Friday, April 28, 2006

Encouragement for Les Roberts Supporters from Cegelis Supporter

The following comment from "Michael in Chicago", a supporter of the Christine Cegelis for Congress campaign, got me thinking this morning about margins of victory. Michael writes:

"The similarities between IL-06 and NY-24 are way too close for my tastes. Way too close. Down to the pattern and roll out and denying recruitment by Rahm while the DCCC sends help to one candidate even though they don't get involved in primaries.

All I can say is BS, and keep your eye on the ball. Roberts looks like he will be better able to compete financially than Cegelis was due to his connections and your media market.

We lost by less than two votes per precinct. Two. They dropped 11 big huge glossy mailers in 8 weeks, and we came within two votes per precinct.

Fight like hell. You can win."

Earlier, in the article to which this comment refers, I talked about how the progressive, grassroots Christine Cegelis campaign nearly beat the institutional, DCCC-recruited campaign of Tammy Duckworth. I referred to the margin of defeat at 3 percent.

Here, Michael is referring to a loss by just 2 votes per precinct. That doesn't sound right, does it? I mean, how can that add up to a 3 percent gap between Cegelis and Duckworth?

Easily. Sadly easily.

The essential thing to keep in mind about this election is that turnout will almost certainly be low, in both the primary and in the general election. Consider last year's hot special election for an open seat in the House of Representatives: Paul Hackett wasn't the only Democrat running for that seat. It was a heated contest in the election of the year, and yet, only three percent of Democrats showed up to vote in the primary.

So, when we talk about the Democratic primary to come between Michael Arcuri and Les Roberts, we need to keep in mind that Arcuri and Roberts are not really competing for the votes of the typical Democrat in the 24th District. The typical Democrat in the 24th District won't vote. No, the contest between Roberts and Arcuri is a battle to win the hearts and minds of the 3 to 5 percent of Democrats in the 24th District who will care enough about politics to go to the polls.

TV advertisements won't be enough, because, unfortunately, television advertisements only reach those Democrats who choose to sit down and watch a lot of television instead of getting out and doing something. The candidates in this race need to think creatively about how to reach the doers, not the sitters and watchers.

The same principle will apply to the general election. As excited and argumentative we get about the race here in discussions on this blog, we're losing touch if we don't remember that, even though this is an extraordinary political year, we're still talking about a mid-term election. The support of committed, active Democrats will mean everything. Support from Democrats who only vote in presidential elections won't mean anything at all.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Les Roberts To Speak on Iraq Experience in Trumansburg

Tomorrow night, Friday April 28 at 7:00 PM at the Fire Hall on Main Street, Democratic congressional candidate Les Roberts will be giving a talk about his experience working on the ground in Iraq. The title of the talk will be: Civilian Casualties: The Untold Story.

The event is a follow-up to Les Roberts' appearance on the Al Franken show this week. It is sponsored by the organization Back to Democracy and will include the opportunity to ask Les Roberts questions about his work in Iraq, his other work with the U.S. government and non-profits, and about his campaign for Congress.

The talk is free and open to the public, so anyone from the district who is curious about the Les Roberts campaign is welcome to attend. That includes the people who read this blog, whether they're Roberts supporters or not.

Yes, Trumansburg is my home town, but no, I'm not a member of Back to Democracy, though I think it's a fine group. Visit the Back to Democracy web site to find out more about the organization.

I won't be able to attend the talk myself, as I'm in Boston this week on business. Big regrets to those readers of this blog who harbor conspiracy theories about me and some evil blogging schemes that I'm involved in. You'll have to swing on over to Trumansburg some other time to "expose" me.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Is Arcuri / Roberts Contest a new version of Duckworth / Cegelis?

Goodness me, the Democratic primary race is getting interesting. Michael Arcuri clearly has the institutional Democratic edge over Roberts, with exclusive assistance from the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee), but most Democratic county committees in the district are not rushing to endorse Michael Arcuri. The Les Roberts campaign has been able to match the the Arcuri campaign with donations that can be spent on the primary campaign, and all indications are that the Les Roberts campaign is using the second quarter to expand its outreach locally and nationally. Roberts is in the race until the end.

This dynamic is strongly similar to the one set up in Illinois earlier this year, when progressive, issues-oriented Christine Cegelis took on the DCCC's hand-picked candidate, Tammy Duckworth. Duckworth got the nomination, but just barely. The Cegelis for Congress campaign worked like hell mobilizing progressive grassroots support, and Cegelis came in only 3 percent behind Duckworth.

We're getting a good indication of what to expect from the Les Roberts campaign by their recent addition of Clint Raulsten as field director. Raulsten was the field director for the Cegelis campaign.

The Arcuri campaign and the Roberts campaign are both very strong at what they do, but what they do is very different. This campaign will be a test of strategies as much as of strength, and the outcome may well turn on the direction that the events of the next few months takes the public in general, favoring a play-it-safe institutional campaign or a high-energy campaign based on issues and ideals.

Either way this primary contest goes, the struggle for Democratic outreach in both camps will prepare the way for an active and successful Democratic electorate in the fall. The Republicans, it seems, don't have the luck to have two strong candidates. The 24th District GOP is putting all its resources into the Ray Meier campaign, and if that campaign fails, they will have no strong understudy to turn to.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Ray Meier and the Meaning of the Money

Why is it important to pay attention to the amount of money that the candidates for New York's 24th District race are able to raise? Is it because the candidates will use that money to buy voter support, regardless of their worth? Or, is it because the amount of money that candidates raise to support their campaign spending is some kind of indication of the amount of support that the candidates have among voters?

Consider the following graph, which shows the spindly-legged, top-heavy structure of donations to Republican Ray Meier's campaign. Almost all of Ray Meier's donations were larger than the working people of the 24th District could afford to make. The chart shows the number of donations Ray Meier received, sorted according to the amount of the donation.

raymond meier ray fundraising for congress

How does the out-of-balance fundraising structure of the Ray Meier campaign compare to those of the Democratic campaigns?

Ray Meier's campaign has brought in $162,275 in individual contributions, but he got that money from only 105 donors.

The Michael Arcuri for Congress campaign has brought in $174,257 in individual contributions from many more donors than Ray Meier: 192.

Les Roberts has convinced more individual donors to contribute to his campaign for Congress than either Michael Arcuri or Ray Meier, though the gross amount of money he has received is less than what Arcuri or Meier have brought in. Roberts has beought in $145,848.35 in individual contributions, but got that amount from 214 different people.

What does each donation dollar mean for these three campaigns?

- Ray Meier has 6 supporters per $10,000
- Michael Arcuri has 11 supporters per $10,000.
- Les Roberts has 15 supporters per $10,000

If you believe that victory in a political campaign is bought, not earned, then you should disregard these numbers. If you believe, however, that the power of campaign fundraising is best understood as a reflection of the support that a candidate has among voters, then you should use these numbers to weight the raw fundraising numbers accordingly.

Let's draw up a formula that could be used to create such a weighting system:

Raw amount of individual contributions x # of supporters per $10,000 / 10

What kind of result do we get in such a weighted system?

Ray Meier's weighted fundraising: $97,365
Michael Arcuri's weighted fundraising: $191,682.70
Les Roberts's weighted fundraising: $218,772.53

Monday, April 24, 2006

USA Today: 24th District Democrats Have "A Reasonable Shot"

The headline in this morning's USA Today read, "Democrats focus House hopes in Northeast". Beneath that headline, reporter Andrea Stone declared that Democrats "have a reasonable shot" at winning the 24th District seat, and notes that the Northeast in general is "fertile ground for Democrats to pick up many of the 15 seats they need to regain House control."

The article does not mention any Democratic frontrunner. It looks like, whether Michael Arcuri or Les Roberts wins the September primary, the Republicans have a tough fight on their hands... at the very same time that other formerly safe Republican Districts in New York State are opening up, and all the incumbent Democrat districts seem likely to remain in Democratic hands.

Al Franken to Speak With Les Roberts on Air America from Ithaca

It sounds like a fun way to spend the afternoon: Les Roberts will be appearing with Al Franken as part of the broadcast of Franken's Air America nationwide radio broadcast this week. The event is at Ithaca College at Emerson Hall this Wednesday (April 26th), at 1:30 PM.

It's free to attend, and the general public is welcome. See Al Franken and get involved in local politics at the same time.

