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May 19, 2008

Let Gays Marry, Already

Talk show host Ellen Degeneres is getting married. The person she is marrying is also a woman. They’re not getting “coupled,” “partnered” or “civil-unioned.” They’re getting married.

I had every expectation that when the California Supreme Court upheld the right of same-sex marriage last week, defenders of so-called “traditional” marriage would be quick to respond. Dr. James Dobson, leader of “Focus on the Family,” was quoted saying: “The justices have undermined and endangered the basic building block of society, which has been honored and preserved in every nation on earth through most of human history.”
He’s kidding, right?

What could possibly be wrong with calling it “marriage” instead of “civil union?” Apart from the legal protections a “marriage” grants the two parties what is the difference? A word? While I understand that the concept of two same-sex individuals getting married violates the very fundamentals of some people’s religious values, in a real sense what is the difference between calling it a “marriage” and a “civil union?”

Apart from the legal issues, nothing.

Since many Americans are hung up with the word “marriage,” states like Connecticut have set up parallel systems for gays and lesbians who want to marry. The get “coupled” or “civil-unioned.” The problem is the feds don’t recognize being “civil-unioned” for many things including Social Security and Medicare.

Most hospitals will not grant intervening status to a partner who is not a traditional wife or husband. States treat civil unions differently than marriages. There is a body of legal opinion that argues these unions violate the “full faith and credit” clause of the Constitution.

We’ve created a system that is, “separate and almost equal” for those who are gay or lesbian and who wish to be married. It’s wrong. We all know it’s wrong. Any law that prevents people from enjoying all the benefits and protections accorded to us in the Constitution is wrong.

Mr. Dobson, Mr. Robertson and others of their ilk hope that somehow or another, gay men and lesbians are not going to meet and fall in love. They are not going to have sex and they are not going to couple or get “civil-unioned.”

No amount of moralizing from the bully pulpit, or any other pulpit for that matter, is going to change nature. When two people truly love and care for one another, laws seem to take a backseat.

But here is where things get dicey. John McCain and others on the right have for decades railed against “activist, elitist judges” that find things not written by the original framers of the Constitution. They, like Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, look at the Constitution not as a “living document” but as a set of standards.

Speaking to the UCONN Law School in 2006, Scalia described himself as a constitutional “originalist,” based on his view that the Constitution is a rigid document that cannot bend to include new rights for Americans or to address social ills. Most importantly, he is critical of those who believe that the interpretation of the constitution can and should change over time.

These folks would overturn Roe v. Wade, sending women back to be butchered at the hands of illegal abortionists. They’d bring religion back to our schools. Not just any religion, their religion. That’s not your religion? Too bad. Your right to privacy? An outmoded position in these times of terrorism. Gay marriage? Ha!

Unfortunately this year I will be once again forced to vote against a candidate not for one. Regardless of what you think about a litany of other issues the candidates believe in, your vote this year will be about who nominates judges to the federal bench. Nothing could be more important.
The right of two people to marry is sacred in every religion. It really shouldn’t matter if they are the same sex.

Steve Kalb is a freelance reporter and TV news talent coach. He is also an adjunct professor of  broadcast journalism at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. You can reach him at sdkalb@gmail.com. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

May 5, 2008

Don’t Like Any of Them

There have been many “takeaway” quotes from the presidential campaign so far, but none beats a steel workers union leader’s introduction of Hillary Clinton as someone with testicular fortitude.

Say what?

This gonadial reference notwithstanding, it has been an interesting if not self-destructive Democratic primary. Who would have thought that Democrats would somehow find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?

No one in their wildest imagination would have ever thought the Guam caucuses (held Saturday) would ever be of import to anyone other than the folks living in Guam. But both Clinton and Obama were out looking for delegates and Guam was the latest place to find them. By the way, Guam isn’t a state so while it does have delegates to the national convention its residents don’t actually vote for president.

Which brings up an interesting quandary: How is it possible that Guam gets delegates to the Democratic National Convention but not Florida and Michigan?

I don’t know about you but I happen to think it is time for Americans to call for a “mulligan” a “do-over.” I think that Obama, Clinton and McCain are flawed, uninspiring candidates and there just has to be somebody better.
I’ve contemplated camping out in front of Mike Bloomberg’s house in New York City. Or maybe I should go down to John Edwards’ house and offer to pay for his haircuts for a year if he would agree to get back into the race.
Let’s look at the candidates, starting with Barack Obama.

