Can UConn Really Economize? And Social Promotion Wins

Congratulations may be in order for the University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees for discovering, upon the abrupt resignation of Thomas C. Katsouleas after less than two years on the job, that the university doesn’t really need its own president. For last week the board announced that Andrew Agwunobi, chief executive of the UConn Health Center in Farmington, will serve simultaneously as president of the whole university for the time being, continuing to receive his $709,000 annual salary at the health center while the board negotiates his pay for doing both jobs. Agwunobi’s appointment suggests two things. First, that Agwunobi

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CTDOT Fare Hearings

Our state government certainly moves in mysterious ways. The Connecticut legislature seems unable to even discuss the crucial replenishing of the Special Transportation Fund to keep mass transit rolling… but they found hours to debate the merits of declaring pizza the “official state food”.  Really? Kudos to the nine lawmakers who voted “no”, not because they don’t like pizza but because they saw this issue as a waste of time. Also in the “waste of time” category were the recent series of virtual public hearings (May 18, 19, 20 & 25) by the Connecticut Department of Transportation.  The topic… service

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The Triad of Radical Ideas Behind the Anti-Racism Crusade

Reverend Steven R. Jungkeit, a white minister in the small all-White (99.8% non-Black) Connecticut town of Lyme-Old Lyme (pop 10,000) claims to be collaborating with the local school system “to teach the history of racism and enslavement in the area” as one part of a social justice project launched by his church last summer. Another part involves police accountability. Surely the nation has been seized with the issues of racism, social justice and policing, if such a project has been launched in this unlikeliest of places, one with a population of only about 25 Black people.  Ian Neviaser, the school

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Military Spending Goes Unchallenged, as Fiscal Conservatives Grouse About Lesser Costs

Values and prevailing attitudes of America’s big three service branches are reflected in their military academies’ chapels. West Point’s grey stone gothic exudes permanence, immovably connected to the land, anchored atop the same basalt bluffs forming nearby Hudson River Palisades. The Navy’s chapel in Annapolis is much more ornate, its dome inspired by Beaux-Arts architecture with lots of interior marble and brass. The Air Force Academy’s cadet chapel, tellingly, is intimidating. Seventeen leak-prone spires of shiny aluminum, glass and steel project skyward. Their jagged rows resemble Nike-Hercules and Ajax missiles emergent from silos ready to launch, a high-tech, razor-sharp shredding

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UConn Prez’s Resignation is a Spectacular Embarrassment

Long having been shameless because the governor and General Assembly never call it to account, the University of Connecticut probably won’t show any embarrassment over last week’s abrupt resignation of its president, Thomas C. Katsouleas, who was not even two years into the job. But Connecticut might be mortified. Of course no official explanation has been given, but news reports say Katsouleas quickly alienated the university’s Board of Trustees by announcing major initiatives without the board’s approval. Having eagerly danced to every politically correct tune that was played for him on campus, Katsouleas shouldn’t be missed — and indeed as

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Progressive Taxation Can Help, but Taxing Wealth is the Ultimate Solution

Needs for infrastructure modernization and hardenings against “ransomware” are stark. Last week’s cyber attack by Russian gang DarkSide shut down Colonial Pipeline’s conduits from Texas to New Jersey, interrupting 2.5 million barrels daily flow of gasoline and other fuels. That’s 45 percent of East Coast supplies, more an annoyance than an obstacle but for predictable panic buying. Instigated by social media disinformation, people waited in gas lines to fill guzzler SUVs and pickups the way they hoarded toilet paper last year. DarkSide’s stated purpose is capitalistic, not ideological, interested only in extorting money, not “creating unrest.” Evidence Putin or other

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Do You Feel Safe Riding Metro-North?

Is it safe to get back on the train to New York?  Casey (not her real name) thought so when, a couple of weekends back, she wanted to see some millennial friends in Manhattan for brunch.  But boarding the Saturday morning train she immediately started to worry and texted me. The train was jammed, she said.  Very few empty seats.  No way to “socially distance” and many people were not wearing face masks. Looking around, she saw large groups of NY Yankees and NY Rangers fans.  Sure enough, both teams had home games that afternoon. The fans were tailgating their

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Should Government Take Over the Nursing Home Business?

Nursing home workers in Connecticut long have been essentially state government employees because most patients are technically indigent and their care is financed by state government’s Medicaid program — for nearly $1.2 billion per year, half reimbursed by the federal government. The euphemism for this is “estate planning.” When people who have assets reach a certain age they are advised to squirrel their assets away where government can’t get at them — reliable family members, trusts, and such — so if someone needs round-the-clock care, he can go on welfare. It’s a demeaning system and no longer saves much money

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After Pandemic, More Homeschooling?

