Chris Powell

Chris Powell: Racism doesn't explain why the white guys won these mayoral primaries

In downtown Hartford

In downtown Hartford

Since sometimes, as Freud is supposed to have said, a cigar is just a cigar, maybe sometimes an election for mayor in Connecticut is just an election, not part of a longstanding scheme to keep uppity women and minorities in their place.

But more than ever these days such complaints of prejudicial discrimination can intimidate, and last week Connecticut's Hearst newspapers pandered to them. The papers proclaimed disappointment that white men had won the Democratic primaries for mayor in Connecticut's three biggest cities -- Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport -- even though those cities are full of women and minorities.

The most mistaken complaint about the primary results came from state Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven. "It's just hard for people to accept change," Porter said. "White men have ruled this country since its inception, so the barriers we're talking about bringing down are so entrenched that it's going to take time. That it's going to be all white men representing majority-minority cities is something that needs to be addressed."

But as even Porter acknowledged, in those three cities white men [ITALICS] themselves [END ITALICS] are a minority, since barely a third of the population of the three cities is white and only about half of that third is male.

Yes, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, a white guy, defeated a black candidate and a Hispanic one, but Bronin did not win because the two minority candidates split the minority vote. Instead Bronin won with 59 percent, signifying he had support from many blacks and Hispanics. Of course it helped Bronin that one of his rivals, former Mayor Eddie Perez, had been convicted of corruption in office. But good for Hartford that integrity could trump mere ethnicity.

Besides, Hartford already has had black, Hispanic and women mayors. Despite Porter's hallucination, nobody in Hartford is being excluded because of race, ethnicity, or gender.

Yes, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, a black woman, was defeated in the Democratic primary by another white guy, Justin Elicker, after a campaign in which Elicker was challenged about his ability to represent black people when he doesn't look like them. This challenge was racist but it was taken seriously. To oblige his doubters should Elicker have put on blackface instead of sticking to the issues?

Like Bronin in Hartford. Elicker could not have won in New Haven without support from blacks and Hispanics, and there was plenty of reason for everybody to vote for him, from Harp's recent 11 percent tax increase to the frequent reports of expensive incompetence and arrogance in her administration. Harp long has seemed to think that facilitating illegal immigration is what her constituents care about most. While Elicker probably will pose as politically correct, too, at least he may realize that good public administration is more compelling.

"Hard for people to accept change"? But change is exactly what New Haven's Democrats voted for.

And yes, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, another white guy, narrowly won renomination in his primary with state Sen. Marilyn Moore, who is black. But Ganim won because Moore's campaign failed to corral absentee ballots as well as everyone knew Ganim's would, being backed by the city's Democratic machine.

Moore still would have had an excellent chance to become mayor if her campaign could have obtained 207 valid petition signatures to gain an independent ballot line in the general election. That should have been easy, but Moore's campaign submitted only 168. That wasn't racism but incompetence.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer ,in Manchester, Conn.

Chris Powell: Wallowing in the politically correct in Conn.

Politically correct LED bulb.

Politically correct LED bulb.

Listening to Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal last week, Connecticut might have thought that government has roundly succeeded in all its important functions and now doesn't have enough to do.

The governor issued a statement opposing President Trump's relaxing of federal energy-efficiency standards so that traditional incandescent light bulbs can continue to be manufactured and used. More modern bulbs, the governor noted, consume much less electricity and work longer than traditional bulbs and thus can save a lot of money.

But the new bulbs also cost more money than the old ones, and while the old ones generate more heat than light, that heat is not all wasted energy, since it is welcomed when the weather is cold.

In any case if the new bulbs really save so much money, people shouldn't need the government to coerce them with regulation or legislation. If, as such coercion suggests, the new bulbs can't put the old ones out of business on their own, people apparently find something undesirable about the new ones.

But the governor did not address that point. Instead he said he wants the General Assembly to pass Connecticut's own coercive legislation to prohibit choice in light bulbs.

Meanwhile Connecticut keeps deteriorating with daily shootings in its anarchic cities, tax increases, neglect of transportation infrastructure, dismal educational performance, child neglect, and so on. As a result inefficient light bulbs don't make even the top 50 on a list of the state's problems. But that may be why the governor is so interested in them and other trivia -- to distract from state government's failure with any problem that matters much, and, of course, to do some politically correct posturing against the insufferable Trump.

As the governor busied himself with light bulbs, Senator Blumenthal seemed to be aspiring to become commissioner of the National Football League. The senator held a press conference at the state Capitol to complain again that the league isn't tough enough on players accused of domestic violence.

But domestic violence does not involve misconduct on the job. It is criminal and thus a matter for law-enforcement authorities.

Nor does the federal government have any jurisdiction over football players particularly. While the NFL has a business exemption from federal antitrust law, an exemption shared with other pro sports leagues, the appropriateness of those exemptions has nothing to do with domestic violence. The exemptions probably should be repealed regardless of any off-the-job misconduct by players.

People in all occupations commit domestic violence. So why is domestic violence by pro football players of special concern to Senator Blumenthal? Does he think that pro football players are uniformly heroes in the public eye? That cliche expired under a tidal wave of well-publicized thuggishness. As newspaper columnist Mary McGrory wrote decades ago: "Baseball is what we were. Football is what we have become."

If the NFL isn't tough enough on domestic violence for the senator, it may be because of concern for due process of law. Why should the league be tougher than a court? A court sentencing a pro football player can take him out of the game faster than the league can, and without the league's financial liability.

And is the senator really sure that government itself is tough enough on its own employees who commit domestic violence? Or would it be too politically incorrect for him to risk offending the government employee unions?

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

Chris Powell: Lamont rightly acted fast to release vaccination data

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No Connecticut governor may have ever rushed to the defense of the public's right to know faster than Gov. Ned Lamont did the other week when his public health commissioner, Renee Coleman-Mitchell, said she would not release school-by-school data on the vaccination of students. Within a few hours the governor overruled the commissioner. The governor's spokesman said the data will be released as soon as they are complete and verified, since Lamont "believes strongly that this is important information for the public and policymakers to have at their disposal."

Indeed, the growing number of parents claiming a religious exemption from vaccination for their children was a controversy in the General Assembly this year, causing concern that the old childhood diseases like measles, mumps, and rubella could return in epidemic size if "herd immunity" is not sustained by the traditional vaccination rate of 95 percent.

Last year's school-by-school vaccination data was released by the commissioner in May. But reversing herself last week, the commissioner claimed that the law gives her discretion to withhold the data. Her spokeswoman did not respond to a request to cite any such statute and the commissioner did not provide any argument for concealing the new data. She seemed not to have been vaccinated against bureaucratitis, which causes government officials to hallucinate that government information is proprietary.

But the governor immediately recognized that the vaccination and religious-exemption issues can't be evaluated by legislators and the public without disclosing the data.

