Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Say goodbye to Greg and Eliot, two opposites

I took the day off from blogging yesterday to celebrate Sue and my 36th wedding anniversary. We spent the day working, her on a number of free-lance writing and editing projects, me covering the Development Commission for the New Haven Independent and attending a meeting of the Jewish Historical Society. Whoever said retirement is boring is nuts.

It's also March Madness, college basketball's playoff season. Mazel Tov to the top-ranked Connecticut women Huskies, who took the Big East regular season and playoff championships. UConn men, ranked in the top 20 nationally, are seeded fourth in the men's Big East, which started today (March 12, 2008) with Villanova tromping Syracuse. Tomorrow, the UConn men play. Then it's on to the NCAA championships, with both the men and women having a chance to win it all. The women are ranked first in the nation, and will probably be a top seed, while the men will be seeded lower, depending on how they do this weekend.

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The New Haven Register laid off its last Hartford reporter, Greg Hladky, yesterday and then had the chutzpah to feature a weekend story by him on its Web site. I guess they thought they could sneak it in before the word got around that their Capitol Bureau chief, who was, truth be told, the only Capitol Bureau reporter for the Reg and the other Journal Register Corp. dailies in the state, had been given his walking papers.

So now readers of the Register, the Bristol Press, the New Britain Herald and the Torrington-Winsted paper will have to get their Hartford news from the wires.

Greg Hladky had been around the Capitol Bureau for decades, covering the news and representing the Register on public television panel shows, as well as other radio and television panels. He knew where the bodies were buried, had the trust of the movers and shakers and printed the truth.

His steady hand will be missed in a paper that has not lived up to its traditions in the past couple of decades. I remember times when the Register and the Journal-Courier were the best of the best, covering stories like the tornados that wrecked the area around Bradley International Airport and smashed parts of Hamden a decade or so later.

The best of luck to Greg. As I told him in my comment on the Independent story about his layoff, he'll look back on this as the best thing that every happened to him professionally. Now he can go to work for a newspaper that doesn't think that it is scooping itself by putting stories on its Web site before they appear in the paper. That's what sent the smart city editor, David McClendon, fleeing to Michigan to work for Mickey Hirten, a guy who knows how to run a paper and keep good talent.

Greg, there are many really good papers out there. I know one of them will snatch a talent such as yours quickly. In the meantime, take a vacation and count your blessings.

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Gov. Eliot Spitzer of New York finally packed it in today, less than a week after The New York Times ratted him out for patronizing a high-priced call girl to the tune of $80,000 over a period of time. His wife looked as if she had aged a decade in the few days since he fessed up.

Politicians in New York pay hardball, and he could not have lasted a month if he tried to keep his office. The good folks in New York will put up with crooks, dummies and wackos, but they suffer hypocrites badly and Spitzer put himself in the lead of that hit parade by preaching clean and acting dirty.

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I wish I had the good sense to keep out of this one, but Geraldine Ferraro, who was the first woman to run for vice president and who is now in the middle of a race war, has put her foot squarely in Hillary Rodham Clinton's mouth.

She said that Barack Obama would not be where he is if he were not black. She's got it ass backwards.

Barack Obama is where he is because black people can smell victory. They can see the first African-American who has a real chance to be elected president and, no matter their politics, they are proud of that. Who can blame them?

Talk about you've come a long way, baby. I remember being in fifth grade and my teacher, Helen Sheehan, who I am sure is gone to her reward, explaining that the one black girl in the class was as clean as smart and as good a person as the rest of us.

Skip forward about 50 years and here we have a black guy running for president and the main rap on him is that he may be too smart, too intellectual and too much of an idealist.

People whose presidential aspirations have been represented by the late Shirley Chisholm and the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, people who didn't really have a chance, are now seeing a man who really, really has a chance to make it.

Of course, they take pride in that, no matter whether they agree with his politics and views or not. How can they not? Yes, a black television commentator will smile a bit with pride when mentioning his name.

If that's what Geraldine Ferraro meant, well then, she's not wrong and she needed to say it better.

If not, then she needs to shut up.

I still think Clinton will made a better president, but I won't go into mourning if he wins. I'd vote for him before McCain, who seems to be channeling George Bush (both) and promises to continue economic policies that has all our savings going down the rat hole so that oil speculators can enrich themselves at our expense.

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I see the Israeli movie "The Band's Visit" is playing at the Criterion Theater in New Haven and is probably available in other places across the nation. If you haven't seen this wonderful flick, which was mentioned as possible best foreign firm but lost out because it had too much English in it, see it.

Until next time...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Spitzer hoisted by his own, er, petard

This will be the 150th edition of Len's Lens. Since this blog began in December, 2006, we have talked about everything from politics and religion to airport parking fees. When I first started, I had a lot of time on my hands and last year, 125 editions of the Lens were published. I have not been so productive this year, mostly because of other demands on my time.

