not always as they seem. Putin was never out; he was simply playing musical chairs with Russia’s second in command Dmitry Medvedev. It was Mr. Medvedev whose knee President Barack Obama tapped prior to his re-election to office to convey a message to Mr. Putin. Reuter’s caught the moment this way:

“President Barack Obama was caught on camera on Monday assuring outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he will have ‘more flexibility’ to deal with contentious issues like missile defense after the U.S. presidential election.

Obama, during talks in Seoul, urged Moscow to give him ‘space’ until after the November ballot, and Medvedev said he would relay the message to incoming Russian president Vladimir Putin.”

Mr. Medvedev apparently relayed the message, which may have been re-interpreted by Mr. Putin as indicating that Mr. Obama was a weak and indecisive president.

Proof of Mr. Obama’s weakness is strewn all over the world: There were no defense missile emplacements in Poland or any of the Baltic States; Mr. Obama’s “lead from behind” foreign policy in Libya and Syria had collapsed; the personal representative of the president of the United States, Libyan Ambassador Chris Stevens, was assassinated by armed militants associated with al-Qaida, a metastasizing group of terrorists that, the American public had been told during Mr. Obama’s second presidential campaign, had been decimated after Mr. Obama had cut short the video career of Osama bin Laden. For a moment there, it appeared that Mr. Obama had turned over his Middle East portfolio to the once and future Time magazine “Person of the Year,” Mr. Putin. And, of course, Mr. Putin was only too happy to lend a shoulder.

Next year, one may expect to find Mr. Putin’s mug on the cover of Time once again. Consider Mr. Putin’s triumphs: Mr. Putin has both shut and opened the Middle Eastern access doors. He is providing help to Iran in the county’s march towards the acquisition of nuclear weapons. The western door opens to natural gas pipe lines running from Russia through an as yet partly dismembered Ukraine to Europe, which can ill afford an interruption in energy supplies. The United States might supply Europe with sufficient energy resources, but its President, convinced the country can run on fuel cells, has been dithering on the opening of a Canada supplied energy pipe line. Afghanistan, which occasionally has provided a route used by Islamic terrorists to strike at the heart of Russia, has been, since the Taliban chased Russia out of the country, operating under an American protectorate now crumbling everywhere in the world. So long as an American Cerberus guards the Afghan door to Russia, the Islamic threat to Putin will be considerably reduced.

Most recently Mr. Putin and Chinese president Xi Jinping have struck what Charles Krauthammer has styled in a recent column “a spectacular energy deal — $400 billion of Siberian natural gas to be exported to China over 30 years." This last foreign policy gesture opens and closes the last of Russia’s doors. 

Mr. Putin’s “pivot to Asia” is a live option, Mr. Krauthammer writes, while Mr. Obama’s pivot to Asia has become a dead letter. Mr. Obama’s “withdrawal from the Middle East — where from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, from Libya to Syria, U.S. influence is at its lowest ebb in 40 years — is a fait accompli.”

Mr. Krauthammer’s columns are not read in the White House by Mr. Obama, who appears to have settled comfortably into a position of unarmed neutrality. His is the kind of foreign policy that is to be expected from a president chronically unable to determine friends from enemies. Those who cannot read the times will be done in by them.

In any case, the second appearance of Putin as Time magazine's’ “Person of the Year” is  imminent.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Trials Of John Rowland

Former Governor John Rowland, now a former radio talk show host, may have been “guilty,” in a metaphorical sense, of using his position to advance the political interest of one particular candidate over another. It has been said that Mr. Rowland had subjected poor Andrew Roraback, at the time a Republican Party candidate for the U.S. House in the 5th District, to a severe interrogation on his radio program, formerly called “Church And State.” Since being appointed to Connecticut’s Superior Court by Governor Dannel Malloy, Mr. Roraback has moved out of the political into the less contentious judicial arena. Apparently, Mr. Roraback had suffered no permanent harm, and losing a Hartford Courant endorsement to his Democratic opponent certainly cost the socially progressive Republican Party endorsed candidate more negative votes than Mr. Rowland’s barbed questions.

Mr. Rowland’s preferred candidate for the slot, it has been said, was Lisa Wilson Foley. At the time Mr. Rowland was hard grilling Mr. Roraback, the talk show host was employed as a consultant for Apple Rehab, a business owned by Mrs. Foley’s husband. Mr. Rowland implausibly claims he was assisting Mrs. Foley’s campaign on the side as an “unpaid consultant.”

Similar impostures – though news of them may shock the willfully ignorant – have been deployed in the news business from time immemorial. Abe Lincoln came very near to fighting a duel with one of his outraged political competitors when it was discovered that editorials in a Republican paper had been written on the sly by Mr. Lincoln; actually, one of the newspaper pieces had been written by his intended wife. Because it would have been ungentlemanly for Mr. Lincoln to involve his fiancée in the quarrel, he accepted responsibility for the satires but characteristically refused to issue an apology. Eventually, the matter was settled outside the law courts, without either of the antagonist having used against each other the large military broadswords Mr. Lincoln had selected as his choice of weapon. Mr. Lincoln, who towered over his opponent, hacked off a tree branch with his sword while the two stood facing each other on Blood Island, and the display of superior reach led to an amicable resolution.