Here is a fella with an above average intelligence who after 20 years only now has concluded that his pastor is just a little nutty. The weak excuse that he “didn’t know” might have cut it for a few years, but not 20. He knew exactly who Pastor Wright was and stayed because it was politically expedient. If I believe his assertion that he did not know, then there is a gentleman running for president who is so completely oblivious to all that goes on around him that we shouldn’t let him out alone.

Then there is his experience in elected office, which on a good day is minimal. A few uninspiring years as a state senator in Illinois, ditto as the state’s junior senator. OK, he gives a really good speech but that isn’t why I elect a president. We did that already when we elected Ronald Reagan. That didn’t work out well either.

And if the junior senator from Illinois thinks the campaign has been nasty so far just wait till the general if he is the nominee. There will not be a day when we will not see ads with Reverend Wright saying “God Damn America.”

Mr. and Mrs. Obama need to learn that in national politics candidates “play” with real ammo. Neither of them is used to that. Obama won the senate primary in Illinois after one of the leading candidates imploded in a mess of divorce papers strategically leaked by his ex-wife. Obama then faced Jack Ryan, a good-looking, wealthy Republican whose party deserted him after it was revealed that Ryan had a penchant for attending shady bars in Paris where live sex acts were part of the thrill. It also didn’t help when it was revealed Ryan wanted his wife to join in.

The Illinois Republican Party finally found a replacement candidate in Alan Keyes, whom they had to import from Maryland. No one knew who Keyes was in Illinois and no one cared. Keyes didn’t just lose, he got buried.

Then there’s Hillary Clinton who will say anything, do anything and proffer anything for a vote. She brings a new meaning to “pandering” and I suspect would throw just about anyone under the bus if it would get her a delegate.

Like Obama, she is incredibly intelligent but suffers from a selective and sometimes “expansive” memory of events. Like Obama, she has little to no real experience, other than to be able to say she was married to a former president. Her claim is that being married to Bill somehow counts as experience. I’ve been a passenger on a lot of planes. I don’t think that qualifies me to fly one.

Hillary claims she is more “electable” than Obama and I have no idea how she can say that. Her “negatives” (people who think of her as Satan) are about the same as the number of people who voted for Bill in 1992. Her run against McCain would bring campaigning to a new low. Just take a look at her primary campaign.

And John McCain? He’s the most experienced but anyone who even suggests we will be fighting in Iraq and the Mideast for the next 100 years automatically loses my vote. That says nothing about his total inability to understand government, taxes, economics and just about anything else. He is great on the environment but is as loose as a $3 shoe on everything else.

So since they don’t allow us to vote for “none of the above” or “try again,” at the very least I think Democrats should draft someone who could actually run a campaign and maybe even win. Bloomberg [Democrat-turned-Republican mayor] or Edwards come to mind although my absolute favorite is Bloomberg. Both are smart, thoughtful and intelligent. They say if you can run New York for a week you can run the world in your sleep. Bloomberg has taken NYC (the city that Rudy wrecked) and transformed it into the place everyone wants to go.

And his running mate? I’d pick none other than the best congressman in the United States. The fella who will forget more than Obama, Clinton and McCain collectively will ever know and on top of everything else has incredible street sense.

Who is this messianic leader? None other than Charlie Rangel, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee and is serving his 19th term in Congress. That is experience. Skip the Obama Chronicles and pick up Rangel’s “And I Haven’t Had A Bad Day Since.” You’ll be mesmerized.

So if you happen to be in New York and see some guy camping out in front of a very expensive apartment with a doorman it might be me. We need to elect an adult with brains. In Yiddish a “mensch,” or a “real human being.”
Draft Bloomberg and Rangel.

Steve Kalb is a freelance reporter and TV news talent coach. He is also an adjunct professor of  broadcast journalism at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. You can reach him at sdkalb@gmail.com. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

April 21, 2008

Budget Shenanigans

Growing up we were taught the so-called “new math.” It was pretty much like the “old math” with the notable exception that learning how to do it was sometimes more important than getting the right answer. It didn’t make any sense then either.

And the “new math” is alive and well in Hamden Town Hall, where according to its current mayor if the Public Works Department spent $130,000 in heating fuel this year and the department asked for $125,000 for next year, the answer is to recommend $90,000.