A year ago when the reopening of schools for the 2020-2021 school year was in doubt, I realized that I had to step into the breach. So did many parents. I started my own version of homeschooling for my soon-to-be-kindergartner. We did “numbers” over breakfast, “letters” before dinner, and I read to him at bedtime. It was nothing sophisticated; it took only about an hour in total, before and after my workday; but it worked.  By summer’s end, my youngster was already proficient in numbers beyond the level expected at the end of kindergarten, and he knew the alphabet, more

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A Permanently Altered Society

Without question climate change and the pandemic have permanently altered society. At some point, if we approach 85 to 90 percent herd immunity (an unlikely scenario in the U.S. given its intellectual and vaccine resistant laxities) mask-wearing might become an elective again, even in crowded venues. As COVID cases decline, however, were wisdom and ethics heritable memes in our culture, we’d still be donning masks in highly infectious settings, such as theaters and bars, sports arenas, public transit, grocery and department stores, hospitals and nursing homes. It’s been a hard lesson to learn, but Americans should by now be attuned

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Big Dreams Distract Dems; And All Could Be ‘Doctors’

Democrats in the General Assembly are busy with big plans for transforming Connecticut. Though state government is rolling in federal cash, the Democrats want to tax business and the wealthy a lot more. They want to overthrow suburban zoning. They want state government to start selling medical insurance to small businesses. They would legalize and commercialize marijuana and erase thousands of criminal records. They seek a vast expansion of state-sanctioned gambling. But that’s all in the future. What Democratic legislators don’t want to do is take responsibility for running Connecticut in the present. Instead once again the Democratic legislators want

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Righteous Stupidity is now more Harmful than Wickedness

Luckily, in the 1950s, fostering knowledge was a promotional hook luring parents into stores. Drugstores sold Classics Illustrated and, around 1959, grocers began selling weekly/bi-weekly installments of reference books for students. Among them were Golden Book’s Encyclopedia, its subsequent Home and High School Encyclopedia and an Encyclopedia of Natural Science. To say they were transformative is understatement. My parents shopped at the participating First National Store, and each week I couldn’t wait to pick the latest Golden Book out of its bag. The introductory volume, covering “aardvark to army,” sold for 49 cents. I was age seven. As I turned

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Invest in Rail Freight

How would you like a plan to remove thousands of trucks from Connecticut highways, clean up the air and create new jobs? Who wouldn’t?  It’s a win-win-win plan that you’d expect Governor Lamont to embrace, especially in this time of TCI (the Transportation Climate Initiative). The solution?  Invest in our state’s freight railroads. Yes, there are still freight trains in Connecticut, just not very many. But there could be more. In its earlier days as a profitable, private railroad the New Haven ran hundreds of freight trains each day.  But today the railroad is too crowded with (relatively faster) passenger

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Connecticut Progressives Should Jump Off the Biden Bandwagon

The Biden administration is on a massive spending spree. Connecticut progressives want to follow suit. Last week, Biden released a “trial balloon” proposing how to pay for his spree. Unsurprisingly, the idea is massive tax increases for corporations and upper income individuals, including a near doubling of the top capital gains tax rate from 23.8% to 43.8%. Connecticut’s progressives have proposed more than a billion dollars of new spending, primarily on vague social justice goals (“building wealth in underserved communities” and “reducing income inequality”), all to be funded by new taxes imposed exclusively upon upper income taxpayers, including a capital

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Considering the Supreme Court

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) usually argued for lengths of elected service determined by the people. If constituents wanted to re-elect the same “public servant” time and time again, and he (or she) received enough ballots, Franklin didn’t object, even if tenures of presidents were long. When it came to appointing judges, however, Franklin adamantly argued for a Scottish-style legal system where lawyers, not holders of high office, designated judges. James Wilson (1742-1798), who signed both the Declaration of Independence and Constitution before becoming a Supreme Court Justice himself, strongly disagreed. Wilson favored court appointments by authorized individuals, feeling collectives of peers