Al Franken will be interviewing Les live from Ithaca College during his broadcast from Emerson Hall Wednesday, April 26 @ 1:30. Tickets are free and open to the public.

For those of us who can't just skip off in the middle of the day to watch a live radio broadcast, there's the Air America radio broadcast. For residents from Auburn and Cortland over to the western part of the District around Cayuga Lake, it will be broadcast on AM 1470 - WNYY.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

40 Years Out of Date, They Call Progressives Hippies

I have found that, the more angry a comment about this blog is, the more incoherent it is as well. That combination of qualities is represented well in the following message, left here yesterday:

"Why don't you resurrect Abby Hoffman or some other major old hippy to run because that is the only type of person who would satisfy you reactionaries anyways. Then we could all dance in the street together naked."

I've seen comments like this in many places around the Internet recently, calling progressive Democrats "hippies". Wherever such comments as this are made, they make as little sense as this one.

Consider the way that the commenter uses the term "hippy" in the very same sentence as the insult "reactionaries". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines a reactionary as: "An opponent of progress or liberalism; an extreme conservative." You may not have liked hippies back in the Sixties, but it just doesn't make sense to link hippies with reactionary politics. No one ever criticized the hippies for their extreme conservatism.

Beyond such ideological confusion, it's hard to understand why this person is bringing up dead hippies anyway. The last time there were hippies around was almost 40 years ago. When was the last time anyone saw hippies in the 24th District? Using the term "hippy" is as out-of-date as insulting progressives with the term "pinko". It's a sign of someone who is not in touch with the political times.

The person who left the comment appears to be a Democrat who is resentful at the renewed voice of progressives in the Democratic Party. The complaint that we progressives will only be satisfied with a candidate if that candidate were someone akin to a resurrected hippy zombie is a pretty big tip off in that direction.

Really, now - are any progressives in the 24th District calling for anything like "dancing naked in the streets"? No, here's what progressives want:

- We want Democrats in Congress to vote against unnecessary wars
- When the President of the United States is caught lying and breaking the law, we want the Democrats in Congress to hold the President accountable
- We want to be able to vote in primaries, so that the chance to choose our own party's candidates
- We want economic investment in local communities in ways that will truly build up our communities in the long run, not just through wasteful pork barrel spending and tax breaks for corporations
- We want health care
- We want good schools for our kids
- We want our government to stop spying against us
- We want our government not to torture people
- We want the development of alternatives to fossil fuel energy systems to be taken seriously, so that pollution and global warming can be brought under control
- We want all people to be recognized equally under the law, without discrimination
- We want politicians to speak with us, not speak for us
- We want our candidates to stop being afraid to talk about the issues

We progressives are not hippies. We working people and professionals who advocate a sane, sustainable way of life that is in tune with the best of the American tradition.

What we want is not unreasonable. But no, we are not about to sit back and be quiet "good Democrats" when we see Democratic candidates caving in to the politics of the true reactionaries: Those on the right wing who have run America into the ground.

This isn't about the old fights of the Sixties. This is about the issues that matter today.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Should Some of Our Liberty Be Sacrificed for Security?

In a press release promoting an upcoming talk on "Government Secrecy and Privacy" by Michael Arcuri at SUNY Cortland, Arcuri is quoted as saying

"The Fourth Amendment recognizes the ‘right of the people to be secure in their persons … against unreasonable searches’ unless there is a showing of probable cause, but this concept must be balanced with the protection of the security of our citizens. It is imperative that, in our attempt to keep our nation safe, we not sacrifice the liberty of our citizens."

I'm trying to assess where Arcuri really stands on the issue of preserving civil liberties, but, based on this statement I can't really work it out.

On the one hand, Arcuri says that we must not sacrifice the liberty of our citizens. Yet, in the previous sentence, Arcuri suggests that freedom from unreasonable search and seizure must be limited according to the needs of security.

So which is it?

Furthermore, where in the United States Constitution or its amendments does it say that the liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights should be "balanced" [translation: reduced] in order to make people feel secure?

Almost five years after the current security panic began, I'm getting sick of hearing about how our liberties need to be "balanced" [translation: respected only when it's convenient to those in power] with the demands of security. Liberty is not liberty if it exists only when the going is easy.

We have seen what the Republicans believe to be the proper "balance" between liberty and security. We have had imprisonment of American citizens without recognition of habeas corpus rights, much less respect for the right to legal representation and a trial. We have seen a striking pattern of purposeful, illegal torture implemented by our government around the world. We have seen, not just the warrantless wiretapping by the NSA, but also the development of multiple programs to spy against nonviolent American political dissidents by agents of the FBI and the military, as well as through local law enforcement officers. We have also seen the development of a gigantic computer database used to track the legal, private activities of law-abiding Americans. In spite of assurances that Total Information Awareness was shut down, internal sources now indicate that the program was merely moved into the NSA, and given new code names, such as "basketball".

All these programs to violate our liberty were held as secrets by the Bush White House. What other similar programs have we yet to discover? People with a lot more legal expertise than me are calling the current attacks against our basic liberties a Constitutional crisis.

In short, those who argue that our liberties must be "balanced" [translation: tossed aside] against security needs have zero credibility. Every time that such balance has been proposed, true balance has been lost.

The American system of democratic powers depends upon the stable balance that is created through strict adherence to standards of liberty. It is when we begin to make exceptions to constitutional guarantees of liberty that our nation teeters out of balance.

I hope that Mike Arcuri reconsiders his use of the claim that liberty must be balanced against security. The concept is a Republican one, through and through, and it enables the Republican frame on political language. Any Democrat who accepts that frame will lose the debate against a Republican opponent, because it is the Republicans, not the Democrats, who are popularly associated with security.

Would Michael Arcuri make a similar claim as District Attorney, that the civil rights of criminal defendants must be balanced against the need to rid the streets of crime? Of course not. Everyone would understand that such statements are unacceptable.

What applies on the local level applies on the national level. The law is the law. The Constitution says what the Constitution says. There shall be no unreasonable searches and seizures. Period.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Les Roberts - Not a Former Surgeon

I slapped my forehead listening to WRVO this morning when I heard a comment during a story about Leon Koziol's withdrawal from the race. The reporter referred to Les Roberts as a "former surgeon".

The reporter might as well refer to Michael Arcuri as a former judge, or Brad Jones as a former assembly member, or Ray Meier as a former Wal-Mart greeter.

Perhaps the reporter was thinking of Dr. Bob Johnson, a Democrat and thoracic surgeon who is running for Congress in the 23rd District?

The Mystery of the Ray Meier and the New Jersey Dance Instructor

Some campaign contributions are just plain weird.

What, for example, is Jean A. Saccornan, a dance instructor from New Jersey, doing giving $4,200 to Ray Meier for his campaign for Congress?

Does Ray Meier support a government-funded waltz academy in Atlantic City, along with special tax breaks for dancers?

I have no special thoughts about this contribution - only a profound sense of disorientation akin to the feeling I had the first time I saw one of the cubist paintings of Pablo Picasso.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Republican support for Ray Meier deep, but thin

How did Ray Meier manage to raise funds for his campaign during the first quarter of 2006? He did it the quick and easy way, of course, by drilling a very few people for all the money they had.

For example, Ray hit the Recors of Recor Associates Accountants pretty hard. Larry Recor gave 4,200 dollars. Lawrence Recor gave 4,200. Mary Ann Recor gave 4,200 too.

That's the maximum for the entire campaign season. The Recors have nothing left to give.

This kind of fundraising is like the cocaine of politics. It provides a short-lived high, but when that high is done, there's nothing left, and so the campaign needs another hit. Who will Ray Meier turn to next? Is he going to hit every accountant in the district?

This Ray Meier campaign is about as stable as a hippopotamus standing on one leg - big top, narrow base. One kick from a determined mule could send it tumbling down. A better fundraising strategy is low, but broad, with many contributors giving small amounts, so that the campaign can come back to them for more.

Ray Meier doesn't seem to understand this concept, but that shouldn't come as a surprise. This is the same guy who introduced himself to the 24th District with the shortest online announcement speech ever: "Hello, world".

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Arcuri supporter: Don't Ask For Any Favors

This morning, an Arcuri supporter left the following angry comment here for me:

"Jon, you go dry hump trees and picket... We'll win elections, and when we're done, don't come crying for a favor pisshead."