Maybe I missed something over the weekend. Did the price of heating oil suddenly drop? Is natural gas suddenly cheaper? Assuming some true wizardry at economizing, how do you legitimately argue a budget decrease of 25 percent even as the price of fuel continues to go up?
In any other circumstance we would call it fraud. In municipal budgets we call it “creative accounting.”

It isn’t the first time an elected official has perpetrated a fraud on taxpayers. Take a look at every budget written by Presidents Reagan and Bush. They were frauds. Both presidents hacked away at social programs, tried to defund Amtrak and sliced away at heating assistance for the poor and frail. And as they were doing this they tried to argue that cutting taxes would mean more tax revenue.

We’ll tax you less and that will mean we will get more. It never worked. It is a fraud promoted by conservatives that has never been proved valid. But it sounds good, doesn’t it?

Which brings us to the three candidates running for president. Two are engaging in what amounts to a fraud perpetrated on all of us; the other is hopelessly blind to reality. Both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton want some form of nationalized health care. Each has his or her own plan but they are fundamentally the same. Mr. McCain doesn’t appear to want to do anything.

The problem with the Clinton and Obama health care proposals, whatever they wind up being, is that neither individual has bothered to tell us how much it will cost and who is going to pay for it. Actually we know who will ultimately pay. You and me. Well, actually that is not quite right because most Americans want someone else to pay for everything. So how about if you pay for the health insurance and not me.

Seriously, though, no one wants to admit to the need to raise taxes and congressmen would rather be boiled in oil collectively than admit to raising taxes. So, if we implement this new universal medical insurance plan, how do we pay for it? More deficits? We already have over a trillion dollars of national debt; we’re running an annual budget deficit in the hundreds of billions of dollars and there is no end in sight.

If past action is any indicator of the future we’ll just pass the cost on to our kids. To me that makes both Obama and Clinton “frauds.” They propose the, “this is what we want to do” side without bothering to pass along the “how we’re going to pay for it.”

Now before you think I have gone over to the dark side (become a conservative), let me tell you that I truly believe we need some sort of nationalized healthcare system. The one we have is in shambles. As a nation we spend more per capita than any other place on the globe for our medical system and there are still hundreds of thousands of people who have no medical safety net at all. We need to fix this mess of a healthcare system but we need leaders to admit that there is no free lunch. There is a cost. It is a big one. But it is the moral and ethical path to go down. Now all we need is to find leaders with “chutzpah.” Neither Clinton nor Obama has it.

But if they’re frauds let’s not forget Mr. McCain, who benefits from the best medical plan money can buy because he is in Congress. The rest of us? Ever-increasing deductibles and the same or less coverage for more money. I don’t know how we get to universal insurance but doing nothing is no answer at all.

Which brings us full circle back to Hamden. Hey mayor, you can write a budget that has little to no basis in reality, like cutting funds for gas and heating oil based on pie-in-the-sky hoped-for savings. But there is an easier way to save money: Stop taking the $587.49 a month for undocumented "business travel" that you did for 10 months last fiscal year by moving money from one account to another. What made you think THAT was ethical?

Steve Kalb is a freelance reporter and TV news talent coach. He is also an adjunct professor of  broadcast journalism at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. You can reach him at sdkalb@gmail.com. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

April 8, 2008

Vices Needed in Quest for Eternity

About the time I turned 50, some marketer someplace got wind of the clock change and I became the target of every “stay healthy/live longer” mailer produced. Most never say anything about living better, just about living longer. With the exception of Dennis Hopper reminding me that 50 really is the “new 50,” none say anything about actually enjoying yourself. It is all about living longer and making more money for retirement.

That’s assuming you don’t drop dead on the way to retiring. Every day the landscape changes as to what is “good” for you. Is wine good or bad for me today? Caffeine? Running is probably good for me but inhaling all those exhaust fumes can’t possibly be good for me.

We are racing towards being a very healthy, vibrant, vice-free and very boring society. As near as I can figure, vices shorten your life. But I think boring would do it even faster.

The problem with vices? They’re fun, and we don’t seem to value “fun” anymore.

I read someplace over the weekend that thanks to the latest tax increase a pack of smokes in the Big Apple will now go for around 9 bucks. That’s not quite a half-dollar per cigarette. And so goes the last inexpensive luxury.
I’m not suggesting that people pick up the habit. Smoking is one of those vices that will eventually kill you. Using the product as the makers envision its use will shorten your life and the more you use it the faster (in theory) that will happen.

