There are perhaps some reasons to vote "no"and a number of reasons to vote "yes" - see "changes."  Among these, not the least of which is the proficient manner this exercise was undertaken, in full public view.


SO THERE WE HAVE IT:  It comes down to who votes.
How 2012 Presidential Debate Cycle went...

E L E C T I O N   D A Y  T U E S .,  N O V E M B E R   6 t h  -   A   R O L L    O F    T H E    D I C E 
O n  S e p t . 1 3 , 2 0 1 2  - C T   C A M P A I G N    $ $ $

NOVEMBER 6, 2012, 6am to 8pm, W.M.S. GYM - Election Day 2012!  82% turnout - very low for Weston.  Why?

West Coast and earthquakes...political and/or natural, as in 1964, in San Francisco, or L.A. in 1960 (JFK).  Remember 1968?


Candidates smile before the contest - (right) hot into the debate on 12 subjects+, having to remain seated (one asked if he could stand) this was very entertaining!!!
Connecticut General Assembly House District 135 - LWV of Weston picture story here.

1 hour 35 minutes 4 seconds.
Best viewed with Internet Explorer, which will automatically open Windows Media Player and start playback without waiting for the download to complete.

For cable and dsl users:  (234 Megabytes) 
For dial-up modem users: (36 Megabytes)


Something for everyone?
Many may get their political news on Youtube in 2012...or as I do, here from "across the pond" via I-BBC...2012: NEVER WRONG FOR LONG..."ALL THE NEWS THAT FITS WE PRINT" THE CLASSIC!

In our opinion, these websites and their "top" pictures speak volumes.

As election looms, many voters fear the process is compromised
Alaska Daily News
By Tony Pugh — McClatchy Newspapers
Published: November 2, 2012 Updated  Nov. 3, 2012

WASHINGTON — Only days before millions of Americans cast their ballots, a climate of suspicion hangs over Tuesday’s national elections.Accusations of partisan dirty tricks and concerns about long voter lines, voting equipment failures and computer errors are rampant, particularly in key battleground states such as Ohio and Colorado, where absentee and provisional ballots could decide a close election.

“Those will be the states that are the most prone to confusion and chaos and contesting if the election is close or within what some people call the ‘margin of litigation,’ ” said Charles Stewart III, a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology...full story here.

Mitt Romney’s taxes
Last Updated: 4:47 AM, September 22, 2012
Posted: 11:29 PM, September 21, 2012

Mitt Romney’s 2011 tax return — and a summary of his filings between 1990 and 2009 — are now public, and they give America all it needs to know about where he and Barack Obama stand on wealth redistribution.

Obama believes in giving — but to Washington, with the take to be filtered through, and diminished by, the bureaucracy.  Romney believes in a far more personal approach.  Does he ever.

Turns out Romney and wife Ann donated a generous $4,072,772 to charity last year. That works out to 30 percent of their gross income of $13,696,951.  And going back to 1990, they’ve given an average of 13.45 percent of their adjusted gross income to charity.

So much for Team Obama’s canard that heartless fat cat Romney “doesn’t care about the poor.”

As for the Obamas, their charitable deductions have gone up only in recent years — averaging about 5.5 percent between 2005 and 2008, when he was planning a presidential run. But between 2000 and 2004, before he became nationally prominent, they gave between 0.4 and 1.4 percent.

And the Romneys give three times as much to charity in an average single day than Vice President Joe Biden and his wife did in an entire decade; the Bidens’ charitable giving amounts to about one-quarter of 1 percent of their income.

Moreover, the Romneys also paid nearly $2 million in taxes last year, for an effective tax rate of 14.1 percent.

And contrary to Senate Majority Leader Hary Reid’s base lie that “they haven’t paid taxes for 10 years,” the Romneys paid both state and federal taxes every year at an average annual effective rate of 20.20 percent — double the national average.  It also turns out that the Romneys claimed only about 55 percent of their actual giving as a charitable deduction.

Which means they actually paid more taxes than they were legally required to.

But wait — last July, Romney said that “if I had paid more [taxes] than are legally due, I don’t think I’d be qualified to become president.”

By which he meant that “people would want me to follow the law and pay only what the tax code requires.”

Well, it turns out he didn’t do that — he went beyond what the law requires.  Which in some corners of the Twitterverse yesterday was cited as proof that Mitt Romney simply can’t be trusted in the White House.

So there you have it: Mitt Romney doesn’t cheat on his taxes, for sure.  But unlike people like Warren Buffett and Bill Clinton — who constantly complain that they should be paying more taxes than they’re legally required to — Mitt Romney actually does pay more.

Plus, as noted, he gives a lot away.

So much for Romney’s income-tax issue.

Mr."Malaise" (l), desperate housewife (c) and some guy...
Definition of malaise: 
A vague feeling of bodily discomfort, as at the beginning of an illness.  Obama Campaign Co-Chair Eva Longoria, is the star listed, and others there in spirit?

Pushed by Obama, Democrats Alter Platform Over Jerusalem

September 5, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Obama, seeking to quell a storm of criticism from Republicans and pro-Israel groups, directed the Democratic Party on Wednesday to amend its platform to restore language declaring Jerusalem the Israeli capital.

The change, approved in a voice vote that had to be taken three times because of a chorus of noes in the arena, reinstated the line “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel” in a section that describes Mr. Obama’s policy toward the country. That sentence was in the 2008 platform, but the Democrats removed it this year, saying that they wanted to spotlight other elements of Mr. Obama’s policy and that the platform should reflect a sitting president rather than a candidate for office.

After a day of protests, however, and the prospect of an onslaught of Republican attack ads, the president and the Democrats abruptly reversed course. The chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, said in a statement that the change was made to “maintain consistency with the personal views expressed by the president and in the Democratic Party platform in 2008.”

A senior administration official emphasized that the president had intervened to bring the platform in line with his own views. “The president expressed his view in 2008, and it hasn’t changed,” the official said. “The party platform has not changed from 2008. And the position of the United States government hasn’t changed in decades as it relates to Israel’s capital and peace negotiations.”

Delegates also voted to put “God” back in the platform, amending a section about the government’s role in helping people reach their “God-given potential.” The removal of “God-given” had left the platform without any references to God, giving Republicans a target to paint the party as out of touch with family values.

The changes were meant to be a routine bit of business, conducted by the convention’s chairman, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles. But they turned into a minor spectacle after the hall seemed balanced between yes and no votes, providing an unruly start to an evening meant to showcase attacks on Mitt Romney by former President Bill Clinton and others.

The Romney campaign pounced, saying that “Mitt Romney has consistently stated his belief that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.” Claiming that Mr. Obama had refused to state his position, Andrea Saul, a Romney spokeswoman, said, “Now is the time for President Obama to state in unequivocal terms whether or not he believes Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.”

The restoration of Jerusalem puts the platform, a largely symbolic document, at odds with the official position of the government, which is that the city’s status should be determined in a negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the nation’s most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, proposed including language about Jerusalem’s status as the Israeli capital in written testimony to the platform drafting committee. People close to the group said it was troubled by the omission of Jerusalem.

“We welcome reinstatement to the Democratic platform of the language reaffirming Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” the group said in a statement after the vote.

The political status of Jerusalem is one of the most contentious issues in any potential peace settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, with both the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority asserting that the holy city is their capital.

Among those shouting “no” on the convention floor was a delegate from Washington State, Majid al-Bahadli, who said, “Jerusalem is Arab and Jewish and Christian; it cannot be for one country.” Mr. Bahadli, an Iraqi-American who said he had been in a prisoner of war camp under Saddam Hussein, said the vote process was undemocratic.

The drafting committee held two public hearings on the text, a Democratic official said, and none of the Jewish advocacy groups in attendance, including Aipac, proposed inserting language on Jerusalem. People close to the advocacy groups said that the committee shared only “flashes” of the language with them.

The Democrats have accused Republicans of making Israel a political football by painting Mr. Obama as an unreliable partner. But it is the Democrats who have tripped up on Israel at their convention this week.

On Tuesday, Ms. Wasserman Schultz got into a dispute with Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael B. Oren, when she told a Democratic training group that Mr. Oren had accused Republicans of endangering Israel by criticizing Mr. Obama’s record on it.

Mr. Oren issued a statement saying: “I categorically deny that I ever characterized Republican policies as harmful to Israel. Bipartisan support is a paramount national interest for Israel, and we have great friends on both sides of the aisle.”

Making Bam look good
Last Updated: 12:26 AM, September 4, 2012
Posted: 10:42 PM, September 3, 2012

Tonight, as the Democratic National Convention opens, a very special American will address the delegates and the nation. I have been leaked an advance text of those remarks.

Fellow Democrats and citizens of the world, I am certain you are aware of the high honor I have bestowed upon you this night — as I, the man commonly known as “the greatest ex-president,” deign to speak before you at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

I’m sorry I was a few minutes late to the podium; I just decided to write a book at 7:52 and only completed it at 7:59. It is the 377th volume of my great ex-presidency, not counting my seven-canto epic poem, “Wives of Reprehensible Dictators To Whom I Have Sucked Up.” Asma al-Assad gave that one five stars on Amazon, which is the most you can give, but not as much as it deserved.

You will admire my new book. It is a sober and illuminating look at the problems facing our world. It’s called “Israel Stinks,” and it serves as a sequel to my 376th, “Phooey on Israel.” That was, of course, a prequel to my 324th, “Man, Do I Hate Israel,” which was, in turn, a followup to my 283rd, “Fifty Shades of How Much I Hate Israel.”

I know some of you are perplexed that I was approached by the Obama campaign to appear here in Charlotte. Some have asked why Barack Obama would seek to associate his presidency with mine in any way, given that the headwinds he faces this year are somewhat similar to the ones that faced me in 1980 as a sitting president.

Indeed, some point out that he has alienated the American Jewish community as no Democratic leader has since my presidency.

This is an outrage. I will not stand here and see my record impugned in this way. I made things much worse than Barack Obama did!

Did Barack Obama preside over a nation in which interest rates rose to 18 percent?

Did Barack Obama do nothing when Iranians seized 52 American diplomats and held them hostage?

Did Barack Obama launch the most disastrous rescue mission of all time, sending a single helicopter to Iran that blew up in the desert?

Sure, Barack Obama is running for re-election in a year in which economic growth has slowed significantly. But can he claim that in the second quarter of his reelection year, the economy actually shrank in absolute terms? You bet your life he can’t. Only I can claim that!

And while he has blamed everything from the previous administration to the weather to the Europeans to the previous administration for the nation’s continued economic ills, Barack Obama has not directly blamed the American people for the economy’s ills, as I dared to do in my legendary “malaise” speech.

And what about Barack Obama and the Jewish community? Sure, donations from Jews are down, and the president and his aides are concerned. But because of my handling of matters relating to Israel, and because of my barely disguised hostility and rage toward those who called me out on it, Ronald Reagan received somewhere between 39 and 45 percent of the Jewish vote in 1980.

Let’s see Barack Obama do worse than that!

Americans may say the country is on the wrong track by a margin of two-to-one. They may believe for the first time that their children are going to be worse-off than they were. Sixty percent of them don’t like Obamacare.

But my fellow Democrats, Barack Obama hasn’t brought the American people to their knees the way I did after just one term. My record stands firm. No matter what, he’s not going to be the worst Democratic president in history.

America, please cast a vote for Barack Obama in November. I’m Jimmy Carter, and I’m here to remind you: It could have been worse.

Thank you, and may God bless me.

Chuck Norris says country is at a tipping point
Greenwich TIME
Tuesday, September 4, 2012 | Updated: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 11:10am

Chuck Norris is taking a tough stance against President Barack Obama in a two minute commercial, saying the United States is at a tipping point and “may be lost forever.”

The actor, who has a history of supporting Republicans, urges voters to come to the polls in November to prevent Obama from being re-elected.

“It is because of that we can no longer sit quietly or stand on the sidelines as our country goes the way of socialism or something much worse,” Norris said.

Norris, who appears with his wife, seems to be making the case to evangelical Christians to vote Republican in the election. In the commercial, he claims more than 30 million evangelical Christians failed to vote in 2008, allowing Obama to win the election.

The commercial doesn’t mention Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

Both Parties chose to be in Hurricane Alley for National Conventions. 

Connecticut’s GOP heads to Tampa with high expectations, little status
Ana Radelat, CT MIRROR
August 24, 2012

Washington -- Connecticut's GOP, a minority in the state, is also likely to be a minority at the party's national convention in Tampa, where more conservative voices will speak louder, sit in better seats and stay in more convenient hotels.

That doesn't faze Jerry Labriola, the chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party and the leader of the state's 53-member delegation: 28 official delegates and 25 alternates.

"I'll hopefully give them a great delegation experience and the time of their lives," Labriola said.

Labriola and a few other Connecticut delegates arrived in Tampa early to lay the groundwork for the convention.

The rest of the cream of Connecticut's Republican Party will begin arriving in Tampa this weekend for a convention that's expected to draw as many as 50,000 people to town, 2,286 of them delegates. The convention begins Monday afternoon with an invocation and ends Thursday evening with the formal nomination of a presidential candidate and his running mate.

In between, there will be a lot of political rhetoric and even some intrigue, but little drama as former Gov. Mitt Romney has wrapped up more than enough delegates -- including all of Connecticut's -- to win the nomination.  So the convention, held in the cavernous Tampa Bay Times Forum, will be all about Romney and his vice presidential choice, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.

Romney's biggest worry is that Tropical Storm Isaac, expected to reach hurricane strength, is heading toward Florida, according to federal storm trackers. That raises the possibility of a delayed, or even canceled, convention.  There's also a smaller nuisance for Romney. Former Republican rival Rep. Ron Paul of Texas has delegates that he's not released and there's been squabbling over the seating of some of them, especially a delegation from Maine. According to GOP rules, the support of a plurality of delegates from at least five states allows a candidate to put his name into nomination and make a speech.

In many states, including Massachusetts and New York, state party conventions hold votes to select delegates to national conventions. But in Connecticut, GOP officials chose them, a mix of elected officials and party activists. Because Romney won Connecticut's GOP primary, all of the state's delegates are pledged to him.  The Connecticut delegation has also invited about 60 "guests" to the convention, many of them family members and large donors.

House Republican Leader Larry Cafero said he was chosen as a delegate because he's an honorary chairman of the Romney campaign in Connecticut and the state's highest-ranking Republican elected official.  He said the convention aims to "galvanize the base" and showcase some of the GOP's rising stars, including some House and Senate candidates, as well as working to defeat President Obama.

"This year we will run against an incumbent, so the energy will be extremely high," Cafero said.

The last time a Republican candidate was able to unseat an incumbent Democrat was 40 years ago, when Jimmy Carter occupied the White House.

Platform, and agendas

Besides boosting Romney, some Connecticut delegates may be looking to improve their own political future.  Cafero and fellow delegates former Rep. Chris Shays, who lose the Senate primary to Linda McMahon, and Tom Foley, who unsuccessfully ran against Dannel Malloy for governor, may start testing the waters for a gubernatorial run in 2014.

State Rep. Themis Klarides of Derby also traveled to Tampa earlier this week as a member of the platform committee.  The platform details the party's position on a host of issues. It includes a "Human Life Amendment" that calls for a ban on abortion, without mention of the more common exceptions for victims of rape or incest. There are also tough anti-gay marriage and immigration planks in the platform.  Klarides, who is pro-choice, said she argued against the gay marriage and abortion planks, to no avail. 

The controversial platform underscores that the national GOP has marched to the right.  Klarides said she can agree with the planks on economic issues, but said Northeast Republicans can't embrace the platform's social agenda.  She predicted Connecticut's delegates will huddle with the convention's other moderate Republicans from neighboring states like New York and Massachusetts.

"We all joke that if we are in the South or Midwest, we wouldn't be allowed in the Republican Party," Klarides said. "But when you are in a group like this, it really hits home."

Another member of the platform committee, state Sen. Scott Frantz, skipped the platform debate altogether because of a "scheduling conflict."

But he's eager to travel to Tampa this weekend, although wary of Isaac.

"When you leave a convention you feel you've done something good for the country," he said.

Corporate-sponsored fun

While every evening will be spent at the convention hall listening to speakers, it won't be all work for Connecticut's delegates.

They'll attend a whirl of lunches, parties and receptions and even go on a short cruise. Much of the tab for these social activities, and even the delegates' breakfasts, will be picked up by corporate sponsors. AT&T, Aetna, Dominion Resources Services Inc., Nestle Waters North American and RR Donnelley Inc., have already signed up as sponsors of the delegation's events.

But not every Connecticut Republican will join in the fun.

Staying home

Some of the state's highest-profile Republicans, including Senate candidate McMahon and House candidate Andrew Roraback, running for the 5th Congressional District, have decided to stay on the campaign trail and skip the convention.

"I didn't discourage her from campaigning," said Connecticut Republican Party chief Labriola. "And I'd rather have Roraback raising money and preparing for the fall campaign."

Labriola, at his first national convention, has a rather quixotic mission.  He hopes to persuade the Romney campaign and the Republican National Party to spend time and money in Connecticut, a true "blue" state.

"I've been pushing them since last spring to not write us off," said Labriola, encouraged by polls that show Romney trailing Obama by 8 percentage points in Connecticut.

Obama won the state by 23 points over Sen. John McCain in 2008.

Little status

There's a pecking order at national party conventions.  Delegations from the president and vice president's home states are given preference and usually the best seats in the convention hall. Then comes vital swing states like Ohio and Virginia. Then loyal Republican states.

Connecticut, and other strongly Democratic states -- especially small ones with few electoral votes -- usually receive the least desirable hotels and nosebleed seats at the convention hall.

While delegates from Mitt Romney's home state of Massachusetts stay a short walk from the convention venue, for example, the Connecticut contingent is assigned to the seaside Bilmar Beach Resort hotel, a 50-minute drive from the convention center. The resort will also house the North Dakota delegation.  Cafero said Connecticut's lack of clout can be expected because there are no Republicans in the state's congressional delegation and Connecticut's governor is a Democrat.

"For the first time in a generation, Connecticut is a one-party state," he said.

ELECTION DAY TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2012 - ballot in Weston to come - how will Charter Revision Question be phrased?  Another ballot concern:

Sec'y of the State Merrill

Breaking News from CTNEWSJUNKIE
Republican Party on LINE 'A' again...LAWSUIT AGAINST SECRETARY OF THE STATE SUCCEEDS.   GOP to have top line because their candidate had the highest number of votes in 2010 Gubernatorial
Election.  Democrats on line 'B' this year - read decision here.

Merrill hopes surging voter interest wasn't weakened by Hurricane Sandy
Keith M. Phaneuf, CT MIRROR
November 5, 2012

With 100,000 new voters registered in the past six weeks and power restored to all polling places, Connecticut's chief elections official said she hopes other aftereffects of Hurricane Sandy won't keep voters from casting ballots Tuesday.

"The bottom line is Connecticut is ready to vote tomorrow," Secretary of the State Denise W. Merrill said Monday during a midmorning news conference in her Capitol office. "We've seen a big surge in interest for this presidential election."

Connecticut has gained 202,000 new voters since January, pulling the total number of active, registered voters to close to 2.1 million. This includes: 872,243 unaffiliated voters, 767,693 Democrats and 430,439 Republicans. The total voter list falls about 5,000 shy of the peak Connecticut hit just before the 2008 presidential election.  Since January, the unaffiliated rolls have grown by 92,592, while Democrats picked up 70,928 voters and Republicans gained 33,067.

"This is good news," Merrill said. "The public is still very clearly interested in this election."

Power restored to polling places

In other good news, power has been returned to all 773 of the state's polling places, but two will be closed nonetheless on Election Day, Merrill reported.  Flooding damage has forced the closure of polling sites at Ocean Beach Park in New London and at the Longfellow School on Ocean Terrace in Bridgeport.  Election officials have ordered the opening of two new polling places: the Harbor School on Montauk Avenue in New London and the Regional Vocational Aquaculture School on St. Stephens Road in Bridgeport.

The secretary also praised local election officials' efforts, particularly after Hurricane Sandy struck one week ago, noting that they registered voters and distributed absentee ballots under difficult circumstances.

"This morning what I'm feeling is mostly thankful, Merrill said. "I hope that all of our efforts here paid off and we'll have a great Election Day."

Turnout in Connecticut ranged between 75 percent and 80 percent during the last few presidential elections, but Merrill said, "I wouldn't be totally surprised (by something less), but I'm hoping for a typical turnout."


Shortly before noon on Monday, the state's two major electric utilities reported just under 35,700 customers left without power, most in westernmost Fairfield County.  Connecticut Light & Power, the state's largest electric utility, reported 24,081 outages, or about 1 percent of its 1.2 million customers.  CL&P not only hit its primary goal of having at least 98 percent of outages corrected by Monday or Tuesday, but it also surpassed its targets for bringing sufficient out-of-state repair crews into Connecticut.

CL&P spokesman Frank Poirot reported Monday that the utility had brought in 3,225 line repair workers and 1,300 tree removal workers from 16 counties and four Canadian provinces.  That contingent complements about 400 line workers on CL&P's regular staff and 300 tree removal contractors from within the state that regularly work with the utility.

United Illuminating, which serves 325,000 customers in 17 communities in south central and southwestern Connecticut, reported 10,613 outages, or about 3 percent of its base, shortly before noon.

Voters distracted?

But Merrill said she is concerned that even with most power restored, residents might be distracted from voting if they suffered major damage to their homes, or if fallen trees still hinder travel around town.

Poirot, who appeared on WNPR's public affairs program "Where We Live" Monday morning, told host John Dankosky that "the high density of mature trees that have been uprooted" has made it difficult to clear some roads in Greenwich and surrounding towns in western Fairfield County.

Some of the largest trees can weigh 3,000 to 4,000 pounds, he said, adding that it takes considerable time to remove them from streets and roads.

Poll hotline

Merrill also announced Monday that the state will again operate both a hotline and an email address to receive reports of any problems or irregularities at the polls. Individuals can report problems by calling 1-866-733-2463 or by emailing

"We will have zero tolerance in Connecticut for either voter fraud or voter intimidation," she said.

Merrill said that her office would be launching a cooperative program this Election Day with approximately 100 volunteers from the Connecticut Bar Association. These volunteers, who have received training in elections law from the secretary's office, would be empowered to be the office's "eyes and ears," Merrill said.

If municipal officials request guidance or other advice from the secretary's office with a problem at the polls, these volunteers will investigate and report back to Merrill, who then would respond. The volunteers, she said, would have no authority to give instructions to local election officials.

Merrill also reminded voters Monday that while it is a "good idea" to bring a driver's license with them when they cast a ballot, they also can comply with the state's identification requirement by bringing a bank statement, a utility bill, a pay stub from work or a Social Security card.

Sec'y of the State Denise Merrill comments...

Sandy won't stop election
Brian Lockhart, CTPOST
Published 12:23 a.m., Saturday, November 3, 2012

Read more:
BRIDGEPORT -- As Election Day approaches, registrars in the state's largest city promised that voters will not be turned away by damage from Hurricane Sandy or a repeat of the poor planning that marred 2010's close gubernatorial contest.

"We have at least one and a half ballots per eligible voter," Bridgeport Democratic Registrar Sandi Ayala assured the Secretary of the State Friday, referring to 2010, when her office under-ordered ballots, delaying the final results of the gubernatorial election for several days.

"We will be swimming in ballots," Ayala said.

Bridgeport was the third and final stop on Secretary of the State Denise Merrill's tour of storm-ravaged Fairfield County to assess whether the area was ready to open the polls Tuesday. She met with Ayala, Mayor Bill Finch and with a deputy Republican registrar.

"I think we can assure a very smooth Election Day," Finch added, crediting United Illuminating, whose performance he criticized days earlier, for restoring power to the city's 24 polling locations.

Merrill spokesman Av Harris said Greenwich and Trumbull, which were also on Friday's itinerary, will be prepared as well.  The biggest question is how damage from Hurricane Sandy will impact turnout.

"I am worried about that," Merrill said, noting the tangle of downed trees blocking roads in Greenwich. "That makes a huge difference in people's sense of whether they want to go out and vote."

After Sandy had swept through, no city's election preparation had aroused more concern than Bridgeport's. The Democratic stronghold has in recent years played an important role in election outcomes, from Jim Himes' 2008 victory over veteran Republican U.S. Rep. Chris Shays, to Dannel Malloy's razor-thin triumph in 2010 over Republican Tom Foley in the gubernatorial race.

"I wanted to come down ... to see for myself exactly what the situation is," said Merrill, who has been communicating all week with municipal elections officials. "I'm feeling a lot better about it, personally."

Still, Merrill said the drive from Hartford to the southwestern Connecticut shoreline proved an eye-opener.

"Up in Hartford it looks like nothing happened," she said.

Ayala told Merrill that because of ongoing restoration efforts there should be only one change in polling locations. The site at Longfellow Elementary has been shifted to the nearby Aquaculture School due to water damage.

"So they (voters) don't have to go too far out of their way," Ayala said, adding post cards announcing the change were being mailed Friday.

Merrill noted utility companies are offering to provide generators to polling places that remain without electricity Tuesday, which she said avoids the confusion of last-minute moves.  Bridgeport's registrars have also contacted 95 percent of poll workers to confirm they are still available Tuesday and have staff going door-to-door trying to reach the remaining 5 percent. A training session has been scheduled for Saturday.

One way or another, CL&P promises power at polls
Keith M. Phaneuf and Mark Pazniokas
November 1, 2012

Connecticut Light & Power, the state's largest electric utility, promised Thursday night it will provide power to every polling place in its service area on Tuesday, either by the completion of restoration work or by providing temporary generators.

"It is on our high priority list," said William Quinlan, a CL&P vice president.

United Illuminating expects to have power restored to polling places in its smaller territory, a hard-hit stretch of shoreline from New Haven to Bridgeport, said Tony Marone, a senior vice president.  Marone said 143 of the 192 polling places in UI's 17 cities and towns have power, 25 are without and the status of 24 are being checked.  A major goal of candidates and elections officials is to avoid the confusion of having to relocate polls so late in the campaign season. In Bridgeport, Mayor Bill Finch said he expected power to be restored to the eight or nine polling places now without power.

UI officials strongly objected Thursday to complaints by Finch and others that the utility was slighting the city in its repair efforts. Marone said 41 percent of Bridgport was blacked out, compared with 49 percent in Fairfield, 72 percent in Trumbull and 82 percent in Easton.

Marone reported two or three incidents of harassment of line workers in Bridgeport, including a truck that was pelted with eggs.

Secretary of the State Denise W. Merrill reported earlier Thursday that electrical power has been restored to another 30 to 35 polling places with Election Day just five days off.  But her office still was reporting close to 100 polling places without power -- the same number she reported mid-day Wednesday before the latest round of repairs took place.

How does that add up?

It's because Wednesday's estimate didn't include any numbers from United Illuminating.  So while Connecticut Light & Power Co. reported 100 polling places without power in its jurisdiction Wednesday, and between 65 and 70 still without power as repairs continued late Thursday afternoon, UI weighed in for the first time Thursday -- and reported 25 polling places out of power in its service area.  Do the math, and that leaves 90 to 95 polling sites -- most of which are schools, senior centers or other municipal buildings -- still without service late Thursday afternoon.

"At this point, we are monitoring the situation very closely with our partners at the local level who must administer the presidential election on Tuesday November 6," Merrill wrote in a statement Thursday after conferring with officials from both companies.  "We still have some polling places that lack electricity, and both power utilities have assured us they are working very hard to restore power to these locations as soon as possible."

There are 773 polling places statewide spread across the state's 169 cities and towns.

Merrill added that "at the local level, towns and cities are already executing their election preparation functions and backup plans where necessary for preparing voter lists and making sure the voting machines are ready to use next Tuesday.  We will be ready to vote next Tuesday no matter what, and the preferences would be not to move or consolidate any polling locations unless absolutely necessary."

The president of the Registrars of Voters Association of Connecticut, Bethlehem Republican Registrar Melissa J. Russell, said she and her colleagues have been keeping handwritten updates of voter lists to record people who have registered since Hurricane Sandy caused more than 600,000 outages statewide Monday and early Tuesday.

"It is paramount that people be able to vote," Russell said, adding that registrars will use their handwritten lists to help check-in new voters on Election Day.

The deadline for potential voters to register to cast a ballot on Election Day originally was this past Tuesday, but Gov. Dannel P. Malloy extended that deadline until 8 p.m. Thursday, because of the hurricane.  Residents who fail to meet the registration deadline still can cast a ballot for president only. Under state law, citizens can obtain a presidential ballot at town or city hall from their municipal clerk up to the close of business on Election Day.

State law doesn't have any provision for postponing the election, and Merrill noted Wednesday that all election machines are capable of functioning on battery power.

State Supreme Court Will Rule On Ballot Line Between Republicans And Democrats
Hartford Courant
By Christopher Keating On August 14, 2012

The State Supreme Court will rule whether the Republicans can recapture the top ballot line in November’s election in an appeal of a state decision.

The state Republican Party filed a lawsuit last week that sought to place their party on the top line in all elections in November, including those for the U.S. Senate, 151 state House of Representative seats and 36 seats in the state Senate.

The party sued Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, who ruled against the Republicans three weeks ago by saying that the Democrats would keep the top line on the 2012 election ballot. Republicans had questioned an original decision by Merrill, a longtime Democrat, to place the Democrats on the top line in the 2011 municipal elections after charging that Merrill made a mistake last year because of the complicated results of the 2010 race for governor.

Av Harris, a spokesman for Merrill, told Capitol Watch on Tuesday night that the two sides have agreed to skip the trial court and go directly to the Supreme Court.

“The facts really aren’t in dispute,” Harris said. “We have to get to a stipulated agreement.”

Although Democrat Dannel P. Malloy won the race in 2010, he did it with a combination of votes from both the Democratic Party and the union-backed Working Families Party. As a result, Republican Tom Foley captured more votes on the Republican line than Malloy captured on the Democratic line.

The top party on the line is normally the party of the winning candidate for governor, but the Republicans now want that reversed because of Foley’s vote count.

The lawsuit, filed for the Republicans by attorneys Proloy K. Das and Richard P. Healey of the Hartford law firm of Rome McGuigan, states that Foley won 560,874 votes on the Republican line and Malloy won 540,970 votes on the Democratic line. Malloy’s 26,308 votes on the Working Families Party line helped prove to be the difference in the closest gubernatorial election in more than 50 years.

The two sides interpreted the law in sharply different ways.

Merrill wrote to Republicans last month that “you do not differentiate between the appearance of a candidate on the ballot by party nomination and by nominating petition with a party designation. Taking this crucial difference into account results in the conclusion reached by my office in 2011: the Democratic Party is listed on the first row on the ballot followed by the Republican Party listed on the second row.”

The key point, according to Merrill, is that “votes cast for candidates appearing on two separate lines on the ballot are to be treated as votes for the candidate and included in such candidate’s vote totals for such election.’’

To back up their case, Republicans cited the 1994 election of Republican Governor George Pataki in New York State. Pataki defeated incumbent Governor Mario Cuomo, but only after the votes of the Republican and Conservative Party lines were added together. As a Democrat, Cuomo captured more votes on his line than Pataki did on the Republican line.

For the next four years, the Democrats held the top spot on the ballot in New York State.

“For purposes of balloting, we should be on the top line,’’ House GOP leader Larry Cafero told Capitol Watch recently. “Mario Cuomo had the most on the Democratic line. … We are stating that the Secretary of the State got it wrong in 2011.’’

But Merrill maintains that there are differences in the precise language of the laws between New York and Connecticut – leading to a different result. Merrill is a Democrat who was elected in the statewide election at the same time as Malloy in November 2010.

“Unfortunately, the secretary’s unfounded and apparently partisan-driven position leaves us no choice but to seek redress in the courts,” state GOP chairman Jerry Labriola said in a statement. “We believe the Secretary of the State’s interpretation is wrong and it would be unfair to Connecticut voters to allow these elections to proceed unlawfully.”

On primary eve, Merrill calls GOP ballot suit 'regrettable distraction'
Keith M. Phaneuf, CT MIRROR
August 13, 2012

Connecticut's chief elections official insisted Monday that her office acted properly in awarding the top line on the November ballot to the Democratic Party, despite a lawsuit from Republicans that claims their candidates should appear first.

Secretary of the State Denise W. Merrill also announced measures she hopes will enhance turnout at Tuesday's primaries for the U.S. Senate and House, the General Assembly and select municipal offices. One of them is an easy way for voters to find their polling place.

"We are confident we have consistently interpreted the law and applied it correctly," Merrill said during a mid-morning press conference in her Capitol office.

The secretary referred to the lawsuit filed Friday by the state Republican Party as a "regrettable distraction" and a "waste of taxpayers' money" that will siphon crucial resources from her office during a busy state campaign season.

"My staff is already stretched thin trying to manage this election," she said, noting that the office received more than 5,000 telephone calls on Election Day alone in 2010, the last statewide election.

Merrill, a Hartford Democrat, also called Republican accusations that her position was motivated by partisan politics "an insult" to her and her staff. "We look at the law and interpret the law as professional election administrators," she said. "I'm sorry to see this sort of statement made."

The dispute centers on the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, which Democrat Dannel P. Malloy won, outpolling Greenwich Republican Tom Foley 567,278 votes to 560,874. But while Foley appeared in just one place on the 2010 ballot -- the line for the Republican nominee -- Malloy received 540,970 votes on the Democratic line, and 26,308 votes by virtue of also being the nominee of the Working Families Party.

The state GOP cited Section 9-249a of the Connecticut General Statutes. It states that "the party whose candidate for governor polled the highest number of votes in the last-preceding election" appears first on the ballot.

And it also states that "other parties who had candidates for governor in the last-preceding election" would have their candidates on future ballots "in descending order, according to the number of votes polled for each such candidate."

Merrill wrote to Republican State Chairman Jerry Labriola on July 27 that Democrats earned the top spot given that Malloy garnered the most votes for governor -- regardless of the fact that he received them from two different party lines on the 2010 ballot.

"Unfortunately the secretary's unfounded and apparently partisan-driven position leaves us no choice but to seek redress in the courts," Labriola wrote in a statement last week.

The two sides now head to a Tuesday hearing in Hartford Superior Court.

Also Monday, Merrill announced a hotline and two new web features to encourage more Democrats and Republicans to participate in Tuesday's primaries.

The secretary's office and the State Elections Enforcement Commission will again monitor a hotline to hear concerns of any voters who notice any inappropriate behavior at the polls. Concerns can be reported by calling 1-866-733-2463 or by sending an email to

To help voters find their precinct quickly, the secretary announced a new online application available at at on the homepage of her office website.

By clicking on the red, white and blue "Where Do I Vote" button, voters can enter their home address and learn the location of their polling place, and directions on how to get there from their home.

Given that Connecticut completed the redistricting process last winter that re-sets the boundaries of its U.S. House and state legislative districts, many voters could be confused about where to cast their ballot.

"This is another great example of technology making it easier than ever to take part in the democratic process," Merrill said. "By providing this free service to anyone with Internet accessibility, I hope many voters take advantage of easily finding their polling location and go out and vote."

Malloy is among those changing polling places since last fall, when he voted at the Annie Fisher School in Hartford. This year, the polling place for his West End neighborhood is the Hartford Seminary.

Merrill said based on primary turnout in recent years, she expects Tuesday's Democratic and Republican contests to attract 25 percent to 30 percent of eligible voters, though it could be higher in the 5th Congressional District, where three Democrats and four Republicans are seeking their parties' nominations.

"We have some very hot elections in Connecticut this year," she said. "They're being watched nationally."

The secretary's Internet site also offers a second new feature that allows residents to confirm if they are registered to vote. This can be resolved simply by entering their name and date of birth into the site.

Merrill rebuffs GOP, says Democrats earned top spot on state ballot
Keith M. Phaneuf, CT MIRROR
July 27, 2012

Secretary of the State Denise W. Merrill notified Connecticut's top Republicans Friday that Democrats will remain at the top of the ballot this fall, and that she disagrees with their legal argument that the GOP earned the top spot based on the 2010 gubernatorial results.

In a letter to Republican leaders in the state House and Senate and to the state GOP chairman, Merrill wrote that Democrats earned the top spot given that Democrat Dannel P. Malloy garnered the most votes for governor -- regardless of the fact that he received them from two different lines on the 2010 ballot.

Malloy, the former mayor of Stamford, outpolled Republican Tom Foley of Greenwich 567,278 votes to 560,874. But while Foley appeared in just one place on the 2010 ballot -- the line for the Republican nominee -- Malloy received 540,970 votes on the Democratic line, and 26,308 votes by virtue of also being the nominee of the Working Families Party.

The state House and Senate minority leaders, Lawrence F. Cafero of Norwalk and John P. McKinney of Fairfield, and GOP State Chairman Jerry Labriola wrote Thursday to Merrill, arguing the Republicans deserve the top ballot spot.

The GOP leaders cited Section 9-249a of the Connecticut General Statutes. It states that "the party whose candidate for governor polled the highest number of votes in the last-preceding election" appears first on the ballot.

And it also states that "other parties who had candidates for governor in the last-preceding election" would have their candidates on future ballots "in descending order, according to the number of votes polled for each such candidate."

But Merrill said Friday that the Working Families Party technically didn't even have "minor party status" for the gubernatorial race under the law during the 2010 campaign.

The party, a pro-labor organization, has had organizational papers filed with the state since the mid-2000s, and was entitled to a spot on the gubernatorial ballot because it filed petition papers in 2010.

But it didn't gain "minor party status" for that office until after the 2010 election. Under state law, such status is conferred when more than 1 percent of the voters casting ballots for an office do so for the minor party candidate.

The GOP legislative leaders also wrote to Merrill that New York faced "the identical issue" in 1995 and determined that while Republican George Pataki had defeated Democrat Mario Cuomo in the 1994 gubernatorial contest, Cuomo received more votes on the Democratic line than Pataki had on the GOP line. Pataki also had been endorsed by New York's Conservative Party and received enough votes on that line to gain the victory.

"We believe we have a solid case to make that Republican candidates for office this fall should be placed first based on the results of the 2010 gubernatorial election," Cafero said. "We have case law to support our position."

But Merrill said the two states' statutes are not identical. While New York law specifically determines top ballot status based on each party line's result in the gubernatorial election, Connecticut law makes no reference to line-by-line results.