The religious claim against vaccination is bogus. It figures in no denomination's theology and is being used as a pretext by parents who fear that vaccines or a chemical formerly used in them may cause autism. All authoritative studies have found no connection, but innumerable people have been demonstrably protected by vaccines since the autism scare was perpetrated.

Connecticut doesn't require that children be vaccinated, only that they be vaccinated if they are to attend school or day-care centers. That is enough parental choice, for vaccination is simply a small duty to society.

But this year the General Assembly was intimidated by the opponents of repealing the religious exemption. Their numbers were small but they were fierce and even hysterical, so the legislature failed to act. The new data from the Public Health Department will show not only the increasing use of the exemption but also the particular schools where use of the exemption is getting out of hand. That indication of danger may generate the pushback from the public that is necessary for the exemption's repeal. There is enough political hysteria these days, and legislators need to reject it in defense of public health. There is courage in information.

Now that the governor seems to be in a right-to-know mood, he would do Connecticut another favor to seek repeal of something else: the provision of the state budget that exempts the state's new educational grant agency from freedom-of-information and ethics rules.

The commission will dispense not only the $100 million gift from Ray and Barbara Dalio but another $100 million in state government money. No good reason -- indeed, no reason at all -- has been offered for the exemption. Apparently the Dalios want to avoid disclosing their connections to potential grant recipients. In that case they should donate their money privately without mingling it with state government's.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Conn.

Chris Powell: More realism needed in debating how to curb mass shootings in our crazy country

AK-47 Type 3A with ribbed stamped-steel magazine

AK-47 Type 3A with ribbed stamped-steel magazine

Protesting President Trump's massacre condolence tour when it reached Dayton last week, a man held a sign reading, "You are why." But as objectionable as the president's demeanor often is, the protester's sign was just politically partisan wishful thinking.

For while the mass murderer in El Paso appears to have hated the illegal immigrants often disparaged by the president, the one in Dayton appears to have been a leftist, a supporter of Antifa and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, as was the crazy who shot up the Republican congressional baseball team's practice in Arlington, Va., two years ago

On the weekend of the El Paso and Dayton massacres there were 50 shootings in Chicago, a city long under Democratic management in a heavily Democratic state. A few days ago two people were shot together in Hartford, and nearly every day produces shootings not just in Hartford but also in Bridgeport and New Haven, where there are hardly any Republicans. Shootings are now the way of life in Democratic urban America, and politicizing those shootings would impugn the president's most strident critics.

Good if the latest massacres induce Congress to pass legislation increasing background checks for gun purchases. But most purchases -- those made through licensed dealers -- already require background checks. The exceptions are guns sold privately, and these are seldom used in mass shootings. Indeed, most guns used in mass shootings have been obtained legally after background checks, and there does not seem to be anything in the records of the perpetrators in El Paso and Dayton that would have disqualified them from their guns. Most crazies are not criminals before their mass murders

Good also if Congress passes "red flag" legislation, establishing procedures for challenging a gun owner's fitness -- provided, of course, the procedures include sufficient due process. But a "red flag" law can work only if a gun owner advertises his guns, and few gun owners bent on mayhem are likely to do that.

Maybe large-capacity ammunition magazines should be prohibited, but empty magazines are easily replaced in two or three seconds

That leaves outlawing "assault weapons." But how are those to be defined other than by their ability to fire a series of bullets with repeated trigger pulls but without immediate reloading? Except for barrel size there is little difference in technology between "assault weapons" and ordinary handguns

For nearly all modern guns except shotguns are "semi-automatic." Fully automatic guns, guns that spray bullets by a single pull and hold of the trigger, are the only real military guns and their possession is already highly restricted. Few are in civilian hands.

Semi-automatic has been the norm with civilian guns since Connecticut's Sam Colt perfected the revolver almost two centuries ago.

As a practical matter an "assault weapon" is just any rifle that scares somebody.

So nearly all modern guns in civilian possession can be called "assault weapons," and if semi-automatic guns are to be outlawed, nearly all guns in civilian possession will be illegal. That would require more than tinkering with the Second Amendment. It would require repeal and confiscation.

The country is in a tough spot. It is full of both crazies and guns and the issue is far more difficult than its partisans let on. Whatever should be done, it will have to start with more clarity and honesty than the debate has provided so far.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

Chris Powell: Social Security benefits can and should be expanded


How disappointing that the leadership of the Republican minority in the U.S. House has dismissed peremptorily Connecticut Rep. John B. Larson's legislation to keep Social Security solvent for a century while improving benefits. Though the bill seems likely to pass the House, given the Democratic majority there, it won't go anywhere in the Senate, where the majority is Republican, unless Republicans in the House support it.

Republicans complain that Larson's bill costs too much. But the increases that the bill would make in Social Security taxes are small and gradual, and much of the new revenue would come from higher incomes that now escape Social Security taxation. Besides, if taxing too much for Social Security is a problem, why do the Republicans seem to think that the forever war in Afghanistan is a necessity and a bargain?

Yes, as the Republicans complain, under Larson's bill poorer people would receive more in benefits than they contributed in Social Security taxes. But so what? Social Security is already largely a matter of income redistribution, just as all government itself in a progressive tax framework is redistribution. All private forms of insurance are redistribution, too. But few things government does are as compelling as Social Security.

Only military contractors benefit from Afghanistan. That is income redistribution too but Republicans don't complain about it.

Call Social Security welfare if you want, but it profoundly incentivizes and rewards work, for people earn benefits only through working or their relationship to someone who worked. It is a retirement savings plan and disability insurance policy that cannot fail as long as the United States endures. Larson pointedly asks: "Where in the private sector can you buy this package of benefits that is there for all Americans? You can't. It doesn't exist."

Further, if, as the Larson bill envisions, improved Social Security benefits prevent people from retiring into poverty, money circulating in the economy will increase, because poorer people will spend most of their benefit on necessities. Meanwhile, with fewer people retiring into poverty, fewer people will rely on other welfare benefits.

Of course, details of the Larson bill are arguable, particularly the levels of taxation and benefits. But the aging of the population is expected to make the Social Security Trust Fund insolvent by 2035 if its revenue isn't increased or benefits reduced, and then Social Security will be competing for ordinary appropriations every year with other government functions -- including the usual stupid imperial wars -- even as maintaining the social insurance system should have priority.

There is no disputing the demographics. They will make Social Security insolvent in less than 20 years unless something is done, and doing nothing means cutting benefits even as income inequality worsens. Will that really be the Republican plan?


WHERE ARE THE LIBERALS?: The office of Connecticut Atty. Gen. William Tong says it is working with the U.S. Justice Department's Antitrust Division to review the planned acquisition of United Bank by People's United Bank, which would sharply reduce competition in banking in central Connecticut and western Massachusetts. At least someone is paying attention.

But Governor Lamont and state legislators, even those who portray themselves as liberals, have nothing to say about this consolidation in the banking industry and the loss of many bank branches and hundreds of jobs. The trivialities liberal legislators applaud have little bearing on Connecticut, but preserving economic competition is vital.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Connecticut.