But that’s not the point.

Life is about making choices and in this “we’ll make you healthy even if it kills you” world we currently live in, sitting back and lighting up a Lucky Strike is about as likely to happen for many as drinking Moet out of crystal over lunch. With the exception of Elliot Spitzer, who can afford spending that much for a few moments of enjoyment?

Comedian Rodney Dangerfield once said: “If I take excellent care of myself from this day forward, I’ll get very sick and old and die.”

Again, I’m not suggesting you take up smoking. Contrary to the advertisements of the ’50s, smoking has never been good for you. And Chesterfields don’t “lubricate your throat.” But as we race towards living to “forever” maybe enjoying ourselves along the way isn’t such a bad idea.
To my way of thinking there is nothing wrong with eating “a” potato chip, it’s when you eat bags of ’em.

I never ate Olestra, the so-called “fake fat.” My doc is probably going to hate me, but I cook with butter. Not a lot of it but I stay away from the “fat-free, cholesterol-free, flavor-free, chemistry set-created stuff” called margarine. I don’t drink light beer or sugar-free soda. Beer should taste like beer. I use real sugar. I run from the room if someone offers me a wine “spritzer.” Whoever thought mixing wine with club soda improved anything but the club soda?

I believe in black, strong, caffeinated coffee. If you have to add vanilla or hazelnut to it in order to make it taste like anything, please don’t make any for me.

Ice cream should be made up of just a few ingredients, principle among them are milk, cream and sugar. What exactly is “locust bean gum?” Come to think of it, don’t tell me.

And although I advocate a “pastrami sandwich a week” diet as a means of keeping the doctor away I stay away from eating anything the origins of which are suspect. I know what goes into bologna, scrapple and sausage and trust me, you don’t want to know.

George Burns allowed once that he had a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast and four or five cigars every day. My recollection is that in his mid 80s playing “God” he didn’t look all that bad. I’m guessing it was the bagels and not the cigars.

Every four years we have a nationwide discussion about values. We call it an election. The so-called “values voters” have it all wrong. They want to talk about morals, sex, God and the Devil. Maybe part of that discussion should be about valuing who we are, what we do, how we do it and how we put time to good use rather than just making more money so we can collect more stuff and live longer, but not necessarily more interesting, lives. I figure if we do that then the morals, sex and God discussions are pretty superfluous.

And since it is good exercise, maybe I’ll walk a mile for a Camel.

Steve Kalb is a freelance reporter and TV news talent coach. He is also an adjunct professor of  broadcast journalism at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. You can reach him at sdkalb@gmail.com. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

March 24, 2008

I Can't Get No ‘Content' Action

Just in case you missed it, fellas, the word is “content.” I buy newspapers because of “content.” Not because I can ultimately use them to line the kitty box. I buy them for content and if you fail to provide content I’ll go somewhere else. Connecticut lost three of its best reporters in the last two weeks.

Greg Hladky, who reported from the state capitol for over a quarter-century for the New Haven Register, was summarily fired. Hurled out of his job. Lynne Tuohy, one of the best-ever reporters of the courts and courtrooms for the Hartford Courant, along with Mike Regan both got buyouts although I suspect neither wanted one.

The Register and the Courant say they need to trim costs, forgetting that the whole reason we read their newspapers in the first place is because of the caliber of the people who write for them. Hladky, Tuohy and Regan brought experience and professionalism to their respective papers. Shame on the bean counters. Shame on the people who let it happen.

OK, now on to the rest of the news. Just in case you missed it there is a presidential campaign going on. Thanks mostly to those campaigns -- and fueled by conservative talk radio -- it has had all the intellectual depth and clarity of the average election for senior class president. Maybe less.
Actually, I am not completely convinced that any of the three would win an election for senior class president based on what they or their surrogates have said this week:

1. Traipsing around the Mideast for unknown reasons, Sen. John McCain confused Purim (a Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people of the ancient Persian from Haman’s plot to annihilate them) with Halloween. The explanation of why he mixed the two up is even better. Sen. Joe Lieberman (traveling with McCain for no apparent reason as well) said it was because he told John that in both holidays people wear costumes. Guess John missed that comparative religion class in college. And this is the man who would be president. Yikes.

