Category Archives: Uncategorized

Robin Hood, Packing

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

I’m going to reserve judgment.

I’m not going to call this the lunatic bill of the 2015 session. Not yet. There’s a lot I don’t understand about this, I’m sure. But it sounds like a Daryl Dixon and Sarah Palin blind date. (Unless you buy into the whole thing about Daryl maybe being gay.)

It does raise a bunch of questions, starting with: what predators are we talking about? We don’t — officially speaking — have mountain lions or wolves. Except in North Stonington. Black bears? You’re going to drop your bow and bust off a cap in a black bear? Zombies? Is this about zombies?

Anyway, I always thought the whole idea of bowhunting was to even the playing field, a little.

walking-dead-daryl

The First Family of Aggression

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

You really have wonder what kind of person says this from the stage  on Inauguration Day:

The most emotional moments of the inaugural ceremonies came not from Malloy but from his wife, Catherine Lambert Malloy. “My kids are going to be freaked out if I start crying,” she said at the start of her remarks, which included a quick “campaign commercial” that she didn’t get to do during the actual campaign. “Unlike the other guy,” Connecticut’s first lady said, “he’s got a plan.”

I’m no big fan of Tom Foley, but that’s a cheap shot under the most inappropriate of circumstances. The mood of this day — even among people who are probably going to be brawling on the ice come April — was otherwise noble and conciliatory.  I was especially –well, “moved” is not the right word — impressed by the fuss the House Democrats made over the new Republican minority leader Themis Klarides. Her opposite, majority leader Joe Aresimowicz, went on at some length about how much he valued her friendship and their working relationship. Time will take care of that, but it’s the right way to act on swearing-in day.

Never remember anybody kicking a vanquished opponent from the inaugural stage. Let’s nip this new tradition in the bud. What is wrong with these people?

Cathy and Dannel Malloy kiss as they enter the House Chambers before Malloy delivered his State of the State Address. (Mark Mirko)

Cathy and Dannel Malloy kiss as they enter the House Chambers before Malloy delivered his State of the State Address. (Mark Mirko)

Turner-Turing

by Categorized: Moon Pitchers, Uncategorized Date:

mrturner THE IMITATION GAME“The Imitation Game” does not trust us to love a movie about its subject — the sad, brilliant, socially stunted mathematician Alan Turing. As the film tumbles along, you can feel director Morton Tyldum pulling out organ stops and dumping ballast out of the hot air balloon basket. About two-thirds of the way in, you can feel him panic and bolt, like a rabbit, in the direction crowd-pleasing nonsense. It may please the crowd, but it did not please me.

“Mr. Turner,” director Mike Leigh’s biopic about the painter J.M.W. Turner, is a more trusting creature. Eschewing all conventions of plot and narrative, Leigh imagines an audience that will trundle and grunt across the English landscape with its trundling, grunting protagonist. That audience may not exist in droves, but some of us embody it.

You should see both of these movies, but you should make a special effort to see “Mr. Turner” on a big screen with good equipment. There are some movies that don’t make any sense on a 46-inch Samsung, and this is one of them. “The Imitation Game,” by contrast, will wait. Turing is important. His story is important. But you can watch it the way you watch “Masterpiece Theater” and not miss out terribly.

“Mr. Turner” is almost entirely about seeing. Timothy Spall, as the painter, suggests a man so ravished and overwhelmed by the way the world looks to him that he has let pretty much everything else — from the power of speech to human relationships — slide into a ramshackle matter-of-factness. You will notice the word “suggests.” Leigh is never pushy.  One of the best dramatizations of an artist is not a movie but Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George,” but “Mr. Turner” is blissfully free of feverish exhalations about color and design and harmony. Only once, in a fumbling art class speech about reflective surfaces, does Turner tell us anything, and even then he seems like a caveman struggling to acquire language. Spall is fabulous in the role, and his gruff and grunting Turner makes Brando sound like the Great Enunicator.