Pat O'Neill, a spokesman for the House Republican Caucus, said Friday that "our lawyers are evaluating the secretary of the state's response to our letter," and no decisions have been reached about potential future action.

Democratic State Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo and Jonathan Harris, the state party's executive director, said Thursday that they think Democrats are entitled to the top spot on the ballot.

"In my mind, the plain meaning of the statute ... talks of the highest number of votes collectively" received by a party's gubernatorial candidate, and not necessarily votes tied just to one line, Jonathan Harris said. "If you look at the plain language of this statute, it indicates the Democrats should be on line A."

Cafero said Republicans didn't raise the issue before last fall's balloting because they didn't realize that the law was interpreted improperly. "Maybe shame on us, but it never occurred to us," he said.

State Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said he began to research state election law in May after someone mentioned Malloy's Working Families Party support at a dinner party. Fasano added that this led him to review the New York case over the summer.

GOP says its candidates earned top spot on the next state ballot
Keith M. Phaneuf, CT MIRROR
July 26, 2012

The state legislature's top Republicans charged Thursday that GOP candidates should have been placed at the top of the ballot during last fall's municipal elections, and challenged Connecticut's chief elections official to correct the matter before the state elections this November.

State law rewards the party with the best showing in the gubernatorial contest by placing its candidates first on the ballot for the next four years.

In the 2010 gubernatorial election, Democrat Dannel Malloy finished 6,404 votes ahead of Republican Tom Foley. But Foley earned all 560,874 of his votes on the GOP line. Malloy, who was endorsed by both the Democratic Party as well as the Working Families Party, collected 540,970 votes on the Democratic Party line, and 26,308 votes on the Working Families ticket.

So which party truly finished first in terms of ballot order rights? Republicans now assert it was theirs.

"Though candidate Dannel Malloy polled the most votes overall, he did so by combining the totals of two separate party lines," the state House and Senate minority leaders, Lawrence F. Cafero of Norwalk and John P. McKinney of Fairfield, wrote Thursday to Secretary of the State Denise W. Merrill. "Though sufficient for the victory, it has no bearing on the order of the parties on the ballot."

The two GOP leaders cited Section 9-249a of the Connecticut General Statutes. It states that "the party whose candidate for governor polled the highest number of votes in the last-preceding election" appears first on the ballot.

And it also states that "other parties who had candidates for governor in the last-preceding election" would have their candidates on future ballots "in descending order, according to the number of votes polled for each such candidate."

"The Republican Party line for governor garnered more votes than any other party line in 2010," McKinney said. "Under Connecticut law, our candidates for state and federal office deserve the top line designation on this year's ballot. The Republican Party has earned that."

The GOP legislative leaders asked Merrill, a Mansfield Democrat, to confirm in writing that Republican candidates would be listed first on the ballot at the election for state and federal offices this November.

Merrill's spokesman, Av Harris, said the secretary's office expected to complete its review of the legal questions raised by the Republican legislators by Friday.

Democratic State Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo and Jonathan Harris, the state party's executive director, said Thursday that they believe Democrats are entitled to the top spot on the ballot.

"In my mind, the plain meaning of the statute ... talks of the highest number of votes collectively" received by a party's gubernatorial candidate, and not necessarily votes tied just to one line, Jonathan Harris said. "If you look at the plain language of this statute, it indicates the Democrats should be on line A."

The GOP legislative leaders also wrote to Merrill that New York faced "the identical issue" in 1995 and determined that while Republican George Pataki had defeated Democrat Mario Cuomo in the 1994 gubernatorial contest, Cuomo received more votes on the Democratic line that Pataki had on the GOP line. Pataki also had been endorsed by New York's Conservative Party and received enough votes on that line to gain the victory.

"We believe we have a solid case to make that Republican candidates for office this fall should be placed first based on the results of the 2010 gubernatorial election," Cafero said. "We have case law to support our position."

Cafero said Republicans didn't raise the issue before last fall's balloting because they didn't realize that the law was interpreted improperly. "Maybe shame on us, but it never occurred to us," he said.

State Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said he began to research state election law in May after someone mentioned Malloy's Working Families Party support at a dinner party. Fasano added that this led him to review the New York case over the summer.

Cafero added that because Republicans didn't realize initially they were entitled to the top line, he believes Merrill's office might have accidentally made the wrong assumption as well.


IN WESTON:  Registered Democrats:  2130 (turnout 15%) .   Registered Republicans:  1930 (turnout 31%). 
RESULTS IN WESTON: For open U.S. Senate seat...unofficial count
DEM/Murphy 281- Bysiewicz 43
GOP/McMahon 263 - Shays 338

Peter Schiff comments on Republican Primary on R.I.N.O., reigning in spending.
"Don't Make the Same Mistake Twice"
recorded before Republican Convention.

U.S. Senate Debate for Democrats in Bridgeport - story here.

24 Party Primaries Aug. 14
by Christine Stuart | Jul 17, 2012 7:34pm

The primaries for the two open seats being vacated by U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman and U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy have attracted the most media attention, but Secretary of the State Denise Merrill wanted to remind voters Tuesday that there are plenty of party primaries for the state House and Senate, Registrar of Voters, and Probate Judge.

Democrats statewide will be able to vote on at least 19 primaries depending on where they live and Republicans are eligible to cast their ballots in at least 5 primaries.

“It is important that voters are fully aware of the primaries taking place on August 14th,” Merrill said Tuesday. “Some of the most closely watched Congressional races in the country are being contested in Connecticut. I encourage registered Democrats and Republicans to find out about the candidates and make their voices heard on primary day by casting ballots.”

The press release comes just a few days after one announcing that there are more than 800,000 unaffiliated voters in the state, who will be unable to vote in Connecticut’s closed primary system.

Voters have until noon Aug. 13 to register with one of the two major parties, if they want to vote in the Aug. 14 primary.

In the U.S. Senate race both party’s will have a primary. On the Democratic side U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy will face off against former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, while Republican Linda McMahon battles former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays on the Republican side.

There is also a Democratic and Republican primary in the 5th Congressional District. On the Democratic side, House Speaker Chris Donovan faces former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty and Dan Roberti, a newcomer from Kent. On the Republican side, Sen. Andrew Roraback faces challenges from Lisa Wilson-Foley of Simsbury, Mark Greenberg of Litchfield, and Justin Bernier of Plainville.

In the 2nd Congressional District Republicans Daria Novak and East Lyme First Selectman Paul Formica will battle for a chance to run against U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney.

Democrats also have intra-party primaries for three state Senate seats. State Rep. Tom Reynolds and Sprague First Selectwoman Cathy Osten will battle for retiring Sen. Edith Prague’s seat. In Bridgeport, Sen. Ed Gomes will try to fend off challenges from former state Sen. Ernest Newton, who spent time in prison for corruption, and state Rep. Andres Ayala.

Along the shore, state Rep. James Crawford will battle with Mary Ellen Klinck for retiring Sen. Eileen Daily’s seat. There are no Republican primaries for state Senate this year.

On the House side there are a dozen Democratic battles and one Republican primary, where Harold Shaker is challenging state Rep. David Scribner.

In cities like Hartford, Bridgeport, and New Haven the primary is generally considered the election. However, in New Haven there aren’t any intra-party fights brewing this year.

In Hartford state Rep. Minnie Gonzalez faces a challenge from Victor Luna and state Rep. Hector Robles faces a challenge from Edwin Vargas, the former head of the Hartford teacher’s union. There’s also party primaries in Hartford for both the Democratic and Republican Registrar of Voters. Republican Registrar Salvatore A. Bramante faces a challenge from Nyesha C. McCauley and Democratic Registrar Olga Vazquez faces a challenge from Ramon Arroyo, Gonzalez’s husband.

There’s another interesting three-way Democratic primary in Windsor for a new district created during the redistricting process. Leo Canty, a long-time labor leader, Brandon McGee of Hartford, and Windsor Mayor Donald Trinks, will battle for the new district with combines a large portion of Windsor and the north end of Hartford into a single district.

This list of 24 primaries is below:

United States Senator Republican *Linda E. McMahon and Christopher Shays
United States Senator Democratic *Christopher S. Murphy and Susan Bysiewicz

Representative in Congress – 2 Republican *Paul M. Formica and Daria Novack
Representative in Congress – 5 Republican *Andrew Roraback, Justin Bernier, Lisa Wilson Foley, and Mark Greenberg
Representative in Congress – 5 Democratic *Chris Donovan, Elizabeth Esty, and Dan Roberti

State Senate – 19 Democratic *Tom Reynolds, Catherine A. Osten
State Senate – 23 Democratic *Ernest E. Newton II, Andres Ayala, Jr., and Edwin A. Gomes
State Senate – 33 Democratic *James Crawford and Mary Ellen Klinck

Assembly District – 3 Democratic *Minnie Gonzalez and Victor M. Luna, Jr.
Assembly District – 5 Democratic *Leo Canty, Brandon McGee, and Donald Trinks
Assembly District – 6 Democratic *Edwin Vargas, Jr. and Hector Luis Robles
Assembly District – 13 Democratic *Joe Diminico and Tom Gullotta
Assembly District – 35 Democratic *Tom Vicino and Tony A. Palermo
Assembly District – 58 Democratic *Kathy Tallarita and David Alexander
Assembly District – 63 Democratic *Michael J. Renzullo and Doug Bendetto
Assembly District – 75 Democratic *Victor Cuevas and David Aldarondo
Assembly District – 91 Democratic *John P. Flanagan and Michael C. D’Agostino
Assembly District – 107 Republican *Harold A. Shaker and David A. Scribner
Assembly District – 116 Democratic *Louis P. Esposito, Jr. and David C. Forsyth
Assembly District - 128 Democratic *Christina M. Ayala and Angel Reyes
Assembly District – 132 Democratic *Sue Brand and Kevin Coyner

Hamden – Bethany Probate District Democratic *Craig B. Henrici and Edward C. Burt, Jr.

Registrar of Voters - Hartford Republican *Salvatore A. Bramante and Nyesha C. McCauley
Registrar of Voters – Hartford Democratic *Ramon L. Arroyo and Olga Iris Vazquez

* Denotes the endorsed candidate

Weston polling place changes for August primary
Weston FORUM
Friday, 22 June 2012 00:00

Weston voters who want to vote in the August primary will not do so in the usual polling place due to construction this summer at the middle school.

The Weston town clerk and the Weston registrars of voters announced that the polling place for the Tuesday, Aug. 14, primary for state, district and federal offices has been moved to the Weston Intermediate School from the Weston Middle School.

The move is being made for the primary only, due to a window replacement project at Weston Middle School.

Weston Intermediate School is located at 95 School Road.

Polls for the primary will be open in the intermediate school gymnasium on Tuesday, Aug. 14, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Unaffiliated voters may not vote on primary day in Connecticut. Unaffiliated voters (voters not registered with any party) may declare a party affiliation to vote in a particular primary by completing a new voter registration card.

New voter applications need to be postmarked by Aug. 9 or be delivered in person to the registrars office at Weston Town Hall by noon on Aug. 13


From most recent "Die Hard" movie ("...shut down the government with a lap top"); Watergate break won Hollywood kudos ("All the President's Men");  off-shore bundling Democrat Division. 
"Supporter of 99%" in Westport (campaign not to compensate town for police-fire overtime) by helicopter for campaign $$.  Gas prices?

A 21st-Century Islam
September 21, 2012

LONDON — The Muslim world cannot have it both ways. It cannot place Islam at the center of political life — and in extreme cases political violence — while at the same time declaring that the religion is off-limits to contestation and ridicule.

Islam is one of the world’s three great monotheistic religions. Of them it is the youngest by several centuries and, perhaps for that reason, the most fervid and turbulent. It is also, in diverse forms, a political movement, reference and inspiration.

Politics is a rough-and-tumble game. If the emergent Islamic parties of nations in transition — like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Ennahda in Tunisia — are to honor the terms of democratic governance they will have to concede that they have no monopoly on truth, that the prescriptions of Islam are malleable and debatable, and that significant currents in their societies have different convictions and even faiths.

The past couple of weeks have been discouraging. Nobody expects a U.S. standard of freedom of speech to be adopted — or even fully understood — in these societies; they will set their own political and cultural frameworks inspired by a still fervent desire to escape from despotism, whether secular or theocratic, and by the central place of faith.

But the failure in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt to control violent mobs of Salafis enraged by mockery in America and Europe of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad suggests an unacceptable ambivalence: The rule of law here on earth must override divine indignation.

The world has tried Islamic republics. It found them oxymoronic. As Iran illustrates, they don’t work: Republican institutions, shaped by the wishes of men and women, fall victim to the Islamic superstructure, supposedly shaped by God.

The great challenge of the Arab Spring is to prove that, as in Turkey, parties of Islamic inspiration can embrace a modern pluralism and so usher their societies from a culture of grievance and victimhood to one of creativity and agency.

Just how deep the grievances remain in the Arab world — over loss of power, economic stagnation, colonial intrusion, Western wars and Israel — has been clear in the latest eruption. Change will be slow.

But it is coming: These societies will not return to tyranny. The West has an overwhelming strategic interest in supporting transitions that offer the youth of the Arab world opportunity: Egypt now dwarfs Afghanistan in its importance to fighting Islamic extremism.

But the West will not do so by compromising its own values. The porn-grade American movie that started the unrest was pitiful. The murderous violence that followed from Cairo to Benghazi was criminal. Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical newspaper, then had a strong editorial case for mocking the religious fundamentalism that produced the killing; it chose to do so through caricatures of Muhammad.

Gérard Biard, the editor in chief of Charlie Hebdo, put the case well: “We’re a newspaper that respects French law. Now, if there’s a law that is different in Kabul or Riyadh, we’re not going to bother ourselves with respecting it.” Alluding to all the violence, Biard asked: “Are we supposed to not do that news?”

He is right. There are too many hypocrisies in Islam — deploring attacks on it while often casting scorn on Judaism and Christianity, claiming the mantle of peace while inspiring violence — for it to expect to be spared the cartoonist’s arrows.

The video insulting Muhammad reflected the visceral Islamophobia of its authors. Charlie Hebdo was driven by a different agenda: the refusal to be cowed by a spate of atavistic Islamist religious violence.

Still, I defend the right of the video’s authors even if I loathe what they produced. The U.S. Supreme Court, in its 1969 Brandenburg v. Ohio decision, overturned the conviction of a Ku Klux Klan leader who had menaced political officials with violence, saying that “the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force.” As Glenn Greenwald wrote in The Guardian, “Obviously, if the state cannot suppress speech even where it explicitly advocates violence, then it cannot suppress a video on the ground that it implicitly incites violence.”

The rich maelstrom of ideas in the United States is inextricably tied to this fundamental freedom. It cannot be compromised.

As for the new leaders of Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, and the great mass of moderate Muslims, they might recall the words of the late Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri protesting the stolen Iranian election of 2009 — an example of God’s supposed will imposed over the will of the people:

“A characteristic of a strong and legitimate government — Islamic or not — is that it is capable of respecting all opinions, whether they support it or oppose it. This is necessary for any political system, in order to embrace all social classes and encourage them to participate in the affairs of their nation, and not dismiss and repulse them.”

Montazeri fell out with Ayatollah Khomeini because his Iranian theocracy was incapable of “respecting all opinions.” Decades on, in this Arab awakening, that challenge remains for political Islam.

Arab Harvest
National Review
By The Editors
September 13, 2012 4:00 A.M.

Behold the harvest of the Arab Spring: attacks — contemporaneous if not coordinated — on the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, and the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on the anniversary of September 11. In the former, the American colors were hoisted down, desecrated, and burned, and the black flag of Islamism raised in their place. In the latter, the American ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three members of his staff were murdered in a rocket attack as they attempted to evacuate the facility. Whether both acts of terrorism were committed in protest of a low-budget American film allegedly insulting to the Prophet Mohammed or, as reports now suggest, the Libyan attack was a planned response to the killing of al-Qaeda’s No. 2 in Yemen, the portent is equally disturbing.

The sacrosanctity of diplomats and their missions is among the oldest and most basic axioms of intercourse between civilized nations, and the fact that neither the Egyptian nor the Libyan government acted to prevent these assaults suggests that barbarism is alive and well in Arab North Africa. Egypt’s failure is especially conspicuous, because that country actually has a functioning government and military. Nearly as disturbing was the response, both preemptive and cowardly, of the U.S. mission in Cairo, which went out of its way to condemn not its besiegers, but private citizens of the West who may or may not have “hurt the religious feelings” of riotous Muslims.

Americans are murdered by Islamists, and sovereign American soil is violated, on the anniversary of September 11, and the first word from the administration to reach the world is an apology. So naturally, the mainstream media are focusing on what they in their considered wisdom have determined is Mitt Romney’s crass and ill-timed response to the crisis, even as the Obama campaign found itself in a foot race with the Obama administration to see whether the former could condemn Romney before the latter condemned the terrorists.

But Romney was right to call the Cairo embassy’s obsequiousness “disgraceful,” which is why the White House eventually followed Romney’s lead in disavowing it. Romney was also right to defend his statement against charges that he had “jumped the gun,” saying it is “never too early . . . to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values.” Although the press acted as if Romney’s performance at the press conference was laughably unpresidential, what he said was appropriate and true: “It breaks the hearts of all of us who think of these people who have served during their lives for the cause of freedom and justice and honor,” and “the attacks in Libya and Egypt underscore that the world remains a dangerous place, and that American leadership is still sorely needed.”

Above the political fray and campaign hay, there is also the question of what to do next. There are reports that elite Marine counterterrorism units are even now en route to Libya, and we understand that the president has ordered increased security at U.S. diplomatic facilities. These are both to the good, and we should not be hamstrung by diplomatic niceties or, indeed, by these governments’ demonstrably weak sovereignties in bringing the terrorists to justice. But the question remains why Stevens and embassy staff were not effectively protected in the first place, on either side of the embassy walls.

If President Obama is to meet with the Egyptian leader, Mohamed Morsi, the embassy breach should be the first item on the agenda. If we are to follow through on the provision of aid to Egypt, for instance, the money should change hands only after guarantees are made and concrete steps are taken to protect our missions. Notably, while the Libyan government has already formally apologized for the outrages on its soil, the Egyptian government has not. Its prime minister, Hisham Kandil, merely called the breach “regrettable” — immediately before calling on the United States to “criminalize acts that stir strife on the basis of race, color, or religion.”

That is, Egypt’s new government wants the United States to repeal the First Amendment. But when it comes to Islamists who seize American soil or kill American citizens, we prefer solutions rooted in the amendment just after it.

Israeli Leader Sharpens Call on U.S. to Set Limits on Iran
...Addressing reporters here in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Mr. Netanyahu unequivocally rejected those comments and slapped back at the United States. Speaking in English, he said, “The world tells Israel: ‘Wait, there’s still time.’ And I say, ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’ Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.”  NYTIMES, 11 Sept. 2012.

U.S. has no right to block Israel on Iran: Netanyahu

By Jeffrey Heller | Reuters
11 Sept. 2012

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said the United States had forfeited any moral right to stop Israel taking action against Iran's nuclear program because it had refused to be firm with Tehran itself.

In comments which appeared to bring the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran closer, Netanyahu took the administration of President Barack Obama to task after Washington rebuffed his own call to set a red line for Tehran's nuclear drive.

"The world tells Israel 'wait, there's still time'. And I say, 'Wait for what? Wait until when?'" said Netanyahu, speaking in English.

"Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel," he added, addressing a news conference with Bulgaria's prime minister.

Netanyahu has been pushing Obama to adopt a tougher line against Iran, arguing that setting a clear boundary for Iran's uranium enrichment activities and imposing stronger economic sanctions could deter Tehran from developing nuclear weapons and mitigate the need for military action.

But on Monday U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States would not set a deadline in further talks with Iran, saying there was still time for diplomacy to work.

Netanyahu's comments came as diplomats said six world powers - including the United States - were poised to voice "serious concern" about Iran's uranium enrichment program and to urge Tehran to open up access to suspected nuclear sites.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Tuesday that Washington would have little more than a year to act to stop Tehran if it decided to produce a nuclear weapon.  Netanyahu has had a strained relationship with Obama over Iran and other issues, such as Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

But he has never put differences with Obama - who has pledged he will "always have Israel's back" and is deep in a re-election campaign - in the context of morality.

The website of Israel's Haaretz daily newspaper said Netanyahu had carried out "an unprecedented verbal attack on the U.S. government".

Iran, which denies it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, has threatened to retaliate against Israel and U.S. interests in the Gulf if it attacked, and Obama's re-election bid could be thrown off course by a new war.

Republican challenger Mitt Romney has accused him of throwing Israel "under the bus".


Without mentioning Clinton by name but pointedly parroting her use of the word "deadline", Netanyahu said not setting a clear boundary for Iran would only encourage Iran to continue its quest for nuclear arms.

"If Iran knows that there is no deadline, what will it do? Exactly what it's doing. It's continuing, without any interference, towards obtaining a nuclear weapons capability and from there, nuclear bombs," he said.

"So far we can say with certainty that diplomacy and sanctions haven't worked. The sanctions have hurt the Iranian economy but they haven't stopped the Iranian nuclear program. That's a fact. And the fact is that every day that passes, Iran gets closer and closer to nuclear bombs," he added.

Netanyahu also watched troops conduct an infantry exercise in the Golan Heights, where he said "the Israeli army is prepared for any challenge". Israel captured the rocky plateau from Syria in a 1967 war and then annexed it in a move never recognized internationally.

Widely thought to be the Middle East's only nuclear power, Israel says a nuclear-armed Iran would be a threat to its existence.

Recent tougher Israeli rhetoric on the issue has stoked speculation that Israel might attack Iran before the U.S. ballot in November, believing that Obama would give it military help and not risk alienating pro-Israeli voters.

But over the past week, Netanyahu, in calling for a "red line", had appeared to be backing away from military action and preparing the ground for a possible meeting with Obama this month, when both address the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

"The line is the president is committed to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and he will use every tool in the arsenal of American power to achieve that goal," Jay Carney, a White House spokesman, said on Monday.

Netanyahu has faced opposition at home to the idea that Israel might attack Iran on its own. Opinion polls show a majority of Israelis do not want their military to strike Iran without U.S. support.

An Israeli cabinet minister on Tuesday invoked his country's ostensibly secret 2007 air raid on an alleged Syrian nuclear reactor to suggest Israel could successfully strike Iran without U.S. support.

More on this matter here.

Westport got the brush off -who pays for this?

Fla. officer in Obama motorcade struck, killed
MATT SEDENSKY, Associated Press

Updated 11:14 p.m., Sunday, September 9, 2012

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A motorcycle police officer who was part of President Barack Obama's motorcade to a campaign event in Florida died Sunday after being struck by a pickup truck.  Officer Bruce St. Laurent, 55, was a 20-year veteran of the Jupiter Police Department and one of several officers from agencies across Palm Beach County helping with security for the president's visit.

He was ahead of the motorcade on Interstate 95 preparing to shut down the highway when he was hit by the Ford F-150, Palm Beach County Sheriff's spokeswoman Teri Barbera said. He was taken to nearby St. Mary's Medical Center and was pronounced dead.

Jupiter Police spokesman Sgt. Scott Pascarella, told The Palm Beach Post ( ) he trained St. Laurent when he was a new officer.

"We didn't lose a co-worker. We lost a friend," Pascarella told the newspaper. "He would do anything for anyone."

Barbera said an investigation was ongoing and no charges had yet been filed against the driver.  Obama was on the second day of a bus tour through the key swing state and made a campaign appearance Sunday at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president didn't see the accident, but he was notified of the officer's death and said "our thoughts and prayers are with the officer's family."

The Post also reported that St. Laurent had been a motorcycle officer for 18 years and in 2005 he earned a Distinguished Service Award by the Traffic Safety Committee of the Palm Beaches.  The newspaper reported that tn 2001, he was injured when a vehicle he was chasing suddenly stopped and he rammed into it. The two occupants were later arrested, one on a charge of driving with a revoked license and the other for having an outstanding warrant for reckless driving.

Either or?
O’s stimulus & The rotten Jobs news

Last Updated: 12:29 AM, September 10, 2012
Posted: 10:29 PM, September 9, 2012

Friday’s job report was a post-convention headache for President Obama. But it’s also a hangover from early in his term: He could’ve avoided this problem had he thought harder about stimulus three years ago.

Private companies added only 103,000 jobs in August; they’d need to create more than three times that for a full year to replace the 4.2 million-plus jobs that America is still missing from the recession.
And this isn’t a one-month slowdown. Growth has stagnated this year.  Meanwhile, public-sector employment lost ground. Last month, state and local government shed 10,000 workers. Since mid-2008, 716,000 state and local workers have lost their jobs (or not been replaced when they quit).

The 2009 stimulus was supposed to prevent these losses. It sent $200 billion to state and local governments over two years, mostly for education and health care. The point was for governors and mayors to avoid layoffs as tax revenues plunged — to tide them over until the economy fixed itself.  But this strategy was wrongheaded.

During the supposedly good years, state and local governments grew too fast. Even today, state and local government employment is 7.3 percent higher than in 2000.  Yes, that’s below population growth — but more than half of state and local jobs are in education, which is (mostly) for young people, and the number of people ages 5 to 19 is up only 2.9 percent since 2000.

This math makes one of Obama’s convention-speech pledges — to “recruit 100,000 math and science teachers within 10 years” — a head-scratcher. It’s not clear that we need new teachers.  Plus, governments can’t employ new people, or keep the old, if they don’t have tax money from private workers to pay them. Since 2000, the number of private-sector workers is up only 1 percent.

If we want more public workers, we’ve got to grow the private economy to pay for ’em.

But even if state and local governments had more private-sector tax dollars, they’d have to spend them not on keeping workers, but on paying benefits to existing workers. Here in New York City, the taxpayers’ bill for public-worker pensions and other benefits has nearly tripled, to $16.5 billion a year. New York is extreme, but the rest of the country has the same problem.  The 2009 stimulus could’ve addressed this issue. Instead of sending states money for worker pay, Washington could have earmarked more money for building and rebuilding things like roads, bridges and urban transit. (The stimulus only devoted a paltry $40 billion to such projects.)

That would’ve forced governments to cut benefits if they wanted to keep teachers and other workers on the payroll (and forced public unions to go along, once they knew the feds weren’t coming to the rescue).

Since the recovery was always going to be slow, it wouldn’t have mattered if some road and bridge projects weren’t “shovel-ready.” Governments could take their time and do them (sort of) right.  Instead, the approach Obama chose harms future infrastructure investment, which is still a big campaign plank.

Last Wednesday, one of the Democrats’ new stars, Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, got a prime-time slot to speak on this topic. “Obama believes in a country where we invest in . . . roads and bridges,” she said. She spoke of a construction worker who “went nine months without finding work.”

But voters can sense a gap between sentiment and reality. In 2009, Obama promised to shore up our Depression-era infrastructure — but then dedicated only about 5 percent of stimulus toward that goal. The result shows now on the ground.  As for Warren’s construction worker: He was likely out of work because the stimulus let state and local governments avoid the tough choices with their own money.  The problem for voters is that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan don’t have much to say about this stuff either.

Voters have a choice: Pick the folk whose actions don’t match their words, or pick the people who keep quiet on something that matters a lot.

Canada closes embassy in Iran, to expel Iranian diplomats
By Randall Palmer | Reuters
7 September 2012

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada has closed its embassy in Iran and will expel all Iranian diplomats in Canada within five days, Foreign Minister John Baird said on Friday, denouncing Tehran as the biggest threat to global security.

"Diplomatic relations between Canada and Iran have been suspended," Baird said.

He cited Iran's nuclear program, its hostility toward Israel and Iranian military assistance to the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, which is locked in civil war with rebels. He also said Iran was a state sponsor of terrorism.

Canada's move was swiftly applauded by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has strongly warned of the danger of a growing threat from Iran.

Baird accused Iran of showing blatant disregard for the safety of foreign diplomats. "Canada views the government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today," he said in a statement.

"Under the circumstances, Canada can no longer maintain a diplomatic presence in Iran," he said, declaring that Iran had shown "blatant disregard" for the Vienna Convention's guarantee of protection for diplomats.

Ottawa has long had poor relations with Iran, in part because of its enmity toward close Canadian ally Israel.

"I wish to congratulate (Canadian) Prime Minister Stephen Harper who has made a bold leadership move that sends a clear message to Iran and to the entire world," Netanyahu said in a statement from Jerusalem.

"The determination shown by Canada is of great importance in order for the Iranians to understand that they cannot go on with their race toward nuclear arms. This practical step must set an example of international morality and responsibility to the international community," he said.

The United States has not had a functioning embassy in Tehran since the 1979-81 hostage crisis, when 52 Americans were held for 444 days. Britain's embassy in Tehran has been closed since it was stormed by protesters last November.

During the hostage crisis, the Canadian embassy in Tehran sheltered six U.S. diplomats who had avoided capture, and then helped them leave Iran with Canadian passports in January 1980. The Canadian embassy then closed, reopening only in 1988.

U.S. public workers say organized labor at a turning point
By Lisa Lambert and James B. Kelleher | Reuters
23 June 2012

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - As America's biggest state and local government employees' union gathered here this week, it faced obstacles like never before. After a big defeat in Wisconsin, and under pressure to accept cuts in jobs, pay, pensions and benefits, it needed to give convincing answers.

Lee Saunders, who became the union's first African American president on Friday, said the fight was "just getting started." He said the mission for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees was to save nothing less than organized labor itself.

"Our success or failure will mark a turning point not only for our union but for the entire labor movement," said Saunders, the former number two who succeeded Gerald McEntee as president of the union, the largest in the AFL-CIO federation.

The union had one of its darkest days on June 5 in Wisconsin, where voters rejected a union-led effort to recall the state's governor, Republican Scott Walker, who had tried to curtail the bargaining rights of public sector employees.  But the 3,500 delegates who came to Los Angeles to mark AFSCME's 75th anniversary and elect its first new president in 31 years, left the meeting grimly determined to do more than just reverse their union's recent setbacks.

"The state is taking money that it should have paid into my retirement but didn't, and it's giving it away in tax breaks to corporations," said Steve Curran, a corrections officer from Connecticut.

Taxpayers have seen drastic cuts in public services after an economic downturn and support for public workers is waning.  Even some Democrats, like Steve Rattner, the former head of the U.S. government's auto task force who currently manages the personal investments of New York City's mayor Michael Bloomberg, think public sector workers need to share more of the pain from the downturn and slow-motion recovery.

"Their private sector counterparts have taken major pain as part of this economic downturn and they have for the most part not taken any," Rattner said.

"But they're going to have to take some pain and I think there ought to be a way to do it peacefully and fairly."


The crossing guards, snow-plow operators and librarians who make up the membership of the AFSCME pushed back during their convention this week.

"We've been demonized as the people who have it all," said Roberta Lynch, deputy director of AFSCME's Council 31, which represents state workers in Illinois.

While public workers have not seen the wage declines experienced by some in the private sector, they have lost jobs dramatically over the past three years, according to the Labor Department.

The perception is "almost as if the unions are drinking champagne while others are suffering," said Harley Shaiken, a professor at University of California Berkeley. "It's just the opposite. Public sector work is remarkably insecure in this environment and tough concessions have been made."

According to AFSCME, its members have an average salary of $40,000 a year and collect a pension of about $19,000 a year in retirement. These figures are virtually impossible to compare to those of the private sector given the wide mix of skills and education.

Members blame states for short changing contributions to their workers' pension funds, especially during the 2007-2009 recession. "The pension funds aren't going down the tubes because you're paying a retiree his $800 or $1,000 a month," said Curran, the Connecticut corrections officer.

"It's because the politicians are not putting in the money they're supposed to be putting in."

Union leaders recognize that they need a swing in popular opinion. After the convention, members plan a steady campaign to tell their neighbors they have deep roots in their communities, provide essential services and pay taxes, too.  In introducing Vice President Joe Biden to the convention on Tuesday, outgoing president McEntee said endorsing Obama "was an easy decision" for the union, mostly because there are no alternatives.

"President Obama and Vice President Biden are the only choice for the 99 percent of us," he said.

Ricky Feller, AFSCME's associate political director, said the union will spend $100 million between now and November on political races and get out the vote efforts across the country.

The Washington Times Inside Politics Blog
By Sean Lengell
June 21, 2012, 02:00PM

House Speaker John A. Boehner said President Obama's use of executive privilege in his administration's refusal to turn over documents regarding the "Fast and Furious" gunrunning operation is proof the White House is involved in a cover-up.

"The decision to invoke executive privilege is an admission that White House officials were involved in decisions that misled the Congress and have covered up the truth," the Ohio Republican told reporters Thursday. "So what is the Obama administration hiding in Fast and Furious?"

Mr. Boehner called the administration's refusal to fully cooperate with a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee subpoena to the Justice Department for documents "a very serious matter."

"Until yesterday, it was just the Department of Justice that we were concerned about," he said. "Clearly at the 11th hour and 50th minute, the White House decided to inject themselves into this where there had been no indication that a White House had been involved at all."

Mr. Boehner stopped short of demanding Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.'s resign.

"This is about getting to the truth for the American people … it's not about personalities," he said.

The Debt Indulgence
June 4, 2012

Every generation has an incentive to borrow money from the future to spend on itself. But, until ours, no generation of Americans has done it to the same extent. Why?

A huge reason is that earlier generations were insecure. They lived without modern medicine, without modern technology and without modern welfare states. They lived one illness, one drought and one recession away from catastrophe. They developed a moral abhorrence about things like excessive debt, which would further magnify their vulnerability.

Recently, life has become better and more secure. But the aversion to debt has diminished amid the progress. Credit card companies seduced people into borrowing more. Politicians found that they could buy votes with borrowed money. People became more comfortable with red ink.

Today we are living in an era of indebtedness. Over the past several years, society has oscillated ever more wildly though three debt-fueled bubbles. First, there was the dot-com bubble. Then, in 2008, the mortgage-finance bubble. Now, we are living in the fiscal bubble.

In this country, the federal government has borrowed more than $6 trillion in the last four years alone, trying to counteract the effects of the last two bubbles. States struggle with pension promises that should never have been made. Europe is on the verge of collapse because governments there can’t figure out how to deal with their debts. Nations around the globe have debt-to-G.D.P. ratios at or approaching 90 percent — the point at which growth slows and prosperity stalls.

It all goes back to the increase in the tolerance for debt.

Democrats and Republicans argue about how quickly deficits should be brought down. But everybody knows debt has to be restrained at some point. The problem is that nobody has been able to find a political way to do it.

The common view among politicians is that pundits may rail against debt, but voters don’t actually care. Voters don’t want to face the consequences of their spending demands. They’ll throw you out of office if you make the tough decisions required to cut deficits. That’s why debt mounts and mounts. Voters want it to.

Until maybe today.

Today voters in Wisconsin go to the polls to decide whether to recall Gov. Scott Walker. I’m not a complete fan of the way Walker went about reducing debt. In an age of tough choices, one bedrock principle should be: We’re all in this together. If you are going to cut from the opposing party’s interest groups, you should also cut from some of your own. That’s how you build trust and sustain progress, one administration to the next.

Walker didn’t do that. He just sliced Democrats. But, in the real world, we don’t get to choose perfect test cases. And Walker did at least take on entrenched interest groups. He did turn a $3.6 billion deficit into a $150 million surplus, albeit with the help of a tax collection surge. He did make it possible for willing school districts to save money on health insurance so they could spend it on students.

Walker’s method was obnoxious, but if he is recalled that will send a broader message, with effects far beyond Wisconsin. It will be a signal that voters are, indeed, unwilling to tolerate tough decisions to reduce debt. In Washington and in state capitals, it will confirm the view that voters don’t really care about red ink. It will remove any hope this country might have of avoiding a fiscal catastrophe.

On the other hand, if Walker wins today, it will be a sign, as the pollster Scott Rasmussen has been arguing, that the voters are ahead of the politicians. It will be a sign that voters do value deficit reduction and will vote for people who accomplish it, even in a state that has voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1984.

A vote to keep Walker won’t be an antiunion vote. It will be a vote against any special interest that seeks to preserve exorbitant middle-class benefits at the expense of the public good. It will tell the presidential candidates that it is safe to get specific about what they will do this December, when hard deficit choices will have to be made.

President Obama has hung back from the Wisconsin race. I’m hoping that’s not crass political opportunism but an acknowledgment that governments do have to confront their unaffordable commitments. Mitt Romney has been more straightforward, but even he hasn’t campaigned on the choices he would make. If Walker wins, the presidential candidates would have to be as clear before their election as Walker has been after his.

The era of indebtedness began with a cultural shift. It will require a gradual popular shift to reverse. Today’s Wisconsin vote might mark the moment when the nation’s long debt indulgence finally began to turn around.

Read two other opinions here
Benefits Are Great, and the Risks Exist Anyway

James Lewis (James Lewis is a former government official who writes on cyber security and warfare at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.)
June 4, 2012

Do U.S. cyberattacks on Iran protect us or endanger us? We could better ask if having a downed pilot paraded through the streets of Tehran is preferable to cyberattack, or whether it is better to risk the losses that would accompany the series of attacks needed to destroy well-defended nuclear facilities.

With Stuxnet, there are no television shots of burning buildings, weeping victims or tortured pilots. The politics of cyberattack as an alternative are compelling, although the attacks themselves lack the destructiveness of their kinetic brethren.  

The risks of Iran retaliating are not increased. The regime already blamed Stuxnet on the United States and Israel. In any case, we have been in sporadic covert conflict with Iran for decades, beginning with the hostages and embassy bombings, Iranian attacks in Iraq, and recent plots -- using proxies to provide a tissue of deniability -- against United States diplomats.

Nor do cyberattacks against Iran increase the risk of damaging cyberattacks against the United States. It is true that we are defenseless; efforts to make us safer are hamstrung by self-interest, ideology and the gridlock of American politics. But we are no more vulnerable today than we were the day before the news. If someone decides to attack us, they may cite Iran as precedent, but it will only be to justify a decision they had already made.

We could ask whether the United States creates more problems for itself when it makes public a new weapon while potential opponents keep it secret. Four other countries can launch sophisticated and damaging cyber attacks -- including China and Russia -- and plan to use them in warfare. Another 30 nations are acquiring cyber weapons, including Iran and North Korea.

