On Politics in the Classroom

The top story on the Hartford Courant’s website right now is entitled “Reactions Vary in Connecticut To President Barack Obama’s Speech to Kids.” Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the story lacks a single reaction from a student to Obama’s speech. Indeed, a single meager sentence describes the speech itself. Instead, the article consists primarily in cowardly bloviation from school administrators regarding why they did not carry Obama’s speech to Americas students, a tradition inaugurated and continued by every Republican president since Ronald Reagan.

As someone who spent his entire pre-collegiate education in Connecticut’s public schools, I feel like I have some experience with politics in and surrounding the classroom. My earliest political memory is casting a vote for Bill Clinton in my elementary school’s mock Presidential election. I fancied myself a Democrat. A friend, who thought himself a Republican, told me that I ought to have voted for Dole. “Bill Clinton is going to fire my grandfather,” he said. This didn’t make sense to me then. That friend is now regurgitating roughly the same line as an up-and-coming member of the national College Republicans, except “fire” has been replaced with “kill with a death panel.” I would hesitate to say that his views haven’t evolved, and would rather simply explain how mine have.

As a civically-minded student, I watched as Republican elected officials in my town sought yearly to slash the education budget. Annually, teachers and students and parents would get up in public meetings and implore their officials and fellow citizens not to cut AP programs, or after-school sports, or whatever was on the block that year so that those in the schools would have the opportunity to better themselves if they so chose. Often these requests fell on deaf ears. AP programs were called “taxpayer funded college credit,” rather than a necessary prerequisite if a student wants to get into a competitive institution of higher learning. Each year more students would sit in smaller classrooms and be afforded fewer opportunities.

I watched as Republicans around the country sought to strip or cripple science in our textbooks. I watched teen pregnancies increase as sexual education was curtailed by Republicans who thought themselves excellent moral arbiters. I came to know a couple of things. The first was that to be a public school student in the United States is to be a political football from the age of six to the age of (hopefully) eighteen. The second was that if one values a public education, one oughtn’t be a Republican. These lessons were not taught to be my any ex-hippie or socialist idealogue teacher, as the stereotype seems to be. Rather they came negatively from watching those in civic life who were openly hostile to a reasoned discourse and informed debate.

Currently we have a President who has inspired and empowered a previously unreached and unreachable demographic. Scholarship continually shows that a crucial element of raising educational standards and closing achievement gaps is increasing the educational involvement of the nuclear family. The President recognizes this and has spoken on it in the past, as other Presidents have. More importantly though, the Obama family is a powerful and modern example that activists seeking to improve education in this country have long hoped for. President Obama is a former teacher, a powerful writer, and a stirring orator. Not only should he be allowed to speak to America’s students, but he ought to speak to America’s students.

And yet we find ourselves once again in a silly–and I can think of no nicer way to describe it–situation. An element of this country, their own education belied by their general ignorance of the Presidents policies, actions, history, ethnicity (I could go on, getting embarassingly fundamental in my noun selection), have shrieked discordantly at the prospect of the elected President of the United States speaking to students in the public education system. Believing that in his speech telling students (as the Courant puts it all-too-briefly), “to take responsibility for their education, stay on track and set high expectations for themselves,” the President is actually somehow brainwashing and Communisting their unfortunate children. School administrators, as they always do, balked in response, and an event that should have passed generally with a “well that’s nice!” has instead been turned into another face-in-palm spectacle of general ignorance.

We have certainly taught something valuable to students with this sad story. One can only hope that they’re able to perceive it through the noise.

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80 responses to “On Politics in the Classroom

  1. Aside from uncalled for cheer leading from some faculties that’s sure to follow; I fail to see why this is a big deal at all.

  2. ACR, can’t believe I’m saying this, but I couldn’t agree more.

    I hope we aren’t at the point in this country when the President (regardless of party affiliation) can’t suggest to kids that trying your best in school is a good thing…that would be a sad day.

    This whole thing has received WAY more attention than necessary.

  3. Talbot is usually well-informed. Not on this issue. The last President to give such a speech was George Bush Sr., in 1991. Neither Reagan nor Clinton nor Bush fils had one.

    Error one. Error two; Both teen pregnancies and the number and rate of abortions declined under Pres. Bush II.

    Error 3? Spending on education increased faster under W. than under any President in history, and test scores have indeed risen over the past half-dozen years.

    Other than that, this is a fabulous post. Come on, Talbot, do your homework.

  4. So how much money should school districts spend per student? Is there any cap? Is there any point you can think of where extra dollars don’t lead to higher performance?

    I watched teen pregnancies increase as sexual education was curtailed by Republicans who thought themselves excellent moral arbiters.

    Man, both sides of the debate on sex ed seem to think that teens have no idea how sex happens or what the consequences are. Democrats want more sex ed, to make the students more informed, and Republicans don’t. However, it isn’t the 1950s anymore. Kids know about sex, and they’d know it with or without sex ed.

  5. Vincent, I’d like to know your opinion on the overall discussion. Sure we could turn this thread into a fact checking mission on those three “errors” which really have nothing to do with the overall argument or we can address the insanity of those on your side of aisle that thought it was a great idea to keep their kids home from school when they found out the President was going to give a speech to their kids about working hard and staying in school.

    Are there any commenters who agreed with those who felt their kids should have been able to stay home (and..play video games and watch rap videos regardless of what their self righteous parents want you to think they did.) Anyone? Anyone agree with those people?

  6. Vincent:

    On Reagan:
    http://gothamschools.org/2009/09/04/from-the-archives-ronald-reagans-1988-speech-to-students/
    I concede no error here.

    On Teen Pregnancies:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jul/20/bush-teen-pregnancy-cdc-report
    I concede no error here.

    On Education Spending:
    I didn’t mention President Bush in my post, who I don’t consider to be as big a failure on education as he was in other areas. However, what if any increases in educational program spending under Bush came primarily to the benefit of the NCLB bureaucracy and abstinence-only sex education. He was more than willing to cut more focused and effective funding.
    http://www.stateline.org/live/details/story?contentId=86486
    http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/top-news/index.cfm?i=50375

    I think you would concede, also, that Bush’s increased spending on government programs was atypical of a Republican, and indeed made him unpopular among Republicans. I should nonetheless like to see test scores continue to improve. Here I concede only an error of nonspecificity.

  7. >>I watched as Republicans around the country sought to strip or cripple science in our textbooks.

    Yeah sure – from the same textbook publishers that have the Mayflower sailing from England with a boatload of Puritans.

    You really should look at what you post a little better and maybe do some fact checking prior to whacking the “submit” key. (It’s right there beside the “any key” under the one marked “CR” for `carriage return’.)

    Assuming some youngsters might be impressed and thus maybe buckle down and get a passing grade or two; I fail to see why Obama addressing school children is a big deal.

    I am concerned about the zeal with which some faculty members have shown; but that’s a different issue actually that the president has little control over.

    Heck – if we see any evidence that some small number of kids take his message to heart, maybe we should seek out others some might find inspiring too.

    Most have us have seen someone come flying out of the worst circumstances like the launch of a nautilus missile. Anything that increases those numbers is worth looking at.

  8. “And yet we find ourselves once again in a silly–and I can think of no nicer way to describe it–situation”

    More dangerous than silly, this was a calculated move on the part of the usual right wing hissyfit throwers, aided and abetted by a traditional media that even today is labeling this speech “controversial” despite content that anyone could have foretold was going to be anything but. Hissyfits are an effective tactic that will continue to work no matter how absurd the argument as long as the media continues to lap it up.

  9. “this was a calculated move on the part of the usual right wing hissyfit throwers, aided and abetted by a traditional media”

    Yes. Although I have to say that “usual right wing hissyfit throwers” absolutely does not equal “republicans.” Evidence the perfectly reasonable comments about this “controversy” from people like ACR & Chris Healy at the state level and commentators like Joe Scarborough at the national level.

    With the exception of a few bright lights such as Scarborough, the media, traditional and non-traditional alike, are aiding and abetting this crap. They are almost exclusively elevating the voices of the fringes at both ends of the political spectrum and ignoring the vast majority of the rest of us.

    I keep finding myself agreeing with ACR on far more issues than my liberal sensibilities are comfortable with… But on one thing he and I disagree. I think it’s painfully obvious what the “big deal is” here.

    I heard two parents in my town complaining about President Obama’s speech over the weekend. Both managed to find a way to mention the color of his skin during the course of their complaint. One of these parents is a Democrat, the other is a Republican. For me, that pretty much summed up what the “big deal” is for many folks throwing this particular hissy fit.

  10. ACR:

    Could you be a bit more specific about what you find objectionable in my post? I should like to correct it.

  11. The most important sentence:

    “Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the story lacks a single reaction from a student to Obama’s speech.”

    How power loves voiceless pawns like children – the mere word conjures sympathy in the heart of the listener. This emotional reaction devoid of reason grants the speaker license to come up with practically any piece of bull*&(t legislation or story to manipulate the voters with.

  12. Coming to a school near you — flatulent cows: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QaE5pQAR-s

  13. Grumpy said:

    I keep finding myself agreeing with ACR on far more issues than my liberal sensibilities are comfortable with… But on one thing he and I disagree. I think it’s painfully obvious what the “big deal is” here.

    ???????????