This small bit of writing is exceptionally thick with political ideas that, although crudely expressed, need serious consideration. Before I begin that consideration, however, allow me to express the following disclaimer:

There is a big difference between Michael Arcuri and the supporters of the Arcuri for Congress campaign. I have seen Mike Arcuri speak, and I've spoken with him briefly, and I don't believe that Arcuri himself shares the sentiment expressed in the above quote. I have, however, encountered this beligerent, disdainful attitude from Arcuri supporters on a regular basis since I started writing about New York State's 24th congressional district back in January. What I write this morning pertains to Arcuri's supporters and the Oneida County Democratic machine that is fueling Arcuri's congressional campaign, not Michael Arcuri himself.

The political philosophy of this electoral machine is of fundamental relevance to the choice Democratic voters will make this September, because, if Michael Arcuri is elected to the US House of Representatives, much of the Oneida County Democratic machine will be transferred to manage Representative Arcuri's relationship with the voters of the 24th District. Mike Arcuri has the chance to take a stronger leadership role in his campaign, and show his supporters how to have a more open, positive attitude toward Democratic grassroots voters, but that change needs to take place sooner than later, before it becomes fixed.

Now, on to the content of that very interesting comment. I'll take it point by point.

1. The commenter derides progressive Democrats such as myself as people who "dry hump trees and picket". The commenter's suggestion is that:
A] Core progressive Democratic values such as environmentalism are to be laughed at, rather than appealed to, by our Democratic candidates.
B] Democratic progressive activism, whether by union members out on a picket line, or anti-war protesters in a peace march, is unimportant and of no relation to this election.

2. The commenter claims to be part of a group of insiders who are separate from, and more important than, the rest of us ordinary Democrats. "We'll win elections," the commenter writes, dismissing grassroots Democrats to a status of non-participation, mere consumers of a campaign produced from the top down.

3. The commenter prioritizes winning elections above promoting the progressive agenda that Democratic voters actually care about, neglecting to understand that the way to win an election is to appeal to the issues that are important to voters. Democratic voters who have been disappointed for years, watching elected Democratic officials who fail to stand up to the Republicans, are all-too experienced with this kind of misjudgment. The crass attitude of campaign insiders that values winning over idealism turns off these Democratic voters, and keeps them from voting and volunteering.

4. Finally, the commenter warns, "when we're done, don't come crying for a favor pisshead." My goodness. There are many problems with this part of the statement, but let me cover the top three points.
A] It's never a good idea to try to promote a Democratic candidate by calling committed, involved Democratic voters names like "pisshead".
B] The comment is clearly designed to warn Democrats that if they support anyone but Michael Arcuri in the Democratic, they won't be able to communicate with their own representative in Congress if Arcuri wins. This suggests the kind of dangerous elitism that can separate a candidate from the public. If a committee of insiders is allowed to prevent a public official from hearing the voices of the full range of the constituency, that public official cannot do a good job of representing the people, no matter how much he would like to.
C] The commenter assumes that the only reason that a Democrat would get involved in an election is in order to get special favors from the victor when the election is done. This attitude can only come from a deeply corrupted mind that has forgotten everything about politics except how to turn it into a source of profits. Personally, my business is not the kind that could benefit from special favors from a member of Congress, and in that respect, the huge majority of Democratic voters and activists are like me.

What this commenter cannot seem to fathom is that we're involved in politics not because we want to get "our guy" in power so that we can reap the financial benefits, but rather because we love America and we love our local communities. We love liberty, and we believe in the progressive values that are at the heart of the best of the American tradition.

We don't want to have to ask our member of Congress to promote these bedrock values as a "favor" to us. We want a member of Congress who understands that promoting these values is a duty that comes with the job of U.S. Representative.

I'd like to think that Michael Arcuri understands this difference. But, it's clear that many of his supporters, especially the most vocal of them, do not understand the difference. They create the strong impression that Michael Arcuri is surrounded by a group of cynical political insiders who don't care about much else than using Arcuri to gain personal power for themselves.

For this reason, above all others, Michael Arcuri needs to do a better job of proving that he is above the politics of power. Michael Arcuri's campaign needs to spend less time touting how much money it can raise, and spend more time demonstrating that Michael Arcuri stands for something bigger than himself.

This is a time when Democrats need to see a candidate who is willing to cast politics as usual aside. We need a candidate who can inspire us, not intimidate us. We need a candidate who can tell us that he deserves our vote not because he is a big man, but because he is a good man.

Currently, the voice of Michael Arcuri the man is drowned out by the many voices of the Arcuri for Congress campaign. If Arcuri is to win the Democratic nomination, he needs to learn to move beyond his historic role as a local politician enabled by his county's Democratic machine and demonstrate that he has the stature to merit a position in Congress. Arcuri needs to stand up and become a leader.

It has been repeatedly proven that, at vital moments in history such as the one we are experiencing now, the ordinary influence of financial power and institutional power gives way to the influence of moral power, skillfully applied.

If Michael Arcuri cannot bring himself to grow into a leader capable of applying such moral power, then Democratic voters may well look to the moral example of Les Roberts, no matter how many advertisements for Arcuri they see on TV.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Ray Meier Taking Questionable Donation From CEO

It hasn't been long since Ray Meier broke onto the scene with his "Hello, World" message and his goofy grin. But, behind Ray Meier's gawky exterior, there may be the cunning of a hungry wolf.

How hungry is Ray Meier for campaign contributions? Is he hungry enough to go over the line? Meier is hungry enough to go over the state line, that's for certain, but are there other lines he is willing to transgress?

One of Ray Meier's checks comes from a Stuart W. Freilich who lives in Massachusetts. Freilich is CEO of Universal Metals Corporation.

What is Ray Meier, a state senator from central New York, doing taking a thousand dollar check from the CEO of Universal Metals Corporation in Massachusetts?

Anyone care to shed some light on just what interest the Universal Metals Corporation has in our congressional election here in New York's 24th district?

Just what did UMC executive Stuart Freilich expect in return for that check?

Ray Meier Linked With Right Winger John McHugh

Bad, bad, John McHugh is one of the meanest members of the U.S. House of Representatives. A genuine right wing radical, McHugh has voted to allow federally funded programs to fire workers just because they don't belong to the same religion as their boss. McHugh has voted to give the Secretary of Homeland Security the power to overrule American laws. McHugh has voted to hobble the Endangered Species Act. McHugh voted to kick American-born babies out of the country. The list of nasty right wing votes goes on and on.

John McHugh represents New York State's 23rd District, where he is facing a tough antiwar opponent, Dr. Bob Johnson. So what does McHugh have to do with us here in the 24th District?

John McHugh is the only member of Congress to give any money to Ray Meier's campaign - one thousand dollars. The hundreds of other members of the House and Senate won't have anything to do with Ray Meier. So, Ray Meier's one friend in Congress is a right wing extremist. That tells a lot about what we can expect from Ray Meier if he gets elected.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Horserace: How Much Money Have the Candidates Brought In So Far?

24th district fundraising new york

Here you see the fundraising statistics for the 2006 election cycle in New York State's 24th congressional district so far:

Democrat Michael Arcuri has raised $196,657
Democrat Les Roberts has raised $156,018
Republican Ray Meier has raised $176,090
Republican Brad Jones has raised $68,137

On the Republican side, it seems that much of the angry right wing Republican money has gone away from Brad Jones to Ray Meier. It seems that the right wingers who hated Sherwood Boehlert expect to have Ray Meier firmly in their camp.

On the Democratic side, the difference between candidates is less profound. Michael Arcuri is clearly the frontrunner when it comes to raising money, but it's just as clear that Les Roberts is solidly in the race.

New Republican candidate Ken Camera from Geneva was not active in this campaign until after the close of the first quarter. Three months from now, it will be interesting to see what role he'll play in the financial aspect of this campaign.

Groovy Republican Ken Camera Joins the Race

In a move that threatens to throw the scripted statements of right wing Republicans Brad Jones and Ray Meier out the window, maverick Republican Ken Camera has joined the 24th District race, and how.

Camera, an energy consultant from Geneva, will be running on a unique platform that includes impeaching George W. Bush for incompetence and throwing out all of Bush's tax cuts in favor of a pay as you go system of financing the government. Yes, you read that correctly - one of the Republican candidates is in favor of impeachment. (Hint to Les Roberts and Mike Arcuri: This gives you some cover.)

