CHRIS POWELL: Oil, not vodka, pays for war; and Sen. Cassano gets relevant

Published on Friday, 4 March 2022 14:37
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Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine has rocketed the United States into a whirlwind of pious but ineffectual posturing.

In his State of the Union address the other night President Biden told Congress that the United States would make Russian President Vladimir Putin pay heavily. Members of Congress and ordinary people keep going to rallies showing "solidarity" with Ukraine. And liquor stores and restaurants are removing Russian vodka from their shelves, as well as vodka with Russian brand names that was actually made outside Russia, some of it in the United States itself.

But as he gave his address the president had not yet even identified the Russian banks that supposedly were to be blocked from taking or making payments in the United States. Nor had he even prohibited the import of Russian oil into the United States. Russian oil lately has constituted 8% of U.S. oil imports, about 200,000 barrels a day, more than $17 billion in purchases annually -- and oil and gas, not vodka, constitute the great bulk of Russia's foreign income.

Western Europe is playing the same game, blocking transactions with Russia for nearly everything except the energy Western Europe depends on and makes the most money for Russia.

In his address the president urged Congress to enact a dozen pieces of far-left legislation but said nothing about restoring the energy independence the country had until he capitulated to "green" craziness and began hobbling the country's energy industry, thereby empowering Russia on the eve of its aggression against Ukraine.

A few members of Congress could smell the hypocrisy. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, said he would introduce legislation to block the import of Russian oil, something the president could do by mere decree. "We cannot stop Putin with Russia's gas in our cars," Markey said.

To assist besieged Ukraine are Americans willing to sacrifice more than a stiff drink? Are they ready to endure gasoline at $4 or $5 a gallon until the aggressor is driven out?

And before totalitarian China, emboldened by Russia's aggression, attacks democratic Taiwan, will Americans notice that they are now dependent on China for all sorts of necessities no longer much manufactured in their country, including antibiotics?

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A Connecticut state legislator last week got remarkably relevant about criminal justice. Even more remarkable, the legislator was a Democrat, state Sen. Stephen T. Cassano of Manchester, a member of the General Assembly's Public Safety Committee.

At a forum in Manchester, a town that recently has seen an alarming increase in crime, including a shooting at a gas station, Cassano acknowledged the central problem of repeat offenders.

“I think the thing that bothers people the most is people who have been arrested and they're back on the street the next day," Cassano said. "We've got to stop the repeats. If we stop the repeats, we can dramatically reduce the crime rate.”

Indeed, people are noticing that many of Connecticut's worst and most brazen crimes are committed by men and boys with long criminal records who are still free, having served little if any time in prison. The most notorious such case in the last year involved the killing of a New Britain man, Henryk Gudelski, the victim of a hit-and-run crash in June. Police said the car, which had been stolen, was driven by a 17-year-old boy who had been arrested 13 times in the previous 3½ years but was free all the same.

Meanwhile Governor Lamont boasts about the decline in Connecticut's prison population.

Two other legislators at the forum with Cassano, Rep. Jason Doucette, D-Manchester, and Rep. Jeff Currey, D-East Hartford, both members of the legislature's Judiciary Committee, did not approach relevance. They said their committee will examine criminal-justice proposals, as if nobody knew that.

One of those proposals should be to open juvenile court to the public. Otherwise there can be no accountability -- not just for the 17-year-old charged with killing Gudelski but also for everyone in the criminal-justice system involved in the teen's many previous cases. Nor can there be any accountability in the rape and murder, also last June, of a 13-year-old Manchester girl, Zaniya Wright, for which a 14-year-old boy has been charged.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Column on Friday, 4 March 2022 14:37. Updated: Friday, 4 March 2022 14:39.