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Biden’s Infrastructure Plan

Hurrah!  It’s finally “infrastructure week” in Washington.  In his first 100 days as President, Joe Biden has delivered a plan that his predecessor just kept teasing us with for four years:  a complete rehabilitation and expansion of the nation’s infrastructure. Of course, Biden’s “American Jobs Act” goes way beyond just rebuilding roads, bridges and rails.  It also covers our water supply, electrical grid, internet, sea and airports, our housing stock and our very jobs. It’s too much and way too expensive ($2+ trillion) for conservatives but hardly enough for progressives.  That sounds great to me. With plenty for everyone to

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Our Duty is to Recognize Gaps Between the Idealized and Reality…and to Close Them

It should not have taken AAPI rallies, spa shootings in Georgia, and sidewalk beatings of elderly Chinese to draw our attention to new and savage synergies of resentment and violence against Asian Americans. Coactive xenophobic elements were everywhere. For over a year, people of Asian descent and Pacific Islanders endured pandemic scapegoating and slander, suffering nearly 4,000 reported hate crimes nationwide. Most undoubtedly were instigated by Trump calling SARS-CoV-2 “the Chinese virus,” emboldened racists reiterating his “kung flu” slur, and continua of flagrant name calling and condescension online. When asked about motives for the March 16th murders in Atlanta, local

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Eventually We’ll All be Paying and Young Car Thieves Laugh

Nearly everyone except government employees has suffered financial losses during the virus epidemic, and since those losses were caused more by government’s closure of much of the economy than by the epidemic itself, everyone wants reimbursement from the government. There’s some justice in this, especially in the requests from businesses in Connecticut for state government to use its federal epidemic relief money to cover the $700 million the state borrowed from the federal government to pay the huge and unexpected unemployment benefits claimed during the epidemic. Otherwise unemployment insurance taxes on businesses may have to be increased for years, weakening

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A Threat By Any Name is the Same

Upon his inauguration, President Biden issued a flurry of executive orders related to climate change, including one designating climate change a national security threat, one rejoining the Paris Accord, another halting the Keystone XL pipeline and yet another freezing petroleum leases and permits on federal land for 60 days. The primary security threat by this new climate-change name looks the same as the leading national security threat in traditional terms: China. The totalitarian Communist dictatorship is responsible for 30% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to the EDGAR database. China’s emissions are not only the world’s most, but they

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Lamont Probably Won’t Mind Denunciation as a Moderate

Many liberal Democratic officials around the country and especially in the Northeast, including Governor Lamont, are looking hypocritical for urging President Biden to help repeal the federal government’s limit on the deductibility of state and local taxes — the “SALT” tax deduction cap. Liberal Democrats usually advocate more progressive taxation — that is, higher tax rates on higher incomes — and progressive taxation is exactly what the cap on SALT deductions is. It limits to $10,000 the deduction taken by federal income taxpayers for the state and local taxes they pay. Anyone who pays more than $10,000 altogether in state income and municipal property taxes is probably doing well financially. Liberal and conservative tax analysts agree

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It’s About Time CEOs Assumed Such Progressive Mantles as Upholding Voters’ Rights

A spate of voting restrictions, disproportionately and negatively impacting people of color, has reemerged in the South. In Florida, Republicans are plotting to constrict mail-in voting, even eliminating drop boxes, proven helpful and secure in 2020. In Arizona and Texas, Republicans hope to narrow ballot submission times, dropping names from early-voting lists if a citizen votes less often. The first salvo, however, of what President Biden calls “21st century Jim Crow” was recently fired in Georgia. Advocates call their new law, which suspiciously looks like voter suppression, a necessary prevention of fraud. Maybe Georgia’s intentions are good, but one has

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Americans Unflinchingly Repeat the Same Mistakes

EU citizens are astonished that the world’s most powerful, yet counterintuitive nation can be so logically and socially incoherent, that Americans unflinchingly repeat the same mistakes responsible for past surges of COVID-19. Reopening before herd immunity’s attained, riotous spring-breakers, and inconsistent mask-wearing and social distancing support their conundrum. Super-spreader events and anti-vaccination rants convince the rest of the world that Americans care little about others and even less about themselves. With 600,000 U.S. pandemic deaths imminent, words like “fragile” and “heedless” keep resonating. Europeans point to the Trump administration’s restrained pandemic response, demonstrators clamoring to “open up,” and Dr. Birx’

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A Conversation with the Commissioner

“Getting There”  by  Jim Cameron        Joe Giulietti loves to talk, especially about trains.  As Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Transportation when he calls me and say “Jim… let’s have a chat”, I’m all ears.  In a recent exclusive one-on-one, here’s what he said: WILL RAIL COMMUTERS COME BACK? The Commissioner says yes, but maybe not until the fall.  “Am I optimistic?  I have to be. The disappointing fact right now is we (still) only have 10% of (pre-COVID) ridership.  The trains we have now can meet (that) demand.  If ridership increases we can add more. ” ARE THE TRAINS SAFE?