There have been some readers of this blog who have been mighty upset that I dare to question the policies and tactics of some Democratic campaigns. The Republicans know how to campaign right, they've said: Just get one candidate and support that person, without allowing for disagreement. In the opinion of these readers, giving voters a chance to participate in the selection of their party's candidate is dangerous, destructive, and divisive.

Looks like those readers are wrong on all counts. Ken Camera's candidacy promises to open the debate a little wider, on both the Democratic and Republican sides. For that reason, Ken Camera is welcome to the race.

Eliot Spitzer and Mike Arcuri on the Iraq War

Pro-Arcuri readers here have been justifying Michael Arcuri's apparent (still no confirming word from Arcuri either way) decision to take no stand in 2003, public or private, to help stop the Iraq War, by saying that Arcuri could not have taken any stand against the Iraq War because he was a District Attorney, and involvement in political issues is unethical for a DA.

Well, there are several weaknesses to that argument:

1. Michael Arcuri, using his position as District Attorney as a source of credibility, is taking public stands on many political issues right now, but remains DA. Why couldn't he do this in 2003?
2. Mike Arcuri could have taken private action against the Iraq War in 2003. Maybe he did - but his campaign won't say.
3. District Attorneys do often take political stands, and if they make a conflict of interest in a case by doing so, they simply have an Assistant DA take the case in their place.

Well, one of the readers here challenged me to name one District Attorney who took a stand for or against the war. I did that challenge one better, and named Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who is the equivalent of a District Attorney for all of New York State. Eliot Spitzer took a strong pro-war stand supporting the invasion of Iraq before the war began.

Well, now I've been given another challenge by another reader: Provide a link that shows Eliot Spitzer supported the Iraq War before it began. Once again, I'll do that challenge one better, and provide two links that show that Spitzer not only supported the Iraq War, but supported the rush to war, and continued to support the war after the invasion so much that he attacked other politicians who had opposed the war.

This first link is from the Village Voice, which describes the force with which Eliot Spitzer, through his position as Attorney General of New York State, declared support for the Iraq War. Here's the first paragraph from that article, written for late March and early April 2003:

"Eliot Spitzer, the attorney general whose everyday agenda is framed by gubernatorial ambition, went out of his way on the eve of the war to endorse it, joining the ranks of New York's Bush League Democrats. Four days before the first missiles were fired, Spitzer's top spokesman told the weasel-walloping Post that the AG 'supports the Bush administration on the use of military action to remove Saddam Hussein, and he would like to see it done as soon as possible.'

Spitzer's very public pro-war position was unchanged in June, 2003, when talked to the editors of the Press-Republican, up near Plattsburgh:

"State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, stops by Plattsburgh for a Press-Republican Editorial Board meeting, at which he opines that former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, one of the early contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, is unelectable because of his outspoken stance as a dove during the Iraq war. The public will not cleave to any candidate against a war that had such popular support, Spitzer says."

If Eliot Spitzer used the power of his public office as Attorney General of All New York State to support the Iraq War, why couldn't the District Attorney of little Oneida County have taken a public stand for or against? The excuses don't wash.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

If Spitzer Took A Stand, Why Couldn't Arcuri?

Supporters of congressional candidate Michael Arcuri have been struggling to come up with an explanation for the fact that, although Arcuri now says that starting the war was a "a bad, unnecessary decision", there is no sign that he took a stand against the war when it counted, back in early 2003 when there was still a chance to stop the war before it started.

Arcuri's supporters have quickly come up with a justification for this apparent inaction: Michael Arcuri was ethically bound to remain silent because, as a District Attorney, he is not supposed to publicly declare his positions on political issues.

Just yesterday, someone left a comment here from this perspective, and added a challenge to it:

"Arcuri is a DA. He had no business formulating an opinion on the Iraq war at the time. It would have been unethical. I challenge you to name ONE DA who spoke out for or against the war."

There are two problems with this claim, one of which I've already noted.

First, there's the problem that Michael Arcuri is a District Attorney now, and he's taking a public position on the war now. If take such a position against the war now, why couldn't he take such a position back in 2003? What's changed?

Well, one thing that's changed is that Michael Arcuri is now wants a job other than District Attorney. Michael Arcuri wants to be promoted to Congress now, and Congress deals with issues of war and peace. But, Michael Arcuri has refused to resign from his position as District Attorney during the campaign, keeping the job just in case he loses. He is still under all the professional and ethical obligations as he was before the campaign.

Another thing that's changed is that the war is not politically popular any more.

Secondly, there's that point in the challenge: That I should name one District Attorney who spoke out in favor of or opposition to the war. Well, I'll go that challenge one better. I'll name the public attorney for our entire state, the man who is, in effect, the District Attorney for all of New York: Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

Attorney General Eliot Spitzer spoke in public about his support of the starting the Iraq War. In New York, he's the district attorney of all district attorneys, so if he could speak out in public about his position on starting the Iraq War, there's no reason that Michael Arcuri couldn't have done the same thing.

These explanations just don't hold up.

Now, some people are upset at me for just asking the question of whether Michael Arcuri supported George W. Bush in starting the Iraq War in 2003, or whether Arcuri was against the war at the time.

Arcuri could come out and say that he was privately against the war, and gave some kind of quiet support, such as financial support, to antiwar non-profit organizations. So far, Arcuri hasn't made any such statement, and until he does, voters will naturally have questions on the issue.

How long Arcuri's campaign wants voters to ask these questions is up to them. As usual, the Arcuri campaign seems to be a bit slow in their reactions.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Arcuri Gaining Strength, Iraq War Issue Little Impediment

The involvement of readers here to the latest poll here was fairly surprising, but pretty clear. First of all, only a little more than one in ten readers of this blog in the last few days are Les Roberts supporters. Secondly, Michael Arcuri supporters appear not to be bothered, for the most part, by their candidate's fuzzy record of a position on the Iraq War back in 2003. Even if they found out that Michael Arcuri supported the Iraq War in 2003, on 22 percent of readers who support Arcuri would change their vote away from Arcuri even if they found out that Mike Arcuri supported going to war against Iraq in 2003. That speaks to both the hawkishness and the dedication of Arcuri supporters.

I'll hazard a guess and say that we will find out that Michael Arcuri outperformed Les Roberts in fundraising the first quarter of this year - by something around 30 or 40 thousand dollars, though the Les Roberts campaign will be shown to have done an admirable job at raising money nonetheless.

If the Les Roberts campaign is to have a chance at gaining the nomination, it will have to mount an underdog's campaign - appealing to Democrats at a grassroots level instead of at the level of county Democratic committees. The national appeal of Les Roberts (search for him on Google News to see the wide reach of his name) will have to be leveraged in order to contest the local lockdown on Democratic insider support by Michael Arcuri.

If there is that kind of contest, it will be fascinating to watch, a struggle not just between two politicians, but between two styles of campaigning, and two ideas about what the Democratic Party should be.

That's exactly what a primary contest ought to be like. "Party unity" of the sort that Leon Koziol recently referred to is more appropriate to Soviet-style Communism than to American democracy. Go to it, guys - the conflict will be good for everybody involved.

"In it to win" Koziol Quits to Try Another Game

Koziol officially announced he's quitting the race, though apparently everybody knew about it days beforehand. Koziol said, "Party unity dictated that steps be taken to reduce a crowded field of Democrat candidates seeking the 24th Congressional seat."

When you hear the phrase "party unity" from planet Koziol, put it through your universal translator and you'll hear, ."Me me me me me"! Looking for free publicity whether or not it's positive, I'll do Koziol one parting favor and mention his name one more time: Leon Koziol, good riddance.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Was Arcuri For the Iraq War or Against It?

Some commenters here have tried to treat this as a complicated matter, when it's not:

In late 2002 and early 2003, when it was clear that George W. Bush was hell-bent on starting a war with Iraq, did Michael Arcuri support the war or did he oppose it?

Some commenters here have said that, as District Attorney for Oneida County, Michael Arcuri could not take a public position on the war, because district attorneys are supposed to be seen as above politics and so can't take positions on important issues.

Well, if that's true, then how come District Attorney Michael Arcuri is making statements on a range of issues now?

Ah, say Arcuri's supporters, well, Arcuri is running for a legislative position now, so the ethics are different.

Are they, really?

