Friday, November 28, 2008

Sadness and outrage

Things are sad this Friday for a number of reasons.

First of all, five Hasidic Jews were found murdered by the people who took over two hotels, a Jewish center, and some other buildings in Mumbai, which used to called Bombay, India. The  couple who ran the Chabad center, Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife, Rivky, were killed, but their child, 2, was rescued by a cook. 

Nearly 200 others were killed, including three more at the Chabad center, in the  massacre that also took place at two hotels frequented by Westerners. At least two Americans are said to be among the dead.

We spent a wonderful Thanksgiving at the home of our daughter and son-in-law, Andrea and Mike, in Amherst, Mass. One of the other guests was a man named Sam, who had lived in Mumbai and knew the Holtzbergs. He said they were warm, giving people who spent their time trying to make the Jews who had to be in Mumbai feel a little less strange. They also worked with the Jewish community in the city that was the financial center of India.

We know the Holtzbergs and the others who died are with God this Shabbos. We hope those who killed them get their just desserts in this life and the next. 

Closer to home, there's the unbelievable story about a man who was killed by a mob who couldn't wait to get into a Wal-Mart on Long Island. They literally broke down the doors in their rush to spend money, and the part-time worker was trampled to death by the mob.

Not only that, but the mob (I don't know of any other word for those people) tried to push aside a group of police officers who were trying to revive the victim in their rush to get a bargain on whatever thing was so important to them. 

Their only just punishment is that whatever it is that they just had to have never works properly, that the recipient of the bloodstained gift doesn't want it and that the store, who should have thrown this mob back into the street but lusted after their money, doesn't stand behind this bloody gift.

Attention, shoppers. If you believe in the teachings of Jesus, what would he say about this scene?

One more note of sadness. Bert Resch was buried this morning. He died Wednesday afternoon after a long series of illnesses, with his father, Sol, by his side.

Bert was a man whom I didn't know well, but instinctively liked. He lived with and took care of his father, who, if not 90 years old, is knocking at the door.

A father should not have to bury a child. Sol is a likable old man who goes to synagogue every day, twice a day, no matter what. 

May God turn the sorrow felt by Sol, his other son, Tom, and family quickly into pleasant memories of their son, brother and uncle.

Have a great weekend. The stock market is up for five days in a row, but we still have a long, long way to go to dig ourselves out of this financial quagmire. 

Again, have a great weekend, and for those in the Tribe, have a great Shabbos.

Until next time...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

No egg drop soup for you!

After being on life support for a couple of years, the only kosher Chinese restaurant between New York's and Boston's suburbs packed it in last month. 

In fact, Kosher Express was the only kosher Chinese restaurant, absent the Boston suburbs, between New Rochelle and Montreal, Canada. With that much territory from which to draw, one would think the place would be a rousing success. 

No such luck. 

There are some efforts going on to revive the business, located in the Amity shopping plaza on the New Haven-Woodbridge town line. I don't think they have much of a chance. 

The reasons the place failed, well, let's not go into that. It serves no purpose. You do a post mortem to learn why something died, to learn from your mistakes. We in New Haven won't learn, so why bother.

If you are a masochist and want to open a business, then running a restaurant is for you. It's a business with ridiculous hours,  impossible customer-service goals and few rewards. Running a kosher restaurant is all that to the 10th power. 

Not only do you deal with personal tastes (or lack thereof), but you are dealing with the myriad requirements of kashrut as interpreted by myriad "experts." Add in the fact that it was a meat restaurant and the odds of success dwindle to a precious few. 

In this case, the owners really never got it as far as service was concerned. 

Restaurant service is more than slapping food down on a table. As a source said many years ago, a restaurant meal is an entertainment experience as much as, or even more than, a way to assuage hunger. Not so at Kosher Express. 

The food was quite good for kosher Chinese. I threw a birthday party for my wife there a couple of years ago and the food was really good and there was plenty of it. Nobody complained about the food. There needed to be more of those experiences for the general community for the place to succeed. It just couldn't get itself together.

