Don Pesci

Don Pesci: The moral deracination of the West

Members of  Bound4LIFE  in  Washington, D.C. , symbolically cover their mouths with red tape in anti-abortion demonstration.

Members of Bound4LIFE in Washington, D.C., symbolically cover their mouths with red tape in anti-abortion demonstration.

Leftists are winning the culture war, the war on Western Civilization, because rootless politicians have shown themselves unwilling to enter the lists and do battle with the new morality.

For this reason, American culture is being redefined – reinvented, as the leftists would have it – by social anarchists with knives in their brains. It has become fashionable among New York leftist politicians to wink at, and even to publicly celebrate, infanticide. No assault on traditional sensibilities, it would seem, is beyond the pale.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s notion that third trimester abortion is too close to infanticide to be tolerated by men and women of conscience is now regarded as embarrassingly quaint by New York’s smart set, among whom are Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, not his birth name.

Moynihan was a sociologist, the author of “The Moynihan Report,” a professor at Harvard University, a top adviser to President Nixon, and a four-term U.S. senator representing New York. He was also a proud liberal. Today, it is very nearly a philological sin to call the new moralists “liberal” in the sense in which liberalism had been embraced by Moynihan or, here in Connecticut, by such prominent governors as Abraham Ribicoff and Ella Grasso.

In Europe, the moral deracination – which, of course, marches under the banner of moral rectitude – has proceeded at an alarming rate. The Netherlands in 2005 stole a march on other morally backward-looking states by becoming the first country to decriminalize euthanasia for infants with presumed “hopeless prognosis and intractable pain. “ Nine years later, Belgium amended its 2002 Euthanasia Act to extend the rights of euthanasia to minors.

People living in the United Sates have always fancied that, though conjoined historically to Europe by history and ties of affection, there was an ocean separating us. Modern communications have removed this cultural prophylactic. Historical differences also have served as a barrier to disruptive ideas that in Europe plunged France into a bloody revolution centered on fatal utopian ideas.

Under Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin – socialists all – fascism and the totalist state were necessary and indispensable political instruments in creating what all three thought of as “the new man,” a mechanist free at last of a Western culture that had imprisoned humankind in religious and cultural chains. In a future shaped by mechanistic ideology, politics and brute force, the very nature of man would be irreversibly altered. This is, as Roger Scruton points out in his brief and indispensable history of the conservative movement in the Western world, Conservativism: an Invitation to the Great Tradition, the original sin of socialism, the absurd notion that the world may be made over anew by a transcendent state. For Mussolini, the fascist administrative state was a secular god clothed in omnipotence and omnipresence. “Everything in the state; nothing outside the state; nothing above the state” – such was the fascist definition of social bliss.

History, tradition, subsidiary political organizations such as family and church, a constitutional state, a media determined to declare the truth at all costs, modesty in politics, the good manners of polite society, respect for women, personal honor, the protections a state holds out to “the least among us” -- the infirm, the aged, the poor, victims of unfettered abortion – all these blessings were, in effect, walls and barriers that prevented a false god, the omnipotent and omnipresent state, from clawing away from us our God-given rights and responsibilities with its mechanical, inhuman talons.

U.S. Sen. Dick Blumenthal, for two decades Connecticut’s attorney general/regulator-in-chief, regards any limitation of abortion, however practical or reasonable, as proceeding from immoral premises, and he continues to insist falsely that regulations concerning third trimester abortion deprive women of a right to unfettered abortion. Limiting abortion to the first two trimesters of a pregnancy does not remove a presumed right to abortion; it simply designates the time frame in which an abortion may be legally appropriate.

At the end of May, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz sent a missive to women who own businesses in Alabama, Georgia and Missouri pronouncing themselves “appalled at… actions that erode the ability of women to make informed decisions about their health and bodies” and inviting women who own businesses in such states “to relocate your operations to a state that supports the rights of women and whose actions and laws are unwavering in support of tolerance and inclusivity.” The carefully constructed sales pitch does not once mention the word “abortion.”

Indeed, any discussion of unregulated abortion on demand, at any time for any reason, is delicately dropped from the polite conversations of the political new moralists. But the euphemisms – “informed decisions” about “health and bodies” – serve to cinch the point without discomforting women, also concerned about their health and the bodies of their unborn children, whose birth decisions may have been informed by the prevalence of ultra-sound images that show late term fetuses bearing a striking resemblance to newly born children, Moynihan’s enduring point.

The new moralists have not yet raised abortion to the level of a new secular sacrament, but the Orwellian letter from Connecticut’s governor and lieutenant governor suggest that the state’s discarded motto “Still Revolutionary” may in the near future be replaced by a new sales pitch to states considering relocation – “Connecticut: The Abortion State.”

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based columnist.


Don Pesci: On the trail of the Connecticut toll campaign

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Tolling in Connecticut is what the advertising men would call a tough sell, and it helps in circumstances such as these to bring in some political spin doctors to assist in the delivery.

Many people in Connecticut, almost certainly a majority, do not want tolls. On May 9, No Tolls Connecticut delivered to the governor’s office a “No Tolls” petition signed by 100,000 people.


Candidate for governor Ned Lamont said during his campaign he would favor tolls only if people outside the state, truck drivers mostly, would be depositing their mites in Connecticut’s revenue collection basket. He said this several times while the TV cameras were rolling.

Later Lamont changed his mind, always the prerogative of pretty women and ambitious politicians. But Lamont’s reversal – which came shortly after he had won his gubernatorial campaign – could not be justified as a “misspeak.” He could have used the services of a good narrative builder right there, but Roy Occhiogrosso, former Gov. Dan Malloy’s flack catcher and narrative builder, perhaps was busy hauling in the dollars from his other clients.

According to Occhiogrosso’s Global Strategy Group bio, “Roy returned to GSG – where he was a partner from 2003 to 2010 – in 2013, after serving for two years as senior adviser and chief strategist to Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy. Roy believes that, at some level, everything is about communications. And that if you communicate proactively and properly – using traditional and new media, and social media, internally and externally – you can win your fights and avoid problems.”

Some elements of Occhiogrosso’s strategy on tolls have been activated by Lamont, and no doubt Occhiogrosso will be able to spin some profit from the toll contretemps. He is not alone in supposing that a well-constructed narrative – the bulk of American politics these days is narration, story building – can overcome not only populist opposition but reality itself.


Joining the tolls-are-good-for-you effort are, according to Jon Lender’s piece in The Hartford Courant, a number of Global Strategy Group strategists. The group has produced a “23-page document, entitled ‘Connecticut Campaign for Transportation, 2019 Legislative session,’” that fell into Lender’s hands, and he publicized the private communique; it’s what good investigative reporters do.


Part of the difficulty with tolling is that nearly everyone in Connecticut understands a toll to be a consumer tax. And, to put it in blunt non-narrative, populist terms, people in the state have had it up to their ears with taxes.

First there was the income tax -- necessary, people were told by political narrators, to bring backward Connecticut into the 21st Century. Prior to the income tax, the state relied on consumption taxes, which were, said the political narrators, regressive.

Then Malloy – and Occhiogrosso – came ambling down the road and increased both income taxes and consumption taxes to pay off debts incurred by General Assembly politicians, mostly Democrats, who had invested not a penny into the state employees’ seriously under-financed pension fund for about 30 years after the fund had been created. Numerous “lockbox” funds then were raided by the same cowardly politicians, the appropriated loot dumped into the General Fund. Naturally, Malloy and company were forced to raise taxes to pay off mounting debt. Malloy was followed by Lamont, a protégé of former Gov. Lowell Weicker, who called Weicker to ask himj how he had managed to get an income tax through a then moderate- Democrat opposition in the General Assembly.


The 24-page secret communique suggests remedies to overcome mounting and entirely predictable opposition to tolls, and there is reason to believe that Lamont already has adopted some suggestions: “To overcome resistance, a strategy would be developed ‘to drive legislative support for a tolling concept that will maximize revenue while holding CT citizens as harmless as possible (example: resident discount)… Convincing the legislature to vote for a comprehensive tolling bill — one that includes trucks and cars, albeit with a substantial discount for CT drivers, won’t be easy.

‘‘Opponents have already framed this in simple terms: ‘it’s another huge tax increase.’ In order to win this fight we’re going to have to first reframe the debate — so that’s about ‘jobs and economic development,’ and not just another tax increase… ‘ Government Relations Tactics’ would include: showing legislators ‘how money earned via tolls can significantly improve their specific districts — driving the correlation between tolls and local improvements to infrastructure; highlighting the ‘vs.’ factor by using ‘polling data to share statewide how CT residents feel when you compare tolls to an increase in gas taxes, property taxes, car taxes, etc.’ and providing ‘legislative leadership the necessary political data to ‘whip’ their caucuses’ into support for tolling.”

Getting an unpopular measure passed through the legislature requires an almost religious faith in the power of deconstructing and reconstructing emotion-based “narratives.” The palpable, ruinous consequences of further tax increases can always be buried in a coffin of fanciful – and costly – propaganda.

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based columnist.

Don Pesci: Amazon strikes back at Willy Loman

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DeathOfASalesman.jpg

"Sometimes...it's better for a man just to walk away. But if you can't walk away? I guess that's when it's tough.”

—- The Willy Loman character in Death of a Salesman

The old saying is “You can’t fight City Hall.” That is partly true. City Hall is huge and more powerful than you. The gods of government have resources denied to the little people, but then government is supposed to be on the side of the little people, as is the media, a presumed joint support that tends to even the perpetual battle between the lions of the market place and … let’s call him Willy, after Willy Loman, the chief character in Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman.

The Willy of this piece is a Connecticut salesman – there are many of them – who do business with Amazon. And Willy has a problem that will not be settled by the usual white-hatted Attorney General of Connecticut or legislators who weep over the little guy or the media, afflicters of the comfortable and comforters of the afflicted. You can bet your house on that.

In the world of commerce, Amazon is bigger than God. It seems only hours ago that the equivalent of City Hall in Connecticut, state government – not only in Connecticut and its environs, but everywhere in the nation – was breathing heavy in strenuous attempts to lure Amazon into their beds, the better to ravish the e-commerce giant with taxes.


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was dashed when Amazon, searching for a place in the Northeast to locate part of its headquarters, kissed the state goodbye. Pummeled by progressives in New York -- among them Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio (birth name Warren Wilhelm Jr.) and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez -- for having considered the governor's crony-capitalist $3 billion tax break, the company withdrew an offer to plop a new facility in New York that might have generated $27 billion in revenue.


“What happened is the greatest tragedy that I have seen since I have been in government,” moaned a grievously wounded Cuomo.


Crony capitalist blood began to beat like a tom-tom in former Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy’s veins, and it still swells in Gov. Ned Lamont’s heart. Both Malloy and Lamont are crony-capitalist governors -- is there any other kind in the high-taxed Northeast? Wouldn’t it be grand to net such a massive leviathan? Malloy moved on, Lamont is fishing still.


But salesman Willy is dangling at the end of an economic rope, and he writes, somewhat desperately:


“If I sell something on Amazon, they take 15% as a referral fee. This covers marketing, customer acquisition, and credit card fees. If I use Amazon to warehouse and ship the item, they then charge a pick and pack fee. That is also taxed. So if I do $1M a year in gross sales, Amazon ends up taking about 33%."