2. Barack Obama said he didn’t know his minister was a bigot. I have no doubt that Obama isn’t, as his eloquent speech later in the week clearly indicated. Too bad. Should he become the nominee he will not be able to turn on any TV in any state in the nation without seeing his face and the face of Pastor Wright side by side. Think the “swift-boating” of John Kerry was bad? If Obama becomes the nominee this is just going to be ugly.

3. Bill Clinton did all but question the patriotism of Obama: "I think it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country," he told a group of veterans last Friday in Charlotte, N.C. Hillary, please, please tell the former president to shut up. You keep telling us if elected you will be the president. Then please do something presidential now. Tell Bill to go home and read a good book. And then another one. He’s killing you. He’s killing us.

But significantly lacking is any discussion about the real issues:

1. “A” is for abortion and there can be no more important topic to discuss. The United States is one Supreme Court appointee away from declaring women second-class citizens. Ignore all the talk about “life begins at conception” and whatever else the rightwing ultra-conservative part of the Republican Party has to say about abortion. It comes down to one simple, very easy-to-understand concept: people get to have control of their own bodies. The minute we take that away, the slippery slope becomes a ski run.
Remember Terry Schiavo? Here is the textbook case of the conflict between an individual’s right to control his or her own body and government intervention.

By all accounts she was dead, but led by a cadre of Bible-beating preachers and rightwing conservative whack jobs -- mostly Republican congressmen -- our government was going to keep her alive **by God** regardless of her wishes. It was inconsequential and unimportant to these masterminds of the macabre that virtually every doctor who was more than a vet said she was brain dead. It took seven years and numerous judges before that poor woman was allowed to die with some dignity while the “truly religious” prayed for her recovery and salvation. Didn’t it occur to the truly religious that maybe God really wanted her dead and we were standing in the way of his or her will? Just a thought. Anyway, anyone who in any way advocates taking away the right of a woman or anyone else to chose what happens to his or her own body is off my list. Should be off yours, too.

2. “B” is for budget. Candidates always talk a good game. “No new taxes,” they say. The reality check is we are wasting billions of dollars every year in duplicative programs and on earmarks that are in the budget only to help congressmen and senators win re-election. It will never stop so how about a novel solution: balanced budgets.

The president should be required to submit and Congress should be required to pass a balanced budget. Not close. Balanced. And there should be a penalty for stupidity. No, we are not going to defund Amtrak and heating subsidies for poor people. We’re just not going to let people freeze in their homes because they can’t afford home heating oil. And, no, we’re not gong to eliminate education subsidies for the poor and decrease Medicare funding while we spend $11 billion to buy the president a fleet of new helicopters. This is America not some third-rate banana republic and we should start acting like adults and not like children who want everything and want to pay for nothing.

Unbalanced budget? Both Congress and the White House must either raise taxes or cut spending to balance it. Make them stay in Washington **working** 12-hour days until they come up with a budget that is fair and balanced. No breaks for Washington’s Birthday, summer, Election Day, St. Swithen’s Day. None. They’ll make a budget deal real fast when they have to work 60-hour workweeks. Worried about flexibility? Toss in a three-year circuit breaker to allow for recessions or other fiscal calamities.

Don’t like my solution? I know the devil is in the details but I am sure if we lock some of the same people who came up with “sub-prime” and “alt-a” mortgages into a room for a few days, we can come up with something simple and workable. Think of it as putting “creative” minds to a useful purpose.

Happy Purim. Time for me to go find a triangular cookie with a prune in the middle. And a costume. Ha!

Steve Kalb is a freelance reporter and TV news talent coach. He is also an adjunct professor of  broadcast journalism at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. You can reach him at sdkalb@gmail.com. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

March 10, 2008

Stuff this Washington

Every time I think about the three candidates running for president and their solutions to our economic problems, I am reminded of what the current president told us to do -- go shopping.


Seems that the most important thing I can do to help the U.S. economy is to go out and buy stuff. The president and his advisors would never tell me what to buy – “stuff” is enough. Flat-screen TVs, cars, washing machines, hi-tech gizmos, flip-flops, sweaters, anything. Just stuff. Because if I buy stuff, that will vault the U.S. economy out of its doldrums, this recession we are falling into.

In a rare degree of friendliness, Congress even went along with the president’s request to send money back to Americans so they could have more money to buy more stuff. Not that we have any money in the “bank” to write those checks. This year’s budget deficit alone is $300 billion. But it’s only money. We can print more.