It's too bad. I'm sorry to see it go. 

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Here's an idea for a sharp city alderman who is a regular reader of this posting. It's free.

Once of the ideas police circulate for prevention of burglaries is not to advertise that you've gone away for a while. 

The cops advise residents who will be away to suspend newspaper delivery and mail service if you have an outside mailbox and not a mail slot. Don't order items to be delivered while you are away. 

But there should be a law against others advertising that you are away. That's what people do when they shove advertising fliers in your storm door handle or leave them on your porch where potential burglars can spot them. 

That should be illegal and if a homeowner returns to find such a flier, the business promoting itself in this fashion should be liable for a hefty fine. 

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Kudos to Alderman Sergio Rodriguez and the Livable City Initiative. 

There is a house in my neighborhood that is clearly abandoned, probably due to foreclosure. It was getting really ratty -- the lawn not mowed and the rest of the signs that screamed: burglarize me. 

A couple of weeks ago, an LCI crew came by, mowed the lawn, cleaned up the outside of the place and made it look respectable.

I'm sure my Westville neighbors join me in thanking you for the effort.

Until next time...

Monday, November 24, 2008

It's Christmas, not the holidays

Happy Monday. I hope your weekend was as good as mine.

Thanksgiving is coming up Thursday, a day to be with family and friends and, for some people, a day to plan the next day's all-out shopping extravaganza.

On Friday, the news media, especially television reporters, will breathlessly report on people who lined up before dawn to be the first to grab that gotta-have gift for the kids. After all, how long does it take to cover the semi-annual feast given for the less fortunate?

Hey, I'm not picking on anyone. Just last year, at the urging of friend wife, I found myself standing in line around midnight to get into the late and much-lamented CompUSA for first crack at the bargains. It was fun to do. Once. 

So now starts the time of the year when it is impossible for someone to enter a store, walk in a mall, turn on many radio stations and the rest without hearing Christmas music.

You'll notice I didn't say holiday music. I nearly puked last year every time I heard Rachel Ray talk about the holidays this and the holidays that when doing Dunkin Donuts ads. 

It's not the holidays. It's Christmas. It's a Christian holiday in a Christian country and I don't understand why people have to try to make it inclusive. 

Cards and wrapping paper with reindeer and trees and snowmen are Christmas decorations. The Muslims, Hindus, Shintoists, Buddhists, agnostics and atheists don't have a winter holiday. Jews do, but there are no reindeer, trees and candy canes associated with Hanukkah. 

It doesn't snow much where the first Hanukkah took place, so snowmen have nothing to do with the holiday. Hanukkah gifts, with the exception of small amounts of money called Hanukkah gelt, are just a reaction to Christmas gift-giving. 

Christmas hasn't been too good to me, so I'm a little bitter. For example, I got my head handed to me at my last job because of Christmas. 

There was a fire in an apartment building, I think it was in Mount Vernon. Nobody was hurt and few people were made homeless. 

There was a lot of other news that Sunday, about two weeks before Christmas, so I put a picture of the fire on Page One and referred to a number of pictures and a big story on the Local News page. Wrong move.

The next day, I was taken to the woodshed but good. How could I not lead the paper with the fire.? Why? Christmas gifts were destroyed. It was the end of the world. Some kids would have to go without all their gifts. Their parents were unhurt, they had a roof over their heads, food to eat and the rest. But their gifts were destroyed and their parents might not have enough money to replace them all. Horrors.

I didn't get what the big deal was then and I don't get it now. I deal with it.

For those who celebrate Christmas, my question is: Why don't you claim it as your own. Call it Christmas, not the holidays. Clasp it to your breast. Enjoy it. Store clerks should wish people a merry Christmas, not happy holidays. Talk about Christmas the tree, not holiday tree, in Rockefeller Center. 

Seriously, if I have to deal with the barrage of music, decorations, television programs, "A Wonderful Life" and the rest, at least you who celebrate the holiday could do is to  embrace it and enjoy it. 

