Category Archives: Politix

Bulletin! NYT Publishes Most Confusing Graphic Ever

by Categorized: Politix, press criticism, Uncategorized Date:


This was on Page One of the Times today. If you think you can make sense out of it, more power to you. Here it is in higher resolution.

It does seem like a play the Panthers might run on Sunday.
And here it is, just as circles.
most confusing





At that level, we begin to see the tremendous debt to Calder. Here is the artist’s depiction of voters who could vote for Sanders or Trump, but not Clinton or Cruz.


The Good Cop

by Categorized: Deep thoughts, etc., Politix, Uncategorized Date:

Pope Francis Photo 2
It’s kind of hilarious watching people, including Connecticut’s pols, gear up for the U.S. visit of Pope Francis, the greatest pope of my lifetime, maybe the greatest pope ever.

Note to Eizabeth Esty. It is a double mistake to say: “I am a deep person of faith.” First of all, I think you mean, “I am a person of deep faith.” Second of all, that is the kind of thing persons of genuine deep faith do not compelled to announce about themselves. Consider the exhortation of Jesus in Matthew 6:5.  When politicians start trotting their faith around like a show horse, asking them to explain what they mean in detail is not a gotcha question.

What’s more interesting is the way in which Pope Francis stands in explicit and implicit moral opposition to so many things that are wrong in the U.S. and with the U.S.  I am reminded of Lenny Bruce’s famous routine in which Jesus and Moses show up at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.

Christ says to Moses, “My visit took me to Spanish Harlem where there were forty Puerto Ricans living in one room. What were they doing there when this man”—Lenny pointed to the Cardinal—”has a ring on worth $10,000?”

American bishops, get ready for some questions about how you live — and not just in terms of opulence. Do you live as though you took climate change seriously? Because Francis does.

All Americans should get ready. Francis is — in the best possible way — a Marxist. From the Times:

“I think what he criticizes in the U.S. is the absolute freedom and autonomy of the market,” said the Rev. Juan Carlos Scannone, a professor emeritus of philosophy at Colegio Máximo, a prominent Jesuit college near Buenos Aires. He taught the young Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who would become Francis, as a seminarian and became a friend. “We should admire the U.S.’s democracy and the well-being of its people, but what Bergoglio would criticize is the consumerism: that everything is geared toward consumerism.”

Francis has long been troubled by what some Argentines of his generation call “savage capitalism.” They see the United States as the home of mining companies and agribusinesses that chew up natural resources, as the military power that propped up dictators during the Cold War and as the neighbor that tries to close its border to migrants fleeing hunger and violence.

He has every right to ask us why we’re doing so little about climate change, why our ungenerous refugee policies are so clouded by xenophobia, why we tolerate a system in which our children are 11 times more like to die by guns than their counterparts in developed economies, why we have 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of its prisoners, why we use our bail system to hold poor people in jail without trial, sometimes for years…well, let’s just say he may have a whole lot of righteous and rightful questions.

So all you A-Listers lining up your tickets, try to have a few answers.



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.



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.


The Brightness Control

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

Annie The Musical, (6626178677)The sun will come up tomorrow, and it will be brighter.

That has been the consistent message of the Malloy administration, starting at least as far back as February.  Some spin doctor told Malloy and his troops: keep saying the “brighter” thing.

At times, it has caused public officials to sound like they were doing a treacly light bulb commercial instead of the people’s business. Here is Malloy spokesman Devon Puglia explaning to WNPR (thanks, Diane) why it’s a good thing to gut the library budget. Because brighter!

And in describing the weekend budget deal, Malloy decided to bring on da poetry. You know, some fresh new imagery!

“A brighter tomorrow will start with this budget today,” Malloy said in a statement.


Please bear in mind: it is not tomorrow yet. We’ll let you know when the brightness starts.

Drinking Carrot Juice With Lolita in Tehran

by Categorized: Politix Date:

GlassOfJuice and carrotsToday’s Times: 

“Everybody loves us here,” said Ned Lamont, a digital services entrepreneur and former politician, holding a glass of carrot juice offered by one of his hosts.


“I asked, what about the ‘Death to America’ slogan?” Mr. Lamont said, referring to the phrase that appears on many banners across the country and has long been shouted at public demonstrations. But the cleric responded that the slogan was from a different era. “He told us, ‘This is the new Iran,’ ” Mr. Lamont said. “Such messages are hopeful and different.”

The Husky Hushed Puppy

by Categorized: Politix Date:

Boss Tweed, Thomas NastIf you wanted to set up a situation in which corruption might someday flourish, you couldn’t do much better than the currently shadowy state of the UConn Foundation. By the way, I think we should make a point of using words like that to describe it. In reporting oil spills, pervasive hacks and volcano eruptions, we should always add, “It is impossible to rule out the involvement of the shadowy UConn Foundation.”  UPDATE: Foundation veep Derek Slap, on my show today, said the foundation is far more transparent than people realize. He’s right that you can look at their 990 and at their annual report. You can look at other kinds of balance sheets.  But you can’t see where all their money comes from.

A Keating story today makes clear how difficult it will be to pass an oversight bill this year. Here’s why that’s important.

UConn itself resists normal oversight on construction projects and the hiring of related consultants. Even after the disasters of UConn 2000 nearly ten years ago, in which the university’s contracting process was so sloppy as to pose a real danger to its students, UConn still kept a lot of its independence. 

Given that, I think it’s fair to ask questions about all these donors who supposedly don’t want their contributions to the Foundation to come to light. Why would that be, exactly? Usually, with donors, you can’t write their names big enough on a plaque to make them happy. But an opaque foundation screams out “pay for play opportunity.” As I said on the show today, nobody’s saying that’s happening right now, but it makes it hard to police in the future, if, for example, Sith lords take over the Foundation. 

Now let’s add in UConn’s dissolution of its Alumni Association — or at least its ties to same. Here’s how the President of the Alumni Association described it this week in a letter to members.

… as you are likely aware, the University’s Board of Trustees has voted to approve the consolidation of its alumni relations activities under the umbrella of the [shadowy] UConn Foundation.

If there was any possibility of arguing that the Foundation was a free-standing nonprofit, it vanishes when things like this happen. Slap says it’s free-standing, but the Foundation seems more like an extension of UConn. You can even see here how it sits inside their website. It coordinates and oversees university functions, at the direction (Slap would say “request”) of the Board. (By the way, check out the staff of the Foundation. It’s a small town.)

There’s a compelling public interest in seeing its list of donors right now and asking questions about how that dovetails with who gets what work at UConn. Maybe there’s nothing to see, but these conditions set the table for a banquet of knavery.