Shutdown, Learning to read, UConn Health Center and Newtown

An earlier version of this column showed an incorrect date of the first election of George W. Bush.

My Canadian cousin called last weekend just after the debt ceiling crisis had shoved the shutdown crisis out of the spotlight.  “Who is running your country?” he asked.

Who knew?  This partisan brawl was unrecognizable to me, a bizarre event in some unknown country.  Even when the U.S. Supreme Court anointed George W. Bush in 2000, it was my country going through an odd paroxysm.  Monticello may have trembled, but you knew the players, you knew that the rules – also known as the Constitution – were more or less being followed.

But that fewer than 80 or so right wing radicals – less than 20 percent of a single house of Congress — could throw thousands out of work, stop medical research, close parks and disrupt the financial world?  And do this with a clear goal of trying to undermine the health care act, something this democratic country had said it wanted (and that Congress had passed, and that the Supreme Court had signed off on and that the president had signed)?

Which section of the Constitution said that was OK?

Comments from two stories from our coverage of the D.C. debacle leaped out at me this week. One, showing the trickle-down effect, contained this quote from the owner of a bookstore/record store in New London: “We’re a little retail store on a side street in a small city, and you wouldn’t think something in Washington would impact us, but it does,” said Rich Martin, who owns The Telegraph.

The other story included reactions to the end of the shutdown from our two U.S. senators.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal toed the party line: “We have to avoid recriminations as we seek common ground. The House Republican leadership clearly lost, but there is no winner here.”

Sen. Chris Murphy agreed, saying, “Nobody should be doing an end zone dance.”

Then, as Mirror reporter Ana Radelat wrote, “But he could not resist a partisan dig. ‘After three weeks of shutdown, the Republican tea party has gotten nothing out of this deal, zilch, nada,’ Murphy said.”

Who could blame the junior senator from Connecticut for a cathartic outburst?

Among other Mirror stories of note this week:

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas’ about a new approach that combines technology and good, old-fashioned teaching to help struggling elementary school readers. And it seems to be working.

Keith Phaneuf’s story on the state auditors’ report that calls out the UConn Health Center for “excessive spending.”

Arielle Levin Becker’s reports on the rollout of the Affordable Health Care Act, including her report card,comparing our progress to that of other states.

Mark Pazniokas’ interesting look at the state attorney general’s strained relationship with labor.

And don’t miss a fascinating op-ed piece by Hartford attorney Daniel Klau that makes a convincing case about the legislature’s “misguided frenzy”  after the Newtown shootings to amend the Freedom of Information Act so crime scene photos could never be released.

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