Until next time...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Before starting out to take revenge, dig two graves

There's a certain satisfaction to seeing the fall of someone who's disappointed you.

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman has disappointed me. It would have been somewhat satisfying to see him sitting in the back benches of the Senate, with no power and little influence.

But in the long run, that's not why we sent him to the Senate. We could have sent Ned Lamont and gotten the same result.

I didn't work for Lieberman to see him sitting on the back benches with little influence and unable to do anything for Connecticut. Again, we could have sent Ned Lamont.

I worked for Lieberman because he heads a powerful committee, and can bring jobs, federal dollars and the rest back to Connecticut. Our other senator, Christopher Dodd, can do the same as head of the powerful Banking Committee. 

I am disappointed that Lieberman abandoned his job as junior senator from Connecticut to go traipsing all over the world, carrying the bag for Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee. I was embarrassed to see him speaking at the GOP national convention with that idiot from Alaska. 

But that's all over now. President-elect Barack Obama is a man who thinks things out, a chess player who thinks many moves ahead. He knows it's better to have a Joe Lieberman who owes him big-time in the Senate when Obama is trying to get his Cabinet choices past that body, with its cadre of Republicans whose pride is hurt and who are out for revenge.

Sen. Harry Reid, the Democrat leader in the Senate, spoke through clenched teeth today when he announced the decision to keep Lieberman. He'll not forget that, and if Lieberman doesn't mind his p's and q's, Reid'll take another run at Lieberman.  And if that takes place a year or so down the road, you can bet he'll have Obama's blessing.

In the meantime, it's better to have a beholden Lieberman working for Connecticut than a ticked-off Lieberman working against the administration.

Yes, the Democrats in Connecticut feel they got screwed by Lieberman, and they might be right. But this is not the time for a divorce, but a reconciliation. After all, Lieberman became an independent because Howard Dean, the former head of the Democratic National Committee and his brother, Jimmy, were parading Lamont around the Jefferson Jackson Bailey Day dinner in March 2006 while another Democrat speaking, warning the assembled Democrats not to split the party by backing Lamont over Lieberman.

That speaker was Barack Obama.

We should have listened to him them. Let's listen to him now.

There will be ample opportunity to punish Lieberman if he messes up in the next four years or, if he is silly enough to run again, in 2012. 

Believe me. I won't be out standing in the rain for him then.

But for now, remember the Chinese maxim in the headline space. Hopefully, Lieberman will perform for the party as well as the people of Connecticut.

If not, there's always time for the bum's rush.

Until next time...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Another one bites the dust

The Journal-Register Co. didn't leave the New Haven area untouched in its campaign to rescue itself from its bad decisions.

In addition to closing two daily papers and who knows how many weeklies in central Connecticut, leaving many communities with no local news coverage, fired five members of the tiny New Haven register staff. One of those is Abram Katz, the science writer and staff intellectual.

The paper also laid off a part-time copy editor. Hey, who needs copy editors -- they're only the last line of defense against little things like libel suits, horrible mistakes or embarrassing misspellings and the like. 

They also closed Play, an effort to compete with the New Haven Advocate as the arts journal. The Advocate, owned by the beleaguered Tribune Co., isn't the force it used to be in that world, but why go reinvent the wheel?

Page 2

Abe Katz is a smart guy with a big moustache and with a soaring sense of the ridiculous. Here's an example.

In the late 1980s, the newsroom of the New Haven Register and recently deceased Journal-Courier was not a happy place, not like a few years earlier. Then,  Lionel S. Jackson Jr., known as Stewart, had taken over the reins of the paper from his father, Lionel Sr. 

For a few shining years, Stewart had run the company as a company should be run, and the news staffs had responded, winning just about every regional and state excellence award that was offered.

Then Stewart Jackson sold the company to a fast-talk artist with too much money named Ralph Ingersoll II and his buddy, junk-bond king Mike Milken

It took some time, but the wheels soon started to come off the bus. Morale plunged like, well, like the stock market during the past few months. Yeah, that bad.

