Journal Inquirer

Chris Powell: Newspaper archives increasingly important in criminal justice

Connecticut's Board of Pardons and Paroles, the Waterbury Republican-American reported the other day, is getting more generous with pardons, which erase criminal records maintained by government agencies and allow recipients to pretend that they never did anything wrong.

Among recent recipients of such pardons, the newspaper disclosed, were former police officers in Waterbury and Hartford who had been fired and convicted of fabricating evidence. Presumably now they can regain employment as officers, unless the departments to which they apply undertake background reviews broader than government records.

Any broader review will involve the archives of newspapers and other news organizations, which have become essential archives of criminal justice in Connecticut, since so many criminal charges, while justified, vanish from government archives because of plea bargaining and erasure laws as well as pardons.

Overwhelmed, Connecticut's criminal-justice system fails to produce much accountability for criminals, crime victims, the wrongly accused, and the public. As a result, much of the limited accountability resulting from criminal justice here now resides not in government archives but in the archives of news organizations.

Because news organization archives now may be more complete than government's and because they are accessible on the internet, news organizations are being flooded with requests from people who want reports of their arrests or convictions suppressed. Of course such reports can impair people's employment and social relations -- but then they often should, as with crooked cops.

Such suppression is deception, the opposite of journalism.


EVERYBODY AVOIDS TAXES: The furor over what appears to be Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's avoidance of federal income taxes is hypocritical, for three reasons.

First, while Trump has refused to disclose his tax returns, tax avoidance is not tax evasion. Nearly everyone exploits legal deductions and exemptions to minimize taxes.

Second, while some deductions and exemptions are available only to the wealthy, Congress established them in the name of encouraging or discouraging certain economic activity. If deductions and exemptions are disgraceful, the disgrace falls not on the people who use them but on Congress for establishing them.

And third, contrary to the accusation of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Trump's tax avoidance has not really deprived the federal government of any money. That's because the federal government enjoys the power of money creation and thus doesn't need taxes for revenue and has not needed taxes for revenue since gold and silver were removed as circulating money decades ago.

Rather, as the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Beardsley Ruml, wrote in 1946, the purpose of federal taxes has become social control -- to determine who has money and why. 

Trump has so much money on account of tax policies for which the Democratic Party is as responsible as the Republican Party.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY, NOT MERE TALK: Trump and his apologists keep saying that the vile conversation he had with the host of a celebrity gossip television show 11 years ago, caught on tape and disclosed the other day, was just “locker-room talk” and “banter,” disgusting to others but of no significance. 

Not so. For Trump was describing things he already had done. He even identified a married woman he had tried to seduce. Forgive or excuse him or not, conclude if you want that his character is less objectionable than Hillary Clinton's character or her policies, but what was captured on that tape was far more than talk. It was conduct and autobiography, and it has been confirmed by many women who, following disclosure of the tape, have detailed their awful experiences with Trump.


Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.


Chris Powell: Why are we letting in immigrants from the totalitarian, bigoted Islamic World?


Maybe the bombings in New York and New Jersey and the mass stabbing at the shopping mall in Minnesota, the former attributed to a naturalized Afghan, the latter to a naturalized Somali, will suggest a few things:

* The totalitarian culture of much of the Islamic world -- a culture that oppresses women and homosexuals and monopolizes religion -- does not wash out quickly but seeps down through the generations.

The suspect in the bombings is reported to have traveled back to Afghanistan several times and to have been “radicalized” there.

Minnesota has thousands of Somali immigrants and refugees, and many of their young men have been recruited by Middle Eastern terrorist groups, though fortunately they have left the country.

* Millions of people around the world are striving to get out of their countries for economic or political reasons and do not come from cultures that despise democratic  and humane values.

* Screening immigrants for the risk of political terrorism is nearly impossible, especially since their native or ancestral country or culture can reassert itself at a great distance in time. 

* Admitting immigrants and refugees is an entirely discretionary matter.

So with so many candidates for admission, why is the United States accepting any immigrants at all from Religious Crazy Land? Who needs the risk? How does it benefit the country?