Adding the cost of doing business with Amazon, Willy notes “$330,000 in fees, with 6.35% sales tax is almost $21,000 a year. You should understand that Amazon is half of e-commerce. Third party sellers [like Willy] represent over half of their sales. Connecticut, through its tax additions, just made it impossible for 25% of e-commerce to do business here.”


Along with his note to Connecticut Commentary, Willy enclosed the “Dear Willy” letter he had received from god:


The "Dear Seller" letter Willy received read in part:


“Amazon is required to collect taxes on Selling on Amazon fees in Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, South Dakota or West Virginia, based on each state’s tax rates. Selling on Amazon Fees include the Referral Fee, Subscription Fee, Variable Closing Fee, Per-item Fee, Promotion & Merchandising Fee, Refund Commission Fee, Checkout by Amazon, and Sales Tax Collection Fee... If your business is located outside Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, South Dakota or West Virginia, we will not collect sales tax on the Selling on Amazon fee you pay.


“Amazon is required to collect taxes on FBA Prep Services in Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois or West Virginia, based on each state’s tax rates. FBA inventory prep fees include the Labelling Fee, Polybagging Fee, Bubblewrap Fee, Taping Fee, and Opaque Bagging Fee...


“You will be able to view the sales tax collected on your fees in the transaction details page of your Payments reports.”


Willy is a Connecticut native with deep roots in the state. He’s married with young childern. And the blade of crony capitalism has fallen bloodily on Willy’s neck, because he is, in fact, an independent businessman who is expected to shut up and pay. Crony capitalism is a complex arrangement in which tax heavy states such as Connecticut and New York supply seed tax money to super-leviathans like Amazon as inducements to locate in the states; the companies then pass along to its customers and third party salesmen like Willy the costs they incur from their location in a high tax state like Connecticut. But the tax axe invariably falls on Willy’s neck. Large companies are tax collectors, not tax payers. The real taxpayers are those who consume the products and services of companies such as Amazon – and small businesses like Willy’s from whom Amazon recovers the additional costs incurred by tax increases.


It will not take long for Willy to realize “Sometimes...it's better for a man just to walk away.” No one profits when Willy walks. It would be well for legislators to remember the line in Willy’s letter. Connecticut, along with a handful of other states singled out in Amazon’s “Dear Seller” letter, has “through its tax additions,” Willy writes, “just made it impossible for 25% of e-commerce to do business here.”

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based columnist.




Posted by Don Pesci at 2:04 PM

Labels: Cuomo, Lamont, Malloy, Willy Loman


Don Pesci: Humpty Dumpty's answer to a progressive's confusion

Humpty Dumpty and Alice. From   Through the Looking-Glass .  Illustration by    John Tenn   iel

Humpty Dumpty and Alice. From Through the Looking-Glass. Illustration by John Tenniel

Connecticut State Rep. Josh Elliot, a progressive Democrat from Hamden, views the state budget as “a moral document that can be used to create a more equitable and fair society,” The Hartford Courant tells us. The paper quotes Elliot on the point: “Are you taking an economic frame and saying ‘what can we do to grow GDP at all costs?’ … Or are you taking a moral and ethical frame and saying ‘what can we do to build up a just society?’ And I think those two questions are at loggerheads right now.”

There is a welter of confusion here. The point that Elliot appears to be making is that progressives like himself view the economy as having a moral dimension lost to free-marketers, i.e., redundantly rich capitalists concerned only – note the devil word “only” -- with growing the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It would not be possible in Elliot’s view for a free-marketer such as, say, Fredrick Hayek, author of The Road To Serfdom -- a ruthless attack against the collectivist ethos that informs socialism, communism, progressivism and fascism -- to be a moralist.

In The Constitution Of Liberty, Hayek identifies one indispensable “moral rule for collective action… The most important among the principles of this kind that we have developed is individual freedom, which it is most appropriate to regard as a moral principle of political action. Like all moral principles, it demands that it be accepted as a value in itself, as a principle that must be respected without our asking whether the consequences in the particular instance will be beneficial.”

This is how a true moral philosopher addresses morality. In Elliot’s progressive universe Hayek’s overriding moral principle of political action – the sustenance of individual liberty – is subservient to his own undisclosed overriding moral principle, which is antagonistic to the liberty of the subject. Under the progressive scheme of things, individual liberty is sacrificed on the altar of an “equitable and fair society” created without regard to real-world circumstances by modernist super-moralists like Elliot, who know better than the little people who participate in a free market what services and goods should be provided to them. To Elliot, the liberty of the subject celebrated by moral philosophers such as Hayek is immoral.

Elliot’s framing permits only two possibilities: an economic frame that allows only the growth of products “at all costs” and an economic frame, moral and ethical, that is concerned primarily with building up a “just society.” There is no via media in Elliot’s view. His is a stark and merciless either-or: either an immoral free market society or an ethical progressive-socialist society. In Communist governments, the governed are not permitted to choose between the two.

Progressivism is the shadow of socialism, which is why so many progressives here in the United States, still a free market country, support the candidacy for president of Bernie Sanders, running for the Democratic presidential nomination but a socialist wolf in wolf’s clothing. Progressivism differs from socialism only in degree, not in kind. And, of course, socialism historically has been the nursery bed of both communism and fascism. Mussolini and Hitler both were socialists before they became fascists, and Stalin embraced the Marxism of the Communist Manifesto because he correctly recognized a visionary Communist scheme of “property ownership by the proletariat” as a perfection of socialism. There is another reason as well: Only under a Communist government is the ruling elite powerful enough to suppress the liberty of the people, which Hayek and other classical liberals such as Adam Smith characterized as the indispensable “moral rule of collective action.”

Communists, socialists and progressives – three peas in the same liberty denying pod – care little for the real-world consequences of their theoretical utopias.

When Alice objects to Humpty Dumpty’s use of words to signify opposing meanings, he offers her a lesson in tyrannical government. Humpty Dumpty has misused the word “glory” to signify “a nice knock-down argument.”

Alice protests, “But ‘glory’ doesn't mean ‘a nice knock-down argument.’"

Humpty Dumpty snarls scornfully, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'


“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master -- that's all.”

Elliot may make the word “moral” mean whatever he wishes it to mean. After all, Democrats are now masters of Connecticut governance; they hold commanding positions in General Assembly, the state’s constitutional offices, and the governor’s office as well. And nearly half of the Democrat ruling majority is composed of quasi socialist progressives like Elliot. Still, the real meanings of words are stubborn things.

According to a Yankee Institute piece published in May of 2018, “The Tax Foundation’s annual ranking of states based on state and local income tax collection placed Connecticut second in the nation, trailing only New York, for the most money collected per resident. Connecticut collected $2,279 per person through both local and state income taxes. Massachusetts ranked fourth and Rhode Island 20th. The national average per capita tax rate was $1,144, meaning Connecticut has almost doubled the average tax burden.” Is there a connection between the loss of assets – salaries are assets too – and the loss of liberty?

Depressing figures such as these will increase under Governor Ned Lamont’s recent revenue expansions. In what sense is it “moral” for Connecticut’s government to increase the burden of taxation further, when we know that excessive taxation, a great deal of which is used to enhance the salaries of tax-consuming public employees, tends to drive to other states both Connecticut’s rich and middle class taxpayers, thus depriving those in need of dwindling tax resources?

Indeed, in what sense is it moral to support a government now engaged in encouraging infanticide? Connecticut is contiguous to New York, which now winks at infanticide; and, one may be certain that socially progressive governments – New York and Connecticut – sooner or later will swap their social-justice DNA, without mentioning the outsized proportion of African American women obtaining abortions relative to white women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2016 report points out that black babies made up a whopping 35 percent of the total abortions reported in 2013, although blacks represent only 13 percent of the U.S. population.

Moral? To what cleverly invented Decalogue do progressives point to justify such a disparity in abortion between black and white women?

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based essayist.

Don Pesci: Where Bernie Sanders's utopian dreams would end up

New Harmony   , a utopian project in Harmony Township, Ind., as envisioned by    Robert Owen   . (1771-1858).

New Harmony, a utopian project in Harmony Township, Ind., as envisioned by Robert Owen. (1771-1858).

Empty shelves in a supermarket in Venezuela, which is led by socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro.

Empty shelves in a supermarket in Venezuela, which is led by socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro.

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever”

 – George Orwell.

CBS News has announced that the "Medicare for All" bill of Vermont’s socialist senator, Bernie Sanders, would, according to Sanders himself, "get rid of insurance companies and drug companies making billions of dollars in profit every single year." The bill is a universal health care, one size fits all, tax financed, proposal. Connecticut's U.S. Sen. Dick Blumenthal, CTMirror reportswas one of 14 co-sponsors of Sanders’s bill.

“In my view,” Sanders said of his bill, “the current debate over 'Medicare for All' really has nothing to do with health care. It’s all about greed and profiteering. It is about whether we maintain a dysfunctional system which allows the top five health insurance companies to make over $20 billion in profits last year.”

But, of course, the Sanders bill has everything to do with health care. If adopted into law, it would effectively abolish insurance companies. Sanders himself has said that his "Medicare for All" scheme would "get rid of insurance companies and drug companies making billions of dollars in profit every single year.”

Reducing the insurance industry to rubble in an effort to curb profits that Sanders considers obscene is a bit like burning down the house to rid the living room of a mouse, or cutting off your nose to spite the fly on it.
For the thoroughgoing socialist however, all profits, exorbitant or not, are obscene.

The two socialist autocrats in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez and Nicolás Maduro, nationalized profits and, a few years after socialist hero Chavez had assumed room temperature, toilet paper in Venezuela disappeared, as did food and medicine. Disappearing products and services in perfected socialist states are replaced with armed soldiers, a disarmed populace, brown shirts and fists, not to mention draconian punishments for anyone who presumes to question an omnipotent and omnipresent state.  

   
Sanders is a socialist by trade and inclination, and socialists abhor company profits, without which industries could not stay in business. Adolf Hitler, a white national socialist, solved the profit problem by incorporating businesses into his fascist program. Like communism, fascism is a perfection of the socialist idea. Both Hitler and Mussolini were socialists before they settled comfortably into fascism. Mussolini perfectly defined the fascist credo in the following terms: “Everything in the state, nothing outside the state, nothing above the state.”

He might easily have been describing Stalin’s Russia, or Maduro’s Venezuela, or the future utopia of Bernie Sanders. Mussolini certainly was not describing the average conservative/libertarian view of the proper role of government, which is to pursue policies that promote the general welfare – not the same thing as imprisoning the general populace in welfare penitentiaries.


The perfecting of Sanders’ s socialist scheme necessitates a hostile takeover of the insurance industry by the socialist administrative state. But this is only the beginning. If insurance profits are verboten to committed socialists, why should the energy industry, also profitable, survive the attentions of Sanders/Blumenthal, or the real estate industry, Blumenthal’s own golden goose? Indeed, why not nationalize every profitable industry?


It might be useful to attempt an understanding of why Blumenthal, a Greenwich millionaire many times over, supports a scheme of government that will run insurance companies out of Connecticut and the nation.
Theories abound. One holds that Blumenthal has never had a handle on how the private marketplace really works.

