Thursday, December 17, 2009

Go ahead, boycott!

Baseball-cap-wearing Michael-Moore-mouthpiece Michael Moore has called for a boycott of Connecticut in reaction to Sen. Joe Lieberman's nightmarish, self-centered manipulation of the national health-care legislation now before Congress. Moore blames the people of Connecticut, who voted Lieberman into office, for the current weakened state of the bill. He states in a recent tweet that "we'll boycott your state" if those of us here in Connecticut don't immediately begin a recall process against Lieberman.
Well, first of all, we don't have a recall provision for a situation like this. But secondly, and far more interestingly, I wonder just what form such a boycott might take. I guess primarily it would mean that Moore himself would refuse to enter Connecticut. I don't think most people here would qualify that as a great loss. I don't think we see much of him, or his spending power, anyway. But then there are the others who constitute the "we" in his threat. Does Michael Moore have a large posse of followers who stand ready to do his bidding? Could there be another Jonestown somewhere in our future? (Well, at least it doesn't look like the carnage would take place in Connecticut.) Or is Moore now speaking on behalf of all the people in America who are unhappy with Sen. Lieberman? This would be a significantly larger group, and it'd represent quite a leap in Moore's already heady sense of self-importance. Of course many of those who are fed up with Lieberman live in Connecticut, which would make it especially hard for them to boycott it.
Finally, practically speaking, how would the boycott work? Moore could order his minions to stop buying Pez and Wiffle balls, I suppose. He could refuse to step aboard an Otis elevator (using the stairs might do him some good). But could he afford to abandon the campuses here (Yale, Wesleyan and others) that serve as incubators for his followers? Could he afford to turn up his nose at the many Connecticut residents from the entertainment world who help fund his adventures?
Like most successful agitators, Michael Moore notoriously sees the world in black and white. He has trouble fixing his jowly gaze upon the likes of a Joe Lieberman, who, unlike stolid Charleton Heston or Roger Smith, changes his coloration from day to day. It's much easier for him to take a shot instead at the entire state of Connecticut, which, I might point out, excepting Lieberman, has elected what is likely the most Michael-Moore-friendly slate of legislators in America.
So bring on the boycott, big guy! Dazzle us with your powers to deny and demean. Maybe we'll put your head on the top of a Pez dispenser.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Broken Budget

Anyone looking for a prime example of how mindless and broken Connecticut's budget-making process has become need look no further than the state's own efforts to market itself to visitors and residents. According to the recently approved state budget, some $2.7 million has been allocated so that everyone working in the Commission on Culture and Tourism will keep his or her job, but only $1 (that's right, $1) will be available for marketing programs. That means the effort that formerly included things like the Connecticut Vacation Guide, the website, television commercials, press releases, welcome centers, seminars, press events and more--in short, all the support for the billion-dollar culture and tourism industry--will disappear even though all the state employees responsible for them will remain at their desks. How will these public employees spend their time? No one knows. Likewise, who knows how many similar situations there are out there across all of state government?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ready or Not . . .

Today at noon television stations in Connecticut and around the country began the historic switch from analog to digital transmission, as required by federal law. Cable and satellite customers won’t be inconvenienced in any way, but those who still depend on a roof antenna or the rabbit-eared set to receive a signal will no longer have TV service unless they purchase a converter box.

Savvy consumers may have already purchased the latest HD TVs to get the optimum results but the FCC predicts that millions of people are not yet prepared, and hordes of viewers are probably panicked and clamoring right about now. (Actually, it would be a good idea to check on some of the older folks in your neighborhood -they might have just lost their best friend.)

It’s always hard to make a change but things will settle down eventually and we’ll all be enjoying wireless broadband, TV on our cell phones and of course the great new TV picture quality that “looks like real life.” And what about real life? It’s as clear as the nose on Big Bird’s never-aging face that what was once deemed newfangled technology is the dawn of a new era. Let’s all make sure we’re prepared for it. For more information, visit

Monday, April 13, 2009

Connecticut Classics

As the weather is finally getting warmer, is it too optimistic to start thinking about summer? Believe it or not, we're already working on our annual summer fun issue, thinking about all the warm weather "classics" we've come to love here in Connecticut, from laying on the beach at Hammonasset or riding the Wildcat at Lake Compounce to feasting on hot lobster roll at Lenny & Joe's or lapping up ice cream from Wentworth's. It's all good, all summer long . . .

What are some of your favorite summertime favorites here in Connecticut? Tell us in our monthly FIRST survey by clicking here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Hyping in Connecticut

As you all might be well aware, the movie The Haunting in Connecticut opens this weekend. It stars Virginia Madsen as a woman whose family is besieged by nefarious otherworldly forces, and from the commercials and trailers, it looks like your standard Amityville Horror-type scarefest.