There is a very old argument for disarmament that holds that if the United States were to renounce some weapons -- usually nuclear weapons -- the world would be a better place. This utopianism has a revered place in American political thinking, but when humans invent weapons they rarely give them up, especially useful weapons whose components are easy to acquire. Cyberattack is now part of warfare, no different from any other weapon. The publicity around Stuxnet may complicate U.S. efforts to get international rules for the use of cyberattack, but the White House decided that tampering with Iran’s nuclear program was more important than possible risk to slow-moving negotiations.

Whether a covert program should remain covert is an operational and political decision -- politics usually wins. Iran was not surprised to learn that the United Sates is using cyberattack, nor was any other major power, and if you think this news is a watershed moment you have been sleeping under a tree.

Two views of the present situation in America:  going nowhere fast (l) or talking to the faithful - at Barnard, ask a student a question and "she wrote it down in her notebook."  My Economics Prof. Raymond Saulnier...

Republicans Pledge New Standoff on Debt Limit
May 15, 2012

WASHINGTON — Speaker John A. Boehner on Tuesday set the stage for a bruising election-year showdown on fiscal policy, vowing to hold up another increase in the federal debt ceiling unless it was offset by larger spending cuts.

His combative comments came on the same day the Republicans’ presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney, hit President Obama hard on his fiscal stewardship in a speech in Des Moines, suggesting that Mr. Romney and Congressional Republicans see an opening to attack the president on the mounting federal debt and the size of the government.

Mr. Boehner’s stance threatened to throw Congress back into the debt-limit stalemate that consumed Washington in 2011, but this time at the height of a campaign that Republicans are trying to make a referendum on Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy.

“A prairie fire of debt is sweeping across Iowa and our nation,” Mr. Romney said, “and every day we fail to act we feed that fire with our own lack of resolve.”

The Boehner comments, made at a fiscal summit meeting in Washington, were the first public shot in what promises to be the most consequential budget fight in a generation. On Jan. 1, nearly $8 trillion in tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts are scheduled to take effect.

Mr. Boehner said he would not allow Congress to duck tough decisions with another round of short-term measures. He also said the House would pass an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts before the November elections, and he urged lawmakers in both parties to reach a long-term deal on spending and tax changes — but no additional taxes — to head off a fiscal calamity.

“To get on the path to prosperity, we have to avoid the fiscal cliff, but we need to start today,” he said.

Democrats immediately accused Mr. Boehner of once again holding the nation’s full faith and credit hostage to his conservative political agenda, even as Republicans cut corners on the deal struck last summer to end the last debt-ceiling crisis.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, speaking at the same meeting sponsored by the financier Peter G. Peterson, said the government could bump into its borrowing limit before the end of the year, but, he said, the Treasury has enough “tools” to keep the government afloat into early next year. That should push a debt-ceiling showdown well past the November election.

Mr. Geithner appealed to lawmakers to raise the debt ceiling “this time without the drama and the pain and damage that it caused the country last July.” And he said an orderly solution could be reached.

“Our objective should be to replace that very large set of expiring tax provisions and broad-based, automatic, pretty crude spending cuts with a more responsible, balanced glide path to fiscal sustainability,” he said.

Next year’s fiscal crisis has been brewing since early last decade, when successive Republican Congresses used budget rules to pass large but temporary tax cuts that could not be filibustered. The tax cuts expire en masse at the end of this year after Mr. Obama and Republican leaders agreed on a two-year extension. But the president has vowed not to extend the tax cuts for upper-income families again. Regardless of the election results, he will still be in the White House on Jan. 1.

Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, said: “The American people are tired of kicking things down the road. We’ve got to get this done and done the right way.”

Top aides to Mr. Romney declined to say whether the campaign planned his speech to coincide with Mr. Boehner’s. But as Mr. Romney’s presidential campaign merges its operations more fully with the Republican establishment in Washington, the messages are becoming more similar. Republicans also have indicated they were eager to shift the discussion from social topics like same-sex marriage back to economic issues, which they believe play more to their advantage.

“The Obama campaign wants everybody to be distracted by shiny objects,” said Rich Beeson, Mr. Romney’s political director. “He promised he would cut the debt, and he has not done that.”

The exchange on fiscal policy came on the eve of a Senate budget showdown engineered by Republicans using an obscure procedural provision that says any senator can bring forward a budget if the Budget Committee fails to produce one by April 1.

The main objective of the Republicans is to embarrass the president by forcing the Senate to vote on his budget, which may not get a single vote. That is not because no one supports his plan, but because a presidential budget — which finances the government line by line, agency by agency — is much more detailed than a Congressional budget, which creates a broad outline for spending and taxes to be filled in later by the committees of jurisdiction. Accepting a presidential budget in its totality would be tantamount to ceding Congress’s constitutional power of the purse.

But Republicans have not been able to unify around an alternative. Instead, they will bring forward four different budgets for the 2013 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1 — with a budget passed by House Republicans viewed as the most liberal of the lot. One by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky would eliminate the Departments of Education, Commerce and Energy; cut the National Park Service by 30 percent and NASA by a quarter; and end Medicare in 2014. Senator Mike Lee of Utah proposes a budget that would raise the retirement age to 68, cut the size of government in half over 25 years, and end the payroll tax as well as all taxes on savings and investment and replace them with a 25 percent flat tax.

“These are not serious in nature,” said Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, the majority leader. “These are all just for show.” Senate Democrats have not moved forward on a budget in large part because Democratic leaders did not want to highlight internal divisions over spending and taxes or subject senators facing tough re-elections to the difficult votes Republicans would force on a budget.

Democrats’ coming convention disaster
Last Updated: 11:57 PM, June 22, 2012
Posted: 11:07 PM, June 22, 2012

There aren’t Greek columns tall or wide enough to camouflage Barack Obama’s impending North Carolina catastrophe. In September, the campaigner-in-chief will travel to Charlotte for his party’s presidential nominating convention. But the southern swing state is turning into a Democratic disaster zone.

Start with the North Carolina Democratic Party. At the state party convention last week, Obama for America was AWOL. The glaring absence of high-level national Obama surrogates was noted “as odd,” according to the Charlotte News and Observer. There’s good reason to steer clear: The party is embroiled in a sordid sex scandal that won’t go away.

Earlier this year, former party communications staffer Adriadn Ortega, 26, accused former state party Executive Director Jay Parmley of repeated sexual harassment and physical groping. Documents leaked to the conservative Daily Caller news site revealed a hush-hush financial settlement involving the two men. Ortega was fired; Parmley resigned; state Democrats went into panic mode.

‘‘If this hits the media, the Democratic Party, our candidates and our credibility are doomed in this election,” a local candidate complained to North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman David Parker. A defiant Parker resisted statewide calls (including a desperate request from outgoing Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue) to resign. Ortega filed a defamation suit against Parker and the state party last week.

The White House, which has trumpeted its stand against workplace harassment, has been mute on the story.

Other Democrats are boycotting North Carolina to avoid an entirely different taint: the scandal-plagued president himself. By’s count, at least seven Democratic officials will skip: New York Reps. Bill Owens and Kathy Hochul; Pennsylvania Rep. Mark Critz; three endangered politicians from West Virginia, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Sen. Joe Manchin, and Rep. Nick Rahall; and Utah Rep. Jim Matheson.

The Democratic boycotters have dinged Obama on everything from his election-year illegal-alien amnesty to his failed jobs programs to his destructive war on coal. While “Forward!” may be the official Obama campaign slogan, “Back Away!” is quickly becoming the dissenting Democrats’ rallying cry.

North Carolina is riling Obama’s left flank, too. And national media outlets are noticing. In a piece on the convention “going awry,” Bloomberg News reported:

‘‘Voters just approved a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, which conflicts with Obama’s view on the issue. Convention fund-raising has been slow, and labor unions tapped to fill the financial gap are angry the convention will be in a city — Charlotte — with no unionized hotels and in a state where compulsory union membership or the payment of dues is prohibited as an employment condition.”

Thousands of anarchists, socialists and professional agitators also plan on protesting in Charlotte. Self-declared progressives can’t ignore Team Obama’s in-your-face decision to deliver his presidential nomination acceptance speech at bailed-out Bank of America Stadium.

As I’ve reported previously:

* The financially troubled bank snagged a middle-of-the-night, taxpayer-funded $45 billion banking bailout in 2008 and an estimated $931 billion in secret federal emergency loans.

* In 2008, BofA’s political action committee gave its biggest contributions to Obama totaling $421,000.

* After purchasing junk mortgage company Countrywide, BofA agreed to pay $50 million in restitution payments on behalf of Countrywide subprime-loan fraudster and Democratic fat cat Angelo Mozilo and an underling.

Disgruntled leftists. Disgruntled centrists. Disgruntled unions. Disgruntled corporate donors. Sexual-harassment scandal. Fund-raising woes. And to top it all off: unrepentant class-warfare hypocrisy packaged as “The People’s Convention” and brought to you by Bank of America.

The DNC promises to be a public-relations nightmare for Obama’s optics geniuses. Too bad he can’t send his autopen instead.

Obama: Stop Condescending to Women
May 19, 2012

WHEN I listen to President Obama speak to and about women, he sometimes sounds too paternalistic for my taste. In numerous appearances over the years — most recently at the Barnard graduation — he has made reference to how women are smarter than men. It’s all so tired, the kind of fake praise showered upon those one views as easy to impress. As I listen, I am always bracing for the old go-to cliché: “Behind every great man is a great woman.”

Some women are smarter than men and some aren’t. But to suggest to women that they deserve dominance instead of equality is at best a cheap applause line.

My bigger concern is that in courting women, Mr. Obama’s campaign so far has seemed maddeningly off point. His message to the Barnard graduates was that they should fight for a “seat at the table” — the head seat, he made sure to add. He conceded that it’s a tough economy, but he told the grads, “I am convinced you are tougher” and “things will get better — they always do.”

Hardly reassuring words when you look at the reality. According to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, about 53.6 percent of men and women under the age of 25 who hold bachelor’s degrees were jobless or underemployed last year, the most in at least 11 years. According to the Pew Research Center, if we broaden the age group to 18- to 29-year-olds, an estimated 37 percent are unemployed or out of the work force, the highest share in more than three decades.

The human faces shouldn’t get lost amid the statistics. I spent last weekend with a friend who attended excellent private schools and graduated from Tufts University two years ago. She’s intelligent, impressive and still looking for a full-time job.

The women I know who are struggling in this economy couldn’t be further from the fictional character of Julia, presented in Mr. Obama’s Web ad, “The Life of Julia,” a silly and embarrassing caricature based on the assumption that women look to government at every meaningful phase of their lives for help.

My cousin in Louisiana started a small company with a little savings, renovating houses. A single mom, she saved enough to buy a home and provide child care for her son. When the economy went belly up, so did her company. She was forced to sell her home and move in with her parents. She has found another job, but doesn’t make enough to move out. Family, not government, has been everything to her at this time of crisis. She, and they, wouldn’t have it any other way.

Another member of my family left her job at an adoption agency just before the economy crashed. Also a single mother, she has been looking for a way back to a full-time job ever since. She has been selling things on eBay to make ends meet. Friends and family, not government, have been there at the dire moments when she has asked them to be. Again, she, and they, wouldn’t have it any other way.

This is not to say that government doesn’t play a role in their lives. It does and it should. But it isn’t a dominant one, and certainly not an overwhelming factor in their daily existence.

It’s obvious why the president is doing a full-court press for the vote of college-educated women in particular. The Republican primaries probably did turn some women away. Rick Santorum did his party no favors when he spoke about women in combat (“I think that can be a very compromising situation, where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interest of the mission, because of other types of emotions that are involved”); when he described the birth of a child from rape as “a gift in a very broken way”; and how, if he was president, he would make the case for the damage caused by contraception.

But Mitt Romney will never be confused with Rick Santorum on these issues, and many women understand that. (I should disclose here that my husband is an adviser to Mr. Romney; I have no involvement with any campaign, and have been an independent journalist throughout my career.) The struggling women in my life all laughed when I asked them if contraception or abortion rights would be a major factor in their decision about this election. For them, and for most other women, the economy overwhelms everything else.

Another recent Pew Research Center survey found that voters, when thinking about whom to vote for in the fall, are most concerned about the economy (86 percent) and jobs (84 percent). Near the bottom of the list were some of the hot-button social issues.

Tiffany Dufu, who heads the White House Project, a nonpartisan group aimed at training young women for careers in politics and business, got a similar response when she informally polled young women in her organization. “The issues that have been defined as all women care about are way off — young women feel it has put them further in a box they don’t necessarily want to be in,” she told me. “Independence is what is so important to these women.”

I have always admired President Obama and I agree with him on some issues, like abortion rights. But the promise of his campaign four years ago has given way to something else — a failure to connect with tens of millions of Americans, many of them women, who feel economic opportunity is gone and are losing hope. In an effort to win them back, Mr. Obama is trying too hard. He’s employing a tone that can come across as grating and even condescending. He really ought to drop it. Most women don’t want to be patted on the head or treated as wards of the state. They simply want to be given a chance to succeed based on their talent and skills. To borrow a phrase from our president’s favorite president, Abraham Lincoln, they want “an open field and a fair chance.”

In the second decade of the 21st century, that isn’t asking too much.

Campbell Brown is a former news anchor for CNN and NBC.

O’s campaign gets creepy
Last Updated: 3:57 AM, May 4, 2012
Posted: 10:02 PM, May 3, 2012

The political world was transfixed yesterday by the Obama campaign’s release of a Web slide show called “The Life of Julia.” It takes about two minutes to get through, and its purpose is to wow American women with all the glorious government goodies they can and should claim throughout their lives — just so long as Mitt Romney doesn’t get elected and take them all away.

It takes us on a chronological journey through Julia’s life. We stop every few years and are instructed about the ways in which government programs are cosseting her, guiding her, giving her a leg up, keeping her safe from harm and even graciously allowing her “not to worry about her health” so she can focus on her career as a Web designer.

At the age of 31, Julia “decides to have a child” — apparently by immaculate conception, since there is neither a mate nor artificial-insemination facility in view. In the next slide, when his mother is 37, little Zachary goes off to kindergarten.

For even this commonplace event, Julia will have President Obama to thank, since “the schools in their neighborhood have better facilities and great teachers because of President Obama’s investments in education.”

At 42, when Julia wants to start her own Web-design business, she doesn’t have to go it alone. Thankfully, the Small Business Administration is there with a loan for her.

Eventually, she reaches 65 and is presented with the ultimate goodie: Medicare. And with that, we draw a veil over the rest of Julia’s life (before the death panels convene to put her out on the ice floe, perhaps).

The slide show concludes with the words: “From cracking down on gender discrimination in health-care costs to fighting for equal pay, President Obama is standing up for women throughout their lives.”

“Julia” is a fascinating document — fascinating and instructive when it comes to its portrayal of the kind of life Obama and his people think American women should have.

The slide show basically says that women need government programs from cradle to grave if they want to have a productive life — to get an education, stay healthy, have children, see those children educated and find meaningful work themselves “throughout their lives.”

The message of “Julia” is a complete vindication of Mitt Romney’s charge that Obama is trying to create a “government-centered society.”

No wonder, then, that the tone of “Life of Julia” is so astonishingly . . . paternalistic.

Remember that it is addressed specifically to female voters — white female voters, if the line-drawn depiction of Julia is any guide. But the images suggest drawings in a board book for toddlers, while the words suggest the Obama campaign believes adult females are best addressed as one would speak to a first grader.

“Julia” is an emblem of the brave new world of political campaigning. It was clearly conceived as a means of spreading the Obama gospel on Facebook. If you watch it on the Obama 2012 site and click the “like” button, “Julia” will immediately appear on your Facebook page, where others can watch it and click “share” to have it appear on their Facebook pages.

The November election results will go a long way toward telling us what kind of country Americans want the United States to be — whether they want to continue down the road to a European social democracy.

The response to “Julia” over the next few weeks will offer some early hints. If it really does go viral, maybe grown Americans really do want to be treated like children.

If it doesn’t, that will suggest even Obama enthusiasts don’t appreciate the condescension toward the value and virtue of independent human endeavor that is at the root of Obamaism.

"All for one and one for all" - no, that is Dumas - in this election, I would prefer "E Pluribus Unum" - out of many, one. 
National Review
By Charles Krauthammer
May 3, 2012 8:00 P.M.

    “The pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states . . . ”
    – Barack Obama, rising star, Democratic convention, 2004

Poor Solicitor General Donald Verrilli. Once again he’s been pilloried for fumbling a historic Supreme Court case. First shredded for his “train wreck” defense of Obamacare’s individual mandate, he is now blamed for the defenestration in oral argument of Obama’s challenge to the Arizona immigration law.

The law allows police to check the immigration status of someone stopped for other reasons. Verrilli claimed that constitutes an intrusion on the federal monopoly on immigration enforcement. He was pummeled. Why shouldn’t a state help the federal government enforce the law? “You can see it’s not selling very well,” said Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

But Verrilli never had a chance. This was never a serious legal challenge in the first place. It was confected (and timed) purely for political effect, to highlight immigration as a campaign issue with which to portray Republicans as anti-Hispanic.

Hispanics are just the beginning, however. The entire Obama campaign is a slice-and-dice operation, pandering to one group after another, particularly those that elected Obama in 2008 — blacks, Hispanics, women, young people — and for whom the thrill is now gone.

What to do? Try fear. Create division, stir resentment, by whatever means necessary — bogus court challenges, dead-end Senate bills, and a forest of straw men.

Why else would the Justice Department challenge the photo-ID law in Texas? To charge Republicans with seeking to disenfranchise Hispanics and blacks, of course. But in 2008 the Supreme Court upheld a similar law from Indiana. And it wasn’t close: 6–3, the majority including that venerated liberal, John Paul Stevens.

Moreover, photo IDs were recommended by the 2005 Commission on Federal Election Reform, co-chaired by Jimmy Carter. And you surely can’t get into the attorney general’s building without one. Are Stevens, Carter, and Eric Holder anti-Hispanic and anti-black?

The ethnic bases covered, we proceed to the “war on women.” It sprang to public notice when a 30-year-old student at an elite law school (starting private-sector salary upon graduation: $160,000) was denied the inalienable right to have the rest of the citizenry (as co-insured and/or taxpayers — median household income: $52,000) pay for her contraception.

Despite a temporary setback — Hilary Rosen’s hastily surrendered war on moms — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will resume the battle with a Paycheck Fairness Act that practically encourages frivolous lawsuits and has zero chance of passage.

No matter. Its sole purpose is to keep the war-on-women theme going, while the equally just-for-show Buffett Rule, nicely pitting the 99 percent versus the 1 percent, is a clever bit of class warfare designed to let Democrats play tribune of the middle class.

Ethnicity, race, gender, class. One more box to check: the young. Just four years ago, they swooned in the aisles for Obama. No longer. Not when 54 percent of college graduates under 25 are unemployed or underemployed.

How to shake them from their lethargy? Fear again. Tell them, as Obama repeatedly does, that Paul Ryan’s budget would cut Pell Grants by $1,000 each, if his domestic cuts were evenly distributed. (They are not evenly distributed, making the charge a fabrication. But a great applause line.)

Then warn that Republicans would double the interest rate on student loans. Well, first, Mitt Romney has said he would keep them right where they are. Second, as the Washington Post points out, this is nothing but a recycled campaign gimmick from 2006, when Democrats advocated (and later passed) a 50 percent rate cut that gratuitously squanders student aid by subsidizing the wealthy as well as the needy.

For Obama, what’s not to like? More beneficiaries, more votes.

What else to run on with 1.7 percent GDP growth (2011), record long-term joblessness, and record 8 percent-plus unemployment (38 consecutive months, as of this writing)? Slice and dice, group against group.

There is a problem, however. It makes a mockery of Obama’s pose as the great transcender, uniter, healer of divisions. This is the man who sprang from nowhere with that thrilling 2004 convention speech declaring that there is “not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.”

That was then. Today, we are just sects with quarrels — to be exploited for political advantage. And Obama is just the man to fulfill Al Gore’s famous mistranslation of our national motto: Out of one, many.

Following overturning of Affordable Health Care Act, perhaps, this is an excellent message to the 99%?

From the Washington Times, 6-23-12
"...The 'Obama Event Registry' asks people planning weddings to have guests send a donation to the campaign in place of a gift to the newlyweds. 'Let your friends know how important this election is to you,' the site exhorts. 'It’s a great way to support the president on your big day' and 'goes a lot further than a gravy bowl.'”

How many, we wonder, are ticked off at this Big Brother-like move?

The threat of using nuclear weapons was always the way the peace was kept during the Cold War;  now we are threatened by everyone!


Keep the First Amendment
National Review
By The Editors

April 23, 2012 4:00 A.M.

The phrase “stunning development” is used far too often in our politics, but here is an item that can be described in no other way: Nancy Pelosi and congressional Democrats, frustrated by the fact that the Bill of Rights interferes with their desire to muzzle their political opponents, have proposed to repeal the First Amendment.

That is precisely what the so-called People’s Rights Amendment would do. If this amendment were to be enacted, the cardinal rights protected by the First Amendment — free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances — would be redefined and reduced to the point of unrecognizability. The amendment would hold that the rights protected by the Constitution are enjoyed only by individuals acting individually; individuals acting in collaboration with others would be stripped of those rights.

The Supreme Court and U.S. law have long held that Americans do not surrender the rights they enjoy individually when they act in association with one another. This has been a fundamental feature of U.S. law since the very beginning, and even before that, inasmuch as the notion that collective action does not deprive us of our rights goes back into the Common Law as well. U.S. court cases going back to the 18th century recognize that fact, as does federal statute: 1 U.S.C. §1 reads in part: “the words ‘person’ and ‘whoever’ include corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals.”

Strange things give the Left the heebie-jeebies, and “corporate personhood” seems like a strange thing. But “corporate personhood” is simply the notion that incorporated groups — businesses, political parties, unions, nonprofits, etc. — are single entities under the law. One would think that the Left would find this convenient: If Monsanto is not a “person” under the law, it cannot be regulated, taxed, sued, or fined, because for the purposes of the law it does not exist. Without the ability to treat enterprises as a single legal entity, there would be no redress for damages caused by a defective GM vehicle except to file claims against each individual owner of the 1.57 billion shares of GM stock outstanding.

But if GM and Monsanto can be sued, then they can defend themselves from suits. If they can be taxed on their property, then they can own property. If they have liabilities under contracts, then they have rights under contracts, too. If they have liabilities under the law, then they have rights under the law.

But the Occupy Left and the Democrats who sympathize with those ignorant misfits resent the fact that some business enterprises oppose their political agenda and support their opponents. (And some don’t: Wall Street gave generously to the Democratic party, and to Barack Obama particularly, in the 2008 election cycle.) The Left controls the unions, the government bureaucracies, most of the media, and the educational establishments, but its dreams of taxation and regulation do not sit particularly well with many who have to pay those taxes and suffer the regulation. The answer, in the mind of Pelosi et al., is to strip those opponents of their political rights.

The so-called People’s Rights Amendment would have some strange consequences: Newspapers, television networks, magazines, and online journalism operations typically are incorporated. So are political parties and campaign committees, to say nothing of nonprofits, business associations, and the like. Under the People’s Rights Amendment, Thomas Friedman would still enjoy putative First Amendment protection, but it would not do him much good inasmuch as the New York Times Company, being a corporation, would no longer be protected by the First Amendment. In short, any political speech more complex than standing on a soapbox at an intersection would be subject to the whims of Nancy Pelosi.

Representative Donna Edwards, a Maryland Democrat, nonchalantly concluded that the amendment would of course strip even political campaigns of the First Amendment rights: “All of the speech which, whether it’s corporations of campaign committees and others engage in, would be able to be fully regulated under the authority of the Congress.” The entire point of having a Bill of Rights is that there are some things Congress may not do. “Congress shall make no law” is a phrase that Democrats cannot abide, apparently.

One of the great dangers of such efforts to regulate political speech is that it puts incumbents in charge of setting the rules of the game under which their power and their position may be challenged. That is a recipe for abuse and corruption, and for smothering those critics who would draw attention to abuse and corruption.

Nancy Pelosi proposes to amend the Constitution the way the iceberg amended the Titanic. The First Amendment has served us well. Nancy Pelosi has not, but she has led her Democrats to a disturbing place in their quest to secure power, even at the cost of cashing in the Bill of Rights.

And a companion article here.
Connecticut health insurers say end of health mandate is end of reform
Ana Radelat, CT MIRROR
March 19, 2012

Washington -- Few will be watching the arguments next week in front of the Supreme Court over the health care law more closely than Connecticut insurers whose financial health hinges on the justices' decision.

At the heart of the legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act is a mandate that will require most Americans either to buy health insurance or pay a fine.  But if the mandate goes, the industry says, so must the reforms, especially the most popular one that would bar insurers from denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing health conditions.  The mandate, which would bring many young and healthy people into insurance pools, is what persuaded health insurers to accept other reforms in the health care act.

"If you're going to ... take all comers, which the law requires by 2014, then you have to have a means to get the healthy people into the pool also," said Mickey Herbert, former CEO of ConnectiCare. "And that's where I think the insurance industry is really nervous right now about how this thing could play out."

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and the America's Health Insurance Plans filed a companion brief to the case before the Supreme Court in the hope that the justices in their ruling will to allow them to wiggle out of several reforms. The brief is supported by Connecticut's insurers, including Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Cigna.

"Were the mandate to be invalidated, those interdependent legislative provisions would be torn apart and the 'essential' counterbalance stripped away, leaving the insurance-market reforms incapable by themselves of functioning as Congress intended," the insurers' brief said.

It warned of a "market wide adverse-selection death spiral" that would "thwart rather than advance Congress's goal of expanding affordable health care."

Besides an end to the ban on denial of coverage to any American, even those with pre-existing health conditions, insurers want to eliminate a requirement that they uses a community rating system. That system prevents health plans from setting premium prices based on an individual's medical history, age or other factors, like smoking.

"The brief is intended to serve as a resource to deepen the Court's understanding of the real-world economic implications for consumers of delinking major provisions of the law that were widely understood to be companion solutions as the nation debated health care reform," an AHIP release said.

A Powerful Ally

To be argued from March 26-28, the case before the Supreme Court pits the Obama administration against the National Association of Independent Businesses and 26 states that say Congress overstepped its authority by requiring Americans to obtain health insurance. A decision on the case is expected in June.

The administration is going to argue for the Supreme Court to keep the health care act intact. Administration officials will also argue that if the mandate is judged unconstitutional, insurers should be required to cover sick people or use community rating in setting premiums.  The administration thinks this is the only way to salvage some of the health care bill, its biggest accomplishment.

Like the insurers, Farmington-based Advocacy for Patients with Chronic Illness has filed a brief in the health care case urging the court to reject the challenge to the ACA. It realizes premiums would skyrocket if insurers were forced to cover people with pre-existing conditions without the mandate.

But Jennifer C. Jaff, executive director of the Farmington group, disagrees with the insurers and the administration that certain reforms are irretrievably linked to the mandate. "I think there are other mechanisms to try to encourage healthy people to purchase insurance," Jaff said.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said it's unlikely that insurers will be freed from some of the act's reforms.

"It's not right legally and it's not right morally," he said.

Blumenthal acknowledged that Connecticut's health insurers "will be in a difficult position," and said he'd assist them in seeking help from state regulators on the issue.

"But they just can't ignore the law," he said.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, is more sympathetic.

"Unless you have a mandate, the insurance companies will not have the money to cover all the things in the Affordable Care Act," Lieberman said.

He said it was a "mistake" to not include a severability clause in the ACA and indicated that Congress may have to revisit the issue.

"If the Supreme Court finds the mandate unconstitutional, the Affordable Care Act has to change," Lieberman said.

Skyrocketing Premiums

As evidence that reforms don't work without a mandate, health insurers are citing eight states -- Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Washington -- that barred insurers from rejecting anyone who wanted coverage but failed to force healthy people to buy insurance.

"Our role now is to highlight the experience in those states that tried market reforms without a mandate," said AHIP spokesman Robert Zirkelbach. "Premiums skyrocketed, consumers had fewer choices and the number of uninsured went up."

Stephen Wermiel, who teaches constitutional law at the American University Washington College of Law, said, "it's a tricky issue" for the court to agree to throw out other parts of the health care law with the mandate.

The 11th Circuit Court decision the appeal to the Supreme Court is based upon ruled that the mandate should be eliminated, but kept the rest of the ACA intact.

The high court will also consider whether the ACA's expansion of Medicaid, the government's health program for the poor, is constitutional.

Since Medicaid is a shared federal/state program, states will eventually have to pay for some of that expansion, prompting more than half of them to challenge that requirement.

Wermiel declined to predict what the Supreme Court would do. "The ultimate outcome could take a lot of shapes and forms," he said.

Agency investigates call menacing phone message
Associated Press
Article published Feb 29, 2012

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Officials at the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection are investigating whether Deputy Commissioner Jonathan Schrag left a menacing phone message for the leader of a conservative women's group.

The Hartford Courant reports ( ) that Cynthia David of Essex, leader of the Conservative Women's Forum, received a voicemail message last Thursday night that had Schrag's voice, and the caller's phone number was the same as Schrag's cell phone.

The message doesn't mention David's name, but suggests her emails are being monitored. David had criticized a state environmental initiative.

Schrag denies making the call, but acknowledges the voice on the message is his. He told a Courant columnist he believes someone may have recorded private remarks he made in a social setting and played them during the phone call.

Menacing Message Points Back To DEEP Official
Hartford  Courant
Kevin Rennie
6:56 PM EST, February 28, 2012

"One way to push back on e-mails is to freak someone out," Jonathan Schrag, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, recalled saying in a social setting. Schrag, in an interview Tuesday, would not describe the setting or the person he claims to have made the comment to. But he said he told that person that this message should be delivered to a political enemy: "We are calling from the Democratic Electronic Monitoring Service. We understand that you are an e-mailer with respect to Democratic candidates. We wish you to know that your e-mails are being observed. Thank you."

Last week, a call from Schrag's private cellphone number left that menacing message at 11:45 Thursday night at the home of Cynthia David, leader of the Conservative Women's Forum. The forum is an informal group of 300 women who hold monthly lunches that feature a speaker. Typically, 100 women attend. They send e-mails now and then alerting each other to issues of interest. They do not raise money or endorse candidates.

David felt menaced by the late-night message warning her that her e-mails were being "observed." It "scares the @#$% out of me," David told me Tuesday.

Here's a stunning fluke in this incredible series of events. Last week, David sent an e-mail to members of her group alerting them to a public hearing today on a coastal management bill in the legislature that would give the state extraordinary authority to take private property along the shoreline. Her e-mail included links to the bill, an analysis and some commentary. There was nothing unusual about it in this age of activism and easy communication among like-minded people on the Internet. David did not attend the hearing. It was the first time she'd sent an e-mail to members of the group on a DEEP matter.

Schrag, interviewed by phone Tuesday afternoon, said, "It's not clear to me how this happened. I'm concerned. I'm confused. I certainly don't mean anyone any ill intent." The Fulbright scholar declared, "I'm not a bad guy."

Schrag's explanation for the disturbing incident evolved Tuesday. Through a spokesman, Dennis Schain, Schrag at first said that he'd lost his personal and and state cellphones last week and had reported their disappearance. By late afternoon, Schrag was offering an intricate, improbable explanation: Someone recorded his private conversation, edited a snippet, made a call on a number that's the same as his cellphone — but it didn't come from him — and left the ugly thought on the answering machine of a stranger who happens to be a conservative activist. And that was his defense.

On one thing Schrag and David agree: From any angle, it's "bizarre." David, who owns a small business, says, "Something is amiss with a Harvard graduate, a deputy commissioner, who would do this."

Giving Schrag every benefit of the doubt and straining to suspend my powers of disbelief, his explanation beggars belief. He declined to provide details of the private conversation during which someone apparently surreptitiously recorded the smash-mouth tactics of someone who says he's not a partisan.

On Tuesday afternoon, DEEP spokesman Schain suggested that any kind of trickery could be done with technology. How Schrag's personal cell number, in his possession when the late-night dialing occurred, found its way to David and left the ugly message on David's voice mail flummoxes the deputy commissioner of complicated subjects. Maybe it was a pocket dial, he mused. That would mean he had to have had her number on his cell.

The call to David also comports with a disturbing theme emerging in the Malloy administration. Some of its members, including at times the governor, mistake power for truth. Malloy's narrow victory gave him and his people power. They also believe it made them the repository of truth. Those who disagree or cross them, whether it's a bond ratings agency, Department of Transportation snowplow drivers, state police or legislators who question the administration, are met with a harsh lash. Dissent is not tolerated. The backlash is always disproportionate to the difference.

The midnight call from Schrag's cellphone caught the spirit of the administration he serves in.

Cops: Father hit son for not watching State of the Union
Staff reports
Published 09:23 a.m., Thursday, February 23, 2012

STAMFORD -- A North Stamford father trying to make his pre-teen son listen to President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech nearly a month ago, was arrested on a warrant Wednesday for striking his son with a coffee mug when the youth would not pay attention.

Mohamed Shohan, 49, of 55 Mather Road, Stamford, was charged with third-degree assault, disorderly conduct and risk of injury to a child. He was released after posting $5,000 bond and will be arraigned on the charges at state Superior Court in Stamford Thursday.

Youth Bureau Sgt. Joseph Kennedy said police were made aware of the assault on Jan. 27 when the youth was brought to Stamford Hospital for treatment of an injury to his face.

When police interviewed the 11-year-old boy, he told them that his father recorded Obama's State of the Union address on Jan. 25 and the two sat down to watch it at home the next day, Kennedy said.

When the boy kept acting out, the father lost his temper and grabbed a coffee mug that his son was holding in his hand and hit him in the face with it, causing a bruise to the bridge of his nose.

When interviewed by police, Shohan could not explain how his son was injured. Over the past three weeks, police applied for and obtained an arrest warrant for Shohan.

"The father ended up overreacting quite a bit," Kennedy said.

August 14 Primaries for U.S. Senate for both major Parties(l to r)
Winner of Democrat Primary Chris Murphy v. Susan
Bysiewicz;  winner of Republican Primary Linda McMahon v. Chris Shays

One In Four Senate Candidates Pans Obama’s Middle Class Tax Cut
by Christine Stuart | Jul 10, 2012 5:30am

All four candidates for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut responded Monday to President Barack Obama’s plan to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire for the wealthiest Americans, while keeping them in place for one year for the middle class. But surprisingly only one in four panned the proposal.

“I just believe that anybody making over $250,000 a year should go back to the income tax rates we were paying under Bill Clinton—back when our economy created nearly 23 million new jobs, the biggest budget surplus in history, and plenty of millionaires to boot,” Obama said during his noon press conference in the East Room of the White House.

Republican candidate Linda McMahon agreed. Seven-minutes after his press conference aired, McMahon put out a press release touting her proposal to extend the tax cuts to the middle class.

“President Obama and I agree that Congress must extend the current tax rates for the middle class,” McMahon said. “Last week’s jobs numbers reminded us that no matter what career politicians may say, our economy is still sluggish and middle-class families are hurting. We should not be raising taxes on anyone right now.“

She said that’s why middle class tax relief is the centerpiece of her economic plan, which proposes decreasing the middle class tax rate from 25 to 15 percent. However, it should be noted she wants to maintain the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals also.

Her Republican opponent, former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays, couldn’t disagree more with what Obama said Monday.

“The only way to describe the President’s press conference today is insanity,” Shays said. “It makes no sense to raise taxes when the economy continues to falter. It is simply the wrong approach that will actually make our economy worse.”

Shays accused Obama of playing “class warfare.”

“Class warfare may win an election, but it divides our country and hurts our economy,” Shays said.

He suggested focusing on getting the country’s fiscal house in order and simplifying the tax code as the path toward economic growth.

Democratic candidates Susan Bysiewicz and Chris Murphy both applauded Obama’s proposal.

“Extending these cuts for the middle class and small businesses are an important way to make the tax code work for the middle class,” Bysiewicz said.

Sticking with her anti-Wall Street theme, Bysiewicz said Congress needs to “end corporate welfare by eliminating all special interest tax breaks and the hedge fund loophole that allows speculators to pay a lower tax rate than the middle class, end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, and fix the alternative minimum tax, which makes many middle class families pay a higher tax rate than the wealthiest Americans.”

Murphy, who had to cancel a campaign stop in New Haven Monday morning, issued a brief statement in support of the president’s proposal.

“I’ve always believed that Congress should preserve tax cuts for the overwhelming majority of Americans while it works on broader tax reform that will ask the wealthiest amongst us to pay a little bit more to help bring down our deficit,” Murphy said in a statement.

In Weston, 297 vote in Presidential Primary - Mitt Romney 250, Newt Gingrich 20, Ron Paul 17, Rick Santorum 4, Uncommitted 6



Republican Convention will be held in May in Hartford;  1,250 delegates expected, one of the five candidates gets inside track heading into the August primary. Democrats have contest, too

Yes, that's the Weston Town Hall Meeting Room (2009)
The Sec'y of the State comes to swearing-in of Weston Board of Selectmen.

Bysiewicz stays in the fray

Ken Dixon, CT POST
Updated 06:28 p.m., Saturday, May 12, 2012

NEW BRITAIN -- Susan Bysiewicz got what she wanted on Saturday, in a Democratic State Convention that was low on suspense, controversy or even nasty words.

Bysiewicz's 444 delegates equaled 24 percent of the total vote, 10 percent more than what she needed to avoid a promised petition campaign to force an Aug. 14 primary.

The four-term secretary of the state's supporters remained generally solid amid attempts to get them to flip for U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy during a morning-long gathering of party insiders in Kaiser Hall at Central Connecticut State University.

During recounts of the delegates, only a handful changed to Murphy, who ended up with 76 percent of the 1,842 delegates.

Bysiewicz, 50, of Middletown, said the primary will be a good process for Democrats to keep their issues alive this summer. Republicans appear headed for their own primary, too, as Linda McMahon, of Greenwich, and former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, of Bridgeport, compete for their party's endorsement.

"We thought we would have more than enough to get on the ballot, and clearly we did, so we're very proud to have that and very appreciative of all the delegate support," said Bysiewicz, who the state Supreme Court ruled two years ago could not run for state attorney general because she had not been actively practicing law.