    …. Both managed to find a way to mention the color of his skin during the course of their complaint. One of these parents is a Democrat, the other is a Republican.

    But they’re both bigots and should be dealt with accordingly.

  14. ATalbot said:

    Could you be a bit more specific about what you find objectionable in my post? I should like to correct it.

    Here ya go.

    As a civically-minded student, I watched as Republican elected officials in my town sought yearly to slash the education budget.

    Here’s why some tend to object to simply pouring 70 – 75% of their municipal budgets at the school board with no further say at all:

    “Between 1981 and 2001, enrollment in Connecticut’s school districts rose by less than 10 percent. Inflation-adjusted spending on government schools, however, doubled. The notion that not one dollar of that expenditure explosion wasn’t wasted is laughable. “
    D. Dowd Muska

    School Corruption: Betrayal of Children and the Public Trust

    An Interview with Armand Fusco: About School Corruption

    Stopping School Corruption

    The Smearing of Armand Fusco

  15. Dear ACL, I went through the articles you and Mr. Talbot quoted here and found an August 23, 2008 article in the Wall Street Journal authored by Armand Fusco supporter Lewis Andrews. Mr. Andrews quoted the figures for educational spending that you referenced:

    “Over the past two and a half decades, the student population in Connecticut has increased only 10%. Yet the cost of schooling more than doubled — to $8.8 billion in 2006, up from $3.4 billion in 1981.”

    Note that the figure is not for “inflation-adjusted spending”, but just for total spending (I presume that WSJ factchecked the oped before publishing it). I went through the numbers: from $3.4 bn to $8.8 bn over 25 years. In fact, if you take the time to work this out mathematically (doesn’t take long), you see that on a per student basis, spending on education in the state of Connecticut over those two and a half decades rose by 3.5% every year. Yep, 3.5%. Go ahead, you work it out yourself. Clearly that figure is barely over inflation, if it is above inflation (haven’t looked up inflation figures). I doubt that anyone is going to quibble with teachers receiving 3.5% annual salary increases. But that figure also includes capital spending, with new schools being built, especially this decade, to accomodate more students (+10%), and to rehabilitate old structures. Norwalk built another high school, Weston substantially rebuilt and added onto its high school.

    So please tell me how an annual increase of 3.5% in education spending is outrageous. Please tell us all how that proves bloat in our education budget. Or did you not bother to figure out the compounded rate of increase? Please keep in mind, ACL, that Greenwich, Connecticut, which I’m sure you know is home to the largest number of registered Republicans of any municipality in the state, has increased its town budget by exactly 3.5% each of the past ten years. Are you saying that the Republican-controlled Board of Estimates and Taxation is fiscally profligate? If you believe that the state’s annual 3.5% increase in spending is out of control, do you also believe that Repubican First Selectman Peter Tesei’s town budget is also out of control because it has been growing at the same rate? Seriously: is a 3.5% increase in spending irresponsible?

    Please tell us how you view that figure. If you think it’s actually quite moderate and reasonable given the increase in the economy over that period and the demands from residents for better education, more AP programs, etc., then perhaps you’d like to withdraw your previous post accusing the state of out of control spending on education. If, however, you still think that’s unacceptably high, please tell us that you oppose better educational programs for our state’s youth. We should all be clear on that.

  16. ACR writes, “I fail to see why this is a big deal at all.” I’ll bet that if Democrats were trying to block Ronald Reagan or George HW Bush from addressing the youth of this nation, you’d think it was a very big deal!

    Is a president addressing our nation’s students on the beginning of the school year a big deal? Not really. But right-wing crazies launching a concerted effort to intimidate school principals and superintendents into blocking the president of the United States from addressing those students is most assuredly a big deal. It is a slap in the face to the highest elected official in this country, and another step in right-wing extremists’ attempt to pretend that President Obama is not the legitimate president of this country. And that is disgraceful. The comments of people objecting to President Obama’s address suggest that the president is trying to “indoctrinate” our youth. Only crazy people would suggest that our president is trying to brainwash American youth. Other Republicans objected to Mr. Obama’s asking school students to write him letters suggesting how he could fulfill his objectives. Yet, as broadcast on CNN last night, that is precisely what President George HW Bush asked American students to do 20 years ago. No one objected to Bush’s or Reagan’s address.

    Only when a Democratic president asks to address our youth do conservative object. That effort to block our president is most definitely a very big deal. And ACL, if this had been done to a Republican president, you would be absolutely furious, and you know it.

  17. Hooker,

    The distribution of educational funds – about 75% for salaries – is too high; this owing to binding arbitration. Would you be willing to end binding arbitration to adjust that figure downwards, so that schools would be able to afford supplies? Many towns, as you know, have referendums. These referendums have been instrumental in reducing requested increases in municipal budgets. During the last administration of the last Democratic mayor in Vernon – she was replaced – the town was forced into 4 referendums, budget requests having been reduced from 14% to 4%. It is now down to 3.5% under a Republican mayor. This is not at all unusual, and budget referendums are largely responsible for the reduction of requested allocations. The state budget over the past three governors has increased from $7.5 billion to about three times that amount. Would you favor a state budget referendum to reduce these increases to, say, 3.5%?

  18. And, ACL, if you really think this turmoil surrounding Mr. Obama’s address to schoolchildren isn’t a big deal, please consider the essay by EJ Dionne

    (http://voices.washingtonpost.com/postpartisan/2009/09/staying_in_school_and_the_soci.html?hpid=opinionsbox1):

    “We have just gone through one of the most shameful episodes of the young Obama presidency — shameful because of the behavior of the right wing, shameful because the media played into an extremist agenda, shameful because we proved that our political system has become so dysfunctional that a president gets punished for doing the right thing.

    “Upon Barack Obama’s election, even my most conservative friends who supported John McCain said Obama could do a world of good for poor children in the country by stressing the importance of education, hard work, staying in school and taking responsibility. Yes, those are often thought of as conservative values.

    “But when Obama proposed to do just that on the first day of school, the far right — without asking any questions or seeking any information — decided to pounce, on the theory that everything Obama did should be attacked relentlessly as part of some secret and dangerous ideological agenda…

    “The right-wing decided almost from Day One that a president elected with 53 percent of the vote (and 365 electoral votes) was illegitimate. They are trashing a moderate liberal as a socialist propagandist. They are getting a lot of press coverage for doing so. Where is the accountability?”

    There is much more there, and I urge all to read and consider.

    I would also urge you all to consider the words of Congressman Jim Himes, who roundly condemned the moves by several local superintendents to refuse to show President Obama’s address to students. Congressman Himes’ two daughters are students in Greenwich public schools, whose superintendent decided not to permit broadcast on Tuesday due to “technical difficulties”.

  19. Mr. Pesci,

    You suggest that 75% of an educational budget for teacher and, presumably, adminstrators’ salaries is too high. On what basis do you claim that it is too high? As an equity analyst, I’ve looked at lots of different types of corporations. A school is really nothing but teachers and some repairs and heating expenses. What other expenses are there? Sports uniforms, books, and some computers. That’s it. Clearly the biggest expense, as it should be, is salaries. Have you compared salaries as a percent of school budgets across the country or internationally? I should think that elsewhere the figure is even higher. Are you saying that teachers are overpaid? I doubt many people in this country would agree with you. And Connecticut teacher salaries are not the equal of New York teacher salaries, and Westchester schools get substantially better results than do CT schools. Just check the “best public schools” list in US News & World Reports or Newsweek.

    Regarding the 3.5% figure, I shall remind you that your fellow partisan ACL suggested that that figure was abominably high for education spending. Now you’re saying it’s quite moderate and indeed a target ceiling for spending increases. I’d suggest that Republicans need to get on the same page with that. Are you agreeing with me that the increase in educational spending in CT since 1981 is not at all excessive?

  20. Hooker – try taking a link or two sometime.

    How did a LI school system lose 11 million to embezzlement?

    >>Only crazy people would suggest that our president is trying to brainwash American youth.

    Correct and they should be ashamed of themselves!

    The day after Bush spoke, the Washington Post published a front-page story
    suggesting the speech was carefully staged for the president’s political benefit. “The White House turned a Northwest Washington junior high classroom into a television studio and its students into props,” the Post reported.

    >>No one objected to Bush’s or Reagan’s address.
    See above.

    Why not try ranting over at craigslist instead by the way, they even have a section just for that!
    Frankly I’m sick of your refusal to
    READ and your constant insistence on arguing every even minor point.

    I find the behavior you exhibit here rude and boorish, and not conductive towards civilized discourse.

    I suspect some others including those that tend to track towards the left, might well agree with me on that point.

    Further -after one of your little online tirades last week, I’ve suspected you harbor some sort of odd internal ethnic and/or religious prejudices as it seems you spend a lot of time accusing others others of those faults without any personal information or other supporting evidence aside from your own political prejudices of course, at all.

    Further, I fail to see how the political prejudices you so clearly suffer are different from racial or any other bigotry.

  21. Mr. Pesci, regarding Vernon’s budget, what has the town done without or cut in order to get to 3.5% spending increases? Let me point out that Connecticut’s ratio of municipal employees per 10,000 population places it 38th among the fifty states. In other words, our town governments are very lightly staffed compared with towns across the country.