SO WHAT IF MALLOY WANTS TO KNOW?: Connecticut Gov.  Dan Malloy's office, according to The Hartford Courant, recently instructed state agency publicists to make a daily report detailing inquiries from news organizations. This has prompted much snickering from Connecticut's ever-diminishing number of journalists that the governor's office is trying to put its spin on everything state government does, the more so since civil-service protections for the publicists were recently removed and their jobs were made political appointments.

But is it really such a scandal that the governor should want to know promptly what news organizations are looking into so he can be prepared or even look into the same things and possibly avert or shorten problems? Is it such a scandal that he should want to oversee the messages being conveyed by the agencies for which he is responsible? Or that he deems himself entitled to have particular confidence in spokesmen for his administration? (After all, the problem with state government is not that too many people can be fired for cause or even fired at all.)

The Malloy administration has not been especially friendly to freedom of information. But then left on their own, state government agencies have not been especially friendly to freedom of information either. So the new procedure of notifying the governor's office won't necessarily diminish transparency. It will depend on how the procedure is used -- on whether the governor's office will use its greater knowledge of journalistic inquiries to facilitate or obstruct or just to prepare to be accountable.

If the choice is obstruction, it will remain the work of journalists to exact a price for it by making a stink about it.


FAULTY SCHOLARSHIP AT UCONN: Only self-serving nonsense can be expected from Connecticut's liquor industry in defense of its anti-competitive privileges in state law. But more might have been expected from the University of Connecticut professor and the UConn doctoral student who argued in a newspaper essay the other day that the state's minimum alcohol-pricing system saves lives by discouraging consumption of a product that causes health problems.

The professor and his student failed to note that the extra revenue from the pricing system flows only to the liquor distributors, wholesalers and retailers. If higher prices are to be imposed by law in the name of social policy, the government should get the extra money.

Chris Powell is the managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn., and a longtime essayist, mostly on social, governmental and political matters.

Chris Powell: How it can be a wonderful life

Frank Capra's 1946 film, It's a Wonderful Life, to be broadcast tonight at 8 by NBC television, is loved most for its personal message of discovery at Christmas: that its hero's life has been, unbeknownst to him, crucial to his family, friends, community and even his country. 

Such general encouragement may seem more needed than ever these days; indeed, this may be, sadly, the cause of the film's popularity. But It's a Wonderful Life may be more important still for its overlooked lesson in democratic economics, a lesson arising from the struggle for survival of a combination credit union and savings bank, the Bailey Building & Loan in the Everytown of Bedford Falls.  

The Building & Loan's founder and chief executive, Peter Bailey, has died and its board of directors is deciding the institution's future. The richest man in town, Potter, a misanthropic banker, ruthless landlord and board member, played by Lionel Barrymore, proposes dissolving the Building & Loan, and his callousness angers Bailey's elder son, George, played earnestly by Jimmy Stewart, who has been working as assistant to his father.  

POTTER: Peter Bailey was not a businessman. That's what killed him. Oh, I don't mean any disrespect to him, God rest his soul. He was a man of high ideals -- so-called. But ideals without common sense can ruin this town. Now you take this loan here, to Ernie Bishop. You know, the fellow who sits around all day on his ... brains, in his taxi. I happen to know the bank turned down this loan. But he comes here, and we're building him a house worth $5,000. Why? 

GEORGE BAILEY: Well, I handled that, Mr. Potter. You have all the papers there -- his salary, insurance. I can personally vouch for his character. 

POTTER: A friend of yours.  

BAILEY: Yes, sir.  

POTTER: You see, if you shoot pool with some employee, you can come and borrow money. What does that get us? A discontented, lazy rabble instead of a thrifty working class. And all because a few starry-eyed dreamers like Peter Bailey stir them up and fill their heads with a lot of impossible ideas. Now I say. ... 