"I'm looking forward to having a very productive conversation about job creation, about bringing our young people back from Afghanistan, about holding Wall Street accountable for the financial mess that they've made and about closing the tax loopholes that let people like Mitt Romney pay only 15 percent," she said.

Bysiewicz's delegates said that they honored their commitments to her because of help she offered them in the past.

Rose Lodice, of Trumbull, the former town clerk, said Bysiewicz was helpful.

"I found her to be very effective in modernizing the secretary of the state's office and putting many functions on computer," Lodice said. "I feel that she would bring that same dedication and experience and work ethic to the Senate."

Hector Diaz, a former state representative from Bridgeport, said he cast his vote for Bysiewicz because they've been longtime friends.

"At every political event I have ever attended in Bridgeport, as far back as I can remember, Susan's been there with us," Diaz said. "She's been a voice on this side of the state for the issue of Bridgeport and I would hope that she will carry that on to Washington and when she's there, she'll help Bridgeport again."

Diaz said he believes primaries are healthy for the party.

But Nancy DiNardo, of Trumbull, the Democratic State Central Committee chairwoman, said a primary is a threat to the party's ability to wage a successful fall campaign against either Shays, or McMahon, who spent $50 million of her own in 2010 in a losing attempt against now-U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

"Primaries always end up costing more money and a candidate has to raise more money, so if it is at all possible, it would be nice if we could just focus on the general election and get Chris Murphy out there," DiNardo said. "But Susan got 24 percent of the vote and it's certainly her right to primary if she so chooses."

"About Town" interviewed Rob Simmons in early 2010;  second try for Senate for McMahon (c) and uphill climb back and Primary for former Congressman.Shays.

GOP endorses McMahon over Shays by nearly 2-1 margin
Mark Pazniokas, CT MIRROR
May 18, 2012

Hartford -- Linda McMahon won the Republican endorsement for U.S. Senate on Friday night for the second time in two years, setting the stage for another August primary with another former congressman, Chris Shays.  McMahon, a World Wrestling Entertainment co-founder who spent $50 million on a losing Senate race in 2010, is vying with Shays for the rarest of political opportunities: a second shot at an open Senate seat.

Delegates gave 60 percent of the vote to McMahon and 32 percent to Shays. The rest of the field -- Brian K. Hill, Peter Lumaj and Kie Westby -- fell well short of the 15 percent threshold to automatically qualify for a primary before vote switching began.

The night ended with overtones of a reality TV show or, perhaps, a WWE drama.  Denied the stage while party officials struggled to get a final vote after last-minute vote switching, McMahon grabbed a live microphone on the convention floor and began addressing the delegates and media in the fast-emptying exhibition hall of the Connecticut Convention Center.

"In this hand is the speech I was going to give tonight, but you have waited way too long, and I just wanted to have a chance to thank you and to tell you what a good race this was, that all of the candidates tonight are excellent leaders who love their state, and they love their country," McMahon said. "But now is the time for us to unite and push forward."

McMahon made an appeal for Shays, who served in Congress from 1987 to 2009, to drop out of the race, a theme her campaign began sounding as the votes still were being tallied.

"This is a decisive victory and a clear signal Republicans want a jobs creator, not a career politician," said Corry Bliss, her campaign manager. "Congressman Shays should reflect on tonight's results."

Shays says he is committed to the primary on Aug. 14, when both parties will select nominees for open Senate and 5th Congressional seats.  Two years ago, McMahon staged a narrow convention victory over another former congressman, Rob Simmons. He ran a passive-aggressive primary, staying on the ballot but ceasing to actively campaign in the face of McMahon's heavy spending.  Simmons, who was at the convention supporting Shays, said he made a mistake in 2010 with a make-or-break effort to win the convention.

"Shays needs a nice number to primary. He has it," Simmons said. "Now, maybe the voters will favor a candidate who can win."

The winner of the GOP primary this year will try to become the first Republican to win a U.S. Senate race in Connecticut since Lowell P. Weicker Jr. of Greenwich was elected in 1982 to his third and final term.  The seat is now held by Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, who defeated Weicker in 1988 and is retiring after 24 years in the Senate.  In McMahon and Shays, GOP voters have to choose between two candidates with obvious strengths and weaknesses, each of whom were rejected by Connecticut voters in the past four years.

Shays, 66, who represented Stamford in the General Assembly and the 4th District in Congress, has built a campaign around one issue: electability. He points to a record of winning elections and polling that shows him best matching up with the endorsed Democrat, U.S. Rep. Christopher Murphy.

"This time, we're going to be working as hard as we can to convince Republican voters that if you want someone who can win, and you don't want Chris Murphy, I think I'm your guy," Shays said.

Shays was elected to the General Assembly in 1974, swimming against a post-Watergate Democratic tide. He won a special election to Congress in 1987 after the death of U.S. Rep. Stewart McKinney, whose son, state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, nominated Shays on Friday.  He lost in 2008 to Democrat Jim Himes, who benefitted from the turnout Barack Obama generated in the district's largest city, Bridgeport.

Shays said he can win elections, while McMahon lost in a Republican year to Democrat Richard Blumenthal, a popular attorney general damaged by misstatements over his Vietnam-era service record.  McMahon, 63, of Greenwich, the former chief executive officer of the Stamford-based WWE, touts her record as a "jobs creator," echoing the pitch made at the top of the Republican ticket by Mitt Romney.  Unlike Shays, who has raised only $1 million since last fall, McMahon faces no doubts about her resources. She already has spent $3.8 million, with all but about $500,000 coming from her personal funds. The $50 million she spent in 2010 was five times greater than a typical winning statewide campaign in Connecticut.

Her challenge is to convince voters that her 43 percent share of the vote in 2010 was a base on which to build, not a ceiling. She lost by 12 percentage points Blumenthal.  McMahon was nominated Friday by four women, a target audience in her second run. Exit polling showed her suffering from a gender gap in 2010, and McMahon has made an effort to win over female voters.  Her nominators included Kathy McShane, the head of "Women for Linda," and Maureen Gagnon, who leads "Job Creators for McMahon." Another was Jayme Stevenson, the first selectwoman of Darien, where Shays grew up.

McMahon made an appeal to women in her truncated acceptance speech, noting it was 100 years ago that the first woman was elected to the U.S. Senate. If elected, she would be the first from Connecticut.

With a broad smile, she said, "Connecticut, we're tired of waiting."

It was an odd ending to a convention that otherwise had gone smoothly.  McMahon toured the floor after it was clear she would win, trailed by her husband, Vince McMahon, their children, Shane and Stephanie, their son-in-law, Paul Levesque, and her mother, Evelyn Carson. Delegates posed for photos with her husband, Vince, WWE's chairman and sometimes villain, and Levesque, a tall, ponytailed wrestler known to WWE fans as Triple-H.  As she did two years ago, McMahon eventually found herself down front on the convention floor, penned in by reporters and photographers, waiting to be called on stage. But the call never came.

Paul LaCivita, her national campaign consultant, approached her and said, "I have an idea."

LaCivita had realized that the microphones used by delegates to announce their votes were still live. McMahon, who was an occasional performer at WWE arena shows, grabbed a microphone and began addressing the hall, startling the party officials on stage.

At one point, she turned away from the delegates and toward the stage. She smiled and asked, "Still working up there, guys?"

CT GOP looks to curb influence-buying at convention
Neil Vigdor, Greenwich TIME
Updated 08:52 p.m., Saturday, February 18, 2012

From candidates doing business with conventioneers to wining and dining them, the Connecticut Republican Party is considering rules changes that could require delegates to the party conclave this spring to disclose such relationships, including any political donations that come their way.

The Republican leadership is said by those familiar with the process to be wrestling with the idea of making delegates sign forms or perhaps even wear badges on the convention floor disclosing that they have a financial interest, be it direct or indirect, with a candidate.  The call for greater transparency within the party apparatus can be traced back to the 2010 state GOP convention, where Linda McMahon edged former Congressman Rob Simmons for the Republican endorsement for U.S. Senate after a number of delegates flipped.

McMahon, $50 million lighter in the pocket from her unsuccessful campaign, is reprising her candidacy for the Senate this year against fellow Republicans Christopher Shays, Brian K. Hill, Kie Westby and Peter Lumaj.  The convention will be held in May in Hartford, with 1,250 delegates expected to take part in the proceedings that will give one of the five candidates the inside track heading into the August primary.

"Given the shenanigans that went on in 2010, there's not going to be a level playing field," Hill told Greenwich Time in a recent interview. "I can't say with 100 percent certainty, but, from what I'm told, the fix was on from the time the light switch was turned on."

Hill's comments coincide with an ongoing review of the party's convention rules by a subgroup of the State Republican Central Committee, which is expected to report back to Connecticut GOP Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. with recommendations by March.

"I have pledged to our party to run a healthy nominating process, to be open and transparent, and there will be no questions regarding the integrity of the process under my watch," Labriola said.

Labriola tasked the group with reviewing the process after a faction of the State Central Committee raised concerns about financial conflicts existing among convention delegates, prompting it to develop its own recommendations in December.

"These are important issues that are worthy of thoughtful deliberation and, consequently, I thought it would be best to have these issues studied more thoroughly by a subcommittee," Labriola said.

McMahon took no issue with the initiative in a statement from her campaign spokeswoman Erin Isaac.

"Our campaign is supportive of any efforts made by the State Central Committee to ensure a fair convention," Isaac said.

Among the delegates who switched their allegiances to McMahon at the last convention was Mark Pappa, a State Central Committee member from Rocky Hill who is on the special panel.

"I do think that we need better disclosure," Pappa said.

Pappa characterized the issue of delegates being financially beholden to a candidate as both real and perceived.

"I think the perception that the problem is very widespread is hurting the party," Pappa said.

Party rules limit the number of campaign workers actually allowed on the convention floor and require them to wear badges.  But that wouldn't stop third-party vendors who make campaign signs for a candidate or work as political or fundraising consultants from being a delegate and from exerting their influence over fellow conventioneers.

"They were working for Linda and were compensated," Pappa said. "So there was definitely a slight conflict of interest there."

Pappa emphasized that he wasn't singling out McMahon, and that all delegates, regardless of who they are supporting, should be up front about any relationships they have with the candidates.

"If you work for a candidate and you want to be a delegate, fine," Pappa said.

Republicans are often quick to point out that Suzan Bibisi, the wife of then-state GOP Chairman Christopher Healy, landed a public relations job with the McMahon campaign in 2010.

"There was no secret about it," Healy said. "It was all done very much on the up and up."

Healy said Republicans would be better served spending their time promoting the party and its candidates, not to mention fundraising, rather than trying to police conventioneers.

"First of all, I think it's unconstitutional," Healy said. "What someone does for a living should have no impact on whether they are deemed suitable to serve as a delegate or whether they are given a scarlet letter to wear at a convention. I don't know how you enforce it."

Healy bristled at accusations of some of his fellow Republicans that votes are for sale at the convention.

"I think it's insulting to a rank-and-file Republicans to think that they can be bought because someone bought a couple of tickets to a fundraiser or made a donation to a town committee," Healy said.

But Simmons, who went on to lose the 2010 GOP primary to McMahon and is supporting Shays this time, said it was difficult to compete with the money of his opponent at the last convention.

"People who went to the convention, some of them had financial interests in that campaign," Simmons said. "Members of their family were on the payroll."

Simmons declined to provide specific examples.

"The members of the state party must feel that way or they wouldn't be doing what they're doing," Simmons said. "If, in fact, you're on the payroll or your children or spouse are on the payroll of one of the candidates, that should be public knowledge and that could be grounds for not voting for one candidate or another."

Delegates are chosen by the town committees.

"We're not trying to prevent town committees from selecting who they want," said Michael Vitali, the Wallingford Republican in charge of the special panel. "The crux of what we're going for is disclosure of any pecuniary interest or paid positions with any campaign, whether inside of your district or not."

Vitali, who was a super delegate at the 2010 convention, said he did not witness any funny business.

"I didn't see any town chairmen really extorting or beating up or bullying fellow town committee members to vote for any particular member," Vitali said.

Efforts to reform the convention rules could be hindered by the fact that delegates are recognized as duly elected officials under state law, Vitali said.

"You've got to be careful that you don't run afoul of the governing law of the state," Vitali said.

If the party adopts new rules governing the convention, among those delegates who would presumably have to make a public disclosure would be Bob Zappi, the Republican Town Committee chairman of Westport. Shays is a client of Zappi's fundraising consulting firm.  In an interview earlier this month, Zappi told Greenwich Time that he prides himself on being open and transparent.  Amanda Bergen, a spokeswoman for Shays, echoed that in a statement to the newspaper Friday.

"As Christopher Shays has said many times before, this process needs to be transparent," Bergen said. "It needs to be open and transparent because that's the American way."

Hill, who ran for Senate as a write-in candidate in 2010, said he takes Labriola at his word that the history won't repeat itself.

"This is 101 Ethics," Hill said. "We're not following basic 101 Ethics in the Republican Party."

Hearst exclusive: Former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays to enter 2012 Senate race
Neil Vigdor, Staff Writer
Updated 12:40 p.m., Monday, August 22, 2011

Former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., is looking to disprove the adage: you can't go home again.

Shays, on sabbatical from Connecticut's political scene since his 2008 election loss, told Hearst Connecticut Newspapers on Monday that he will enter the race to succeed U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), who is retiring when his term expires in 2012.  The former congressman, unseated in 2008 by Democrat Jim Himes, sold his Bridgeport home shortly after the election and moved to Maryland. He was reinstated Friday as a voter in Bridgeport, where he and his wife, Betsi, bought a condominium last year when he was considering a run for governor.

"Betsi and I excited to be back in Connecticut," Shays said. "These are all the steps that I am taking so that I can have the opportunity to run for Senate. I hope to be on the ballot next November."

Shays, 65, is expected to face former wrestling executive Linda McMahon, who spent $50 million on an unsuccessful Senate bid in 2010, in next year's Republican primary.  A fixture in the House of Representatives from 1987 to 2008, Shays is a co-chairman of a special commission created by Congress to look into military contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The commission is scheduled to release its final report at the end of August and dissolve in September, leaving Shays with the ability to become a full-time candidate for the seat. Shays said Monday he'll file papers to enter the race on Oct. 3.

Election officials in Bridgeport confirmed that Shays and his wife appeared at the registrars of voters' office at 4 p.m. Friday to be reinstated to the city's voter rolls.

"They're fully registered voters," said Cisco Borres, the city's deputy Republican registrar. "All their rights as voters have been restored. They're good to go."

Shays lost his seat of 21 years in 2008 to Himes, who is serving his second term. During Shays' final term he was the lone New England Republican in the House.  Even though Shays and his wife moved to and registered to vote in St. Michaels, Md. after that race, Borres said they were listed as inactive voters in Bridgeport.

"He was never fully removed," Borres said.

Shays, who was born and raised in Connecticut but has been characterized by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee as a carpetbagger, said he once again holds a Connecticut driver's license.

"We're in the process of moving our legal address back into Connecticut," said Shays, who plans to keep his home in Maryland.

Shays declined to respond further to criticism from the DSCC.  A July poll by Frank Luntz showed Shays in a statistical dead-heat with U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., in a hypothetical matchup for Senate. The survey of 500 registered Connecticut voters had Murphy, who entered the race in January after Lieberman announced his retirement, leading Shays 42 to 40 percent.  The same poll had Murphy leading McMahon, the former chief executive of WWE who lost to longtime Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal in 2010, 52 to 36 percent.

McMahon is on the cusp of jumping into the race, which is also drawing interest from former Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele and David Walker, a former U.S. comptroller general who coincidentally bought Shays' former home in Bridgeport.  The same poll showed Shays leading former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, a Democrat, 48 to 37 percent.

In addition to Murphy and Bysiewicz, the Democratic field includes state Rep. William Tong, of Stamford.

Will Newton's return hurt Bridgeport?
Brian Lockhart, CT POST
Updated 08:50 a.m., Wednesday, May 23, 2012

State Sen. Ed Meyer favors second chances.  But Meyer, D-Guilford, said felon and former colleague Ernest E. Newton II would not receive a warm welcome if elected to the seat he resigned from in 2005 amid a federal corruption probe.

"He lied to us," Meyer said Tuesday.

As news spread that Bridgeport Democrats on Monday night had endorsed Newton to run for his former 23rd District seat, one-time colleagues and political observers agreed on two things: It will be difficult for the candidate to effectively represent constituents if elected, and a Newton victory could prove a setback for a city trying to overcome a corrupt reputation.

"The press his nomination has gotten around the state is clear evidence people are having a hard time taking this seriously," said lobbyist Joe Grabarz, elected with Newton to represent Bridgeport in the General Assembly in the 1980s. "I've had several prominent people in Capitol life comment in a derogatory and joking manner about the nomination."

State Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, said Monday's endorsement proves Democrats' one-party dominance of Bridgeport politics must end.

"How many times can Bridgeport take these hits to its reputation?" McKinney said. "Fair or unfair, the city will, I think, be viewed negatively to some degree by a lot of people outside of Bridgeport because of what's happening."

Newton, 56, insisted Tuesday he is reformed, will "bring home the bacon" for constituents and make them proud.

"I'm not worried," he said. "If I was, I would have come home, ducked my head down and said, `Hell with it.' "

Newton ended his 17-year legislative career in September 2005. He was convicted of taking a $5,000 bribe related to a state grant, diverting campaign contributions for personal use and filing false tax returns.  Newton was sentenced in early 2006 and completed his prison term in August 2010.  Meyer recalled discussing some of the allegations with Newton when the latter was still a member of the Senate.

"He said, `I didn't take a bribe ... It's a frame-up because I'm black,' " Meyer said. "If he came back to the Senate, we'd honor ... the decision of voters in Bridgeport. But I think he would have a hard time getting along with his colleagues."

Newton faces a primary with his successor, incumbent state Sen. Ed Gomes, and challenger Rep. Andres Ayala.  Mayor Bill Finch, in a statement Monday night, indicated he was worried about the ramifications of Newton's candidacy.

"When Ernie and I spoke recently, I told him I do not think this is the best decision for him or the city," Finch said.

Duby McDowell, a Hartford-based Democratic political analyst and public relations consultant, agreed.

"I don't think having Ernie Newton as a member of the city's legislative delegation would ... prevent a business from investing in Bridgeport. But it doesn't help a city that is trying to move forward," she said. "Would fellow lawmakers be less likely to work with him and collaborate? I would think that might be the case."

Paul Timpanelli, president of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, did not want to discuss Newton, but acknowledged, "It always gives you pause when someone ejected in the manner Ernie was ejected comes back."

Timpanelli added the BRBC has a tradition of not endorsing candidates, but "that could change."

Newton referred to comments Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made Tuesday to reporters about Newton's endorsement.

According to the Associated Press, Malloy said, "I've long been an advocate of a second-chance society. As a prosecutor, as a governor, as a mayor, I've advocated for second chances. But ultimately, in the political arena, that's a decision for the public to make."

Newton, paraphrasing Malloy, said, "The governor said, `It's the people's decision.' "

Asked if his conviction will undermine his effectiveness in the Senate, Newton said, "I don't expect it to be a cakewalk."

"But they know I know the (legislative) process. I'm a team player. I know how to get things done," Newton said.

Newton said he has already received a lot of congratulatory phone calls from unspecified individuals in Hartford.

"Listen, I still got friends in Hartford," Newton said.

Tom Swan, executive director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group, which in the past endorsed Gomes, said Newton's decision to challenge his successor could damage what relationships he has left at the Capitol.

"Senator Gomes has done an excellent job fighting for the city and made a lot of allies in the building," Swan said. "Running a negative campaign against him ... I can't believe would help you if you were to be sworn in."

Grabarz agreed, saying, "The supposition is this seat has been held in abeyance for his (Newton's) return."

Rep. Terry Backer, D-Stratford, collaborated with Newton, whose former district included a piece of Stratford.  Although some former colleagues in the General Assembly may be angry with Newton, Backer said, "I don't think they'd practice collective punishment on the city of Bridgeport."

Newton added there is another incentive for at least Democrats in Hartford to work with him: Bridgeport's important role in statewide elections. The city helped Malloy, Stamford's former mayor, win a slim victory in 2010.

"The governor needs to get re-elected, and he's going to need my help to do it," Newton said.

New CT Senate Districts map and street list for Weston

Sec'y of the State Merrill guest on "About Town"

Court rules Republicans will go on top of ballots in Nov. 6 election
Weston FORUM
By Kimberly Donnelly on September 27, 2012

In the race for Connecticut’s open state and  Congressional seats, the Republicans will be on top — at least on top of the ballot.

The state Supreme Court issued a decision on Wednesday, Sept. 26, that requires the Republican Party’s candidates for office in the Nov. 6 election be placed on the first line of the ballots.

State law gives the top line of the ballot to the party of the winner of the most recent gubernatorial race. Because that winner was Democrat Dannel Malloy, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill had planned to list Democrats first on the ballots.

However, the Republican Party of Connecticut challenged that decision, based on the fact Mr. Malloy received fewer votes on the Democratic line than his Republican opponent Tom Foley had on the Republican line. Mr. Malloy had been cross-endorsed by the Working Families Party, and it was these votes that gave him the victory in the governor’s race.

“While I am surprised at the outcome today, I am confident that my office interpreted the statute in good faith and with due diligence,” Ms. Merrill said in a press release issued Sept. 26. “My staff interpreted the law back in 2011, for the municipal election ballot that year, relying on recent precedent, thorough research and a careful analysis of the statute. The Supreme Court disagrees with our view, and I respect the court’s final decision in this matter. The Republican Party will be on the top line of the ballot in accordance with the court’s order.”

Although ballot information from municipalities across the state was due by Sept. 15, the Secretary of the State’s office had been holding off on printing ballots until the Supreme Court made its decision. Ms. Merrill said she is pleased the court made its decision in time for ballots to be printed accurately.

“With the timing of this decision, we now feel confident that absentee ballots should be available for distribution by town clerks by the Oct. 5 statutory deadline,” she said in her release.

Merrill Will Use Media Coverage To Pick The GOP Presidential Candidates
by Hugh McQuaid | Jan 6, 2012 12:42pm

It seems strange that a Democrat would get to decide which Republicans are placed on the ballot, but Connecticut statutes give the secretary of the state the power to do just that.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, a Democrat, will get to decide which candidates end up on the presidential primary ballot, Av Harris, Merrill’s spokesman, said Friday.

The decision is made by monitoring state and national news coverage of the primary, Harris said. Candidates who are “generally and seriously advocated and recognized” by the media are added to the ballot. Those who don’t receive coverage won’t appear on the list that Merrill is scheduled to release on Feb. 10.

Harris said the process is fairly simple.

“The universe of candidates are well known for president. We’ve been gathering information and monitoring press coverage for more than a year,” he said.

Should a candidate who isn’t picked by the secretary of the state want to be included in the primary, Harris said there is a petition process to be added.

After the list is released in February, candidates who didn’t make the cut have until March 2 to file a petition with 7,500 names with registrars of voters, he said. They could also file a petition with enough names to make up 2 percent of the enrolled Republican party members, he said.

Though unusual, Harris said in practice the method of choosing candidates doesn’t tend to exclude candidates. He pointed to Republican candidate Newt Gingrich’s lawsuit in Virginia where Gingrich failed to collect the necessary 10,000 signatures in that state to gain access to the ballot. By comparison, it’s actually easier to get on the ballot in Connecticut, he said.

“Our trend is to be more inclusive than exclusive,” he said.

Though not quite as inclusive as New Hampshire, where all you have to do is “pay the secretary of state $1,000 and you’re on the ballot. We’re not that permissive,” he said.

However, Connecticut Republicans are unlikely to see-little known candidates like Fred Karger or Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer on their ballots.

Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola said he is fine with that.

“I really don’t see the purpose of fringe candidates or someone looking to gain publicity. I don’t see how that helps the process,” he said.

Labriola said he didn’t envision any controversy over Merrill’s selection of Republican candidates.

“I would assume she would default to the candidates who are still actively contesting the nomination,” he said.

It probably would not make sense to include Herman Cain on that list, he said. Cain has not officially withdrawn from the race, he has suspended his campaign.

Harris said Cain is an interesting case because he has gotten wide news coverage but seems unlikely to start actively campaigning again.

“I don’t think you could really argue that Herman Cain is still recognized as running for president,” he said.

Harris wouldn’t speculate on whether Merrill would decide to include the candidate, but said it will likely depend on what action, if any, he takes between now and Feb. 10.

On March 20 Merrill will hold a ceremony announcing the order the candidates will appear on the ballot. The Connecticut presidential primary will take place on April 24.

Harder for Americans to Rise From Lower Rungs
January 4, 2012

WASHINGTON — Benjamin Franklin did it. Henry Ford did it. And American life is built on the faith that others can do it, too: rise from humble origins to economic heights. “Movin’ on up,” George Jefferson-style, is not only a sitcom song but a civil religion.

But many researchers have reached a conclusion that turns conventional wisdom on its head: Americans enjoy less economic mobility than their peers in Canada and much of Western Europe. The mobility gap has been widely discussed in academic circles, but a sour season of mass unemployment and street protests has moved the discussion toward center stage.

Former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a Republican candidate for president, warned this fall that movement “up into the middle income is actually greater, the mobility in Europe, than it is in America.” National Review, a conservative thought leader, wrote that “most Western European and English-speaking nations have higher rates of mobility.” Even Representative Paul D. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who argues that overall mobility remains high, recently wrote that “mobility from the very bottom up” is “where the United States lags behind.”

Liberal commentators have long emphasized class, but the attention on the right is largely new.

“It’s becoming conventional wisdom that the U.S. does not have as much mobility as most other advanced countries,” said Isabel V. Sawhill, an economist at the Brookings Institution. “I don’t think you’ll find too many people who will argue with that.”

One reason for the mobility gap may be the depth of American poverty, which leaves poor children starting especially far behind. Another may be the unusually large premiums that American employers pay for college degrees. Since children generally follow their parents’ educational trajectory, that premium increases the importance of family background and stymies people with less schooling.

At least five large studies in recent years have found the United States to be less mobile than comparable nations. A project led by Markus Jantti, an economist at a Swedish university, found that 42 percent of American men raised in the bottom fifth of incomes stay there as adults. That shows a level of persistent disadvantage much higher than in Denmark (25 percent) and Britain (30 percent) — a country famous for its class constraints.

Meanwhile, just 8 percent of American men at the bottom rose to the top fifth. That compares with 12 percent of the British and 14 percent of the Danes.

Despite frequent references to the United States as a classless society, about 62 percent of Americans (male and female) raised in the top fifth of incomes stay in the top two-fifths, according to research by the Economic Mobility Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Similarly, 65 percent born in the bottom fifth stay in the bottom two-fifths.

By emphasizing the influence of family background, the studies not only challenge American identity but speak to the debate about inequality. While liberals often complain that the United States has unusually large income gaps, many conservatives have argued that the system is fair because mobility is especially high, too: everyone can climb the ladder. Now the evidence suggests that America is not only less equal, but also less mobile.

John Bridgeland, a former aide to President George W. Bush who helped start Opportunity Nation, an effort to seek policy solutions, said he was “shocked” by the international comparisons. “Republicans will not feel compelled to talk about income inequality,” Mr. Bridgeland said. “But they will feel a need to talk about a lack of mobility — a lack of access to the American Dream.”

While Europe differs from the United States in culture and demographics, a more telling comparison may be with Canada, a neighbor with significant ethnic diversity. Miles Corak, an economist at the University of Ottawa, found that just 16 percent of Canadian men raised in the bottom tenth of incomes stayed there as adults, compared with 22 percent of Americans. Similarly, 26 percent of American men raised at the top tenth stayed there, but just 18 percent of Canadians.

“Family background plays more of a role in the U.S. than in most comparable countries,” Professor Corak said in an interview.

Skeptics caution that the studies measure “relative mobility” — how likely children are to move from their parents’ place in the income distribution. That is different from asking whether they have more money. Most Americans have higher incomes than their parents because the country has grown richer.

Some conservatives say this measure, called absolute mobility, is a better gauge of opportunity. A Pew study found that 81 percent of Americans have higher incomes than their parents (after accounting for family size). There is no comparable data on other countries.

Since they require two generations of data, the studies also omit immigrants, whose upward movement has long been considered an American strength. “If America is so poor in economic mobility, maybe someone should tell all these people who still want to come to the U.S.,” said Stuart M. Butler, an analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

The income compression in rival countries may also make them seem more mobile. Reihan Salam, a writer for The Daily and National Review Online, has calculated that a Danish family can move from the 10th percentile to the 90th percentile with $45,000 of additional earnings, while an American family would need an additional $93,000.

Even by measures of relative mobility, Middle America remains fluid. About 36 percent of Americans raised in the middle fifth move up as adults, while 23 percent stay on the same rung and 41 percent move down, according to Pew research. The “stickiness” appears at the top and bottom, as affluent families transmit their advantages and poor families stay trapped.

While Americans have boasted of casting off class since Poor Richard’s Almanac, until recently there has been little data.

Pioneering work in the early 1980s by Gary S. Becker, a Nobel laureate in economics, found only a mild relationship between fathers’ earnings and those of their sons. But when better data became available a decade later, another prominent economist, Gary Solon, found the bond twice as strong. Most researchers now estimate the “elasticity” of father-son earnings at 0.5, which means if one man earns $100,000 more than another, his sons would earn $50,000 more on average than the sons of the poorer man.

In 2006 Professor Corak reviewed more than 50 studies of nine countries. He ranked Canada, Norway, Finland and Denmark as the most mobile, with the United States and Britain roughly tied at the other extreme. Sweden, Germany, and France were scattered across the middle.

The causes of America’s mobility problem are a topic of dispute — starting with the debates over poverty. The United States maintains a thinner safety net than other rich countries, leaving more children vulnerable to debilitating hardships.

Poor Americans are also more likely than foreign peers to grow up with single mothers. That places them at an elevated risk of experiencing poverty and related problems, a point frequently made by Mr. Santorum, who surged into contention in the Iowa caucuses. The United States also has uniquely high incarceration rates, and a longer history of racial stratification than its peers.

“The bottom fifth in the U.S. looks very different from the bottom fifth in other countries,” said Scott Winship, a researcher at the Brookings Institution, who wrote the article for National Review. “Poor Americans have to work their way up from a lower floor.”

A second distinguishing American trait is the pay tilt toward educated workers. While in theory that could help poor children rise — good learners can become high earners — more often it favors the children of the educated and affluent, who have access to better schools and arrive in them more prepared to learn.

“Upper-income families can invest more in their children’s education and they may have a better understanding of what it takes to get a good education,” said Eric Wanner, president of the Russell Sage Foundation, which gives grants to social scientists.

The United States is also less unionized than many of its peers, which may lower wages among the least skilled, and has public health problems, like obesity and diabetes, which can limit education and employment.

Perhaps another brake on American mobility is the sheer magnitude of the gaps between rich and the rest — the theme of the Occupy Wall Street protests, which emphasize the power of the privileged to protect their interests. Countries with less equality generally have less mobility.

Mr. Salam recently wrote that relative mobility “is overrated as a social policy goal” compared with raising incomes across the board. Parents naturally try to help their children, and a completely mobile society would mean complete insecurity: anyone could tumble any time.

But he finds the stagnation at the bottom alarming and warns that it will worsen. Most of the studies end with people born before 1970, while wage gaps, single motherhood and incarceration increased later. Until more recent data arrives, he said, “we don’t know the half of it.”

The slogan that just quit working
Last Updated: 12:13 AM, December 28, 2011
Posted: 10:48 PM, December 27, 2011

The new year will be a time for President Obama to focus on the activity at which he’s been most effective: campaigning. As president, he’s been, well, he’s tried really hard, but pretty much everyone agrees he’s an expert campaigner. In 2008, he easily cruised to election on his theme of Hope & Change. Perhaps his campaign was so effective that even today people are filled with hope and a desire for change. If so, he needs to put an end to that immediately.

Obama will have to run pretty much the opposite campaign from what he did in 2008, as “hope and change” are now his enemies.

It’s easy to see why “change” is a bad thing for people to fixate on now that Obama’s the incumbent. “Know what would be a big change for this country? A new president.” It also works against his policy ideas. His “stimulus” consisted of lots of spending. And his “jobs bills” were . . . more spending. The last thing he’ll need is for people to ask, “Should we try something different — you know, a change?” To which he’ll have to respond, “No, that’s crazy. Where did you get this ‘change’ idea from? That doesn’t sound like something I’d say; it sounds more like something from one of those Koch brothers.”

Hope is even worse for Obama. Obama recognizes this, as he recently told 60 Minutes that it will probably take more than one more term and more than one president to fix the economy. Basically his message is: “Things are going to be miserable no matter who you elect, so stick with what you know.”

Because crushing hope is the only economic strategy that’s worked for him so far. It turns out that Obama and his experts understand how jobs are created at about the same level that a four-year-old understands where babies come from, so causing despair is a lot easier and perhaps even more effective in the short term than trying to create jobs. When unemployed people give up hope, they stop even looking for jobs and thus no longer count in the unemployment statistics. Boom! Unemployment drops — thanks to the abandonment of hope!

Also, the only way for Obama to survive a challenger is to eliminate all hope that any of his competitors would be a better president. Obama’s strategy will be to paint the GOP candidate as a stupid, right-wing crazy who hates poor people, but that’s still a far cry from saying the Republican will do a worse job as president than Obama. Because when people are hopeful, they’ll bypass all their reservations about a new candidate (that’s how Obama got elected).

A potato could run against Obama, and people would say, “Well, a potato won’t increase spending or raise taxes. In fact, a potato could be the next Calvin Coolidge!” That’s why Obama has to crush all hope and make people believe that, as bad as things are, this is as good as it gets no matter who is president. Plus, a potato is a racist.

One thing Obama can salvage from his 2008 campaign is his slogan “Yes We Can!” because it’s vague enough to be used for almost anything (campaign slogan, high-school prom theme, tagline for a detergent, etc.). However, people might now respond to “Yes We Can!” with “But you didn’t.” So it will be best for Obama to now emphasize the future tense. “Yes We Can . . . But Not Necessarily Anytime Soon.” See, he just has to tailor it a bit for his new “Despair & More of the Same” theme.

Because if Obama can look out over the American people and see nothing but crushed spirits and those who fear any change, he can pop the champagne corks now; he’ll have the election in the bag.

Political satirist Frank J. Fleming’s e-book, “Obama: The Greatest President in the History of Everything,” is out from HarperCollins.

Obama’s Scandals — and Scandal Deniers
National Review
Michelle Malkin
December 28, 2011 12:00 A.M.

For every outrageous misuse of power, there’s a sycophant to downplay it.

With 2011 drawing to a close, it is time to take account. As an early-and-often chronicler of Chicago-on-the-Potomac, I am amazed at the stubborn and clingy persistence of Pres. Barack Obama’s snowblowers in the media. See no scandal, hear no scandal, speak no scandal.

Dartmouth College professor Brendan Nyhan asserted in May — while Operation Fast and Furious subpoenas were flying on Capitol Hill — that “one of the least remarked upon aspects of the Obama presidency has been the lack of scandals.” Conveniently, he defines scandal as a “widespread elite perception of wrongdoing.”

So as long as left-wing Ivy League scribes refuse to perceive something to be a scandal — never mind the actual suffering endured by the family of murdered Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, whose death came at the hands of a Mexican cartel thug wielding a Fast and Furious gun walked across the southern border under Attorney General Eric Holder’s watch — there is no scandal!

Self-serving much?

Mother Jones’s Kevin Drum likewise proclaimed: “Obama’s presidency has so far been almost completely free of scandal.”

This after the year kicked off in January with the departure of lying eco-radical czar Carol Browner. In backroom negotiations, she infamously bullied auto execs to “put nothing in writing, ever.” The previous fall, the White House’s own oil-spill panel had singled out Browner for misleading the public about the scientific evidence for the administration’s draconian drilling moratorium and “contributing to the perception that the government’s findings were more exact than they actually were.”

The Interior Department inspector general and federal judges likewise blasted drilling-ban book-cooking by Browner and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who falsely rewrote the White House drilling-ban report to doctor the Obama-appointed panel’s own overwhelming scientific objections to the job-killing edict.

In February, federal judge Martin Feldman in Louisiana excoriated the Obama Interior Department for defying his May 2010 order to lift its fraudulent ban on offshore oil and gas drilling in the Gulf. He called out the administration’s culture of contempt and “determined disregard” for the law.

This spring saw rising public anger over the preferential Obamacare waiver process (which I first reported on in September 2010). Some 2,000 lucky golden-ticket winners were freed from the costly federal mandates — including a handful of fancy restaurants in Aloha Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco district, the entire state of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Nevada, and scores of local, state, and national Big Labor organizations, from the Service Employees International Union and Teamsters on down. Meanwhile, as The Hill reported last month, other not-so-lucky Republican-led states seeking waivers, such as Indiana and Louisiana, were rejected.

But it wasn’t just Republicans objecting to the president’s arbitrary Obamacare fiats. In July, congressional Democrats turned on the monstrous federal health bureaucracy known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board. The constitutionally suspect panel — freed from normal public-notice, public-comment, and public-review rules — would have unprecedented authority over health-care spending and an expanding jurisdiction of private health-care payment rates.

Obama’s health and human services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, faced separate legal questions over her overseer role in a hair-raising document-shredding case when she served as governor of Kansas. In October, a district judge in the Sunflower State suspended court proceedings in a high-profile criminal case against the abortion racketeers of Planned Parenthood. Bombshell court filings showed that Kansas health officials “shredded documents related to felony charges the abortion giant faces” and failed to disclose it for six years.

That same month, Bloomberg News columnist Jonathan Alter gushed: “There is zero evidence . . . of corruption. Where is it?”

Alter’s declaration of the “Obama Miracle” came just weeks after the politically driven half-billion-dollar Solyndra stimulus “investment” went bankrupt, prompting an FBI raid and ongoing criminal and congressional probes of the solar company funded by top White House bundler and visitor George Kaiser.

As Solyndra and an avalanche of other ongoing green-subsidy scams erupted, so did the LightSquared debacle — a federal broadband boondoggle involving billionaire hedge-fund managers and Obama donors Philip Falcone and George Soros. In September, two high-ranking witnesses — William Shelton, the four-star general who heads the Air Force Space Command, and Anthony Russo, director of the National Coordination Office for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing — exposed how the White House had pressured them to alter their congressional testimony and play down concerns about LightSquared’s interference threat to military communications.