Chris Powell: Journalism and politics are often the same thing

Winston Churchill, long-time journalist

Winston Churchill, long-time journalist

War, Prussian Gen. Carl von Clausewitz wrote, “is politics by other means’. So is journalism. Quinnipiac University journalism professor Ben Bogardus lamented this in an essay published the other day by the Connecticut Mirror, "Stop the Newsroom-to-Government Revolving Door":

But the revolving door can't be stopped, since politics and journalism are both constitutional rights. Besides, their interchangeability is as old as American history.

Bogardus's lament was provoked by the recent appointment of Max Reiss, political reporter for WVIT-TV30 in West Hartford, as Connecticut Gov. Lamont's communications director. Many journalists in Connecticut, Bogardus notes, have transferred between journalism and politics over the years.

"Moves like this," Bogardus writes, "hurt the image of an unbiased press and confirm the suspicion of many on the right that mainstream journalists are left-leaning and inject liberal biases into their reporting."

But most journalists today are left-leaning, and the image of an unbiased press has been false since the invention of movable type. For American newspapers originated as frankly political organs and many great figures in history were both journalists and politicians.

* * *

Alexander Hamilton, Gen. George Washington's top aide during the Revolution, founded The New York Post, was a member of Congress under the Articles of Confederation, a member of the New York state legislature, and then Washington's Treasury secretary.

The New York Times was founded by Henry J. Raymond with legal advertising placed in the newspaper as political patronage by Raymond's friends in the New York legislature. Raymond became a congressman and Republican national chairman.

Abraham Lincoln wrote editorials for the Illinois State Journal, a Republican paper, while his rival in the 1858 U.S. Senate and 1860 presidential elections, Stephen A. Douglas, wrote them for the Illinois State Register, a Democratic paper.

Horace Greeley gained such renown as editor of the New York Tribune that the Democratic Party nominated him for president in 1872.

William Jennings Bryan was editor of the Omaha World-Herald before getting elected to Congress and being nominated three times for president by the Democrats.

Warren G. Harding was editor and publisher of the Marion (Ohio) Star before his election to the U.S. Senate and the presidency as a Republican.

William Randolph Hearst, founder of the Hearst newspaper chain, was elected to Congress and ran unsuccessfully for governor of New York and mayor of New York City.

Here in Connecticut Gideon Welles was founding editor of The Hartford Times and Hartford Evening Press and a Democratic state representative from Glastonbury before becoming a Republican and Lincoln's secretary of the Navy. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and former U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, both Democrats, worked as newspaper reporters before going into politics.

The man who saved Western Civilization itself, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, was a journalist for most of his time in Parliament.

* * *

As the American press consolidated and began to think that more money could be made with less partisanship, it moderated its politics. But that politics didn't disappear; it just became more subtle.

"Reporters," Bogardus writes, "need to realize that, by choosing to enter the profession, they're giving up the ability to be political." Nonsense -- for the selection and placement of every news story are political acts, if only in the broadest sense, since news isn't arithmetic but a human judgment of what reporters and editors consider worth reporting. While Bogardus argues that journalists should be "unbiased," nobody in journalism is, since everyone brings his life experience and political inclinations to his work. The best journalists can do is to try to be fair and report all sides of an issue.

Maintaining that journalists aren't political is only public relations, not ethics as journalists like to pretend.

Journalism, Bogardus argues, "needs to be seen as trustworthy and nonpartisan." But these days the public itself is increasingly untrustworthy and partisan since many people want to read and hear only what they already believe, and many news organizations are obliging. Nobody watches MSNBC for praise of President Trump or Fox News for criticism of him. Nobody reads The Hartford Courant for criticism of political correctness or the Waterbury Republican-American for praise of it.

While Bogardus wants journalism to be trusted, journalism is not a monolith but innumerable daily acts, so it is not to be trusted any more than anything else human is to be. Evaluating journalism is the work of citizenship, requiring attention to an array of sources of information where no one ever has the last word.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.,

Chris Powell: Giving more money to badly governed cities is a waste

The P.T. Barnum Museum, in Bridgeport, named after the 19th Century circus mogul, who lived in that city.

The P.T. Barnum Museum, in Bridgeport, named after the 19th Century circus mogul, who lived in that city.

In recent weeks seven Connecticut news organizations have gotten together in what they have called the Cities Project, examining ways of reviving the state's struggling cities. Much of the reporting has been about raising revenue -- extracting more financial aid from state government; applying property taxes to colleges, hospitals and other nonprofits; allowing cities to impose a sales tax on restaurant meals; and so forth.

It's tedious. For giving cities a lot more money has been state government policy for more than 40 years, ever since the state Supreme Court's decision in the school financing case of Horton v. Meskill, in 1977.

State government now covers half of city government budgets. Last year this policy exploded into extravagant incoherence when the General Assembly more or less accidentally authorized state government to assume more than $500 million in Hartford's long-term bonded debt. This rewarded and reimbursed the city for spending $80 million, despite its insolvency, to build a baseball stadium with which it stole the minor-league team of another struggling city, New Britain.

Better journalism might explore why so little about urban policy in Connecticut has worked since the cities began declining in the 1960s. Despite spending ever more money from both their own tax bases and the state's, the cities are poorer and more dysfunctional, incompetent and corrupt than ever, and their demographics are so desperate that they are hardly capable of self-government, lacking enough of a politically engaged and independent middle class to fend off the government and welfare classes, whose own furious political engagement guarantees their incomes.

Better journalism might ask why welfare policy in Connecticut produces only generational dependence and social disintegration, not self-sufficiency. It might ask why Connecticut's education policy in the cities accomplishes mainly social promotion and ignorance. It might ask why government gives priority to the compensation of its own employees. It might ask why the middle class escaping from the cities and the middle class already living in the suburbs should want this chronic failure extended to them through regionalism.

Policy premises here need to be challenged by journalism, not coddled. For why should anyone think that another 40 years of throwing money at what has failed to restore the cities will work someday? And how do the big thinkers who have presided over this disaster get away with considering themselves enlightened instead of culpable?

The tragedy of Connecticut's cities is metaphorically conveyed by a 15-minute video made last September and highlighted the other day by Only in Bridgeport blogger Lennie Grimaldi. The video, made to promote a now-stalled redevelopment proposal for the city's downtown, shows the Greater Bridgeport Symphony Orchestra playing British composer Vaughn Williams' ethereal "The Lark Ascending" in the decrepit former Palace Theater.

The orchestra's performance is magnificent and the video gently contrasts it with the theater's moldy walls and crumbling ceilings, thereby hinting at the Bridgeport that once was and might be again. Amid the frequent shootings in the city, it is hard to imagine, but there it is: a tremendous symphony orchestra with Bridgeport in its name. Within living memory Bridgeport was the industrial capital of Connecticut, but today the factories are empty hulks like the theater.

Great talent and potential remain here but there is only an echo of civic virtue. Weep for it now that government in Connecticut makes sure to succeed only with its own salaries and pensions.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Conn.