Leigh uses the same actors over and over, and this film makes me want to go back and re-watch “Topsy Turvy,” another movie about how artistic greatness comes at the expense of something, maybe everything. But certainly Leigh has never made a movie so visually arresting. Taking on a subject like Turner amounts to pointing to the bleachers, right? You’ve got to hit the long ball, optically speaking, and that is what Leigh does.

I wish I liked the “Imitation Game” better. I’m fascinated by Turing and spent a lot of time recently getting ready for a show about him. Like all citizens of 2015, I am also a dedicated Cumberbatchean. The man can do no wrong, and he is an excellent Turing, dancing neatly on the edge that divides the know-it-all from the man who actually does know it all and a second edge that divides the mere milquetoast from man whose mental life has rendered his physical self nearly meaningless.

But, risking a mild spoiler, I can tell you the precise moment at which this movie exhausted my patience. Turing and his team of math geeks have cracked the Nazi code. Seconds later, his friend with no benefits Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) decodes a German message. Clarke whips her head toward a map with pins in it. Oh my goodness! She can somehow tell that a convoy is about to be hit by the Germans. We have only minutes to stop it! We can’t, not without letting on that we’ve cracked the Enigma code, says Turing. Wait!, says one of the other geeks. My brother is on one of those boats! This all happens in the space of two minutes, and by the end of it, you’re rooting for Graham Chapman to march in and say things have gotten too silly.  Which they have.

None of that constitutes an excuse from seeing “Imitation Game.” We are not excused from anything. But one does wish the movie truckled less and trusted more.

 

Why public radio is a bad influence

by Categorized: Uncategorized, Year in Review Date:

From fascinating NYT story on defeating the psychology and branding of ISIS:

“I want to engage in a long-term conversation to understand a commonly held view of the psychological, emotional and cultural power of I.S. in terms of a diversity of audiences,” the general said. “They are drawing people to them in droves. There are I.S. T-shirts and mugs.”

Archer ISIS Logo Mug, FX Shop Shows Archer , Fox Shop


 

You Cannot Be Serious

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

Today’s Courant showcases legislative leaders making the preposterous caseQuadrocopter,_ISPO_2014_Munich_(03) that they are looking downfield and addressing cutting edge questions before they boil over. Money quote:

“Many people think that government tends to be reactive,” said House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden. “But some things are happening so quickly that we have to [be] proactive and get out ahead of them.”

First things first. Connecticut legislative leaders should not be allowed to discuss ANY of their intentions without first answering the following question: Do you intend to change your slovenly, chaotic and cynical work habits? At the end of every session, important bills — exactly the KIND of bills these guys are talking about in the article — die on the calendar or, far worse, are kept semi-alive so they can be traded out in a hideous late-night bazaar that makes a mockery of the legislative process. It is — as we will see — insane for anyone to suggest this legislature gets ahead of the curve on anything, and one reason for that is that they’re way too wedded to their dysfunctional process.

OK.  Now.  Drones.  Uber. Data collection. These are the issues you’re getting out ahead of, proactively?

The first one rankles me on a personal level. In March of 2012 — almost three years ago — while preparing for this show about non-military drones, I called state officials to find out if Connecticut had any policies in place about domestic drones. I swear to God, you would have thought I was asking about Martians. But let me put it another way: when there’s already been a national headline-making altercation on one of your state beaches about the use of a drone, chances are you’re a little late in getting legislation in place.  (At least 16 other states do have laws.)

Uber? I’d almost give them that one, but really the regulatory fights over Uber date at least as far back as 2011 in California and 2012 in nearby Massachusetts. So, if you’re being “proactive,” looking downfield, you’ve already got something in place on this three-to-four-year-old issue.

Data collection? A new issue?  Nutmegger, please.

POTY Running totals

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

You’re probably dying to know how the voting is going for Person of The Year. 

I’m not counting votes in the comment thread or even votes on my FB page.  Only actual emails sent to colin@wnpr.org.