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Error Distorts Public Employee Pension Debate

In 2015, the Malloy administration commissioned a study of Connecticut’s State Employees Retirement System (SERS) by the Center for Retirement Research, a prominent pension research institute. While the Center’s report was well done and most of its recommendations were adopted by the state, the Center miscalculated the level of employee pension benefits, saying they were not “overly generous.” They were and, today, still are overgenerous.  The Center’s error has distorted subsequent debate about state employee compensation, the origins of the drastic underfunding of SERS, and the high cost to the state of pension benefits, as the state’s annual contribution to

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‘Extremism in Defense of Liberty’ if Devoid of Truth and Ethics, is Definitely a Vice.

Homegrown terrorism keeps metastasizing, spreading through America’s lymphatic and cardiovascular systems as rightwing radio, social media and television. Faced with our greatest domestic challenge since the Civil War, finding solutions for combating QAnon, neo-Nazi white supremacist groups and anti-government militias is not unlike curtailing Boko Haram, Al-Qaida, and the Taliban. Limit their outreach and growth, and determine what makes extremist propaganda so alluring: a tall order given that American law enforcement is limited by freedom-of-speech. As a result, anything the Biden administration does to mitigate domestic terrorism will reinforce narratives of politically-motivated censorship. Thusly, without accompanying moral clarity, liberty and

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Slush Funding Will Preserve State Government’s Excesses

With as much as $4 billion in discretionary largesse about to descend on Connecticut’s state and municipal governments and school systems, economizing and improving services to the public will be removed from the agenda for a long time. These slush funds can only worsen the excesses and exploitation in government, even as the Yankee Institute’s extraordinary investigative reporter, Marc Fitch, has noted some big excesses this month. Fitch reported that another 62 managers at the state Transportation Department are being permitted to unionize though their annual salaries range from $86,000 to $149,000, quite apart from their luxurious fringe benefits. According

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How to Save Metro-North

How are we going to get riders back on the trains and save Metro-North from ballooning deficits, potential service cuts or fare hikes?  That’s the question I crowd-sourced on social media last week and found dozens of great answers! Most respondents said they won’t be commuting as much as before because they will continue working from home. It’s not that they are shunning the rails out of fear,  just that commuting won’t be necessary. “Most of us have figured out how to work without riding a train every day”, one rider opined. A few cynics said mass transit is dead. 

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Our Infrastructure Can’t Withstand 21st Century Challenges

Three years ago, as temperatures in Sydney, Adelaide and Hobart, Tasmania topped 117º F, Australian roads melted and buckled like cardboard suitcases. Last month, the fragility of America’s electrical grid became apparent when Texas and the Deep South experienced severe winter storms, at least by Dixieland standards. Resulting power outages and water main bursts served notice how, in a light-flicker, industrialized nations, with infrastructures ill-equipped for climate change, turn Stone Age. Because Lone Star utilities failed to use low-viscosity, synthetic lubricants in wind turbines, as troubleshooters do up north, propellers froze. Instruments at nuclear and coal-fired power plants iced over

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Instead of Undermining Responsible Town Government, Hartford Democrats Should Cede Authority to Towns

Give it to Connecticut Democrats They never give up. They are determined to diminish local government to a status of virtual triviality in the name of progressivism and in their unquenchable thirst for ever more state tax revenue. This legislative session, the Democrats want to impose progressive statewide zoning provisions that would virtually eliminate local authority over residential housing. In a second blow to housing and another blow to municipalities, the Democrats, led by Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney, want to levy a statewide property tax. The very proposal demonstrates why local control should be defended at all costs.

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Half-Earth Gives the “tree of life” at Least a Fighting Chance

Saved on my old Dell, CD-RWs and, more recently, a flash drive as failsafe is a 660-page tome I’ve been writing for years. Referenced to the point of overkill, it’s a heavily-cited compilation of environmental ethics and moral philosophy, delving into humanity’s destructive bent. I began writing it the first day I retired, over a decade ago. Although back-burnered in recent years, I could easily add another six or seven hundred pages. Surely, as Texas and Mississippi lift mask mandates, I’d be remiss not to include a chapter on stupidity prolonging the pandemic. But, for any realistic chance at publication,

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