Tom Geyer, the man Ingersoll sent in to run the Register (who turned out to be a pretty moral guy), saw the lack of morale and suggested some kind of a project.

In stepped Abe Katz. In short order, he wrote a play called "Lost in the Bucket." It may have been "Lost in a Bucket." I can't remember.

In any case, it was just what the morale doctor ordered. Members of the staff decided to put on this play and televise it through the then-new medium of community-sponsored television.

Joe Amarante, who is still the Register's television editor, was sent off to take classes at Citizen Television in how to use the camera, microphone and other equipment. We were then able to borrow the equipment. I had a small part. Steve Hamm, who was the business editor, was a star and the set was Phil Blumenkrantz' apartment. (Blumenkrantz was a reporter, strictly anti-establishment, whom I heard is now working for the IRS in New Jersey.)

I can't remember who else was involved. In any case, we did the play, which had to do with two guys eating a bucket of chicken. It was full of allegory, symbolism, great puns. 

Geyer staked us to an opening-night party and the thing ran a few times on a local citizens' television channel. 

That was Abe Katz' role in trying to buoy morale. It lasted a few months, but then came Ralph Ingersoll's abortive attempt to start a tabloid in St. Louis, of all places. The Register purchase was financed with junk bonds, and as the wheels came off that wagon, the Register and its parent company, now Journal-Register, began heading for the bottom of the financial ocean.

And now Abe Katz, the man and the legend, must move on.

Just remember, Abe, if you should happen to read this, Post hoc, ergo propter hoc -- After this, therefore because of this. In other words, what goes around comes around. They'll get theirs.

Best of luck, Abe. I know you'll land on your feet.

Page 3

Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. It's a trial balloon, running it up the flagpole to see who salutes it. 

We could do worse.

Speaking of worse, the weather is supposed to be horrible tomorrow. Try to stay dry and despite the weather, have a great weekend. Hey, the new Bond flick is out. It's not Sean Connery, but it is a Bond flick. 

Have a great weekend and, for those in the Tribe, a great Shabbos.

Until next time...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fewer voices means less freedom

Well, here we go again.

The Journal Register Co., the corporation that owns the New Haven Register and a bunch of weeklies around New Haven, is threatening to close two of the daily papers it owns in central Connecticut by the middle of January unless someone buys them before that.

I'm talking about the Bristol Press and the Herald, formerly the New Britain Herald.  I know they haven't been independent sources of news for some time now, but they did cover their local towns. 

I grew up with the New Britain Herald, a local paper that covered the city and towns around it like Plainville, Newington, Farmington, Kensington and Berlin. At one point, each town had its own page, staff, photographers and the like. Local sports were covered like a blanket and the weekly games of the New Britain Golden Hurricanes were major events.

That's what a local paper does, or rather, what a local paper did. 

It was an afternoon paper and many households got both the Hartford Courant and the Herald. Judith Brown, the publisher of the Herald, was involved in journalism causes and served on the panel that chose the Pulitzer Prize winners for a couple of years.

I don't know much about the Bristol Press except that it served the same function as the Herald in Bristol, Forestville, Plainville and other towns in central Connecticut. 

Neither was the New York Times or even the Hartford Courant, but they didn't need to be.

Then the families that owned the papers sold out to the same sad chain, just like the Jacksons in New Haven sold out to Ralph Ingersoll II and the bunch of pirates who became the Journal Register Co. 

I don't know what the Courant will be able to do in covering New Britain and environs because of  the weakened condition of its parent, the Tribune Co., brought about by the greed and ego of Sam Zell, a real estate mogul who apparently knew little and cared less about the newspaper game. 

It's going on all over the place. I hear that the Poughkeepsie Journal, owned by Gannett, will be printed in Westchester at the Journal News plant in Harrison. That's more than an hour away in the best weather, a lot more in snow and ice. The paper will be transmitted electronically one way, but the physical papers will have to be trucked back to Poughkeepsie over some bad roads.

That means deadlines will have to be set back. Therefore, night meetings and night games will not appear in the next morning's paper. That'll set off another drop in circulation and advertising. It's a vicious cycle. 