Chris Powell: Illegals come to U.S. border knowing they may well get in and stay

U.S. Border Patrol agents review documents of individuals suspected of attempted illegal entry this year.

U.S. Border Patrol agents review documents of individuals suspected of attempted illegal entry this year.

Illegal immigrants to the United States do not come only from Central America. Increasingly they come from all over the world, and as the Reuters news agency reported last week, even from Africa. People are flying from Africa to South America and trudging thousands of miles through jungles, across rivers, and over mountains to sneak across the U.S. border or to present themselves at a port of entry and ask for asylum.

This is not just because life in their native countries is so dangerous, oppressive, or without opportunity. As Reuters reported, it is also -- and essentially -- because they know that if they survive the journey they have a good chance of admittance. They know that the countries they transit won't send them back because it would be expensive and because they are not staying there. Some bring their families because they know that adults accompanied by children are usually admitted to the United States after being given a summons to an immigration court proceeding weeks hence.

Of course hardly anyone so summoned ever shows up. Most disappear into "sanctuary" cities or states.

What is decisive here is the confidence that the United States will not enforce any immigration law, that in effect the country has open borders. The country also has states, like Connecticut, that provide illegal immigrants with identification documents, driver's licenses, college tuition discounts, and other assistance and obstruct their deportation if they break immigration law long enough. California now offers illegal immigrants free medical insurance as well.

The detention centers in which some illegal immigrants are being held have been likened to concentration camps, but they are no deterrent, for most people entering the country illegally are not held there. Most get through.

These people are not to be disparaged or vilified as President Trump has done. Their courage and initiative are admirable, the circumstances they leave behind pathetic or even terrifying. But most are economic refugees for whom asylum claims are bogus, even if most immigration here long has been economic.

Border enforcement is the definition of a country and open borders are the end of any country. So the first objective of immigration policy must be to regain control of the borders. Unfortunately the crudeness of the president, a Republican, seems to have driven many Democrats to oppose him on border control.

Last week House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a Democratic campaign to thwart immigration enforcement even against people who long have been defying deportation orders. The Democratic position is that anyone who gets into the country illegally, makes it to a "sanctuary" city or state, and stays there long enough should be above the law, and last week Connecticut U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal actually introduced legislation to that effect. Many Democrats also argue that states should nullify federal immigration law as some states did years ago to nullify federal civil rights law.

If its border was controlled again the United States still would have an extremely liberal immigration policy -- as in the name of humanity and the country's principles it [ITALICS] should [END ITALICS] have a liberal policy, not the skills-based policy advocated by the president.

But the recent hardships, cruelty, injury, and death inflicted on immigrants lately are not Trump's fault but the fault of open borders.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

Chris Powell: Looking for a freedom-of-information hero in Conn.


At its annual meeting the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information usually presents an award to a public official who has performed outstanding service to the right to know in the past year. But no such award was presented at the annual meeting a few weeks ago, for the council could not find such a hero.

As reported comprehensively last Sunday by Gabriella DeBenedictis in the Waterbury Republican-American, freedom of information is under attack in Connecticut. Bad as the previous administration was on this issue, Gov. Ned Lamont's administration may be worse, perhaps because the majorities of his party, the Democratic Party, have increased in the General Assembly.

The governor and legislature have just created an agency to disburse as much as $300 million to public education programs, at least $100 million of it state government money, while exempting the agency from freedom-of-information and ethics laws. The agency was prompted by a gift of $100 million from billionaire fund manager Ray Dalio and his wife, Barbara, a sum that has been matched by state appropriation. Another $100 million may be raised for the agency from other rich people. Apparently the Dalios requested the exemption from the FOI and ethics laws, though until now rich people in Connecticut somehow have managed to give money away without impairing open government.

With state officials on its board, the agency may operate as a slush fund for political patronage. Not surprisingly, the agency and its exemptions from accountability were enacted as part of the state budget bill without a public hearing.

A few weeks ago the governor signed and the legislature approved a new contract with the state police union that prohibits public access to complaints against troopers if the police administration finds the complaints false or unverifiable. This will facilitate whitewashes and cover-ups. For years a similar provision in the contract for the state university professors union has obstructed journalistic investigation of sexual harassment and other misconduct.

Approving the concealment provision in the state police contract, the governor and legislature signified that they haven't paid attention to the scandals with the professors or else that they place the interest of unionized government employees above the public interest.

Such provisions are possible only because state law authorizes state employee union contracts to supersede freedom-of-information law. Legislative leaders this year refused even to hold a hearing on repealing the supersedence law. Again legislators served the unions instead of the public.

The governor and legislature this year also enacted a law allowing secret arrests in domestic violence cases when both parties are charged. This will facilitate politics and influence peddling during secret resolution of the charges before they reach court and the defendants are identified. Public officials seeking to conceal their own misconduct will find this especially useful.

This year the legislature also failed to pass a bill proposed by state Rep. Michael Winkler, D-Vernon, to prohibit towns from charging $20 to people who want to make their own scans of public documents, avoiding photocopying charges. Town clerks want the extra revenue. They might as well charge admission to Town Hall.

Will Connecticut have a hero of freedom of information next year? It depends on whether more elected officials realize that good government might be good politics too.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

Chris Powell: Overlook subsidy and new rail line looks lovely

A Hartford Line train at the Hartford Station

A Hartford Line train at the Hartford Station

Wonderful as it is now to be able to take the train from Springfield to Hartford to New Haven and back as many as 16 times a day on the Hartford Line, Connecticut Gov . Ned Lamont and other state officials should have been far more realistic this week as they celebrated the railroad's first year of operation.

They noted that ridership has been greater than forecast, the trains are usually on time, passengers are happy, and the service is encouraging commercial and housing development along the line. Connecting with the Metro-North commuter rail system in New Haven, the Hartford Line gives the whole Connecticut Valley up to the Springfield area much more convenient access to New York, eliminating the need to drive a car into the city. This will increase the region's quality of life generally.

What the governor and his colleagues overlooked is the Hartford Line's enormous cost, and not just the infrastructure expense of restoring the double tracking and the stations along the line, estimated at $769 million in state and federal capital. Right or wrong, that money is already spent. Of greater concern is the railroad's operating expense, which the state Transportation Department reports at $43.9 million annually. Passenger fares are low, $13 or less one way, and the department says they have produced only $7.2 million on an annual basis, leaving a $36.7 million shortfall to be covered every year by state government.

Divided by the first year's 634,000 passengers, the Hartford Line is enjoying a taxpayer subsidy of nearly $59 per trip.

A bus ticket between any of the railroad's three main cities costs less than a third as much as the railroad's total cost for a passenger, and in some circumstances even a taxi's cost is less.

Travel by train is usually more pleasant and reliable than travel by buses and taxis, since the train avoids traffic congestion. But for those who want to work as they travel, long-distance buses typically have wireless internet service, while the Hartford Line doesn't.

