Friday, September 21, 2007

The Mildest Show on Earth

I see that the state legislature has approved a $1.25 million bonding request for renovations at Bridgeport's P.T. Barnum Museum. You may think this is an appropriate expenditure of public funds, or you may not, but to me it proves Barnum's famous line that there's a sucker born every minute. If the idea of the Barnum Museum is to keep alive the legacy of its namesake, it should be the most exciting, unpredictable, over-the-top museum in America. It should be a magnet for outrage, a center for scam, the Weekly World News of the museum world. People should be lining up outside its doors to come view the latest spectacle. Instead, the museum is quiet, unassuming and, dare I say it, so tasteful that you barely know it's there. What could and should be one of Connecticut's most notable and colorful attractions is instead a shrinking violet. Barnum no doubt would be embarrassed to have left behind such a low-key monument. And the state should wonder about its unquestioning support. Who are the suckers this time?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mountain Lions in Connecticut?

One of our most commented-upon stories in the past few years is "Seeing Ghosts" by Brigitte Ruthman, which explores the possibility of mountain lions (or "cougars" or "catamounts" or "pumas") having returned to the state. Since the story was published on in 2005, there have been numerous eyewitness accounts posted from people who believe that they have seen a mountain lion here, primarily in the less-populated and more-forested northeastern and northwestern corners of the state.

Officials at the Department of Environmental Protection maintain that the majority of sightings are either bobcats or coyotes, and cite the lack of physical evidence (no footprints, no dead carcases, etc.). The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has created a site dedicated to the Easter Cougar, and is trying to verify the existence of this elusive creature.

I personally have done a lot of hiking around the state and never have come across any of these creatures, but that doesn't mean they're not out there. Anyone have any stories to share?

UPDATE: I posted this last week, and lo and behold in a hometown paper, the Shelton Weekly, there's a report of a third appearance of a large "cat-like" animal in the White Hills section of town. The creature sighted was a "golden animal" "the size of a baby deer" and was reported in a tree at one point.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Non Compos? No Problem!

We've all long understood that accountability among our state employees for the mistakes they make and stupid things they do is basically non-existent. Two recent episodes bring that home very clearly. The first was the complete, criminal screw-up of renovations to I-84 in Waterbury, in which not one, but two, private firms didn't bother to, first, properly build, and, two, check the work on, the roadside drainage system. Kind of lost in the drama was the fact that these two firms had to have been overseen by multiple employees in the state Department of Transportation Thus far, only one such person has been identified, but he was "punished" by being transferred to another responsibility (much like a rogue parish priest quietly being shifted to another flock). A similar scenario is unfolding in the laptop scandal in which a tax department employee allowed a computer with info on more than 100,000 Connecticut taxpayers get stolen from his car. Will he or she be named? Punished? If makes me think that if you're worried about identity theft--which is the whole problem with the laptop dust-up--just become a Connecticut state employee and then get into trouble. No one will ever find out who you are.