    Vernon is not one of the Nutmeg State’s wealthier communities, is it? I understand that there are several towns that are struggling with decaying businesses and declining populations. Perhaps Vernon is mired in that economic morass. I don’t know.

    But I do know that simply concentrating on one side of the ledger- the spending side- without looking at what services are being gained or lost is simply myopic. In the case of Greenwich, our public schools’ academic performance has stagnated and is relatively poor compared with comparable suburban school districts. Whether that is the result of losing good teachers to districts with better salaries and shorter commutes, or not devoting additional resources to tutoring and other help for our students is still to make clear. But while we have been restraining spending, Westchester has been spending strongly on education. And the difference in results are stark.

    Let’s not forget that aphorism that “you get what you pay for.”

  22. Dear Mr. ACL,

    You are not making any sense here. Your comments are simply not coherent. I don’t know how you could think that I was being rude by pointing out that the percentage increase in educational spending is actually quite small. I’m sorry that you think my arguments rude and boorish. But frankly, I think that far more people here would agree that your comments are increasingly strange.

    You might perhaps enlighten us as to what you were talking about in a previous post suggesting that I don’t know the difference between Hindi and Urdu, and making some point about two Islamic names. I couldn’t figure out what you were talking about, and you never bothered to explain yourself.

    You write that you “suspected (me) of harboring some sort of odd internal ethnic and/or religious prejudices”. Where in the world are you getting that from? Really, this surpasses strange, and I’m sure that these slights have no place in this website. You further suggest that I “suffer from political prejudices”. I’m sorry, ACL, but espousing viewpoints in the mainstream of the Democratic Party and opposing Republican social and economic policies is certainly not tantamount ” suffering from political prejudices”. That’s an absurd accusation, and it certainly cannot reflect well on you.

    Let me suggest that you avoid these bizarre ad hominen accusations and stick to real issues here.

  23. Mr. Pesci,

    I don’t know all the particulars of the state budget. How many years are we talking about? What was the compound growth rate and over how many years? How much of the increase went to the major expansion of the University of Connecticut-Storrs? How much had to be spent for our university system due to a substantial increase in enrollment over that period?

    How did those three Republican governors who approved all of those budgets justify the spending increases? Were they betraying taxpayers, or did they have good reasons for the increases? Not sure.

  24. Going back to Vernon, which Don Pesci brought up and which is my hometown (and I believe the hometown of the writer as well? correct me if I’m wrong, Adam).

    Vernon has had budget battles as long as I can remember. Under previous Democratic and Republican mayors (before the current one), almost every year we went through multiple referenda in order to pass a budget. Every year tough choices had to be made in the wake of the budget being voted down, and the political culture is so messed up that any vote against the budget is assumed to be conservative and supportive of a reduced budget. I very nearly voted against the budget in 2009 because it contained Draconian cuts and took too much from public schools–which, by the way, are some of the worst in the state. The high school, for instance, has repeatedly failed to make AYP on the NCLB tests .

    As a graduate of Rockville High School (Vernon’s only public HS), I can tell you that, while the teachers there aren’t perfect by any mean, they are consistently overworked and underappreciated. The layoffs that have accompanied many of the recent town budgets have made a terrible impact on the high school and many of the other schools in the town. There is no money for effective programming, no way to allow–let alone support–creativity, and no avenues for enrichment, top-to-bottom.

    BTW, sorry for the dearth of links in this post, the Journal Inquirer recently went subscription-only so there’s not much local news coverage available on the interwebs.

  25. Very interesting comments, Will. Thanks for pointing out the real-life consequences of these budget cuts. What DRG group is Vernon in?

    It’s interesting that the Obama stimulus bill included nearly a half billion dollars for education in Connecticut. While states were not supposed to do so, Governor Rell cut an equal amount out of the state budget for education as was supplied from the federal stimulus bill, which every congressional Republican voted against.

  26. Hooker,

    You will, be pleased to know that Vernon has survived its 4% increase. Only in Cloud-Coo-Coo-Land would people regard a 4% increase as occasioning disastrous cuts in services. No one has starved; there are no distended bellies on the streets. Reducing their budget from a requested 14% to 4%, the citizens saved themselves an increase that would have been ruinous in what you consider a small and possibly backward town. The only casualty was the mayor who made us march to the poles 4 times in successive referendums and a few hapless Democratic council persons. We are a proud proletarian town. What Utopia do you live in? What was the municipal budget increased where you live? By how much? Do you have a referendum? If so, how many times were you forced to march to the polls? Please do not think you must answer such embarrassing questions. If you choose not to answer them, you can just move on to the next talking point. Vernon will not mind.

  27. No problem with answering. Greenwich has had no referendums on spending as long as I can remember. There are several layers of government, the last of which is the Representative Town Meeting which has the power to reduce spending in the budget, but cannot increase it. Of course, one move that the RTM made to reduce possible spending backfired. They decided not to put in a bonus for early completion of the Hamilton Avenue School’s reconstruction, which also had the effect of eliminating any penalty for late completion. The job was two years late and millions over budget. And to rub salt into the wound, the contractor, Worth Construction, has brought a law suit against the town.

    The town has kept spending increases very low for several years. But as a consequence, our sewer system is horribly in need of being rebuilt. This year a sewer main broke, sending hundreds of thousands of gallons of untreated sewage into Long Island Sound in one of the biggest sewage spills into the Sound in history. Hamilton Avenue School had to be completely rebuilt because the town had so neglected maintenance for so many years that the school had to be torn down. There are numerous other examples of lack of investment into infrastructure in the town, including poor facilities for music at the high school, where the acoustics are so poor that music teachers have suffered significant and permanent hearing loss. Another school is now undergoing massive renovations because repairs had been neglected for so many years. The appearance of mold finally spurred the town to heed calls from parents to make repairs. And as I wrote above, the annual budget increase in Greenwich has been 3.5% or below for the past ten years.

    To be clear, I never suggested Vernon was “backward” or somehow there is something wrong with being blue collar. My paternal grandparents immigrated from Ireland with barely more than the clothes on their backs, and my father grew up in the South Bronx.

  28. Vernon has had budget battles as long as I can remember. Under previous Democratic and Republican mayors (before the current one), almost every year we went through multiple referenda in order to pass a budget. Every year tough choices had to be made in the wake of the budget being voted down, and the political culture is so messed up that any vote against the budget is assumed to be conservative and supportive of a reduced budget. I very nearly voted against the budget in 2009 because it contained Draconian cuts and took too much from public schools–which, by the way, are some of the worst in the state. The high school, for instance, has repeatedly failed to make AYP on the NCLB tests .

    Well, if you need to restrain your spending because there’s not much coming in, then I guess it makes sense to have heated referenda every year.

    I think the referendum process would be improved if first, there was a referendum to establish broad based spending goals: x million for schools, y million for roads, etc. Then the selectmen or finance board or whatever could then go and negotiate the contracts with the teachers, janitors, and so on.

    Right now, they do all the negotiations and such, then have a referendum. If the referendum fails, then they need to go back and do it all over again. So I’d think it would make more sense to vote on how much money, then let the elected officials worry about the particulars within that budgetary framework.

    Greenwich is ERG-B not A. I knew why at one point, but have forgotten.

  29. Yes. Although I have to say that “usual right wing hissyfit throwers” absolutely does not equal “republicans.” Evidence the perfectly reasonable comments about this “controversy” from people like ACR & Chris Healy at the state level and commentators like Joe Scarborough at the national level.

    Thank you.
    Make no mistake; Chairman Healy’s as good as anyone at playing the obstinate total partisan. Plus he has a Univac-like brain that allows him to rattle off facts and figures (even bill numbers from decades ago) with the speed of a (Connecticut made, of course) machine gun.

    However, if the president can inspire even some small fraction of our youth to work harder in school and make something of themselves, why would any American consider that anything other than good?

    People would well served to watch a little more Fox News and a little less of the others.

    The so called “Republicans” that both MS/NBC and CNN parade around seem to be more often invited with the express intent to embarrass the right than any other reason.
    Pat Buchanan for example.

    Not that Fox won’t wheel out some occasional lunatic too; but they seem to do so with less frequency.

  30. Hi, gmr,
    The Greenwich Public Schools District is indeed listed in DRG B, rather than A. There are only nine school districts that remain in DRG A, with some having been “demoted” to B status not long ago. Though Greenwich is home to some of the wealthiest CEO’s and entertainers, doctors and attorneys in America, it is also home to a large number of people who are not nearly as economically fortunate. There are several socio-economic criteria that the state education department uses to classify schools into the eight DRG groups. Among them is the percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. The average for DRG B is 5%; Greenwich has 8.9% of its student body qualifying. There is also a category for percentage of students who do not speak English as their native language. I believe that the percentage in Greenwich is about 12%, which is over the average for DRG B, not to mention A. So those two metrics put Greenwich in the lower socio-economic grouping, though it is listed according to Census Bureau data as having the highest per capita income of any town of its size classification in the country.

  31. ACL, I would be very interested to hear which Republicans that Fox News rolls out you consider to be “lunatics”, and which Republicans you say CNN puts on camera whom you believe are “invited with the express intent to embarrass the right.”