What I have trouble with understanding is how buying “stuff” helps the U.S. economy. It is not like we make the TVs or the washing machines or the clothes, cameras, DVD players, or most of the parts that go into most of the cars. Most of those things are made in China or Bangalore or Vietnam or God-only-knows-where.

As near as I can figure, the only thing “Made in the U.S.A.” from my flat-screen TV is the box. So that means that when I buy “stuff” the only people who directly benefit by way of being employed are sales clerks, stock people and marketing weasels. All the “stuff” in the stuff I buy to reinvigorate the economy is made anyplace else but here.

The reality is that with the exception of Corelle Living Ware and a few other things I can’t think of at the moment we really don’t make much “stuff” here anymore. That has not always been true. We used to make good stuff. It was stuff that people wanted. We made steel. Granted, not too many people outside of Pittsburgh had a clue how we made steel, but we made some of the best steel in the world and countries lined up to buy our steel.

We made TV sets. And people from around the world lined up to buy our TVs because they were the best you could find. We made cars. OK, they weren’t the best cars. But up until the early ’80s they were much better than the underpowered little rattletraps made in most other countries. And ours were clearly better than the aptly named Citroen made by the French.

And when companies started sending the work for making stuff to countries where the labor was cheaper, economists said, “Don’t worry. The U.S. is evolving into a service economy.” The thinking was Americans would produce “services” for which we would charge premium dollars instead of making “stuff,” and countries would line up to buy our brain power and services.

The little oopsy in that equation turned out to be the Internet. Now that fella in Bangalore can provide the same service as the one in Cleveland, except in Cleveland workers get paid $17 an hour and in Bangalore it’s $17 a day. Once the corporate bean counters figured that out you could stand at the water’s edge and watch companies and their “services” flee. One of my doctors has the details of his patient records transcribed in India. Care to bet it is not because he is trying to improve the world economy?

So here we are, the so-called most powerful county in the world buried in mountains of federal budget deficits that threaten to choke off our way of life, and the only way we can seem to keep our economy afloat is to buy stuff from other people -- with money we don’t have in the first place.

And God help us, that is the best answer our current president and our collection of forward-looking presidential hopefuls and their economic wizards can come up with. Buy more stuff.

Maybe I need to buy two flat screen TV sets. It is the patriotic thing to do.

Steve Kalb is a freelance reporter and TV news talent coach. He is also an adjunct professor of  broadcast journalism at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. You can reach him at sdkalb@gmail.com. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

February 25, 2008

Dump the Garbage Man -- Not Dogs

In 35 years as a reporter I thought I had pretty much heard and seen it all. So it was with a fair amount of astonishment and disbelief when I read the story in the Hamden Daily News last week about how Hamden gets rid of dead, homeless dogs. It throws them in the garbage, OK, the transfer station amongst garbage.

I really did think I had heard and seen it all.

So let me see if I get this right. Abandoned or lost dogs, who have foraged for bits of food and places to call shelter, are discarded like so much garbage in a ditch to save a few dollars.

Even more worrisome is that it appears as though Chris Smith, the new animal control officer, has little if anything to say on the subject. No comment to the Hamden Daily News but you can hear the usual tried-and-true excuse now: “I’m just following orders and doing my job.” Didn’t those funny fellas with jack boots and swastikas use the same rationale: “Just doing my job?”

It was under Smith’s watch the policy of turning the bodies of formerly living, breathing beings into landfill was implemented. It is obvious that Mr. Smith has little to no respect for animals.

More importantly, Smith has no respect or regard for residents of the town of Hamden. Could he honestly look at residents and say this is what they would have wanted him to do. Government is responsible to and works on behalf of the people. I can’t imagine anyone remotely suggesting this is the people’s “will.”

Still unanswered. How did the dogs die? Were they found dead? Were they shot, hung or electrocuted as Michael Vick killed his? Just wondering. Someone should ask.

If it sounds like I am pushing the edge of the envelope, well, I am. But then again, I never thought I would see the day when a human being would have such callous disregard of innocent animals as has been displayed by Mr. Smith.

And the terrific savings from tossing the animals over the cliff? $30 for a mass cremation.

The Town Council has a moral, possibly legal and clearly ethical obligation to fire Mr. Vick … er … Smith and to order the dogs be picked up and cremated. Actually, my first choice would be to make him pick up the animals and then fire him.

