In Defense of Solitaire

On Tuesday morning, radio host Jim Vicevich was fired up the instant his microphone went hot. 

He opened his “Sound Off Connecticut” show with a withering critique of the state budget passed by Legislative Democrats and focused considerable ire on the photo he’d seen on the Hartford Courant’s website, depicting two legislators playing solitaire and a third checking ESPN.com. 

Within two hours, that photo had made the jump from the Courant website to the infamous Drudge Report, where it blasted worldwide.  For the rest of the week, cable news anchors have generated faux outrage, political candidates grumbled about shamelessness, and casual observers rolled their eyes.

Jim Amann, former Speaker and erstwhile candidate for Governor, got a good barb in at his former colleague speaking in the photo, House Republican Leader Larry Cafero, saying: “If anybody has listened to Larry Cafero, it’s the same speech five or six or seven times a year, and it causes solitaire to pop up.”

The Milford Republican Town Committee has gotten into the act as well.  Referencing the solitaire-playing legislator from their town, they will soon be the proud hosts of the Rep. Barbara Lambert Solitaire Tournament.

But with a movement afoot to ban such activities in the Hall of the House, there is a contrarian view that has to be expressed here.  We don’t need less solitaire in the House of Representatives – we need more.

State legislators, when confronted with a bill for state government that exceeded revenues by $8.5 billion, simply put the debt on the state credit card and went home.  They didn’t make the kind of hard decisions required by billion dollar deficits; instead, they securitized $1.3 billion of “undefined revenue streams”.  They didn’t conduct an honest line-by-line review of every state program, ending the ones that don’t work and investing in the ones that do.

The situation demanded the very best from our legislators and instead they punted.  The Governor did well to hold the line as long as she did, but even she ultimately used her Get Out of Jail Free card as Genghis noted.

So given their performance, it would be better if all the legislators spent more of their time playing solitaire.

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21 responses to “In Defense of Solitaire

  1. It used to be that the TV shots of the chambers would show a couple members and loads of empty chairs. With the apparent movement to have the members show themselves in their chairs during debate, I suppose the stuff that used to go on off camera is now in public view.

  2. I understand that the two photographed Legislators are Backbenchers who had no say in the creating this budget, and were going to vote the way they were told to vote. However, they do owe their constituents the itellectual curiosity to best understand what they will be voting for. The fact that they don’t care enough to even maintain a pretense of interest is a sad commentary on the General assembly.
    When this budget unravels in the coming months, this picture will become a much bigger deal than it is now. We haven’t seen the last of it.

  3. “They didn’t conduct an honest line-by-line review of every state program, ending the ones that don’t work and investing in the ones that do.”

    You are criticizing the Democrats for not doing something the governor prevented them from doing. Granted, they probably wouldn’t have been all that inclined towards mass layoffs, but the point is moot because the governor took that option off the table when she negotiated a no-layoff agreement with the unions.

  4. Take solitaire away and they will be on their Blackberry’s checking stocks and news. I don’t think any amount of public criticism will end that behavior. They are legislators – they don’t have a boss looking over their shoulder who can exact immediate reprimand – they merely have a delayed public exposure via pictures and TV cameras.

    As for WHY they have solitaire on their computers still, that’s a question for who is in charge of IT for the State. Delete c:\windows\sol.exe before issuing laptops or setup a vanilla laptop image to Ghost onto machines before issuing them. Easy fix.

  5. How do we know that is was/is “faux outrage?” Maybe some people think it’s laim to be reading ESPN when someone is supposed to be WORKING — remember, our legislators are paid to work!

  6. Give these State Reps a break!!!

    All that matters is they cast their votes when the bell rings.

    Anyone who has sat in the House Chamber knows how long these debates go.

    Would venture many State Reps were not even there to hear Larry Cefaro’s speech.

  7. How do we know that is was/is “faux outrage?” Maybe some people think it’s laim to be reading ESPN when someone is supposed to be WORKING — remember, our legislators are paid to work!

    Are they paid extra to work in August? I thought we only paid them for a few months a year.

    Anyway, for bloggers to be critiquing what people ought to be doing at work is pretty silly — check out any blog’s traffic stats on the weekend, or even hourly statistics for the early evening… almost any successful enterprise on the web is built on the fact that people of all professions goof off while they’re at work.

  8. the Funny thing was that if these Reps. were Republicans, their names would have been posted in the paper under the picture.

