'Land of abstraction'

"Shippwrekked (BR15-108'') (acrylic on fabric), by Brent Ridge, in show "Liz Gargas and Brent Ridge,'' at the New Art Center, Newton, Mass., March 4-April 10. The gallery says that Mr. Ridge "operates in a land of abstraction rooted in appropriation, landscape, and post-industrial aesthetics''









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: Of Newtown and Coltsville National Park

Horrible as the massacre at the school in Newtown, Conn., two years ago was, it is not 
justification for whatever its survivors and allied politicians want to make of 
it. Indeed, they have gone too far with their class-action lawsuit against the 
manufacturer of the military-style rifle used in the massacre, the AR-15. 

The rifle is legally sold throughout most of the country and was legal in 
Connecticut at the time of the massacre. So the lawsuit claims that the rifle is 
beyond proper operation by civilians and thus should not have been made 
available to them -- a claim of "negligent entrustment." 

While the lawsuit asserts that the AR-15 "has little utility for legitimate 
civilian purposes," it has been sold to civilians in the United States for 50 
years, about 3 million are in civilian hands, and, because of its light weight 
and accuracy, it is the most popular rifle in shooting competitions. Further, 
federal law exempts firearms makers from liability for criminal use of their 

Maybe the lawsuit still will win damages, through settlement or trial. It has 
been filed in state court in Bridgeport, just a few miles from Newtown, to 
exploit local sympathies. But victory for the plaintiffs could put the 
manufacturer out of business and effectively outlaw the AR-15's manufacture 
through risk of more liability. 

That seems to be the plaintiffs' objective, and then the lawsuit's theory could 
be applied against  any gun manufacturing. Something that 
big should be accomplished democratically, by repeal of the Second Amendment, 
not by a mere state court verdict in a damage case. The Newtown people already 
have intimidated state government into weakening Connecticut's 
freedom-of-information law. 

Of course, the country has an appalling problem with gun violence. But it's not 
really a gun problem at all, and even if it was and the Second Amendment could 
be repealed, there would be no way of confiscating enough guns to make a 
difference, since about 300 million are estimated to be in civilian hands. 

No, most gun violence arises from the financial premium bestowed on drugs by 
futile criminalization and by the welfare system's subsidies for childbearing 
outside marriage, which deprives young men of the parenting they need to become 
civilized. Those issues remain largely beyond political discussion in 

Meanwhile, even as they advocate curtailing gun ownership, Connecticut 
politicians this week were congratulating themselves on the approval of federal 
legislation to designate the Colt Manufacturing Co. buildings in Hartford as a 
national park, Coltsville. 

Colt wasn't just the developer of repeating guns. A half century ago Colt was 
the first to manufacture AR-15s for civilian use. But the national park's 
advocates never mention guns at all. No, the Coltsville National Park is said to 
be a tribute to Connecticut's leadership with "technology." 

* * * 

Former Connecticut House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan (D-Meriden), is following 
Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr. (D-Thompson), into the employ of the 
state's largest teachers union, the Connecticut Education Association. Now if 
the CEA can hire a former governor and a former chief justice, it can claim 
ownership of the whole of government in a state whose subservience to special 
interests has become shameless. 
* * * 

Having refused a couple of weeks ago to explain the firing of the longtime 
director of the state Office of Labor Relations, insisting that "we don't 
comment on personnel matters,"  Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy's communications director, Andrew 
Doba, this week somehow managed to distribute a dozen detailed announcements 
about personnel changes in the Malloy administration -- including one about his 
own departure. Former Malloy campaign aide Mark Bergman will take charge of the 
non sequiturs and contradictions. Now that they won't have Doba to kick around 
anymore, Connecticut political writers may hope that Bergman is as good a sport. 

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

Chris Powell: Low prices vs . high pay



Money manager, cable television commentator and former Connecticut U.S. Senate 
candidate Peter Schiff undertook a cute stunt the other day to counter the 
clamor for a higher minimum wage and the clamor against big, bad Walmart. 

With a video camera recording him, Schiff walked around the parking lot of a 
Walmart store purporting to represent a group he called “15 for 15” that seeks 
to persuade Walmart to put a 15 percent surcharge on its prices to pay for 
raising the minimum wage of its employees to $15 per hour. Instead of "Low 
Prices Every Day," Schiff said, Walmart could change its motto to "High Wages 
Every Day." 

But as he surely anticipated, Schiff found no shoppers interested in paying 
higher prices to underwrite higher wages for Walmart employees. The shoppers who 
talked with Schiff said they felt pressed financially themselves. 

That is, Walmart isn't Neiman Marcus or even Sears. Rather, Walmart is where 
people shop to save money, and Walmart stores are busiest in the hours after 
welfare and Food Stamp debit cards get recharged by government agencies. 

If many Walmart employees aren't earning much, many Walmart shoppers aren't 
earning much more, and many aren't making anything at all beyond what they get 
in government stipends. 

If Walmart is too profitable for some tastes, it's still subject to the same 
labor and tax rules covering all other companies, and of course nobody has to 
shop there. Indeed, complaints about the supposed greed of corporations, their 
cutting labor costs and moving from high- to low-tax jurisdictions, are only 
reflections of human nature and individual interest. 

Shoppers want low prices just as stock investors want high prices, and while 
most people are ready to tell others what to do with their money, they are not 
so ready to be told themselves. 

* * * 

Now the thought police are prosecuting thought crime in America. Because he 
remarked in a magazine interview that he considers homosexuality sinful and "not 
logical," the A&E television network has suspended an actor in the program "Duck 

So are people really once again to be disqualified from employment on account of 
their mere opinions and politics, as they were during the Red Scares of the 
1920s and 1950s? 

Homosexuals long were a persecuted minority, but now that society is becoming 
more libertarian, what entitles those who are gaining dominance in opinion to 
persecute those who disagree? 

Must the price of political incorrectness include even denial of a chance to 
work and make a living? Do the opinions of actors really matter that much? 

It's not as if this particular actor is oppressing anyone or advocating 
oppression. All he did was express his opinion -- an opinion shared more or less 
by the recent bishops of Rome, whom no one proposed to fire or suspend though 
many disagreed with them. 

Power corrupts and the political left has become just as totalitarian as the 
political right used to be. 

* * * 

But big media always get a pass from the political left. The other day 
Connecticut U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, was trivializing his 
office again for a little publicity, stuck in his habit from 20 years as state 
attorney general, urging the manufacturers of the Red Bull and Rockstar 
caffeine-loaded beverages to remove their product emblems from children's toys. 

Meanwhile mass shootings by the deranged, like the one a year ago in Newtown, 
are proliferating, likely inspired in part by the prurient gunplay pervading 
television, movies, and video games. But political criticism of that stuff has 
faded to almost nothing. 

Instead, Republicans are defending the constitutional right of any psychopath to 
own military weapons, and Democrats are getting too much campaign money from 
Hollywood to notice its poisoning of the culture. No, what worries Blumenthal is 
the caffeine industry. 

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