In Lincoln’s day, newspapers were outrageously partisan, little more than party organs. In our day, newspapers are slyly partisan. If subtle partisanship were a crime, Connecticut prisons would be overflowing with journalists and editorial writers.

Charlie Morse, for many years the chief political writer for the Hartford Courant and an unabashed Weicker-liker, produced tons of columns favorable to then Senator Lowell Weicker, one of the papers most pampered political pets. The Courant, during Mr. Weicker’s push for an income tax, was solidly in Mr. Weicker’s gubernatorial corner. Before Mr. Weicker had been sworn in as governor, Mr. Morse accepted an offer from Mr. Weicker to work for him while continuing to write for the paper for a few weeks. After his inauguration, Mr. Morse left the Courant and began working for Mr. Weicker. There is no indication that Mr. Morse was being paid for his fawning columns. Some writers do it for love, others for money.

The Courant, a left of center publication, supported Mr. Weicker because its editors regarded the “Maverick” Republican as a sort of Jack the Giant Killer. “Maverick” was the title of Mr. Wicker’s “fact based” autobiography, most adequately reviewed by Journal Inquirer columnist Chris Powell under the title “Mr. Bluster Saves The World.” While Mr. Weicker and the editorial board of the Courant were synergistically attached at their navels, little did the Courant understand that Mr. Weicker was not killing the giant; there were NO conservative Republicans in office in Connecticut at the time. He was killing Jack -- his own Connecticut based Republican Party.  

There are no laws criminalizing journalistic bad habits.  The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects partisan and non-partisan journalists alike. Even if the accusation against Mr. Lincoln had been correct, he easily could have won his case in court by draping across his chest the breastplate of The First Amendment – or at least that portion of it that guarantees freedom of political speech. The freedom of religious expression clause in the very same amendment is not as hotly defended by the media because modern journalism tends to be instinctively anti-clerical. Some of us who understand why a watchful media should resist authoritarian displays of power cannot for the life of us understand why the same media should be so willing to bed down with grey headed incumbents whose first term in office coincided with the arrival of Noah’s Arc on Mount Ararat. Surely in our day, incumbent politicians are much more powerful than the ministers and priests who now preside over Gary Wills’ “Bare Ruined Choirs.”

Though Mr. Rowland’s defense attorneys have focused of the charges brought against him in a motion to dismiss, the First Amendment conceivably could be brought into play as a sleeper defense during the promised Rowland trial -- “promised” because it is always possible the trial may be ditched in favor of some plea agreement never made public between Mr. Rowland’s high priced Washington attorneys and prosecutors. Neither Mr. Rowland nor Mrs. Wilson-Foley were practicing politicians at the time Mr. Rowland, essentially a journalist, allegedly “favored” Mrs. Wilson-Foley, an aspiring politician, on his radio program. This means that no political favors either way could have been exchanged for allegedly “corrupt” money received by Mr. Rowland.

It is still very early in “the judicial process.” During Lincoln’s day, matters were adjudicated in courts of law, and instructive precedents were established. Nowadays, justice itself hangs from “process” nooses. Deals are made in private between Star Chamber prosecutors and defense lawyers, and precedence is a stranger at the hidden proceedings. Grand Juries, many political commentators understand, are Star Chamber proceedings, and Grand Jury findings released to the media are always highly prejudicial. They should be taken by a truly non-partisan critical media with tons of salt.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Another Day, Another Crony Capitalist: Where Is The Republican Populist?

Managing Editor of the Journal Inquirer Chris Powell may be right. Even on their best day, Republicans running for office do not know how to frame an issue so that it will appeal to those not born to the purple.

Governor Dannel Malloy had just disbursed $10 million in urban tax credits to ESPN, a well-known and prosperous sports broadcasting network that very likely did not need a handout from Mr. Malloy.

Tucked within Mr. Collins' story, one finds this line: “It’s not clear, though, that the state money made much difference to the project’s completion, since ESPN had already said it would build the center before Malloy picked it to receive state financial aid.”

All the political honchos showed up for the ritualistic “cable cutting.” Cameras clicked, and the assembled politicians all smiled. Their smiles plainly said, “But for our generous contribution in tax credits, this miracle might not have happened at all.”

That message may not have reached Mr. Collins' desk. But it is plain from the line quoted above that, if such a message was pressed upon him by Mr. Malloy’s well-oiled communications machine, he was not convinced that the $175 million project easily might have gone forward without Mr. Malloy’s $10 million contribution.  ESPN is a big boy, not a bumbling upstart operation. We should all send up a rousing cheer in praise of media skepticism.

All the politicians present at the cable cutting were taking political campaign bows. Present at the opening of ESPN’s new “Digital Center-2, a 194,000 square foot, five-studio facility in Bristol, were  Bristol Mayor Ken Cockayne, ESPN president John Skipper of the SportsCenter, Governor Malloy, shown cutting the cable with a massive scissors, and U. S. Representative John Larson of the impregnable 1st District.