I don't know what the folks in New Britain, Bristol and their satellite towns will do for local news. 

Government works best with a bright spotlight on it. As weak as they had become, the Press and the Herald still shone that light on local elected and appointed officials. Nobody is saying those who govern those communities are a bunch of crooks or ne'er-do-wells. I'm sure they're the same overworked and under-appreciated folks who run towns all over the nation. People in those jobs, most of them at least, try their best.

But when that light goes out in January, who will make sure?

It's just one more case of freedom being sacrificed on the altar of corporate stupidity.

Until next time...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It's not that he's black; it's that it doesn't matter

Happy Tuesday. To all veterans, thank you for your service. This holiday, Veterans Day, is for those who served, not necessarily for those who gave their "last full measure of devotion," as Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address.

This is a holiday that started as Armistice Day, the time when, at 11 minutes after 11 on Nov. 11, 1918, the guns of the Great War, later to be called World War I,  fell silent and that sad conflict finally ended, at least for nearly 21 years, until it morphed into World War II.  

I decided to mark the occasion by becoming a charter member of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans in honor of my father and father-in-law, both of whom fought overseas in that conflict. It also will give me a reason to return to that fabled city. You may want to join.

Page 2

Last week, I had the privilege of working on Election Day, reporting some small part of the event that, I sincerely hope, brings back thinking as part of the president's job description. 

One of the highlights was watching President-elect Obama's (boy, it feels good to be able to write that phrase) first speech after he won with the group of people who covered the election for the New Haven Independent, as I did. This is a group, some young, some not so young, who report the news with few resources save their ingenuity, hard work and guts. 

As we were watching, one of our number said something like, "It's a day I thought would never come; the election of an African-American as president of the United States.

That didn't ring right, didn't hit the right note. I couldn't fathom why until, as so often happens, my wife crystalized it. That revelation led me into something I find myself doing more often but not liking: agreeing with Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times.

Soon after the election, Friedman wrote that the Civil War was over. I agree, but not for the reasons he gave.

It's also not for the election of a black man as president.

It's because the right man was elected, and it didn't matter that he was black. It didn't matter. 

We finally started catching up to my daughter Esther. We're not there yet. All of my kids are really good people. To the older two, Andrea and Malka, it doesn't matter what color skin someone has. We have gotten there, at least in the election of our president.

But Esther takes it one step further. She doesn't notice what color skin someone has. It's of no consequence, so takes no note of it. She notices male or female, and she can tell, usually, whether someone is a good person or not. But race, color, skin tone: no. We're not there yet. We won't be there until my generation passes away. But we're on our way. 

We, as a nation, have finally gotten that far, no matter what the pundits say. 

And that is why the Civil War is finally over, 147 years and seven months after it started.

Page 3

It looks like we are headed into a deep, dark recession. 

Our stocks and bonds and 401(k)s and IRAs, if they are keyed to the financial markets, have lost maybe half their value. We're fighting our way back, although we're giving banks money to lend, and they are hoarding it to buy other banks. Another example of how the trickle-down economic theory is bankrupt. 

I wouldn't mind so much if the rest of the economy was coming down with us, as gasoline and heating oil prices are starting to do, albeit slowly. 

Listening to stories about the Great Depression, it seemed that people had little money, but things also cost little. If you made $2 or $3 a day, you could survive. If you made $20 a week, you were doing fine. 

A loaf of bread cost a nickel; a quart of milk wasn't that much more. A penny post card was a penny post card. You could mail a letter for two cents. A nickel or a dime got you a ride on the trolley car or the subway or bus. 

I couldn't mind if my savings got cut in half if, and here's the big if, the cost of the things I want and need also cost half what they did last year.

But the purveyors of those things I want and need don't seem to get it. Prices for staples such as bread and milk and fruit and vegetables keep going up. It seems that every week, prices keep skyrocketing. I just laugh when I look at the catalogs I get from high-end clothiers. A coat costs as much as car did in 1970. The thousand-dollar suit, long the province of gangsters and their lawyers, is now commonplace in some stores. 