The White House continues to block efforts to gain information about the Federal Communications Commission’s approval of a special waiver for the company, even as new government tests this month showed that the company’s “signals caused harmful interference to the majority of . . . general purpose GPS receivers.”

The Obama White House closed out the year with Democratic senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri demanding a probe of the smelly $443 million no-bid smallpox-antiviral-pill contract with Siga Technologies — controlled by big lefty donor Ron Perelman. Then there was the small matter of massive voter fraud in Indiana, where a Democratic official resigned amid allegations that “dozens, if not hundreds,” of signatures were faked to get Obama on the state primary ballot in 2008. And while Americans busied themselves with the holidays, White House and Democratic campaign officials were dumping more than $70,000 in contributions from another deep-pocketed contributor — scandal-plagued pal and former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine, who oversaw the collapse of MF Global.

All this — and so much more — yet erstwhile “conservative” journalist Andrew Sullivan of Newsweek/The Daily Beast scoffed, “Where are all the scandals promised by Michelle Malkin?”

There’s none so blind as those who will not see.

Old-style light bulbs will keep burning, for now
By DOUG ALDEN, New Hampshire Union Leader
Published Dec 17, 2011 at 3:00 am (Updated Dec 16, 2011)

The light bulb is back — or at least not going away as previously planned.

A federal mandate expected to phase out 100-watt incandescent light bulbs in favor of more energy-efficient devices was switched off in Washington as members of Congress tussled over a spending deal.  While the so-called “bulb-ban” will remain on the books as of Jan. 1, the spending plan does not provide the Department of Energy with funds to enforce it.  U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta, R-N.H., said the move is a small, albeit temporary, victory for consumers.

“We Americans are perfectly capable of deciding for ourselves what type of bulb is best for lighting our homes and offices,” Guinta said Friday in a statement to the New Hampshire Union Leader. “We don’t need a nanny government in Washington mandating which type we can use and which we can’t.”

Shopping at Home Depot on Friday, Arthur Hebert couldn’t agree more.

“I don’t like the new bulb; they don’t seem as bright,” said Hebert, a public works employee with the town of Bedford. He prefers incandescent bulbs, but said his choices are already limited. This past summer, he was forced to purchase a compact fluorescent when he bought a bug lamp.

Hebert said he plans to stock up on the incandescent bulbs before Jan. 1. He was at the right place. Inside the main entrance, Home Depot has a display filled with incandescents.  According to the Department of Energy, the new law doesn’t actually ban — as many believe — any particular bulbs. It just requires them to use about 25 percent less energy.  Although compact fluorescent lights are more efficient, opponents note they have their own drawbacks, namely in disposal because the bulbs contain mercury. Fluorescent bulbs also cost more to purchase.

“I know the price is going crazy,” said Shaun Mulholland, a New Boston resident who is a price analyst for the electronics industry.  He questioned what effect the phase-out will have on his household. Most of the bulbs inside his house are 75 watt or less.  And he said the phase-out of the incandescent bulbs will probably help consumers.

“Once people start shifting (to compact fluorescent) it drives prices down,” he said.

But to Guinta, the idea of being told what to buy — regardless of the product — does not go over well.

“Get the government out of the way and let the free market determine the right light bulb for our needs,” Guinta said.

The delay in Congress affects consumers much more than state government. New Hampshire state facilities have been replacing incandescent lights for years, according to Mike Connor, director of plant and property management for the state Department of Administrative Services.  Even the chandelier bulbs that light the Capitol building in Concord are fluorescent, Connor said Friday afternoon.

I-BBC READ ABOUT THE GOP FIELD;  English Mormon roots - long story, very detailed.
From across the pond, the Republican field click here:

In the long I-BBC story is the news that famous British portrait artist George Romney is related.

Newt the geek rises
Last Updated: 10:25 PM, November 26, 2011
Posted: 10:17 PM, November 26, 2011

Whether his recent rise in the polls will last, Newt Gingrich has already shifted Campaign 2012 for the better. The feisty former speaker of the House has reminded us through his debate performances that knowledge is an important part of a president’s work.

That a president must know something seems obvious. But our nation’s opinion writers (myself included) have often ranked knowledge behind a candidate’s character, electability or even, simply, novelty. And in the past voters have often done the same.

Gingrich doesn’t project electability or character in the sense we usually mean. “Character” is what you want your daughter to marry. You don’t want your daughter to marry Newt. Nor does he have the purity of inexperience. Gingrich isn’t like Palin or Herman Cain. He’s an insider’s insider, with all the dirt and baggage that connotes.

But Gingrich does project a terrifying authority of policy knowledge. Voters have been warming to him because he’s right — about the budget, about Social Security reform, about plenty of other substantive themes.

In a recent debate in Texas, Gingrich and Cain each showed some fluency in talking about Medicare. But when Cain was asked whether he preferred a defined-benefit plan or premium supports for Medicare, he smiled and passed the ball. Gingrich clarified what a defined benefit was — a mandate for government to pay for health care — and then highlighted the kind of triage that happens when government gets involved in the medical system.

In debate after debate, Gingrich has displayed commensurate expertise. And voters value that so much that Gingrich now stands, with 22% support, on the top of the Gallup poll among registered Republicans, even above Mitt Romney.

Not long ago, everyone was sure that Gingrich’s geekiness and personal baggage were fatal. Voters’ support of Gingrich is their way of talking back to the opinion makers. If the pundits insist that geeks are unelectable and continue to drive them from the race, voters should start asking: Who elected the pundits?

McMahon, Murphy Differ Sharply During First Senate Debate
The Hartford Courant
5:56 PM EDT, October 7, 2012

ROCKY HILL — In a campaign that's been heavy on personal attacks and light on substance, the candidates for U.S. Senate got serious Sunday morning, tackling important issues such as federal spending, tax policy and Medicare.  But the first debate between Linda McMahon and Chris Murphy also featured plenty of the acrimony that's marked the race so far.  During the feisty, hourlong forum, hosted by WFSB-Channel 3 and broadcast live, McMahon questioned Murphy's honesty and accused him of accepting a "sweetheart" loan while Murphy painted McMahon as an ideologically empty captive of an increasingly right-wing Republican party.

Both candidates are vying for the seat held by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who is not seeking re-election. Public opinion polls indicate that the race is deadlocked.

For Murphy, the stakes going into Sunday's debate were especially high. He is a Democrat in a state in which his party holds an overwhelming voter registration advantage, yet he has been unable to capitalize on that built-in edge. In McMahon, the multimillionaire former chairwoman of WWE, he faces an opponent with a seemingly limitless campaign war chest. She has used her millions to run a relentless stream of attack ads against Murphy.

On Sunday, the three-term congressman came out swinging, waging a crisp and spirited defense of his record and going after McMahon on several issues. His performance likely did much to quell the worries of some Democratic insiders, who have been whispering for weeks about what they perceived as Team Murphy's lackluster campaign.  When McMahon declined to name specific programs she would cut to reign in federal spending, Murphy pounced.

"Another 90 seconds and no answers,'' he said, "not a single specific cut that Linda McMahon would support, and another example of fealty to a supply-side trickle down economics that just hasn't worked."

The two candidates tangled repeatedly over McMahon's economic proposal, which is the centerpiece of her campaign.  Murphy said he supports continuing the portion of the so-called Bush tax cuts for middle-income taxpayers but not those benefiting the richest Americans. He dismissed McMahon's plan as nothing more than "a bunch of tax cuts for the very wealthy."

Murphy also alleged that the document was cobbled from various conservative Republican sources, without proper attribution.

"Shame on you!" McMahon responded when confronted with the plagiarism allegation. She said she had consulted economic experts when drafting the plan and buttressed their work with her own ideas, gleaned during her long career running a successful business. She said the document had the proper footnotes.

The debate also revealed another big difference between the two: McMahon would vote to repeal President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, and Murphy would not.

There was common ground as well. Both candidates promised to oppose cuts in Social Security and Medicare. Both favor a 1 percent cut in spending, although McMahon pledged not to touch the defense budget, while Murphy said he would support some cuts in defense spending. Both candidates said they would oppose cuts in federal food stamp programs.

And neither candidate completely answered a question about how they personally have been affected by the current economic downturn.

The debate gave each candidate the chance to return to well-worn themes. The forum was moderated by Dennis House, host of the Channel 3 political program "Face the State," and held in the station's Rocky Hill studio before an audience of Connecticut reporters and a smattering of campaign aides.

McMahon sought to portray Murphy as a career politician who doesn't understand the needs of business and has no plan to get the U.S. economy rolling again. She repeatedly accused him of ethical lapses connected to a home loan that he received after he was sued for missing an undisclosed number of mortgage payments in a foreclosure case in 2007.

"You absolutely need to be honest with the people of Connecticut," she said in the opening moments of the debate. "Those are issues that are important to the voters of Connecticut. ... They want to know, 'Can they trust ... the senator they're sending to Washington to represent them?'"

Both Murphy and Webster Bank deny that there were any improprieties with his loan, which was not out of line with similar loans at the time.  McMahon said that Murphy acted as if he was entitled to the Senate seat. "You thought this campaign was going to be a coronation," she said. "And now you're in a serious race with a serious woman and you are desperate."

Murphy, meanwhile, pressed McMahon on Social Security, bringing up a snippet of videotape made before a tea party gathering last spring, when McMahon appeared to indicate that she would consider "sunsetting" Social Security.

"I have never said I am for privatizing Social Security or Medicare. I will support continuing reform," McMahon responded.

In discussing Medicare, McMahon, echoing Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, criticized Murphy and the Democrats for cutting $700 billion from Medicare as part of the health care law known as Obamacare.

Murphy accused McMahon of distorting the facts, noting that the cut does not affect direct services to Medicare recipients. "President Obama let Mitt Romney get away with the $700 billion lie and I'm not going to let Linda McMahon get away with it," he said. "That money was taken out of the budgets of health insurers who were being massively subsidized. ... It was being taken out the pockets of drug companies who were making billions off of care for seniors."

Another fault line of the campaign, access to contraception and legalized abortion, also came up during the debate.  Murphy reiterated his attack against McMahon for supporting a failed amendment that would have permitted employers to deny coverage for birth control if doing so violated their religious beliefs.  To McMahon, the issue is one of religious freedom and "government overreach," not access to contraception, and because of that, she said she would have backed the amendment.

"I'm an independent thinker," she said. "I would differ from my party. ... I am certainly a pro-choice candidate, I believe in equal rights for all." By contrast, she added, Murphy votes with Democratic leaders more than 95 percent of the time.

Same-sex marriage is one of those issues on which McMahon parts with the right flank of her party.

"I live in Connecticut and I absolutely support America's law for same-sex marriage," McMahon said.

But Murphy viewed her response as a gaffe and jumped on it. "America doesn't have a law protecting same-sex marriage,'' he said. "In fact, it has the exact opposite.''

Later, McMahon said she would back repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which is a new position for her. As recently as this summer, she expressed support for the law, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

"My opinion has just been evolving," she said. "I clearly want there to be fairness and there just isn't fairness with DOMA."

After the debate, McMahon sent an email to supporters saying that the exchange showed a sharp contrast between the two candidates. "We don't need another career politician in Washington. We need someone who will fight for you — who believes America's best days are ahead and not behind,'' she said.

Murphy, meanwhile, claimed victory. "Linda McMahon wrestled with the issues this morning and the issues won," he told reporters afterward. "Linda McMahon couldn't answer basic questions on her positions on Social Security and Medicare and women's health, and I think voters saw a really clear difference."

The two candidates will face one another again Thursday in a debate at the University of Connecticut hosted by FOX CT and The Courant. The 7 p.m. forum will be televised live on FOX CT.

Copyright © 2012, The Hartford Courant

Republicans believe in recycling:  Of course they SAVED all of Linda's mailings from 2010!

Redistricting Commission Struggles to Meet Deadline; Malloy Urges Completion
by Hugh McQuaid | Nov 23, 2011 5:30am
Posted to: Election 2012, Election Policy, Legal

With little more than a week before its deadline, the legislative panel convened to redraw Connecticut’s political districts continues to work daily on coming to agreements on the state’s House and Senate districts but has yet to tackle the five congressional districts.

The bipartisan Reapportionment Commission has until Nov. 30 to agree on maps in all three areas. If the committee is unable to reach consensus by that time the maps will go to a judge who will decide how the districts are redrawn.  So far, the committee’s four House members have largely focused on negotiating an agreement for the state’s 151 House districts. Meanwhile, its four senators have been exchanging proposals for maps of the 36 senate districts.

Initially the eight-person committee had a Sept. 15 deadline to complete its work. When that date came and went the committee was reformed as a nine-person commission, adding Kevin Johnston, a former Democratic state lawmaker and auditor, as its ninth member.

Ten years ago, the last time the state underwent redistricting following a census tally, the committee came to an agreement on the state’s House and Senate districts just before its deadline, Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D- New Haven, said.  For its congressional districts the committee asked for and received an extension from a judge to finish working on those maps after the deadline, he said.  Looney, a member of the committee, wouldn’t speculate this week whether the same thing would happen this year. He said the committee has been meeting every day for weeks and is making progress.

“It’s incremental but it’s progress. I’m hopeful we’re moving to an agreement,” he said Monday.

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R- Fairfield, said everyone working on the Senate district maps was keenly aware of the fast-approaching deadline but couldn’t say whether they would meet it.

“We’re all very cognizant of how late in the day it is and time is running short,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to make a commitment. I guess that’s a sign that we’re not as close as we need to be but not as far as we could be.”

House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R- Norwalk, seemed optimistic Tuesday that House members would reach an agreement within 48 hours. He said by comparison, reaching consensus on congressional districts should be easier.

“Let’s face it, with regards to the House, we’re talking about 151 districts. With regards to Congress, we’re dealing with five. One would assume it would be quicker,” he said.

Still, Cafero wasn’t willing to make predictions about where negotiations will conclude before the deadline. The committee is making progress but it comes in fits and starts, he said.

“It’s been civil but we’ve had our sticking points. You hit a wall and you try to work around it in a way that works for both sides,” he said.

Cafero said staff members from both sides have been communicating with each other well, trading maps and ideas back and forth.  At an unrelated event Tuesday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said that if the commission failed to meet their deadline it would be a “gigantic mistake.” There is a process to make the decision and members of the panel should do their jobs, he said.

“They should get their act together and get reapportionment done. It’s an odd number of people—have a vote and get it done and stop playing around. We know how bad Washington looks, we don’t need that replicated in our own state. The ayes have it, have a vote.”

Reapportionment Committee to miss deadline, add 9th member
Mark Pazniokas, CT MIRROR
September 9, 2011

The legislature's Reapportionment Committee acknowledged Friday it will be unable to devise new legislative maps by its deadline of Sept. 15, requiring the eight-member, bipartisan panel to now find a ninth neutral member to join them.

The four Democratic and four Republican legislators on the committee are not deadlocked over new districts; they still are working on drawing 151 state House, 36 state Senate and five congressional districts to reflect population changes.

"We're making progress, but we're just not ready," said House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden, a committee member.

But Connecticut's rules for redistricting require that if unable to meet the deadline of Sept. 15, the committee of eight legislators must pick a ninth member and reform itself as a Reapportionment Commission, with a new deadline of Nov. 30.

Previously reapportionment efforts failed to finish on time in 2001 and 1991. In each of those decades, the committees chose the same man as the neutral member, former House Speaker Nelson Brown, who died this week at 89.

Senate. President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams, D-Brooklyn, the co-chairman of the committee, said the panel members have yet to begin exchanging names of a new neutral member.

"Now, and in coming weeks, the rubber meets the road," Williams said.

The committee is now evenly divided: four Democrats and four Republicans, with two of each from the House and Senate.

By tradition, the panel functions as two committees, as the House members draw the House map and the Senate members draw the Senate map. When finished, they work together on the congressional map.

Unlike a decade ago, when Connecticut lost one of its five seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, drawing new congressional districts is not expected to be difficult, though moving lines can mean political life or death.

In the crowded race for the open seat in the 5th Congressional District, for example, five candidates live in communities on the border of two or even three districts: Cheshire, Farmington, Meriden, Plainville and Simsbury.

One of them is Donovan. One of his rivals, Elizabeth Esty, lives in Cheshire.

According to the 2010 census, each congressional district should have a population of 714,819 this year, up from 681,113 a decade ago. The 5th has 714,296.

With 729,771 people, only the 2nd District of eastern Connecticut needs to shrink, but changes in the 2nd will ripple across the state. Population for the other districts: 1st, 710,951; 3rd, 712,339; and 4th, 706,740.

Mugged by Mythology
Liberals believe the darnedest things.
Jeff Bergner, Weekly Standard
September 12, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 48

Sometimes talking with liberals is perplexing. You never know what claim they will make next or what name they will call you. Take David Axelrod’s response to Standard & Poor’s recent credit action: He calls it the “Tea Party downgrade.” Amazingly, he blames the United States’ loss of its AAA bond rating on the one group that has sounded the alarm about our fiscal crisis. How did the president’s leading adviser come up with a label so detached from reality?

Comforting as it would be to dismiss this as a one-off comment, Axelrod’s words spring from the mental universe of liberalism. It is a vast sphere of assumptions that are found nowhere else. In an effort to promote the civility of debate that is so much in demand these days, here is a compendium of the myths underlying some of the strange things liberals say.

Myth #1: Conservatives are outside the American mainstream. Conser-vatives can’t be mainstream because it is liberals who speak for the American people. The fact that 41 percent of Americans identify themselves as conservative and only 21 percent as liberal doesn’t matter—liberals are the guardians of the genuine interests of the American people. In the liberal imagination, the political spectrum consists of left, center, right, and far right. The most conservative senators—the Jim DeMints and Rand Pauls—are far right. But notice the absence of far left. In 2007, the most liberal of all 100 senators was Barack Obama, yet you will comb the mainstream media in vain to find a single reference to him or anyone else in American politics as far left. Liberals simply define the center as somewhere near where they are and consign vast swaths of the electorate to a place outside polite society called the far right.

Myth #2: Conservatives represent special interests. If liberals represent the American people, whom do conservatives represent? They are in bed with “special interests.” Listening to liberals, you would never guess that the titans of Wall Street regularly fill the coffers of Democratic candidates, or that the pharmaceutical industry couldn’t wait to cut a special deal on Obamacare, or that well-paid public-sector union leaders regularly extract generous salaries and benefits from their Democratic allies, or that the education unions put their own interests ahead of American youth, or that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bask in the protection of Democrats in Congress, or that many so-called leaders of minority communities actually have few real followers but rely on liberal policies and laws for the status they claim. In fact, liberalism is one nonstop orgy of special pleading and identity politics.

Myth #3: The Republican party is moving to the right. When things go wrong for liberals, as they did in last November’s elections, and politics seems especially divisive, it is never because liberals have moved out of the mainstream. There’s only one possible explanation: Republicans must be moving to the right. But in 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected, Republicans stood for lower taxes, less federal spending, smaller deficits, less government regulation, a strong defense, free trade, limits on abortion, and First and Second Amendment rights. Sound familiar? This is the platform of today’s Republicans. The Democratic party, however, has careened far to the left. Who in 1980 could have imagined today’s federal budget of $3.6 trillion, 25 percent of GDP? Or today’s deficit of $1.3 trillion, up from just $161 billion in 2007? Or today’s national debt of $15 trillion? Or today’s defense spending below 4 percent of GDP? Or government control of health care and automobile companies and banks? Or marriage itself redefined? Who’s kidding whom here?

Myth #4: The Tea Party is dangerous and extreme. How then to account for the erroneous belief that Republicans have moved to the right? Why, the Tea Party! It would be hard to conjure up a more ridiculous candidate for a sinister force than this generally well-mannered and pacific political movement. Indeed, there’s a good argument that by focusing on the fiscal catastrophe staring America in the face rather than on social issues, the Tea Party has actually dampened political divisiveness. One more thing. Against baseless charges of racism, Tea Party defenders have done themselves no favor by responding, “Well, yes, there are fringe elements in all groups.” At the Tea Party rallies I have witnessed, there were not a few racists in evidence, but no racists. The relatively few minorities who spoke or attended were more than welcome; they were very much appreciated. Tea Party members wish there were more.

Myth #5: Ethnic minorities must be liberals. Why then must liberals detect nonexistent racism in the Tea Party? Because they speak for the people.They assume that, as groups which have suffered historical oppression, African Americans and other ethnic minorities simply must be liberals. Otherwise, the entire liberal narrative would be at risk. That’s why it is completely acceptable for liberals to vilify conservative blacks, whom they see as traitors to their group. Liberals feel free to attack these “Uncle Toms” personally, viciously, with the zeal of one rooting out apostasy. By the same token, liberals don’t actually have to do anything to merit the allegiance of minorities. Take a look at minority joblessness, inner city schools, and social breakdown (72 percent of African-American babies born out of wedlock): These are the fruits of many decades of liberal kindness at the federal, state, and local levels. But if more minorities succeeded, liberals would lose their reason for being.

Myth #6: Women are naturally liberals. Having suffered inequality, women too must be liberals, and conservative women must be traitors to their group. It’s quite all right to call them the ugliest names. Let’s be frank: In 2010 Republicans ran some pretty rough and ready, nontraditional candidates, both men and women. Who was singled out for special derision and condescension? Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Michele Bachmann, and of course Sarah Palin, who was not even running for anything.

Myth #7: Liberals take the country forward and conservatives take it backward. Behind all these illusions lies a deeper notion: History is moving “forward,” and liberals are on the “right side of history.” But there is no intrinsic forward and backward in the historical process; there are only competing visions of America, none of which is guaranteed to succeed. If history is marching somewhere, we don’t know where. And at any given moment, the cold night of tyranny is just as possible as the clear day of enlightenment. Every step has to be won and defended on the basis of what best serves the interests of the American people. That’s why earlier generations believed that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. And, by the way, wouldn’t it be interesting to know where liberals find the metaphysical foundations on which to rest their notions of “forward” and “backward”? Liberal orthodoxy denies a God-given moral order to the universe. Its secular “progress” is nothing but the fantasy of long-dead German philosophers.

Myth #8: Liberals have moved beyond old-fashioned religion. Speaking of religion, those who cling to it are going backwards. They do not operate in what Barack Obama has called the world of “facts and science and argument.” Liberals have resolved once and for all—in their own minds—the irresolvable claims of reason and revelation, and reason has won. Never-theless, in the real world, religion remains vital. That erstwhile paragon of the hard left, the former Soviet Union, failed to stamp out Christianity. The church is growing vigorously in China, despite Beijing’s every effort to repress and control it. The progressive liberal democracies of Europe are once again confronting the force of religious claims, this time of Islam. Liberals have not transcended religion; they are simply tone deaf to it. That’s why they fundamentally misunderstand Islam, closing their eyes to its teaching and practice in areas like marriage and women’s rights and freedom of conscience. This will not have good consequences.

Myth #9: Good intentions are enough for liberals. But accurately judging consequences is less important to liberals than moving forward. Liberal programs do not represent testable social-policy experiments to be judged by their results. They represent compassion, so their critics are heartless. Money spent on these programs cannot be wasted because they are investments in people. Liberals are to be judged by the purity of their intentions.

Myth #10: No logical arguments need be made against conservatives. For liberals there are never two legitimate sides in a debate. There are only forward and backward, good intentions and bad intentions. It is not necessary to argue the merits of an issue with someone who is pointing backward; it is enough to locate that person as pointing backward. To do so is to make the case and prove the case. The result is predictable: The essence of liberal argument is ad hominem attack. Liberals do not confront arguments directly, any more than they confront religious claims directly; they go behind conservative arguments to vilify the messenger. If you disagree with liberal policy you are a xenophobe, a homophobe, an Islamophobe, a racist, an extremist, or lately a “terrorist.” As the president has said, you are too scared to think straight. Instead of answering your arguments, liberals aim to shut you up with snarky TV entertainment shows.

A hundred years ago, the philosopher George Santayana cut to the core of this mentality. In his commentary on Goethe’s Faust, Santayana wrote of the modern liberal that “his ultimate satisfaction in his work is not founded on any good done, but on a passionate willfulness. He calls the thing he wants for others good, because he wants to bestow it on them, not because they naturally want it for themselves. Incapable of sympathy, he has a momentary pleasure in policy.” Just perfect. What this willful liberal does not admit is that decent, intelligent people who understand their own interests and understand liberal policies can still reject them.

Remember Bowles-Simpson?  A statement by Bowles in 2011 below (he adds that Ryan back-loaded it so it is really $2.5 trillion)...
“Have any of you all met Paul Ryan? We should get him to come to the university. I’m telling you this guy is amazing. ... He is honest, he is straightforward, he is sincere. And the budget that he came forward with is just like Paul Ryan. It is a sensible, straightforward, serious budget and it cut the budget deficit just like we did, by $4 trillion. … The president as you remember, came out with a budget and I don’t think anybody took that budget very seriously. The Senate voted against it 97 to nothing."  Comments from a speech in North Carolina in 2011.

Dems’ big ‘battle of ideas’ is off to a lying start

Last Updated: 12:48 AM, August 14, 2012
Posted: 12:48 AM, August 14, 2012

Democrats believe fervently in the folly of Paul Ryan’s ideas, yet somehow can’t speak about them truthfully.

They are confident they can destroy Ryan — not because they think they can win the debate over his proposals on the merits, but because they are certain they can distort those proposals with impunity.

Mitt Romney’s inspiring (and inspired) choice of the Wisconsin budget maven as his running mate had commentators on both sides welcoming a clear choice for the country. Romney had done us a favor, they said, in ensuring such a stark clash of visions. The League of Women Voters would approve.

This Hallmark sentiment is nice, though naive. The battle of ideas will be as unsightly and dishonest as the battle over Bain Capital. If Democrats will lie about Mitt Romney killing a woman, it’s only a matter of scale to lie about him unloosing a near-genocidal assault on America’s seniors.

Immediately upon Ryan’s selection, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina released a statement that recalled author Mary McCarthy’s put-down of left-wing playwright Lillian Hellman: “Every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.’ ”

Messina scored Ryan for his “budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy” (except that there aren’t tax cuts, budget-busting or otherwise), for bringing to an “end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher system” (except there’s no voucher, and Medicare benefits would stay exactly the same), and for “shifting thousands of dollars in health-care costs to seniors” (except the Ryan plan doesn’t apply to today’s seniors, nor will it shift costs onto the seniors of the future).

The Democrats never want to admit three things about Ryan’s Medicare plan. First, that it doesn’t affect anyone over age 55 and won’t kick in for another 10 years. Conceding this makes the job of frightening elderly voters trickier, so it is best ignored.

Second, that the current version of the Ryan plan gives future beneficiaries the option to keep traditional Medicare. They will choose among a menu of insurance plans, including a fee-for-service federal option, all of which will be required to offer at least the same level of benefits as Medicare now. The federal government will pay everyone’s premiums up to a level matching the second-lowest-priced plan in a given area. There’s no reason a beneficiary will have to pay more (although he can choose a pricier plan and pay the difference).

Third, that Ryan and President Barack Obama cap overall Medicare spending at the same level. The president is adamant that the growth of Medicare is unsustainable — and rightly so. Everyone acknowledges the program is the foremost driver of our long-term debt. Both Ryan and the president use the same formula of roughly GDP growth plus inflation for setting Medicare’s global budget. The difference is that the president wants a bureaucratic board to get the savings through arbitrary limits on prices that ultimately will limit access to care, while Ryan wants to get the savings through competition and choice.

The Democrats’ demagoguery should be further crimped by the fact that they voted $700 billion in cuts in Medicare to fund ObamaCare, not in the far-off future, but right now. Ryan preserved the cuts in his budget but set them aside for the Medicare trust fund. Mitt Romney wants to repeal ObamaCare in its entirety, including the Medicare cuts.

What the Ryan plan offers, most fundamentally, is a vision of a reformed entitlement state that won’t require massive new tax increases or debt to fund. For all the talk of the “radicalism” of his budget, it keeps taxes at a slightly higher level of GDP than they have averaged over the past several decades. Ten years from now, federal spending still would be at a higher level of GDP than it was at the end of the Clinton years.

This vision — now at the center of the campaign — deserves a serious, honest debate, and will assuredly not get it.

Lee Smith, Weekly Standard
June 8, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 38

The Justice Department has launched an investigation into the White House’s handling of classified information. The spur seems to have been the June 1 New York Times article by David Sanger, sourced to current and former U.S. officials, revealing sensitive details about the Stuxnet and Flame computer worms and other parts of the Obama administration’s cyber campaign to disrupt and spy on Iran’s nuclear weapons program. By the way, none of the officials, according to Sanger, “would allow their names to be used because the effort remains highly classified, and parts of it continue to this day.”

Last week, legislators on both sides of the aisle deplored the administration’s inability, or unwillingness, to keep national security secrets. Leaders of the Senate and House intelligence committees—Senators Saxby Chambliss and Dianne Feinstein and Representatives Mike Rogers and C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger—released a statement noting, “We have become increasingly concerned at the continued leaks regarding sensitive intelligence programs and activities, including specific details of sources and methods.”

In his June 8 press conference Obama tried to push back against the gathering storm. “The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive,” he said. “It’s wrong.”

The president and the New York Times can’t both be right. If the president is correct, then the paper of record, which has so far seemed to be a willing receptacle for the administration’s leaks, must be printing fabrications. Last month the same newspaper detailed how the president directs U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen based on a classified “kill list” of terror suspects, a story based on information from “three dozen” of the president’s “current and former advisers.” So the latest Times article on Iran, revealing what the administration has now tacitly acknowledged as a joint U.S.-Israeli program, looks to be merely the most recent installment in a campaign of intentional leaks damaging to our national security.

The administration, needless to say, sees things differently. From the perspective of Obama’s handlers, and perhaps of their friends in the press, these leaks are spellbinding episodes in a Hollywood-worthy narrative of the president as ever-vigilant superhero, with his finger on the button, ready at a moment’s notice to bring the full weight of American power to bear on our adversaries, so that we may all sleep safely at night. It’s epic, all right. But it’s spin.

All White Houses engage in political stagecraft, but this is something else. The Obama administration can rightly claim the crown of laurels for killing Osama bin Laden—even if the program and personnel that brought down the al Qaeda chief were in place long before Obama came to office. But due credit was not enough for the Obama team. To craft a story about a heroic president and his leading part in American history, the administration rolled out the red carpet for moviemakers like Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow, and gorged the working press with details. It was this information that disclosed the role of a local doctor whose efforts on behalf of an American clandestine operation earned him a 33-year sentence in a Pakistani prison.

That physician is not the only casualty of the White House’s vanity. The administration boasted of a mole who had infiltrated Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and helped thwart an attack against the United States. The man was working for British and Saudi intelligence and details of his role not only damaged the ongoing operations of allied intelligence services, but also put the lives of the agent and others at risk.

Who knows how the information disclosed in the Times’s recent Stuxnet story may come back to harm our citizens and interests, or our ally Israel’s? But the message broadcast to friends, and potential friends, is clear enough. If you fail in your dangerous mission, you may die. If you succeed, you may earn a supporting role in the Obama reelection campaign.

“Why else would they want to do this, except to enhance the image of the president six months before the election?” Sen. John McCain said in an interview with The Weekly Standard last week. “Why else reveal the name of this Pakistani doctor? You can only draw one conclusion. The purpose of all these leaks is to tell a story about a brave, lonely warrior with all this awesome responsibility.”

McCain, who has called for a special prosecutor, has been the administration’s most vocal critic. The White House, says McCain, “got mad when I said these leaks were all meant to make the president look good.” But that’s the simplest explanation for the leaks: The White House has run an information operation that has put us and our allies at risk with no obvious benefit except to the prospects of Obama’s reelection.

McCain says he is cheered by the “widespread bipartisan anger at the leaks,” but Feinstein and other Democrats, such as John Kerry, say that the leaks are just a function of lax discipline and the administration’s poor housekeeping. However, there is evidence that the White House knows quite well what it’s doing.

In an excerpt from his just published book, Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power, from which the cyber war story was adapted for the Times, Sanger recounts how Pentagon officials “fumed” when White House counterterrorism czar John Brennan apparently gave away “operational secrets never shared outside the tribe.” Defense Secretary Robert Gates confronted the senior administration official he perhaps believed in the best position to enact, or at least forward, his recommendation for a “new strategic communications approach.” And what was that strategic approach? asked White House national security adviser Thomas Donilon. “Shut the f— up,” said Gates.

In other words, Defense Secretary Robert Gates thought President Obama’s national security adviser was responsible, directly or indirectly, for the leaks. And if Donilon is responsible, the buck stops with President Obama.

To paraphrase the president, that his White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive. And it’s wrong.

White House Opens Door to Big Donors, and Lobbyists Slip In
April 14, 2012

Last May, as a battle was heating up between Internet companies and Hollywood over how to stop online piracy, a top entertainment industry lobbyist landed a meeting at the White House with one of President Obama’s technology advisers.

The lobbyist did not get there by himself.

He was accompanied by Antoinette C. Bush, a well-connected Washington lawyer who has represented companies like Viacom, Sony and News Corporation for 30 years. A friend of the president and a cousin of his close aide Valerie B. Jarrett, Ms. Bush has been to the White House at least nine times during his term, taking lobbyists along on a few occasions, joining an invitation-only forum about intellectual property, and making social visits with influential friends.

At the same time, she and her husband, Dwight, have donated heavily to the president’s re-election effort: Mr. Bush gave $35,800 on the day of his wife’s White House meeting last year, and Ms. Bush contributed the same amount a month later. In November, they hosted a $17,900-a-plate fund-raiser at their home, where Mr. Obama complained that the nation’s capital should be more “responsive to the needs of people, not the needs of special interests.”

“That is probably the biggest piece of business that remains unfinished,” the president said, as about 45 guests dined under a backyard tent.

Although Mr. Obama has made a point of not accepting contributions from registered lobbyists, a review of campaign donations and White House visitor logs shows that special interests have had little trouble making themselves heard. Many of the president’s biggest donors, while not lobbyists, took lobbyists with them to the White House, while others performed essentially the same function on their visits.

More broadly, the review showed that those who donated the most to Mr. Obama and the Democratic Party since he started running for president were far more likely to visit the White House than others. Among donors who gave $30,000 or less, about 20 percent visited the White House, according to a New York Times analysis that matched names in the visitor logs with donor records. But among those who donated $100,000 or more, the figure rises to about 75 percent. Approximately two-thirds of the president’s top fund-raisers in the 2008 campaign visited the White House at least once, some of them numerous times.

The reasons someone might have gained access to the White House and made a donation are wide-ranging, and it is clear that in some cases the administration came down against the policies being sought by the visitors. But the regular appearance of big donors inside the White House underscores how political contributions continue to lubricate many of the interactions between officials and their guests, if for no other reason than that donors view the money as useful for getting a foot in the door.

Timing of Donations

Some of the donors had no previous record of giving to the president or his party, or of making donations of such magnitude, so their gifts, sometimes given in close proximity to meetings, raise questions about whether they came with expectations of access or were expressions of gratitude.

Dr. William C. Mohlenbrock, chairman of a health care data analysis firm, Verras Ltd., gave occasionally to political candidates over the years, mostly small amounts to Republicans. But last May he contributed the maximum allowable gift, $35,800, to the Obama Victory Fund, which benefits the president’s campaign and the Democratic Party. Later in the year, with help from a Democratic consultant, he landed a meeting with a top White House aide involved in the health care overhaul, but failed to persuade Medicare officials to require more health data collection as part of the new regulations.

Joe E. Kiani, who heads a medical device company, Masimo Corporation, stepped up his giving to Democrats last year as medical device makers campaigned unsuccessfully for the repeal of an excise tax imposed on the industry. Mr. Kiani had several meetings with White House officials last year, including two with lobbyists from his company and another with representatives from his industry’s trade association. In the midst of these gatherings, he donated $35,800 to the victory fund.

Administration officials insisted that donations do not factor into White House visits, and they cited steps taken to curb the influence of money in politics, including a ban on executive branch employees’ accepting gifts from lobbyists and on appointees’ lobbying the White House after they leave. Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman, pointed out that Mr. Obama was the first president to release the visitor logs regularly, and added that “being a supporter of the president does not secure you a visit to the White House, nor does it preclude you from one.”

“The people selected for this article are contributors to the president,” Mr. Schultz said, “but this article excludes the thousands of people who visit the White House every week for meetings and events who did not contribute to the president, many of whom may not have even supported the president.”

‘How This Business Works’

Most donors, including Dr. Mohlenbrock and Mr. Kiani, declined to talk about their motivations for giving. But Patrick J. Kennedy, the former representative from Rhode Island, who donated $35,800 to an Obama re-election fund last fall while seeking administration support for a nonprofit venture, said contributions were simply a part of “how this business works.”

“If you want to call it ‘quid pro quo,’ fine,” he said. “At the end of the day, I want to make sure I do my part.”

Mr. Kennedy visited the White House several times to win support for One Mind for Research, his initiative to help develop new treatments for brain disorders. While his family name and connections are clearly influential, he said, he knows White House officials are busy. And as a former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, he said he was keenly aware of the political realities they face.

“I know that they look at the reports,” he said, referring to records of campaign donations. “They’re my friends anyway, but it won’t hurt when I ask them for a favor if they don’t see me as a slouch.”

Others, like Ms. Bush, rejected the notion that their donations were tied to access. Her husband said it was a coincidence that his contribution last May — made at a Democratic fund-raiser — came on the same day his wife was at the White House. And Ms. Bush noted that most of her meetings occurred before she made her donation in June. She added that as a longtime lawyer with the firm Skadden Arps, it should not be surprising that her work would occasionally take her to the White House.

“Communications law is what I do for a living,” Ms. Bush said. “Yes, I’m an Obama supporter, but in the end I’m a communications law expert. I had the same clients in the Bush administration as well as the Obama administration.”

Although those in office invariably deny it, the notion that access is available at a price is a well-founded reality of Washington. Memorably, President Nixon was caught on tape remarking that $250,000 should be the minimum donation for an ambassadorship. The Clinton White House offered major donors coffees with the president or sleepovers in the Lincoln Bedroom. More recently, Republicans in Congress have raised questions about whether Democratic donors who invested in the solar energy company Solyndra and other troubled firms influenced the administration’s support of those businesses, pointing to White House visits and other official contacts. The administration denies there was any wrongdoing.