Mr. Collins notes, “Malloy, whose ‘First Five’ program pumped $10 million in urban tax credits into the project, called it ‘a great day for us’ to see it completed. The stimulus money agreement between the state and ESPN, announced almost three years ago, was only signed last Friday after lawyers for both sides wrangled over details.”

The “great day” occurred, it will be noticed, within the context of an election period. The Democratic and Republican nominating conventions had been concluded days earlier. 

It is difficult to tell here who is putting the lipstick on which pig, but it looks like ESPN is doing Governor Dannel Malloy the favor. ESPN gets tax money the company did not need to open a facility that would have opened without Mr. Malloy’s unnecessary contribution, and Mr. Malloy takes a campaign bow freighted with meaning.

The meaning will be spun out by Democrats across the state in the upcoming elections: Democrats are doing things to maintain prosperity and jobs – don’t forget jobs –during the malingering Bush recession. 

What is the real meaning of the bow? Where does the money given by Mr. Malloy to ESPN come from? Who benefits from Mr. Malloy’s magnificent gesture? Would Mr. Larson, running in a district last won by a Republican in 1957, have been re-elected to office had he not participated in the ESPN festivities?

Will women owners of nail salons benefit from Mr. Malloy’s redundant generosity?

When Mr. Malloy imposed on Connecticut the largest tax increase in its history, Nail Salons appeared on a list produced by the Yankee Institute showing companies and people hit by Mr. Malloy’s new taxes. None of the companies or people represented on that list were present at the ESPN cable cutting. Indeed, no person or company represented on a Yankee Institute list showing Connecticut’s 371 sources of revenue was within camera range when Mr. Malloy took his campaign bow.  But this is where Mr. Malloy’s unnecessary $10 million tax giveaway to ESPN came from.

And every dollar Mr. Malloy and the Democratic dominated General Assembly has appropriated from one of the state’s 371 separate sources of revenue is a dollar that otherwise might have been used to expand a business or produce a job or increase a salary of someone in Connecticut who is not employed by ESPN.

So then, here we are: Big Government has given Big Business Big Tax dollars appropriated from the Little People.

And what do Republicans running for office this year say about it?

Where are the populist Republicans among us who might be able to mold a message from all the data laboriously assembled by the Yankee Institute that would appeal not to Fairfield based plutocrats – but to women who work in Nail Salons?

Really, where are they? Their state is in desperate need of them. What has made them swallow their tongues?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Parties, Nominating Conventions, And The Unitary State

"Patriotism if you must, but –please! – no parades” -- George Bernard Shaw

The Democratic nominating convention was merely a dot placed over a predestined “i”. Despite Jonathan Pelto’s occasional pokes at Governor Dannel Malloy, no one in the state seriously entertained the notion that Mr. Malloy would not emerge from the Democratic nominating convention as the party’s chosen gubernatorial candidate. Within the Democratic Party, there will be no room during the upcoming elections for liberty to stretch its legs. Opposition will be sternly repelled. The Republican Party convention, held this year in the sprawling Mohegan Sun Casino complex, was a different matter.

Prior to the opening of the convention, a Hartford newspaper had already agitated for the abolition of party conventions. The paper favored primaries as the most “democratic” method of selecting candidates for office; conventions were a little bit too bossy for the paper’s tastes. The same paper has advocated opening party primaries to all and sundry, regardless of political affiliation, possibly because the paper regards political parties as useless excrescences.

This is the Shavian view of patriotism applied to political parties. “Patriotism, if you must,” said George Bernard Shaw, “but – please! – no parades.” Party politics, if you must, but – please! – no party conventions. And no political parties either, if you please. Who needs parades when one has Shaw? Who needs political parties when one has the editorial board of (insert the name of your favorite paper here)?

This silly position is on a par with saying, “News if you must, but no news outlets, please!” He who wills the end wills the means. You cannot have patriotism without public expressions of patriotism – that is what a parade is.

The Hartford paper cited former Republican U.S. Senator Lowell Weicker, who once famously characterized himself as “the turd in the Republican Party punchbowl,” as supporting the paper’s views on party conventions and political parties.  Over the years, the editorial views of the paper and the eccentric political notions of Mr. Maverick have melded in such a manner that it is virtually impossible for a reader unused to the serpentine ways of Connecticut politics to disentangle the view of Mr. Weicker and those of the Hartford paper. They have become one and the same – which tells us all we need to know concerning the nature of politics and reporting in progressive Connecticut.

The real back story – even the real story about the Republican Party nominating convention 2014 – is much more interesting and entertaining than has been represented in Connecticut’s left of center media. It is true that the Democratic Party convention was a loud sleep-inducing snore, primarily because that nominating convention really was redundant. An edict from the Hartford paper successfully abolishing the 2014 Democratic Nominating Convention would have left Democratic politics precisely where it was before the Democratic delegates took their seats; and, of course, there will be no Democratic primary, and little on the Democratic side for media outlets to report. Sorry, no parade this time.

Here is the puritanical Shavian political universe, right before our eyes: no dispositive nomination convention, no primary, and no need for either. Indeed, in the unitary state, one party, like Aaron’s rod in scripture, swallows all the other parties. Now, that is a story worth covering. In the unitary state, there is no need for patriotism, or parades, or party conventions, or parties -- or news outlets, except as messaging relay centers.