This doesn't mean I have given up or that the (hopefully) reasoned rantings have fallen to an also-ran status. It's just that there are people counting on me to do other things. I love doing the Lens and will continue to do so, albeit perhaps at a slightly slower pace. Please continue to peek in from time to time.

To those who have made the Lens part of their daily routine, thank you. I cannot promise that the quantity will be as it was last year, but I will do my damnest to be sure that the quality is at least as good.

Again, thanks and here's to another 150 Len's Lenses.

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Crocodile tears have been drenching corporate boardrooms in New York and around the nation today (March 10, 2008) as another protector of the public morality falls off his pedestal after apparently being led by his penis.

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who made life miserable for thousands of corporate officials in insurance, banking and what have you in his previous job as attorney general of New York state begged for forgiveness after being linked to a high-priced prostitution ring. He has apologized to his family and his constituency and at least one television station says he'll quit by the end of the day.

The New York Times, apparently in later editions (not the one home-delivered in Connecticut) connected him with Emperor's Club VIP, a prostitution ring in Washington, D.C. that rates call girls with diamonds (just like AAA rates hotels and restaurants) and where well-heeled and horny men might pay as much as $5,500 an hour for a 7-diamond-rated hooker. That's $31,000 a day (dawn to dawn, as it says on the club's Web site). A five-diamond young woman is described as having a master's degree in public (and one suspects, private) relations. For the $15,000 that a day with this person would cost, I would hope so.

Anyway, enough of that. Spitzer, who was sheriff of Wall Street and drove many corporate lawyers to the Blue Label, should have known that a high-priced sex service such as Emperor's Club must draw the attention of the watchers of others' morals who rule Washington. But, like many men in his position, he is led around by his testosterone. As Will Smith said in the move "Men in Black", "Don't start nothin', won't be nothin'." So another promising political career goes down the toilet.

According to the Huffington Post, there was cheering at the New York Stock Exchange when the news went around.

If Spitzer quits, the new governor will be Lt. Gov. David Paterson, who is African-American and would be the Empire State's first black lieutenant governor. He also is legally blind, literally, not figuratively as is Spitzer.

I'm sorry for Spitzer's wife and three teenage daughters, who in the last day have seen their world come crashing down. Spitzer must now spend his time trying to salvage his marriage, family life and what remains of his career.

Spitzer must quit. A man who made his reputation chasing those who would bend and break the law cannot function after he did the same. He would be the butt of jokes.

Spitzer, although he has not been charged with a crime and probably would not be under the usual federal guidelines for this sort of thing, joins other disgraced governors, such as John Rowland, who did time for public corruption, and Bridgeport mayor Joe Ganum, who did the same.

It's a shame that a man with that kind of potential is brought down not by his instincts for justice but by his need to prove his manhood to himself. It doesn't take a prophet to see that this behavior has to end badly.

Until next time...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Could the worm be turning?

Let me say a few words about the primaries that are still going on at midnight Wednesday (March 5, 2008).
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton may have snatched the momentum from Sen. Barack Obama by winning Ohio and Rhode Island and it looks as if Texas may also go for her. Texas politics reminds me of the way Connecticut used to be: Politicians can do anything they want because nobody could figure out what's going on because it is so complicated.

Texas has primaries, caucuses and complicated rules. It's wild and woolly.

In the past weeks, Clinton and the reporters who cover the election have finally begun looking for that man behind the curtain. That, of course, is a reference to the Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy is told not to look for the man behind the curtain because the Great and Mighty Oz is just a guy with a megaphone.

Obama's gaffe in allowing a highly placed adviser to talk to the Canadians, telling the Ottawa officials that Obama really doesn't mean what he was saying about NAFTA. In the last debate, he said he was always against NAFTA, but is that really the case? As Paul Balaga, admittedly a Clinton supporter, said on CNN last night, if this adviser was operating without his boss' approval, that adviser has to be fired. Does Obama not know about how to deal with international relations?

I think we are finding that the rhetoric only gets us so far. Bringing people together is the method, not the end in itself. It is far different to bring people together for a good purpose than just to bring them together.

I'm still for Hillary for the stated reasons: She's much better prepared. She's not an empty shirt, a great talker who can't cut it when the chips are down. She's been there, done that.

Tonight, when Obama was speaking to his supporters, he started to look less like Clarence Darrow in the Scopes monkey trial, and more like William Jennings Bryan, more like a man spouting his words, but the words are starting to sound hollow.

Maybe, just maybe, the worm might be turning.

Until next time...

Monday, March 3, 2008

It's not raindrops falling on their heads

I hope all had a wonderful, restful weekend, despite the snow.

A message to Kerekes: Thanks for your note. I will be calling you in a few days and would love to sit down with you and pick your brain about what's going on in New Haven.

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Imagine you lived in a small country. Starting at the sea coast, you could walk across this country in a few hours. You could drive from north to south in four hours, except for the traffic. The country is as far from north to south as New Jersey, and the traffic situation would make a New Jersey commuter shake a head in sympathy.

