Say It’s So, Joe

by Categorized: Politix Date:

I’m not going into a lot of detail here, because it might be my column this week, but why is it so hard for truant politicians to say anything truly redemptive?

Last week, I interviewed Joe Ganim, who is running once again for mayor of Bridgeport, an office he lost in 2003 when a massive corruption scandal took him down and sent him to prison.

Producer Betsy Kaplan had told the Ganim campaign that nothing would be off limits if we did this interview, and they agreed. Ganim waited a long time to apologize for his crimes, but he did it this year on New Year’s Day.  Still, it’s one thing to apologize and another to really own what you did.  That’s what I’m always waiting for, from these guys who get caught: a moment where they really explain what they did and why.

So I pressed Ganim a number of times and in a number of ways. He began very unpromisingly with the  classic “mistakes were made” formulation. Who even tries that in 2015? After a few other feints that failed to advance the topic very much, I asked him what he tells his son about what he did. His son was traveling with him that day and seemed like a nice kid. I asked Ganim in particular how he prepares his son for avoiding the kind of mistakes he, the father, made. I got nothing.

I know that he held back partly because he worries about his opponent, incumbent mayor Bill Finch, taking the audio and editing it to make him look as bad as possible. But it felt like more than that. I didn’t get the sense that Ganim has a version of the narrative that goes: “I look back at that guy and barely recognize him as me. He’s greedy and entitled. I went to prison for seven years, and I lost everything in the process. But I deserved it for what I did. Here’s how I see things now …”

He can’t do that. Neither could John Rowland. (I always thought Rowland’s radio show would have been great if his past as a rogue and a rascal was part of the regular chatter, the way Don Imus has been taunted by his on-air confederates for years about his days and nights as an addict. Instead, Rowland insisted on being treated reverentially and addressed as “Guv,” with no mention ever of his criminal past.)

They can’t tell a story they don’t know. I’m sure Ganim thought I was hounding him. That wasn’t my intention. I was opening a door I think he needs to walk through, both as a human being and a politician trying to reacquire the trust of the voters. But I don’t think he knows the story about how he turned into a bad guy and betrayed his city. So he can’t ever really apologize for it and mean it. 






The Trump Straw Man

by Categorized: Politix, Uncategorized, Year in Review Date:

Donald Trump hair from above and behindSupporters of the Democratic Party in Connecticut received an email this week, ostensibly from new party chairman Nick Balletto. Balletto has been a pleasant surprise so far, offering up gentlemanly words upon the resignation of his opposite number Jerry Labriola and moving swiftly and sensibly to change the name of the party’s annual dinner. That makes me doubt that he had much to do with this very stupid email

Donald Trump is the classiest, most luxurious Presidential candidate of all time (just ask him).

His brand has risen him to the top of the polls, and now Trump-brand Republican candidates are running for office across Connecticut to control our towns, cities, and communities.

Add your name to help us defeat Trump-brand Republican candidates in Connecticut — we need to mount an effort starting TODAY to elect Democrats across the state >>

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want guys like Donald Trump running my city.

Sign up before midnight TONIGHT to kick these ReTRUMPlicans to the curb in November.


Nick Balletto

Setting aside its garbled English, this communication makes no sense at all. Here is a list of contestable mayor’s races. Can you spot one where a Republican candidate who resembles Trump is running? Even though I can’t claim much knowledge of many of these towns, I doubt there are any “guys like Donald Trump” in play, and if there are, the Democrats should name them instead of misting everybody with their spray bottle of bogeymen.

I’m sure there was a national memo sent out: for the immediate future, tar your Republican rivals with the stickiness of Trump, whether it makes the slightest bit of sense or not. I do understand this is politics. I do understand that the Republicans, for their part, have spent seven years slinging around the notion that Barack Obama — a Democrat who has mostly been egregiously pro-business and heart-sinkingly in the thrall of Wall Street, capitalism and big banks — is a socialist.