Here is the Rubicon Connecticut is preparing to cross. Once we cross and burn our bridge, we will find ourselves, having arrived on the other side, in George Orwell’s Brave New World, where patriotism has been relegated to the dustbin of history and there are few manifestations of independence, liberty or creative thought. In a world in which everything has been decided by a unitary and permanent political oligarchy, there will be but one parade to march in. It should be noted that the word “patriotism” is here used to indicate a revolt against the established order. When Samuel Johnson said that “patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels,” he may have had in mind such “patriots” as Thomas Paine and American revolutionist Sam Adams.

In the unitary state, one need only obey to express one’s solidarity. Parties and political factions in which inconvenient ideas are manifested will have been abolished. And in a state in which there is only one subdued and co-opted media, there can only be one thought – shut up and march in the only remaining parade.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Weicker, The GOP’s Ahab

Connecticut Commentary,” as usual, anticipated former U.S. Senator and Governor Lowell Weicker’s remarks on WNPR by nearly a week.

On May 9, Don Pesci addressed Republicans in Westbrook and mentioned Mr. Weicker at some length:

“Both Mr. Weicker and Mr. Malloy are progressives. At the root of progressivism lies the sundering notion that if government is good, more government must be better. From here it is but a baby step to the equally absurd notion that government is the state. In fact, the state is all of us, the government merely an administrative apparatus designed, if you credit the U.S. and State Constitutions, to accomplish our reason informed will. Mr. Weicker, whose ego as U.S. Senator and Governor was infinitely expansive, took this absurd logic a step further and regarded himself as the state. I should like to call your attention to the hopeful tense in that last sentence: Mr. Weicker was, he regarded– past tense: There is a God.

 “But it never hurts to remind ourselves that there is a Devil too. 
“From time to time, Mr. Weicker shows up, most often at WNPR or in the op-ed section of the Courant, to advise Republicans what they must do to become a majority party. You will never guess: They must field candidates like Mr. Weicker. But these days only progressives pay him much mind...”

Mr. Weicker ought to have retired from politics -- eighteen years of which he spent as a Republican U.S. Senator -- an honored elder statesman whose opinions on his party should have been taken with less than a ton of salt. That did not happen, largely because Mr. Weicker thought it politically useful to define himself as a maverick within his own party. In this he was extraordinarily successful, and when a parting of the ways became necessary, no tears were shed within Republican ranks when Mr. Weicker retired from politics for good, shortly after he, as governor, had imposed an income tax on his state.

Connecticut’s slow and painful decent into a reckless spending ditch began with the Weicker income tax. Connecticut is now the only state in the union that has experienced negative job growth. Maverickism does have a dark side. It also has a bright side, at least for Mr. Weicker. Connecticut’s state Republican Party is Mr. Weicker’s  President Richard “You won’t have me to kick around anymore” Nixon. Even though Mr. Weicker’s notions of what is best for his cast off party are irrelevant to most Republicans, the maverick who once fittingly described himself as “the turd in the Republican Party punchbowl” will always have his version of Republicanism to kick around.  In pronouncing his party irrelevant, Mr. Weicker hardly noticed that his state party’s irrelevance coincided rather neatly with Mr. Weicker’s nineteen year reign as the nominal head of Connecticut’s GOP.

These bull bellowings are a little sad. Mr. Weicker is stuck in a time-warp groove: He repeats himself, and repeats himself, and repeats himself… No one, other than a few aged and crusty Jacob Javits Republicans or Democratic politicians eternally grateful for the Weicker income tax and the expansion of spending it occasioned pay him much heed these days.

Mr. Weicker’s views are set in mental concrete and do not change with the times.  As a U.S. Senator and the nominal head of his state party, Mr. Weicker favored opening his party’s nominating convention to non-Republicans, thus weakening the stranglehold on the state GOP of non-maverick, loyal Republicans. He now favors blowing up the nominating conventions altogether, because nominating conventions are, like all things Republican, irrelevant.  

When Teddy Roosevelt retired from politics, he shot a few water buffaloes in Africa. Mark Twain wrote up Roosevelt’s post presidential adventure as a mass slaughter of cows. Former President Jimmy Carter built housing for the poor and wrote books no one reads. Ronald Reagan, stricken with Alzheimer’s, retired to his ranch to await with his usual good humor the grim reaper. George Bush the younger took up painting and manfully restrained himself from commenting upon the idiocies of his successor.

There really is a life after politics. But not for Mr. Weicker. Like some raving Ahab, he has strapped himself to his own White Whale with his own harpoon lines, the victories and defeats of times past.  He and the whale, a metaphorical substitute for thwarted ambition, will go down together. Supported by the Republican Party in his state for nearly two decades in Congress, Mr. Weicker has no use for nominating conventions or political parties. The depth of his ingratitude is boundless, almost blasphemous.

When Starbuck in Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” accuses Ahab of blasphemy, the old puritan cries out, “Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me.”