  9. Weicker liker, let’s me see if I got this right…you are defending legislators who are playing solitaire instead of paying attention to what they are about to vote for? Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised why this country is in the trouble it is.

  10. pufnstuf, Weicker Liker is the quintessential wanna-be insider. Cut him some slack.

  11. Pufnstuf….

    This is not a situation where these legislators did not read the bill. What about the members of the House who didn’t even bother sitting in the chamber during the debate?

    Probably includes some Republicans as well. How about them?

    Not a wanna be here, Hank Morgan.

    Don’t need any favors!!

  12. Weicker liker, You are assuming these two Democrats read the bill…even if they did, they are not interested in anybody elses perspective? Is it possible that if they paid attention, they may hear a side of the argument that they were not aware of?

    Seriously, you are still defending legislators playing video games while in the chamber? Why bother having a debate…just bring every bill that is announced to an immediate vote and save a lot of time. You like that idea?

  13. Pufnstuf…..

    I value debate.

    Even watched CTN’s feed of the Special Session that evening.

    Some good arguments were made by both sides.

    Bottom Line: The only important thing that matters is the legislators in question cast their votes.

    Just believe the solitare issue has been over blown

  14. Weicker Liker said:

    Even watched CTN’s feed of the Special Session that evening.

    Is Larry Cafero good on his feet or is Larry Cafero fabulous on his feet?
    Which is it?

    The man came of like Dick Bozzuto at his best (which was better than superb). A man of Bozzuto’s caliber, integrity and skill comes along once or twice in a lifetime if we’re lucky – Cafero might well be that guy.

    Some good arguments were made by both sides.
    “Let’s spend the state into bankruptcy” is simply not a good a argument.


    Just believe the solitaire issue has been over blown

    Well duh?
    Of course it is – it’s perfect cannon fodder for our “The Democrats are asleep at the switch” argument.

  15. JM said:

    “I understand that the two photographed Legislators are Backbenchers who had no say in the creating this budget, and were going to vote the way they were told to vote. “

    Too verbose.

    Here’s the same statement in plain English:

    “I understand that the two photographed Legislators are Democrats.”

  16. Not a wanna be here, Hank Morgan.

    You don’t even live in CT

  17. And what would lead you to say that Hank Morgan?

  18. For what it’s worth, the JI took the time to figure out who they were and we ran their names with the photo.

    And I’ve heard criticism of the photographer from both sides – she’s biased against democrats because “it was a cheap shot, everyone does it” and also that she’s biased against republicans because “it makes Cafero look irrelevent.”

    Both criticisms are projections of peoples’ own fears and biases. It’s just a photo. And at least they were in the chamber to hear what he had to say. They were talking amongst themselves in the chamber (which is rude) or absent entirely, eating or making phone calls or just gabbing in the hallway. Folks who are outraged by this photo should just look in the mirror and ask themselves what they would do after 12 hours of debate on a topic that they’d already decided on long ago.

    In Congress, the room is mostly empty all the time. At least from that photo you can see that most seats were occupied. Can’t ask for more than that, even if you have a blind hatred (like many of you do) for Democrats or Republicans.

  19. Playing computer solitaire is the modern equivalent of doodling (or at least it is for me): It doesn’t mean you’re not paying attention. I’m constantly playing Yahtzee on a second computer in my home computer room, while I’m doing whatever I’m doing “for real.” It’s just a way to fill in the empty spaces while I’m waiting for web pages to load, files to save, etc., or something to do with my hands while I’m on the phone.

    Of course these Reps should be paying attention to their work, and if they weren’t, shame on them… but one picture, without context, doesn’t prove they were being anything less than diligent.

  20. I can understand why they are playing solitaire and I see nothing wrong with it. A couple of years ago I was up in the House gallery listening to a debate on a bill, Reps. Cafero, Witkos and O’Neill talked for three hours to kill the bill. They asked the same questions rephrased over and over again. In addition, they tried to add amendments that were all the same except for minor wording until the bill was passed over. That is not a debate but filibustering.

    I do not think laptops should be banned. As the General Assembly move towards a paperless assembly, the legislators need their laptops so they can research bills and check the facts as the bill is debated. Many times in committee hearings and on the house floor, I heard legislators ask questions about a bill that they looked up.

  21. And what would lead you to say that Hank Morgan?

    lol

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