After marrying the daughter of a New York real-estate mogul – Blumenthal’s in-laws own the Empire State Building, in addition to other prime holdings – the Harvard/Yale graduate went directly into Connecticut politics. As attorney general of the state for two decades, Blumenthal used businesses as a foil to ingratiate himself with the voting public and a fawning state media, both equally indispensable to his acquisition of political position and power. Blumenthal is now schmoozing with Sanders, so the theory goes, to further his own political ambitions. Even Bill and Hillary Clinton, long-time friends of Blumenthal, had great difficulty keeping down Sanders’s elixir.


The second theory goes like this: The National Democrat Party is playing with the economic DNA of the United States – only for political (read: campaign) reasons. Seizing the profits generated by a still relatively free marketplace in the United States, encumbering it with unsupportable taxes and regulations, may not advance the general good, but it certainly helps to improve the lot of political destructors-elect. Socialist Maduros of the world live in opulent splendor, while the people who struggle under Maduro’s socialist rule in Venezuela, once a pearl of Latin America, are forced to search through garbage bins for their lunch.
In Blumenthal’s case, both theories may be true -- not that truth has anything to do with the daily operations of political shysters.

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based columnist. Editor’s note: George Orwell was a democratic socialist.

Don Pesci: On the decline of political rhetoric; reaffirm subsidiarity

FDR nemesis Clare Booth Luce, famous wit.

FDR nemesis Clare Booth Luce, famous wit.

VERNON, Conn.

One of my college professors – let’s call him Stringfellow – spoke in long, flowing sentences, each of which might easily have been parsed into sparkling separate mini-poems. He liked Faulkner, disliked Hemingway, and tolerated Tennessee Williams for two reasons. Williams consciously structured some of his plays on classical Greek models – compare Suddenly Last Summer ]with Euripides’s The Bacchae – and Tennessee, he thought, was a name one could conjure with, as Wallace Stevens did adeptly in "Anecdote of the Jar," the first line of which runs, “I placed a jar in Tennessee/ And round it was, upon a hill …”

One day, a student asked Stringfellow – this would have been in the middle 60’s – “When do you plan to join the 20th Century?’ to which Stringfellow replied, “It would be a very wicked thing to wish to be a part of the 20th Century.”


The 20th Century, one of the bloodiest and confused epochs in U.S. history, left us 19 years ago last January.
The professor, students of history will notice, had a point. The century opened with World War 1, followed by World War II, followed by the Korean War, followed by the Vietnam War. And somewhere in there, we heard the Soviet Union crack and crumble, a cause of great rejoicing for nearly everyone but some few academics and willfully perverse journalists.


Every epoch has its dark side, its bloody mysteries. And it is by no means certain that succeeding generations will necessarily improve on their predecessors. In what sense is Atsuro Riley’s poem “The Skillet” an improvement on Alexander Pope’s “Epilogue to the Satires?”

Riley: “Of orange stove-eye (right front) and hawkhooked
pot-hook, overhung. Of (vaporous) supper-hour and
-hurlstorm…”

Pope: “Yes, I am proud; I must be proud to see
Men not afraid of God afraid of me.”

Good writing will be quotable and memorable. Though new, the twittering 21st Century already is eminently forgettable.


And the same holds true of men and women. When Franklin Roosevelt, campaigning against his tormentor, U.S. Rep. Clare Boothe Luce, of Connecticut, accused Luce of being a "a sharp-tongued glamour girl of forty,” the congresswoman from Fairfield County instantly retorted that Roosevelt was "the only American president who ever lied us into a war because he did not have the political courage to lead us into it." Luce died in 1987, but it is a fair bet she would have considered the tweets of most 21st Century politicians menacingly dumb and forgettable.

True, quotable Churchills are rare in human history, but most modern politicians do not even aspire to the quotability of, say, Adlai Stevenson: “Flattery is all right so long as you don't inhale.”

Pope: “Averse alike to flatter, or offend;/ Not free from faults, nor yet too vain to mend.”

Intelligent, “woke” thought, up until the 21st Century, roundly condemned the flatterers; but this was before flatterers found they could make a dishonorable but highly remunerative living as political consultants and communication directors for political campaigns. Now the disease is everywhere, tolerable only to those who do not inhale.


Stevenson: “The idea that you can merchandise candidates for high office like breakfast cereal - that you can gather votes like box tops - is, I think, the ultimate indignity to the democratic process.”

Stevenson understood the radical difference between sound political policies and what he and politicians before him understood to be disruptive enthusiasms, i.e., campaign slogans parading as realpolitik. “Some people approach every problem with an open mouth,” said Stevenson, a word-perfect picture of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s New Green Deal scheme, the latest enthusiasm among Connecticut’s progressive, all-Democratic congressional delegation.

Most voters in the state are affronted by the notion that if they like their cars, they can’t keep them; if they like their houses, they can’t keep them; if they dislike windmills spoiling their scenery, they must have them; if they prefer their town governments to decide the fate of their schools and their communities, this option must not be available to them. These sensible, unbewitched people prefer more democratic solutions to thorny problems, such as: if they do not like their politicians, they should be able to get rid of them pronto!

A restoration of small “r” republican government must entail a reaffirmation of the doctrine of subsidiarity, which holds that political units closest to those affected by political decisions should prevail in making the decisions: fathers and mothers should decide the fate of their families; owners of businesses should decide the fate of their commercial enterprises; neighbors should decide the fate of their neighbors, towns should decide the fate of their municipalities; and both state and nation should busy themselves with facilitating small “r” republican government.

As to whether Connecticut is progressing or regressing politically, consider the following quote that, like a geyser of authoritarian presumption, issued from Connecticut’s progressive Speaker of the State House of Representatives, his Excellency Joe Aresimowicz. Responding to a non-binding resolution disapproving of tolls issued by towns and cities, Aresimowicz condemned such disapproval as “moronic,” an arrogant piece of anti-republican political sniping that could not even survive long as a tweet. “I used the harsh word moronic and I meant it," said Aresimowicz, who later unmeant it.


For the future, here is a useful political rule of thumb: If what you are saying is not edifying, memorable, honorable or quotable – shut up.

Don Pesci is an essayist based in Vernon.

Don Pesci: In defense of the cardinal virtues and Catholic orthodoxy

An image personifying the four virtues  (  Ballet Comique de la Reine  ,  1582).

An image personifying the four virtues (Ballet Comique de la Reine, 1582).

VERNON, Conn.

“The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice”

-- “A Defense of Humilities, The Defendant’’ (1901), G.K. Chesterton

Small “o” orthodox Christians of a certain age will be familiar with the cardinal virtues. They are: prudence, temperance, fortitude and justice – all under attack by a secular culture that, judging by Hollywood or Washington, D.C., standards, appears to have won the battle. But, never fear, the four cardinal virtues form the breastplate of a church against which, its founder once proclaimed, the gates of Hell shall not prevail.

The cardinal virtues, St. Augustine tells us, better enable us to pursue the good life: “To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one's heart, with all one's soul and with all one's efforts; from this, it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only [God] (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).”

Peter Wolfgang is the executive drector of the Family Institute of Connecticut (FIC). His helpmeet is his wife, Leslie, the mother of seven children. A born-again Catholic, Wolfgang is on speaking terms with the members of FIC’s Clergy Advisory Council, which include the Rev. LeRoy Bailey, Jr., senior pastor, The First Cathedral, Bloomfield; Rabbi Yehoshua S. Hecht, Beth Israel Synagogue, Norwalk; and Rev. Earl M. Inswiller, Jr., Living Waters Fellowship Church, Windsor Locks. A member of the Connecticut Bar, Wolfgang holds a juris doctorate from University of Connecticut School of Law and sports a bachelor's degree in International Studies from The American University in Washington, D.C., all of which helps when he finds himself locking horns with a variety of secularized Jews and Christians and practical atheists. As defined by Jacques Maritain, practical atheists are those who believe that “they believe in God and... perhaps believe in Him in their brains but... in reality deny His existence by each one of their deeds." Wolfgang is not a practical atheist.



Q: I don’t think you will dispute that we live in a secular age, a time in which religious proscriptions – and, perhaps more importantly, the Judeo-Christian view of things – has been bleached from the public square. Prayers, except those said very privately in a closet, are discouraged in public schools. I’m old enough to recall a time when contraception was frowned upon in Catholic circles; it still is, but in the religiously bleached wider society, contraception is an unquestioned given. Abortion too – even late-term abortion -- is defended by “Catholic” legislators and Jewish public officials.

Here in Connecticut, Planned Parenthood counts among its most fervent proponents U.S. Sen. Dick Blumenthal, who is Jewish, and Rosa DeLauro and John Larson, both of whom are Catholic. For a half century and more, we have witnessed a moral army in full retreat. Many Christians keep asking themselves “Where are the red lines?” Dostoyevsky used to say that for those who have shucked off religion, everything is possible. He was echoed by Nietzsche, who wondered what the future would look like in a world that had buried the Hebraic-Christian God.

That appears to be our world – of cringingly obliging Christians, practical atheists, moral libertines, and phony Christian politicians who have colluded, along with practical atheists, to imprison Christianity in what the French used to call “the little ease,” a cell so small that, while in it, the prisoner could neither stand nor sit nor lie prone. Let me ask you, where are the red lines in our culture, and are they still informed by the Judeo-Christian faith? Before answering, you might want to explain what a born-again Catholic is.



A: “I don’t know if ‘born-again Catholic’ quite captures it but I appreciate what you are trying to convey. I am someone who believes in and tries to live according to the Catholic faith. Not always successfully, as my pastor could tell you if he were not under the seal of confession. But the point of your question, I think, is that there are Catholics who are trying and there are Catholics who seem not to be trying. We should all try, and harder.

“The red lines of our culture have shifted at a dizzying speed. Judeo-Christian faith seems to be, at best, a bystander in that shift and at worst, road kill. Consider as one example the vulgar play The Vagina Monologues. Catholic watchdog groups had for years complained whenever it was shown on a Catholic college campus, to little effect. Only when transgender persons objected —because, it was claimed, the play was offensive to ‘women without vaginas’ —did it begin to be banned. That says something about who really sets the red lines in our society—and what is the real faith of those colleges.

Q: “Yeah, it’s difficult to parody that sort of behavior. Who is it – or perhaps what is it – that establishes the real ‘red lines’ in a community, if it is not valued tradition? Not to beat the Chesterton drum too often, but he was brought late in life to the Catholic faith. And the world against which he persuasive inveighed was very much like our own. He defined tradition as the democracy of the dead: ‘Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead.’ Many moderns appear to be making up tradition – even history is fungible – as they go along their merry way. It seems to me that a tradition undefended from assault is a tradition abandoned. In law, as you know, and in politics as well, silence signifies assent. The opposite of silence may not be reasoned speech; it may be the chatter of cultural assassins. How should faithful Christians oppose such forces?

A: “Some demons can only be cast out through prayer and fasting. We must, first of all, attend to both. St. Joan of Arc made her soldiers go to confession before they went into battle. Christians should strive for holiness, to model in our own lives the better world we hope to bring about.

“Secondly, we must engage in the public sphere: education, lobbying and, yes, politics. Not to do so is to shirk our duty as citizens in a democratic republic. Very few Christians in the history of the world have lived in a society as free as ours. To not take advantage of that freedom is to be like the unprofitable servant who buried his one talent in the ground. No Christian should want to be that guy.

“And - I can’t emphasize this enough - our adversaries are using every means at their disposal to win the day. It pains me to say that Cultural Marxism has more fervent believers than does Jesus Christ. But that is what I often see.’’