So nobody ought to expect fair play from either side. How about plausibility? Obama is no socialist, and Roy Zartarian, the Republican candidate for mayor of Newington, is nothing like Donald Trump. Probably. I don’t really know, but I promise to watch him carefully for signs.

Mr. Balletto, you have an office full of bros and frat boys. If you do not keep a close watch on them, they will make you look like an idiot. Maybe even a “Trump-brand” idiot. Whatever that is.


Two Stories of Linguistic Foolery

by Categorized: Politix, Words and phrases Date:

McCarthy Cohn
My day began with an annoying email, and I was not yet fully caffeinated.

Someone named Jim Macdonald wrote to “correct” the headline and perhaps other usages in today’s column.  He wrote

It’s the “Democrat” machine, not Democratic.

I am familiar with this particular form of silliness. Limbaugh does it a lot. I was not familiar with the allegation that Tailgunner Joe McCarthy invented it. The whole idea is not to let Democrats use the word “Democratic” about themselves. I tried to explain to Mr. Macdonald why this was a time-wasting argument, and he wrote back.

Since this is a republic, not a democracy, why do you want to call Democrats, democratic?    Democrat is a party, democratic is a word.
They want us to believe that they are more governmental and generic.

Sigh. Let me try again. Mr. Macdonald does not know what proper nouns and adjectives are. I considered illustrating this with his own name. Let us imagine that I believed the only proper rendering of his name was MacDonald. I would still have no right to render his name as I saw fit. His name is a proper name. It can’t be tampered with. Similarly, Democratic National Convention, Democratic Party, Democratic Town Committee are all proper names. One cannot (reasonably) change them to suit one’s purposes. The distinction, Mr. Macdonald, is not between “Democratic” and “Democrat” but between “Democratic” and “democratic.”

Also, “Democrat” is not really a viable adjective. The only reason to use it that way is to score points. Which is fine. But then don’t tell me I’ve erred by not adopting your practice.

A useful parallel might be “catholic” and “Catholic.” The first is a word with a meaning. The second is a proper noun and/or adjective. Even if I think the Roman Catholic church is not catholic, I am not not allowed to start calling it something else or twisting its form around to better suit my truth.


To prove I am nonpartisan about these matters, let me point out a faulty usage from a Democrat. The state Democratic Central Committee sent out a stupid email to rally the troops. It’s so bad that I’m going to need a separate post  to try and convict it, but one infelicitous line clanked against the (symbolic and cymbalic) eardrums. “[Trump’s] brand has risen him to the top of the polls …”

The writer — allegedly state chairman Nick Balletto but actually some tin-eared minion — has missed the rise/raise distinction. Or does not know how to conjugate “raise.” The zombies have risen from the dead, but Trump’s brand has raised him to the top of the polls, not that I would willingly write that particular sentence. Perhaps: “Trump’s steady expulsion of hot air has had the peculiar effect of making him rise in the polls.”

I hope this helps.


City of Hartford: Jedi Masters Need Not Apply

by Categorized: Politix, Uncategorized Date:

lukeIt seems likely — maybe even inevitable — that the Democratic Town Committee will endorse Luke Bronin for Mayor of Hartford tonight, and, with each new development in the story of the 2015 campaign, it becomes more and more difficult to see how the incumbent mayor Pedro Segarra can win his primary.

Even so, that has not stopped Jonathan Pelto, a blogger in eastern Connecticut, from launching an overheated attack on Bronin. You can read it here.  Some of it’s unfair. Some of it’s silly. Some of it might make a little sense under different circumstances.