Is Michael Arcuri still not District Attorney for Oneida County? Is he not still supposed to be regarded as above politics?

What's the difference between then and now?

Here's the difference:

  • In late 2002 and early 2003, there was a lot at stake for other people. Sons and daughters of families in New York's 24th district were getting ready to be sent to kill and be killed for a war based on lies - and many Democrats in the 24th district were working like hell to try to stop it. So far, there is no evidence that Michael Arcuri was one of them.

  • Now, in 2006, there is a lot at stake for Michael Arcuri. Michael Arcuri's political ambition is on the line. Now, three years after the war began, Michael Arcuri is finally breaking his public silence to come out with a position on the war. It's not a very coherent position, but Michael Arcuri is speaking publicly about it.

    If was wrong for Mike Arcuri to go public with a position on war in Iraq for the sake of the families of the 24th District, what makes it ethically acceptable for Arcuri to go public with a position on the Iraq War now, for the sake of his personal political ambition?

    Please, explain these ethics to me. Explain the consistent moral principles behind Arcuri's stance now and in 2003.

    Hint: Just saying that "this is how things are done" or that "this is the way that real politics are played" is won't cut it. We're talking ethics here, and power for the sake of power is a pretty low ethical standard.

    As I said before, if someone can bring me evidence that Michael Arcuri did anything to stand against the Iraq War in 2003, I'd be happy to report that here.
  • Wednesday, April 12, 2006

    Leon Koziol Drops Out of the Race?

    It has been a funny thing, reading on the Leon Koziol for Congress blog, how much the writer there has been writing about the State Senate race and not the congressional race at all...

    ...until the word got out this morning that Leon Koziol intends to drop out of the race for Congress, run for State Senate instead, and endorse Michael Arcuri.

    The real question is whether Michael Arcuri and the Oneida County Democrats will lend their support to the right wing Koziol in return for the withdrawal from the congressional race. Supporting an eccentric right wing Democrat for State Senate in order to further Michael Arcuri's political ambitions would not be a very graceful maneuver for the Oneida County Democratic Committee.

    There's no word out on the blogosphere, and the last newspaper article on Google's news search that writes about Leon Koziol was on April 5.

    So, we're still looking for official confirmation, but it looks like Koziol is out - if he was ever really in to begin with.

    Where Was Arcuri on Iraq in 2003?

    On his campaign web site, Michael Arcuri now declares that when George W. Bush started the Iraq War, "The President made a bad, unnecessary decision."

    I agree. But then again, everyone this side of Jerry Falwell now agrees with that statement.

    For the 2006 campaign, the relevant question is this: Where did our candidates stand in March 2003?

    March 2003 is when this terrible war was started by George W. Bush, along with the approval of many politically established Democrats. Was Mike Arcuri one of those Democrats?

    Michael Arcuri claims to be a leader. Well, leaders use their power to make a difference on the issues that they care about. Did Arcuri care enough in 2003?

    In early 2003, did Michael Arcuri use his powerful voice in Oneida County to support those of us who were marching in the streets begging George W. Bush not to start a war with Iraq? Or, did Mr. Arcuri abdicate his leadership and support George W. Bush's war? Even worse, did Michael Arcuri say nothing either way, remaining safely silent while American soldiers were sent to their deaths?

    To all these questions, the only answer I can honestly give now is I don't know.

    I've searched what news I can find of the time, and I can't find a single instance of Michael Arcuri making any public statements either way. Of course, that doesn't mean that Arcuri did nothing against the war. It just means that there's nothing on the record.

    This issue is not about Monday morning quarterbacking. It's about whether the candidates did the right thing when it counted - when America had the chance to choose not to go to war.

    Any Democratic candidate who did not oppose the war before it began, but now criticizes the war as a mistake, has serious credibility problem. Voters are going to notice the discrepancy, or the silence about it, in the general election, so it's best that New York's 24th District Democrats hash out the issue now.

    If Michael Arcuri did support the Iraq War in 2003, and he gets into the House of Representatives in 2006, how do we know he won't make the same mistake again, and vote to approve another bloody, costly, pointless war just because it is the politically easy thing to do?

    We deserve to know where ALL the candidates stood on the Iraq War before it began.

    We can be pretty sure that Ray Meier and Brad Jones supported starting the Iraq War in 2003. After all, they still support keeping the Iraq War going now.

    Les Roberts opposed the Iraq War before it began.

    Bruce Tytler isn't running any more, but before he dropped out, Tytler openly admitted that he supported the Iraq War in 2003. He admitted that was a mistake, but was open about it.

    As far as I can tell, Michael Arcuri hasn't said where he stood on the war in 2003.

    If I'm wrong on this, and Mike Arcuri has made any public statement about his pre-war position on invading and occupying Iraq, then let me know. If there are any old sources showing Arcuri's position, I'd like to know of those too.

    I've Googled, and gone through old newspapers, and looked around everywhere that I could - but just because I can't find anything doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.

    Of course, Arcuri could just make a clear and simple statement on his web site, right?

    Tuesday, April 11, 2006

    More on the Apollo Energy Initiative

    I've referred before to a program promoted by Les Roberts for strengthening the local economy of the 24th District through redirection of the money spent on war and pork barrel spending into investment in efficient clean energy infrastructure. The plan is called the Apollo Energy Initiative.

    Today, I realized that I've neglected to point people to the web site of the organization that is promoting this plan nationwide: The Apollo Alliance.

    This is a plan all of our candidates, Republican and Democrat, ought to be including as part of our platform. We are put in too much danger, in too many ways, by our reliance on fossil fuels for us to avoid responsible energy investment any longer.

    Monday, April 10, 2006

    Should Censure or Impeachment Be A Campaign Issue?

    Not one of the candidates seems comfortable touching the issue, but at the grassroots level, Democrats are buzzing about it, and with the possibility that the President and Vice President may finally be pinned down through testimony before Congress or in the prosecution of Lewis Libby, the issue may be unavoidable...

    ... I'm talking about impeachment... or censure... of the President of the United States.

    Yes, impeachment raises the hackles of Republican voters, but there's no issue that excites the passion of Democrats as much, although some on the Joe Lieberman right wing side of the Democratic Party are dead set against it. So, should the issue of impeachment or censure of George W. Bush be one that Leon Koziol, Michael Arcuri and Les Roberts should address as part of their campaigns, or should they try to stay away from it as much as possible.

    What are the implications of either tactic, and whether they want to address the issue, will they really have a choice?

    Sunday, April 09, 2006

    Les Roberts Has Most Foreign Policy Credibility, Readers Say

    So far, the survey results here show a pretty strong pattern, and the comments only amplify that pattern.

    A solid majority of readers believe that, of all the candidates running for the Democratic Party nomination in New York's 24th congressional district, Les Roberts has the most credibility on foreign policy.

    * 57 percent of readers so far indicate that Les Roberts is the best choice for Congress on foreign policy issues.
    * Only 33 percent of readers are willing to say the same thing about Michael Arcuri.
    * Leon Koziol is even further behind, with just 10 percent of readers saying that they believe Koziol has the most credibility on foreign policy.

    In the comments section, though I asked people voting to explain their votes, most did not. However, it's pretty significant that only those voting for Les Roberts as the most credible candidate on foreign policy actually left comments giving their reasons for that vote.

    There is, to be fair, one cryptic comment arguing that all we need in a Congressional representative when it comes to foreign policy is "a Congressmen with an actual working brain and a bit of courage for good measure."

    Should we now begin a debate on which Democratic candidate is most likely to have a working brain? Perhaps not. I think that we can all agree that the three Democratic candidates all have working brains. The question is what ends those brains are working for, and with what particular skills. Not all working brains are alike.

    Saturday, April 08, 2006

    Which Democrat Has Foreign Policy Credibility?

    I put up a new poll here yesterday, one that tries to get beyond the silly local obsessions of our district: The idea that we should elect a certain person to the United States House of Representatives who would likely remain there for a generation because we're interested in seeing Route 12 expanded, or we want the land claims dispute resolved in a particular way.

    We owe it to our nation to have a bit of a larger view than that, and consider which Democrat is really best qualified to do the job of a member of the United States House of Represemtatives. It's a national post, after all, even if the election is regional.

    So, the new poll question is this: Which Democratic candidate has the most credibility on foreign policy?