Q: Well, yes, Marx announced rather volubly that religion is the opiate of the people. In our day, opioids have become the opium of the people – that and a politics from which the religion of the people appears to have fled from hearts and minds of nominally Catholic politicians. Some Catholics appear not to be disturbed by what we might call a return to the catacombs, Christianity in a closet. It is all very well to say that besieged Catholics should not retreat from the public square, but we are living in a time in which prominent politicians such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein feel free to say unblushingly that 7th Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Amy Coney Barrett may not be fit for service on the court because of her Catholic faith. Let me quote her exactly: “You are controversial,” Feinstein said to Barrett. “You have a long history of believing that your religious beliefs should prevail. When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.” Only yesterday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a cultural Catholic, joyously signed a bill that would allow late term abortion. Are we losing the battle? If so, where is the cavalry? In past times, the church had been reinvigorated by both the clergy and, more importantly, the laity.



A: “There are still more examples that could be cited. Senators Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) recently attacked a Trump judicial nominee’s membership in the Knights of Columbus because the Knights are pro-life and for traditional marriage—positions held by any faithful Catholic—and asked if he would resign in order to be confirmed. That is where we are at. Faithful Christians are being told that they are not full citizens under the law and that they have no place in the public square.


”In the short term, yes, we are losing the battle. The Family Institute of Connecticut regularly gets call from state residents in big corporations who tell us their performance review hinges on their acceptance of anti-Christian agendas that are contrary to their faith. This was almost unheard of before the judicial imposition of same-sex marriage.’

”If there is to be a cavalry to save the day, it will not be the institutional Church. Demographic decline, clergy sex abuse and increasing hostility from the centers of power in our society have put the Church in survival mode. At best, the Church is focused on protecting the liberty of its own institutions. At worst, as we saw in the initial reactions to the boys from Covington Catholic High School, some Church leaders throw their own most faithful followers under the bus.


”But it is wrong for the laity to expect the clergy to do what ought to be our job. The Church ought to equip us and support us but it is the role of the laity to defend faith and morals in the public square. My biggest concern is a clericalism of the laity, that the most devout Catholics become so obsessed with the various crises of the Church that they are not focused on fulfilling the responsibilities of their state of life: educating themselves on the attacks on faith and family, lobbying their elected representatives and volunteering to help elect candidates who share their values and to defeat candidates who attack those values.]

“The cultural Left, particularly in Connecticut, is heavily invested in these things. Politics is their faux-religion. Catholics—and adherents of other orthodox faiths--should not let it be said that our secular adversaries believe in their fake religion more than we believe in our real one. Catholics—and the faithful of the Protestant and Jewish communities—must get involved in the public defense of faith and family.’’



Don Pesci is an essayist who lives in Vernon

E-mail: donpesci@att.net

Don Pesci: Trump replenishes Connecticut's treasury as state's cultural reinvention continues

Airline plane engine maker Pratt & Whitney’s headquarters in East Hartford. Its sales have surged with, among other things, government contracts.

Airline plane engine maker Pratt & Whitney’s headquarters in East Hartford. Its sales have surged with, among other things, government contracts.

While Connecticut Democrats were busying themselves thumping President Trump during the recently concluded elections – the state’s all Democrat U.S. congressional delegation would not shed a tear if U.S. Sen. Dick Blumenthal, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer were to succeed in impeaching him – Trump has delivered the goods to The Provision State.

The state’s underperforming economy may finally join the rest of the nation, much of which had recovered from the Great Recession many moons ago, in a splendid recovery – just in time too. Economists in Connecticut have not titled the coming jobs boom The Trump Bump, although a recent Hartford Business Journal (HBJ) report, “UTC’s 4Q profits jump 73%; CEO Hayes airs separation plans HBJ” comes dangerously close.

Here is the good news: “Farmington conglomerate United Technologies Corp., which plans to split into three separate companies, on Wednesday said its fourth-quarter profits soared 72.7 percent on booming aerospace sales and a favorable U.S. corporate tax rate.

UTC CEO Gregory Hayes, a smile lighting his face, noted that profits were up and "2018 was a transformational year for United Technologies."

HBJ reported, “The thriving aviation market drove UTC's fourth-quarter surge, Hayes said in a conference call Wednesday morning, with newly acquired Rockwell Collins leading sales growth with $4.9 billion in revenues during the quarter, up 29 percent year-over-year. East Hartford's Pratt & Whitney posted $5.5 billion in sales, up 24.2 percent.”

A rising economic tide, President Kennedy once said, lifts all the boats. And this rising tide, the result chiefly of Trump’s new military procurements, will water Connecticut's parched treasury. A larger employment pie allows state government to engorge itself with new revenue – without raising taxes. It is a win-win for both anti-Trump Democrats in Connecticut like Congressman John Larson and tax-weary citizens of the state still reeling from former Gov. Dan Malloy’s crippling tax increases.

Republicans already are ringing the tocsin: Maybe if we wait a bit, we won’t need those tolls after all. Also, is it possible we may be fondling too often the third rail of New England’s social issues?

Prior to the progressive take-over of Connecticut, the state was prepared to go its own way, luxuriating in its own unique character. Connecticut was for much of its history a refuge from New York’s predatory politics and brutal taxation. All this changed with the advent of former Sen. Lowell Weicker’s successful gubernatorial bid in 1991. Weicker forced an income tax through the General Assembly; the playing field having been leveled, the state found itself in competition with New York City and Boston.

It was no contest, and Connecticut “got its clock cleaned,” a favorite expression of Weicker’s. How, for instance, can Connecticut compete with New York in job poaching?

Connecticut is now in a race to the bottom on so called “social issues.” Bad political models make for bad cultural dives to the bottom. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a nominal Catholic, has now begun a scuffle with his wounded Catholic Church. “Andrew Cuomo,” Fox News reports, “is under fire from faith leaders after he signed a bill into law that legalizes abortion up until birth in many cases.”

Cuomo will have no problem in a fisticuffs contest with his church’s faith leaders. In much of New England, it pays politically to scuff up Catholic doctrine. His real problem will be with pregnant mothers – they are women too – who have consulted ultrasound images and found that late-term fetuses bear a striking resemblance to born babies. But New York, in any case, has taken a great social leap forward, and Connecticut, a national leader on progressive social issues, has a bit of catching up to do. Progressives do not believe in definitional lines – fetus or baby? -- whatever science and common sense suggests.

Connecticut’s own Senator from Planned Parenthood, Dick Blumenthal, has yet to tell us, perhaps because no one has put the question to him publicly during one of his frequent highly scripted media availabilities, why his most cherished industry should be the only one in the United States that remains unregulated. The suit-prone Blumenthal was, for more than two decades as Connecticut’s attorney general, the state regulator-in-chief.

Connecticut’s cultural reinvention is well underway, and the political map has changed as well, mostly owing to the inattention of Republicans and the approval of the state’s left-of-center media. Culture is an Archimedean lever: Give me a place outside the world where I can place my lever, said Archimedes, and I will move the world. This is the progressive order of business; first change the culture and politics will meekly follow in its train.

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based columnist.

Don Pesci: Hartford is the canary in the Conn. mineshaft

Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum, one of America’s oldest and best museums. The financially and sociologically stressed city still has many impressive cultural institutions, mostly dating back to its long economic heyday as a manufacturing center and “The Insurance Capital of the World,’’ when it had a large comfortable middle class and quite a few rich folks, too. Mark Twain probably was its most famous resident.

Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum, one of America’s oldest and best museums. The financially and sociologically stressed city still has many impressive cultural institutions, mostly dating back to its long economic heyday as a manufacturing center and “The Insurance Capital of the World,’’ when it had a large comfortable middle class and quite a few rich folks, too. Mark Twain probably was its most famous resident.

According to a story in a Hartford paper, the city’s mayor, Luke Bronin, a rising star in state politics, “declined to comment on the dispute” between Hartford teachers and their nominal patron, the Hartford Board of Education. The dispute is about contracts and the inability of the people of Hartford to finance years of overspending.


A few months ago, Bronin, unable to meet his contractual obligations, sought a bailout from state taxpayers. Bronin leapt from the Malloy administration frying pan, where he served as then Gov. Dannel Malloy’s chief counsel, directly into the fire as mayor of a city teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, and his former boss was only too happy to bail out his protege by flooding the city with state tax balm.

The Hartford school board is seeking concession from teacher union representatives, and the concessions will, if ever they bear fruit, make future state bailouts less burdensome to an all-Democrat political hegemon that may, under the enlightened administration of newly elected Gov. Ned Lamont, be less inclined to bail out Connecticut cities teetering precariously on the edge of bankruptcy.

The concessions that the Hartford Board of Education wishes to wrest from its teachers' unions are curative, which is to say they will help in overcoming crippling future deficits, while state bailouts are palliative; they simply put off an effective remedy until a more favorable moment – which, of course, never arrives. “Among the concessions sought by the school board,” we are told, “is a reduction in sick days from 20 to 15, two years of pay freezes, followed by a one percent increase in the third year, and a switch from a preferred provider medical plan to a health savings account.” In addition, “the board suggested eliminating a higher tier of pay for workers who have earned a master’s degree plus 60 additional credits, and reducing the number of union officers who are detached, with pay, from day to day district work from three to one.”


All these remedies reduce the municipal cost of labor, and it is the cost of labor that has made beggars of our state’s larger cities.


The state itself should take a lesson from this moment. The cost of labor in state government also produces the same set of seemingly intractable problems. Connecticut’s recurring deficits cannot be traced to an insufficiency of taxes, which have tripled in the course of four governors.


The crunch is coming, and it may arrive on Lamont’s lap during his first term. He would be wise not to pet the tiger. There was plenty of petting during Lamont’s first speech as governor: “I am a strong believer in labor, and now is the time to show that collective bargaining works in tough times, as well as good times. As our liabilities continue to grow faster than our assets, together we have to make the changes necessary to ensure that retirement security is a reality for our younger, as well as our older, state employees, and do that without breaking the bank.”


There are more curves in those few sentences than there are in the usual Connecticut cow path. Will Lamont present in his budget a straight path to prosperity – or not. The price of government in Connecticut has become too costly; how will Lamont reduce it so that the expenditures of the father will not be visited upon the sons, “yea even to the third and fourth generation.”


Executive director of AFSCME Council 4 Jody Barr and other labor leaders met with Lamont at the governor’s mansion a week after he had been sworn in as governor, and how did that go? Barr emerged from the meeting hopeful, according to an account by Christine Stuart of CTNewJunkie, “Barr said the governor has invited labor to be part of the process… his members have participated in the transition and are offering up ideas on how to improve state government… He said they will be at the table, but that it won’t a table where they negotiate more concessions… We’re all hopeful he’s going to bridge this fiscal thing,” Barr said. “It gives us hope we can get through it.”


One cannot drive a straight line through such oracular pronouncements.

Sometime in mid-February, Lamont will be presenting his budget to the General Assembly. If the governor’s bargaining session with union heads over contract negotiations were to be concluded BEFORE that date, the twists and turns in Lamont’s pre-contractual pronouncements will have been straightened out before the legislature decides to sign off on a budget document that very well may visit the expenditures of the fathers and mothers upon the sons and daughters of Connecticut, yea even to the third and fourth generation.


It’s perfectly reasonable for a state to give a low approval rating to a governor who deals in such budget necromancy. Dannel Malloy’s approval rating on his retirement from office, we now know, was 20 percent, the second lowest in the nation. Lamont tells us that he doesn't to wish to lose his shot. If so, he'd better shoot straight.