The unfair part is the suggestion that Bronin has been in Hartford for only two years. By the time you click on the link that may have changed. I suggested to Pelto that he correct it. Pelto has been flyspecking Bronin’s LinkedIn listing. Bronin’s residency in Hartford has been off and on, starting with his arrival in 2005 to work on the first (and unsuccessful) Malloy gubernatorial campaign. Luke  lived in Hartford from 2006 to 2008, and then started zooming off to India, Afghanistan and D.C., doing impressive things, while his wife Sara held down the fort back here. (She has been a professor at the UConn law school since 2006 and has served on and/or chaired a whole bunch of Hartford commissions and panels during that time. She’d be a great mayor, but apparently that’s not an option.) While he worked in D.C., they were renovating their brownstone on Elm Street — a renovation for which they (well, Sara, really) won an award.  By 2012, Luke seems to have been back in town. So he’s been on site for five or so of the last ten or so years. The Bronins are a little different from you and me. They are almost dauntingly high-achievement-focused, and if some of their goals involve  commuter marriage periods, that’s OK with them.

It’s not an ideal timeline, if you believe your mayor should be a fully committed homeboy, but maybe we have to acknowledge that it’s 2015 and that some of America’s more dynamic people are a tad less sedentary.

It’s notable that the type of critique Pelto is making — that Bronin is a rich, over-qualified carpetbagger who hasn’t paid his dues and is using this office as a stepping stone — was made implicitly and explicitly by the campaigns of two of his former rivals, John Gale and Bob Killian Jr., both of whom eventually dropped out and endorsed Bronin.

UPDATE/CORRECTION: I overreached in the wording of the previous paragraph.  Neither Gale nor Killian was explicit about that. What I should have said was that supporters of both candidates tended to go after Bronin’s dilettante status, in pretty much the same language that Segarra and Cruz supporters now use. 

The fairest criticism — and it does worry me a little — is that “stepping stone” thing. You can see now New Haven really benefited from the 132-year reign of John Destefano. A forceful leader with real visions can get a lot done …if he has the time. (I realize there are downsides. Pace, Mr. Bass.) If Luke is a one-and-done mayor, Hartford’s progress will be limited. And yes, Mr. Pelto, Bronin is ambitious. They all are. They all think they’re going to be president. If you imagine that Chris Murphy has not thought carefully and on many occasions about what he will say in his First Inaugural Address, you’re kidding yourself.

What renders the whole conversation moot is that Hartford has almost no choice at all except for Bronin. Pedro Segarra has been the city’s mayor since June of 2010. He’s a nice man, but he’s a terrible manager. Managing usually boils down to two things. You have to pick the right people, and then you have to hold them to your standards. Segarra can’t do either.  The rhythm track of his five years has been dysfunction, dysfunction, dysfunction. Some problems lie with the city itself, and some lie with its government. Segarra’s time in office has seen too much of the latter. The government is, quite apart from all the ills that plague Hartford, a problem.

So, when Bronin “should” have been living in Hartford, he was working for the Treasury Department addressing the financing of terrorism or in Kabul addressing corruption?  And he’s actually downplayed some of his sterling academic credentials?

I think we can live with that.



CT’s Dumbest Secret Society: The Hartford Democrats

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

Tomorrow night, the Democrats of Hartford will meet to endorse a candidate for mayor. Perhaps you’d like to learn more about it from their website.

What’s that? You don’t see anything? Maybe you should click on “upcoming events.” Total blankness, you say? How about news? Isn’t there a link to news? Uh-oh.  It looks like they only ever posted one item. Five years ago!  And do make sure you click that Elected Officials link, which includes Kelvin Roldan, Marie Kirkley-Bey and Hector Robles, people who have not been in office since 2012.

That doesn’t prove they suck.  Websites are kind of old school. Maybe they use social media, like Facebook!  Say what? Nobody has posted anything there since 2013?  What a shame.

Maybe they’re on Twitter.  Could they be on Twitter?

No? I guess they’re not interested in communicating with you or suggesting that Hartford is anything other than the lazy, second-rate, incompetent, leave-it-to-somebody-else city that it needs so badly not to be.

The Imperial Times

by Categorized: Politix, press criticism Date:

Ted Cruz (7004384226)

[Gage Skidmore photo]

Knowing my politics, you might not expect me to side with Ted Cruz against the New York Times, but I’m on his side in their current beef. 