BAILEY: Now hold on, Mr. Potter. Just a minute. Now you're right when you say my father was no businessman -- I know that. Why he ever started this cheap, penny-ante building-and-loan I'll never know. But neither you nor anyone else can say anything against his character, because his whole life was. ... Why, in the 25 years since he and Uncle Billy started this thing, he never thought of himself. Isn't that right, Uncle Billy? He didn't save enough money to send Harry to school, let alone me, but he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter. Now, what's wrong with that? Why, you're all businessmen here. Doesn't it make them better citizens? Doesn't it make them better customers? You said that ... what did you say a minute ago? "They have to wait and save their money before they even think of a decent home." Wait? Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they're so old and broken-down that they. ... Do you know how long it takes a working man to save $5,000? Just remember this, Mr. Potter: that this "rabble" you're talking about, they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn't think so. ... 

At the board's insistence, George Bailey takes over in his father's place to keep the Building & Loan going, and soon he forestalls a run on it, part of a general financial panic, by putting up the money he has saved for his honeymoon and by preaching to a mob of frightened depositors about how they should not withdraw their money but instead have faith in the institution, because their money isn't kept in cash in the safe but rather is invested in the houses, the mortgages, the very lives of their neighbors. 

Of course, this is Capra's metaphor for politics and the world: that there is progress when everyone is given a chance, a little capital and credit, when people play by the rules, look out for each other, and don't take too much more than they need, and that selfishness is the ruin of everything. 

Something like this -- more or less a policy of helping to make middle-class everyone who aspired to it and would indeed play by the rules, a policy of democratizing capital and credit -- made the United States the most prosperous country and the most successful in elevating the human condition. 

But for a few decades now the price of obtaining and maintaining those "two decent rooms and a bath" and the middle-class life to go with it has risen as real wages have fallen for most, largely under the pressure of government's unrelenting taxes in the name of services that have not really been rendered, a welfare system that has subsidized what somehow is not permitted to be called the antisocial behavior it is, and a plutocracy that has gained control of both major political parties. 

There seem to be more people who, if too confused or demoralized to be dangerous, are still closer to being a "rabble" than the country saw even during the Great Depression. 

Even at its best now Christmas is seldom more than an itinerant charity that, necessary as it may seem, tends to suppress the great political question of the day after Christmas, the question of how things can be organized to ensure that everyone has a good chance to earn his way in decency. But the great joy of Christmas is that the answer has been given, that we are not lost, that the country has been shown the way and can recover it -- that society can work for all, that it really can be a wonderful life if enough selfless people make it a political one. 

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn. 

Chris Powell: Weather instead of news; hypocritical pope




While "global warming" hasn't changed Connecticut's climate that much, local television news here lately seems to be much less about news and more about weather.

To people who try to take local TV news seriously, this is sometimes comic, as when the forecast for the week ahead is essentially uneventful and unchanging but is belabored and repeated. The local TV news format of weather emphasis suggests that most of the audience goes through day after day without access to a window.

But taking local TV news seriously is probably a mistake. The TV stations themselves must know better; they have market research. If people really wanted to know what was going on around them they'd read newspapers, from which a big part of local TV news is taken anyway without the courtesy of attribution.

So instead local TV news viewers, who generally constitute a statewide rather than merely local audience, are told at great length about things that are relatively far from them, have no impact on them, and about which they can do nothing -- a fire in Meriden, a fatal traffic accident in Waterbury, a holdup in Norwich, a shooting in Bridgeport, a hit-and-run in Norwalk, a flasher in Bristol, a drug bust in New Haven, and a molestation arrest in Putnam, the latter complete with five minutes of interviews with people on the street who know nothing about the case but are willing to speculate on what should be done with the defendant if he's guilty, or even if he's not.

Then in the 10 seconds remaining before the next installment of the weather forecast (which is the same as it was minutes earlier), viewers might be told that the next state budget is coming up a billion dollars short, indicating lots of tax increases and spending cuts affecting everyone, but about which viewers will be left to guess, unless they want to bother with the papers.

Yet as life gets harder, real incomes and living standards fall, voter participation collapses, literacy fades, and college degrees signify less learning than high-school diplomas once did, why should anyone care? Few people are slogging home through rush-hour traffic thinking: "As soon as I get inside I'll be able to read about public policy!" Of course, most are thinking only of dinner and getting away from the grind for a few hours before having to return to it.