    I would suggest that Ann Coulter comes under the category of “lunatic” who appears on Fox News, if for no other reason (though there are so many) that she advocated poisoning Supreme Court justices and told Donny Deutsch that she would like to see all Jews disappear from the world. But she also appears on CNBC with regularity. I would also include in that “lunatic” category Glen Beck, who told a Democratic United States congressman from Michigan who is a Muslim that “you’re the enemy”, and who stated that President Obama “hates white people”. Would you agree? Are there others you would add to the list?

    I am also interested to know which Republicans you believe appear on CNN who embarrass you as a Republican. I’m a bit surprised that you consider Pat Buchanan an embarrassment, since he is a long-time Republican and a former White House official who served under Richard Nixon. I would be interested to understand why you do not consider him a legitimate representative of Republican viewpoints.

    PS Regarding this controversy you might be interested to read the usually very conservative Greenwich Time’s editorial today that sharply criticized Greenwich Schools Superintendent Dr. Sidney Freund for delaying the broadcast of President Obama’s address to the nation’s students. To paraphrase Lyndon Johnson, if you’ve lost Greenwich Time’s editorial board, you’ve lost the argument (sorry, but no link yet to online edition).

  32. Yes. Although I have to say that “usual right wing hissyfit throwers” absolutely does not equal “republicans.”

    Except the national GOP pretty much invented and perfected this type of stuff. Of course there are some republicans who are not followers of Limbaugh and Beck, but there is no doubt this is a longstanding specifically Republican tactic. Read Palin’s op-ed defending “death panels” in WSJ today.

    The media environment is such that even when dems try to use it it doesnt work for them. And as long as fox news is treated by their peers as a legitimate news org and drudge as their assignment editor that will continue to be the case.

  33. Hooker,

    Greenwich. I’m familiar with it. My wife taught in one of its schools for some years. A very self sufficient town is Greenwich. Some municipalities, you understand, do not have referendums because their town charters do not allow it. I do not know whether this is the case in Greenwich. Perhaps you do.

    On a lighter note, you do understand, Hooker, that there are some people within the proletariat who secretly wish that wealthy towns such as Greenwich should carry the full weight of budget deficits.

    The Democrat leaders in the legislature have just added a progressive feature to the income tax, which may allow them to remain heedless of spending so long as they may increase your “fair” portion of the tax, fairness to be determined by the tax authorities.

    Assuming they are serious, that can only mean precipitous increases in the taxes of people like yourself who live – for the moment – in what is called Connecticut’s “gold coast.”

    What effect do you think such increases in taxes will have on self reliant towns such as Greenwich? Is it possible that such increases – the state is now grappling with a debt larger than the last pre-income tax budget – will effect you ability to pay for your town government?

    Or are the super rich in Greenwich so super rich they will not baulk at a “fair” tax?

    In Vernon, we need not grapple with such issues.

  34. To refresh grm’s memory, here is a piece that appeared in the JI on former Democratic mayor of Vernon Ellen Marmer: http://donpesci.blogspot.com/2007/07/referendum-blowback-marmer-to-vernon.html

  35. Talbot, don’t use the Guardian as a reference on anything Bush-related. They hated him. Note that the article you cite has no data on increases, just claims that teen pregnancies sky-rocketed. Comparative numbers would be helpful.

    As for Reagan, I was in school then, and do not recall it. Recall very few schools had cable then, so C-Span coverage does not mean this had even a marginal viewership across the country.

    As for Obama giving the speech, I had no quarrel. But if someone did, and wanted to excuse their child, what is wrong with that? The entire problem with liberals is that they have so much faith in government that they have a proportionally reduced faith in other structures, such as family. So if a family “opposes” their beloved big government, that family must be evil, misguided or stupid. Freedom is a great thing, and these families were free to do this if they wished.

    So yes, I agreed with those people. They are parents. They did what they thought was right for their children. I trust them with their kids’ futures more than I do Obama or a bunch of bureaucrats in Hartford or Washington.

  36. Vincent –

    As I posted early on in this thread, I think this has received WAAAAYYY too much attention. However, your particular post here, the last one, is a tad bit troubling.

    Let me get this straight, you believe, based on your post, that we are all given a certain amount of “faith” (lets call it the faith tank) and that liberals, who exactly that is isn’t clear, have so much faith in government that their faith tank is low, therefore they cant have faith in family?

    Look if parents wanted to keep their kids home so they didn’t get brainwashed about staying in school and working hard to achieve goals, so be it, but to claim that liberals have less faith in families because they have more faith in government is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever read on this blog…and we all know there is a healthy dose of dumb around here (on both sides of the issue)

    Also, I’m confused why you get the right to tell me that because I have faith in government I dont in family, but if I think a parent preventing their kid from watching a speech by the President, that’s about relatively agreed upon good things, is misguided then I’m pushing my “beloved big government” on them?

    Here’s my problem with this…when your guy was President it was unpatriotic to question his motives (abroad or domestic – I mean, even the Dixie Chicks got in trouble) but now when it’s one of our guys it’s unpatriotic to support the president, because questioning the president is the most patriotic thing you can do?

    For the love of God (I know, I know, you have more faith in him than I do) people, it was a speech about staying in school. Not that big of a deal.

  37. jbond007 said:
    Here’s my problem with this…when your guy was President it was unpatriotic to question his motives

    Hardly the case.

    When Bush was President it was patriotic to disagree and protest.

    However now that it’s your guy, it’s racist.
    Interesting twist.

    There were a bunch of burnt out pot heads from around 1967 that used to (apparently time travel to) protest the war on weekends on the Cape in Eastham in front of the windmill.
    I arrived last weekend all ready to go – had my “Impeach the War Monger Get the US out of Liechtenstein” sign all set ….. but no one was there.

    Damn!!
    After searching all over for a pair of button-fly bell bottoms just for the occasion, whipped up a tapestry belt, was going to look for a pair of granny glasses until I realized that’s what I already wear…………… and I was so hoping to make new friends and maybe even score a j too.

    I was soooo disappointed.

  38. Don Pesci writes, “On a lighter note, you do understand, Hooker, that there are some people within the proletariat who secretly wish that wealthy towns such as Greenwich should carry the full weight of budget deficits.”

    Actually, I think that is a mischaracterization. It has been accepted policy in America for many decades that the wealthiest Americans can and should pay a higher percentage of their income for the good of society. And that philosophy has been supported recently by this country’s two wealthiest men: Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Many states have likewise felt that fairness means a graduated income tax. And now Republican Jodi Rell has agreed, albeit implicitly, that it is fair for the Constitution State as well.

    Working Americans don’t want the wealthiest Americans to shoulder all the burden of government. They gladly pay their hard-earned share of taxes for the military, for transportation, for safety, and all other requirements of running our system of democratic government. And I’m sure most would very likely resent your insinuation that they are a bunch of freeloaders intent on mooching off of those with just a little bit more in savings. I think they would agree, however, and I would hope that most wealthier residents would as well, that it is morally wrong for all of the pain of government retrenchment in this historic economic downturn and financial meltdown to be borne by those least able to do so: the poor having their access to health care, already attenuated, reduced even more sharply, schools in poorer communities having to cut teachers, college tuition at state universities made even more expensive just as the need for a reasonably priced college education is most acute, and the workers on the lowest rung who have to rely on buses to get to work even on the coldest New England mornings forced to pay 50% more for those public transportation fares as they are struggling to hold on to their jobs and pay for rent or mortgages.

    It is morally just for residents in Greenwich, and even wealthier New Canaan and Darien and Westport and Wilton to step up and act responsibly for the good of everyone in the state. Will Steve Cohen of SAC Capital have to pay a little more on his state income tax return? Yes, but he can handle it. Will Mel Gibson have to pitch in a bit more? Yep, but he can afford it (he’s still a resident, isn’t he?). Will Ron Howard feel any serious pain when he writes a slightly bigger check to Hartford? I strongly doubt it. Were our Republican state representatives and Republican senator L. Scott Frantz right to attempt to prevent those very wealthy individuals from having to pay even a penny more in taxes when the state was facing a major fiscal crisis? You bet they were.

    But I couldn’t disagree more strongly with your characterization of the tiny increase in the tax rate on wealthy Nutmeggers, which still leaves the top rate far below that of the neighboring states of New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, as “precipitous”. It’s nothing of the sort.

    The effect on the ability to fund local government? I doubt it will be much at all. Greenwich’s property tax rate is not only the lowest of any municipality in the entire state, but it is the lowest by far. The effective rates for New Canaan, Darien and other wealthy Gold Coast communities are also the lowest in the state, and generally by far the lowest in the New York metropolitan area. So that provides a cushion. Republican first selectman Peter Tesei already cut several municipal employees, and did it in a most brutal fashion, with police officers escorting shocked long-term town employees out of Town Hall without permitting them even time to say goodbye to their former colleagues. The town has been underfunding services for some time, but the rebound in the financial industry certainly will help. So I don’t see a crisis here.

  39. Dear jbondoo (why can’t you people just use your names?) — I’m sorry you are troubled. My comments about big govt. were not about the speech. I could give a flying flip about the speech, as I note above. Now, the concept of proportional credulity may be a new one, but it has been greatly in evidence throughout liberal media for lo the past nine years. Recall, the Democrats are all about “science” and the R’s all about “religion.” It’s a silly reductivist schema, and I borrow it only to show how absurd that metaphor was. I know many R’s who are engineers and physicists, and many Dems who are preachers.