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based essayist.

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Don Pesci: Sandy Hook massacre revisited and reanalyzed

Roses featuring images of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

Roses featuring images of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

VERNON, Conn.

Documents just released years after a shooter murdered 20 students, 6 teachers and his mother, and then killed himself, at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012, have been made available to Connecticut politicians and the general public in answer to a legal action brought by a persistent Hartford Courant.

The documents had been carefully tucked away for five years and clearly point to the social and mental deficiencies of the shooter.

All reports should have been released soon after the shooter’s suicide, because none of the information contained therein could have prejudiced any legal action. It is impossible to put a dead mass-shooter on trial for murder. In the absence of the necessary data unearthed above, a public trial of sorts, some of it sprinkled with absurd speculations, was conducted entirely in the mass media, and eventually one of the weapons used in the mass slaughter, an AR15 semi-automatic rifle, was pronounced guilty and banned in Connecticut.

Arguing that “something must be done” to prevent such slaughters in the future, decision makers in Connecticut banned some weapons, aspersed the state with their emotional solidarity with the victims, passed hastily constructed anti-gun legislation and congratulated themselves on their moral acuity.

The released documents, the Los Angeles Times noted, “which had been kept from the public until now, were part of the mass of writings, records and computer files seized by detectives from the Lanza's home after the killings. The Courant mounted a five-year quest to obtain the unreleased documents, eventually winning an appeal before the Connecticut Supreme Court.”

Even though we know that the Devil resides in details, not everyone was thrilled with the release of the documentation. The story, one letter writer noted, could not be justified because it “exalted the killer” and the rest of the country, the writer mused, “are looking for articles that uplift, as well as inform and educate.” Another writer slammed the paper for “choosing the sensational low road to infamy by publishing on page one… the Newtown killer’s writings, thoughts and other tripe… The killer has no place in our collective memory – ever.” Yet another writer winced, “We do not need to know.”

In an editor’s note, The Hartford Courant pointed out, “Understanding what a mass killer was thinking not only paints a clearer picture of the individual, it helps us identify and understand red flags that could be part of a prevention formula for future mass shootings.”

Several weeks after the shooting, Connecticut Commentary noted, “Everyone in Connecticut whose hearts have been bruised by the loss of life in Sandy Hook -- that is, everyone in Connecticut – is praying for solutions that solve the problems of people who have been bludgeoned by reality. A political milking of the crisis helps only the milkers.”

Those solutions were not forthcoming for a number of reasons: The Devil managed to hold the details close to his chest. Some politicians were, it turned out, very much interested in milking the Sandy Hook cow in such a way as to clamp restrictions on firearms, thus benefiting their future political prospects; and Connecticut’s media, though it tried mightily, had failed to wrest from the Devil the details upon which a real solution to a real problem might have been proposed. The so called “red flags” flourished by the Courant in its own attempt to uncover pertinent details were fluttering six years ago, when the psychotic shooter murdered the children and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

We know now – and knew then – the red flags that signaled mental distress.

PsychDrugShooters.com provides a detailed list of school shootings connected to shooters who have taken drugs. Their brief report on the Sandy Hook shooter notes that “While Lanza’s toxicology report showed no traces of anti-psychotic medications, sources say he was prescribed the antidepressant Celexa by the Yale Child Study Center in his early teens. Lanza also took Lexapro for a short time as a teen, but stopped after his mother reported symptoms such as dizziness, sweating, slurred speech and the inability to open his cereal box.”

A piece in the New Yorker, which draws on an interview with the father of the shooter, asserts that the shooter took no further psychotropic drugs following his reaction to Lexapro. Indeed doctors and nurses who treated the shooter speculate that the shooter's psychosis worsened because of his refusal to take therapeutic drugs.

Clearly, the shooter was anti-social and mentally disturbed. The father believes that his son’s Asperger diagnosis, though it may have been correct, masked a more dangerous psychosis. Neither the father nor the mother of the shooter, who had retreated into an impenetrable shell, expected violence from their son.

They were wrong. But the data suggest an that people who thought that the myriad of gun restrictions imposed after the murders could prevent further instances of this kind were also wrong.

Don Pesci is a columnist based in Vernon, Conn.



As X-Mass nears, atheists acting up in Bethel, Conn.

P.T. Barnum Fountain and Square, in Bethal, Conn., circa 1914.

P.T. Barnum Fountain and Square, in Bethal, Conn., circa 1914.

Christmas is approaching, not the discordant commercial enterprise we see all around us at this time of year, but the real Christmas – a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the sovereign lord of the Christian heart. Atheists, those who do not believe in God or religion, have been in the habit of seizing the occasion to celebrate an obverse Christmas by spreading ashes on the joys of the Christian heart and obliterating the season through the application of free and equal graffiti.

In Bethel, Conn., atheists are especially interested this year in ridding the town’s P. T. Barnum Square of its nativity scene. For the benefit of those atheists who do not always follow the niceties of Christianity, it should be noted that the bones of Barnum’s family are buried in the quiet graveyard abutting the Congressional church not a stone’s throw from Barnum Square.

Barnum himself subscribed to the Universalist Church. He told New York Sun reporter in an 1864 interview, “I believe there is a great Creator, infinite in his attributes of wisdom, power, and mercy: that His name is Love. I believe He is a God of all justice, and that He will chasten every person whom He ever created sufficiently to reform him, in this world, or some other." Barnum was not an atheist.

For two years, Barnum edited his own newspaper in Danbury, the Herald of Freedom, and combatted what he viewed as sectarian attempts to bring about a union of church and state.

Barnum’s views on a national or state church mirrored those of the Founders and the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

It should be noted that the strictures of the First Amendment are satisfied when the law making body of the federal government refrains from making laws that a) establish a state supported church, and b) prohibit the free exercise of religion. The two clauses are joined together in the amendment. And in matters of constitutional interpretation, courts especially should be mindful that what the Constitution has joined together no judge should “therefore put asunder.” Both clauses should be equally weighed in every judicial finding on the great question of state-religious relations.

Indeed, the clauses “inform” each other: A judicial ruling concerning the meaning of the “establishment clause” cannot, under a just interpretation, effectively repeal the “free exercise” clause. And the balance established between the two clauses is best achieved when the law making body refrains from producing enactments affecting either the establishment of a state church or the free exercise of religion.

It is very clear that the amendment opens a wide door to religious liberty, even as the same amendment opens a wide door of liberty to a free press and the expression of political opinion. Church and state are effectively “separated,” in the true Jeffersonian sense, when the state refrains from making laws or edicts that prohibit the free exercise of religion or constitutionally abuse its secular power for the purpose of establishing a national or state church.

The town’s name, incidentally, has a biblical meaning. Bethel is called “the house of God” because it was in Bethel where “God talked with him” (Hosea 12:4 Hosea 12:5 ), after which Jacob built an altar, calling the place El-beth-el. In times of trouble the Jewish people traveled to Bethel to take council with God. The Ark of the Covenant was kept there for a long time under the care of Phineas, the grandson of Aaron (20:26-28 ). Barnum’s first name, also incidentally, is Phineas.

It is not possible for atheists to drive Christians back to the catacombs, where once they gathered to worship the lord of their hearts far from the murderous glances of pagan emperors. There is no national church in the United States. Under the aegis of the Constitution, the Congregational Church of our forefathers -- in essence a national church -- has been effectively disestablished. Connecticut disestablished the Congregational church in 1818. We are left with a potpourri of religious establishments. Barnum himself drifted from Congregationalism to the Universalist Church.

On a Christmas morning, bells sound from Catholic spires, wounding the ears no doubt of Scrooge-like atheists shouting their humbug in the public square. Firm in their unbelief, we must not suppose atheist demands can be easily accommodated.

But really, the sectarian and constitutional difficulties in “the House of God” will be settled when the good people of Bethel make a distinction between a religious establishment, governed by the First Amendment, and a self-professed irreligious establishment, atheism, that seeks to cover religious displays with atheist graffiti.

One must suppose that Barnum, an avid trickster like his father, might have provided room in his circus for this amusing display of historical revisionism.

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based columnist.



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Don Pesci: A measles epidemic of tolling gantries coming in Conn.?

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Hey, working suburban women who voted for the toll guy for governor -- get out your wallets. Multiple reports in Connecticut’s media advise us that Lamont eked out a win over Republican gubernatorial nominee Bob Stefanowski with some encouragement from suburban women, many of whom hold down jobs to which they travel – by car, not by largely empty FastTrack-powered buses.

During his gubernatorial campaign, Gov. Elect Ned Lamont was warm on tolls – but the tolls, working suburban women and others were told, would be levied only on out-of-state trucks, a dubious constitutional gambit. Rhode Island, the state from which Lamont lifted the idea, is now embroiled in law suits on the issue.

A little more than a week after the election, it was reported by the indispensable Yankee Institute that a new study commissioned by the Connecticut Department of Transportation calls for 82 tolling gantries on Connecticut highways. A note provided on a map furnished by the study authors reads, comfortingly, “Locations are for preliminary planning purposes only.”

The mapped major transportation arteries are pock-marked with red dots (see map above)— gantry locations that make the state look as if it had come down with an advanced case of measles. In a somewhat sour note, the study remarks that “fairness” in toll collections should be paramount: “Fairness – tolls should be set to ensure collection of revenues from CT as well as out-of-state auto and truck trips.” But fairness, Connecticut’s taxpayers will understand lies, like beauty and truth, in the eye of the beholder.

Speaking of fairness, Yankee notes wryly, “The study was previously kept under wraps by DOT Commissioner James Redeker and was the subject of a complaint to the Freedom of Information Commission by Sen. Len Suzio, R-Meriden. In July, Redeker cited the results of the study in testimony before the state Bond Commission but refused to release the study until today.” Len Suzio is no longer in the Senate, having been purged by politicians he has in the past unmercifully annoyed.

The Connecticut DOT has not yet produced a study showing the number of times tolling limited to a targeted subset has not, sooner or later, trickled down to a much broader base. And in fact, that is the case with nearly all taxes. The federal income tax began as a temporary tax on millionaires levied to pay for Civil War debt during the Lincoln administration. But in the course of time, the reinstituted income tax trickled down to non-millionaire working suburban women whose votes now have hoisted Lamont into a gubernatorial seat to be vacated in January by the most unpopular governor in the United States, Dannel Malloy, the author, along with a now revivified majority in the General Assembly, of two hefty tax increases.

If Connecticut’s onerous progressive tax system – which is the primary cause of budget instability – is ever to be reformed, the state might consider moving to a fair or flat tax in which every citizen in Connecticut pays the same rate and is therefore equally invested in state politics. The very rich, many of whom pay fewer taxes than their secretaries (see Warren Buffett on this), would pay the flat tax rate rather than shelter their assets through legalized chicanery, and the poor could be recompensed after having paid the tax. Collections would be simple, and large legal firms hired by the very rich to avoid paying crippling taxes would move on to more profitable pursuits.

Progressivism is little more than a political lure dangled before a credulous public to persuade them to vote for limitless spending that benefits politicians who shortly devise other means – tolling? – to further empty the pockets of working suburban women and all their other targets. Toll gantries placed approximately every 6.6 miles on interstates 95, 84, 91, 395, 691 and 291 and routes 2, 9, 8 and 15 would allow the state to take a major bite from working suburban women, among others. According to the study, Connecticut could collect more than $1 billion per year from electronic tolls.

