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.