Not that Cruz needs my sympathy. This couldn’t possibly have worked out better for him in terms of Republican street cred, public attention and book sales. He’s in a highly visible fight with the Times, and he’s winning.

One aspect of the Times behavior is especially execrable. It’s something they do a lot: fall back on a weak argument for keeping their own information private. After the Jayson Blair scandal, the Times made a lot of noise about cutting back on the use of anonymous sources.  But instead of doing this, they came up with ever-more ridiculous reasons for not coughing up that kind of info

In this instance, they have essentially accused Cruz of a dishonest act: making secretive bulk purchases to boost his book in the sales rankings. When you accuse somebody of something like that, you had better be ready to provide hard proof. Instead, here’s what we get from their spokesperson:

We aren’t going to discuss the details of how we do our analysis, since the whole point is to try to minimize the possibility that people can manipulate the numbers.

That’s just despicable and pretty typical.


Today’s Best Actual Radio Guest Pitch

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

NewsMax Hollywood Reporter/Legal Analyst James Hirsen is available for interviews on the top entertainment, political and legal stories of the day.
Ariana Grande performs in the World Wide Day of Play 2013 PETER DZUBAY

Ariana Grande and the Law
By James Hirsen
Ariana Grande has been on a career roll. She has enjoyed a string of chart-topping hits, accrued a huge fan base, and secured a starring role in a high-profile television show, which is set to air soon. All of her success aside, the pop singer may now have caused irreparable damage to her brand, and in the process, earned herself a serious rap sheet.
CALL or e-mail Sandy to schedule interviews with James Hirsen.
In our ultra-technologically advanced society, most people realize that public places are, more often than not, under surveillance 24/7. However, in a single visit to a Southern California donut shop, Grande somehow let that factoid slip her celebrity mind. She and boyfriend-backup dancer Ricky Alvarez maliciously tried to hurt people by contaminating with their saliva some of the confections that were within their reach in the shop. Additionally, Grande made derogatory comments about America and Americans. The disgusting behavior and offensive remarks were captured on video and splattered across the Internet.
As the terrible story of Grande’s misadventures was going viral, some celebrities were weighing-in via their social media sites. The most irresponsible statement came from actress Susan Sarandon, who recklessly called for others to engage in the same deleterious behavior. “Today, lick a doughnut in solidarity with @ArianaGrande. A sweet, talented, true American,” Sarandon posted on her Twitter page. Criminal behavior is what Grande and her boyfriend perpetrated, and criminal behavior is what Sarandon encouraged Twitter followers to replicate.
Section 242 of the California Penal Code defines a criminal battery as “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another,” and section 243 of the code makes the crime punishable by up to a $2,000 fine and/or up to six months in jail. Placing one’s bodily fluid on a food item that is highly likely to be consumed by another person is clearly criminal battery under California law, and the local police are acting accordingly. Police personnel, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, met with the owner of the donut shop to investigate “a report of deliberate food tampering.” The surveillance footage from the donut shop should provide local authorities with the evidence they need to carry out their law enforcement duties, and if justice prevails Grande and her boyfriend will ultimately be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

James Hirsen, J.D., M.A. is a New York Times best-selling author, commentator, media analyst and law professor. He is admitted to practice in the U.S. Supreme Court and has made several appearances there on various landmark decisions. Hirsen is the co-founder and Chief Legal Counsel for, a legal think tank and educational institute for the study of law in the media

Super Tuesday (for Racially Charged Instant Bestsellers)

by Categorized: books, Uncategorized Date:

I would not have guessed, 12 months ago, that race in America would be the compelling subject it has been. Perhaps, as a journalist, I notice it more. I’m doing more shows about race and writing about it more, but I think all of us know we’re living through something unusual — maybe even more unusual (and certainly more disturbing) than 2008 and the election of Barack Obama.