The musicians Donald Fagen and Walter Becker of Steely Dan saw it coming 40 years ago in "Only a Fool Would Say That":

The man on the street

Dragging his feet

Don't want to hear the bad news.

Imagine your face

There in his place

Standing inside his brown shoes.

You do his 9 to 5,

Drag yourself home half alive,

And there on the screen,

A man with a dream.

The old complaint is that everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it. But if anything ever could be done about it, it might disappear from local TV news, having become a matter of public policy requiring the greater expense of journalism.


Trying to make nice with Muslims, who lately have been getting some bad publicity, Pope Francis remarked the other day that people shouldn't insult or ridicule the religion of others. But that would be to change the rules in the middle of the game while one is ahead.

After all, Judaism, Christianity and Islam didn't ascend by being respectful to what the Book of Daniel recalls as "the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone," the old idols. Those gods are out of business precisely because the pope's predecessors insulted and ridiculed them, and worse.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.


Chris Powell: 'The Talk' about cops, and enough Newtown already

MANCHESTER, Conn. Fathers of black teenage boys are writing resentfully about the formal talk they believe they must have with their sons about how to behave in the presence of police officers -- super-respectful and careful -- because police operate on hair triggers with young black men, considering them far more threatening than other people.

Call it a prejudice or a stereotype, but a visit to any criminal court or prison will show that it's not irrational. Young black men commit a hugely disproportionate amount of crime. Whatever is to blame for this, slavery or the welfare system, which denies fathers to children, it isn't the police. After teachers, police are just the first to get stuck with the consequences.

Any black boy who has a father to give him "The Talk" is luckier than most black boys -- indeed, luckier than most fatherless boys regardless of race. But necessary as it may be, "The Talk" should stress that while some police officers are racist, most are not, and that even those officers who are especially suspicious of young black men are responding to the racial disproportion in crime.

Of course this stereotyping of young black men isn't fair -- no fairer than the stereotyping of cops as racist predators.

But while there will always be misconduct by police, at least there is redress for it -- at police headquarters and in court -- and regardless of their occasional misconduct, the police are always more sinned against than sinning as nearly half the country's children grow up without two parents and without much idea about how they must behave.

* * *

About $45 million in government grants and charitable contributions, The Hartford Courant reports, have been bestowed on Newtown, social-service agencies, and survivors to remediate the consequences of the massacre of 20 students and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School two years ago. Can that astounding sum be questioned?

After all, it's hard to see how much more can be done by $45 million than could have been done by $26 million, which would have provided a million in compensation for every devastated family.

Meanwhile, murders and mayhem remain daily events in Connecticut's cities, particularly Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven, without any organized financial compensation of the survivors or concern about civic trauma. Why the difference?

Part of it is that Newtown's victims were mostly innocent children. But the victims in the cities are all somebody's children, too, some of them also innocent, and even those who were not so innocent shouldn't have been murdered.

Newtown also may get so much sympathy and financial aid because such horrible things aren't supposed to happen in white middle-class towns to people who lived productively and  away from the underclass. No, horrible things are supposed to happen only to underclass people in the cities. It's not that underclass people deserve it but rather that they should expect it -- and indeed the rest of Connecticut takes city mayhem for granted, part of the normal order of things, as it long has been.

Yes, for the last half century government has appropriated billions in the name of remediating poverty in Connecticut's cities, far more than has been appropriated for Newtown. But little has been remediated. The cities are more of a mess than when that remediation began and as traumatized as Newtown, just less articulate about it.

But Newtown keeps getting not only cash it really doesn't need but also government studies that will never be able to track the massacre beyond the peculiar circumstances of a disturbed young man who in a few years had already gotten more professional attention than most city residents get in a lifetime.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

Chris Powell: This cat (a cynic?) broke a libertarian indifference

From out of the darkness the poor creature practically hurled itself at the family as they got out of their car in the garage -- mewing frantically and craving attention. He wore no collar and no veterinarian was going to open his office on a Saturday night just to try to locate an identifying microchip on a stray cat.