Here’s how things look, circa 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Peter Schiff leads with 4 votes, although there’s reason to question whether he’s getting a fair shake. 

Trailing closely is Olga Vazquez at 3.5 votes. (I awarded a split vote because Jack Shea …never mind. Trust me.) There also turns out to be a Sub-Genre of Olga V. Humor. For example, Tim C. said he was voting for her “even though my voting place has not yet received  ballot forms.” Bill H. wrote:  “I’m worried that the Hartford registrar of voters isn’t taking this recent screwup seriously.  She was seen recently at Staples ordering thousands of stickers for the next election that say ‘I tried to vote today.’ Not a good sign.”

Also doing well is somebody who wasn’t really nominated: The “something in the way she moos” commenter.” (3.5 votes.) I think it shows how starved people are for wit in the comment section

Also not technically nominated was the support pig on the plane at Bradley. The pig — whose name is Hobie — currently has 2.5 votes.

The rest of the field:

Scuppy: 2.

Credit Serge Melki / Wikimedia Commons

Credit Serge Melki / Wikimedia Commons

The Porcupine: 2

The Cowpoker: 2

WRITE-INS!

— “I will also cast one write-in vote for Tom Foley, for his decision to drive out to Sprague in July and kick off his second run at the governor’s mansion by explaining to the good folks who live there that: ‘you have failed, because you have lost these jobs.’   It seemed like it was all sort of down hill from there for ‘the Ambassador.’ ”

— “I’m sorry you didn’t include her for pick of the year goes to my former classmate — Mary Glassman.  She and her hubby pull in mid to high six figures, maybe seven per year, and she walks after a paycut her family can take without any belt tightening other than maybe to give up an occasional trip to Froyo. She took an oath to serve her town, and she buggered off almost as shamelessly as Sarah Palin. Mind you, I am a liberal, and I like Mary, but enough with the pity party hissy fit!”

— John Rowland. “Our state made him a three term governor (federal charges were pending before third election if memory serves) and now he is a second term prisoner. He’s an example of how people need to place someone on a pedestal to adore and then we as subjects need to flog that same person. He was loved and now is vilified. He had a child die on his watch like buddy cianci in providence. I personally believe he could be the comeback kid. State employees were calling his radio show exposing government favoritism whenever they could. And his wife is a poet–sort of. All around, a couple to watch!”

— This came in the middle of a larger rant, but somebody mentioned Dan Malloy’s $55 rebate which he then retracted.  That was a big oversight on my part. It’s definitely POTY-worthy.

 

 

Did Schiff Get Shafted?

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

Peter Schiff was unhappy to be nominated for Person of the Year and to have the story of his Daily Show appearance revived. He might have a point.

Here’s his email to me in full:

Chion Wolf WNPR photo

Chion Wolf WNPR photo

Hi Colin,

I guess you do not know this but the Daily Show is not a news show but a comedy show.  You may have watched their 4 minute version of my 4 hour interview, but you have no idea what answers I actually gave to the questions they asked. Part of my answers they show were related to different questions they asked during other parts of the interview.   Other answers were pieced together to form thoughts I never even expressed.

Here is how the subject of the intellectually challenged (the politically correct term I could not remember at the time) came up.   I told Samantha that the minimum wage law prevents unskilled people who would be willing to work for less than the legal minimum from getting jobs (and the badly needed on the job training an experience that would enable them to earn higher wages in the future)   She then asked me for some examples of people who might be willing to work for two dollars per hour.  She came up with that figure on her own.  The first example I offered were unpaid interns, like the one who booked me to be on the daily show had been, and who was in the room with us while we were filming.  Since unpaid interns work for free, two dollars per hour would be an improvement.  But the minimum wage law prevents employers from paying interns 2 dollar per hour, so instead most like the Daily Show pay them nothing.