    This is the kind of poll for which you ought to be willing to justify your answer. Take a look at the question, please, and don't just vote for your favorite candidate. Please, consider the three candidates, their experience, and their foreign policy positions as described so far. Which one, based on these considerations, has the most credibility in foreign policy?

    Then, give your explanation in the comments section here. KNowing that we have a lot of people here who are particularly dedicated to one campaign or another, I'm interested in how people justify their answers. I'm genuinely curious, for example, what motivated one person so far to cast a vote in favor of Leon Koziol having the most foreign policy credibility of the three Democratic candidates.

    I'm hoping that this kind of poll will get us to think about the race in more depth than just the horse-race question of which Democrat we suppose "can win." We would do well to remember that the Republicans chose George W. Bush as their presidential candidate in 2000 largely on the basis that polls said he could win against a Democratic opponent. In the long run, that choice led to disaster for both America and the Republican Party.

    Friday, April 07, 2006

    Michael Arcuri Discussion Forum Back Up

    I'm glad to see that the Arcuri for Congress campaign has shown the good sense to get its discussion forum up, and still with the old comments that were there before the campaign took the forum down in panicky rush almost a month ago.

    This move counters the pathetic refusal of Brad Jones and Ray Meier to put any discussion board or blog with discussion features on their campaign web sites. It also provides a good complement to the Les Roberts campaign blog, which has always provided the chance for open discussion after each article.

    Yes, Leon, I'll mention you too. Leon Koziol still doesn't have a web site at all, though there is a student who wrote a pro-Koziol blog for a couple days before giving it up in favor of other distractions.

    In honor of the wisdom of the Arcuri campaign's decision to open up their campaign online, I'll ask the question again here that I asked way back on the evening of Monday, March 13 - a question that, apparently, has been viewed over 30 times, but has yet to be answered.

    "I'd like to know if there is any current of the member of the US House of Representatives that Mr. Arcuri can point to as a model for the kind of representative he would like to be. Knowing this would give us a concrete idea of what we can expect from a Congressman Arcuri."

    Of course, no one but Michael Arcuri can answer that question. The question for this board, instead, is: What member of the House of Representatives would we most like to see Michael Arcuri emulate?

    Independent Means Independent

    Let me make it clear here that I'm not talking about the Independence Party, that strange, dwindling rightward-leaning entity that attracted voters who seem to believe that finding the oddest candidates possible is a cure-all for American democracy. No, I'm talking about the true independents - non-affiliated voters who exist outside the political parties.

    An essential thing to understand about the general election in New York's 24thcongressional district is Democrats are not the majority of voters... and neither are Republicans. Republicans have a plurality, which means that the Republicans have the largest number of voters, but a majority of voters in our district are non-Republicans. So, if the race this autumn is between a Democrat and a Republican, and every single registered voter turns out, and only Republicans vote for the Republican candidate, the Democrat will win by a double digit margin. The same is true for the Democrats, of course.

    The independent voters make up the difference. With the help of independent voters, the candidate of either party can obtain a majority.

    The candidates know the importance of political independents, of course, and that's what makes them behave in odd ways at times. Many in the Democratic Party seem to have interpreted the role of independents as a call to move toward Republican positions. They call this position "moderate", but it really amounts to a shuffle toward the right, only taking the positions that Democratic voters support when those positions are "safe". In this context, a safe position is one that does not anger most Republicans.

    This strategy seems mistaken to me, based on the flawed assumption that if political independents are neither Democrats or Republicans, they must be something in between. Democrats who adopt this perspective are only able to think in two dimensions, unable to consider that political independents might be going in a completely different path than just the straight road that exists between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.

    This morning, I am asking Democrats who adhere to this limited point of view to expand their perspective on the political landscape, and consider for a moment that political independents might not be half-Democrat, half-Republican hybrids, but rather, something completely different. Independents are independents.

    For a novel political strategy that could completely befuddle the Republicans and lead to victory in the general election in November, an intelligent, imaginative Democratic candidate could go a long way by supposing that independents are independents because they value political independence. In this way of thinking, political independents are not necessarily rejecting the policies of the Democratic or Republican parties as much as they are rejecting the concept of political parties themselves.

    If this concept holds true, then a Democrat who leans rightward and supports Republican policies sometimes will not be regarded any more favorably than a Democrat who plays the role of a "good Democrat" and always supports the Democratic Party line. After all, this supposed moderate Democrat would not be moderate at all in the minds of independents, because he or she would still be operating within the system of political parties, merely switching flavors from the Democratic line to the Republican line from time to time.

    I am suggesting that, for many political independents in our district, the political party system itself, whether it is Republican or Democrat, is regarded as immoderate, an extremist political imposition on the democratic process. The way to attract their support, therefore, is not to reject a few policies from one's political party in favor of a few policies from the other political party, but to demonstrate the identity of a true political maverick who is willing to operate independently, and move away from the talking points of both the Democratic and Republican parties, when it is important to do so.

    The way to establish such a position is not to abandon Democratic ideals, but rather to embrace them. I'm talking about the positions that the majority of Democratic voters, as well as the majority of Americans, support. End the war in Iraq. Censure Bush. Do something serious and meaningful to slow down global warming - NOW. These kinds of positions are supported by the majority of Democratic voters, and most Americans support them too, but the established structure of the Democratic Party is still so frightened of its own shadow that it has rejected them.

    The way to appeal to independent voters happens to be the way to appeal to the majority of Democratic voters in our district: Show that you're motivated by principles, not by party. Show that you're more interested in being a good American than in being a good Democrat. Show that you're not afraid of angering Democratic Party bosses like Rahm Emanuel. Show that you're a real leader, which means that you are your own boss.

    The math is simple: A "good Democrat" cannot win the general election.

    Republicans outnumber us, and won't be fooled by feints to the right or ambiguous policy language. Independents hate the idea of politicians who pledge to be good followers of bosses who reside behind the scenes.

    What we need to take back the 24th district is not a Good Democrat, but rather, a Bad Ass Democrat.

    Wouldn't it be exciting to watch that kind of candidate shake up our district?

    We have three candidates in the running for the Democratic nomination: Leon Koziol, Michael Arcuri, and Les Roberts. I'll leave it up to you readers to conclude which one of these would be able to take on the role of Bad Ass Democrat with the most credibility.

    Thursday, April 06, 2006

    Time for Democrats to Be Democrats

    I'm writing this blog for the 24th District congressional race in New York State, but it could equally apply to every one of the hundreds of congressional districts across the USA. It is time for Democrats to stand up and be Democrats.

    Did you hear the news today, about how George W. Bush betrayed America?

    Lewis Libby, the top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, has informed prosecutors that President Bush himself authorized the selective leaking of classified information about the mythical Iraqi weapons of mass destruction - and to do so for partisan political benefit. That authorization was passed on through Dick Cheney, so the Vice President knew about it too.

    The information that was leaked to the media, with Bush's permission, included the identity of Valeria Plame as a CIA agent. Valerie Plame was an agent who spent some time working in the USA, but was also going as an undercover CIA agent to Iran, to get information on the possibility of a WMD program there.

    Bush blew her cover. Not just Bob Novak. Not just Karl Rove. Not just Lewis Libby. Not just Dick Cheney. President George W. Bush.

    This was illegal, but more than that, it was just plain morally WRONG. So let's talk moral values, shall we? Here's why it was morally wrong:

    1. President Bush lied to us. Oh, not just about the weapons of mass destruction program, but about the leak of Valerie Plame's identity. George W. Bush lied when he promised the American people that he would personally fire anyone "involved" in the leak of the CIA agent's identity. Bush didn't fire Karl Rove. Bush didn't fire Dick Cheney. Bush didn't fire Lewis Libby (Libby resigned voluntarily, only when he was indicted for breaking the law). Most importantly, Bush didn't fire himself. If George W. Bush had any honesty and integrity, he would fire all of the top White House aides who were involved, and then resign himself.

    2. President Bush put Valerie Plame's life in danger. Valerie Plame had been working as an undercover CIA agent in Iran, for goodness sakes. What if she had been in Iran when the leak came out? She could have been thrown in an Iranian prison, and their prisons are as bad as Abu Ghraib. Valerie Plame could have been killed by Bush's political maneuvers. That's serious, and that's why it's against the law to reveal the identity of any undercover CIA agent.