Ice cream, for crying out loud, goes for almost $6 a half-gallon, and I'm not talking about Ben & Jerry's or Brigham's , but regular brands. Forget about frozen confections for those of us who are lactose intolerant. A quart of soy cream in some stores sells for nearly $6. A melon for $4? Come on!

This cannot go on. If the economy is going to recede, we all have to do it together. 

I hope the thinking president and his advisers can find a way out of this mess.

Page 4

This is for all of you who were cringing about an Obama victory because it wouldn't be good for Israel and for the Jews. 

Don't you feel silly now? The first guy Barack Hussein Obama appointed in his kitchen cabinet is Rahm Emanuel, an observant Jew, whose father fought in the Irgun Tzvei Leumi against the British in Israel before the state was formed. That's the shock troops, Menachem Begin's boys, the group that blew up the British headquarters in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.

Rahm Emanuel will be the second most powerful man in the White House (for you West Wing fans, he'll be Leo McGarry), the man who controls access to the president, the chief of staff who is in on every decision. 

For those concerned about Israel, he's the man to have in the job. We couldn't have scripted it better. 

Now, aren't you sorry you voted for John McCain? Or worse, didn't vote at all?

Until next time...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Mazel Tov to Obama; now let's get to work

The election is over. It was fun to work it for the New Haven Independent...writing stories, doing some editing and watching the new president give a wonderful speech. Thanks to all those who helped by taking time from a busy day to spend a few minutes.

Did you hear that Sarah Palin wanted to give a concession speech in addition to John McCain? And if you watched McCain, didn't he seem a bit relieved during his concession talk? It almost seemed as if he put so much into his campaign that he didn't have anything left at the end of it. 

In any case, I hope he goes back to being the same principled senator he was before catching election fever. And I hope he fires all those idiots who led him down the garden path. As far as Sarah Palin is concerned, let her go back to Alaska, the state that either sent or nearly sent (depends on the still-hanging election results) a convicted felon back to the Senate.

Page 2

One of the happening places on Election Day was the Playwright tavern on Temple Street. The place was rocking, with some actual candidates and political pros (Rosa DeLauro ran out about 10 p.m., leading hubby and super-pollster Stan Greenberg). I saw a few alders in there, some Yale types and a lot of hangers-on. The place was rocking, although I couldn't appreciate it, because I was looking for an alderwoman who I was told had witnessed a fight between backers and opponents of Proposition 1. She never called me back, even the next day. 


Proposition 1 was an attempt by the Catholic Council and others to open a constitutional convention they would have used to reverse the state Supreme Court decision to allow gay marriage. It failed. The next proposition, which will allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries as long as they will have turned 18 before the general election. Good idea and it passed overwhelmingly.

I can't help but catch a little satisfaction from Jim Hines' defeat of Chris Shays in Connecticut's Fourth Congressional District. Last summer, my wife was covering an Indian (south Asian) festival where he was politicking and wanted to get a quote from him. He was too busy and his drum beater seemed too busy or too dense to figure out that hundreds of people, many of them in his district, would read this story. So, they just brushed by as if she wasn't there, as if they were too busy.

Well, Chris, now you'll have plenty of time.

Page 3

I visited a half dozen polling places during Election Day and most of the people couldn't have been nicer. There was one, however, where an official wouldn't let me in, kept insisting I get back 75 feet. I guess this guy never heard of the First Amendment. The moderator, who was apologetic, said he was new. I wanted to take a picture of people still lining up to vote an hour after the poll-closing hour to illustrate the intense interest in voting. I never did get the picture.

I don't want to name the guy or the ward, because he was doing what he thought was right. But may I suggest that better training be offered to those moderators before the next election. 

Page 4

Now that we don't have to hear about Joe the Plumber or any others with "the" as their middle names ( Smokey the Bear, Marvin the Torch, Lieberman the former committee chairman), we need to redirect all that enthusiasm generated by the election toward helping bring the change so many of us stood in line, volunteered, stuck signs into lawns, wrote blogs and in so many ways worked to bring about. 