So Tuesday will be an interesting day in publishing. Random House decided (see above) that it would be crazy not to move up the publication of the new Ta-Nahesi Coates book, a meditation on race that so moved Toni Morrison that she anointed Coates as the writer who fills the void left by James Baldwin’s death.

But Tuesday is also the pub date for the new-old Harper Lee novel, which the bookselling industry is attempting to ratchet up into a Harry Potter-type event. Barnes and Nobles will open two hours early on Tuesday, and people will pick up their reserved copies. Will they get in line dressed as Boo Radley?  We do not know.

What makes this an odd convergence — and therefore the thrust of my radio show today — is that the Lee novel is considerably more racially charged than her fans might have expected. Written before “To Kill a Mockingbird,” its rough draft of Atticus Finch is apparently not as the justice-dispensing lovable titan we met in the American classic she eventually wrote. This Atticus is narrow-minded, resistant to change and dismissive of Southern blacks.

For the record, I would argue that this is almost no contradiction at all and that it, in fact, makes Finch the perfect embodiment of a basic contradiction in the American spirit. Our nation was founded on lofty rhetoric about all men being created equal while we kept black men in chains and drove “red” men off their lands. And that’s Atticus. I wish I were the first to notice this, but this Gladwell piece in 2009 notes that Atticus’s vision of justice is mostly close-up and personal. He doesn’t mind taking big risks to avert what he considers a gross miscarriage, but he doesn’t really question the system.

In “Mockingbird,” all’s well that ends well. One senses that the Finch family is ready to return to what Coates calls the white Dream “organized around pot roasts, blueberry pies, fireworks, ice cream sundaes, immaculate bathrooms, and small toy trucks that were loosed in wooded backyards with streams and glens.” To live in the Dream is never to question, he writes, “the scale of theft that enriched them in slavery; the terror that allowed them, for a century, to pilfer the vote; the segregationist policy that gave them their suburbs. They have forgotten, because to remember would tumble them out of the beautiful Dream and force them to live down here with us, down here in the world.”

In a separate way, I’m fascinated by the preemptive freak-out about Atticus. The way people are talking about (what they see as) the inconsistencies raises almost Pirandellian questions about the relationship among literary character, author and audience. The hard-headed part of me says that Atticus does not exist and never existed and that his appearance — in this way or that — on a printed page is a simple authorial act.  But of course, he does exist in the hearts and imaginations of millions of readers, which is why this (alleged) transmutation is so hard on folks.

We’ll talk about both books on the show today. harper coates


Best Right Wing Jackass Sore Loser Radio Pitch of the Day

by Categorized: Year in Review Date:
Was Supreme Court Justice Roberts Blackmailed?

By Wayne Allyn Root


It’s time to start asking the question. It’s time to be cynical. It’s time to assume the worst of this government. Has Supreme Court Justice John Roberts been blackmailed or intimidated? I would put nothing by the Obama administration that lives and rules by the Chicago thug playbook.


CALL 516-735-5468 or e-mail Sandy to schedule interviews with Wayne Allyn Root.


Is the idea implausible that this same Obama administration that orders IRS attacks, then orders destruction of key evidence, would stop at nothing to save Obama’s signature achievement? Is it impossible to believe that Obama and his socialist cabal that learned from Saul Alinsky that “the ends justify the means” would hold something over a Supreme Court justice’s head? It’s time to ask the question loudly and boldly because something is clearly wrong in Washington, D.C.


Is that the purpose of government agencies like the IRS and the NSA that are abusing our rights – to listen to us, to watch us, to find something we’ve done wrong, and then use it to intimidate, harass, threaten or extort key political figures so that Obama can “fundamentally change America?”

The Nose Has Two Front Holes

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

I’m tardy in preparing for tomorrow’s Nose culture panel which will feature Theresa Cramer, James Hanley and Irene Papoulis. I’ve had a very busy week, and the panel started batting their own topic choices around.