So evaluating the Hartford Line requires evaluating not just the fun and novelty of the journey but, much more so, the taxpayer subsidy. Of course all transportation is subsidized by taxpayers, since the government builds and maintains the highways and airports and operates the air-traffic control system, not just passenger railroads. Further, in densely populated areas, like Connecticut's shoreline from New Haven to New York, without the railroad, which is overwhelmingly used by commuters, the highways would be impossibly crowded. Indeed, they often are already.

While $59 in state subsidy per ride may be justified to draw interest to the Hartford Line at the outset, for the long term it will be appalling. Growth in ridership may reduce the subsidy slightly, and the imposition of tolls on Interstate 91 may boost ridership. The Hartford Line's fares should be raised soon. But at best the line will be the longest of long-term infrastructure investments for Connecticut.

With its tens of billions of dollars of unfunded long-term liabilities, can Connecticut really afford the Hartford Line, or any infrastructure improvements? Of course not. Indeed, the state can't afford those unfunded liabilities either, and now the Hartford Line itself is another one. Celebrating the railroad last week the governor and those who joined him showed mainly that they're not yet serious about Connecticut's ride to insolvency.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

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Chris Powell: Pandering with courses; local nullification of immigration law


Year after year most Connecticut high school seniors are graduated and given diplomas without ever mastering high school math and English, and year after year most of those who are admitted to a community college or a regional state university have to take remedial high school courses. The problem is social promotion.

So what did the General Assembly do about public education in its session just concluded? Both houses appropriated more money for teacher salaries (called "aid to education"). They both passed legislation requiring high schools to offer a course in African-American and Latino history. The House passed a bill that would have required elementary schools to teach climate change.

State Sen. Douglas McCrory, D-Hartford, argued that minority students are discouraged in school by the supposed lack of attention to the history of their ethnic groups. But what of the discouragement they may suffer when they discover that they haven't learned to read and do math at an adult level?

As for the climate change bill, introduced by state Rep. Christine Palm, D-Chester, state Education Department standards already called for incorporating the subject in science curriculums, making the bill unnecessary. Further, this subject too can hardly be mastered if reading and math aren't mastered first.

Of course the objective of these bills wasn't to teach students anything but to let legislators strike politically correct poses and pander. After all, what legislator would be re-elected if he told his constituents that their kids are goofing off in school and if he scolded their teachers that they should stop being silent about it?

* * *

WHAT 'PRIORITY' FOR DEPORTATION?: Maybe it would be too punitive to deport Sujitno Sajuti back to Indonesia. Sajuti, 70, had been living in West Hartford but for 19 months until last week he claimed sanctuary in a church in Meriden because federal immigration authorities had told him to leave the country. Now, because many years ago he was the victim of an assault in Hartford, Sajuti has been granted a waiver and can stay indefinitely.

But the protests by Sajuti's supporters that he is the victim of the excessive zeal of the immigration authorities are also too much.

State Atty. Gen. William Tong declared, "There is something horribly broken with our immigration system when this 70-year-old man who has lived peacefully here for three decades was deemed a priority for deportation."

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal called Sajuti "a man who spent decades in this country causing nobody any harm, doing nothing wrong, committing no violations of law."

A priority for deportation? No violations of law? But Sajuti has been living in the United States illegally for nearly 25 years after overstaying a visa.

Tong and Blumenthal imply that there should be no consequences for violating immigration law, that if one breaks it long enough, it should be forgotten -- and the news reporters who quoted them failed to ask them about that.

Nullification of federal immigration law and open borders seem to be state government's policy now that the General Assembly and Governor Lamont have enacted a law forbidding municipal authorities from cooperating with immigration authorities in almost any way.

While the Trump administration is deficient and sometimes hateful, controlling immigration is a crucial function of the federal government, and hindering it is a form of secession.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

Chris Powell: Paid time off isn't what working poor need most


Now that the General Assembly is about to pass legislation that Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont will sign establishing a state agency to arrange paid family leave insurance for all working people in the state, maybe its details will start getting critical examination.

After all, if, as the legislation's advocates say, the working poor can't afford to take time off to care for a sick relative, how well can they afford the half-percent pay cut they will endure with everyone else to finance the insurance program? While the state is raising its minimum wage in phases, even when it reaches $15 an hour or $600 a week in a few years it still won't be nearly enough to support a family, even with paid leave.

The big problem here is that with so many children being born to single women who are qualified only for menial work, family formation is overtaking education and job skills and thus income.

Family leave benefits will be 12 weeks paying as much as 95 percent of regular income for the lowest-paid people, less for higher-paid people. But higher-paid people don't need the insurance at all, since its benefits are limited enough that such people could insure themselves with ordinary savings without the tax increase. Indeed, the paid leave insurance program is mainly income redistribution to the poor, a way of making the state income tax more progressive.

That might have been a fair argument for it but its advocates don't seem to have made it, apparently having meant to fool the non-poor into thinking that they would gain from paid leave too.

Of course not all people paying the new half-percent tax will encounter circumstances allowing them to claim benefits -- unless there is no claim checking or claim checking is so lax that almost any claim is accepted and people come to realize that they can collect by finding or inventing relatives or friends who need care. Administration of the program remains a big question.

As with other forms of insurance, most people, including the working poor, won't need paid family leave very often. But paid leave is far from the insurance most people do need and would use more often if they had it -- that is, better medical insurance. Even many people who have medical insurance face deductibles so high that they defer treatment or are badly damaged financially by getting treatment. While state government provides medical insurance for the indigent and subsidizes it for the working poor, it is often deficient.

That's where all new money to help the working poor should go.

Paid family leave is a triumph of Democratic Party rhetoric that it's "not fair that people should have to choose" -- as between their jobs and caring for sick relatives, between medicine and food, between going to college and paying for college, and so on until it is possible to imagine that everything should be free.

The French economist Frederic Bastiat saw it coming two centuries ago. "Government," he wrote, "is the great fiction by which everybody tries to live at the expense of everybody else." And of course the Democratic Party is the party that can't choose between the social goods it advocates and the endless, stupid, and fantastically expensive war in Afghanistan.

What's really not fair is that Connecticut taxpayers who have only mediocre self-funded retirement plans are on the hook for at least $70 billion in unfunded obligations for the comfortable defined-benefit pensions enjoyed by state and municipal government employees. The governor and Democratic legislators are proposing to run up the pension debt still more. How progressive!

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, vin Manchester, Conn.

Chris Powell: Connecticut's self-destructive income tax and migration problems

On State Street, in the famous sanctuary city of New Haven.

On State Street, in the famous sanctuary city of New Haven.

Last week brought more evidence that Connecticut is paying successful and self-sufficient people to leave and paying poor and dependent people to stay or settle in the state.

The evidence came from Bloomberg News, which analyzed Internal Revenue Service and Census Bureau data about population movement among states in 2015 and 2016. The news service found that population movement was most costly to Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, with Connecticut losing 1.6 percent of its population's annual adjusted gross income. The study found that the average income of people departing Connecticut was $122,000, the average income of people arriving was $97,000, and five people left the state for every four people arriving.