The story is based on "true events" that allegedly occurred in the 1980s in a Southington house that had been a funeral home -- a family claims that their son started seeing all sorts of unusual things in the basement, which led them to calling in renowned ghosthunters Ed and Lorraine Warren, which in turn, led to claims of a haunting. Some accused the family and Warrens of making up (or embellishing) the story, which eventually led to the book (In A Dark Place), a TV special and now the movie.

It's been interesting to watch the story unfold in the past few weeks as interest has mounted, from the family currently living in the house now saying they've never had any problems in the house (aside from nosy curiosity seekers) to others speaking out against the veracity of the original claims to discovering that U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy used to live in the house. It's been all over the local news, and has generated quite a bit of web-based discussion over the "truthiness" of the story.

As matter of fact, the only question that I haven't seen asked about The Haunting in Connecticut is one of the most important ones: Is the movie any good?

Of course, the answer to that probably won't stop the majority of horror aficionados who will go to see the film this weekend (myself included). As they famously say in Hollywood, "Any publicity is good publicity."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Curb the Destruction

At the risk of sounding like a cranky old man -- has anyone else noticed that this winter has been especially harsh on Connecticut curbs?

From the parking lot here at the magazine's office in Trumbull to my street in Shelton and on lots of the roads in between, it seems as though there has been an especially high level of curb carnage -- curbs that have been torn up and knocked asunder by snow plows. Why?

Is it because of all the snowfall this past winter and the multiple plowings that have come with it, regular curbs just wore down and gave way? Or do they just not make 'em like they used to (all asphalt, no concrete, nothing below the road's surface)? Or are snowplow drivers not as careful any more? Or is it a combination of all these reasons? It seems as though there are lots of potholes this year, too, so I don't doubt that it was an especially rough season on roads.

I know in my case, at the request of my neighbor, the city has said they may come out and repair the section of asphalt curb in front our houses -- I don't want them to bother because unless they do it with a solid concrete curb (unlikely in this economy) or they can guarantee it won't snow next winter (come on global warming!). Otherwise, we'll be right back in the same spot next spring.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Connecticut Specialties to Try

In conjunction with an upcoming article in our May issue, we're running a survey to find Connecticut specialties that everyone who calls themself a proper Connecticut resident should try at least once. We're looking for particular dishes from Connecticut restaurants -- from the white clam pizza at Pepe's in New Haven to the steamed cheeseburgers at Ted's to the clam hash at Pat's Kountry Kitchen.

Have any suggestions? Please click here and share what local dish you think everyone should try.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

More Scare Headlines

Lots of scary headlines today about the number of Connecticut residents either way behind on their mortgage payments or actually in foreclosure. Ignore them. The fact is that even in this tumultuous economy, the number of such delinquencies is 24,230 out of a total of 922,957 owner-occupied homes in Connecticut. The number of delinquencies represents 2.6% of the total. That means that 97.4% of all Connecticut homeowners either have paid off their mortgages or are doing so on time and in an orderly way. This is perspective you aren't finding in the local paper these days. When so many are feeling uncertain about the economy (with good reason), it can be a little comforting to understand what the real numbers are.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Too Much Reverence for Wealth

One of the problems hobbling our current efforts to make a budget on the state and federal levels is our reverence for wealth and fear of the people who are wealthy. It is useful to keep in mind that most of the very wealthy people in this country (over $500,000 in annual earnings from all sources) were born into their money, or have been overpaid for the services they render, or have made one or a handful of clever investments or friendships. Do some of them work hard, build businesses and provide useful products and services? Sure, but why should we be afraid to tax them? Why do we grant them special status? Why shouldn't a higher percentage of their money go back into the society that gave them the opportunity to be rich? In Connecticut, our Republican legislators (mostly) act terrified of the prospect of raising taxes on the wealthy. It's time to grow up and stop being afraid of rich people. At this point, I don't know which is worse, the Democrats afraid of state employees or the Republicans afraid of their wealthy constituents. Both tendencies are very harmful to the budget-making process.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Dodd's Curious Course

The longer that Chris Dodd continues to be less than fully forthcoming about his sweetheart mortgage loans from Countrywide, the more likely this sordid affair will become his legacy. One would think that he would have learned a lesson from the experience of his own father, whose hotly denied misdeeds tarnished a distinguished career as well as the Dodd family name. Dodd's release of some information regarding the loans, to some reporters, for a limited period of time (and with no copying allowed) is hardly a satisfying outcome. We are left with the feeling of Emily Dickinson's doctor, who was supposed to examine her as she walked, fully clothed, past an open doorway. By assuring that this episode will now be prolonged--despite his promise that he will be refinancing with another bank--Dodd assures that this stain will grow larger, more visible and harder to remove. John Rowland did, finally, stand up in public and say, "I am ashamed to be here today and I accept full responsibility for my actions." Why can't Dodd come even part way to the same admission, or at least to a full explanation of what happened? Until he does, many people (including many supporters) will think the worst of him and history's view of his quite remarkable public career will continue to darken.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hypocricy at the Top