So they cut up some leftover chicken and put it in a dish on the garage floor along with a little bowl of water, placed some old towels on a chair for a bed, and invited the cat to stay the night, safe from the coyotes that howled from the adjacent farm field and woods, while leaving the garage door open enough so that he could leave.

In the morning the cat was still there -- handsome and friendly if hungry again. There was more leftover chicken. He ate and went outside and returned hours later, whereupon the search for his owner began, with posters and an advertisement in the newspaper.

Meanwhile, with the installation of a makeshift litter box and the purchase of cat food, the cat settled into the house, exploring, showing off his jumping skills, nuzzling for attention, closing his eyes and purring when petted, hopping onto a lap to curl up and fall asleep, mewing again for his breakfast and dinner and for going outside in the morning, and disappearing for hours but always returning, if sometimes not until after nightfall.

Dad, who had for cats only the libertarian indifference for which they themselves are renowned, was smitten by the affection this one bestowed constantly and so doted on him and carefully combed through his fur for ticks upon each return from the wild.

While allergic to cats, Mom found him adorable and tolerated his run of the house, thinking it would be temporary -- that if his owner wasn't found soon, a good home would be arranged for him elsewhere.

Daughter loved him and picked him up and moved him as necessary to keep him out of trouble.

The cat hated being confined but loved perching on a chair in the sun room to survey a wide area before napping. Eventually he spent his nights on a down comforter on the bed in a guest room, having carefully ascertained the softest spot in the house.

Figuring that if he was going to be part of the family, the cat had to be worried about like everyone else, Dad repeatedly went outside in the evening to call for him to come home, but the cat came home only when he wanted to. When they took him to a veterinarian, no microchip was found, so they got him a rabies vaccination and an identification tag, which they affixed to a collar he wore only resentfully. A day later he trotted home jauntily without it.

The adoption campaign supervised by Dad's colleague at the office, a cat lover and kind and patient soul, was picking up speed when Dad started hoping that it would fail and that the cat somehow could be kept despite Mom's allergy.

But after a little more than a week the call came. The cat's owner had been alerted by a poster and identified the cat perfectly and was only a half mile away. So the family put him in the car and delivered him.

The cat didn't seem thrilled to be home and his owner didn't seem thrilled to have him back either, and while Dad knew this was still the right ending, he was heartbroken.

After all, he hadn't gotten even a kiss goodbye. Had all that nuzzling and purring been sincere or was it all merely a cynical act?

Just in case, Dad has been keeping the deck light on at night.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the  Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

Chris Powell: That's so 'special needs'

When the Journal Inquirer reported the other day about the criminal sentencing 
of a "mildly retarded" rapist, representatives of groups serving the mentally 
retarded protested. The complaint was: "People don't use 'retarded' anymore." 

They likened it to the "N word" and the name of  Washington, D.C.'s football team, the Redskins. 
These comparisons were false, as the former was always an epithet, the latter 
always a way of evoking the supposed savagery of aboriginal people. 

But disparagement attached to "retarded" only recently. Indeed, until a few 
years ago Connecticut had the Department of Mental Retardation. What happened? 

Children began abusing the word with their peculiar cruelty. But more than that, 
society declined to enforce standards. Instead, those who behaved decently were 
told to change their terms. As usual government was the first to be intimidated 
by the special interest. 

Language evolves. Over the long term it belongs not just to the dictionary but 
to everyone who uses it. But capitulation to the slob culture is fairly resented 
and resisted. What is happening with "retarded" is only what long ago happened 
with "Jew." People heard "Jew" spoken with sneering contempt so often and were 
too meek to object that they began assuming the word itself to be disparaging. 
So now there are few Jews but lots of "Jewish people." 

The language police know perfectly well when disparagement is intended and when 
it is not, know perfectly well that a newspaper story about a rapist with mental 
retardation is different from the schoolgirl mocking a classmate as "retarded." 
But today's culture requires the decent people to change, not the miscreants. 

This has taken the country Through the Looking Glass, wherein Lewis Carroll's 
Humpty Dumpty berates Alice for doubting that words can be so flexible. 

"I don't know what you mean by 'glory,'" Alice said. 

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't -- till I tell you. I 
meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!'" 