If there is anyone in the state who believes that tolling – count the gantries – will be long limited to out-of-state trucks, perhaps his or her voting rights should be taken from them and given to the guy behind the tree. Mocking those who believe the claims of politicians that they will be exempted from paying taxes, the late Louisiana Sen. Russell Long offered the following short pearl of wisdom in verse: “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax the fellow behind the tree.”

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based columnist.


Don Pesci: 'So sorry to have left you a mess'

Autumn in Connecticut?

Autumn in Connecticut?

“Connecticut Gov.-elect Ned Lamont says outgoing Gov. Dannel Malloy has ‘done a lot of thinking about transition…’– WTNH News 8After lunch, Governor Malloy and Gov. -Elect ] Lamont have a ‘frank and honest’ conversation with each other. Throughout, Malloy – approval rating 15 -- appears to be carefree, strangely excited. The burden of governing has been lifted from his shoulders. When his term ends, he will kick the dust of Connecticut from his feet, move to Massachusetts and teach courses at his old alma mater, Boston College. Lamont is restrained, his characteristic ebullience gone, now that he faces the reality of governing a state in the dumps.

Malloy: … reason to be depressed. According to one analysis, your margin of victory in the race was larger even than mine during my first campaign. Imagine that. You have in your corner the large cities, most of the state’s media and – big surprise – portions of the state that have always gone Republican. Right now, you are very well positioned. You have the General Assembly laying like a cat in your lap, purring. Why, President Pro Tem of the Senate Martin Looney can hardly contain himself. He no longer will have to deal with Themis Klarides or Len Fasano; tough customers, those two. You can do whatever you want. It’s 2011 all over again. Be happy.

Lamont: I think you know there are problems.

Malloy: Yes, there are always problems.

Lamont: I hope we can speak frankly. Most of it has to do with the legacy you left me. I have fewer weapons in the struggle with SEBAC (union leaders with whom the governor of Connecticut sets the path of future governance) than you did coming into office in 2011. I can’t change your contracts until 2027, and the contracts provide a no-layoff provision and salary increases after a brief freeze. Then there are the recurring deficits and your expressed intention not to raise taxes. People take these silly pledges seriously you know. Perhaps most importantly, I can't shuck my problems off on my predecessor. That would be you.

Malloy: Right. Speaking frankly Ned, those are your problems, or they will become yours in January. I’m sure you’ll think of something. Tolls for trucks in Connecticut is a good baby step. The tolling, and the revenue pouring in from tolling gantries, can always be extended far beyond trucks to all vehicles, and that will provide you with a new revenue resource. Just tell everyone the bridges will collapse without repair, and that you’ll place the new revenue in a lockbox to which, heh, heh (he moves his fingers as if opening a safe) you have the combination. Given the Democratic Party’s mutually beneficial connection with unions, there is no way to discharge deficits without some new and expandable revenue source – hence tolls. You could make a grab for municipal dollars by restructuring property taxes. We’ve talked about this, remember?

Ned: The unions will have to come around.

Malloy: Yes, I’ve I tried that. It’s easier politically to stick to tax increases. Not for me of course. I’m rather hoping that the people at Boston College Law School will be willing, after a time, to forget that they hired as a professor someone whose approval rating among overtaxed Connecticut citizens is 15 percent, according to one dubious poll. I’m relying on history to rectify my standing. But you’ve made no promises during your campaign. Asked whether you intended to raise taxes, you first said ‘Yes’ and later wisely amended your ‘Yes’ to ‘No comment.’ {Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob} Stefanowski had some fun with that in his ads. But, of course, we both know that people generally discount both political ads and promises made in the heat of campaigns. Remember your Bismarck: ‘People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election.’ To tell you the truth, I’m glad to be out of it.

Lamont: And so your final advice to me would be what?

Malloy: Do the progressive thing, shut out rump Republicans as I’ve done, and slog through. Remember, there will be a life after politics. As Weicker did and I will do, you may have to move out of state for a bit to reinvent yourself. He went to Washington DC to teach a class in Lowell Weicker, and I’m off to Boston to teach a class in Dannel Malloy. I feel liberated. So sorry to leave you with a mess. One more budget and I’m off the hot seat. Did I tell you I’m working on a book? Personal memoirs have become a form of character restitution, have you noticed? Shall we join the ladies?

Don Pesci is a columnist based in Vernon, Conn.

E-mail: donpesci@att.net

Don Pesci: Night coming on in Connecticut after Democratic election flood

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It’s a washout for Republicans, a signal victory for Democrats and, some disgruntled Republicans will say, their abettors in Connecticut’s left-leaning media. The Hartford Courant editorial board held their collective noses this year and gave their prized endorsement to Oz Griebel, the anti-party gubernatorial candidate of the moment. Griebel swept up a little less than 4 percent of the vote tally.

Once again, Democrat chestnuts were pulled from the fire by the larger Democrat controlled cities in the state and college students at Yale and UConn, many of whom are transients who will not be making their homes in the state after they receive their sheepskins. These voters will not befoul their own nests.

The Democratic ploy – make the campaign about President Trump’s delinquencies – worked remarkably well in a state in which Democrat voters have for years held a huge margin in party registration.

Here and there, grumblers in the media rained on the Democrat parade. Chris Powell, the former managing editor of the Journal Inquirer newspaper, now a free-lance Cassandra whose column continues to appear in the JI and other media venues, noted “Five days before the election Lamont, the Democratic nominee, told a rally of government employee union members in New Britain, 'We're going to be fighting for you for the next four years.'

Lamont's remark recalled Gov. Dannel Malloy's infamous if honest declaration to a rally of government employee union members at the state Capitol four years ago: ‘I am your servant.’” And Powell asked pointedly, “How will the new servant of the unions deliver to them after first pledging to raise taxes, then pledging not to, and then, hours before the election, dismissing a radio interviewer's question about taxes with a ‘no comment,’ as if that answer was not as arrogant as anything ever uttered by his ignorant Republican rival?”

The “ignorant Republican rival,” gubernatorial nominee Bob Stefanowski, was almost certainly right about Connecticut’s next governor when he said repeatedly during his campaign that a Governor Lamont will raise taxes and continue the warm relationship with Connecticut's employee unions that was such a prominent feature of the Malloy administration.

So then, where do we go from here? We go back to the future.

The Republican flank of the General Assembly has been effectively neutered by losses in a Senate that had been tied at 18 -18. Rep. Joe Aresimowicz eked out a narrow win to retain his post as speaker of the House. Aresimowicz is employed by a union and cannot be expected to befoul his own nest. Sen. Martin Looney, a leftist born and bred in New Haven, will continue to preside over the Senate as president pro tem. “I’m raring to go with the excitement of having a majority again,”Looney said in an interview with the New Haven Independent. As usual, these door keepers will keep the doors shut to Republican leaders in both chambers. They will not entertain Republican budgets or Republican ideas, an eerie repeat of the correlation of forces that followed Malloy’s first gubernatorial victory, in 2011.

Lamont, Looney and Aresimowicz may now proceed along their merry way as if the Malloy years, throbbing with union favorable contracts, business flight, the largest tax increase of any administration in state history, shouts from outside the state commentators that Connecticut -- whose cup runneth over with taxes, regulations and accelerated spending, along with repeated budget deficits – was simply a bad daydream. Night is coming on, with its soft murmurings of a future prosperity.

Yale and UConn graduates, who vote and run, will figure it all out soon enough. They will not have to live in the tax-prone, progressive nest they have helped to build here in the land of steady habits.

Don Pesci is an essayist based in Vernon, Conn.


Don Pesci: Conn., a tax 'donor' state, sure does well with military contracts

Headquarters of military and nonmilitary airplane-engine maker Pratt & Whitney, in East Hartford, Conn. Pratt & Whitney, like Electric Boat, in Groton, Conn., is a unit of General Dynamics.

Headquarters of military and nonmilitary airplane-engine maker Pratt & Whitney, in East Hartford, Conn. Pratt & Whitney, like Electric Boat, in Groton, Conn., is a unit of General Dynamics.

Some time ago, a Connecticut Trumpeter confessed to this political writer that he had been having a recurrent nightmare.

Military procurements during the Obama administration were slender. Connecticut is still referred to in some corners as “the provision state” because, since the Revolutionary War, Connecticut has provided the national military with provisions. It continues to do so; Pratt & Whitney, Electric Boat and Sikorsky are very much going concerns.

Obama’s military budget was considerably more modest than Trump’s, as the president never tires of reminding the country. Dollars spent on the military are, to no one’s surprise, good for Connecticut. Federal dollars spent on military procurements produce Connecticut jobs, which produce funds that replenish the state’s treasury -- all good, all the time.

This was the nightmare: The additional federal funding would produce additional state treasury dollars, since more job holders produce more tax revenue, and these blessings would allow Trump’s bitterest critics in Connecticut – every member of Connecticut’s all Democratic congressional delegation, plus outgoing Democrat Gov. Dannel Malloy and his retinue -- to claim fraudulently that the state’s ruinous progressive tax and spend policies were responsible for the additional jobs and revenue. Malloy, et al., would point with pride to the job-production figures, attributing the good fortune to his wealth-reduction policies. And this would help his protégé, millionaire Ned Lamont, capture the governor’s office.

According to a recent story in CTMirror, "'Donor state’ Conn. gets more than its fair share of federal contracting dollars,” the Trumpeter’s nightmare has now become a daytime soap opera: “At the beginning of September, Connecticut companies and non-profits had received more than $11.8 billion in federal awards. Electric Boat is in final negotiations for the next block of Virginia-class submarines, which could, with other pending Pentagon contracts, give the state a big boost this year.”

Economic adviser to the Connecticut Business & Industry Association Peter Gioia is happy: “We’ll probably have a record year on defense.”

And he is not alone. U.S. Democrat Rep. Joe "Two Sub" Courtney’s 2nd District already has received about 5.4 billion of the federal contracting dollars that were spent in the state last year. Electric Boat, in Courtney’s district (in eastern Connecticut), we are told, “is in final negotiations for the next block of Virginia-class submarines. [The contract] “would allow for the construction of 10 Virginia-class subs, with the possibility of adding an additional two, at an estimated purchase price of about $3.2 billion per boat.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s 3rd congressional district will scoop up about 3.7 billion Trump dollars, and “Rep. John Larson’s 1st District, home of engine-maker Pratt c& Whitney” will pocket about $2.5 billion. Not a bad haul from a president the entire Democratic congressional delegation would like to see impeached, principally for his bad manners. The chatter about impeachment quickly died down after polls showed it was not a winning gambit for Democrats, and the endless chatter about Russian collusion is showing signs of vaporization, even as special counsel Robert Mueller secures convictions and plea deals from Trump associates that have little or nothing to do with Russian collusion. Judicial Watch revealed a while back that the Chinese had recovered all the emails on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s illegal private server in real time; that means the Chinese were picking up all the Clinton emails, some of which contained secret and top secret information – AS SHE WAS TYPING THEM.