    But my point is valid for a large number of liberals of all stripes. They look to government for every answer, and disagree when some people say they think the government in this country isn’t worthy of much faith at all. So Ds and Rs have a different worldview on government. That’s why for liberals it was OK to question Bush’s sanity and motives constantly, but if a Mom or Dad tells a principal they don’t want their kid to miss gym in order to listen to some platitudes, they are evidence of a revanchist plot to undermine society.

    Now about faith in families. Listen here, OK? If you constantly ask for more funding for more school and government programs in order to better our children, that money must come from somewhere. It comes from taxpayers, many of whom have children. If so, they will send more to the tax man and have less left to spend on their family. And thus, if you are a believer in big govt., then yes, the end result of your policies will be a net decrease in a family’s freedom to pursue the lifestyle they desire. And thus, yes, if you believe in higher taxes for more and better school programs, you therefore believe in families having less in their discretionary funds for personal pursuits. Sorry.

  40. ACL writes, “I arrived last weekend all ready to go – had my “Impeach the War Monger Get the US out of Liechtenstein” sign all set ….. but no one was there.”

    I’m sorry, ACL, but I find nothing funny about your attempt to make jokes about protesting the war. There is nothing funny about the more than four thousand young Americans who have lost their lives in the senseless Iraq War that the Bush administration committed us to on false pretenses. I find nothing amusing about the more than 30,000 young Americans who have come back wounded, thousands without limbs, or the hundreds of thousands of troops now suffering from post traumatic stress. And I find nothing to laugh about in the 58,000 young Americans who died in that equally pointless war in Vietnam, or the 300,000 more who were wounded there.

    Your comments deriding those patriotic and well-informed Americans who so strenuously protested against the Iraq War are akin to the equally misguided video that President Bush created for the annual press dinner in which he pretended to search for non-existent weapons of mass destruction under chairs and tables in the Oval Office.

    Contrary to your assertion, your man Joe Lieberman did indeed accuse Americans who questioned the war in Iraq as unpatriotic and worse- asserting that they were making America less safe and promoting our enemies. The entire strategy of the Bush White House was to politicize the war and smear Democrats who opposed it as un-American.

    Contrary to your belief that people who protest senseless wars that result in the pointless deaths of good young Americans are somehow middle-aged drug addicts is shameful.

  41. ATalbot.

    You have the makings of a great writer if you can drop the partisanship.

    My earliest political memory is casting a vote for Bill Clinton in my elementary school’s mock Presidential election.

    Clinton wasn’t the typical Democrat. After 1994 he became a Center of the Road politician leaning to the right on economics. Obama and Carter he was not. Clinton inherited the peace dividend and the tech boom of the 90s and was fairly frugal with his budgets given the windfall.

    Obama’s real mistake was assigning homework. Normally educators just ignore these speeches. If it means setting up audio video equipment–forget it.

  42. Vincent writes, “That’s why for liberals it was OK to question Bush’s sanity and motives constantly, but if a Mom or Dad tells a principal they don’t want their kid to miss gym in order to listen to some platitudes, they are evidence of a revanchist plot to undermine society.”

    I don’t think anyone questioned Bush’s sanity; they questioned his intelligence and honesty and the thrust of his policies. Democrats do, indeed, believe that the people of a democratic society can effectively and safely work through their government to effect improvements in society for all of its members, especially the most vulnerable. But whether one is progressive or conservative, Democratic or Republican, in this democratic republic, we should, no, we must, show due respect for our representative institutions of government if we want them to endure. That means according the duly elected president of the United States proper respect, and teaching our children that they should show respect for the institution of the president by listening to a speech that he’s prepared for all of the nation’s youth. That is what was done under two other presidents, both Republicans, with no protest from the general population that they were entitled to do so. The only protests came afterwards with Reagan, because he delved into political issues that should not have been included in a speech to school children, and with Mr. Bush (41) because he used the students at the school where he delivered his speech a part of his props. As you see from the Obama video, he did not use school children as part of a photo op.

    One has to question what bizarre reasons those parents employ to prevent their children from listening to a speech by the president of the United States. The notion that he would “indoctrinate” our youth is not only silly, it’s unhinged. And we have heard so much bizarre beliefs about Mr. Obama, from the patently absurd notion that he was actually born in Kenya, to the suggestion that he’s a nazi or communist.

  43. GBPHD writes, “Clinton wasn’t the typical Democrat. After 1994 he became a Center of the Road politician leaning to the right on economics. Obama and Carter he was not. Clinton inherited the peace dividend and the tech boom of the 90s and was fairly frugal with his budgets given the windfall.”

    You suggest that Clinton wasn’t the typical Democrat, but Republicans strenuously opposed his economic policies, even going so far as to force the shutdown of the federal government because he wouldn’t give in to Newt Gingrich’s and their demands. But nice to see you acknowledge his fiscal expertise, though it comes more than eight years late.

    Before you suggest that President Carter was not “frugal”, please check out the economic data that show that the federal debt as a percentage of GDP remained unchanged under Carter. By contrast the supposedly “conservative” Reagan and Bush 41 and Bush 43 all presided over dramatic increases in the federal debt as a percentage of the economy.

    Mr. Obama’s continuation of fiscal stimulus to stave off a wholesale collapse of the economy following the September 2007 financial crisis is standard economics. It is really shocking that Republicans continue to espouse Herbert Hoover-era fiscal policy, which at that time precipitated a massive economic collapse. We know better now; why do Republicans insist on adopting policies that we know will lead to economic disaster?

  44. I watched as Republicans around the country sought to strip or cripple science in our textbooks.

    Your assumptions about the Christian Right are wrong. Or to put it better more clearly simplistic. In most areas of the country where the CR have influence they are well-entrenched in the Democratic Party as Blue Dogs, Boll Weevils, Prarie Dogs, and Dixiecrats.

    You may want to question who is really stifling scientific or meaningful discussion. Makind has many definitions and many theories of origin depending on the field. Anthropologists look at tools and brain size. Sociologists look at culture and social structure. Religion decribes the origins of man in Genesis as the creature that has spiritual awareness.

    Man suffers from temptation, guilt, lust, greed, moral awareness and a discernment of right and wrong. Man has a conscience and a spiritual imagination in the religious definition of man. The approximately 240 words in the Genesis Adam and Eve story have spawned countless books, essays, plays, songs and works of art concerning man’s psychology. Some, like David Lewis-Williams, see the cave paintings of Lascaux as being of spectral or astral in nature and likely painted by a ritualistic shaman cult.

    Banning evoluton may be narrow minded and pin headed. So is the virtual ban on religious topics and ethics in High School in favor of a morally vacant secular atheism.

  45. Thomas Hooker.

    Bush is no longer in office I didn’t vote for him.

    Obama’s in office. His deficits are huge! They are getting bigger! Esclating the war in Afgahnistan and a public health care option? This is a nightmare. Obama’s spending money like he’s both a Republcian and Democrat all rolled into one multi-cultural ball.

  46. GoatBoyPHD said:

    Banning evoluton may be narrow minded and pin headed. So is the virtual ban on religious topics and ethics in High School in favor of a morally vacant secular atheism.

    That’s really very well put.

  47. >>I’m sorry, ACL

    Who the efff is “ACL” ???????

  48. My apologies: AC”R”. As a UConn women’s basketball fan, I suppose I slipped into that all too frequent injury. I hope I haven’t jinxed anyone on the team!

  49. >>Your comments deriding those patriotic and well-informed Americans who so strenuously protested against the Iraq War

    For someone who claims to have spent time in Korea I find your attitude towards liberty to be surprisingly lacking and tend to doubt the veracity of all of your posts and would ignore them completely save for that they surely contain some of the most sophistic and humorous prevarication I’ve ever witnessed.

    By all means carry on.

  50. >>As a UConn women’s basketball fan,

    Oh stop – next you’ll be saying you’re Sox fan too.

  51. “A morally vacant secular atheism.” What in tarnation does that mean? Give me a break!

    The notion that if one is not a right-wing Southern Baptist, one is “morally vacant” is ridiculous. It was the Southern Baptists who so ardently supported slavery a century and a half ago. It was that Christian Right that so strenuously opposed integration forty years ago. And please don’t tie yourself in knots trying to deny it. Evangelical conservatives vote strongly Republican, so the notion that “well entrenched in the Democratic Party” is simply wrong.

    Democratic states have lower rates of divorce, lower rates of unwanted pregnancies, lower rates of poverty among the elderly, and higher educational attainment. If that is what you call “morally vacant secular atheism”, then perhaps the Republican states would like to give it a try!

  52. “Working Americans don’t want the wealthiest Americans to shoulder all the burden of government.”

    Hooker,

    Try to pay attention to what actually is being said. Nowhere have I said that all working Americans want the rich to pay all the taxes. I consider myself a member of the proletariat, and I don’t want that.

    “Some” of the proletariat want this. And they are well represented in the state legislature. What some in the state legislature would call the “rich” pay the bulk of taxes, and they have paid them even before Democrats in the state legislature added to the income tax a progressive feature. Nationally 80% of taxes are paid by 20% of the population.

    You have to stop using the term “moral,” unless you are willing to fix a limit on the amount of taxes that should be paid by rich people. In your next communication, perhaps you can tell me what that limit should be. Until then, it is unless to throw around terms such as “moral” and “fair.”