The people in this country had neighbor problems - the neighbors didn't want them there. The people in this country took a land that had been fertile thousands of years ago, but no more. The people, who had had to leave their old neighborhood because they weren't wanted there, had fixed up their new home: They drained the swamps and made the desert bloom.

Their neighbors had come from others parts of the region a few score years ago, had rented homes and farms from absentee landlords hundreds and thousands of miles away. The people who returned to their ancient homeland bought that land and had allowed many of the renters, but had evicted many as well because they needed room for their friends and relatives.

These neighbors saw what the people had done with the place and wanted to take it over. The neighbors had lived under the rule of people who looked and thought a lot more like them and were happy to do so. But when the people took over, they decided they wanted to be independent.

The people were sick of fighting against neighbors who wanted them dead or gone or both. They were willing to give up parts of their small homeland, but the neighbors wanted it all. The people had finally had it. When the neighbors started lobbing rockets into their towns and now into their cities, that was the last straw. As Popeye used to say: "That's all I can stands, I can't stands no more."

The people were stronger than their neighbors and had tried not to hurt the neighbors too much. But the neighbors didn't value life as the people did. Their pride was stronger than their love for their children and they used their children as human shields.

When the children started suffering, the whole world said the people weren't fighting fair. The neighbors were fighting as hard as they could, lobbing rockets from the land they had foolishly been given. The world told the people they weren't fighting fair because they were stronger than the neighbors and could hurt them more.

That's what the neighbors were counting on. A few kids killed in exchange for a favorable headline in The New York Times was a good trade, it seemed. In the pages of that newspaper and hundreds of others, these neighbors are militants, not killers or terrorists. The United Nations said the people weren't fighting fair because many people were being punished for the actions of their rulers and that's not good in this neighborhood, although it seems to be just fine in other neighborhoods.

The fact that these neighbors had elected their leaders and were perfectly capable of telling the leaders to stop lobbing rockets at the people seemed irrelevant. The fact that these neighbors were being armed and led by Iran seemed irrelevant to the Europeans.

The people went in and cleaned up some of the neighbors' rocket sites and then left, while the neighbors called them cowardly for not killing more people.

The Israelis have been living like this since their nation was voted into existence by the world 60 years ago. Their Arab neighbors don't want them there. I ask you: How do you deal with people who want you dead or gone or, preferably, both, and take every opportunity to bring that about?

Israel is strong enough to wipe out these neighbors, to kill everybody found with a gun or a knife or a rocket-propelled grenade or a rocket and sweep their weeping survivors to the borders, where Egypt and Jordan and Lebanon and Syria would be invited to care for them, to take them into their nations as they should have done 60 years ago, or watch them die of neglect. That was Rabbi Meyer Kahane's solution, one declared officially anathema by the Israeli government and its proponents declared as terrorists.

I used to think this scenario was horrible, Nazi-like and unthinkable. I still say it's horrible and unthinkable, but maybe not quite as much as I used to.

Give me an alternative.

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This is about the state trooper lawsuit, as seen on television news last week. It is also reported here:

A couple of comments, if you will.

First, there was no lawsuit when these reports were aired and written, only somebody saying they were going to file one.

That's called the media being used to run an idea up the flagpole and see who would salute it - a trial balloon as it were.

Under the rules of good journalism, you don't write about a lawsuit until it is filed. You didn't have to wait until the defendant is served with papers, as long as the suit is filed with the clerk of whatever court is to have jurisdiction.

Secondly, in my opinion, these people are suing the wrong group.

Look, the Connecticut State Police is an organization with a wonderful reputation. This is the cadre that comes in when the locals can't cut it. These are the cops who patrol our superhighways and serve as the local police force if a town is too small to afford one. These are supposed to be the best and the brightest.

That's the way I want it if I need to call a state trooper or a trooper needs to call me.

I want the cop who sees me to be bright enough to pull me over if I'm weaving at 2 in the morning because I'm falling asleep. I want him or her to be bright enough to pull me over in a way that won't cause me to have an accident. I want him or her to be bright enough to figure out that I wasn't drunk or stoned, and had just suffered a temporary bout of road hypnotism, that my exit was only a few hundred yards up the road and no further action was needed. That happened to me a few years ago and I'll be forever grateful to that trooper for what he did and didn't do. I didn't need a ticket, or a lecture on what could have happened, I just needed a friendly wake-up call - literally.

If anyone needs to be sued, it's the school system that allows people who want to be state troopers to only score 65 on a test. That's a D. There were enough people who scored 85 or better to fill up the recruit class, I applaud those who got a B on the test. If only two blacks were able to score a B on the test, I congratulate them and invite those who want to sue someone to sue the educators, the parents, the system, not the cops.

To those African-Americans who scored 65, I invite them to join local police forces, or go to John Jay College or similar programs. Study for the test. Get tutoring. Get the 85 on the test and then I'd be proud to say to you: Welcome to one of the best state police forces in the nation.

Until next time...