"But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument,'" Alice objected. 

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "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." 

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty 
began again. "They've a temper, some of them -- particularly verbs, they're the 
proudest. Adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs. However, I can 
manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That's what I say!" 

If news organizations are to be accurate, credible, and understood, they must 
stick to descriptive reality and not be intimidated by political correctness, 
avoiding what is merely preferred by elites or euphemistic and vague, like the 
term coming into fashion for the retarded and others, "special needs," which, by 
design, conveys little and can mean anything. Old Hump would be very happy with 

And what do we do when the kids start sneering at each other, "That's so 
'special needs'"? 

There will always be cruelty. People should stand up against it, not capitulate 
to it at the expense of the language. 

The big problem for the retarded in Connecticut long has been the shortage of 
group homes for retarded people living with aging parents, who fear that upon 
their death there will be no familiar and comfortable home for their kids. Those 
who care about the retarded should worry more about that than about contriving 

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn. 

Don Pesci: Your credentials, please

VERNON, Conn. “Dr.” Michael Sharpe, the CEO of the Family Urban School of Excellence (FUSE), padded his credentials; it turned out he was not a “Dr.” at all. Moreover, a cautiously concealed stint in prison -- for embezzlement --  further marred Mr. Sharpe’s record, which was, before journalists began snooping into his past, fairly substantial.

It is said that the FBI is now examining FUSE with jeweler’s loops screwed into its many eyes. FUSE, according to its mission statement, is “an education management organization formed in 2012 to continue, guide and expand the work of Jumoke Academy, a high-performing urban charter school in Hartford’s north end.”

Mr. Sharpe’s credentials were not in order. He permitted himself to be called “Dr. Sharpe,” and the honorific was used by him on several occasions. Like Malcolm X, there was a prison blotch on his escutcheon, which Mr. Sharpe apparently took some care to conceal. Thrown from the balcony, he has now come under FBI scrutiny. If there are accounting irregularities during his FUSE years, he likely will find himself cooling his heels in prison.

How low are the mighty fallen!

In the age of educational credentialism -- when success is not determined by measurable objective criteria (Is Jamoke Academy, one of the schools managed by FUSE, an improvement on the usual inner city public school?) but rather by the number of educational degrees its administrators have amassed -- there is no greater offense against propriety than the pretense that one is festooned by academic credits. Credentials, after all, are the lock on the indispensable educational “closed shop.” And the closed shop, of course, has both a fiduciary and moral responsibility to see to it that frauds do not slip past its barriers. Mr. Sharpe’s fate, like Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams’ s A Street Car Named Desire, will, going forward, depend upon the kindness of strangers, in his case strangers from the FBI.

Some strangers are kinder than others.

In 1981, when Thirman Milner was running in a primary for mayor of Hartford, the Journal Inquirer, of Manchester, discovered that Mr. Milner, who later won the mayoralty contest and became the city’s first African-American mayor, had claimed he had received from Rochdale College in Toronto, a degree that seemed exceedingly dubious.

The Journal Inquirer disclosed that Rochdale College was in fact “a student owned dormitory on the edge of the University of Toronto’s campus that was opened in 1968 as an educational experiment. There were no entrance requirements for any of the unaccredited school’s 850 students, no curriculum, no examinations --  and no degrees.'' A little more than two years earlier, other wide-awake media outlets had disclosed that the town manager of Agawam, Mass., had claimed a Rochdale diploma as proof of his college education when, in fact, he had never graduated from college. Five months after the disclosures,  the town manager, finding himself under considerable media pressure, quite rightly resigned from office.


The university affairs officer of  the Provincial Ministry of Colleges and Universities, J. P. Gardner, was quoted at the time to this effect: “… asking for a list of the degrees purchased [from the dormitory scheme] is like asking how many people bought socks at Sears yesterday.”

The fraudulent degrees were sold at $25 a pop. Said Mr. Gardner, “during this period [from the 1970s forward] Rochdale issued ‘degrees’ as a money-making venture. These had no academic basis or credibility and were considered a joke locally.”