    In the Stalin era, the Soviet Union expropriated all the wealth of the so called “kulaks,” mid level property owners. Does that make the Soviet Union more moral than Connecticut, which expropriates less of it?

    Out of context, the terms you are using make no sense at all.

    This is what I want to hear from you: What percentage of the total taxes spent by the state of Connecticut taken from those in the state that individually make more than $500,000 would, in your estimation, be fair and moral?

    Just give me a figure, and I’ll be happy to discuss morality with you.

  53. ACR, you’ve lapsed into nonsense again: “For someone who claims to have spent time in Korea I find your attitude towards liberty to be surprisingly lacking and tend to doubt the veracity of all of your posts and would ignore them completely..”

    Let’s be clear: Korean war- necessary. Vietnam War- a terrible mistake. Iraq War- a terrible mistake. Most of us can discern between what was worth fighting and what conflicts weren’t. Do you think that most Americans think, as Rob Simmons does, that we were right to have fought in Vietnam? Of course not. South Koreans fought alongside American troops, and as KATUSA’s within American units. And they fought hard. Iraqi government troops are shooting our troops in the back.

    Now if you are capable of lucid thought, please explain to us how you believe that opposing the Vietnam War and viewing the Korean War as a necessary conflict to engage in makes my “attitude toward liberty lacking”. And try very, very hard to make a rational argument that everyone can understand here. Leave your usual vitriol out of it. Try hard now!

  54. Mr. Pesci, you know very well that there is no hard and fast magical tax rate at which morality and fiscal responsibility is maximized. People in a democratic society are constantly working out what they want government to do for the society, what the private sector should do, and how much people at various income levels should pay for it. But you must also not ignore that morality does indeed play a role. Recall that Congressman Jim Himes at the beginning of every town hall meeting on health care reform stated that he viewed health reform as a moral duty. He also stated that it is immoral for any child in America to be unable to see a doctor because its family couldn’t afford it. It is a moral issue when babies in our country die at far higher rates than in any other wealthy nation. It is a moral issue when the citizens of a state get together to determine how to solve an economic crisis, and only the wealthiest are protected from contributing in any way whatsoever.

    Morality is most assuredly part of our conversation and our decision-making process on taxes and government. But first, I think you are being inaccurate to harp on the amount of taxes a certain percentage of the population pays, but ignore what percentage of national income that same percentage of the population earns. Over the past few decades, income growth for the vast majority of Americans has stagnated, while earnings for the small percentage at the very top have skyrocketed. To suggest that those earning a million dollars a year, a tiny percentage of the population, should be protected from any tax increase in an economic crisis, while those earning far less are subjected to cuts in government services and education, and forced to pay higher fees and transportation fares seems to me to be very wrong. And make no mistake that Americans are making moral judgments about the vast earnings of those on Wall Street, particularly when so many Americans are struggling just to keep their homes or pay for health care.

    Though you say that you did not suggest that “all working Americans want the rich to pay all the taxes”, you then turned around and said that “some of the proletariat want this. And they are well represented in the state legislature.” So you insinuate that many Democrats in the legislature want precisely that. Seems though you back away from that assertion at one point, only to reassert it elsewhere. And leaping to the specious comparison of Connecticut’s applying a graduated state income tax to Soviet expropriation of kulaks is another example of sophistry, moving from a rational argument to the absurd.

    But I would point out that your attempt to equate the graduated income tax with Stalin’s Soviet Union, which is exactly what you did, is part and parcel of the extremism that is rampant among conservatives today. The entire movement to ban Mr. Obama’s address to school children because he will “indoctrinate” them with “socialist ideology”, the febrile notion that there will be “death panels” in the public insurance plan, that Mr. Obama was not really born in America, Glen Beck’s tear-laden warnings that the government is taking away our freedoms, and that Mr. Obama must be “stopped”, that is the sort of extremism that is so rampant today.

    I know that you understand that a graduated income tax as practiced in so many states and in the federal government for decades will not make us followers of Karl Marx and bring on the reign of an American Stalin. But you need to view your rhetoric as the vast majority of Americans view it. And Americans are increasingly dismayed with the outlandish and ever more hate-filled views of the Republican Party. Republican Party affiliation is at an all-time low. Are you sure you want to continue comparing sensible choices on tax policy with turning into a North American version of the Soviet Union?

  55. >> Do you think that most Americans think, as Rob Simmons does, that we were right to have fought in Vietnam?

    You forget we had a rather unfortunate treaty with France that got us in there in the first place; and of course they fled for home promptly upon our arrival.

    France having lost their ballsey gene pool in the course of the 2 world wars found themselves with a severe testosterone shortage in their military which appears to continue to this very day.

    So – Yes.
    Besides – fighting tyranny and Communism is **always** a worthwhile act and one too few take seriously.
    (I am no libertarian as it regards the military where I remain an unapologetic hawk.)

    That said – I do have serious problems with how Vietnam was handled.

    We could have easily given them specific coordinates and then hit that site (a rural rice paddy would have been fine) dead center with weapons we already had but were classified at the time.
    (And many of not most remained so for ages after too.)

    There was in fact *no* reason to expose our military or theirs, much-less civilians; to ground combat when frightening the daylights out of them would have worked quite satisfactorily.

    The former USSR was concerned only with saving face; and that could have been handled diplomatically with few guarantees and maybe a concession or two.

    LBJ’s (etc * et al) desire to play close to the vest was in retrospect, horrific and by the end he knew it too.

    As Capitalism creeps it’s way into Vietnam even the casual observer can see the industry and innovation of the people – it should have begun for them decades earlier and without first bombing the whole place to smithereens.

    Never-the-less; due to our sudden departure we set them and the rest of south east Asia up for a blood bath which they surely got.

  56. Hooker:

    The notion that if one is not a right-wing Southern Baptist, one is “morally vacant” is ridiculous. It was the Southern Baptists who so ardently supported slavery a century and a half ago. It was that Christian Right that so strenuously opposed integration forty years ago. And please don’t tie yourself in knots trying to deny it.

    I wouldn’t claim otherwise. Likewise many Christians opposed slavery.


    Evangelical conservatives vote strongly Republican, so the notion that “well entrenched in the Democratic Party” is simply wrong.

    Granted. But the Blue Dogs Christians exist. Well-entrenched in the North? No. Well-entrenched in local politics in the South? Yes. A signifcant enough barrier to Democratic hegemony in the Senate and House? Yes.

    Democratic states have lower rates of divorce,

    Given the way divorce laws cary from state to state that going some. I look a the following chart on wikipepdia and wouldn’t begin to make your case.

    I see lots of green marrieds outside of the Northeast and West coast.
    I see lots of light blue and white in the heartland and dark blue on the West Coast for divorces.

    lower rates of unwanted pregnancies,

    If that is determined by abortions then I see quite a bit of brown in the North East and the West .

    http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparemaptable.jsp?cat=10&ind=465

    Did you fact check any of your statements?

    If that is what you call “morally vacant secular atheism”, then perhaps the Republican states would like to give it a try!

    I understand your bipolar disorder. If it isn’t Democrat it’s Republican. It’s one bit binary code that hasn’t evolved to a full byte yet. It’s monochrome theater.

    I don’t support narrowing views on science and I don’t support the current practice in schools to leave discussion of morality, ethics and religion out of the conversation. It’s simple. It avoids conflict. And it’s unrealistic in real life.

  57. >>I’m sorry, ACL, but I find nothing funny about your attempt to make jokes about protesting the war. There is nothing funny about the more than four thousand young Americans

    The murder rate in most American cities where gun control exists is even higher – so why aren’t you out protesting that?

    It’s all Obama’s war now – where are the protesters?

    It’s very immoral, illegal etc. while there’s a Republican in the White House, but once the place changes hands it’s all okay – do I have that right?

    Clearly I do.

  58. >>It was that Christian Right that so strenuously opposed integration forty years ago.

    Are you laboring under the delusion that the Abolitionists were agnostics?

    Hardly.

  59. ACR, are you laboring under the delusion that Southern Baptists were Abolitionists?

    Apparently.

  60. ACR wrote, “The murder rate in most American cities where gun control exists is even higher – so why aren’t you out protesting that?”

    Did you mean that to be a serious comment? I think that is so absurd that everyone will ignore it.

    “It’s Obama’s war now. Where are the protestors?” Have you not read a newspaper in months? We have pulled out of the Iraqi cities and in a few short months we will be out of Iraq. Do you want us to protest that fixed plan to withdraw our troops? Are you unaware of that simple fact? Really?

    No, ACR, it is a senseless, stupid war, and finally an American president, a Democratic president, is getting us out. Would you like to send your child to Iraq to keep the war going? I didn’t think so.

    Do you have any of that right? Absolutely not.

  61. GBPHD, the reason that the “Southern Baptists” were formed was because Northern Baptists were pro-abolition, while Baptists in the south opposed emancipation. Southern Baptists split off from Northern Baptists because they refused to agree to abolish slavery. That’s historical fact. No denying it, pal. Really.

    PHD, stop calling people names and accusing others of being bipolar. That’s really disgusting stuff. Others who posted garbage like that were sent packing. If you would like to continue to contribute, I’d suggest that you adopt a more responsible and less insulting tone. Really. Or shove off.