On the last day, when the angels finally call Mr. Weicker, he will go out with a snarl on his lips and a curse against the fictional devils in his past he has not been able to exorcise. The moment will not be recorded by WNPR.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Malloy vs. Pelto

The gubernatorial nomination on the Republican side is heavily, if politely, contested. In a few days, Republican nominating delegates will gather at Mohegan Sun Casino to sort out their ticket. On the Democratic side, the gubernatorial slot is a Malloy gimme – almost.

State employee union gadfly Jonathan Pelto continues to sting Governor Dannel Malloy.

Mr. Malloy’s temperament, like that of President Barack Obama, is sting averse. The Malloyalists who surround him sting back when stung. Both they and their chief have thin skins. And Mr. Malloy, when caught in a compromising position, has been known to throw a few elbows at his critics.

In the past, whenever Mr. Pelto had harpooned Mr. Malloy on his blog “Wait, What?” gubernatorial factotum Roy Occhiogrosso, who has parleyed his Malloy connection into a Vice Presidential slot with Global Strategy, leapt forward to answer Mr. Pelto with a box on the ear.

“No one cares what Pelto thinks,” said Mr. Occhiogrosso after Mr. Pelto had pelted Mr. Malloy for having joined the forces of darkness by attempting to purge Connecticut’s educational system of underperforming teachers who, Mr. Malloy felt, had only to “show up for four years” to achieve tenure, after which dismissal for rank incompetence becomes decidedly less frequent.

Even so, Mr. Malloy last January issued a letter underwritten by Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, House Speaker Brendan Sharkey and Senate President Donald E. Williams that delayed, according to one report “an important component of the new evaluation system: linking a teacher's performance rating with students' standardized test scores. Malloy also said he would create a working group to make changes in the implementation of the new Common Core State Standards. The administration will also scrap a $1 million marketing campaign for the Common Core.”

The decoupling of teacher performance and test scores, as well as the canning of a million dollar marketing campaign for Common Core, strenuously resisted by both teacher unions and many conservative groups, certainly did not bode ill for Mr. Pelto.

Conservatives and teacher unions oppose the Common Core effort for quite different reasons. Teacher unions are rather touchy on standards of any kind linked to student performance that might be used to weed out non-performing teachers; conservatives, comfortable with the principle of subsidiarity, do not want the federal government to do to education what it has done to, say, the private insurance market.

We have here a case of political ends touching and producing unmanageable political sparks. Without abjectly retreating from his school reform efforts – not in the cards -- Mr. Malloy has bent himself into a pretzel shape so as to remain in the good graces of the powerful unions whose votes he needs to whip in a general election the Republican Party’s gubernatorial nominee. Once the election is in the bag, Mr. Pelto will have been politically neutered, and Mr. Malloy’s education reforms, momentarily put on the back burner, may be resurrected from the “working group” to which the reforms have been entrusted for safe keeping. To parody Mr. Obama in his pre-presidential election meeting with Dimitri Medvedev, Mr. Malloy will have considerably “more flexibility,” following his victorious election, to repair burnt bridges with unions and to deep six the annoying Mr. Pelto.

There are three reasons why candidates for office enter campaigns: They’re in it to win; they’re in it to make an exotic political point; or they’re in it to affect the correlation of forces, so that the candidate’s views will be upheld by the likely candidate in a general election.

At this point, only Mr. Pelto and his conscience knows which of the three reasons cited above has moved him to suggest, very coyly in an appearance on Eyewitness News’ “Face The State” with Dennis House that a) Mr. Malloy can’t win the race for governor, and b) he might primary Mr. Malloy, if the delegates to the Democratic nominating convention are not enlightened enough to choose him on the first ballot as their gubernatorial standard bearer.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Connecticut GOP And The New Democratic Progressives

Below is an address given to the Westbrook Republican Town Committee on the occasion of the 15th annual John A. Holbrook Awards Dinner

It’s wonderful having the opportunity to speak with you. Lee wrote to me back in February inviting me here. I told him it would be a great honor for me and that the title of the talk would be something on the order of “Whither The Republican Party? And he wrote back a note: “Gee Don, I hope you don’t plan to whither us too much.” I knew then we could have a little fun tonight. However, I do want to advise everyone that to forestall confusion the title of this talk has been changed to “The Connecticut GOP And The New Democratic Progressives.”

I’ll post it on my blog site – Connecticut Commentary: Red Notes From A Blue State – for anyone here who nods off during the presentation. If you  Google “Don Pesci” in quotes, the site will come up. The quotes are important because, if you leave them off, you’re likely to get a bunch of stuff on Joe Pesci. He’s the guy with all the bodies in his trunk. For some reason, people sometimes confuse me with him.

One of the distinguishing marks of the Republican Party is that Republicans really do like to have fun. Democrats, as a rule, are too busy arranging the order of stars in the belt of Orion to pause to enjoy the good things of life. Has anyone in the past few years seen a more sober mug than that of Governor Dannel Malloy, Connecticut’s stand-in for that old progressive sourpuss Woodrow Wilson? I speak only of Mr. Malloy’s public persona. I’m sure he’s a barrel of laughs in private.

