Chris Powell: Less about lobster privacy and more about war, please

Published on Saturday, 15 July 2017 16:50
Written by Chris Powell


How strange that this country’s war in Afghanistan is entering its 17th year with neither success nor political controversy. Americans seem to have taken the advice given to them by the comedian Mort Sahl about the Vietnam War: just accept it as part of your life. But the American portion of the Vietnam War lasted only 10 years.

Of course, Afghanistan is not producing the U.S. military casualties Vietnam did, so presumably the public finds them acceptable if they are even noticed at all. The casualties of Afghans, often innocent civilians, are apparently irrelevant.

This lack of interest has caused President Trump to delegate to the defense secretary a decision on whether to send more soldiers to Afghanistan, the current number being grossly inadequate to pacify the country. The necessity and practicality of pacifying it are not questioned, nor the cost - billions of dollars every year even as the United States is said to lack the money to ensure that everyone has decent medical insurance. Indeed, the war in Afghanistan does not seem to be an issue in Congress at all.

But the other day Connecticut’s senior U.S. senator, Richard Blumenthal, did express concern about a Transportation Security Administration agent’s displaying on Twitter the photo of a 20-pound lobster that was found in a cooler being inspected at the airport in Boston for shipment to Georgia.

The lobster had been purchased at a fish shop in Old Saybrook and the shop owner got indignant that the lobster had been displayed without the buyer’s permission. So Senator Blumenthal visited the shop to concur with its owner before an audience of journalists.

“What may seem funny to one person may feel like a violation of privacy to another,” the senator said.

But in displaying the lobster, the TSA people did not identify its buyer and thus did not violate his privacy, while if the lobster had any privacy rights, they were first violated by the fish shop itself when it put the crustacean in a display case for sale.

No matter, for the senator had gotten on television again and for a reason - the privacy rights of lobsters and those who would feast on them - more interesting than his usual denunciation of the Trump administration, which everyone already knew to be incompetent and disgraceful. But another war waged half-heartedly out of mere inertia is even more disgraceful, and removing that disgrace requires Connecticut’s members of Congress to speak out against it and their constituents to press them to.

* * *

Nice guys finish without a budget: Connecticut has gone two weeks without a state budget, but at least House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz this week accepted responsibility for failing to rally the House Democratic majority behind one by July 1.

In part the problem may be Aresimowicz’s virtues. He is known for reasonableness and patience, rather than for cracking heads.

To a greater extent the problem may be the division in the speaker’s party. While most House Democrats, liberals, want to raise taxes again to cover the huge budget deficit that reflects the failure of liberal policies, Governor Malloy has turned against raising taxes, as have a few Democratic House members whose defection would send a tax-raising budget to defeat at the hands of the unusually large minority of Republicans in the House.

So, for the time being, the hapless Democrats seem to prefer to let the governor do Connecticut’s budgeting by himself day to day, to exact unpopular cuts on his own, and to take the blame, since he’s not seeking re-election.

If he tires of that, maybe he will invite the Republicans and dissident Democrats to send him a Republican budget without more taxes.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.

Posted in New Britain Herald, Columns on Saturday, 15 July 2017 16:50. Updated: Saturday, 15 July 2017 16:52.