Many arrivals in Connecticut are illegal immigrants settling in the state's "sanctuary cities." They depress the income averages and tend to require government services. Poverty may be a virtue in religion but it is only a handicap in governance, and yet legislation pending in the General Assembly would establish "sanctuary" for illegals in all the state's 169 towns by prohibiting almost any cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

There is much dispute over whether raising Connecticut's taxes on the wealthiest, risking more income migration, would cost more tax revenue than it gained. But the data examined by Bloomberg News show that Connecticut already has plenty to worry about with the flight of its middle and upper-middle classes.

Florida may be the leading destination for people departing Connecticut and other highly taxed and declining states, in large part because Florida has avoided a state income tax. The study found that while Connecticut was losing 1.6 percent of its population's adjusted gross income, Florida was increasing its population's income by 3 percent. The average income of a Connecticut resident moving to Florida appears to be a whopping $253,000, but in recent years many people of all self-sufficient income levels have left Connecticut for the Sunshine State.

Of course Florida isn't heaven. Its mild winters are matched by oppressive summers. Away from the shore, Florida's geography is bland prairie. Florida real estate near the shore is more expensive than most real estate in Connecticut. The bears that increasingly annoy Connecticut's rural and suburban residents are cuddly pets compared to Florida's alligators, Burmese pythons, and year-round insects. Florida's hurricanes do far more damage than Connecticut's snowstorms.

Indeed, Connecticut has many natural advantages -- lovely, varied, but gentle geography, a temperate climate with three pleasant seasons, proximity to New York and Boston, and suburban convenience. But its cities continue to decline and the income-migration data is an indictment of the gross failure of state government policy to improve Connecticut's demographics, to do much more than sustain the government and welfare classes at the expense of the private sector. The more taxes are raised to perpetuate this policy failure, the more the most taxable people depart -- and taxes are about to be raised again.

Progressive taxation is good only insofar as it helps to deliver good government. It is not an end in itself but a means to that end. When it fails to deliver, the people it taxes most may wise up.

The income migration data argues against raising Connecticut's income tax rates as many Democratic state legislators want to do. But it also argues for challenging the premises of much state policy. If state government was improving rather than impoverishing Connecticut, people who pay more taxes might be inclined to stay anyway.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Conn.

Chris Powell: Vaccination objections are not really religious

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Freedom of religion is freedom of belief and expression. It is not the freedom to do anything one pleases, though lately claims of religious freedom are being used to rationalize more craziness in Connecticut -- the resurgence of dangerous diseases arising from the failure to vaccinate schoolchildren.

That craziness marked a Connecticut General Assembly hearing the other day on whether the religious exemption should be removed from the state's vaccination law, now that the exemption is being claimed much too often.

One woman shrieked that her child would be vaccinated only "over my dead body." But the issue was not her death but the risk of premature death to her child and others.

Defenders of the exemption carried signs reading "My child, my choice," as if state government doesn't spend nearly a billion dollars each year for the care and rehabilitation of children damaged by their parents' terrible choices. No decent society can let children become the mere property of parents.

Another woman said, "God made my body perfect." Really? Has she never had a toothache? She well might reflect on why she never had polio, from whose scourge millions have been saved in the last 60 years thanks to the vaccines devised by Doctors Salk and Sabin.

Objections to vaccination may be based on conscience, personal preference, misapprehension, or ignorance, but to call them religious exaggerates them. At least no organized religion forbids vaccination, not even Christian Science, whose practice has been to submit to vaccination where required by law. Those claiming religious motives make no theological argument.

Indeed, state law doesn't require vaccination for children generally, only for those attending public schools, where risk of contagion is greatest. The parents who were so indignant at the hearing don't have to interpose themselves between their children and the state. Instead they can home-school their kids or enroll them in a private school indifferent to contagion.

People who want to pursue absolute liberty, including liberty to risk the health of children, can try living in the jungle. To enjoy the benefits of society, liberty must respect a few of society's rules. While society lately is being intimidated out of its self-respect, on this point it better hold fast. The religious exemption should go.


TWO FREE CAR THEFTS: Society isn't demonstrating much self-respect with legislation advancing in the General Assembly that purports to address the epidemic of car thefts and joyriding by juveniles.

Under the bill juveniles would not be subject to detention until they had committed their third car theft. While the kids are on their car-theft spree the courts are to provide them with more of the social services that long have failed to deter them, as police lately have reported the arrests of some youngsters for car thefts just days after their arrest and release for previous car thefts.

Now the law formally will tell the kids that their first two car thefts are free. That may be fewer felonies than some kids are already getting away with, but the principle is awful all the same.

The bill also authorizes a study of the causes of the youthful car-theft epidemic, as if nobody knows that it correlates closely with the child neglect and fatherlessness perpetuated by the welfare system.

But since that correlation cannot yet be openly discussed, people will just have to keep their cars locked. The law won't be protecting them any time soon.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Connecticut.

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Chris Powell: Civil rights in conflict


With Connecticut’s state government stumbling along with its usual insolvency and tax hunger, establishing a civil rights division in the attorney general's office does not rank high among Connecticut's needs, despite Atty. Gen. William Tong's advocacy of it.

After all, the era of the systemic violation of basic civil rights of broad classes of people -- racial, ethnic, and religious -- is long gone, even if there always will be individual cases of illegal conduct by employers, landlords, and businesses. The state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities already has jurisdiction over such cases and many lawyers in private practice are always ready to represent the truly oppressed on a contingency basis in lawsuits for financial damages.

Tong seems to be seeking the authorization of statute to apply the weight of state government to the increasing number of controversies where civil rights are in conflict. He already has expressed support for an ordinance in Hartford and proposed legislation to regulate what anti-abortion "pregnancy centers" can tell potential clients, though such facilities are not licensed medical providers but instead mainly exercise freedom of speech, if sometimes advocates of abortion consider them deceptive.

Of course, advocates of abortion have free-speech rights too, but with such ordinances and legislation they seek to silence their adversaries. This silencing is considered politically correct.

Similar controversies are raging in academia, where disagreeable opinion is labeled "hate speech" so it might be obstructed or prohibited. In such controversies at public colleges would Tong's civil rights division intervene to maintain the principle that the First Amendment protects even hateful expression, or would it favor the censors and validate the purported right not to be offended in "safe spaces"?

How about the controversies over transsexuality? Would a civil rights division favor the right of men who want to be women to use women's restrooms, or would it favor the longstanding right of sexual privacy? Would a civil rights division favor the right of men who want to be women to compete in women's athletic events at public schools? Or would it favor the longstanding right of women to have their own events, recognizing the natural athletic advantages of men?

Where would a civil rights division stand on gun rights? It is not generally noticed, but the Declaration of Rights in Connecticut's Constitution is more explicit than the Bill of Rights in the national Constitution in declaring the right to bear arms to be an individual right: "Every citizen has a right to bear arms in defense of himself and the state." (Nothing there requiring membership in a militia.) Yet the attorney general advocates more restrictions on gun ownership.