The Journal Inquirer contacted Mr. Milner for a response. Mr. Miller said he had received his degree from Rochdale in the late 1960s, before the “college” began awarding purchased “degrees” through the mail.

“I didn’t get it through the mail,” Mr. Milner said of his “degree.” The Rochdale “degree,” according to the Inquirer report, accounted for Mr. Milner’s only college education. He claimed to have attended the experimental college “while stationed with the Air Force in Geneva, N.Y., about 200 miles from Toronto.” A 200-mile commute is rather long, but of course gasoline at the time was much cheaper than it is today.

Though encouraged to do so, The Hartford Courant, then and now Connecticut’s only state-wide newspaper, did not pick up a story that easily might have destroyed Mr. Milner’s mayoral prospects. Having won the mayoralty contest, Mr. Milner went on to serve with some distinction for six years. Fate – or kind strangers, many of them writing for newspapers – were not overly harsh with Mr. Milner.

Mr. Milner, retired for many years now and a much respected elder statesman, recently emerged from self-imposed obscurity to endorse the candidacy for the state Senate of City Council President Shawn Wooden of Hartford. He needn’t worry that Mr. Wooden’s credentials are in order.

Don Pesci ( is a political writer who lives in Vernon, Conn.

Chris Powell: Stop corporate welfare -- just extend gas lines



All the bluster about restoring economic growth in Connecticut won’t accomplish a fraction of what the Malloy administration accomplished the other day. The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority approved the administration’s plan to extend natural gas pipelines throughout the state so that as many as 280,000 homes and businesses might gain access to the cheaper and cleaner fuel over the next 10 years.

The cost of building the pipelines will be recovered by natural-gas companies mostly through surcharges on new business and residential customers. They’re not likely to complain, since gaining access to gas and converting from oil or electric power should save them far more money starting almost immediately.

Of course heating oil dealers are furious about state government’s facilitating gas, a competitor. But Connecticut is more reliant on home-heating oil than any state, much of that oil comes from abroad and thus is a drain on the national and state economies and a risk to national security, domestically produced gas is increasingly available, and the public interest in competitive energy sources is overwhelming.

Besides, state government facilitated the heating oil industry and the electricity industry when it built the roads used by oil trucks and utility poles. Insofar as the roads preceded the gas mains, the heating oil industry got its state subsidy first.

The less money it spends on foreign oil, the more prosperous Connecticut will become -- especially since businesses here complain that their biggest burden is not supposedly high taxes or excessive regulation but the cost of energy.

Indeed, Connecticut might be far better off if the state government did nothing for economic development except to build gas mains. Construction jobs would be created right away and financed from energy savings, those savings would keep many millions of dollars in the state, and businesses and households would be more prosperous.

By contrast, it’s hard to see how Connecticut will benefit from the Malloy administration’s distributing hundreds of millions of dollars in cash and discounted loans to companies for doing no more than promising to stay in Connecticut a while longer.

Even as the administration finalized its natural gas plan the other day, Governor Malloy was awarding $15 million to Pitney Bowes for staying in Stamford and planning to increase its employment by 200 over five years, or $75,000 per job, employment the company surely was planning anyway. Of course every company in Connecticut isn’t getting $75,000 from state government for every new hire, so this policy is grossly unfair and turns economic development into mere political patronage. It’s being called corporate welfare.

The administration seems cynically sensitive to such complaints, since, as the Connecticut Mirror recently reported, even as administration agents working for the Democratic Party are extorting political donations from state government contractors and employees of state-regulated companies all over the place, no donations of any size have been recorded from companies receiving those economic development grants.

While state law forbids state contractors from donating directly to the campaigns of candidates for state office, contractors can donate to a political party’s general committee and the committee can use the money to advance its candidates. This money laundering is what Connecticut Democrats call campaign finance reform. It is public campaign financing for just one party, the party in power. The Mirror found that Connecticut’s Democratic Party is leading the Republican Party in such fundraising by 10 to 1.

Are the Democrats targeting state government contractors and companies that are particularly vulnerable to regulation? A spokesman for the party replies, "We don’t discuss our fundraising strategy" -- which is what Connecticut Democrats may call transparency.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Conn.