At a minimum, it is standard for administrations to recognize generous supporters with sought-after invitations to special events. The Obama White House logs are filled with the names of donors welcomed for St. Patrick’s Day receptions, Super Bowl parties and concerts. Last year, several major Democratic donors rounded out the guest list for a film screening with the first lady.

But in addition to social events, business is also carried out in the White House and its executive offices. The logs suggest some Obama fund-raisers and donors have been trafficking in ties they forged to the administration, helping clients get a seat at the table.

When Los Angeles officials wanted White House backing for a program that would speed up local transit projects, they turned last spring to a California political operative, Kerman Maddox, a top Obama fund-raiser and party donor. “We thought he could help our outreach in Washington,” said Richard Leahy, chief executive of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

In an internal memo justifying Mr. Maddox’s hiring, the authority wrote that he had “direct access to the Executive Oval Office” and cited his position on the Obama campaign’s National Finance Committee. Mr. Maddox’s company Web site prominently features photographs of him with the Obamas.

One day after the authority signed off on his contract, Mr. Maddox made a $10,000 donation to the Obama re-election effort; he donated an additional $6,000 in June. In August, Mr. Maddox landed a meeting for himself and the authority officials with Melody Barnes, then director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, one of several meetings the officials were able to get.

The administration had previously been supportive of Los Angeles County’s efforts to accelerate its transit projects, but the following month, Mr. Obama also announced, as part of his jobs package, a proposal to significantly expand a Transportation Department loan program. The plan, which has drawn bipartisan support, is something Mr. Maddox’s clients had sought. Mr. Maddox, soon donated an additional $11,250 to the victory fund. He said in an e-mail that his donations were tied to fund-raising events and had nothing to do with visiting the White House.

Navigating Washington

Noah Mamet, another veteran Democratic fund-raiser and consultant, emphasizes on his firm’s Web site that he and his partners “are not lobbyists.” Instead, they help their clients “strategically navigate the worlds of politics, philanthropy and business.” Mr. Mamet, who donated $35,800 last year, and his partners have visited the Obama White House more than a dozen times, including at least four occasions on which they accompanied clients to meetings with administration officials. Mr. Mamet declined to comment.

Lamell McMorris, a Chicago native and longtime Obama supporter who appears in White House visitor logs 20 times, runs a Washington consulting firm that, as recently as last year, was registered to lobby. He also operates a sports management company, and has taken clients like the football player Cam Newton and the New Jersey Nets guard Anthony Morrow to the White House for private tours. Mr. McMorris did not reply to requests for comment.

With many of these meetings, it is often difficult to discern what exactly was being discussed. Clues can sometimes be gleaned by looking at the positions and interests of other attendees — who often include lobbyists.

David Beier, who oversees government affairs at the pharmaceutical company Amgen, has had nearly a dozen meetings at the White House, according to the visitor logs. On a single day in February last year, Mr. Beier, Amgen’s chief executive, Kevin W. Sharer, and lobbyists from the Podesta Group, the firm led by the Democratic fund-raiser Tony Podesta, had four meetings with top White House officials, including Ms. Jarrett, Pete Rouse and Austan Goolsbee. Mr. Beier — who was registered to lobby for Amgen for 10 years until last year — donated $35,800 in January, his largest such contribution. The donation came two weeks after he and Mr. Podesta visited the White House for another meeting with an economic official.

Amgen declined to comment, but lobbying disclosure reports show that the company hired the Podesta Group to press the White House and Congress on Medicare coverage and reimbursement for drugs for end-stage renal disease, among other issues.

As for Ms. Bush, a former Senate staff member whose stepfather is the Democratic power broker Vernon E. Jordan Jr., she declined to comment on the nature of her visits. But the purpose of some of them can be inferred from the more detailed records of meetings she had around the same time with officials at the Federal Communications Commission. Those agency meetings — some of which included the same Sony and Viacom lobbyists whom she accompanied to the White House — were mostly about shaping regulations to discourage piracy of digital media.

She also helped Viacom fight an F.C.C. complaint that one of its Nickelodeon shows, Zevo-3, was little more than a vehicle for the show’s marketing partner, Skechers. Writing to the agency for Viacom, Ms. Bush argued that the cartoon show, which features characters with special powers who previously appeared in Skechers commercials, intentionally distances itself from the footwear Skechers sells.

“In particular,” she wrote, “the characters in Zevo-3 do not derive any powers from their shoes, do not go out of their way to refer to their shoes and do not indicate that their shoes bear any relation to their roles on the program.”

Kevin Quealy contributed reporting.

BAMA 2012
Practicing whilst on a recent South American junket, trying extra hard to get that steely-eyed look that sold refrigerators to the Eskimos...

Supreme Court decides on Obamacare (187pp or more);  5-4 decisionThe Blog we were following on the Internet;  decision summary below:
"In Plain English: The Affordable Care Act, including its individual mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional. There were not five votes to uphold it on the ground that Congress could use its power to regulate commerce between the states to require everyone to buy health insurance. However, five Justices agreed that the penalty that someone must pay if he refuses to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power. That is all that matters. Because the mandate survives, the Court did not need to decide what other parts of the statute were constitutional, except for a provision that required states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding. On that question, the Court held that the provision is constitutional as long as states would only lose new funds if they didn't comply with the new requirements, rather than all of their funding."  From SCOTUSblog.

In our democracy, unions are most successful when they organize skilled workers.

What Wisconsin Means
By Charles Krauthammer
June 7, 2012 8:00 P.M.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012, will be remembered as the beginning of the long decline of the public-sector union. It will follow, and parallel, the shrinking of private-sector unions, now down to less than 7 percent of American workers. The abject failure of the unions to recall Wisconsin governor Scott Walker — the first such failure in U.S. history — marks the Icarus moment of government-union power. Wax wings melted, there’s nowhere to go but down.

The ultimate significance of Walker’s union reforms has been largely misunderstood. At first, the issue was curtailing outrageous union benefits, far beyond those of the ordinary Wisconsin taxpayer. That became a nonissue when the unions quickly realized that trying to defend the indefensible would render them toxic for the real fight to come.

So they made the fight about the “right” to collective bargaining, which the reforms severely curtailed. In a state as historically progressive as Wisconsin — in 1959, it was the first to legalize the government-worker union — they thought they could win as a matter of ideological fealty.

But as the recall campaign progressed, the Democrats stopped talking about bargaining rights. It was a losing issue. Walker was able to make the case that years of corrupt union-politician back-scratching had been bankrupting the state. And he had just enough time to demonstrate the beneficial effects of overturning that arrangement: a huge budget deficit closed without raising taxes, significant school-district savings from ending cozy insider health-insurance contracts, and a modest growth in jobs.

But the real threat behind all this was that the new law ended automatic government collection of union dues. That was the unexpressed and politically inexpressible issue. Without the thumb of the state tilting the scale by coerced collection, union membership became truly voluntary. Result? Newly freed members rushed for the exits. In less than one year, AFSCME, the second largest public-sector union in Wisconsin, has lost more than 50 percent of its membership in the state.

It was predictable. In Indiana, where Governor Mitch Daniels instituted by executive order a similar reform seven years ago, government-worker unions have since lost 91 percent of their dues-paying membership. In Wisconsin, Democratic and union bosses (a redundancy) understood what was at stake if Walker prevailed: not benefits, not “rights,” but the very existence of the unions.

So they fought and they lost. Repeatedly. Tuesday was their third and last shot at reversing Walker’s reforms. In April 2011, they ran a candidate for chief justice of the state supreme court who was widely expected to strike down the law. She lost.

In July and August 2011, they ran recall elections of state senators, needing three to reclaim Democratic — i.e., union — control. They failed. (The likely flipping of one Senate seat to the Democrats on June 5 is insignificant. The senate is not in session and won’t be until after yet another round of elections in November.)

And then, Tuesday, their Waterloo. Walker defeated their gubernatorial candidate by a wider margin than he had two years ago.

The unions’ defeat marks a historical inflection point. They set out to make an example of Walker. He succeeded in making an example of them as a classic case of reactionary liberalism. An institution founded to protect its members grew in size, wealth, power, and arrogance. A half-century later these unions were exercising essential control of everything from wages to work rules in the running of government — something that, in a system of republican governance, is properly the sovereign province of the citizenry.

Why did the unions lose? Because Norma Rae nostalgia is not enough, and it hardly applied to government workers living better than the average taxpayer who supports them.

And because of the rise of a new constitutional conservatism — committed to limited government and a more robust civil society — of the kind that swept away Democrats in the 2010 midterm shellacking.

Most important, however, because in the end reality prevails. As economist Herb Stein once put it: Something that can’t go on, won’t. These public-sector unions, acting, as FDR had feared, with an inherent conflict of interest regarding their own duties, were devouring the institution they were supposed to serve, rendering state government as economically unsustainable as the collapsing entitlement states of southern Europe.

It couldn’t go on. Now it won’t. All that was missing was a political leader willing to risk his career to make it stop. Because, time being infinite, even the inevitable doesn’t happen on its own.

Consider the source.
Obama’s Problem? His Record
By Jonah Goldberg, National Review
April 18, 2012 12:00 A.M.

‘The choice in this election is between an economy that produces a growing middle class and that gives people a chance to get ahead and their kids a chance to get ahead, and an economy that continues down the road we are on, where a fewer and fewer number of people do very well and everybody else is running faster and faster just to keep pace.”

That’s Obama adviser David Axelrod on Fox News Sunday, explaining why people should vote for . . . Barack Obama.

Odds are this was simply poor phrasing. But it might not have been, given how desperately the Obama campaign wants to turn back the clock to 2008, when the choice was between hope and change or continuing “down the road we are on.”

Regardless of the spin, the simple fact is that Obama is the stay-the-course candidate stuck with a team, a record, and an economy ill-suited for a stay-the-course strategy.

That’s what gives poignancy to Obama’s recently renewed love affair with Ronald Reagan, whom Obama invokes these days as a model of reasonableness and bipartisanship. He even wants to rename the “Buffett rule” the “Reagan rule.”

Even before he got the nomination in 2008, Obama said he wanted to be a “transformative” president like Reagan had been.

And last year, Time magazine featured a cover story, “Why Obama [Hearts] Reagan,” which in Time’s words gave the true story behind “Obama’s Reagan Bromance.”

There were two key elements to Obama’s man-crush. The first was the simple hope that history — or at least the business cycle — would repeat itself.

The White House’s plan was to run for reelection in 2012 with a soaring economy at its back. After an absolutely bruising recession (that was in some ways worse than the one Obama inherited), Reagan got to ride a surging economy to reelection. America enjoyed 6 percent annual growth in 1984: In three of the four quarters before Election Day, GDP quarterly growth was more than 7 percent, while inflation and unemployment plummeted.

At Obama’s back is a dismayingly anemic recovery, constantly threatening to get worse. He wants credit for “creating” 3 million jobs but insists he be held blameless for millions more workers who’ve left the job market entirely.

The other reason the White House admired the Reagan White House? According to Time: “Both relied heavily on the power of oratory.” Then– press secretary Robert Gibbs added, “Our hope is the story ends the same way.”

And there’s the problem for Obama. He’s sticking to his rhetorical guns on the assumption that he’s the great orator his fans have always claimed. It’s admirably Gipperesque, I suppose, but the problem is that Obama has never once significantly moved public opinion on domestic issues with his arguments. If he had that power, not only would “Obamacare” be popular today, it would have been popular when he gave more than 50 addresses and speeches on it during his first year.

Obama’s out on the stump embracing Obamacare, and also doubling down on green energy, on the need for “investments” in government programs, and for the whole hodgepodge of rationalizations for hiking taxes and “spreading the wealth around.”

Asking whether Obama is as good a communicator as Reagan is like comparing boxers from different generations; there’s plenty of evidence to form opinions but no way to settle the matter.

But what must be very troubling for Obama is the mounting evidence that presidential persuasion is vastly overrated. Political scientist Brendan Nyhan has noted that Reagan’s rhetoric had little effect on the polls or his media coverage. Liberal Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein, surveying the academic literature in a recent issue of the New Yorker, found that there’s little evidence that any president has really moved the country with his rhetoric.

My hunch is that such findings are overdone and leave out some aspects of presidential persuasion.

Still, what’s undoubtedly true is that results matter far more than words. And despite Axelrod’s assertions, the fact is that Obama has been leading us down the road we are on for more than three years, and that’s what voters will have in mind come Election Day.

Obama defends missile defense comments on hot mic
The Washington Times
By Dave Boyer
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

SEOUL — A defensive President Obama said Tuesday he wasn’t guilty of “hiding the ball” when an open microphone caught him pleading with the president of Russia to delay missile shield talks until after this year’s elections.

“The only way I get this stuff done is If I’m consulting with the Pentagon, with Congress, if I’ve got bipartisan support and frankly, the current environment is not conducive to those kinds of thoughtful consultations,” Mr. Obama told reporters at a nuclear security summit here. “This is not a matter of hiding the ball.”

A day earlier, Mr. Obama was caught on tape telling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he needed “space” this year to put his re-election campaign behind him before taking up missile defense negotiations with the Russians.

“After my election, I have more flexibility,” he told Mr. Medvedev, unaware that their conversation was being recorded by a journalist.

Republicans in Washington reacted angrily, accusing Mr. Obama of hiding his true intentions and fearing he might be willing to give the Russians access to sensitive security information after the elections. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney called Mr. Obama’s comments “alarming and troubling...”

From an earlier story...

“This is my last election,” Mr. Obama said. “After my election, I have more flexibility.”

The Russian leader responded, “I understand. I transmit this information to Vladimir.”

The exchange was picked up by microphone of a Russian reporter as journalists were allowed into the meeting room for remarks by the two leaders. It was first reported by ABC News, which said it verified the conversation. A Washington Times reporter heard a portion of the tape that begins with Mr. Obama saying, “This is my last election.”

Obama Sends Apology as Afghan Koran Protests Rage
February 23, 2012

KABUL, Afghanistan — President Obama apologized on Thursday for the burning of Korans at the largest American base in Afghanistan earlier this week as furious protests raged for a third day and a man wearing Afghan Army uniform turned his weapon on coalition soldiers, killing two of them.

“I wish to express my deep regret for the reported incident,” Mr. Obama said in a letter to President Hamid Karzai. “I extend to you and the Afghan people my sincere apologies.”

The letter was handed to Mr. Karzai by the American ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan C. Crocker, on Thursday afternoon in Kabul.

The acting spokesman for the American Embassy in Kabul, Mark Thornburg, confirmed that the letter had been hand delivered by Mr. Crocker to Mr. Karzai.

“The error was inadvertent,” Mr. Obama said. “I assure you that we will take the appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, to include holding accountable those responsible.”

The letter, an apparent attempt to quell the ferocity of the protests, followed a third day of angry demonstrations across Afghanistan in which another six Afghans were killed and at least 55 wounded, according to Afghan officials.

As the protests raged, the international coalition said two NATO service members were killed in eastern Afghanistan when a man wearing the uniform of the Afghan national army turned his gun on NATO soldiers.

The NATO commanding general in Afghanistan, John R. Allen, had already offered his apology for the burning of the Korans, ordered an investigation, and issued an order for every coalition soldier in Afghanistan to complete training in "the proper handling of religious materials."

By Thursday morning, demonstrations had begun to widen, officials and witnesses said, though some crowds were small and relatively peaceful. But one, in Laghman Province, drew as many as 1,000 protesters and turned violent as demonstrators marched to a NATO-run base for provincial reconstruction.

In Baghlan Province there was a confrontation between the police and protesters and one protester was killed, officials said.In a late-night statement sent to the media on Wednesday, President Hamid Karzai urged demonstrators not to resort to violence. Mr. Karzai scheduled a hastily arranged meeting with members of both houses of Parliament on Thursday morning at the presidential palace and some 300 lawmakers arrived to participate, said a presidential spokesman, Aimal Faizi.

The fury does not appear likely to abate soon. Some members of Parliament called on Afghans to take up arms against the American military, and Western officials said they feared that conservative mullahs might incite more violence at the weekly Friday Prayer, when a large number of people worship at mosques.

“Americans are invaders, and jihad against Americans is an obligation,” said Abdul Sattar Khawasi, a member of Parliament from the Ghorband District in Parwan Province, where at least four demonstrators were killed in confrontations with the police on Wednesday.

Standing with about 20 other members of Parliament, Mr. Khawasi called on mullahs and religious leaders “to urge the people from the pulpit to wage jihad against Americans.”

The Taliban also called on people to take up arms against the foreign troops here and the Afghan security forces.

In a message to the media and posted on Taliban Web sites, the insurgent group gave specific instructions including to “attack the occupiers’ military bases, their military convoys and other occupying soldiers.”

The goal, according to the Taliban statement was to attack American installations and property but not Afghans’ “public property.”

The message also urged attacks on those “who still close their eyes to this unforgivable act of the infidels” and those who defend American property, an allusion to the Afghan security forces.

With the mood tense across the capital, where roads were closed and the American Embassy and most other diplomatic missions were locked down, Mr. Karzai made his first public statement on the episode on Wednesday, strongly condemning the Koran burnings and setting up a panel of mullahs and other senior religious figures to investigate it.

He said that a preliminary investigation showed that “American soldiers had burned four copies of the Holy Koran.” It was not clear if other copies were damaged but not actually burned. Earlier reports from elders who visited Bagram Air Base on Tuesday and saw some of the Korans indicated that 10 to 15 had been damaged to varying degrees.

The White House said Mr. Obama had also used the letter to Mr. Karzai to discuss other issues concerning America’s long-term relationship with Afghanistan. The two leaders had spoken by telephone on Monday, a day before the Koran burning incident, when they discussed among other things Mr. Karzai’s recent visit to Pakistan and the prospects for peace talks with the Taliban.

“Following up on their February 20 phone call, the President sent a letter to President Karzai to continue their discussion on a range of issues related to our long-term partnership,” Tommy Vietor, the spokesman for the National Security Council, said in a statement. “In the letter, delivered by Ambassador Crocker this afternoon in Kabul, the President also expressed our regret and apologies over the incident in which religious materials were unintentionally mishandled at Bagram Airbase.”

The Koran-burning episode offered support for Mr. Karzai’s argument that the Afghan government should take over the American-run detention center in Parwan, where more than 3,000 suspected insurgents are housed, as he demanded in December. The United States has declined, citing legal reasons and saying that the Afghans are not prepared to run the maximum-security site.

Mr. Faizi, the presidential spokesman, said Mr. Karzai had now renewed his demand to the Americans. “The sooner you turn over the Bagram prison to Afghan authorities the sooner we will avoid such incidents,” he said.

The American efforts here are at a crucial stage, as the United States tries to negotiate a strategic partnership agreement with the Afghans and to pave the way for peace talks. Aware of the damage the Koran burnings can cause, American diplomats and military officials met with Mr. Karzai and spoke to senior Afghan government and religious figures in an attempt to tamp down their anger, said Mark Thornburg, the acting spokesman for the American Embassy.

Among those who met with Mr. Karzai were Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador; Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan; and Ashton B. Carter, the deputy defense secretary. They apologized and offered to cooperate fully with the Afghan government in its investigation into what led to the burning of the Korans.

Extremist groups, including the Taliban, were quick to exploit the episode, rallying mobs of mostly young men to confront the Americans and the Afghan security forces.

Outside Parliament, a crowd of madrasa students wielding sticks said they were prompted to protest by their teachers.

Throughout the morning the highway between Jalalabad and central Kabul was closed by a crowd of at least several hundred people. They set tires on fire and burned checkpoints and a government minibus as they surged toward Camp Phoenix, the NATO military base that faces the road. Many threw rocks at passing S.U.V.’s — symbols of the foreign presence — as well as Afghan police and American military vehicles.

Protesters in Kabul interviewed on the road and in front of Parliament said that this was not the first time that Americans had violated Afghan cultural and religious traditions and that an apology was not enough.

“This is not just about dishonoring the Koran, it is about disrespecting our dead and killing our children,” said Maruf Hotak, 60, a man who joined the crowd on the outskirts of Kabul, referring to an episode in Helmand Province when American Marines urinated on the dead bodies of men they described as insurgents and to a recent erroneous airstrike on civilians in Kapisa Province that killed eight young Afghans.

“They always admit their mistakes,” he said. “They burn our Koran, and then they apologize. You can’t just disrespect our holy book and kill our innocent children and make a small apology.”

Most of the protesters’ injuries occurred in confrontations with Afghan police officers and soldiers who were trying to contain the violence and in some cases prevent assaults on NATO bases by angry mobs.

In the eastern city of Jalalabad, where one person was killed and 10 wounded on Wednesday, protesters said that Afghan soldiers and NATO troops fired on the crowd. Six NATO fuel trucks parked near the base were also set on fire, said Ahmadzia Abdul Zai, the spokesman for the provincial governor.

The day was hardest in many respects for the police, who said they sympathized with the protesters but said understood it was their job to try to enforce order. While some witnesses said the police officers seemed reluctant to intervene, at other times confrontations resulted in casualties.

“I do not blame people for throwing rocks at us,” Gen. Mohammed Ayoub Salangi, the Kabul police chief, said after he was pelted when he went out to visit his forces on the Jalalabad road, “because this is their right to protest their anger about dishonoring our Holy Koran, and the police are their sons and their servants.”

SHOULD PERMITS BE REQUIRED?  NYC have a policy like the Weston BD of ED? Pay to use the schools (fill out permit, pay fee, hire police and pay for 4 hours of a custodian)?
From anti-Bush sentiment at 2004 Republican Convention in NYC to G20 in Pittsburgh and Toronto;  Do anonymous protesters ("Occupying Wall Street") pay rent?  A "user fee" for right-of-way?  
President Obama waves to people gathered outside in the rain as he shops for Christmas gifts Wednesday in Alexandria. The president’s spokesman said Mr. Obama’s assertion that he ranked among the greatest presidents was taken out of context (r.) - Associated Press.

MILLER: Obama blows off Congress
President says he won’t abide by spending bill he signed
The Washington Times
By Emily Miller
Monday, December 26, 2011

When the president of the United States signs a bill into law, it’s expected that he will abide by it. That’s not the case with President Obama, who has a sudden interest in novel legalistic interpretations getting him off the hook from laws he doesn’t like.

On Friday, the president signed the $1 trillion omnibus spending bill, which funds the government for the remaining nine months of the fiscal year. Afterward, he released a statement saying he won’t abide by the law because the Justice Department had advised that certain provisions are “subject to well-founded constitutional objections.”

House Speaker John A. Boehner’s spokesman Kevin Smith told The Washington Times, “This president used to condemn the type of signing statements he is now embracing to ignore the will of Congress and the American people.”

One of the presidential pet peeves is that Capitol Hill put the kibosh on his czars. Those high-level White House appointments aren’t confirmed by the Senate but are central to implementing Mr. Obama’s liberal agenda. Lawmakers specifically blocked funding for salaries and offices for four of his nine czars: health care (who coordinates Obamacare), automobile industry (“car czar”), urban affairs and climate change.

The president protested that defunding those positions “could prevent me from fulfilling my constitutional responsibilities, by denying me the assistance of senior advisers and by obstructing my supervision of executive branch officials.” Thus, he’s going to interpret the law as he sees fit.

The commander in chief is opposed to new restrictions on foreign relations and national security, especially a new requirement that the defense secretary notify congressional appropriations committees in advance of military exercises that cost more than $100,000 for construction.

Also at issue is a restriction on funding United Nations peacekeeping missions that put U.S. armed forces under the command or operational control of foreign nationals. Mr. Obama said he’s only going to apply those provisions he deems constitutional. The same flexibility with the law apparently will be enjoyed in relation to 14 separate provisions that limit foreign aid to certain governments.

The president protested that “once again” he has been stopped from transferring terrorist detainees from the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, onto the U.S. mainland. He claimed this law could “violate constitutional separation of powers principles.” He vowed to interpret it to keep executive powers supreme and work to repeal the ban on bringing these dangerous outlaws stateside.

On top of all this, Mr. Obama took umbrage at unnamed but “numerous” omnibus provisions that limit the executive branch from spending money without the approval of congressional committees. He wrote, “These are constitutionally impermissible forms of congressional aggrandizement in the execution of the laws.” The chief executive warned that his administration will notify the relevant committees in advance and listen to their recommendations, but “our spending decisions shall not be treated as dependent on the approval of congressional committees.”

The American system of government is based on a separation of powers, not presidential fiat. Mr. Obama should abide by every word of the 1,200-page bill passed by Congress and signed by his own hand.

© Copyright 2011 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

APNewsBreak:  we haven't heard this from other sources.
Obama seeks debt collector proposal

By DAVID ESPO - AP Special Correspondent
4 October 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) — To the dismay of consumer groups and the discomfort of Democrats, President Barack Obama wants Congress to make it easier for private debt collectors to call the cellphones of consumers delinquent on student loans and other billions owed the federal government.

The change "is expected to provide substantial increases in collections, particularly as an increasing share of households no longer have landlines and rely instead on cellphones," the administration wrote recently. The little-noticed recommendation would apply only to cases in which money is owed the government, and is tucked into the mammoth $3 trillion deficit-reduction plan the president submitted to Congress.

Despite the claim, the administration has not yet developed an estimate of how much the government would collect, and critics reject the logic behind the recommendation.

"Enabling robo-calls (to cellphones) is just going to lead to more harassment and abuse, and it's not going to help the government collect more money," said Lauren Saunders of the Boston-based National Consumer Law Center. "People aren't paying their student loans because they can't find a job."

Whatever the impact on the budget deficit, the proposal has aligned the White House with the private debt collection industry — frequently the subject of consumer complaints — at a time when the economy is weak, unemployment is high and Obama is embarking on his campaign for re-election.

White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters the proposal is "just an acknowledgement of the fact that a lot of people have abandoned landlines and only have cell phones. As a matter of practicality, if they need to be contacted with regard to their debt, there has to be a way to contact them."

While Carney didn't say so, debt collection agencies are already permitted to call cell phones. The administration wants the law changed so the firms can use robo-calling.

Democrats in Congress who frequently support the president, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, declined through aides to say whether they favor or oppose the plan.

Nor was there any reaction from two other members of the party's leadership in the Senate, Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Chuck Schumer of New York. Both men frequently take the side of consumers in legislative struggles.

Several aides, speaking on condition of anonymity so they could talk freely, said Democrats do not want to oppose the president but are unable to support the request.

Mark Schiffman, a spokesman for ACA International, an industry trade association, said the administration "basically has come to the same solution we have" at a time when an increasing number of Americans have no landline phone to receive calls.

The change "is something we have been advocating for," he said, although he added his organization did not have direct discussions with administration officials in advance.

Schiffman noted that debt collectors have long been allowed to make robo-calls to landline phones. He said automatic dialing is a more efficient way to contact consumers who are overdue in their payments, and the industry wants it allowed in all cases, not solely those involving debts owed to the government, as Obama has proposed. Legislation along those lines was introduced in the House last week.

Federal law currently permits private debt collectors to use automatic dialing in trying to contact consumers on their landline phones. They also are permitted to make individually dialed calls to some cellphones.

The request comes at a time when the government is looking for ways to collect tens of billions of dollars.

According to a report by the Treasury Department's Financial Management Service, the Education and the Health and Human Services departments as well as FMS itself referred debts totaling $35.9 billion to private debt collectors in the 2010 fiscal year.

The Education Department accounted for the largest share by far — $28.8 billion referred to 22 private debt collection companies. The firms collected $685 million outright, and another $1.7 billion was recast into agreements that are designed to be paid monthly, according to the report.

Justin Hamilton, a spokesman for Education Secretary Arne Duncan, defended the proposal as an attempt to help individuals who fall behind on loans from the government. "It's a reality of the 21st century that a growing number of those who are delinquent "are using only a cell phone. If we can't reach them, we can't help them. And that's not good for students or for taxpayers," he said in an email.

According to written responses the department provided to questions, it hires private collection agencies in part so the government can gain "the benefits of greater collections" through the use of new technology that is developed by private industry.

Collection agencies can receive a fee of as much as 17.5 percent of the amount they recover.

A different federal agency, the Federal Trade Commission, collects extensive records about the private debt collection industry in general.

"The FTC receives more complaints about the debt collection industry than any other specific industry," according to an annual report to Congress, more than 100,000 in 2010.

The complaints fall into several categories, citing alleged harassment, demands for impermissibly large payments, failure to provide required consumer notice and threatening dire consequences such as jail time.

Wall Street Demonstrations Test Police Trained for Bigger Threats
September 26, 2011

When members of the loose protest movement known as Occupy Wall Street began a march from the financial district to Union Square on Saturday, the participants seemed relatively harmless, even as they were breaking the law by marching in the street without a permit.

But to the New York Police Department, the protesters represented something else: a visible example of lawlessness akin to that which had resulted in destruction and violence at other anticapitalist demonstrations, like the Group of 20 economic summit meeting in London in 2009 and the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in 1999.

The Police Department’s concerns came up against a perhaps milder reality on Saturday, when their efforts to maintain crowd control suddenly escalated: protesters were corralled by police officers who put up orange mesh netting; the police forcibly arrested some participants; and a deputy inspector used pepper spray on four women who were on the sidewalk, behind the orange netting.

The police’s actions suggested the flip side of a force trained to fight terrorism, in a city whose police commissioner acknowledges the ownership of a gun big enough to take down a plane, but that may appear less nimble in dealing with the likes of the Wall Street protesters. So even as the members of Occupy Wall Street seem unorganized and, at times, uninformed, their continued presence creates a vexing problem for the Police Department.

In recent weeks, police commanders have been discussing the riots in London this summer, and strategizing how they would stop a similar situation in New York, said Roy Richter, the president of the union in New York that represents officers of captain and higher rank. And since August, investigators with the Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have monitored the online efforts of activists to bring demonstrations to Wall Street, people briefed on the matter said.

The Police Department conducts an internal review of its response to every large-scale demonstration, and the protest on Saturday appeared to have resulted in the largest number of arrests since the demonstrations surrounding the Republican National Convention in 2004. The events of Saturday are certain to be examined, especially since so many protesters were recording the events with cameras; videos of the pepper spray episode, for example, offered views from several angles.

Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, defended the use of pepper spray as appropriate and added that it was “used sparingly.”

But Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr., chairman of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, said that in the video clips he had seen, the use of pepper spray “didn’t look good,” although Mr. Vallone cautioned that he wanted to know if any interactions had occurred between the officers and the women in the minutes before pepper spray was used.

“If no prior verbal command was given and disobeyed, then the use of spray in that instance is completely inappropriate,” Mr. Vallone said. On Monday, several Web sites identified the supervising officer who used the pepper spray as Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, a longtime commander in Manhattan. Like a number of other officers, Inspector Bologna is a defendant in lawsuits claiming wrongful arrests at protests staged during the Republican National Convention in 2004..

A police official who had spoken to Inspector Bologna following the incident confirmed that the inspector had used the spray. “He did his job and now he’s concerned for the safety of his family,” said the official, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to confirm the inspector’s name.

According to the Police Department’s patrol guide, officers may use pepper spray under certain conditions, including “when a member reasonably believes it is necessary to effect an arrest of a resisting suspect.” The guide also advises that the spray should “not be used in situations that do not require the use of physical force.”

The Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent agency that investigates allegations of police misconduct, received 328 complaints in 2010 relating to the use of pepper spray, accounting for about 5.5 percent of the total number of complaints citing improper use of force.

In the past week, the review board has received more than a dozen complaints relating to officers’ interactions with protesters, said a spokeswoman for the board, Linda Sachs.

Although the Police Department has closely monitored the encampment of protesters in the Financial District and stationed officers there, there appears to have been little discussion between the police and the protesters.

Mr. Browne, the police spokesman said that the protesters never sought a permit for Saturday’s march.

The lack of communication between the two sides may have set the stage for the confrontation on Saturday near Union Square.

When groups have permits, “the department is pretty accommodating when it comes to street marches,” said Christopher T. Dunn, associate legal director for the New York Civil Liberties Union. He added that some groups had perfectly good reasons for not wanting to engage with the police, and “that’s certainly their prerogative.”

In interviews, police officials described the lack of a permit and the fact that protesters were obstructing traffic as key factors in the arrests and the department’s decision to end the march.

“If you have a permit, the police will accommodate for things like diverting traffic,” Mr. Browne said. “If you take a street for a parade or protest without a permit, you are subject to arrest.”

Mr. Richter, of the police union, said that from the perspective of the protesters, the Police Department’s decision to suddenly end the demonstration might have appeared arbitrary.

“I can see it from a demonstrator’s view, asking, ‘What changed?’ ” Mr. Richter said. “But there comes a point when the command staff makes a decision that the crowd is too big, and we’re at a breaking point, and we have to take back the street.”

BLANKLEY: Double-dip learning curve
Obama about-face on tax hikes flummoxes both left and right

The Washington Times
By Tony Blankley
Monday, September 19, 2011

In one of the least-needed reassurances in modern political history, President Obama’s top political man, David Plouffe, “told Democrats late last week that the White House would not suffer from overconfidence. ‘What I don’t want to suggest is that we’re sitting around and thinking everything is great,’ he said.”

With the White House’s own economists predicting 9 percent or worse unemployment on Election Day, the president at about 39 percent job approval, college graduates unable to find jobs, a quarter of American homes under water, no credible White House policy or strategy for changing things - and with most non-institutionalized Americans convinced we are in a recession that is going to get much worse - it is surpassingly odd that Mr. Plouffe, as The Washington Post said, was worried that his fellow Democrats might think the president and his men think everything to be hunky-dory.

And yet, if overconfidence is not driving White House strategy, what is? If it weren’t overconfident, wouldn’t the administration be changing its policies, staff and strategies, as James Carville screamed it ought to do? Mr. Carville says to the White House: “Panic!” And the White House responds: “What - me worry? No, we’re not overconfident.”

After the November 2010 election rout, many observers (not me) thought they observed a rising learning curve in the White House. The president agreed to sign into law the extension of the George W. Bush tax cuts - with the White House even conceding that one shouldn’t raise taxes during a recession or, from its rhetorical posture, one shouldn’t raise taxes during the early stages of a recovery that is not yet sufficiently robust.

Yet in the president’s recent new “jobs” policy announcement, he called for more than $400 billion in new taxes to “pay for” more than $400 billion of Keynesian growth injection (not to be confused with the banned word - stimulus).

Given that this administration believes in the Keynesian principle of replacing a slumped private-sector aggregate demand with public-sector moneys, why would the president now be calling for higher taxes during an “insufficiently robust early stage of recovery?”

According to the actual John Keynes, when an economy experiences contraction of private-sector aggregate demand, the government should both: 1) Spend more government money - borrowed, if necessary - and 2) lower taxes.

Thus, the White House decision to raise spending and raise taxes is neither Keynesian nor rational. It is, however, similar to its decision in 2009 to stimulate the economy with $825 billion almost entirely focused on government spending. At the time, I (and some others) publicly argued that if the president was following Keynesian policy, the logic of that policy required that the stimulus should be in the vicinity of $2 trillion - not less than $1 trillion - to replace more than $2 trillion in lost private-sector aggregate demand.

Since then, while most of the public (and most of us conservatives) have argued that the stimulus did not work, the White House has made the argument that things would have been much worse if the stimulus plan had not been enacted - thus implicitly conceding that if it had stimulated more in 2009, the economy would be even less bad than it is now.

So what can one deduce has been the White House policy reasoning these past 2 1/2 years? First, in early 2009, provide Keynesian stimulus to the economy, but not enough to gain robust growth. Second, in late 2010, don’t raise taxes for fear of inducing further insufficiently robust growth. Third, in middle 2011, raise taxes even though there remains insufficiently robust growth. No wonder the left is as baffled, flummoxed and frustrated as is - for different reasons - the right.

It would appear that the White House’s learning curve is paralleling the economy: flat-lining, with the risk of a double dip.

Despite all reason to the contrary, it may be that Mr. Plouffe really was defensive, that he and his team really are overconfident. Perhaps, despite everything, they feel no need to experiment or change an iota in their flat-lining policy prescriptions.

Perhaps, rather than trying to change the economy or the world, they are confidently guided by the expectation that the Republicans simply will choose an unelectable nominee and solve all the White House’s problems. Blanche Dubois, in the Tennessee Williams play “Streetcar Named Desire,” expressed that strategy in an other way: “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

The President’s Do-Over
September 11, 2011

A week after President Obama took the oath of office, Alice Rivlin, budget chief to President Bill Clinton, testified before a Congress that was about to consider sweeping stimulus legislation. In her remarks, Rivlin voiced her support for a swift and substantial federal intervention to prop up the sagging economy. But she offered lawmakers three warnings as well.

The first warning was about the design of the stimulus. The ideal anti-recession package, Rivlin told Congress, would include aid to state governments, extended unemployment benefits, money for genuinely “shovel ready” projects and a payroll tax holiday. But she urged Congress to resist the temptation to combine these kinds of short-term recession-fighting measures with a larger and more costly investment in energy, education and infrastructure. Trying to rush a long-term spending package through in an atmosphere of crisis, she cautioned, would only guarantee that its contents would be poorly designed, and much of its spending wasted.

The second warning was about setting expectations. Given the nature of the financial crisis and the nasty overhang of debt it left behind, any recovery would probably be slow even with a stimulus bill. Policy makers “should be skeptical of all forecasts,” she told Congress, “and especially conscious of the risk that things may continue to go worse than expected.”

The third warning was about how to handle the problem of deficits, which already shadowed the stimulus debate. “We do not have the luxury of waiting until the economy recovers before taking actions to bring down projected future deficits,” Rivlin said. Instead, she urged Congress to take action “this year” on entitlement spending, and to prioritize Medicare reforms over a more comprehensive health care overhaul.

With these three warnings, Rivlin anticipated everything that the Obama White House and the Democratic Congress would do wrong over the next two years.

First, instead of passing a targeted antirecession package, Congressional Democrats crammed the stimulus bill with spending on everything from Head Start and Pell Grants to high-speed rail and renewable-energy projects. The hope was that the legislation would do more than just kickstart a recovery: It would lay a new foundation for the economy, with an electric car in every garage and a Solyndra solar panel on every roof. The result, predictably, was a bill that looked less like a temporary exercise in crisis management and more like the Democratic Party’s permanent wish list.