They got especially revved up about this article objecting to the way people (and by people I mean of course Caitlyn Jenner and Larry Summers) suggest that the brain has either male or female wiring.

“You can’t pick up a brain and say ‘that’s a girl’s brain’ or ‘that’s a boy’s brain,’ ” Gina Rippon, a neuroscientist at Britain’s Aston University, toldThe Telegraph last year. The differences between male and female brains are caused by the “drip, drip, drip” of the gendered environment, she said.

I had a hard time with this article because it kept using “gendered,” a word I hate and am convinced does not really exist. I’m also a little wary of it because last week’s Nose totally got its Caitlyn on.On the other hand, I can see where it goes new places, because vaginas!

Let me get this right: The word “vagina” is exclusionary and offers an extremely narrow perspective on womanhood, so the 3.5 billion of us who have vaginas, along with the trans people who want them, should describe ours with the politically correct terminology trans activists are pushing on us: “front hole” or “internal genitalia”?

Is it just me or is the next Meghan Trainor hit song sitting right there in that sentence?

There have been rebuttals. (I don’t like it when the pieces keep getting longer.) So should we talk about this? Think about it while I watch this.


Ooh, wait. Could I tie Burkett into this piece about why the bros in the “Entourage” movie seem outdated and diorama-worthy?

Like it or not, awareness is in. It’s not that bros have disappeared, but it’s no longer possible to swagger your way to widespread success fueled on testosterone alone. The successful bros—the Chris Pratts, the Channing Tatums, the Zac Efrons—are successful because of their sensitivities, not in spite of them.

Me, I noticed a repeated trope:  “I’m breaking up with my Fitbit/Apple Watch/ Ring of Power.” Google some version of that, and you’ll see what I mean. When people ditch that stuff, they use the phrase “break up.”  (I stole the LOTR reference from this nifty piece of writing.)

That was also when the Fitbit left its role as just a fitness tracker and a Bentham-like device with which we could see who was walking the dog and who wasn’t. It became an eye of Sauron of sorts, if Sauron cared whether your beagle got her daily exercise.

And here’s the Apple Watch version. 

First everyone wanted to know about it. Then they wanted to try it. Then they made certain assumptions about me.

Which, frankly, I would have made about any woman like myself walking around with a big black box on her arm.

She had a lot of other objections, all of which totally convinced me. Anyway, I’m mainly intrigued by the “breaking up” trope.  We have reached the moment of entering into relationships with machines. People never broke up with their TVs.  They stopped watching them.

Now what? Well, ordinarily, I would say the McKinney TX story has dragged on too long to work on the Nose, but I do like breaking off the part of it that is the swimming pool .

Every part of this incident—from the setting of a private pool in a predominantly white suburb to the angry neighbors and eventual violence—is informed by this fraught history of race and swimming. Whether they realize it or not, each participant—from the kids to the residents to the police—was playing an old part in an even older story of anger and confrontation.

It’s why all of our halcyon attachment to summer seems a little class-specific. Summer sucks if you’re poor and if you can’t cool off. It’s also why a high percentage of black Americans don’t learn how to swim. Because there’s Jim Crow and Jim Fish.

For decades, white swimmers feared sharing a beach with black people because they worried about catching disease, yet hired blacks to cook their food or nurse their children. Mr. Thurmond rallied against race mixing and yet, after his death, it was revealed that he had a daughter with a black woman who had worked in his family’s home. There’s a strange intimacy in racism, and water exposes the inevitability of this intimacy. Water touches me, then touches you.

I do think the image of the girl in the bathing suit will be iconic.casebolt-mckinney-arrest





This will not be on the Nose, but I just want to say goodbye to kuru. It was a thing I knew about, and now it is mercifully ending. We’ll always have scrapie. I mean, not me personally. I do not have scrapie.Sheep-scrapie2

I dunno. I feel we’re still a few bricks shy of a Nose. What topics are we missing?