The primary task of the attorney general's office is to provide advice and representation to state agencies, but state government often is accused of violating the civil rights of its own employees. In such disputes should the attorney general's office really be representing both sides? Of course the internal operations of state government already provide precious little management and defense of the public interest, and Tong long has been allied with the state employee unions, which pretty much control the government workplace.

It's not hard to guess where a civil rights division under Tong would stand in these controversies. Indeed, such a division might be a great mechanism for politically correct posturing by an attorney general pursuing higher office through the Democratic Party.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

Chris Powell: New Haven's biggest problem

New Haven.

New Haven.

Anyone who fears for manufacturing in Connecticut should visit New Haven, where it seems that half the indignation in the country is produced.

The outrage of the moment is what may be a case of mistaken identity last week in which police officers from Hamden and Yale University shot at a car they stopped on Dixwell Avenue in New Haven because it fit the description of a car said to be involved in an attempted armed robbery a mile away in Hamden. A passenger in the car was wounded but no evidence linking the car or its occupants to the robbery has been found. The state's attorney's office and the state police have taken over the investigation.

Horrible as such a mistake by the police here would be, cases of mistaken identity in police work happen all the time and some have far worse results. Some are caused by the negligence of officers, others by devastating coincidence. This one may have been compounded by the officers' lack of judgment if not trigger-happiness.

But because the occupants of the stopped car are black, the protests in New Haven presume without evidence that the incident was part of a nationwide police scheme to murder black people. "No justice, no peace, no racist police," the protesters chant, though the Hamden officer in the incident is black himself and first worked as an officer in New Haven, where he was trained.

The protesters, many of them students at Yale, want the officers fired and prosecuted immediately, before any investigation. That reflects the university's political correctness. They also want the university police disarmed and suburban officers forbidden to pursue criminal suspects into New Haven.

So much for the mandatory regionalism advocated by New Haven Sen. Martin M. Looney. But the rest of the New Haven area might be glad to have less to do with the city if its miserable demographics were not producing so much of the region's crime. Over the weekend prior to the incident on Dixwell Avenue four people were injured in three shootings in New Haven, and even as protesters were chanting away at another rally last Thursday night, a riot broke out at a street party elsewhere in the city, one teenager getting shot and another injured by flying glass.

Of course there were no protests of that violence, since it was typical for New Haven, nor any expressions of sympathy for those assigned by government to protect society against the anarchy of city life. In this respect New Haven is not much worse than Hartford or Bridgeport.

Connecticut does not hold its police to account as well as it should but it has been improving. There are mechanisms for accountability and some recognition that officers in all towns represent the state as a whole. So if Connecticut is really to be a state, the pursuit of violent felons cannot stop at town lines.

So why, despite their worsening demographics, are Connecticut's cities not only largely walled off politically but, as the protests in New Haven show, trying to wall themselves off from due process of law and even law itself? For neither can Connecticut be a state if law in the cities is only a polite fiction.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Conn.

Chris Powell: 'God Bless America' because it can improve itself

Kate Smith in 1948

Kate Smith in 1948

Statue of Kate Smith in Philadelphia, removed this month amid allegations she was racist.

Statue of Kate Smith in Philadelphia, removed this month amid allegations she was racist.

Nothing demonstrates both the political self-satisfaction and the psychological insecurity of the present than the rush to take historical figures out of the context of their time and deny them any fair evaluation. Such is the case with the sudden proscription by the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Flyers of Kate Smith, the popular singer from more than a half century ago whose famous rendition of Irving Berlin’s song "God Bless America" lately was being played at Yankees baseball games and Flyers hockey games.

Smith became prohibitively politically incorrect the other day when it was discovered that in the 1930s she recorded two songs that are being described as racist, which is too harsh.

One song, "That's Why Darkies Were Born," was recorded not just by Smith but also by the black singer and civil rights crusader Paul Robeson. The song is more plausibly construed as expressing sympathy and admiration for black people for refusing to let their brutally unfair burdens crush them spiritually.

The other song, "Pickaninny Heaven," which Smith sang in a movie in 1933, uses that racially derogatory term and racial stereotypes in the course of her consoling black orphans about an afterlife in which they would see their mothers again. The song's stereotypes are awful but its intent was patronizing, not vicious.

While Smith was renowned as "the songbird of the South," she does not seem to have left much of a record in regard to racial issues. But she was a national heroine for providing encouraging music during the Great Depression and then, during World War II, for singing for the troops and helping to sell more war bonds than any other celebrity. So beloved was she that, introducing her to the king and queen of the United Kingdom in 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said, "Miss Smith is America."

President Reagan seems to have more or less concurred, awarding Smith the Medal of Freedom in 1982.

Now all Smith's good work is apparently to be erased and a statue of her that was erected outside the Flyers' arena because she was a fan of the team has been removed as if she had been more politically retrograde than the rest of the country. But presumably the Yankees' and Flyers' box offices and vendors will continue making change with dimes, on which Roosevelt's image remains engraved, though he put U.S. citizens of Japanese descent in internment camps during World War II and was elected president four times with the support of the segregationist South. (At least Roosevelt won the war, thereby defeating a few monstrous tyrannies.)

With Smith's "God Bless America" banished, maybe Yankees and Flyers games will stick to the national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," though its tune is much harder to sing and though its lyrics were written by Francis Scott Key, who, even as he lauded "the land of the free and the home of the brave," owned slaves, just as George Washington and many other Founding Fathers did. Their statues aren't coming down yet.

Where does this politically correct nonsense end? Cannot most people understand that American history especially is part of what is called the ascent of man, the gradual if grossly uneven improvement of moral standards in pursuit of justice? If only the perfect can be honored or even remembered fondly, history has no point.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

Chris Powell: Nursing-home workers have better claim than Stop & Shop's

Stop & Shop’s headquarters, in Quincy, Mass

Stop & Shop’s headquarters, in Quincy, Mass


Are all those Connecticut elected officials who have been joining the picket lines in the strike by the United Food and Commercial Workers union against Stop & Shop experts in the supermarket business? Or are the only numbers that matter to them the numbers of their constituents on strike as compared to the numbers of the supermarket chain's Dutch owners who can vote in Connecticut?

A few days ago U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal boasted that he had told Stop & Shop's president to do better by his employees. But the senator didn't say how he came to that judgment.

The supermarket business is high-volume, low-margin and extremely competitive. Most of its labor is not highly skilled and so is difficult to unionize. Organizing it and keeping it organized as the UFCW has done at Stop & Shop is an achievement.

But that doesn't make the company's contract offer unfair. Not being unionized, the company's competitors enjoy substantial advantages over Stop & Shop and more easily can offer better prices to their customers.

So what does anyone outside the business really know about who is right or wrong in the dispute, or if there is any right or wrong rather than mere self-interest?