Failing that and since it happened under Mayor Henrici’s watch and with his tacit approval and possibly permission, I suggest we give the cleanup role to the mayor. It would be his first step in cleaning up Town Hall and the transfer station. He hired Smith so he should clean up the mess he created.

Then we should censure Hizoner for allowing this truly sophomoric policy to be implemented in the first place. And if he says he didn’t know, well that’s even worse.

Actually, the Council could make a real statement. It could ask the mayor to take the money he received for badly documented mileage payments and use the funds to buy a freezer and pay for the cremations.

And hire a decent animal control officer -- not a garbage man.

Steve Kalb is a freelance reporter and TV news talent coach. He is also an adjunct professor of  broadcast journalism at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. You can reach him at sdkalb@gmail.com. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

February 11, 2008

How Right Will McCain Go?

If John McCain thought it was tough in a North Vietnamese prison camp for five years he is in for a real surprise. He’ll see that as a walk in the park after he deals with the right-hand side of the Republican Party in the coming months. But McCain is in the driver’s seat, which drives rightwing fanatic talk show hosts and “think tanks” nuts.

This is not the scenario the rightwing of the Republican Party had hoped for. John McCain has a long history of thumbing his nose at everyone, both Republican and Democrat. While I find many of his political positions untenable, McCain is considered a “centrist” by many. That McCain is a “centrist” says a lot for how far to the edge of the earth the Republican Party has gone, but that’s another story for another day.

The rightwing wanted Mitt Romney. Why? I am not sure, as his positions on just about everything “evolved” as his candidacy sank. But Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck et al saw him as their savior and spent countless hours talking him up as though he truly was the second coming. He may have been, but voters this year are looking for something other than gridlock in Washington and McCain looks like the kind of Republican who understands compromise.

Compromise is a four-letter word to Hannity, Limbaugh and Beck. To them there is only one way and that’s theirs. There is no compromise, just winners and losers. They subscribe to the Josef Goebbels School of Broadcasting. If you repeat the same lie often enough, sooner or later people begin to believe you.

For example, it is Limbaugh along with most Republicans and other conservatives who want to make the latest series of Bush tax cuts permanent. Anyone who votes or even speaks anything but “the line” will be branded as someone who raised taxes. That is like having a sale and being told if you don’t keep the sale prices you’re raising prices. Tell that to the guy who runs your local grocery store. Let me know when he stops rolling on the floor laughing.

The lie? “Lowering taxes raises revenue.” It is the old “Laffer Curve” rule of economic theory, which Laffer freely admits he came up with on a napkin over dinner and has no idea if it would actually work. Facts show it wouldn’t, although if you listen to the conservative lie long enough (and disassociate yourself from common sense and reality) you will think it actually would.

A few facts to toss around from the Bureau of Economic Analysis:

Real tax revenue increases

1972-1980: 24 percent
1980-1990: 19 percent
1990-2000: 41 percent

You might recall that the 1980-1990 period was when President Reagan cut taxes and guess what happened? Tax receipts dropped. Lower taxes didn’t mean more revenue, it meant less revenue. Go figure. We report. You decide.

Meanwhile, conservatives want McCain (and the rest of the country) to swallow Kool-Aid laced with fiscal irresponsibility and make those cuts permanent. The U.S. currently has a $9 trillion debt. That‘s $30,000 for every man, woman and child. Think about that. That’s $120,000 for a family of four that has been cumulatively overspent. Thank the dearly departed Ronald Reagan for a lot of that, but leave lots of space for our current “Bush-league” president. This year the budget calls for a one-year debt of $450 billion or just under $1,300 per person -- every person from the man on his deathbed to the child just being born.

Assuming McCain does become the Republican nominee he could do the unfathomable: Tell ’em all to go pound sand. He could tell Limbaugh, Hannity and the rest of the ultra-rightwing of the Republican Party that he doesn’t live in the same fantasy land they call America. He can tell them he lives in the country that truly believes in the Constitution, in the people’s right to know. One that believes in fiscal sanity, and in the Bill of Rights. He can tell them that America is not the country that tortures prisoners and lies to or spies on its own people in the name of national security. He can tell them that’s what he spent five years in a prison camp for and most of his life defending. After eight years of lies and obfuscation, America is ready for real honor and leadership.

But is the Republican Party?

Steve Kalb is a freelance reporter and TV news talent coach. He is also an adjunct professor of  broadcast journalism at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. You can reach him at sdkalb@gmail.com. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)


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