Blumenthal's close call; a trophy case for DCF

Connecticut's perpetual scold, the former attorney general who is now U.S. senator, Richard Blumenthal, almost qualified the other day for a Darwin Award, given to those believed to have improved the human gene pool by removing themselves from it in an especially foolish way.

In a moment captured by the television cameras he cultivated during his 20 years as attorney general, Blumenthal stood on the yellow warning line on the platform at the Milford train station, his back to the track, holding a press conference denouncing the Metro-North commuter railroad for its poor safety record when an Amtrak train flew by, nearly clipping him and the easel he was using.

Citing the senator's high academic credentials, one wit snickered, "I guess they don't teach you at Harvard and Yale not to stand on the yellow line."

While Blumenthal did his best to look unruffled, viewers of the videotape might have winced. Where would Connecticut be without its scourge of petty cheats?

Actually, without Blumenthal Connecticut might have a senator who concerned himself with serious issues of national policy.

For Metro-North is only a straw man for Blumenthal, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, and other Connecticut officials. When the New Haven Railroad and its successor, Penn Central, failed 45 years ago, Connecticut decided to forfeit responsibility for its commuter rail service by signing it over to Metro-North, a New York state agency. Now Connecticut officials can rage against Metro-North all they want to gain publicity but somehow they never propose retaking control of the state's rail lines or even seeking representation on Metro-North's board. That would require more than holding press conferences.

And while, as Blumenthal complained in Milford, Metro-North over the last decade has paid a half-million dollars in fines for safety violations, over the last decade the national corporation that is buying nonprofit hospitals in Waterbury, Bristol, Manchester, and Vernon, Tenet Healthcare, has paid $1 billion in fines for misconduct and is reserving $27 million for more fines.

Altogether that's 2,000 times the fines paid by Metro-North, even as medical care, unlike the railroad, is very much a federal issue, being far more subsidized by the federal government.

But the senator has expressed no interest in the conversion of the nonprofit community hospitals to national chain ownership. Unlike Metro-North, the parties involved in that issue - the national chain, the hospitals, their unionized employees, the doctors, the patients - are no mere straw men.

New DCF poster child

Congratulations to the Department of Children and "Families" on what may be its most messed-up kid ever for its trophy case: a 16-year-old boy who, after years of sexual abuse, wants to be considered a girl even as she assaults her caretakers and other children so often that the department can't think of any place to house her safely except the prison in East Lyme.

The American Civil Liberties Union affects outrage that someone who hasn't been convicted of anything should be held in prison. But the 16-year-old is a ward of the state and hasn't been prosecuted only so that she might remain in DCF's presumably gentler if befuddled custody. The ACLU's indignation also presumes that there are ample treatment facilities for such peculiar cases - as if anybody really knows what to do with the kid now.

But DCF itself is no better. The department has yet to realize that "treatment" is no substitute for a stable home life with loving parents and that, if prolonged, treatment can be as bad as what is being treated. And while for years Connecticut has been suffering an explosion of abused and neglected kids, the department has yet to inquire into its cause, instead being content with attempting mere remediation that is quickly overwhelmed by new and worse cases.

Since DCF won't do it, who in authority in Connecticut will ask where all the messed-up kids are coming from and why?


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