  62. Hooker.

    I apologize if you took it personally. I know bipolar people and it’s not a laughing matter. It was a poor use of the term. Monopolar would have more accurately portrayed my opinions of your handling of grey areas in statistics. I’m sure my reading of your posts as the diatribes of a Democratic idealogue wearing blue tinted glasses are entirely without merit.

  63. Here is some statistical proof about divorce rates by state:

    http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_ID=10961

    The highest divorce rates are in Tennessee (6.4), Arkansas (6.1), Alabama (6.0), and Oklahoma ( 6.0). I’m leaving out Nevada due to the many divorces from other states coming in. In the Republican Southeast, only South Carolina (3.8) was below the national average of 4.2.

    Democratic New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut were all under 3.0 per thousand population, far below the national average. Illinois was also substantially below.

    So there are the facts, all. So please don’t dump that holier than thou garbage on us Democrats from your red state Bible thumpers.

  64. Hooker,

    You write, “And I’m sure most would very likely resent your (my) insinuation that they are a bunch of freeloaders intent on mooching off of those with just a little bit more in savings.”

    I’ve already replied to this, though it might be fun to ask you where, implicitly or explicitly, I have said this. I invite you to examine my blog, which contains over a thousand entrees, and if you find anywhere in it the words “freeloader” or “mooching” I will eat them, provided you agree as a penance to eat your last load of commentary on this blog.

    You write, “…it is morally wrong for all of the pain of government retrenchment in this historic economic downturn and financial meltdown to be borne by those least able to do so.”

    The word “all” hardly makes this observation more logical or reasonable. Very nearly “all” the pain of taxes is born not by the poor in this country but by the plunderable rich. You consider this “moral.” Others — among whom must be counted John Locke, from whose works the founders of the country drew their inspiration, as well as the founders themselves – might consider that proportion a bit unfair, perhaps even a violation of the Declaration of Independence. At the time that document was written, the voting franchise was restricted to men of property, and it is commonly accepted by most scholars that the word “happiness” in the phrase “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” was a synonym for the enjoyment of property. One cannot enjoy that which is expropriated by others, and at some point in the taxing process even you must agree that appropriation becomes expropriation, which is why I mentioned the confiscation of property by the Soviets. If 100% of a persons’s property is appropriated, surely even you will agree that this amounts to expropriation. A careful reader would have noticed the point.

    Milton Friedman, who also received a noble prize in economics, considered that once the upper quintile of taxpayers paid more than 33% of taxes, they had suffered a wounding diminution of liberty at the hands of the majority, many of whom are willing to consume taxes and have others pay the bill. This minority, many of whom live cheek by jowl with you in Greenwich, is now paying well over 50% of the taxes. Some peg it as high as 80%. In my opinion, the appropriation of 50% and more of a man’s property – money is property – is expropriation and violates both the spirit and letter of the Declaration of Independence, which of course may not matter greatly to others who are unconcerned with what the founders considered the imprescriptible rights of man.

    Whether any of this is moral or not I leave for others to judge.

    Finally, you do not think that an increase of taxes (And when in the last decade and more have they gone down?) at the federal, state and municipal level among a class of people who already pay the bulk of property, federal and state taxes — in the midst of what you and other partisan Democrats consider a mini-depression, will not affect their ability to support their school system.

    You leave me breathless. Sweet dreams to you, and may reality never intrude.

  65. New England (sans Maine), New York and New Jersey are the 7 states states with the highest peprcentage of Roman Catholics (average 40%).

    In New England these arenot just your average Catholics. Catholics as in Kennedy Democrats. My family was a proud one back in ‘1960.

    Are you really such an idealogue that you think the reason divorce rates are low in the Catholic states it’s because they are Democrats? I get it. I get it. The Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are bordered by Blue States. Your logical conclusion? Democrats crawled out of the ocean and founded America?

    BTW heard any good jokes about small Irish or Italian families lately?

    Why not go back and state whatever your argument was clearly instead of drifting. I’d really hate to find myself pimiping the Southern Baptists.

  66. And Hooker,

    Illinois has the 10th highest population of Catholics in the country at 30%.

  67. Mr. Pesci, time and time again, you come up with only half the truth to justify your conservative tax beliefs. Once again, you simply cannot wax breathless about people in Greenwich “paying well over 50% of the taxes”, while ignoring the fact that they are earning well over 50% of the income. If you cannot acknowledge the huge and growing income inequality in this country, then we cannot hold an honest debate on taxation. Again, when Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, America’s two wealthiest men, decry the fact that their tax rates are lower than their secretaries, then you just cannot cry about taxing the wealthy.

    And Mr. Pesci, your assertion that “the pain of taxes is born not by the poor in this country but by the plunderable rich” reflects a shocking detachment from reality. Are the rich starving? Losing their houses? Experiencing real suffering? Not really. But the middle class and the working poor are getting clobbered. And let’s acknowledge, shall we, that Governor Rell and the minority General Assembly Republicans fought tooth and nail to keep those rich from paying a single penny more to help the state. Democrats weren’t “plundering the rich” by any stretch of the imagination. Really, can you really believe that it is the wealthy who are the people suffering most in this economic crisis? Really? Because that belief is laughable.

    Mr. Pesci, previously you wrote, “that there are some people within the proletariat who secretly wish that wealthy towns such as Greenwich should carry the full weight of budget deficits.” Some people want wealthy towns like Greenwich to carry “the full weight of budget deficits”. That is the same as “all”, as I asserted you had expressed. You are most assuredly suggesting that those “proletarians” want to freeload off of residents of wealthy towns. That is precisely the implication of your writings here. Read your own words again. Clearly that is what you are implying.

    How in the world can you carry on about “expropriation” and Soviets with a straight face? And how in the world could you even muse about this: “If 100% of a person’s property is appropriated, surely even you will agree that this amounts to expropriation.” The top tax rate today is lower than it was under the Reagan administration. The top tax rate is at one of the lowest points in the past seventy years. So how in the world could you possibly be fretting about Soviet-style expropriation of 100% of assets, or 50%, or talk about “the plunderable rich”. That belies a detachment from the reality of our society that is shocking. And it is precisely that strident belief that is so opposite to our nation’s reality that we see in the Tea Party movement, in the birthers, and in the Republicans’ belief that the government will create death panels when we have had nothing of the sort in Medicare for nearly half a century. It is that bizarre detachment from reality and truth that so shocks those of us who are not Republicans. Tell me something: how do you think average Nutmeggers view your talk about “plundering the rich”? The last time we had such a massive economic downturn, Democrats took over Congress for 62 of the next 64 years. Don’t you see how unpopular this point of view is with the broad population of this state?

    Mr. Pesci, are you really so oblivious to the one in eight Americans who is unemployed or underemployed? To the 700,000 Americans who are forced into bankruptcy every year by overwhelming medical expenses? Are you so unaware of the millions of Americans facing repossession of their homes? Are you unaware of the breathtaking increase in the number of middle class families relying on soup kitchens since last year? There’s one in Stamford not far from here that has nearly doubled the number of families it is helping. How in the world can you ignore that real pain, while believing that the wealthy are suffering “pain”? Do you not see how detached that attitude is?

    Let’s be clear that the depth of this economic downturn, unlike your view of the “plunderable rich”, is a matter of actual statistics, not partisan subjective viewpoints. Per capita auto sales are down to 1946 levels. Paul Krugman pointed out that the drop in international trade was commensurate with the contractions seen in the first years of the Great Depression. Never since the Great Depression have we seen this number of major financial institutions going bankrupt or needing federal intervention. That is not a matter of partisanship; it’s fact.

    Again, next time please compare the percentage of income earned by the top one half of one percent and one percent to total income in this nation before you bewail the percentage of taxes paid by that small group. And take a look at the yawning gap between the top wage earners and the bottom wage earners and look at how it has widened. Democratic countries with massive income disparities do not remain stable for long. Consider that.

  68. ACR, your belief that the Vietnam War was right for us to have fought puts you firmly in that bizarre but tiny group of people who will never learn. I’m not going to debate your very twisted ideas about the Soviet Union and mysterious weapons that could have precluded our sending ground troops. That is crazy stuff and light years away from realistic responsible debate.

    Suffice it to say that these strange foreign policy beliefs and inclinations are what led this country into Iraq. Most sensible Americans strongly disagree with you, and will continue to disagree with you. Again, it is because of those reckless foreign adventures that the American people threw Republicans out of office over the past few years. And the congressional Republicans’ shamelessly acting like thugs during President Obama’s speech tonight only reinforces the already strong belief among the majority of Americans that Republicans are a twisted group of extremists detached from reality at so many levels. Do you really think those viewpoints and your party’s behavior lead average Americans to trust you with governing? Really?

  69. “Hooker”
    >>.. was that Christian Right that so strenuously opposed integration forty years ago.

    Then this:

    >>.. are you laboring under the delusion that Southern Baptists were Abolitionists?

    Which is it?
    Christian Right or Southern Baptists?

  70. This is ridiculous.

    Do any of you remember what the original story was about?

  71. Hooker,

    Look. Here’s the thing: You have to stop spending money – right now.

    I am temperamentally opposed to any governmental measure that makes taxing and spending easier. Taxing the rich is especially pernicious in this regard because people like yourself love to cloak highway robbery in moral robes, and this is no inducement to do what is morally necessary, which is, to repeat — to stop spending money.