As Gov. Rell delivers her budget address today, stressing how hard times are right now and advocating budget and program cuts across the board, it will be very hard for me to ignore the fact that she's rewarded her own staff with pay raises this year--as reported in this morning's Waterbury Republican-American. The governor will try to establish a relationship in her speech with her struggling constituency, especially those who have been laid off or whose income has been frozen. But she clearly believes her own people are above such realities and that they deserve special consideration in these difficult days. Speaking on behalf of only one business entity out here in the state, I can say that we will have no raises this year and our company contributions to our 401(k) plans have been discontinued. Don't try to express solidarity with us, governor. Your true nature--and your disregard for the people who elected you--was revealed the day you quietly put these raises into effect.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Machinations Have Begun

State employees have begun their defense against possible budget cuts with the release of poll results under the headline "Voters Value Connecticut Public Service Workers and Services--No Appetite for Layoffs or Cuts." The first thing to notice is that for the purposes of the polling questions they are "public service workers" rather than "state employees." The second thing to notice is that the poll asked respondents whether they'd like to see service cuts in health care, education or road maintenance (the answer of course was no) or layoffs (again, naturally no one likes to see other people get laid off). One question that wasn't asked of the Connecticut public is something along the lines of "Would you support a one-year freeze on state employee salaries and other compensation?" This question might have yielded more interesting results and gotten closer to the truth of the way people feel. But why conduct a poll if you can't direct the results in your favor?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Watching at the Office

It was an interlude from another time: a group of office workers gathered around a portable television picking up a nearby signal through rabbit ears. At first there were jokes—about Aretha's hat, Diane Feinstein's political address, W's wistful, out-of-touch serenity. But then as the new president began his address, we grew rapt and quiet, each of us in our own way taking in the moment and the message we were hearing. Was it a great speech? It was great enough. It made a clean break from the ugliness of the last several years, and it promised great things if we would only work to attain them. There are those who will not get the message (Wall Street chief among them), but millions in this country and billions around the world will now move forward with a new image of America in their heads—a place of understanding and open-handed pragmatism animated by the belief that our many strengths can serve the world well.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Donovan Hires Amann

This can only be the result of a bet, a dare or a serious bout of drinking. It bespeaks the total lack of regard these two men have for their colleagues (who will inevitably have to wear some of the stink the hiring has created), their constituents (who surely didn't vote them in for this) and the taxpayers of Connecticut (who they clearly despise). This is absolutely the wrong thing to do at the wrong time and very much at odds with the mood that has to prevail in the State Capitol right now. How can they not see this, or be advised by someone who does see it? I thought Gov. Rell's appointment of the pro wrestling maharani wouldn't be topped for some time, but this is far worse. This is very nearly a crime.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Rell Rumble

Can the end of days be so near at hand? I wondered this as I read that Linda McMahon, chief executive of Stamford-based World Wrestling Entertainment has been nominated for a spot on the state Board of Education by Gov. Rell. For years, the WWE has done everything in its power to make America a stupider, more brutal society. It has promoted vulgarity, sexual stereotypes, steroid-fueled aggression and 2nd-grade-level humor in order to keep wrestling (wrestling!) at the forefront of our entertainment menu. Clearly, Linda McMahon has had a hand in all of this. If she truly has any concern for young people, she shouldn't sit on a state board, she should work to shut down her own company. And who in God's name pressed Rell to make this amazing decision?

Monday, January 12, 2009

State Budget: Here's Why It's Difficult

In the midst of a fiscal crisis, Connecticut's Republican legislators have proposed delaying binding arbitration for state employee contracts until June. Under the circumstances, and given the many sacrifices being made in the private sector, this does not seem an unfair thing to ask. Yet today, here come the state employee unions, appalled that they could be treated so shabbily. A statement from CSEA/SEIU Local 2001 says in part: "Connecticut needs real solutions that don't dismantle the public services on which Connecticut's residents rely more than ever." Who is dismantling public services? Why such a disproportionate response? I think the taxpayers of the state deserve a more measured, intelligent argument from those they employ.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Idiocracy at WTIC

In casting off Colin McEnroe, its most creative, unpredictable, wide ranging, buoyantly intelligent voice, the management at Hartford's WTIC-AM radio has struck a senseless blow to the heart of Connecticut culture. I understand that financial decisions had to be made. All media in the state are facing similar stresses. But sometimes you reach a crossroads at which you have to decide just what sort of radio station or newspaper or magazine you are going to be. WTIC reached that crossroads and decided to take the low road, the one that goes downhill to the land of the lowest common denominator, a tremendously uninteresting place governed by the endlessly repeated fears and anxieties of its commentators and listeners. Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are many things, but they are never ennobling; they never challenge their listeners to go out and do or see something that might change the way they view the world or themselves. I don't want to elevate McEnroe too much; I was not a regular listener. But I do know that Connecticut needs voices like his if we are to remain a state of comparative enlightment and intelligence (and it makes no difference to me whether he is liberal or conservative). His bosses at WTIC made an idiotic decision, and they richly deserve their new reputation.