Tonight I hope to review the state Republican Party’s near past and then survey briefly some positive portents.

I’d like to begin with a little story about Bill Buckley and the media of his day. Things in the Northeast have not changed much. In Connecticut especially, beneficial change is agonizingly slow. Unlike Mr. Malloy, Bill was an Irishman who loved laughter, song, and ideas. Watching Bill playing with an idea was a little bit like watching Bach fingering a harpsichord keyboard. You just knew he was going to make celestial music out of his improvisations. Most of the music was wasted on the New York Times. The editors at the paper had little appreciation of stirring conservative political ideas, a failure of good taste that persists at the paper even today.

Someone persuaded Bill to run for mayor of New York against Abe Beame and John Lindsay, a left of center Republican who later drifted over to the Democratic Party. In due course, a reporter asked Bill what he would do if he actually won the contest. “I would demand a recount,” said Bill. Sure, sure. But if he were to be elected, what would he do? "Hang a net outside the window of the editor of the New York Times," to catch the falling bodies.

The French have a saying: “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”

The leeching of journalists into the Democratic Party continues apace. The percentage of full-time U.S. journalists who claim to be Republican dropped from 18 percent in 2002 to 7.1 percent in 2013, according to a recent study by Indiana University professors Lars Willnat and David Weaver. In 1971, when Bill released “Inveighing We Will Go,” a collection of his current columns, 25.7 percent of journalists polled had identified as Republican.

Some people in this room may think the seven percent figure a little high. In Connecticut, it feels like .007 percent.

Yesterday, the Big Apple had its Lindsays. Today, the state has its Cuomos – and, most recently, its Sandinista mayor of New York City, Bill De Blasio. And, of course, it retains its much less influential New York Times. And here in Connecticut we have our Weickers and our Malloys and, of course, our much diminished Hartford Courant. Taken all in all, this is why Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan’s red carpet, once said “If you lop off the Northeast and California, you’ve got a pretty good country.”

In Connecticut Commentary, I’ve gone to considerable trouble to point out the striking similarities between Mr. Malloy and former Senator and Governor Lowell Weicker – who once fittingly characterized himself as “the turd in the Republican Party punchbowl.” See: Republicans have punchbowls. They’re a happy group.

Both Mr. Weicker and Mr. Malloy came into office when the state was laboring under a weight of massive debt caused by – no one in this room will be surprised – massive spending. Both Mr. Weicker and Mr. Malloy arrived at the same remedy -- massive taxation.  Mr. Weicker draped around all our necks a burdensome income tax yoke. Mr. Malloy was content to raise all those niggling little taxes that Mr. Weicker’s more comprehensive solution to debt was designed to exorcise. Mr. Malloy ended up authoring the largest tax increase in state history, leaving even Mr. Weicker in the progressive dust. Connecticut’s equivalent of the New York Times, the Hartford Courant, sent up a rousing cheer. No need for a net there – not yet. The Malloy long term spending cuts, in turned out, were made of fairy dust. During the next post-election year, Connecticut is looking forward to a debt of some $1.5 billion, according to the bean counters in the Office of Policy Management.

Welcome back to square one. 

Both Mr. Weicker and Mr. Malloy are progressives. At the root of progressivism lies the sundering notion that if government is good, more government must be better. From here it is but a baby step to the equally absurd notion that government is the state. In fact, the state is all of us, the government merely an administrative apparatus designed, if you credit the U.S. and State Constitutions, to accomplish our reason informed will. Mr. Weicker, whose ego as U.S. Senator and Governor was infinitely expansive, took this absurd logic a step further and regarded himself as the state. I should like to call your attention to the hopeful tense in that last sentence: Mr. Weicker was, he regarded– past tense: There is a God.

But it never hurts to remind ourselves that there is a Devil too.

From time to time, Mr. Weicker shows up, most often at WNPR or in the op-ed section of the Courant, to advise Republicans what they must do to become a majority party. You will never guess: They must field candidates like Mr. Weicker. But these days only progressives pay him much mind, because they alone are interested in tossing turds into punchbowls.

You’ve heard the expression: It’s always darkest before the dawn? Over the past few years, it has become possible to hope that a Republican dawn may yet arrive. To be sure, the same old evil spirits hang like a dark aureole around the rising sun. The Courant is still the Courant. Progressives occupy all the heights in Connecticut’s political arena – including the governor’s office, a majority position in both houses of the General Assembly, the entire U.S. Congressional delegation and all Connecticut’s constitutional offices. What we used to call in the old days “the climate of opinion” is still a silly mixture of utopian fantasy and political palliatives.  The old political heresies – including the anticipated arrival of a political superman, the god of the polis who will with a stroke of his pen banish all our fears and inaugurate a long hoped for Eden – still persist, like the ragged ends of a recurring nightmare. Connecticut’s left of center commentariet would like us to believe that conservatives are responsible for this sad state of affairs – even though, asked to name one conservative governor or two or three conservative members of the General Assembly, they would be tongue-tied --  for once.

But – be of good cheer. There are rays of light, tokens marking the end of a long twilight slumber.

Let me tell you what some of them are.