    Now, this state is suffering from an orgy 0f spending that began with an income tax that was pegged high enough to produce two decades of surpluses, all quickly spent by people who consider it their moral duty to shuttle money to state employees who are making far more money that the kind of people you insult over here in Vernon who, like me, oppose rampant spending.

    Don’t give me any lessons in morality unless you can show me that you are wedded to the virtue of prudence and frugality. I don’t want to hear it.

    The Yankee Institute – God bless it — just now is handing out a list of taxes and fees collected by state and federal agencies. There are about four hundred separate entries on the list. These were the niggling little taxes the income tax was supposed to replace. If this state can not get along with the accumulative amount in taxes represented in that list, it simply does not deserve to survive. And it will not survive.

    Now, when anyone says to me that one more additional tax will be the key that will open utopia’s door, I unfurl this banner of taxes like a flag and tell’em put it on the list. When they see it, they gag.

    You are beyond gagging. And the only thing I have to say to you is that you are going to deserve the government you get.

    All other – join the revolution.

  72. Don and ACR, you guys got the Hooker all wound up. That boy never did learn how to be short, succinct and to the point did he?

    Don, will you be at Charlie’s for Mayor McCoy’s fund raiser on September 15th at 7:30 in the morning? The Lt. Governor and Tony Guglielmo will be that. I’ll be there too and it would be a pleasure to meet you.

  73. Tal,
    Sorry, I just saw your note. I’ll try to make it on the 15th. Boy, you guys sure get up early in the morning, probably a cultural tick left over from a time when cows roamed where Charlie’s now is. By the way, where the Hell is Charlie’s? Hooker’s okay. Sometimes he just let’s his partisanship cloud what otherwise is a fine intellect. Other times, he thinks he knows what I’m saying better than I know what I’m saying. But not everyone is like this in Greenwich, and we proletarian Vernonites must be forbearing.

  74. Hey ACR

    Ask Hooker, who heartily objects to adventuresome foreign wars, whether he agrees with George Will – not a waco Republican – that American troops ought to be withdrawn from Afghanistan toute suit.

    And also… Never mind, I withdraw the suggestion.

  75. Pesci, you wrote, “..the kind of people you insult over here in Vernon..”

    Tell me when I insulted anyone in Vernon. Really, you show me the insult. Of course you can’t, because when presented with reasoned argument and facts, you just throw up your hands and indulge in personal invective. The “insult” charge is false and you know it.

    And your insistence on characterizing any taxes on wealthy Americans as “expropriation”, or “highway robbery” or some sort of Soviet-style scheme is never backed up by reality. You are fixated on an ideology that brooks no rational inspection.

    I can take comfort, however, that most Americans think that Social Security was an excellent idea, as was Medicare and Medicaid. And most Americans believe in employing government to protect the environment and to make sure that our food and medicines are safe to ingest, and that we were right to spend billions on an interstate highway system, and to invest subsidies to maintain our commuter rail systems in the crowded east coast. Most people would never return to some mythical time when we were all farmers and never needed the government for anything. That is where most of us Americans stand.

  76. ACR doesn’t have to ask me. I think Will is generally correct. I agree with him. But perhaps ACR can critique my reading ability. Did I comprehend Mr. Pesci’s post well enough for you?

  77. Every time you ask Hooker one question, he throws ten at you, plus the kitchen sink. I can only answer a few here. “There are only so many hours in the day,” said Oscar Wilde when someone asked why he had not bothered to undertake a serious study of Marxism. And no, Hooker, I am not accusing you of being a Marxist. However, I do not wish to seem to be avoiding Mr. Hooker’s highly personal questions the way he regularly avoids answering my impersonal questions.

    “Mr. Pesci, are you really so oblivious to the one in eight Americans who is unemployed or underemployed?”

    It would be indelicate of me to answer “Yes.” This is what is called a rhetorical question. It needs no answer. However, I should point out that many more people have been brought to distress during the the Administration of President Barack Obama. This was the president who told us that his policies were being instituted to prevent unemployment from rising beyond 8 percent. It is now on its way to 10 percent.

    “Are you so unaware of the millions of Americans facing repossession of their homes?”

    I am not unaware of this, and in fact have written about it here: http://donpesci.blogspot.com/2008/10/frank-moses-fannie-and-connecticuts.html, and here http://donpesci.blogspot.com/2009/02/on-eve-of-rells-budget-address-let.html, and here http://donpesci.blogspot.com/2009/03/dodd-and-appearance-of-corruption.html, and half a dozen other places that anyone interested in plumbing my opinion on the subject might have found with a little research.

    Since Mr. Hooker doesn’t read links, I will save him the trouble and simply say, “Pin the tail on two donkeys: The estimable Sen. Chris Dodd and Rep Barney Frank.”

    “To the 700,000 Americans who are forced into bankruptcy every year by overwhelming medical expenses?”

    Things will get much better after the Obama administration and Sen. Dodd finish destroying the insurance companies, thus creating more unemployment in Connecticut. A government insurance company does not have to hold cash in reserve to pay off claims, like Aetna or several other Connecticut insurance companies. It’s customers may rely on the full faith and credit of the US treasury – heh, heh (see the Chinese about this) – which give the government owned insurance company a huge competitive advantage over what will be, once Obama and Dodd have finished tinkering with it, quasi-private, heavily regulated companies. In business, advantage is the whole ball game.

    “Are you unaware of the breathtaking increase in the number of middle class families relying on soup kitchens since last year?”

    Yes indeed, we have one in Vernon. It’s been there through several administrations. My wife and I support it, also Fidelco, also a home for Catholic nuns, also The Foreign Legion, also the indigent Republican Party, and other charities as well, all without being urged to do so by the Obama Administration – even though we proletarians here in Vernon are not quite as well off as Mr. Hooker’s neighbors in Greenwich.

    “How in the world can you ignore that real pain, while believing that the wealthy are suffering ‘pain? Do you not see how detached that attitude is?”

    I do not believe that the wealthy — whom Mr. Hooker, Sen. Dodd, Rep, Frank, President Obama, Speaker of the state House Chris Donovan, President Pro Tem of the state senate Don Williams, and others too numerous to mention wish to despoil – are in pain. This is an interpolation of Mr. Hooker’s. He used the word “pain.” I was simply playing on his keyboard. However, if the wealthy were in pain, they might well be able to afford a private physician to sooth their pain. The rest of the physicians in the land will be very busy caring for the influx of new people that Obama, Dodd et al wish to bring into the system, without adding new doctors or running up costs. If Mr. Hooker can figure out how they plan to do this, he should bottle his figuration and send it to some Connecticut insurance company. It may give them an advantage over their competitors. And advantage in business is the whole ballgame.

  78. Hooker, I generally agree with you, but boy did you take this topic completely off track. It was originally a simple premise; Do those on the right who comment here agree with taking the kids out of school for this speech?

    Staying on message isn’t as fun or impressive as debating tangents, but it’s a hundred times more effective.

  79. for reals, Your comments:

    “Hooker, I generally agree with you, but boy did you take this topic completely off track.”

    “Staying on message isn’t as fun or impressive as debating tangents, but it’s a hundred times more effective.”

    I certainly remember having a few discussions with you a year or so ago where we distinctly disagreed, but managed to stay on topic. I didn’t care so much that we would come to agreement as much as I enjoyed the intellectual debate with you. In the process some of your comments gave me things to reflect on, things I otherwise would not have. I hope mine did for you as well.

    Your comments in post #78 above are a breath of fresh air. I am increasingly finding it harder and harder to join into a conversation at this site when I find that the original topic has long ago been forgotten or ignored, a victim of the same old boring partisan nonsense that is pulling our entire country down. I am also not impressed by those who type a small novel to demonstrate just how much they know about anything but the thread topic each post. Frankly after a few hundred words, I just give up.

    So I guess to make my comment about this whole idea of our President addressing our kids, and if for some is not letting them hear him speak to them in school OK? …….My thought…….. SO WHAT???

    Our public school systems can use all the help they can get, and honestly who is a better role model, some athlete on steroids, or some rock star on drugs? Agree with him or not he is our President.

    FYI, I typically vote Republican and I still, whole heartedly approve of this message. Al

  80. checkyourfacts11

    My friend it brings a smile to my face that you have not changed! You have forgotten the great times of our childhood! Let me help you out.

    “My earliest political memory is casting a vote for Bill Clinton in my elementary school’s mock Presidential election. I fancied myself a Democrat. A friend, who thought himself a Republican, told me that I ought to have voted for Dole. “Bill Clinton is going to fire my grandfather,” he said. This didn’t make sense to me then.”

    Well Mr. Talbot this doesnt make sense to me now!

    In 1996, we were in the first grade. We did not have a mock Presidential election in our class. I would not have said that Clinton is going to fire my grandfather because one has been dead for 25 years and the other retired in the late 1970’s!

    We had the mock election in the 5th grade during the Bush-Gore Race! Don’t you remember Adam? You did create a great false example though!

    If Im not mistaken, I still have a picture of you and I sharing a smile on the eve of the 2001 town elections, where Republicans swept in our great small town. I remember that night at the GOP headquarters, it will always be a childhood memory of mine.

    As always I hope all is well, just be sure to stick to the facts when posting in an open forum. Also thank you for calling me an up and coming member of the National College Republicans!

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