Meanwhile, a far more compelling labor dispute is developing in the state.

Workers at 20 nursing homes, members of the New England Health Care Employees Union, are threatening to strike May 1, and their wages and benefits are largely matters of state government appropriation. That's because most nursing-home patients are welfare recipients and what the nursing homes pay their employees is determined mainly by how much state government pays the nursing homes.

The nursing-home workers are not highly skilled either and organizing them is as much a challenge as it is to organize supermarket workers. But the work of nursing home employees, caring for the infirm and disabled, can be much more tedious.

While state government treats its direct employees luxuriously because of their political mobilization, it always has treated the nursing-home workers poorly, controlling patient reimbursements so tightly that raises have been tiny and have badly lagged inflation.

The nursing-home workers union wants state government to appropriate enough for 4 percent raises in each of the next two years. While that may seem high, it is not when averaged with the meager raises of the last decade.

But it would be hard for state government to appropriate such raises for the unionized nursing homes and not for the scores of other homes. So big money is at issue here even as state government faces a budget gap of $1.5 billion or more.

Despite that gap, Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration and the Democratic majority in the General Assembly lately have been approving substantial raises for unionized state employee bargaining units and even approving the unionization of supervisors who should not be unionized at all. Further, the jobs and compensation of all state employees have been guaranteed for years to come by the Malloy administration's infamous long-term contract with the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition.

In these labor issues the nursing home workers are plainly far more deserving. But when fairness requires direct state appropriations for people who are not politically influential, the politicians are not as eager to be photographed.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

Chris Powell: So what if they have contempt for Trump; licensing cats in Conn.


Do journalists need protection from President Trump and his supporters? Connecticut U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal professes to think so.

With two other Democratic members of Congress. New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and California Rep. Eric Swalwell, Blumenthal has introduced what they call the Journalist Protection Act, which would make it a federal crime for "to intentionally cause bodily injury to a journalist affecting interstate or foreign commerce in the course of reporting or in a manner designed to intimidate him or her from newsgathering for a media organization."

Trump certainly is heaping contempt on news organizations, if no more than many news organizations are heaping contempt on him. For purposes of the law it hardly matters who is right, for each side is free to express contempt and even lie about the other short of the very limited actionable forms of libel. While this worsens political polarization and may help people rationalize political violence, there is no need for the Journalist Protection Act. The proposal is just another dreary episode of the political posturing that turns government into a big charade.

Journalists reporting sensitive matters have always been vulnerable to retaliation, but there is no epidemic of assaults on journalists in the United States.

Enacting federal law to criminalize what is already against state law everywhere, as ordinary assault is, would be needed only if a state was refusing to provide equal protection of the law, as segregationist states long failed to protect black people, condoning beatings and lynchings. But there is no evidence that the basic criminal law in any state has been so corrupted by the country's bitter politics that equal protection is in danger.

Besides, constitutional guarantees of free speech and press do not belong exclusively to people making a living from journalism. To the contrary, the right of free expression belongs to [ITALICS] everyone, [END ITALICS] so journalism is not a profession but everyone's [ITALICS] right. [END ITALICS] Journalists neither need nor deserve special protection because [ITALICS] anyone [END ITALICS] can be a journalist at any time. Since the invention of paper and then movable type, journalism always has been relatively easy to attempt, and now, thanks to the internet, everyone can instantly become a journalist with a potentially worldwide audience.

If enacted the Journalist Protection Act will provide no real protection to anyone, but then it's not meant to. It's meant only to remind the Trump haters in Trump-hating states that the bill's sponsors still hate Trump too. They could have said as much in a press release and avoided the expense of drafting legislation.



PREYING ON PETS: As if it's not enough to impose tolls on Connecticut's highways and eliminate a score of sales tax exemptions, legislation has been introduced in the General Assembly to license cats and charge $15 to anyone who adopts a cat or dog from a municipal shelter.

Yes, municipal shelters cost a little money but people who adopt the orphaned creatures save municipal government the expense of caring for them or euthanizing them. The cats-and-dogs bill should be tabled at least until, say, the salary of the president of the University of Connecticut is capped at the salary of the president of the United States, $400,000 a year, and state and municipal employees are no longer paid to stay home on Columbus Day while taxpayers drag themselves to work.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Connecticut.

Chris Powell: In school sports, pretending boys are girls cheats the girls

Trangender Pride Flag.

Trangender Pride Flag.

Two Connecticut high school boys who want to be girls keep winning track meets in the girls division as political correctness keeps trumping fairness. For few people dare to complain about it -- shamefully, not even many parents of female athletes who train hard but may never be recognized as winners as long as athletic conference rules pretend that boys can be girls.

The continued victories of the transsexual runners show that gender is biological and physiological reality, not some mere "social construct," and that males tend to have natural athletic advantages.

There may be no reason to divide some sports leagues into male and female divisions -- skill levels and age may be better ways of organizing leagues to assure the competitiveness of teams -- but for individual achievements, each sex must enjoy its own division if girls and women are to enjoy equal opportunity.

It's a free country and males should be free to present themselves as females and vice versa just as people should be free to live their lives as they choose. That's nobody's business but their own. But those who accept biological and physiological reality have rights, too. Parents especially should start speaking up for them, lest they implicitly teach their daughters to yield to PC intimidation.

* * *

A HOLIDAY FOR DEMOCRATS: Would designating Election Day as a state holiday encourage voter participation? That is nominally the premise of legislation introduced by Sen. Marilyn Moore, D-Bridgeport, but it's wrong.

For designating Election Day as a state holiday will benefit only state and municipal government employees, the foremost constituency of the Democratic Party. State government will have to observe the day off but private-sector employers will not have to do so any more than they have to observe any of the gratuitous state holidays that already benefit only government employees, like Columbus Day and Good Friday.

The Election Day holiday legislation will benefit government employees not just by giving them another paid day off but also by freeing them to work on Election Day in the campaigns of Democratic candidates without having to exchange another paid holiday, as many government employees now do to maintain their control of the party.

Even if the legislation is amended to subtract Columbus Day or Good Friday from the state government holiday list -- which should be done anyway -- designating Election Day as a holiday still will encourage even more government employees to campaign for Democrats on the day of voting.

Thus the bill is just a sneaky form of one-sided public financing of campaigns.

* * *

MURPHY ERASES UK'S BORDERS TOO: In a recent essay Connecticut U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy warned the United Kingdom against leaving the European Union and Americans against encouraging British independence. How ironic that Britain should get such advice from a high official of a country that won its own independence through war against Britain when it was a colonial power.

But the advice is less ironic coming from Murphy. For while Britain voted to leave the E.U. in large part to regain control of its borders and immigration policy, Murphy does not believe that his own country should control its own borders any more than Britain should. No, Murphy believes in "catch and release" for illegal immigrants and "sanctuary" cities and states that nullify federal immigration law.

Loss of control of immigration means a country's dissolution, as the British are figuring out. Will Americans figure it out?

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.