    3. President Bush ordered the leaks in order to score political points and help push America into an unnecessary war. Valerie Plame is the wife of Ambassador Joe Wilson, who had the nerve to tell the American people that, before the Iraq War started, George W. Bush almost certainly knew that much of the supposed "evidence" used to justify the war was garbage. George W. Bush wanted to punish Joe Wilson, so he put Wilson's wife in mortal danger. Is that what they mean when they talk about Republican moral values?

    4. President Bush is threatening harsh criminal prosecution for anyone involved in the leak of the information that Bush himself asked ordered at least one illegal program to spy against law abiding Americans without a search warrant. Yet, Bush himself ordered leaks of classified information, in order to go after his American political enemies. I'll put this in Biblical language, so as to satisfy the "moral values" crowd: That makes George W. Bush a hypocrite.

    So, now is the time for Democrats to be Democrats. Once again, George W. Bush has been caught involved in a serious crime. Once again, Republicans are saying that it's no big deal.

    It is the job of the Democratic Party to, when powerful Republicans in elected office are caught breaking the law, make sure held those Republicans accountable. That's what we elect them for. We do not elect Democrats in order to look the other way.

    So now, I am calling upon the Democrats of the 24th congressional district, and especially the Democratic congressional candidates of the 24th District, to stand up and be Democrats.

    Call upon George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to resign, and if they won't resign, to be impeached. Some say that making such demands is politically inconvenient to the Democrats' electoral strategy for the 2006 elections. I say I don't care. I say that we need to uphold the law, and drag the White House out of the moral gutter into which it has descended.

    Neither Les Roberts nor Michael Arcuri has made any comment so far about the news of Bush's personal involvement in the illegal leaks that led to the destruction of Valerie Plame's CIA cover. I understand that congressional campaigns can move slowly, and it's only been a few hours since the revelation. However, this is no time to be slow and uncertain. This is a time to be firm. Both Roberts and Arcuri should to put out statements tomorrow, condemning Bush's actions in the strongest manner possible.

    I'd also like to see both candidates reconsider their distance from the impeachment issue. Arcuri hasn't supported censure, much less impeachment. Les Roberts takes a different stance, saying that we shouldn't consider anything like impeachment until American soldiers are home from Iraq. Roberts is concerned that moving toward impeachment now would send the wrong message about what the Democratic Party stands for. To be honest, I'm disappointed in that position. What we all ought to be more concerned about right now, as Americans, is the message it sends when our own President regards himself as above the law.

    What in the world will it take to get some Democrats to finally get some backbone and stand up for impeachment? If George W. Bush was be caught, on camera, sucking the blood out of the neck of a girl scout, would they still say that impeachment is politically inconvenient?

    Voters will never stand up for the Democratic Party until our Democratic candidates have the bravery to stand up for what's right, even if it's inconvenient.

    Democrats, be Democrats!


    Post script: If I don't write this, Leon Koziol's supporters will surely whine:

    No, Leon Koziol hasn't lifted a finger to condemn George W. Bush's criminal betrayal of his Oath of Office, either. But then, no one really expects Koziol to do so. Koziol's supporters, after all, still think that the land claim disputes are the top issue in this race.

    I say that the next planet they find in the outer reaches of the Solar System ought to be named Planet Koziol.

    Ray Meier Flops and Flounders Online

    I know that the online world does not represent the entire state of a congressional campaign, but for as far as the Internet does provide some representation of the vigor of offline campaigning, it looks like Republican congressional candidate is in serious trouble.

    Look at the blogosphere. Almost nobody is writing about Ray Meier.

    I mean this literally: Go over to Technorati and search for "ray meier".

    Who do you see writing about Mr. Raymond? This blog, and that's about it.

    I'm a Democrat. So, I'm not writing nice things about Ray Meier. Other bloggers writing about Ray Meier recently also have some pretty harsh things to say Meier. They note that Meier has some radical right wing positions that Sherwood Boehlert never took, and that Meier seems to have no real attraction for district voters.

    That's what I'm seeing too. It seems that nobody loves Raymond. I almost feel sorry for poor Ray Meier. Almost. I'd feel sorry for him if he didn't end up promoting so many nasty policies that hurt people.

    It seems that Republicans are not very motivated by Ray Meier, and 24th District Republicans here in New York State aren't very motivated to become politically active at all. That's understandable, given the sad state of the New York State Republican Party. The Republicans have practically no chance of retaining the governor's seat, or kicking Hillary Clinton out of the US Senate, or replacing Eliot Spitzer with a Republican Attorney General. At the same time, the once-popular George W. Bush has turned into a national embarrassment who makes even staunch Republicans want to hide their heads in shame.

    What in the world do Republicans have to rally around? Ray Meier, the guy who introduced himself to 24th district Republicans with the dorky message, "Hello, world"?

    As I've pointed out before, Ray Meier's own campaign seems afraid to start an official campaign blog, apparently worried that people could write unflattering, challenging things about Meier's extremist policies in a blog's comments section.

    Well, no candidate ever won a seat in Congress by being afraid, Mr. Meier. If you don't have the guts to get out there in all the media and duke it out on the issues, other people are going to keep landing hits on you.

    As for myself, I hope that Ray Meier keeps up with his gawky communications. Raymond Meier is turning into the 24th District's very own Dan Quayle, and it's kind of fun to watch.

    Power Lines in the 24th District Race for Congress

    Yesterday, the talk of the race was an article that came out in the Oneonta Daily star describing candidates'reserved yet open reaction to the possibility of a new high power electrical line to run through the 24th district, built by New York Regional Interconnect Inc. The line would transmit electricity from the west into New York City and Long Island.

    All the candidates, Republican and Democrat, gave approximately the same response to the project: It could be good for the district, but they want more information about the project and potential negative effects before they give it their endorsement.

    That's a fine initial position, but the candidates need to move beyond it. This new power line gives candidates a good chance to talk about their energy policies in a broader sense. We in the 24th district should not be reacting to energy projects in a piecemeal manner. We need a representative in Congress who has a broader vision of energy policy.

    Even Republicans are coming to the grudging conclusion that the 20th century's energy infrastructure isn't going to cut it for much longer. The high cost of oil is just one symptom of an energy system stretched close to its limit. I was trapped down in Queens during that huge power outage a few summers back, caught with less than a quarter tank of gas in the middle of a huge area in which all the gas stations had no power for their pumps.

    America can't afford to be that vulnerable, but our energy infrastructure depends on a relatively few immense sources of power that supply large areas. If those few power sources go down, or the lines of transmission - like this new one they're proposing to go through our district - fail, our civilization grinds to a halt.

    Les Roberts is the only candidate who has gone beyond general statements about the need investment and research in energy. Roberts has an imaginative concept for reworking the fundamental structure that America relies upon for the production and transmission of energy. Roberts says,
    "Half a century ago, John Kennedy challenged the country to put a man on the Moon within ten years. As a result, energy and money was infused into public schools. Research was initiated at universities, and wonderful economic ripple effects went through society. I think, today, our need to wean ourselves of foreign oil is far greater than our need was 40 years ago to put a man on the Moon. If we had an Apollo-like initiative to promote research into alternative energy sources, to implement energy resources that are out there and promote energy conservation in our homes, we would create a lot of jobs here in the 24th District.

    We've got some big advantages here. Wind generation of electricity has already proven itself to be cost effective here, locally. Because of our dramatic temperature changes between the seasons, geothermal and hydrothermal have a lot of potential here. Also, we have five times more universities in the 24th District than is the norm in this country. We're exceedingly endowed with universities, and if research activities and activities for young people who have just finished their degrees existed, we would benefit disproportionately. On some visceral level, all of us understand the lack of a coherent energy policy we have right now, every time we fill up our cars with gas or pay our monthly heating bills."

    What would this new Apollo Mission for Energy look like, and how would it be funded? (I like the use of the "Apollo Mission" name, because it harkens back to the enthusiasm America put into the space race, and also refers to the ultimate source of most of Earth's energy - as Apollo was the Greek sun god)

    We all know that there's a great deal of government waste right now. The Republicans in the White House and Congress have been expanding government spending at a faster rate than any time since World War II. The problem is that the Republicans, in addition to putting America in huge debt, are spending the money in all the wrong places.