The Clintons' fast friend U.S. Sen. Dick Blumenthal and his junior partner, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, have yet to threaten suits or other actions against Saint Hillary, their attention having been diverted to killing, by any means necessary, the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. Blumenthal, who virulently opposed all Trump nominations to the high court before Kavanaugh emerged as Trump’s nominee, may have been partly responsible for the Antifa-like opposition displayed by political maenads during and after the prelude to the hearings. Still searching for impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors under Trump's bed, Blumenthal will ironically, along with other Democrat members of the state's congressional delegation, be the beneficiaries of the Trump business bump in Connecticut.

Could Otto von Bismarck have gotten it right? “There is a Providence,” he said “that protects idiots, drunkards, children and the United States of America.” Adjusted to fit modern times, Bismarck’s aphorism might read “There is a Providence that protects idiot congressmen -- see Twain above – drunkards and opium eaters, children, but not late term abortion babies, and the United States of America as viewed by progressive Democrats.”

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based columnist.


Don Pesci: The role of humor and viciousness in politics

Anti-Jefferson cartoon in the 1800 election campaign depicts him burning the Constitution.

Anti-Jefferson cartoon in the 1800 election campaign depicts him burning the Constitution.

Republicans, we all know, do not know how to campaign -- which is why they lose elections. In the modern period, political jousting is either murderous or feckless. Twitterdom is full of deadly thrusts unleavened by humor, the opposite of wit.

Let’s suppose Connecticut Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bob “The ReBuilder” Stefanowski were Abe Lincoln, sans beard but with a similar sense of humor. Someone at a political rally once accused Lincoln of being two-faced – he was  being rather subtle on the issue of slavery– at which point Lincoln stopped his speech and shouted back, “If I had two faces, do you think I’d be wearing this one?”

The audience shivered with appreciative laughter, and laughter in politics is better than votes because it engages the stomach muscles and the thorax. Voting is a public duty most people choose to ignore, particularly in our day of snake oil salesmen. But laughter cleanses the soul and shocks the memory. Remembering a good joke is so much more pleasant that remembering a humorless politician.

So then, here is Lincoln Stefanowski ruminating – from the stump – on a recent Ned Lamont campaign rally in Hartford, Connecticut’s capital city and recently bailed out by the political money lenders under the gold-guilt dome in Hartford:

 “I see the Democrats had a rally in Minuteman Park in Hartford. All the usual celebs were there, minus Governor Dan Malloy, who’s in hiding. Democrats do not want the infectious Malloy touching their campaigns''. CTPost reported, “[Democrat candidate for State Treasurer Shawn] Wooden produced an awkward moment during the rally when he introduced Lamont as ‘Governor Malloy’ in an apparent slip of the tongue. Republicans continually paint Lamont as an extension of the unpopular Democratic governor, while Lamont emphasizes his differences from Malloy.” You see, at bottom – THEY KNOW – there are no policy differences between Malloy and Ned Lamont, who I hear is a wealthy businessman with only a smattering of political experience like… well, never mind.

The paper tells us that “Lamont, in his speech, emphasized that the Democratic ticket represented ‘change.’” But Ned favors more taxes and tax hand-outs to corpulent big businesses fleeing the state. All this sounds wearily familiar: Lamont is the Malloy who wasn’t there. And the only real change that can be expected of the man I called “Ned Malloy” is a sweep of change from people’s pockets. My campaign offers real political change, and we won’t assault your wallets or put a regulator under your bed to adjust the pictures in your house.”

A close friend, Philip Clark, noted Lincoln’s 1846 campaign against Peter Cartwright. Lincoln “asked Cartwright if General [Andrew] Jackson did right in the removal – I believe it was – of the bank deposits. Cartwright evaded the question” – no big surprise there; it happens all the time among politicians on the stump – “and gave a very indefinite answer. Lincoln remarked that Cartwright reminded him of a hunter he once knew who recognized the fact that in summer the deer were red and in winter gray, and at one season therefore a deer might resemble a calf. The hunter had brought down one at long range when it was hard to see the difference, and boasting of his own marksmanship had said: ‘I shot at it so as to hit it if it was a deer and miss it if it was a calf.’ This convulsed the audience, and carried them with Lincoln.”

The pundits are telling us that the upcoming gubernatorial campaign will be vicious though, one hopes, not quite a vicious as the John Adams-Thomas Jefferson campaign of 1800. Students of history will recall that all the elements of a modern campaign sprouted from this nursery bed.

Jefferson, it will be recalled, was Adams's vice president. The principals, Jefferson and Adams, were, of course, above campaigning; the slugfest was run by associates. The Jefferson camp boldly asserted Adams was a "hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman." The Adams camp said Jefferson was “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father."

The two contestants viewed the battle from afar. Jefferson was not above hiring a hatchet man, James Callender, a political pamphleteer and newspaper editor, to spread campaign muck, while Adams considered himself above such low tactics. Callender proved effective in convincing dupable Americans – presidents at the time were elected through the Electoral College -- that Adams desperately wanted to attack France, and Jefferson prevailed in the election.

Eventually, the free-roving Callender turned against both Alexander Hamilton, whom he rightly accused of infidelity, and Jefferson, for having produced children by one of his slaves. Callender eventually was undone by his own bitterness and alcoholism. He was seen in drunken stupor in 1803, and later his body was recovered from the James River.

More Lincoln and less Callender would better suit the temperament of non-twittering voters in Connecticut.

Don Pesci is a Vernon. Conn.-based columnist.

Don Pesci: In Connecticut, touching third rails

Malcolm X -- a  firm believer in self-reliance.

Malcolm X -- a  firm believer in self-reliance.

Some people, not generally Friends of Tim Herbst (FOH), think that the Republican contender for Connecticut governor is aggressive. He is, as has been noticed during the Republican primaries, somewhat less aggressive in his advertising than David Stemerman, but then Herbst commands a more modest campaign war chest.  

Herbst disputes the slur; he says he is competitive.  However, the former first selectman of Trumbull does have a habit of fondling third rails that other Republicans running for governor fear touching.

Some of those rails – a hearty defense of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, every bit as inviolable as the First Amendment; peace and security in Connecticut; the socially disruptive effects of certain justice reforms under Gov. Dannel Malloy; the abolition of Connecticut's death penalty on social rather than legal grounds by Connecticut’s constitutionally confused, left-leaning Supreme Court;  serious crime ripening in  Connecticut cities; a plenitude of illegal guns in a state that boasts some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country; the baneful effects of fatherlessness among young urban African-American boys; and the constant chipping away of traditional morality by pretentious moral “reformists” – have gotten Herbst in Dutch with progressive social warriors.  T

To be sure, Herbst not only stands squarely in a traditional  Christian moral universe, his plans to lift Connecticut from its economic doldrums represent the larger part of his campaign message.  Still, there are those rails pulsing with electricity, and also a sense on the part of many Democrats that Herbst is treading on sacred ground reserved to Democrats, a part of their progressive moral preserve.
 

The flight from social issues by Republicans has surrendered half the political battlefield to Democrats. That is how Democrats win elections.  And now the left has to deal with this interloper. It’s best to make quick work of him, after which Democrats can set about winning elections by couching all issues in glossy moral terms.
 

Not so long ago, U.S. Sen. Dick Blumenthal, a progressive attached by a permanent umbilical cord to Planned Parenthood, advised everyone that any regulation of the abortion provider would reek of immorality. Herbst, not unreasonably or immorally, thinks that parents of children should be advised when their daughters procure abortions. 

A ridged division between social and financial issues is not only false; it is silly. There is no Berlin Wall separating such issues. Welfare dependency among what English aristocrats used to call “the lower orders” is both a social and an economic issue.  When welfare payments are unaccompanied by work requirements, you create a permanent dependent underclass that is certain to be preyed upon by rootless and fatherless males.
 

 The notion that independence or self-reliance is morally superior to a cringing dependence on the mercy of strangers was the center pillar of the social philosophies of both Malcolm X, whom some of his critics during during his own day regarded as aggressive, and Martin Luther King Jr.

They weren't  far removed from crusading journalist Ida B. Wells, who recommended arming black men who wanted to put  the fear of the Lord in the KKK, King kept a pistol close by; so did Malcolm X, bushwhacked by the hoods that surrounded Elijah Mohammed after Malcolm X publicly accused the religious leader of having illicit sex with young girls.  And it was President Bill Clinton, no hard-hearted conservative, who approvingly signed into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act” of 1996 (PRWORA), having promised during his 1992 campaign  to "end welfare as we have come to know it.”  

That is the kind of third rail Herbst likes to fondle, even as his own Republican Party has been for decades in full retreat from welfare reform, silent on the matter of the Second Amendment, stonily silent as generation after generation in the state’s inner cities drift towards social and moral anarchism. Republican incumbents insincerely believe that ceding the moral high ground to moral reformists like Planned Parenthood will in the end assure them enough votes to remain a second rate minority party; better a live mouse in office than an out of office lion prowling on the political perimeter. 
 

In the meantime, cowardly Republicans continue to win economic arguments and lose elections to gifted Democrat demagogues proficient in the art of fooling most of the people most of the time. A thoughtful media would blow many of them out of the water with raucous, cleansing laughter. For 50 years and more, hegemonic Democrat political organizations have been holding the lower orders in cities, many of them bankrupt, hostage to feel good programs, gilded cages that shrink the soul and open the heart to endless despair and misery. Herbst and a few fearless Republicans know this, and they are roaring – ENOUGH! 
 

 Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based writer. His email is  donpesci@att.net  

 

Don Pesci: Democratic kooks consider court-packing

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In “History’s Bad Ideas Are an Inspiration for Progressives,”  historian and columnist Victor Davis Hanson examines the dark side of progressivism.

Stymied by a Supreme Court that was a bit too traditionalist for his tastes – that is to say, a high court that faithfully interpreted the laws with reference to a real rather than a fictitious “living Constitution” --   President Franklin Roosevelt, Hanson notes, tried in 1937 to pack the court. His “convoluted proposal would have allowed Roosevelt to select a new—and additional justice—to the Supreme Court for every sitting judge who had reached 70 years, 6 months, and had not retired. And in theory, he could pack on 6 more judges, creating a 15-member court with a progressive majority.”


The effort to compromise the independence of the court by packing it with progressive judges failed ignominiously, in large part because the media of the day were constitutionally literate. Since then, the American media have declined. With the help of half-mad French philosophers, the American media have been convinced that any institution not born yesterday is hopelessly recherché. Texts, including the solid propositions of our founding documents, are to be wretched from their contexts and reformulated to satisfy the revolutionary ambitions of fake philosophers and politicians.

Faced today with a president considerably more conservative than his predecessor, the kook wing of the Democratic Party once again is considering court-packing. Donald Trump has nominated two Supreme Court justices viewed by progressive extremists as intolerably conservative. In fact, Neil Gorsuch, who has been approved, and Brett Kavanaugh, awaiting approval, are constitutional originalists in the manner of the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Kavanaugh, Trump’s most recent nominee to the high court, is viewed by many court watchers as a libertarian in the manner of Justice Anthony Kennedy, whom he will replace on the bench. The libertarian Cato Institute perhaps put it best when it described Kennedy’s jurisprudence as “a constant struggle to balance freedom and responsibility—ordered liberty, if you will."

Noting that appointments in due course occasionally disappoint those who believe that justices selected by conservative or liberal presidents will continue to maintain a steady ideological path on the court, Hanson lists the three most noxious principles of progressive irredentism.