We need to keep this commitment. There are plenty of Sarah Palin and Sean Hannity clones out there who would love nothing better than to see President-elect Barack Obama (doesn't that have such a wonderful ring to it?) fall flat on his face. Don't let that happen.

Thanks for reading. Keep it up. By the way, did you see my photo? Yeah, the grey in the beard is real, and I earned every grey hair.

Until next time...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A few thoughts coming down to the wire

There are less than two days before the voting starts and the nation gets to the end of the long, long road of electioneering. It's not only the most expensive political campaign, but the most mind-numbing.

Many of us, me included, are saying: Enough already. Let's vote and go onto the next thing: healing the nation.

But even as I say that, there are a couple of things with which I want to leave you about the process that we (one hopes most of us, anyway) are about to complete.

First of all, let's talk about the question of the constitutional convention. Polls say half of us here in Connecticut will vote for it. That's a shame. It's a bad idea being promulgated by a group using fear as a beard.

The television ads, which thankfully must carry the signature of their sponsor, the state Catholic Conference, say the convention will give voters a say in their government.

Nothing is further from the truth. 

What they want is to hold the conference, pack it with their supporters, and reverse the courts and legislature on abortion and gay marriage in Connecticut. Two branches of government, the legislative (the General Assembly, the state's legislature) and the judicial (the Supreme Court, the state's highest court of appeals) have backed gay marriage.

The Church wants to sidestep this democratic process, as well as the established process of judicial review, and replace it with church dogma. 

As far as being able to petition, another target of any church-sponsored constitutional convention, it's another end run around the democratic process. A law gets passed the church doesn't like, it gets its folks to petition. The legislators refuse to pass a law the church wants enacted, such as taking us back to the days when Connecticut was the only state in the nation to criminalize birth control, they cough up a petition.

What that does is brings the state's legislative process, hardly a model of efficiency in any regard, to a screeching halt. 

On the state level, we in Connecticut live in a republic. We elect legislators who pass laws and who advise and consent on hiring the state judiciary. We either trust them or we don't, and if we don't, we should elect people we do trust. Our job as an informed citizenry is to elect people to the General Assembly whom we trust to do those things we want done. 

If we want to change the Connecticut Constitution, we can call a convention at any time, or we can amend the document. A constitutional convention throws open the whole document to no-holds-barred changes. We don't need that. If we want to amend the constitution, then do so.

Then our job is to advise these legislators of our wishes. We can call them, write them, e-mail them, show up singly or in numbers to advise them of our wishes. We don't need an additional level of governmental interference.

We don't need a constitutional convention run by the Catholic church. 

One more point, if you will, on insurance.

John McCain wants to institute a health insurance plan that would, in essence, take health insurance out of the workplace. 

He wants to give you up to $5,000 to help pay for private insurance you would purchase from an insurance company. Even if his plan would save you money over the current system (it won't, but let's give him that point), his plan removes an important plus to getting insurance at work.

You alone would pay few thousand dollars premium to an insurance company and have the clout that one small insured has with the carrier: very little. Your employer, if it is a major corporation or even a medium sized corporation, pays millions and millions of dollars in premiums and has the clout that a large customer has with the carrier: a lot.

If you have a problem as a single insured, you might get someone to address your problem. If your company, a major client, addresses your problem with the insurance company, the chance that your complaint will be addressed is exponentially higher. 

Under McCain's plan, you lose that clout. That's really, really important. And it works. I know because I ran into a problem a few years ago. A health provider decided that the amount she was getting from my insurance company wasn't enough to pay for the service she was rendering. She wanted more and billed me. 

I called her and she basically said too bad. I brought the problem to my company's human resources office, which called the corporate HR office, which called the insurance company. The company called the provider and read her the riot act. The problem disappeared. 

You lose that with McCain's plan.

In any case, get out Tuesday and vote. It couldn't be more important.

Until next time...