Second, instead of emphasizing the severity of the recession, the White House offered sunny — and, as it turned out, wildly mistaken — projections about how swiftly the stimulus would bring down the unemployment rate. Even once it became clear that the recovery wasn’t happening nearly as quickly as promised, the administration stuck to its Pollyannaish script, sending the president and the vice president out on an embarrassing “recovery summer” tour in 2010 and repeatedly projecting economic growth that failed to materialize.

Finally, instead of pivoting from the Recovery Act to deficits and entitlement reform, the Democratic majority spent all of its post-stimulus political capital trying to push both a costly new health care entitlement and a cap-and-trade bill through Congress. Both policies were advertised, intermittently, as deficit reduction, but neither came close to addressing the real long-term drivers of the nation’s debt. And they left Congressional Democrats to campaign for re-election in 2010 as the custodians of record deficits as well as sky-high unemployment.

Now, nearly three years after Rivlin’s warnings went unheeded, President Obama has groped his way to an agenda that looks more like what she originally recommended. His speech to Congress last week suggested that he intends to campaign for re-election on what should have been the blueprint for his first four years in office: a short-term stimulus highlighted by a payroll tax cut, a medium-term push to overhaul the tax code and a plan for long-term entitlement reform.

To Republicans, this agenda holds out the possibility that a second Obama term might feature more opportunities for compromise and common ground. But to voters pondering whether to make that second term happen, it amounts to a request for a presidential do-over — a tacit admission that the White House’s first-term agenda has been less than successful, and a plea for a second chance to get things right.

If the answer to that plea turns out to be “no,” then President Obama’s political epitaph should be taken from the Victorian verse of Dante Gabriel Rossetti:

“Look in my face; my name is Might-have-been; I am also called No-more, Too-late, Farewell.”

One and Done?
September 3, 2011


ONE day during the 2008 campaign, as Barack Obama read the foreboding news of the mounting economic and military catastrophes that W. was bequeathing his successor, he dryly remarked to aides: “Maybe I should throw the game.”

On the razor’s edge of another recession; blocked at every turn by Republicans determined to slice him up at any cost; starting an unexpectedly daunting re-election bid; and puzzling over how to make a prime-time speech about infrastructure and payroll taxes soar, maybe President Obama is wishing that he had thrown the game.

The leader who was once a luminescent, inspirational force is now just a guy in a really bad spot.

His Republican rivals for 2012 have gone to town on the Labor Day weekend news of zero job growth, using the same line of attack Hillary used in 2008: Enough with the big speeches! What about some action?

Polls show that most Americans still like and trust the president; but they may no longer have faith that he’s a smarty-pants who can fix the economy.

Just as Obama miscalculated in 2009 when Democrats had total control of Congress, holding out hope that G.O.P. lawmakers would come around on health care after all but three senators had refused to vote for the stimulus bill; just as he misread John Boehner this summer, clinging like a scorned lover to a dream that the speaker would drop his demanding new inamorata, the Tea Party, to strike a “grand” budget bargain, so the president once more set a trap for himself and gave Boehner the opportunity to dis him on the timing of his jobs speech this week.

Obama’s re-election chances depend on painting the Republicans as disrespectful. So why would the White House act disrespectful by scheduling a speech to a joint session of Congress at the exact time when the Republicans already had a debate planned?

And why is the White House so cocky about Obama as a TV draw against quick-draw Rick Perry? As James Carville acerbically noted, given a choice between watching an Obama speech and a G.O.P. debate, “I’d watch the debate, and I’m not even a Republican.”

The White House caved, of course, and moved to Thursday, because there’s nothing the Republicans say that he won’t eagerly meet halfway.

No. 2 on David Letterman’s Top Ten List of the president’s plans for Labor Day: “Pretty much whatever the Republicans tell him he can do.”

On MSNBC, the anchors were wistfully listening to old F.D.R. speeches, wishing that this president had some of that fight. But Obama can’t turn into F.D.R. for the campaign because he aspires to the class that F.D.R. was a traitor to; and he can’t turn into Harry Truman because he lacks the common touch. He has an acquired elitism.

MSNBC’s Matt Miller offered “a public service” to journalists talking about Obama — a list of synonyms for cave: “Buckle, fold, concede, bend, defer, submit, give in, knuckle under, kowtow, surrender, yield, comply, capitulate.”

And it wasn’t exactly Morning in America when Obama sent out a mass e-mail to supporters Wednesday under the heading “Frustrated.”

It unfortunately echoed a November 2010 parody in The Onion with the headline, “Frustrated Obama Sends Nation Rambling 75,000-Word E-Mail.”

“Throughout,” The Onion teased, “the president expressed his aggravation on subjects as disparate as the war in Afghanistan, the sluggish economic recovery, his live-in mother-in-law, China’s undervalued currency, Boston’s Logan Airport, and tort reform.”

You know you’re in trouble when Harry Reid says you should be more aggressive.

If the languid Obama had not done his usual irritating fourth-quarter play, if he had presented a jobs plan a year ago and fought for it, he wouldn’t have needed to elevate the setting. How will he up the ante next time? A speech from the space station?

Republicans who are worried about being political props have a point. The president is using the power of the incumbency and a sacred occasion for a political speech.

Obama is still suffering from the Speech Illusion, the idea that he can come down from the mountain, read from a Teleprompter, cast a magic spell with his words and climb back up the mountain, while we scurry around and do what he proclaimed.

The days of spinning illusions in a Greek temple in a football stadium are done. The One is dancing on the edge of one term.

The White House team is flailing — reacting, regrouping, retrenching. It’s repugnant.

After pushing and shoving and caving to get on TV, the president’s advisers immediately began warning that the long-yearned-for jobs speech wasn’t going to be that awe-inspiring.

“The issue isn’t the size or the newness of the ideas,” one said. “It’s less the substance than how he says it, whether he seizes the moment.”

The arc of justice is stuck at the top of a mountain. Maybe Obama was not even the person he was waiting for.

Obama’s Enron:
Bush was flayed for Enron. Where does that put Obama and his green-energy pet?
National Review
Rich Lowry
September 2, 2011 12:00 A.M.

We have seen the future, and it went bankrupt.

If the praises of high-ranking Obama-administration officials were a viable business plan, the solar-panel maker Solyndra would be an industrial juggernaut. Vice President Biden insisted that the jobs created by the California-based firm would “allow America to compete and to lead like we did in the 20th century.”

In a visit to Solyndra in May 2010, President Obama called it “a testament to American ingenuity and dynamism.” He all but redefined the traditional statement of Americanness to encompass motherhood, apple pie, and the conversion of sunlight into electricity through cylindrical thin-film solar cells, the specialty of Solyndra.

Obama and Biden were literally invested in Solyndra’s success. The company got a half-billion-dollar federal loan guarantee, the first in a highly vaunted Department of Energy green-jobs program, as part of the stimulus. This was supposed to be the new economic model: government and its favored industries cooperating to lead the country into a green, politically approved recovery.

The showcase firm is now filing for Chapter 11 in an embarrassing blow to the premises of Obamanomics. At least the Obama administration can’t be accused of practicing industrial policy the old-fashioned way and picking winners. It is evidently quite ready to pick losers, too.

A Department of Energy spokesman explained wanly, “The company was considered extraordinarily innovative as recently as 2010.” Innovative, maybe; profitable, no. It had never turned a profit since its founding in 2005. In the still “extraordinarily innovative” year of 2010, it canceled an attempted IPO and axed its CEO.

Plenty of venture capitalists made foolish bets on Solyndra, but the federal government was the most reckless. The Obama administration wanted to throw money at the likes of Solyndra without due diligence, or much diligence at all. In 2008, the Government Accountability Office warned that the Energy Department loan program — created in a 2005 energy bill — had inadequate safeguards.

Nonetheless, within 60 days of becoming energy secretary, Steven Chu put Uncle Sam on the hook for Solyndra. According to the Wall Street Journal, $527 million of the $535 million federal loan has been drawn down, with a bankruptcy court set to determine how much the feds will recover. Chu is fortunate that taxpayers can’t bring shareholder lawsuits against the federal government.

President Bush was flayed for the Enron bankruptcy, based on his tenuous ties to the firm. If the same media rules applied, Solyndra would be Obama’s Enron, given his active promotion of the company and his lavish funding of it. A prodigious Obama-Biden fundraiser is a major backer of the failed concern.

Solyndra’s crash comes during a wave of solar bankruptcies. The government’s enthusiasm for solar power far outstripped that of consumers. Spain provided something of a precursor. It massively subsidized a solar-power industry that collapsed when the government realized its generosity was unsustainable and cut back. One Spanish newspaper had a headline, “Spain admits that the green economy sold to Obama is a ruin.”

China is picking up the pieces. Not only does China coddle solar firms, it inherently is a lower-cost manufacturing environment. Its cheap, simple solar panels are more marketable than the more sophisticated version attempted by Solyndra. Our subsidies for the purchase of solar panels are often used to buy Chinese products. Inevitably, the U.S. solar industry will seek to score the trifecta of government support already achieved by the boondoggle fuel ethanol — subsidizing its production, mandating its use, and barring its foreign competitors.

The stakes in the battle to manufacture solar panels are exceedingly small. Solar power accounts for less than 1 percent of the electricity generated in the United States. The Obama administration’s fervency for it has more to do with the romance of its clean, postindustrial image than with economics. Obama said last year, “The true engine of economic growth will always be companies like Solyndra.” If that were so, it never would have needed half a billion of our dollars in the first place.

Yes, It Is a Ponzi Scheme
In fact, Social Security is a bit worse than that.
Michael Tanner, National Review
August 31, 2011 12:00 A.M.

Texas governor Rick Perry is being criticized for calling Social Security a “Ponzi scheme.”  Even Mitt Romney is reportedly preparing to attack him for holding such a radical view. But if anything, Perry was being too kind. 

The original Ponzi scheme was the brainchild of Charles Ponzi. Starting in 1916, the poor but enterprising Italian immigrant convinced people to allow him to invest their money. However, Ponzi never actually made any investments. He simply took the money he was given by later investors and gave it to his early investors, providing those early investors with a handsome profit. He then used these satisfied early investors as advertisements to get more investors. Unfortunately, in order to keep paying previous investors, Ponzi had to continue finding more and more new investors. Eventually, he couldn’t expand the number of new investors fast enough, and the scheme collapsed. Ponzi was convicted of fraud and sent to prison.

Social Security, on the other hand, forces people to invest in it through a mandatory payroll tax. A small portion of that money is used to buy special-issue Treasury bonds that the government will eventually have to repay, but the vast majority of the money you pay in Social Security taxes is not invested in anything. Instead, the money you pay into the system is used to pay benefits to those “early investors” who are retired today. When you retire, you will have to rely on the next generation of workers behind you to pay the taxes that will finance your benefits.

As with Ponzi’s scheme, this turns out to be a very good deal for those who got in early. The very first Social Security recipient, Ida Mae Fuller of Vermont, paid just $44 in Social Security taxes, but the long-lived Mrs. Fuller collected $20,993 in benefits. Such high returns were possible because there were many workers paying into the system and only a few retirees taking benefits out of it. In 1950, for instance, there were 16 workers supporting every retiree. Today, there are just over three. By around 2030, we will be down to just two.

As with Ponzi’s scheme, when the number of new contributors dries up, it will become impossible to continue to pay the promised benefits. Those early windfall returns are long gone. When today’s young workers retire, they will receive returns far below what private investments could provide. Many will be lucky to break even.

Eventually the pyramid crumbles.

Of course, Social Security and Ponzi schemes are not perfectly analogous. Ponzi, after all, had to rely on what people were willing to voluntarily invest with him. Once he couldn’t convince enough new investors to join his scheme, it collapsed. Social Security, on the other hand, can rely on the power of the government to tax. As the shrinking number of workers paying into the system makes it harder to continue to sustain benefits, the government can just force young people to pay even more into the system.

In fact, Social Security taxes have been raised some 40 times since the program began. The initial Social Security tax was 2 percent (split between the employer and employee), capped at $3,000 of earnings. That made for a maximum tax of $60. Today, the tax is 12.4 percent, capped at $106,800, for a maximum tax of $13,234. Even adjusting for inflation, that represents more than an 800 percent increase.

In addition, at least until the final collapse of his scheme, Ponzi was more or less obligated to pay his early investors what he promised them. With Social Security, on the other hand, Congress is always able to change or cut those benefits in order to keep the scheme going.

Social Security is facing more than $20 trillion in unfunded future liabilities. Raising taxes and cutting benefits enough to keep the program limping along will obviously mean an ever-worsening deal for younger workers. They will be forced to pay more and get less.

Rick Perry got this one right.

Obama’s Enablers
Meet the mainstream media.

Weekly Standard
Fred Barnes
September 5, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 47

As a rule, the press is the scourge of presidents. They’re expected to endure unending scrutiny, mistrust, and badgering—plus hostility if they’re Republicans—by a hectoring herd of reporters and commentators in the mainstream media. But there’s an exception to the rule: President Obama.

It’s counterintuitive, but Obama has been hurt by the media’s leniency. Both his presidency and reelection prospects have suffered. He’s grown lazy and complacent. The media have encouraged him to believe his speeches are irresistible political catnip, though they aren’t. His overreliance on words hasn’t helped.

The kind of media pressure that can cause a president to sharpen his game, act with urgency, or take bolder steps—that has never been applied to Obama. If it had, I suspect he’d be a more effective, disciplined, energetic, and popular president today. Ronald Reagan is a good role model in this regard. When the media attacked him over gaffes in the 1980 campaign, “Reagan responded like all competitive men by working to improve himself,” says Reagan historian Craig Shirley. “Experience taught him to be better and try harder.” He took this lesson into the White House.

I don’t want to exaggerate the media’s baneful influence on Obama. It’s hardly the main reason for his decline. It’s a secondary reason, and it continues to have an impact.

Absent pushing and prodding by the press, the Obama presidency has atrophied. His speeches are defensive and repetitive and filled with excuses. He passes the buck. With persistently high unemployment and a weak economy, Obama recently declared, in effect, “I have a plan. See you after my vacation.” The press doesn’t goad him to lead.

On the contrary, the media have condoned Obama’s avoidance of leadership. It started when he let Nancy Pelosi draft the $800 billion stimulus and continued when congressional Democrats put together the health care, cap and trade, and financial industry reform bills. Few media eyebrows were raised. True, the press attacked his 2012 budget as inadequate. But when he replaced it with a partisan speech, the media’s criticism of this bizarre and unprecedented behavior was mild.

The White House disputes suggestions Obama isn’t leading. Following a nationally televised speech by the president in July, Ed Henry of Fox News asked about the nonexistence of an “Obama plan” for solving the spending and debt problem. “Republican talking point,” press secretary Jay Carney said dismissively.

A few days later, Carney acted surprised at a Wall Street Journal reporter’s failure to understand how extending unemployment benefits once more would create jobs. “I would expect a reporter from the Wall Street Journal would know this as part of the entrance exam,” he said.

In Washington, the plight of the jobless has been underplayed, and not only by the media. The White House has promised for two years to “pivot” to an agenda stressing job creation, but still hasn’t made the turn. On his three-day bus tour in the Midwest, Obama seemed oblivious to the depth of the unemployment trauma.

“Private sector job growth is good,” he said in Alpha, Illinois. In reality, it’s bad and getting worse. “The economy is now growing again,” he said. Barely. Obama said trade deals and patent reform would promote hiring, if only Congress would approve them. But it’s the president who has delayed the trade treaties, and both houses of Congress have passed patent reform measures.

The media routinely give Obama a pass on such stuff. On the tour, Obama insisted, as he has many times before, that he saved the nation from a “Great Depression.” So far as I know, the press has never challenged this dubious claim. But it is belied by the fact the recession came to an official end in June 2009, months before Obama’s policies could have played more than a minimal role.

Ask yourself this: If unemployment were treated by the media today as the top national issue, as it was in 1982 and 1983 when Reagan was president, would Obama be dawdling? Not likely. The jobless rate then was only slightly higher than it is now. But in those days, the press focused relentlessly on the jobless.

“If Washington policymakers were reminded night after night of the real unemployment heartache in America now, they would forge a bipartisan jobs plan immediately,” says Washington consultant David Smick. “Here we have a real crisis and nobody’s talking about it.” At least not enough.

A saying of a friend of mine touches on why the media disserve Obama by tolerating his habit of offering excuses for every failure or shortcoming of his presidency. The saying goes, winners accept responsibility, losers make excuses.

When the negotiations over a $4-billion “grand bargain” on spending cuts and deficit reduction broke down in July, the White House blamed House speaker John Boehner for walking out rather than acceding to a hefty tax hike. Who did the media blame? Boehner, naturally.

But is the public mollified by excuses? I don’t think so. Had Obama summoned Boehner back to the White House, eased his demand for higher taxes, and wrapped up a deal, the public would have been impressed. Obama would have gotten credit, just as he did last December when a bipartisan compromise was reached on spending and taxes. This time, the notion that Obama, as president, might have a responsibility to forge an agreement was lost on the media.

Interviewed by Anthony Mason of CBS News last week, Obama offered a fresh excuse for failing to get his way with Congress. People “want me to be able to wrangle Congress and get them moving,” he said. “And you know, we’ve got this thing, separation of powers. .  .  . It means that there are times where Congress is gonna do things” he opposes. Separation of powers? He might as well have blamed Hamilton and Madison.

His interviewer didn’t follow up on that unique alibi. He asked Obama, were he a middle-class voter, if he would vote for him for a second term. “Well,” Obama said, “I actually would.”

Rick Perry officially declares 2012 presidential bid
By Holly Bailey, Blog THE TICKET
13 August 2011

Rick Perry officially kicked off his long-expected bid for the 2012 GOP nomination Saturday, insisting the country's standing in the world is "in peril" because of President Obama's "rudderless leadership."

Speaking at a conservative gathering in South Carolina, the Texas governor delivered a harsh critique of Obama, slamming his handling of foreign policy and accusing the president of leading the country off a cliff when it comes to federal spending.

"How can a country fail so miserably to pay its bills?" Perry demanded, citing the nation's recent credit downgrade. "We cannot afford four more years of this rudderless leadership . . .  A great country demands a better direction. A renewed nation needs a new president. It's time to get America working again."

Perry, who was in the news last weekend for headlining a prayer rally in Houston, has previously cast himself as a strong social conservative in the race. But his announcement largely focused on the economy, as he touted as a record of job growth in Texas as a leading reason why he should replace Obama.

In a line that received wild applause, Perry vowed that one of his first steps if elected would be to repeal Obama's controversial health care law and said, as president, he would work to shift more power back to individuals and the states.

"I will work every day to make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your lives as I can," Perry declared.

Perry jumps into what is already a crowded GOP primary. Indeed, as Perry was declaring his 2012 intentions, many of his Republican rivals were on stage halfway across the country at Iowa's closely watched presidential straw poll. Even though Perry isn't on the ballot, his supporters have been out in force in the Ames event, encouraging attendees to submit the governor's name as a write-in candidate.

In South Carolina, the Texas governor did not mention any of his GOP rivals. Instead, Perry played up his record against Obama's, casting the president as someone who has "alienated" our foreign allies and "jeopardized" the nation's future by running up the federal deficit.

He talked up his own "unwavering belief" in America—hinting at a frequent conservative slam against Obama that implies the president lacks patriotism. It was a theme echoed in a message posted on Perry's new presidential website.

"What I learned in my 20's traveling the globe as an Air Force pilot, our current president has yet to acknowledge in his 50's--that we are the most exceptional nation on the face of the earth," Perry said. "With God's help, and your courage, we will take our country back. "

The Obama campaign, which has been largely quiet during the GOP primary, issued a statement within minutes of Perry's announcement, describing the Texas governor as a "carbon copy" of Republicans in Washington.

Recent history:  Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, John F. Kennedy
A Test for Obama’s View of a One-Term Presidency
August 9, 2011

WASHINGTON — It was a year and a half ago when President Obama told Diane Sawyer of ABC News in an interview that he would rather be a good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president.

Now, coming off one of his worst weeks since taking office, Mr. Obama is nearing a decision on whether he really meant that. Is he willing to try to administer the disagreeable medicine that could help the economy mend over the long term, even if that means damaging his chances for re-election?

The Federal Reserve’s finding on Tuesday that there is little prospect for rapid economic growth over the next two years was the latest in a summer of bad economic news. One administration official called the atmosphere around the president’s economic team “angry and morose.”

There was no word on the mood of the president’s political team, but it was unlikely to be buoyed by the Fed’s assertion that the economy would still be faltering well past Mr. Obama’s second inauguration, should he win another term.

“The problem for Obama is that right now, the United States is either at a precipice or has fallen off it,” said David Rothkopf, a Commerce Department official in the Clinton administration. “If he is true to his commitment to rather be a good one-term president, then this is the character test. In some respects, this is the 3 a.m. phone call.”

Mr. Obama, Mr. Rothkopf argues, has to focus in the next 18 months on getting the economy back on track for the long haul, even if that means pushing for politically unpalatable budget cuts, including real — but hugely unpopular — reductions in Social Security, other entitlement programs and the military.

A longtime Republican strategist echoed Mr. Rothkopf. Charlie Black, a senior adviser to Senator John McCain when he ran for president, said Mr. Obama “has got two big problems” — the unemployment rate and the budget deficit.

“Frankly, there’s not a whole lot he can do about jobs now,” Mr. Black said. “But it would help if we got the deficit under control, and to do that, you’ve got to reform entitlements.”

For instance, he argued, Mr. Obama should tackle Social Security, leaving the system in place for those 55 and older but establishing means tests to determine benefits for those under 55. If Mr. Obama did that, Mr. Black said, “he could be a hero like Bill Clinton was when he negotiated with Trent Lott and Newt Gingrich” on the 1997 budget.

If Mr. Black’s take is correct and there is little the president can do about jobs, that is more bad news. In a New York Times/CBS News poll released last week, 62 percent of those responding said that creating jobs was the No. 1 priority, while only 29 percent said cutting the deficit should be the top goal.

But whether Mr. Obama focuses on a short-term stimulus like job creation or long-range steps like deficit reduction, he will still have to beg, exhort and threaten Congress to take action in a meaningful way.

“No matter what we do, it still takes two to tango,” said Dan Pfeiffer, White House director of communications. “And the Republican Party to date has been entirely unwilling to compromise in any way, shape or form to actually do the things it takes to tackle the big problems.”

According to a traditional story line, Mr. Obama’s hopes for a second term could be undercut as he is forced to defend politically unpopular proposals in an election year — and end up stonewalled by Republicans in the end.

Some of Mr. Obama’s political allies try to spin the story the other way, criticizing him for not coming out yet with public plans to both cut the deficit and stimulate the economy. They argue that the boldness of such steps could actually help him win a second term — or at least burnish his place in history. One Democratic adviser to the president, speaking on the ground of anonymity because he did not want to criticize Mr. Obama publicly, said, “He’s got to be willing to let the chips fall where they may.”

So far, White House officials said Tuesday, Mr. Obama has repeatedly been putting country over campaign, including canceling several Democratic fund-raisers in July when the debt ceiling negotiations were dragging on. And, they say, he is not shying from politically unpalatable choices, demonstrating his willingness during the debt ceiling negotiations to make cuts in entitlements and programs dear to the hearts of Democrats.

On Monday night, he did attend two fund-raisers in Washington (casting his re-election as an “unfinished project” at one) while on Thursday he will head to Michigan to make the case that his bailout program helped save the auto industry.

On Tuesday afternoon, the White House announced that Mr. Obama would be taking an “economic bus tour” in the Midwest next week, with stops in Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota. “The president knows we must do everything we can to promote economic growth, restore confidence in our nation’s future and restore the sense of optimism for future generations,” the statement said.

Though the trip is not a campaign event, it could help shape voters’ perceptions of whether Mr. Obama is more concerned about being remembered for that one good term or whether he wants another four years in the Oval Office no matter what.

Supreme Court Rejects Judge-Drawn Texas Election Maps
January 20, 2012

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Friday ruled in a Texas political dispute, rejecting judge-drawn election maps favoring minority candidates and Democrats in the 2012 congressional and state legislature elections.

In its first ruling on political boundary-drawing based on the 2010 U.S. Census, the high court unanimously set aside the interim maps created by federal district court judges in San Antonio.

The high court said it was unclear whether the judges in Texas followed the appropriate standards and sent the cases back for further proceedings.

At issue were the maps that Texas will use in its primary contests set for April 3 that will decide party candidates for congressional and state legislature elections in November.

The dispute had been closely watched because it could help decide whether Republicans or Democrats gain as many as four seats in the U.S. House of Representatives in November.

Texas Republican officials appealed to the Supreme Court, said the lower-court overstepped its authority and argued the judges should have deferred to the maps drawn by the elected lawmakers. Those maps favor Republican candidates.

The officials won at least a partial victory, though the court stopped short of adopting the maps drawn by the Republican-dominated legislature.

The Supreme Court ruled that the judges appeared to have unnecessarily ignored the state's plans in drawing certain districts and those maps can at least be used as a starting point.

"Some aspects of the district court's plans seem to pay adequate attention to the state's policies, others do not and the propriety of still others is unclear," the court held in its opinion.

Redrawing the Texas districts has been a major political and legal battle. The state's population went up by more than 20 percent, or 4.2 million people, over the past decade, with Hispanics accounting for 2.8 million of the increase.

After the 2010 Census, Texas got four new congressional seats, giving it 36. The legislature's plan, signed by Texas Governor Rick Perry, who dropped out of the Republican presidential race on Thursday, created only one new heavily Hispanic district.

The interim maps drawn by the judges in Texas were designed to remain in place until different court in Washington decided whether the Texas state plan should be approved or rejected under the federal voting rights law.

A trial in that case is underway. That case ultimately is expected to determine the final maps to be used in Texas in future years.

The Obama administration, the state Democratic Party and minority groups have challenged parts or all of the state's redistricting plan for violating the voting rights law, and said the judicially drawn one should be used on an interim basis.

The Supreme Court cases are Perry v. Perez, No 11-713; Perry v. Davis, No. 11-714, and Perry v. Perez, No. 11-715.

Endangered species?

News Corp. Braces for Legal Trouble in the U.S.
July 18, 2011, 3:02 pm
Paul J. Richards/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesThe Wall Street Journal defended its parent company, the News Corporation, in an editorial on Monday.

The burgeoning scandal at the News Corporation has crossed over to the United States as federal investigations of the company’s conduct have started. There is no clearer sign of the seriousness of the company’s potential exposure to criminal prosecution than its hiring of Brendan V. Sullivan Jr. of Williams & Connolly, one of the most aggressive criminal defense lawyers in the country.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation opened an investigation of suspected efforts to obtain voice mails and telephone records of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and their families. Attorney General Eric S. Holder Jr., responding to requests by four Democratic senators — Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, both of New Jersey, Barbara Boxer of California and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia — confirmed that the Justice Department will also look into possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act related to payments to Scotland Yard officers in Britain as part of the phone-hacking efforts by the News Corporation’s British newspapers, in particular the now-closed News of the World.

The revelations of how reporters gathered information and paid bribes raise serious questions about the News Corporation’s internal governance and journalistic ethics. Even Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler, called out Rupert Murdoch, the company’s chief executive and controlling shareholder, arguing in an op-ed article in The Washington Post that “if the News Corporation’s reported wrongdoings are true, what Murdoch’s company has been up to does not just brush against boundaries — it blows right past them.”

Whether any American laws were violated, however, is a very different question. Here is a look at the statutes that are likely to be the focus of federal investigations on this side of the Atlantic and that potential problems that prosecutors would face if they want to pursue criminal charges against the News Corporation and any of its executives.
Phone Hacking

The F.B.I. is looking into a claim that a former New York City police officer was offered money for information about Sept. 11 victims, and that reporters for The News of the World may have illicitly obtained their telephone records and voice mail recordings. At this point, the allegations are quite sketchy, particularly regarding the time frame for any alleged efforts to gather the information.

If telephone records were accessed, that could be a violation of the Telephone Records and Privacy Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1039, which prohibits making false or fraudulent statements to obtain another person’s telephone records. Congress enacted the statute in December 2006 in response to negative publicity about a private investigation authorized by board members at Hewlett-Packard that sought to track down leaks of corporate information by obtaining the telephone records of reporters.

If reporters for The News of the World obtained records of Sept. 11 victims and their families, the key initial question is when did that take place. The statute went into effect on Dec. 27, 2006, so any conduct before that date could not be prosecuted because of the constitutional protection against ex post facto application of criminal laws.

If voice mails were obtained, then that could be a violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2511, which makes it a crime to intercept “any wire, oral, or electronic communication.” Whether hacking into a voice mail account constitutes interception has not been addressed in any cases yet.

It is at least arguable that listening, or even recording, another person’s voice mail message after it has been left is not a violation because the conduct takes place after the communication. The language of the statute focuses more on contemporaneous conduct, like listening to conversations while they take place, and not accessing recordings afterward.

In addition, the timing of any misconduct would also be key to determining whether a violation could be pursued if the law does apply to voice mails. The federal statute of limitations period in which a criminal prosecution can be instituted is five years from the violation. Any conduct before July 2006 could not be pursued at this point, although a conspiracy charge is possible for acts before that date so long as one co-conspirator engaged in conduct that was part of the conspiracy within the past five years.
Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

Information has come out that the News Corporation paid officials at Scotland Yard to obtain telephone numbers of various individuals as part of the phone hacking program, including members of the royal family. The payment of a bribe to a foreign official by an American company — the News Corporation is incorporated in Delaware — can be a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act. Both the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission can investigate potential violations.

A violation requires proof that the payment was made “in order to assist such issuer in obtaining or retaining business for or with, or directing business to, any person.” The typical F.C.P.A. case involves payments for the award of government contracts or to continue a business relationship in the foreign country, such as getting approval for a facility or transporting goods into a country.

It is questionable whether bribing police officials in the pursuit of information for a newspaper article would assist the News Corporation in “obtaining or retaining” business, unless selling more newspapers is construed to come within the statute. Unlike the new Bribery Act that just went into effect in Britain on July 1, which prohibits any type of corrupt payment regardless of its connection to business operations, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is more limited and arguably does not apply to the bribes paid.

Another provision of the act, however, does apply to the News Corporation and may be the basis for a case. The law requires publicly traded companies to maintain accurate books and records, so how the News Corporation recorded payments to the police officials may have resulted in false reports in the company’s accounts. This type of case is usually handled by the S.E.C. and is rarely the basis for a criminal prosecution of a corporation.
Other Statutes

The investigations of the News Corporation are at a very early stage, so it is not clear what information might emerge that could indicate other potential violations. Investigators will no doubt look for evidence that might support a charge against individuals or the company involving broad federal criminal statutes, like mail and wire fraud, false statements and incomplete disclosure to the company’s auditors and the S.E.C.

And federal investigations may not be the only ones the company faces. Many states have their own privacy laws, so do not be surprised if a state attorney general announces an investigation into the News Corporation’s conduct if a resident was involved.

There could be other collateral consequences from the investigation, even if no criminal charges are filed. The News Corporation owns 27 television stations, and CourtTV’s founder, Steven Brill, noted that challenges to their licenses could be mounted on the ground that the company does not meet the “good character” requirement for station ownership.

Mr. Sullivan and his law firm certainly have their work cut out for them. Mr. Murdoch may have thought the damage was contained, but it appears this scandal will persist for quite a while.

4 States Join Connecticut In Picking April 24 For 2012 Presidential Primary
The Hartford Courant
8:55 AM EDT, July 8, 2011

Rhode Island is joining Connecticut and three other East Coast states in designating April 24 as the date for its 2012 presidential primary.

New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware have already selected the date.

In Rhode Island, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee has signed a Senate bill moving the date from March 6 to April 24, a spokeswoman said Thursday. A House version of the bill arrived at his desk Thursday afternoon and awaits his signature, she said.

The more states — especially larger states — with primaries on that date, the better, says Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill.

"This is good news for Connecticut voters," Merrill said in a statement. "New York and Pennsylvania are big states. Their sharing our primary date will increase the importance of that day on the election calendar and, most importantly, greatly improve the chances that candidates will put Connecticut on their campaign schedules."

Merrill's office says the national Democratic and Republican parties changed their rules to counter "recent front-loading of the presidential primary calendar that resulted in primaries and caucuses taking place in early January."

With the new rules, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada are the only states permitted to hold their primaries or caucuses before March 1.

On its website, the National Council of State Legislatures says, "The trend is toward making presidential primaries later than they were in 2008, and holding state primaries earlier in the year, often to accommodate the ballot mailing guidelines imposed by the federal MOVE Act."

Copyright © 2011, The Hartford Courant

Obama’s Third-Party History
By Stanley Kurtz, National Review
June 7, 2012 4:00 A.M.

On the evening of January 11, 1996, while Mitt Romney was in the final years of his run as the head of Bain Capital, Barack Obama formally joined the New Party, which was deeply hostile to the mainstream of the Democratic party and even to American capitalism. In 2008, candidate Obama deceived the American public about his potentially damaging tie to this third party. The issue remains as fresh as today’s headlines, as Romney argues that Obama is trying to move the United States toward European-style social democracy, which was precisely the New Party’s goal.

In late October 2008, when I wrote here at National Review Online that Obama had been a member of the New Party, his campaign sharply denied it, calling my claim a “crackpot smear.” Fight the Smears, an official Obama-campaign website, staunchly maintained that “Barack has been a member of only one political party, the Democratic Party.” I rebutted this, but the debate was never taken up by the mainstream press.

Recently obtained evidence from the updated records of Illinois ACORN at the Wisconsin Historical Society now definitively establishes that Obama was a member of the New Party. He also signed a “contract” promising to publicly support and associate himself with the New Party while in office.

Minutes of the meeting on January 11, 1996, of the New Party’s Chicago chapter read as follows:

    Barack Obama, candidate for State Senate in the 13th Legislative District, gave a statement to the membership and answered questions. He signed the New Party “Candidate Contract” and requested an endorsement from the New Party. He also joined the New Party.

Consistent with this, a roster of the Chicago chapter of the New Party from early 1997 lists Obama as a member, with January 11, 1996, indicated as the date he joined.

Knowing that Obama disguised his New Party membership helps make sense of his questionable handling of the 2008 controversy over his ties to ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). During his third debate with John McCain, Obama said that the “only” involvement he’d had with ACORN was to represent the group in a lawsuit seeking to compel Illinois to implement the National Voter Registration Act, or motor-voter law. The records of Illinois ACORN and its associated union clearly contradict that assertion, as I show in my political biography of the president, Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism.

Why did Obama deny his ties to ACORN? The group was notorious in 2008 for thug tactics, fraudulent voter registrations, and its role in popularizing risky subprime lending. Admitting that he had helped to fund ACORN’s voter-registration efforts and train some of their organizers would doubtless have been an embarrassment but not likely a crippling blow to his campaign. So why not simply confess the tie and make light of it? The problem for Obama was ACORN’s political arm, the New Party.

The revelation in 2008 that Obama had joined an ACORN-controlled, leftist third party could have been damaging indeed, and coming clean about his broader work with ACORN might easily have exposed these New Party ties. Because the work of ACORN and the New Party often intersected with Obama’s other alliances, honesty about his ties to either could have laid bare the entire network of his leftist political partnerships.

Although Obama is ultimately responsible for deceiving the American people in 2008 about his political background, he got help from his old associates. Each of the two former political allies who helped him to deny his New Party membership during campaign ’08 was in a position to know better.

The Fight the Smears website quoted Carol Harwell, who managed Obama’s 1996 campaign for the Illinois senate: “Barack did not solicit or seek the New Party endorsement for state senator in 1995.” Drawing on her testimony, Fight the Smears conceded that the New Party did support Obama in 1996 but denied that Obama had ever joined, adding that “he was the only candidate on the ballot in his race and never solicited the endorsement.”

We’ve seen that this is false. Obama formally requested New Party endorsement, signed the candidate contract, and joined the party. Is it conceivable that Obama’s own campaign manager could have been unaware of this? The notion is implausible. And the documents make Harwell’s assertion more remarkable still.

The New Party had a front group called Progressive Chicago, whose job was to identify candidates that the New Party and its sympathizers might support. Nearly four years before Obama was endorsed by the New Party, both he and Harwell joined Progressive Chicago and began signing public letters that regularly reported on the group’s meetings. By prominently taking part in Progressive Chicago activities, Obama was effectively soliciting New Party support for his future political career (as was Harwell, on Obama’s behalf). So Harwell’s testimony is doubly false.

When the New Party controversy broke out, just about the only mainstream journalist to cover it was Politico’s Ben Smith, whose evident purpose was to dismiss it out of hand. He contacted Obama’s official spokesman Ben LaBolt, who claimed that his candidate “was never a member” of the New Party. And New Party co-founder and leader Joel Rogers told Smith, “We didn’t really have members.” But a line in the New Party’s official newsletter explicitly identified Obama as a party member. Rogers dismissed that as mere reference to “the fact that the party had endorsed him.”

This is nonsense. I exposed the falsity of Rogers’s absurd claim, and Smith’s credulity in accepting it, in 2008 (here and here). And in Radical-in-Chief I took on Rogers’s continuing attempts to justify it. The recently uncovered New Party records reveal how dramatically far from the truth Rogers’s statement has been all along.

In a memo dated January 29, 1996, Rogers, writing as head of the New Party Interim Executive Council, addressed “standing concerns regarding existing chapter development and activity, the need for visibility as well as new members.” So less than three weeks after Obama joined the New Party, Rogers was fretting about the need for new members. How, then, could Rogers assert in 2008 that his party “didn’t really have members”? Internal documents show that the entire leadership of the New Party, both nationally and in Chicago, was practically obsessed with signing up new members, from its founding moments until it dissolved in the late 1990s.

In 2008, after I called Rogers out on his ridiculous claim that his party had no members, he explained to Ben Smith that “we did have regular supporters whom many called ‘members,’ but it just meant contributing regularly, not getting voting rights or other formal power in NP governance.” This is also flatly contradicted by the newly uncovered records.