First of all, the pinch is on, and people – proletarians, not the One-Percenters – are feeling the pinch. Nothing is quite as effective as a pinch to wake you up.

The Malloyalists may have noted with some alarm the Hartford Courant’s post-budget editorial, “Gimmicks From The Anti-Gimmick Governor,” in which the editorial board, usually friendly to all tax increases and gubernatorial spendthrifts, chastised Mr. Malloy for using “gimmicks to paper over deficits.” In his first campaign for governor, Mr. Malloy flailed former Republican governors for having done the same thing.

All the polls have turned into gibbets for Malloyalists. The latest poll shows an alarming 49 percent of Connecticut’s overtaxed and overregulated citizens would bolt the state for greener pastures elsewhere if given their druthers. In one of his recent columns, ominously titled “Will Connecticut Ever Get An Opposition Party?" Chris Powell writes:

“… advocacy groups purporting to represent the neediest just observe silently as state government finds billions of dollars to spend on pork-barrel projects like the bus highway from Hartford to New Britain, corporate welfare, binding arbitration of public employee union contracts that puts government's biggest single cost outside democratic control, defined-benefit pensions for government employees, subsidies for childbearing outside marriage, drug criminalization, social promotion in schools, what is called farmland preservation, and such.” Kowtowing to such special interests rather than representing the general good insures, Mr. Powell writes, “that spending is never cut.”

The progressive palliatives – most especially the notion that a dollar removed from the private marketplace and re-allocated by politicians adds to the wealth of the state – have run aground on the rocks of reality. A close reading of Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations” might have dispelled this destructive fallacy. But progressives are more inclined to read “Dreams From My Father,” President Barack Obama’s “fact based” autobiography, than they are likely to read Adam Smith or Ludwig von Mises, the author of “Human Action,” or Friedrich Hayek, the author of “The Constitution of Liberty” or, for that matter, anything written by Bill Buckley.

Here in Connecticut, Mr. Malloy has followed the same progressive campaign script as the one now being promoted by the Obama administration, a sort of updated version of Robinhoodism – with this important difference: Robin of Sherwood took from the idle rich – most of whom were made rich, it should be pointed out, by their close association with political power brokers – and gave to the poor. Mr. Malloy, masterful in fooling most of the people most of the time, has taken huge gobs of money from the working class and given millions of dollars to multi-million dollar companies that gratefully accept handouts from politicians hungry for campaign donations. Mr. Malloy was able to dispense these giveaways after having first broadening the tax base so that nail salon owners, who had previously escaped the taxman’s hang noose, would be able to participate in his “shared sacrifice.” I know of no Democratic politician who, following this imposition on the proletariat, has yet accused Democrats of conducting a war on women’s salons. A young man I know who left the state for greener pastures elsewhere told me that as soon as he heard the expression “shared sacrifice,” he knew he would be fleeced.   

In some columns, I’ve called Mr. Malloy “Connecticut’s crony capitalist in chief” and – I like this one -- “Governor Bling.” No Republican running for any office this year should fear that a charge of crony capitalism brought against Mr. Malloy or any of his Democratic associates in the Gener4al assembly, will boomerang and harm real capitalists. We arrest bank robbers because we are able to make the important distinction between bank robbers and bankers. It is because progressives cannot make reasonable distinctions that so many of our young people, the beneficiaries of very expensive tax supported colleges in Connecticut, are taking their diplomas to other states. Here in Connecticut, we appear for the moment to be satisfied with a progressive government; other less predatory governors and legislators are content with progress.

Here is another ray of sunshine.  More Republicans in Connecticut are identifying themselves publicaly as conservative – which means more Republicans have been moved by progressive whips and scorns toward a political position that might accurately be described by those who can tell their right from their left as “right of center.” And they are no longer persuaded by passé editors who think – absurdly – that Mr. Weicker was a “moderate Republican” or that Mr. Malloy can pull Connecticut out of its nosedive by taking taxes from nail salon owners and giving them to Aetna Insurance Company.  These are hopeful signs that the long Weickerian captivity of the Republican Party in Connecticut has come to an end.

Nationally -- and increasingly in Connecticut -- Democrats are attempting to refashion a new and winning coalition of voters. The political world is no longer divided only into the “haves and “have not’s.” Democrats have cut up the body politic into numerous pieces: women, against whom they suppose Republicans have made war; unionized teachers, traditional allies of the Democratic Party; minority groups; the permanent government, mostly unionized state and federal workers; malleable students caught in the briar patch of progressive academia; left of center media outlets; progressive billionaires who do not yet feel the ropes about their necks – remember Lenin’s promise that after the proletariat had seized the means of production, their victorious enemies would hang the bourgeois with the rope they had so obligingly given to them --  and other groups too numerous to mention.  The ambition of new progressives such as Mr. Obama and Mr. Malloy is to fashion a political credo that will capture the minds and hearts, not to mention the votes and political contributions, of all these disparate groups.