I then told her that intellectually challenged individually were already exempt from the current minimum wage, and explained that without the exemption it would be illegal for them to work.  I gave her the example of my aunt, who suffers from Down’s Syndrome.  [Colin’s note: Schiff told me later it’s his aunt by marriage and that the two-dollar figure is kind of a ballpark number.] She has a job she loves and is paid less than 2 dollars per hour.   If her employer were forced to pay her the minimum wage she would be unemployed.  Her job is the highlight of her day.  She has friends there.  She feels important, and is proud of her accomplishments.  The job gives her a sense of pride and self worth that she can not find anywhere else.  And she gets great personal satisfaction spending the money she earns on the extra things she wants.   She does not need to support herself as she is in her sixties and still lives at home with her mother.  I asked Samantha Bee if she really wanted to take all of that away.  I guess I should ask you the same question.  Do you want to legally prevent my aunt from making a contribution to society and deny her the personal satisfaction she gets from the experience?  I think her job is the main reason she has lived as long as she has.

The other reason I brought the subject up was to offer it as more proof of how the minimum wage destroys jobs.  If the minimum wage would precent the intellectually disabled from working if it were applied to them, it also prevents many intellectually abled, but unskilled individuals, from working as well.  The way the current exemption works, employers test intellectually challenged workers to assess their productivity.  If they are half as productive as intellectually abled workers they can be paid half the minimum wage.  Some people are so disabled and so unproductive, that they work for less than 1 dollar per hour.   The alternative is not a minimum wage job,  but unemployment.

The difference between me and most people who advocate for the minimum wage is that I understand the unintended and adverse consequences the law has on the very people the law is theoretically intended to help.  I am also not a hypocrite like the Daily Show as I pay my interns 10 per hour and they pay theirs nothing.

Here is a YouTube video I made about that interview.  I suggest that you watch it and retract what you wrote in your column.  An apology would not hurt either.  By the way, I threatened to sue the Daily Show if they did not release the entire uncut four hour video.  They refused.  I did not sue as my lawyer advised that it would be an expense case hat I probably would not win.

Sincerely,

Peter Schiff

P.S. More than 25,000 people donated to my 2010 senate campaign.  I might have won the nomination (maybe even the seat) had the media taken my candidacy as seriously as my donors or the 27,000 people who voted for me in the primary (23 percent of the vote). Many people who did not vote for me told me the only reason they did not is that they thought I had no chance of winning, (thanks to the media I’m sure), so they voted for the lesser of the remaining two evils that did.  Most people voted Linda to vote against Rob, or they voted for Rob to vote against Linda.  My voters all voted for me, rather than against one of my opponents.  There is a big difference.

That American Glow

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

This piece was published in 2007.

I dusted it off this week after digesting the CIA torture report.

By pixabay user:ernie [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

By pixabay user:ernie [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

 I find I have a curious nostalgia these days for the America I grew up in.

Maybe that America was just an idea, but you can live in an idea as surely as you can live in a physical space.

I was an American kid living in a suburb in the early 1960s. My parents were rock-ribbed Goldwater Republicans. The United States was the best country on earth.

We said the Pledge of Allegiance every day, and when a space capsule went up, the teachers stopped class and hauled out a big black-and-white TV on a rolling cart, and we all watched and clapped. Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Wally Schirra. Rhymes with hurrah. Our fifth-grade teachers told us the Soviets let their capsules come down on land, instead of water, because they didn’t care whether the cosmonauts inside lived or died. Bad Russians.

God, I miss that American glow. I can feel it right now, as surely as I can remember the sun gleaming across a snow fort I built with my friends on Pleasant Street in West Hartford or the wink of fireflies as we played hide-and-seek in a field on Wells Road. America was the best place on earth, from sea to shining sea, and we lived there.

What came next were years of dark moments. Assassinations, riots, the Vietnam War, Watergate. The last of these was especially hard for my Republican Dad. He watched the hearings on television, and Watergate became a big fat python, winding itself around his trust and constricting. He watched with his mouth half open, and from time to time he would say, as if to himself and heaven, “These people are evil.”