At just about the time Obama joined the New Party, the Chicago chapter was embroiled in a bitter internal dispute. A party-membership list is attached to a memo in which the leaders of one faction consider a scheme to disqualify potential voting members from a competing faction, on the grounds that those voters had not renewed their memberships. The factional leaders worried that their opponents would legitimately object to this tactic, since a mailing that called for members to renew hadn’t been properly sent out. At any rate, the memo clearly demonstrates that, contrary to Rogers’s explanation, membership in the New Party entailed the right to vote on matters of party governance. In fact, Obama’s own New Party endorsement, being controversial, was thrown open to a members’ vote on the day he joined the party.

Were Harwell and Rogers deliberately lying in order to protect Obama and deceive the public? Readers can decide for themselves. Yet it is clear that Obama, through his official spokesman, Ben LaBolt, and the Fight the Smears website, was bent on deceiving the American public about a matter whose truth he well knew.

The documents reveal that the New Party’s central aim was to move the United States steadily closer to European social democracy, a goal that Mitt Romney has also attributed to Obama. New Party leaders disdained mainstream Democrats, considering them tools of business, and promised instead to create a partnership between elected officials and local community organizations, with the goal of socializing the American economy to an unprecedented degree.

The party’s official “statement of principles,” which candidates seeking endorsement from the Chicago chapter were asked to support, called for a “peaceful revolution” and included redistributive proposals substantially to the left of the Democratic party.

To get a sense of the ideology at play, consider that the meeting at which Obama joined the party opened with the announcement of a forthcoming event featuring the prominent socialist activist Frances Fox Piven. The Chicago New Party sponsored a luncheon with Michael Moore that same year.

I have more to say on the New Party’s ideology and program, Obama’s ties to the party, and the relevance of all this to the president’s campaign for reelection. See the forthcoming issue of National Review.

In the meantime, let us see whether a press that let candidate Obama off the hook in 2008 — and that in 2012 is obsessed with the president’s youthful love letters  — will now refuse to report that President Obama once joined a leftist third party, and that he hid that truth from the American people in order to win the presidency.

— Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. A longer version of this article appears in the forthcoming June 25 issue of National Review.

The Little Red Book  

Too Much Power for a President
NYTIMES Editorial
May 30, 2012

It has been clear for years that the Obama administration believes the shadow war on terrorism gives it the power to choose targets for assassination, including Americans, without any oversight. On Tuesday, The New York Times revealed who was actually making the final decision on the biggest killings and drone strikes: President Obama himself. And that is very troubling.

Mr. Obama has demonstrated that he can be thoughtful and farsighted, but, like all occupants of the Oval Office, he is a politician, subject to the pressures of re-election. No one in that position should be able to unilaterally order the killing of American citizens or foreigners located far from a battlefield — depriving Americans of their due-process rights — without the consent of someone outside his political inner circle.

How can the world know whether the targets chosen by this president or his successors are truly dangerous terrorists and not just people with the wrong associations? (It is clear, for instance, that many of those rounded up after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks weren’t terrorists.) How can the world know whether this president or a successor truly pursued all methods short of assassination, or instead — to avoid a political charge of weakness — built up a tough-sounding list of kills?

It is too easy to say that this is a natural power of a commander in chief. The United States cannot be in a perpetual war on terror that allows lethal force against anyone, anywhere, for any perceived threat. That power is too great, and too easily abused, as those who lived through the George W. Bush administration will remember.

Mr. Obama, who campaigned against some of those abuses in 2008, should remember. But the Times article, written by Jo Becker and Scott Shane, depicts him as personally choosing every target, approving every major drone strike in Yemen and Somalia and the riskiest ones in Pakistan, assisted only by his own aides and a group of national security operatives. Mr. Obama relies primarily on his counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan.

To his credit, Mr. Obama believes he should take moral responsibility for these decisions, and he has read the just-war theories of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.

The Times article points out, however, that the Defense Department is currently killing suspects in Yemen without knowing their names, using criteria that have never been made public. The administration is counting all military-age males killed by drone fire as combatants without knowing that for certain, assuming they are up to no good if they are in the area. That has allowed Mr. Brennan to claim an extraordinarily low civilian death rate that smells more of expediency than morality.

In a recent speech, Mr. Brennan said the administration chooses only those who pose a real threat, not simply because they are members of Al Qaeda, and prefers to capture suspects alive. Those assurances are hardly binding, and even under Mr. Obama, scores of suspects have been killed but only one taken into American custody. The precedents now being set will be carried on by successors who may have far lower standards. Without written guidelines, they can be freely reinterpreted.

A unilateral campaign of death is untenable. To provide real assurance, President Obama should publish clear guidelines for targeting to be carried out by nonpoliticians, making assassination truly a last resort, and allow an outside court to review the evidence before placing Americans on a kill list. And it should release the legal briefs upon which the targeted killing was based.

Obama: Not So Cool
By Michael Barone
April 30, 2012 12:00 A.M.

Last week, Barack Obama delivered speeches at universities in Chapel Hill, N.C., Iowa City, Iowa, and Boulder, Colo. The trip was, press secretary Jay Carney assured us, official government business, not political campaigning.

It’s part of a pattern. Neil Munro of the Daily Caller has counted 130 appearances by the president, vice president, their spouses, White House officials, and cabinet secretaries at colleges and universities since spring 2011.

Obviously, the Obama campaign strategists are worried that he cannot duplicate his margin among young voters back in 2008, which was 66 to 32 percent.

Recent surveys of young people show inconsistent results. Gallup’s tracking shows Obama leading Mitt Romney 64 to 29 percent, and a Harvard Institute of Politics poll shows him leading Romney 43 to 26 percent among those who said they had an opinion.

But a March survey of 18- to 24-year-olds by the Public Religion Research Institute showed Obama ahead of “a Republican” by only 48 to 41 percent. Only 52 percent had a favorable opinion of Obama, and 43 percent had an unfavorable opinion.

Where the surveys seem to be in accord is that young voters are less engaged, less likely to vote, and less enthusiastic about Obama than in the days when he was proclaiming, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

Gallup shows only 56 percent of Americans younger than 30 saying they definitely will vote. Among older Americans, the figure is above 80 percent. The most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed only 45 percent of young people taking a big interest in the election, down from 63 percent in 2008.

Hispanics and blacks make up a larger share of the millennial generation than of older Americans, and Obama’s support among them seems to remain high. But the Harvard survey shows that only 41 percent of white millennials approve of Obama’s job performance, significantly lower than the 54 percent who voted for him in 2008.

Obama’s decision to campaign — er, conduct official business — on university campuses last week was not surprising. According to exit polls, there was no surge of young voters in 2008. They made up 18 percent of voters, compared with 17 percent in 2004.

But close inspection of the election returns shows that the Obama campaign did a splendid job of ginning up turnout in university and college towns and in singles’-apartment neighborhoods in central cities and close-in suburbs, such as Arlington, Va., across the Potomac from Washington.

Consider the counties where Obama spoke last week. In Orange County, N.C., Obama won 72 percent of the vote. He did better in only one of the state’s 99 other counties: Durham, which has a large black population as well as Duke University.

Obama carried Johnson County, Iowa, with 70 percent of the vote, more than in any of Iowa’s other 98 counties. He carried Boulder County, Colo., with 72 percent, a mark exceeded in that state only in Denver, one rural Hispanic county, and two counties with fashionable ski resorts (Aspen and Telluride).

What Obama doesn’t seem to have done in 2008 is mobilize more economically marginal and educationally limited young people, except perhaps among blacks.

His problem this year is that there are a lot more economically marginal young people, including many who are not educationally limited.

Young people are notoriously transient, and it’s hard for political organizers to track them down — harder perhaps this year, with many recent college graduates unable to find jobs and a rising percentage of young people moving in with their parents.

Few young Americans bothered to vote in Republican primaries, and young people’s attitude toward Mitt Romney seems frosty. They still know little about him.

That gives Romney a chance to argue that Obama’s economic policies have failed and that his own policies can spark an economic revival that will provide myriad opportunities for the iPod/Facebook generation to find satisfying work where they can utilize their special talents.

In his campus speeches, Obama stumped for keeping low interest rates on student loans. But young people may be figuring out that colleges and universities are gobbling up the money that government pours in, leaving them saddled with debt.

It’s a side issue. The Harvard survey showed 58 percent of millennials saying the economy was a top issue and only 41 percent approving Obama’s handling of it. Like Romney, they seem to be saying, “It’s the economy, and we’re not stupid.”

Our Untransparent President
June 26, 2011


AS a longtime supporter and colleague of Barack Obama at the University of Chicago, as well as an informal adviser to his 2008 campaign, I had high hopes that he would restore the balance between government secrecy and government transparency that had been lost under George W. Bush, and that he would follow through on his promise, as a candidate, to promote openness and public accountability in government policy making.

It has not quite worked out that way. While Mr. Obama has taken certain steps, notably early in his administration, to scale back some of the Bush-era excesses, in other respects he has shown a disappointing willingness to continue in his predecessor’s footsteps.

In the years after 9/11, the Bush administration embraced a series of policies, including torture, surveillance of private communications, and restrictions on the writ of habeas corpus, that undermined the fundamental American values of individual dignity, personal privacy and due process of law. Its most dangerous policy, though, was its attempt to hide its decisions from the American public.

In an effort to evade the constraints of separation of powers, judicial review, checks and balances and democratic accountability, the Bush administration systematically hid its actions from public view. It promulgated its policies in secret, denied information to Congress, abused the process for classifying information, narrowly interpreted the Freedom of Information Act, punished government whistle-blowers, jailed journalists for refusing to disclose confidential sources, threatened to prosecute the press for revealing secret programs, and broadly invoked the state secrets doctrine to prevent both Congress and the courts from evaluating the lawfulness of its programs.

In doing so the Bush administration undermined the central premise of a self-governing society: it is the citizens who must evaluate the judgments, policies, and programs of their representatives. As James Madison observed, “A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both.”

At least four obvious areas of concern regarding transparency confronted President Obama when he entered the White House.

The first involves the problem of classification, and it is, to be fair, a bright spot on the president’s record. Soon after taking office, Mr. Obama repealed a directive, issued by Mr. Bush’s attorney general, John D. Ashcroft, in October 2001, authorizing the government to classify information whenever its disclosure might potentially harm national security. This standard ignored the competing national interest in preserving an open and responsible government. Prior administrations had employed a more open approach, and President Obama’s repeal was a significant step in the right direction.

But his record on whistle-blower protection, another key area of concern, has been less laudable. In early 2009 members of Congress enthusiastically introduced the Whistle-Blower Protection Enhancement Act, which promised substantial protection to certain classes of government employees who report matters of legitimate public concern to lawmakers or the media. Although as a candidate Mr. Obama had expressed support for such a law, his administration cooled to the idea and let it die in the Senate in late 2010 (it was reintroduced in April 2011). Sadly, as a number of high-profile criminal cases against whistle-blowers show, the Obama administration has followed its predecessor in aggressively cracking down on unauthorized leaks.

President Obama has also followed Mr. Bush in zealously applying the state secrets doctrine, a common-law principle intended to enable the government to protect national security information from disclosure in litigation. Although legitimate in theory, the doctrine had been invoked in an unprecedented manner by the Bush administration to block judicial review of a broad range of questionable practices.

The dawn of the Obama administration brought hope that Congress would enact the proposed State Secrets Protection Act of 2009, which would have limited the scope of the doctrine. Indeed, shortly after President Obama took office, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. suggested that the doctrine should be invoked “only when genuine and significant harm to national defense or foreign relations is at stake and only to the extent necessary to safeguard those interests.”

Since then, however, the Obama administration has aggressively asserted the privilege in litigation involving such issues as the C.I.A.’s use of extraordinary rendition and the National Security Agency’s practice of wiretapping American citizens.

Finally, events during the Bush administration made clear that it was long past time for Congress to create a federal journalist-source privilege. Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia have recognized such a privilege, and members of Congress proposed the Free Flow of Information Act to recognize a similar privilege as a matter of federal law. If enacted, the law would enable journalists to protect the confidentiality of their sources, unless the government could prove that disclosure of the information was necessary to prevent significant harm to national security.

In what seems to be a recurring theme, Senator Obama supported the Free Flow of Information Act, but President Obama does not. In 2007, he was one of the sponsors of the original Senate bill, but in 2009 he objected to the scope of the privilege envisioned by the bill and requested that the Senate revise the bill to require judges to defer to executive branch judgments. Although the bill passed in the House in the last Congressional session, it stalled in the Senate and now has to be reintroduced.

The record of the Obama administration on this fundamental issue of American democracy has surely fallen short of expectations. This is a lesson in “trust us.” Those in power are always certain that they themselves will act reasonably, and they resist limits on their own discretion. The problem is, “trust us” is no way to run a self-governing society.

Geoffrey R. Stone is a professor of law at the University of Chicago and chairman of the board of the American Constitution Society.

Speechworld vs. Realworld
The widening gulf between Obama’s rhetoric and reality
National Review
Mark Steyn
June 25, 2011 7:00 A.M.

The Democrats seem to have given up on budgets. Hey, who can blame them? They’ve got a ballpark figure: Let’s raise $2 trillion in revenue every year, and then spend $4 trillion. That seems to work pretty well, so why get hung up on a lot of fine print? Harry Reid says the Senate has no plans to produce a budget, but in April the president did give a speech about “a new budget framework” that he said would save $4 trillion over the next twelve years.

That would be 2023, if you’re minded to take him seriously. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, did. Last week he asked Douglas Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office, if he’d “estimated the budget impact of this framework.”

“No, Mr. Chairman,” replied Director Elmendorf, deadpan. “We don’t estimate speeches. We need much more specificity than was provided in that speech.”

“We don’t estimate speeches”: There’s an epitaph to chisel on the tombstone of the republic. Unfortunately for those of us on the receiving end, giving speeches is what Obama does. Indeed, having no other accomplishments to his name (as Hillary Clinton pointed out), giving speeches is what got the president his job. You remember — the stuff about “hope” and “change.” Were the CBO in the business of “estimating speeches,” they’d have run the numbers and concluded that under the Obama plan, vague abstract nouns would be generating 87 percent of GDP by 2016.

For whatever reason, it didn’t work out quite like that. But that’s no reason not to give another speech. So there he was the other night expounding on Afghanistan. Unlike Douglas Elmendorf, the Taliban do estimate speeches, and they correctly concluded from the president’s 2009 speech that all they need to do is run out the clock and all or most of the country will be theirs once more. Last week’s update confirmed their estimate. “Winning” is not in Obama’s vocabulary. Oh, wait. That’s not true. In an earlier unestimated speech, he declared he was committed to “winning the future,” “winning the future” at some unspecified time in the future being a lot easier than winning the war. In fairness, it’s been two-thirds of a century since America has unambiguously won a war, but throughout that period most presidents were at least notionally committed to the possibility of victory. Obama seems to regard the very concept as something boorish and vulgar that would cause him embarrassment if it came up at dinner parties. So place your bets on how long it will be before Mullah Omar’s back in town. And then ask yourself if America will have anything to show for its decade in Afghanistan that it wouldn’t have had if it had just quit two weeks after toppling the Taliban in the fall of 2001 and left the mullahs, warlords, poppy barons, and pederasts to have at each other without the distraction of extravagant NATO reconstruction projects littering their beautiful land of charmingly unspoilt rubble.

That’s not how the president put it, of course. But then the delightful appeal of an Obama speech is the ever wider gulf between Speechworld and Reality. So in this instance he framed our retreat from the Hindu Kush as an excellent opportunity to stop wasting money overseas and start wasting even more in Washington. Or in his words:

“America, it is time to focus on nation-building here at home.”

Gee, thanks. If America were a Kandahar wedding, that would be the cue to fire your rifle in the air and grab the cutest nine-year-old boy. Naturally, not everyone sees eye to eye. Like Afghanistan, ours is a fractious land. But as Obama said:

“Our nation draws strength from our differences, and when our union is strong, no hill is too steep, no horizon is beyond our reach.”

Climb ev’ry mountain. Ford ev’ry stream.

Are you sure we can afford ev’ry stream? Yes, it’s far less rugged than it sounds. In compliance with EPA regulations, no real hills and dales were harmed in the making of this glib rhetorical imagery.

“At his best,” wrote the New York Times of Obama’s speech, “the president can be hugely persuasive.”

Er, if you say so. He’s mostly persuasive in persuading you there’s no urgency about anything: All that stuff about Americans sweating and straining for the most distant horizon is his way of saying you can go back to sleep for another couple of decades.

If we hadn’t been assured by the New York Times that this man is the Greatest Orator of All Time, there would be something offensive in the leader of the Brokest Nation in History bragging that we’re not the guys to shirk a challenge, however grueling and demanding it may be, no sirree. The salient feature of America in the Age of Obama is a failed government class institutionally committed to living beyond its means, and a citizenry too many of whom are content to string along. Remember Peggy Joseph of Sarasota, Fla.? “I never thought this day would ever happen,” she gushed after an Obama rally in 2008. “I won’t have to worry about putting gas in my car. I won’t have to worry about paying my mortgage.” Is Peggy really the gal you’d want to hike a steep hill with?

In Speechworld, nation-building can be done through flatulent rhetoric. In Realworld, nations are built by people, and in America the productive class is battered and reeling. Obama wasted a trillion dollars on a phony stimulus that stimulated nothing but government, and wants to try it one mo’ time. That’s what yokes “nation-building” near and far. According to the World Bank, the Western military/aid presence now accounts for 97 percent of Afghanistan’s GDP. The bit that’s left doesn’t function, not least because it doesn’t need to. How can, say, Helmand develop an economic base when everybody with a whit of sense is making massively inflated salaries as a translator for the Yanks or a security guard for some EU outreach project? When the 97 percent revenue tide recedes with the American withdrawal, what’s left will be the same old 3 percent ugly tribal dump Afghanistan was a decade ago. It will leave as little trace as the Obama stimulus.

The sheer waste is appalling, immoral, and deeply destructive. In Kandahar as in California, all that matters is excess: It’s not working? Then you need to spend more. More more more. What does it matter? You’re not spending anything real. America would have to find $15 trillion just to get back to having nothing in its pocket. But who cares? As long as we’re united in our commitment to excess, no CBO debt-to-GDP ratio graph is too steep for us to take to the next level, and no horizon — 2060, 2080, 2104 — is too distant to serve as a plausible estimate for significant deficit reduction.

In Realworld, political speeches would be about closing down unnecessary federal bureaucracies, dramatically downsizing or merging others, and ending makework projects and mission creep. The culture of excess that distinguishes the hyperpower at twilight would be reviled at every turn. But instead the “hugely persuasive” orator declares that there’s nothing to worry about that even more government can’t cure. In Speechworld, “no hill is too steep, no horizon is beyond our reach.” In Realworld, that’s mainly because we’re going downhill. And the horizon is a cliff edge.

— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is author of America Alone. © 2011 Mark Steyn.

Come Home America (and Build Windmills!)
General MacArthur was wrong; there is a substitute for victory.
National Review
Rich Lowry
June 24, 2011

As commander-in-chief, Barack Obama doesn’t just blow an uncertain trumpet — he barely blows a trumpet at all. Judging from his speeches, America gets into wars solely so it can “end them responsibly.”

Gen. Douglas MacArthur was wrong. There is a substitute for victory. It’s “ending wars responsibly.” In his Afghanistan-drawdown speech, President Obama struck his version of a Churchillian note when he warned, “This is the beginning — but not the end — of our effort to wind down this war.”

A cruder, more simplistic president from a bygone era might have couched the war in terms of our effort to win. For Obama, the paramount goal is ending, not winning. But ending “responsibly” — which in the case of Afghanistan may mean ending with enough of an interval of relative stability that our exit doesn’t seem an obvious defeat.

Obama’s antiwar supporters trotted out the old chestnut from the late Sen. George Aiken during Vietnam and advised that in Afghanistan he should “declare victory and get out.” As it happens, their counsel was much too hawkish: Obama would never allow himself to declare victory, even insincerely and opportunistically.

There’s a chance our military can stretch and improvise to keep the enemy at bay even as 10,000 troops come out by the end of the year and the 20,000 remaining surge troops leave by next summer. But Obama has put the gains won at the cost of their blood, sweat, and tears at greater risk for no reason other than his own ambiguity about their mission.

Say this for the president: He has remained true to the spirit of his deeply conflicted 2009 speech announcing the Afghan surge. In it, our fearlessly ambivalent commander-in-chief portrayed the surge as a temporary detour on the way to “a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan.”

He told West Point cadets in that speech that “America will have to show our strength in the way we end wars and prevent conflict — not just how we wage wars.” Of course, ending wars is only superficially in our power. We are now on a faster path to ending our part in the Afghan War, but the Taliban, the Haqqani network, al-Qaeda, and other extremists have no intention of ending theirs. They lack the sophistication to realize that winning is “out” and ending is “in.”

These groups also lack keen reelection-minded political advisers. The end of the surge will — predictably — come right before the November 2012 elections. Obama isn’t even willing to see through the entire 2012 fighting season, which stretches into the fall, but wants all the surge forces out by the summer. No military strategist would ever endorse that timetable. General Axelrod trumps General Petraeus. Chairman Plouffe outranks Chairman Mullen.

The point Obama’s speech built toward was his insipid exhortation, “America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.” This sentiment — as clichéd as it is jejune — represents Obama’s deepest strategic impulse. It’s George McGovern’s call to “come home, America,” wedded to subsidies for windmills and electric cars. It is shot through with declinism about our role in the world and fantastical beliefs about the powers of industrial policy at home.

Obama cited the cost of the war and the need to “live within our means.” Only when it comes to the Afghan War is the president interested in fiscal retrenchment. Whatever the incremental savings of a swifter drawdown of the surge than our military commanders recommend, it will be a blip compared with our $1.4 trillion annual deficit. The path to national solvency does not run through the Hindu Kush.

There’s no denying that the Afghan War has been long, frustrating, and costly in blood and treasure. Ending it without success, though, will leave a dangerous caldron of disorder in the region. America can always come home; she can never again be sure her enemies won’t follow.

— Rich Lowry is editor of National Review. He can be reached via e-mail: © 2011 by King Features Syndicate.

Section 527 works to seat liberals as election overseers
No cap on gifts from rich activists

Section 527 works to seat liberals as election overseers
By Chuck Neubauer, The Washington Times
9:00 p.m., Thursday, June 23, 2011

A small tax-exempt political group with ties to wealthy liberals like billionaire financier George Soros has quietly helped elect 11 reform-minded progressive Democrats as secretaries of state to oversee the election process in battleground states and keep Republican “political operatives from deciding who can vote and how those votes are counted.”

Known as the Secretary of State Project (SOSP), the organization was formed by liberal activists in 2006 to put Democrats in charge of state election offices, where key decisions often are made in close races on which ballots are counted and which are not.

The group’s website said it wants to stop Republicans from “manipulating” election results.

“Any serious commitment to wresting control of the country from the Republican Party must include removing their political operatives from deciding who can vote and whose votes will count,” the group said on its website, accusing some Republican secretaries of state of making “partisan decisions.”

SOSP has sought donations by describing the contributions as a “modest political investment” to elect “clean candidates” to the secretary of state posts.

Named after Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code, so-called 527 political groups — such as SOSP — have no upper limit on contributions and no restrictions on who may contribute in seeking to influence the selection, nomination, election, appointment or defeat of candidates to federal, state or local public office. They generally are not regulated by the Federal Election Commission (FEC), creating a soft-money loophole.

While FEC regulations limit individual donations to a maximum of $2,500 per candidate and $5,000 to a PAC, a number of 527 groups have poured tens of millions of unregulated dollars into various political efforts.

SOSP has backed 11 winning candidates in 18 races, including such key states as Ohio, Nevada, Iowa, New Mexico and Minnesota.

“Supporting secretary of state candidates with integrity is one of the most cost-efficient ways progressives can ensure they have a fair chance of winning elections,” SOSP said on its website, adding that “a relatively small influx of money — often as little as $30,000 to $50,000 — can change the outcome of a race.”

SOSP was formed in the wake of the ballot-counting confusion in Florida during the 2000 presidential election and a repeat of that chaos in Ohio in the 2004 presidential election. Democrats accused Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris and Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, both Republicans, of manipulating the elections in favor of GOP candidates — charges Mrs. Harris and Mr. Blackwell denied.

“Does anyone doubt that these two secretaries of state … made damaging partisan decisions about purging voter rolls, registration of new voters, voting machine security, the location of precincts, the allocation of voting machines, and dozens of other critical matters?” SOSP asked on its website.

SOSP said it raised more than $500,000 in 2006 to help elect five Democratic secretaries of states in seven races.

The Commission on Federal Election Reform, co-chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, recommended in 2005 taking away the administration of elections from secretaries of state and giving it to nonpartisan election officers.

“Partisan officials should not be in charge of elections,” said Robert Pastor, co-director of the Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University. “Both Democrats and Republicans not only compete for power, they try to manipulate the rules to get an advantage.

“We want to make sure that those counting votes don’t have a dog in that game,” said Mr. Pastor, who served as executive director and a member of the commission.

One of the SOSP’s financial backers is Mr. Soros, the billionaire hedge-fund operator who spent $27 million in 2004 in an unsuccessful effort to defeat President George W. Bush. Mr. Soros spent $5.1 million in the 2008 election supporting Democratic candidates and causes. In 2008, he gave $10,000 to SOSP.

A spokesman for Mr. Soros downplayed the financier’s role in the project.

“He supports the organization,” said Michael Vachon, who manages Mr. Soros‘ political donations. “He was in favor of electing Democrats secretary of state. George was not a founder of the project, and he never had an operational role or helped plan strategy.”

But many of SOSP’s founders and supporters have long-standing ties to Mr. Soros and the organizations he founded or helped fund, including Democracy Alliance, a liberal-leaning group whose membership includes some of the country’s wealthiest Democrats. Created in 2005 with major financial backing from Mr. Soros and millionaire Colorado businessmen and gay-rights activist Tim Gill, Democracy Alliance has helped direct nearly $150 million to progressive organizations.

SOSP’s founders include Michael Kieschnick, a Democracy Alliance member who also is president of a telecommunications company that donates to progressive nonprofit groups; James Rucker, former director of Soros-supported, a stridently anti-Bush group known for its ads comparing Mr. Bush to Adolf Hitler; and Becky Bond, former director at ActBlue, a political committee that bills itself as “the nation’s largest source of funds for Democrats,” whose contributors include Mr. Soros.

Mr. Kieschnick, Mr. Rucker and Ms. Bond did not respond to emails and telephone messages seeking comment.

Democracy Alliance members who gave to SOSP include furniture company heir John R. Hunting; computer company executive Paul Rudd; medical-supply firm heiress Pat Stryker; venture capitalist Nicholas Hanauer; ex-Clinton administration official Rob Stein; Tides Foundation founder Drummond Pike; real estate developer Robert Bowditch; charitable foundation co-chairman Scott Wallace; clothing executive Susie Tompkins Buell; real estate developer Albert Dwoskin; child psychologist Gail Furman; and Taco Bell heir Rob McKay.

Ms. Furman also is president of the Furman Foundation, a major donor to the Soros-backed Tides Center, which has provided more than $300 million to “progressive” causes.

Mr. Dwoskin also is chairman of Catalist, a Soros-funded political consultancy in Virginia that, according to its website, “brings easy to use web-based tools and a high quality voter database of all voting-age individuals in the United States to progressive organizations and campaigns.”

Other SOSP donors include Daniel Berger, who helped create Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, whose donors include Democracy Alliance and Mr. Soros‘ Open Society Institute; and Chris Findlater, chairman of the Florida Watch Ballot Committee, whose funding comes from America Votes, a Soros-supported get-out-the-vote group.

The SOSP also used ActBlue to help raise funds for itself and its candidates from Democratic donors nationwide. ActBlue says it has raised more than $190 million online for Democratic candidates since 2004.

Mr. Soros and several SOSP contributors also are part of a small group of wealthy liberals who have been among the top donors to 527 organizations set up to mobilize Democratic voters in recent years.

In 2004, Mr. Soros was the largest individual donor to America Coming Together (ACT), a 527 group he helped create along with Mr. McKay, the Taco Bell boss, to defeat Mr. Bush. Mr. Soros gave $7.5 million. Mr. McKay, now chairman of Democracy Alliance, gave $245,000 to ACT, and he and his family foundation donated $35,000 to SOSP.

Alida Messinger, a Rockefeller heiress, gave $2.25 million to ACT and $25,000 to SOSP, according to records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group that monitors campaign finances. She and other top SOSP donors also were major donors to America Votes 2006, another Soros-backed liberal group that sought to elect Democratic candidates, records show.

Mr. Soros also gave $3.5 million and was the largest donor to a short-lived political group called the Fund for America, set up in late 2007 to do voter outreach and finance attack ads for the 2008 election. Four of the fund’s nine donors who gave $200,000 or more also contributed to SOSP, including Mr. Soros, Mr. McKay, Mr. Hunting and Lee Fikes of Bonanza Oil, who gave $600,000 to the Fund for America and $22,500 to SOSP.

In addition to his SOSP donation, Mr. Soros in 2006 also supported the project’s candidates in Ohio, Jennifer Brunner, to whom he gave $2,500, and in Minnesota, Mark Ritchie, who got $250. Both won.

In 2006, SOSP helped elect Democratic secretaries of state in Ohio, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada and Iowa while its candidates lost in Colorado and Michigan. In 2008, the group backed winning candidates in Montana, West Virginia, Missouri and Oregon. SOSP raised $280,316 and spent $278,224 in that two-year election period. It could not be determined how much the project raised additionally in donations for the candidate’s individual campaign funds.

In 2010, just two of the group’s seven candidates won in a Republican year — in Minnesota and California. It lost in Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, South Dakota and Michigan. The group said it raised $193,767 and spent $243,112. It could not be determined how much it raised in additional donations for individual candidates.

Minnesota is the prime example of the project’s success. Helping to elect Mr. Ritchie in 2006 and 2010, Democrats had one of their own making key decisions when the extremely close U.S. Senate race between incumbent Norm Coleman, a Republican, and his challenger, former comedian Al Franken, went to a recount in 2008.

Mr. Ritchie headed the canvassing board that conducted the recount. Mr. Coleman initially had a lead of 206 votes out of 2.9 million cast, but after the recount, the board decided Mr. Franken had won by 225 votes. Republicans criticized Mr. Ritchie and the canvassing board, but the Minnesota Supreme Court unanimously upheld the finding.

Republican Mary Kiffmeyer, who lost to Mr. Ritchie in 2006, said SOSP’s involvement contributed to her defeat.

“They absolutely had an effect,” said Ms. Kiffmeyer, now a GOP state representative. She said she was leading by 17 percentage points the week before the election, when SOSP and its allies spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on targeted television ads and mailings. She said she had no time or money to respond to the last-minute attack ads, which linked her to Mr. Bush.

Ms. Kiffmeyer said she was limited to raising no more than $500 from an individual and spending just $250,000, but the SOSP had no such limits.

Mr. Soros, who lives in New York, did not donate directly to SOSP in 2006, but he was a serious donor to other important groups in Minnesota during the 2006 campaign. He gave $200,000 to America Votes-Minnesota, which led a get-out-the-vote drive just before the election — more than half of what it raised in 2006. He also gave $10,000 to the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party on whose ticket Mr. Ritchie ran.

“I want to thank the Secretary of State Project and its thousands of grass-roots donors for helping to push my campaign over the top,” Mr. Ritchie wrote. “Your wonderful support — both directly to my campaign and through generous expenditures by the strategic fund — helped me get our election reform message to Minnesota voters. And the voters overwhelming cast their ballot to protect our democracy on election day.”

© Copyright 2011 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Strange candidate from a bygone era
Article published Oct 15, 2012

So it was Honeymooners versus family ties, Ed Norton versus Alex Keating. What we saw Thursday night in the vice-presidential debate wasn't only an argument about policy, it was a look at two different eras in American family life.

Biden of course could stand on Neptune and distract attention away from the sun. He entered the Senate in 1973, back when the old Democratic giants from the New Deal era still roamed the earth. Every sentimental tone of voice, every ebullient and condescending grin brought you back to the old kitchen tables in working class Catholic neighborhoods of places like Scranton, Chicago, San Francisco, Providence and Philadelphia.

That was a time, much more so than now, when there were still regional manners, regional accents and greater distance from the homogenizing influence of mass culture. That was a culture in which emotion was put out there on display - screaming matches between family members who could erupt in chest poking fury one second and then loyalty until death affection the next.

Biden gave America the full opera Thursday night, and I suspect there will be as many reactions as there are partisan flavors. Democrats will obviously be cheered by his aggressive impassioned and offensive performance.

It will be the crowning irony of the No Drama Obama campaign that it took a man who exudes more drama than a decade of Latin American soap operas to get Democrats out of their funk.

Biden clearly ended the psychic slide. He took it to Ryan on the inexplicability of the Republican tax plan. He had his best moments on those subjects Ryan is strongest, like budgets.

At the same time, my inbox was filled with a certain number of people who would be happy if they could spend the next few weeks punching Biden in the face, and not just Republicans. What do independents want most? They want people who will practice a more respectful brand of politics, who will behave the way most Americans try to behave in their dealings - respectfully, maybe pausing to listen for a second. To them Biden will seem like an off-putting caricature of the worst of old-style politics.

A lot of people will look at Biden's performance and see a style of politics that makes complex tradeoffs impossible. The people who think this way swing general elections.

Ryan hails from a different era, not the era of the 1950s' diner, but the era of the workout gym. By Ryan's time, the national media culture was pervasive. The tone was cool, not hot. Ryan emerges from this culture in the same way Barack Obama does.

This is a generation armed with self-awareness. In this generation you roll your eyes at anyone who is quite so flamboyantly demonstrative as the VP.

In addition, Ryan was nurtured by the conservative policy apparatus and had a tendency Thursday night to talk about policy even when he was asked about character. I would not say he defined a personality as firmly as he might have, but he did an excellent job of demonstrating policy professionalism. He was strong on Obama's economic failures, strong on the Libya debacle, and he did have a few chances to highlight the Obama campaigns crucial weakness - the relative absence of any positive agenda, the relative absence of any large plans for the next four years.

Substantively, it is the Romney-Ryan proposals that were the center of attention. Some of those proposals are unpopular (Medicare, which was woefully under-covered). Some are popular (Taxes). But most of the discussion was on Romney plans because the other side just doesn't have many.

This was a battle of generations. The age difference was the undercurrent of every exchange. The older man had the virility, but in a way that will seem antique to many.

Ken Dixon: Parties still hesitate to let everyone in
Published 5:51 p.m., Friday, August 24, 2012

When it comes to politics, most voters in Connecticut don't want to join a club that would allow them to be members.

That's a problem that Republicans and Democrats could easily rectify, but it would entail loosening up and actually meaning it when they call themselves inclusive.

Yep, all either party -- or both -- would have to do is let the vast unwashed strata of unaffiliated voters, all 818,703 of us, to vote in their primaries. Plenty of states allow it, including New Hampshire, the presidential kingmaker, with no apparent undue results.

Unaffiliated voters could be just the shot of new blood the Grand Old Party needs to pump up its relatively moribund 412,509 Connecticut members. It could also add more interest in politics and public policy among the 723,035 registered Democrats.

Of course, more interest and more voices would be exactly what supporters of the status quo, namely some powerful Democrats and Republicans, might not want.

It would threaten the insider clubs that have done such things as raise state taxes to new heights (Democrats). It would possibly widen a pool of experienced candidates and threaten pols such as Republican Linda McMahon, who after spending close to $67 million of her pro-wrestling fortune, is still looking for her first elective office.

You have to hand it to the Democrats and Republicans. Here they have their private primaries totally funded by state taxpayers, especially those 818,703 excluded from the process, all under the rubric of democracy, small "d."

They bar the state's largest group of voters from participating in their primaries, but will spend the rest of the summer, into the fall, right up to Nov. 6, seeking to woo the same group they shunned for the primary.

I don't accept the claim that if they opened up, groups of unaffiliated voters would get together, manipulate a vote and change the course of a primary by supporting a candidate deemed to be weaker and more vulnerable in November. If they were that interested in the process, they'd have already registered with one party or the other.

Why state Republicans and Democrats are spared the cost of the day-long primary voting is worthy of a court case. In fact, the peripheral issue made it up to the U.S. Supreme Court back in 1986.

In 1984, the Republican Party of Connecticut, in an attempt to help then-U.S. Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr., who was looking ahead to his 1988 re-election, approved a rule permitting the unaffiliated to vote in primaries for statewide and federal offices. Julia Tashjian, the Democratic secretary of the state at the time, said it broke state law. The U.S. Supreme Court overruled her, saying the state statute violated the constitutional rights of association.

Alas, by 1991 -- Weicker lost the 1988 election to then-Democrat Joe Lieberman -- the state GOP had swung back the other way and closed the door on the unaffiliated, who never had the chance to vote in a GOP primary.

This brings us to the anemic primary turnout of Aug. 14, with less than 28 percent of Republicans casting votes, while slightly more than 19 percent of Democrats showed up. About 250,000 voted in a state with about 1.9 million registered voters.

"The difference between the Democrats and Republicans is that Linda McMahon put millions of dollars into buying the Republican U.S. Senate primary," said Nancy DiNardo of Trumbull, chairwoman of the Democratic State Central Committee. "She has already spent $17 million on this election, so it does not surprise me that the Republicans had a higher turnout."

"Clearly our people are much more energized," said Jerry Labriola, chairman of the Republican State Central Committee. "The results are consistent with many of the states. Tracking polls show our intensity levels to be at 8, 9, 10 and Democrats 4, 5, 6," Labriola said. "There's no compelling reason to reward the Democratic candidates, considering the condition of our economy in Connecticut and the nation."

Labriola, in a phone interview from Tampa, where the GOP national convention starts Monday, said he's working hard to convince national leaders that Connecticut may be up for grabs this fall. "We're very optimistic. We're looking to give the Romney-Ryan ticket a bump at this convention and have it become a springboard going forward. Democrats may come out and vote in November, but if there's a good episode of `American Idol' on, they may miss it."

Current Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, the former Democratic House majority leader, agreed last week that primaries are essentially private elections paid for with public money. She also believes that if unaffiliated voters were allowed into the mix, the overall turnout percentages would probably drop because they're not as invested as the Democrats and Republicans.

"There would have to be public pressure on the parties to open up their primaries," Merrill said. Well, let it begin.