First, progressives believe that only conservative justices should flip, while liberal justices should maintain an inflexible progressive course. Second, any and all judicial means that advance progressive decisions, however much they violate man and nature’s God, must advance the public good. And lastly, progressives believe, with all the fervency of a doctrinaire extremist, that it is proper to view the court as an instrument of social justice, prodding representative bodies to the left by means of decisions that, strict constitutionalists would say, have only a nodding acquaintance with historical constitutional interpretation.

Hewing to this last principle, the progressive re-drafters of the constitution tip their hats to a Marxist formulation: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it,” said Karl Marx, words engraved as an epitaph on his tombstone. In much the same way, modern progressives hold that it is the business of progressives on the left to change laws made by representative assemblies through a radical, ahistorical re-interpretation of a shape-shifting Constitution.

Among progressives, nullification has become the new normal. Revisiting this socially disruptive idea can only bring down fire upon our heads. Jefferson Davis and other Southern secessionists embraced nullification until they were persuaded by President Abraham Lincoln’s generals to give it up, but not before the grounds of Shiloh and Gettysburg were soaked in blood. The operative principle of nullification is that the governor of a state, its lawmakers, or its municipal executives may nullify – declare inoperative -- federal laws at will and  expect the federal government to wink at governors and state legislators who counsel lawbreaking on occasion for purportedly good reasons. But consider that In an assembly of states that calls itself a union, the presence of a sanctuary city is an act of uncivil defiance bordering on insurrection.

Sanctuary state proponents such as  Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal in Connecticut are perfectly willing to accede to the proposition that the federal government does have the authority to make and enforce laws. Indeed, if Blumenthal were to contest this proposition, his office -- that of U.S. senator, which is constitutionally authorized to write laws to be executed by the executive department – would be rendered useless. In supporting sanctuary cities, Blumenthal is setting his face against both the executive department and  Congress of which he is a member. In effect, Blumenthal is saying that federal laws may be vacated by governors and mayors of the states if the law in question is perceived as unjust.

Once his principle of abrogation is generally accepted, any municipal executive with the concurrence of a governor may defy any law written by Blumenthal and affirmed by Congress. One needn’t wonder whether Blumenthal or Malloy would assert their destructive operative principle if a conservative state government were to defy what has been called “settled law” in Roe v Wade and outlaw all forms of abortion.

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based columnist.

 

Don Pesci: Five lessons from the Capital Gazette shooting

Loading a 12-gauge shotgun, the type of weapon used by the Capital Gazette shooter.

Loading a 12-gauge shotgun, the type of weapon used by the Capital Gazette shooter.

Most left-of-center commentators lost interest in the Capital Gazette shooting in Annapolis, Md.,  on June 28 soon after it became obvious that there was little to no connection to Trumpian rhetoric slighting the “fake news” media.

For any number of good reasons, media face time procured by Connecticut's two U.S. senators, Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, was minimal.  Moments after the shooting, Murphy issued a dog-eared, often repeated refrain: “I’m sick and tired of this. My colleagues have accepted horrific mass violence and made the deliberate choice to do nothing about it. If politicians wanted to reduce gun violence, they would do their jobs and pass laws that we know would make a difference.”   Demagoguery, in this case, is pointless though, as ever, politically useful.  The weapon used in Annapolis by Jarrod Ramos was a 12-gauge shotgun, the kind of allowable self-defense rifle that former Vice President Joe Biden once recommended to frustrate mass murderers approaching from our driveways.  


The Capital Gazette shooting was personal, not political.  Ramos had sued the paper unsuccessfully for defamation, and the newspaper e-mail cache of was bulging with threatening comments. Disputes with papers usually are personal. Once the clouds of speculation parted, about two days after the shooting, we discovered that Ramos had been nursing a “longstanding dispute with the newspaper.”   

Just before telling details began surfacing – the devil was in them – there was a short window of opportunity for free range speculation. For a moment there, it seemed as if a Trumpbot, armed perhaps with a “military-styled weapon” had turned his anger upon a “fake news” paper.   But, sadly for some, this was not the case, although an account in The Baltimore Sun did manage to smuggle into its primary coverage, a day after the shooting, a Trumpian reference: “The shooting, which came amid months of unrelenting verbal and online attacks on the ‘fake news media’ from politicians and others from President Donald Trump on down …”

The Baltimore Sun and the Capital Gazette are sister publications.   The shooter, a loner who found personal communication awkward but anonymous communication liberating – where have we seen this before? -- was animated by vengeance. The rife he used was not a “military-style weapon,” but a commonplace shotgun. The place of attack was what has been called “a soft target.” And, not unimportant, the response time of police and others was a brief 60 seconds; it does not get much better than that. Also, first responders did not linger on the periphery tremulously waiting for reinforcements; they raced into the firing.   

Given all these givens, it becomes possible to ring from them some valuable lessons. Reporters and commentators -- always wary of being thought pedantic or, worse, moralistic -- call such lessons “takeaways.” But they are lessons containing invaluable bits of wisdom.

1) The premature ejaculations of passionate and ideologically committed “journalists” are nearly worthless, even when they may be right. It’s always a good idea to wait until the facts that shape the truth catch up to fanciful speculation before you press “send” on your column or report. Sometimes, this is a matter of hours; at the most, possibly a day. “A lie,” according to the old adage “can travel halfway around the world, while the truth is still getting its boots on.”  

 2) It may be nearly impossible to prevent mass shootings, but response time and other commonsense measures can mitigate disasters.  

 3) Soft targets – such as schools -- are hardened when the castle has a moat and the guards at the drawbridge are armed and dangerous to repel unwanted invaders. 

4) It is possible, in schools especially, to involve the whole mini-polis in preventative measures, which necessarily would involve predictive profiling. Israel does a splendid job in this regard, without compromising the moral strictures of students and faculty – Connecticut, not so much.

Think for a moment before answering the following questions: Would high-school classes in the proper use of sporting rifles help or hurt efforts to reduce school shootings? Would trained, armed security personnel in schools, along with mechanical and technological speed bumps to easy entry, reduce crucial response time in the case of school shootings? Would efforts among students to include in their social embrace students who are “loners” dull the edge of murderous rage? To what extent are good manners, enforced by enlightened discipline, social prophylactics?    

5) Finally, we all should reject tendentious arguments. The notion that the assault on the Capital Gazette by a man nursing a private, score-settling, vengeful but deliberative motive is causally connected to Trump’s intemperate and generalized attack on the public media is a textbook illustration of the post hoc ergo propter hoc (“after this, therefore because of this”) fallacy. Because one action is framed in a newspaper account along with another action, there need not be a causal relation between the two. Such planted axioms, we should all agree, do not point to a dispassionate and non-partisan search for the truth, which is what good journalism is all about. 

 Don Pesci (donpesci@att.net) is a Vernon, Conn.-based columnist.

 

 

 


 

Don Pesci: The dream that Conn. progressives dream is a nightmare for the state's economy

"Low Tide, Riverside {part of affluent Greenwich, Conn.} Yacht Club  (1894)''  by Theodore Robinson.

"Low Tide, Riverside {part of affluent Greenwich, Conn.} Yacht Club  (1894)''  by Theodore Robinson.

Ned Lamont, the Connecticut Democratic Party’s certified candidate for governor, having run the nomination knout, is now proceeding to run primary-election bases.

NBC Connecticut has noted a pronounced difference in messaging:
"Lamont Distances from Malloy at Technology Forum''.

Gov. Dannel Malloy has relied on targeted tax reductions and tax grants to try to persuade companies to remain in Connecticut and avoid migrating to other states in order to escape the governor’s burdensome taxes and the Democratic-dominated General Assembly’s noxious regulations.

"I think we've gone snap happy in terms of trying get and keep businesses,” Lamont said at a forum hosted by the Connecticut Technology Council. Lamont told the group he was not interested in providing bailouts to Connecticut’s tax starved cities: "I'm not interested in bailouts, I didn't like that deal at all, but there have to be other ways to help our cities,” which are, never-the-less, critical to the growth of the state.

“This version of Ned Lamont” the report pointedly notes, “is new on the campaign trail. Before the Democratic State Convention last month in Hartford, he seldom ever mentioned policies or moments of the political past, insisting on looking forward and having a message to reflect that effort.” Right, for politicians uncomfortable with offering rational solutions to pressing problems, glittering talk about a mythical future is the last refuge of scoundrels.

Unless sound measures are adopted to rein in spending, clip the power of unions to shape budgets, address Connecticut’s ruinous pension liabilities,  reduce taxes as an incentive to lure companies from surrounding states – Massachusetts, formerly called Taxachusetts, led by a Republican governor, is eating Connecticut’s lunch – strip away burdensome regulations and offer some hope to entrepreneurial talent in the state inexorably gravitating toward greener pastures in low governmental-impact states, Connecticut’s future will remain bleak. And everyone who is not a wall-eyed optimist or a Panglossian politician knows it -- especially intelligent voters weary of the usual glittering propaganda of politicians on the make.

The politically barbed question Lamont will be asked once he enters debates with his Republican counterpart is: Can he reverse the direction set by Malloy, the nominal head of the Democrat Party, and deliver prosperity?

That question is a slightly different one than asking Lamont, in one form or another, to denounce Malloy. Denunciation will come more easily to Republicans than Democrats, because Malloy’s operative principle -- Connecticut is not suffering from a spending problem; it is suffering from a revenue problem, the solution for which is tax increases – is the battle flag of the modern progressive movement.

Connecticut’s progressives go to bed dreaming, and they wake up dreaming.  If only Connecticut were better able to identify sources of wealth and tax them properly, the state will revive. What Connecticut desperately needs is a heavy progressive tax on hedge fund managers huddled together in Connecticut’s Gold Coast.
 

The state must spend more on early-childhood education, listen with a learning ear to the lights of the progressive National Democrat Party, Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, and uber-progressive demagogue Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, rebuild the state’s infrastructure with congestion tolling, invest in solar and wind energy, increase the minimum wage, make all schools in Connecticut gun-free zones, open more sanctuary cities -- impeach President Trump! Ah, if these things were done, then Connecticut would rise in splendor from its ashes and once again become the progressive pearl in New England’s crown. Such is the dream that progressives dream.

“I think we do need to bring our revenue structure into the 21st Century and when it comes to transportation,” Lamont told the techies at the Trumbull Marriott. “I need a more reliable and predictable revenue stream that we can leverage and make the investments we need, and I think that starts with electronic tolling on some of our biggest trucks that are coming in from out of state using our roads, tax-free, creating tons of maintenance issues and we’ll see where it goes from there (emphasis mine)”

Aye… starts with taxing the guy behind the tree, out-of-state truck drivers, and ends with yet another broad-based tax on middle-class working people; this in addition to the  {former Gov.} Lowell Weicker income tax and Malloy's two massive tax increases, the largest and the second largest in state history. And we know where tax increases go -- mostly to satisfy special-interest groups that regularly vote Democratic.  These accumulative tax increases have boosted spending in Connecticut threefold since former Gov. William O’Neill took a hike in 1991, having been replaced by the father of Connecticut’s income tax.   

For decades, the message of Connecticut’s government to the state’s diminishing wealth pots, including its techies, has been – if you have wealth, run. And they ran; they are running still. Connecticut is bleeding wealth, and its wounds will not be cauterized by increasing taxes. Only permanent, long-term reductions in spending will do the trick.

Techies take note: Connecticut has become the entrepreneurial graveyard of New England. The only dreams that live here are those of its progressive tax obsessed politicians.

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based columnist.