If you are able to meld these body parts into a political force, you needn’t worry too much about traditional political groupings such as churches, normative family configurations or political parties. Government, George Washington said, is force—which is why, he thought, it should be used sparingly. And force in a democratic republic involves the building of coalitions, temporary or not.  Think of the temporary coalition as a sort of Trojan Horse, an artful engine of destruction deployed to secure a desired political end. The end is the capture of the city or the state or the nation. And some who have been paying attention to the destructive progressive programs of Mr. Obama might well conclude that his end in view is the destruction of traditional and familiar coalitions of power. The Trojans were confident that the matchless walls and towers of Troy could withstand any assault. But wily Odysseus found a way.

There is one solid conclusion that may be drawn from a party of this kind that feeds on energy drawn from elliptical interests, and that is this: the Democratic Party – certainly nationally, and now within Connecticut as well – is no longer a centrist party. Still less is it a moderate party. It is, to use a word much in favor with demagogic progressives whenever they are inclined to hurl rhetorical thunderbolts at Republicans, an “extremist” party. And if the less than seven percent of journalists in Connecticut who are Republicans were, say, twice that figure, the obvious imposture would be twice as obvious.  

Twenty years ago, political commentators used to refer admiringly to the “vital center.” That center has all but disappeared within the new progressive Democratic Party – led down the road to perdition by utopian supermen such as Mr. Obama and, closer to home, Mr. Malloy.

Progressivism is a very old political creed; it sprang from the religion infused prairie populism of the post-Civil War period and found its earliest national expression within the Republican Party of Teddy Roosevelt, the Bull-Mooser. But the new progressivism of Mr. Obama, Nancy Pelosi, her Connecticut counterpart, U. S. Representative Rosa DeLauro and, so it would appear, U.S. Senators Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, really is a Trojan Horse of a different color. It is a movement pushed forward by hard leftists and some overly nostalgic Democrats who look back upon the depression and post-depression years of Franklin Roosevelt as the golden age of their party.

So then, once we have established, as I’ve briefly and inadequately tried to do here, a clear view of what used to be called the “correlation of forces,” the all-important question arises: What should Republicans do to right our state and country?

The short answer to that question is this: The party should become less like Mr. Weicker and more like Mr. Buckley; which is to say – the party should unapologetically and energetically embrace conservative ideas, the only effective antidote to a wayward and destructive progressivism.

The Republican Party in Connecticut has a rare opportunity to show others the way out of the progressive briar patch in which both the state and the GOP have lingered for nearly half a century.

We know where we are. In almost every important index measuring progress and prosperity, Connecticut lags far behind other states. We know how we got here. Democrats and moderate Republicans have led us into the Dark Forest of a Grimm fairy tale. We spend too much; we regulate creative capital too often, and destructively; we have become for all practical purposes a one-party state, and one-party states are notoriously corrupt enterprises; we have fallen into the crony capitalism trap; we have abandoned our cities to solicitous Democrats who have constructed gorgeous gilded cages for the poor; we have accepted uncritically such idiotic and false categories as “social conservatives” and “economic conservatives” – rather as if conservative economic prescriptions will never affect the nature of society; rather as if destructive progressive prescriptions will never effect our economic condition. If you surrender the social sphere to progressives, it will be only a matter of time before they claim ownership of the economic sphere, and that is exactly what happened during the last presidential contest.

In the thrice told fairy tale, it is most often the third son or daughter who leads the way out of the perilous forest – usually after marking the way into the forest by laying down a path of beans. The way out then becomes the way in – in reverse. It is the third son and the third daughter who is, of all the siblings, the most beautiful, the most courageous, the most resourceful, the most determined and the most intelligent.

You here in this room – every one of you – very likely have the courage, the fortitude and the intelligence to become that third son or daughter. The way we get out of a difficulty is to reverse the way we got into it, and let no wicked sorcerer on the way tell you that the way home is not forward progress.

It may be proper to end this retrospective and prospective view by quoting Bill Buckley crying out from the center of the Dark Forest, way back in 1955, immediately after he had launched National Review magazine:

“We have nothing to offer but the best that is in us. That, a thousand Liberals who read this sentiment will say with relief, is clearly not enough! It isn’t enough. But it is at this point that we steal the march. For we offer, besides ourselves, a position that has not grown old under the weight of a gigantic, parasitic bureaucracy, a position untempered by the doctoral dissertations of a generation of Ph.D’s in social architecture, unattenuated by a thousand vulgar promises to a thousand different pressure groups, uncorroded by a cynical contempt for human freedom. And that, ladies and gentlemen, leaves us just about the hottest thing in town.”

It’s always liberating, isn’t it, to hew fast to a view that places you on the cutting edge of real progress? 

Before I leave the rostrum, I’d like to fold in with your own my applause for Marilyn Giuliano, whom you are honoring here tonight. I don’t want to damn Mrs. Giuliano with extravagant praise – often the kiss of political commentators is the kiss of death – but I may say she is an extraordinarily bright and accomplished legislator who serves on very important committees: education, appropriations and program review. You already know that.  Westbrook, and the whole of the 23rd House District, appears to be well represented. So too in the State Senate: Art Linares certainly has a promising career ahead of him. The rest of the state should be so fortunate.

I’d like to thank everyone for making it possible for me to speak to you tonight and, if you have not already had too much of me, I’ll take a few of your questions.