And after that, he was never a Republican again.

None of that was easy, but every single one of those dark days seemed to us like a default from the American ideal.

I don’t remember when, as a kid, I first comprehended the idea of torture. But it was a tale told, always, about the Other. Nazis, Japs, Viet Cong. Do you know what they do to their captives? The Emperor Ming had Buck Rogers strapped to a board. James Bond would get loose before SPECTRE could torture him.

The very word “atrocity” had kind of a foreign ring. Atrocities. They do those over there. Later it was El Salvadoran death squads and SAVAK.

And to some, this already sounds pretty naive. Certainly by the 1980s, if you knew where to look, you could read allegations and rumors about, for example, the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Ga., where our guys and their guys were supposedly trained to help out with torture and other coercive tactics in Latin America and the Caribbean.

You could also decide to ignore what must be the frothing of the paranoid fringe, spouting impossibilities about a nation founded unshakably on the rule of law.

You could still, in those days, tell yourself that we were the kind of great power President Theodore Roosevelt, a great Republican, described during the occupation of the Philippines:

“Great as the provocation has been in dealing with foes who habitually resort to treachery, murder and torture against our men, nothing can justify or will be held to justify the use of torture or inhuman conduct of any kind on the part of the American Army.”

The local insurgents had committed atrocities against American soldiers, and the American response had been, among other things, a technique perfected in the Spanish Inquisition. An enemy would be held down, his arms and legs and head immobilized against the terrible thrashing that was to come. His mouth would be propped open and water would be poured in steadily, until it began to fill his lungs. The man would experience the panic and agony of drowning, slowly, without relief.

Roosevelt didn’t want us to do that, even against an enemy without scruple. We were, after all, Americans.

Of course, that technique is what we now call waterboarding.

Now I watch while the nominee for attorney general tells U.S. senators he’s not really sure that’s torture and not sure if it’s illegal.

Last week, on the radio, I heard a startling interview with Malcolm Nance, a former Navy instructor who taught American military people what to expect when under torture. One of the teaching techniques was to waterboard. Nance had it done to him, so he’d know. Is it torture?

“Yes. Of course it is,” said Nance.

Here is what Nance has written about it: “Waterboarding is slow motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of blackout and expiration — usually the person goes into hysterics on the board.”

Nance is having trouble with his American glow. He said on the radio: “Did Sept. 11 hurt us so much that we are willing to give away those American values? I, for one, am not.”

Sept. 11 is not an abstraction for this guy. Nance was there when the plane hit the Pentagon. He worked as a rescuer that day.

Still, he writes, “I am bewildered at how casually we have thrown off the mantle of world-leader in justice and honor.”

Later the same day, I had a chance to talk to Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of state in the Bush administration. I was in the middle of some long-winded question that included Michael Mukasey and waterboarding and he said: “Wait a minute. How difficult would it be for an attorney general nominee to say that waterboarding is torture? I don’t think there’s any question.”

I’m 53 now. I’m the American Dad, with his mouth hanging open while the people who run this country try to convince us it’s OK to be monsters, just because we’re fighting monsters.

It’s not. Bush, Cheney and the willing souls they have enlisted … these people are not especially American. They would have functioned pretty well in the Gestapo, the Japanese Kempeitai, the Salvadoran paramilitary, the Khmer Rouge. They would have found pretty good jobs with the shah of Iran or with Pinochet, and they wouldn’t have had to change much of their thinking. The enemy is bad, and you do what it takes to preserve yourself against them. No principle, no law trumps that.

Do you think that way, too? Or are you with me and Nance and Armitage? As I said, I’m 53. My snow fort is gone. But somebody stuffed my boyhood head with ideas about freedom, justice, equal protection under the law, inalienable rights, honor. And those ideas still light up, faintly, like the remembered fireflies of hide-and-seek on Wells Road. Those ideas are my American glow.