    So, imagine if we could take the hundreds of billions of dollars we're now spending on the war in Iraq, plus the hundreds of billions of dollars we're spending on building the Star Wars Missile Defense System - even though the technology to make it work has still not yet been developed, after 20 years of research, plus the billions more every year that Bush is devoting to creating a colony on the Moon, plus money huge government welfare given to oil companies and other energy corporations, and all the other money the Republicans are wasting on projects like the Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska, and instead directed all that money into two places:

    1. Half that money goes to pay down the national debt and and reducing the budget deficit, so that we can get back to the days of budget surpluses America enjoyed before the Republicans took complete control of the federal government.

    2. The other half of that huge amount of money is devoted to an Apollo Energy Mission, which includes the following components:

  • Creation of a new generation of local, small-to-mid-sized energy generation systems using clean and efficient technologies that exist now. These systems are to be locally-based and operated, so that every area of the United States becomes more self-sufficient in energy production. Different areas would use the technologies most appropriate to their areas: Solar energy in the South and Southwest, wave-generated electricity in coastal areas, geothermal energy in geologically active areas like the West, and wind power across much of the rest of the country.

  • Small-scale government grants for homeowners to install updated, efficient home energy products.

  • Dramatically-expanded research into clean and efficient technologies for local, small-scale energy production.

    Redirecting wasted government spending into the Apollo Energy Mission would create a distributed system of energy production that is no longer vulnerable to attacks, flaws or accidents in the way that our centralized system is. The new Apollo Mission would pump money into the local economies of every congressional district across the USA, and create huge numbers of local jobs. The project would also dramatically reduce the cost of energy, improving the standard of living for every family and increasing the profitability of American businesses as well.

    The 24th district would receive the extra economic benefits of increased investment in energy research. We've got the kind of educational institutions in our area that could take part in the new research efforts, earning funding, creating jobs, and putting more money out into our district's communities, keeping our main street economies alive.

    Think that the Apollo Energy Mission is just some liberal fantasy that mainstream independent voters and Republicans will never expect? Think again: Moderate and Republican voters are becoming increasingly eager to see a new direction in America's energy infrastructure, and are receptive to these kinds of ideas. Take, for example, the reaction of one of this blog's regular Republican readers, when I proposed this idea to him:

    "...this is *exactly* how I think we as a people should be building political consensus. It's a given that there are some things we're just never going to agree on. Why can't the grassroots from *both* sides pressure their candidates to embrace ideas like this that we can agree on? Efficient solar would send our economy into overdrive and would, quite literally, give us the power to solve a myriad of problems here in the US and around the world."

    This doesn't have to be a partisan issue. The Apollo Energy Initiative is pro-environment, but it's also pro-business, and pro-security. A new, resilient, efficient energy system will make America stronger from the bottom up - and we all want that, no matter what our politics are. The candidate who can take an issue like this and present it in credible detail in a compelling way to voters will be the candidate to win the Democratic primary and the general election.
  • Wednesday, April 05, 2006

    Ray Meier and Brad Jones Afraid of Voters

    Republican congressional candidates Brad Jones and Ray Meier both have their campaign web sites up now, so we can get a good look at what kinds of candidates they really are. The two Republicans seem to differ somewhat, but I can see one clear similarity:

    Ray Meier and Brad Meier are both afraid of the voters.

    Go on and take a look at the Brad Jones for Congress web site and the Ray Meier for Congress web site, and one of the first things you'll notice is what is not there. Both Brad Jones and Ray Meier refuse to provide any way for voters to openly discuss the issues on their web sites.

    Regular readers here know that I have had some strong words for one of our Democratic candidates when he shut down the discussion forum on his campaign web site. Well, now my criticism on this issue is bipartisan.

    I don't care if a candidate is a Republican or a Democrat. No politician should be suffered to run for Congress without making himself or herself fully available to voter questions and comments in every medium possible. If a congressional candidate wants to put up a campaign web site, that candidate ought to have the courage to put a means for interactive and open-to-the-public communications from voters.

    It doesn't have to be a discussion forum. Les Roberts has a blog on his campaign web site that allows readers to leave comments. Bruce Tytler had started a similar blog on his campaign too, before he cut his campaign short.

    Candidates are perfectly able to moderate blogs and discussion boards. It's easy to configure them for quick moderation, and even to block access to cyberstalkers or spammers who want to cause problems instead of adding to a substantive debate.

    I have no problem with moderating online discussions - it's the smart thing to do. I do have a big problem with candidates who won't even give their supporters the chance to speak.

    Putting up a campaign web site without any place for voter discussion is an arrogant thing to do. Ray Meier and Brad Jones both ought to be ashamed of themselves for being so afraid and disdainful of the voters of New York's 24th district that they won't allow the voters to speak.

    Why, it almost appears as if Meier and Jones know that the voters won't support their campaigns... Hm. Uncanny, that.

    Ray Meier Won't Listen To the Troops

    Hello, world. Ray Meier is no longer coming soon. He's now on the web.

    You can find his site at RayMeierForCongress .com [Sorry, Ray, no html link for you - you'll have to boost your Google search ratings elsewhere] Now we can see more of the severe credibility problems Ray Meier is going to face in the general election.

    Problem Number One For Ray Meier: Ray Meier refuses to listen to the troops.

    Oh, Meier says he'll listen to American soldiers fighting in Iraq, but when those soldiers disagree with Meier's political agenda, he just puts his fingers in his ears and pretends he hasn't heard anything.

    The troops have spoken. They want out of Iraq fast.

    Polling shows by the reputable company Zogby International indicates that about 70 percent of soldiers believe that the USA should get out of Iraq before another year is done. In fact, a majority of American military men and women in Iraq want America to pull out before six months from now.

    Someone ought to tell Ray Meier that you can't say that you support the troops and then tell them to go to hell when they don't tell you what you want to hear.

    Support the troops, Ray. Stop supporting George W. Bush's plan for the Iraq War to continue for years on end.

    Tuesday, April 04, 2006

    Brad Jones and Ray Meier Ask to Join Republican Spending Spree

    Yesterday's news about unchecked big government spending by the Republicans in the White House and Congress was a big source of embarrassment for the GOP, but not big enough for the Republicans to put a brake on their out-of-control spending habits. Most Republicans in Congress are pledging to continue their national shopping spree, and the policies supported by Brad Jones and Ray Meier would contribute to keeping the problem as bad as ever.

    The rate of increase in national spending hasn't been this big since World War II. Well, at least we got our money's worth with World War II. We won that war. The Republicans' War on Terror, on the other hand, has been a colossal failure. Osama Bin Laden is still free, the Taliban are still fighting and gaining strength in Afghanistan, and the Iraq War gets worse for us the longer we fight it.

    As Richard Wolf wrote in a front page story for USA Today, "There are no signs that the trend is about to turn around. The House Budget Committee last week rejected a proposal that would require spending hikes to be offset by cuts in other spending or tax increases."

    It seems that the Republicans in Congress don't care at all how much debt they leave behind for our children. Locally, no matter how outrageous the Republican borrow-and-spend habits of the Republican Congress gets, congressional candidates Ray Meier and Brad Jones won't say a thing to criticize the reckless use of public money. It seems that Meier and Jones are afraid to criticize their senior Republican colleagues. They want help in getting money for their campaigns too much to speak out.

    Well, wouldn't you know it, a more honest voice than Meier's or Jones's comes from within the Republican delegation in the House of Representatives. Jeff Flake, a Republican congressman from Arizona, let it slip that, "When you're in control of the presidency and both Houses of Congress, there's just no stop on it. There's no brake."

    I couldn't have said it better, Congressman Flake. If you want to bring fiscal responsibility back to Congress, the last thing you should do is vote Republican.

    Monday, April 03, 2006

    Ray Meier - Clueless on Iraq

    Poor Ray Meier. He can't seem to take a step without tripping over his shoelaces. You can tell Meier wants to be taken seriously, but he just can't seem to manage a grownup position on anything these days.

    Consider the coverage Ray Meier got in the New York Times recently, describing his campaign for the Republican congressional nomination in the 24th district. It was Meier's shot at the big time, with national coverage, and potential donors looking to see what he was made of.

    Oh, poor Raymond. He messed it up.

    When the New York Times asked Ray Meier what in the world should be done about the Iraq War, Meier admitted that the war has become a huge liability for pro-war Republicans like himself. "People feel that they don't know what the plan or direction is for getting out of Iraq," Meier said, sheepishly.

    Oh, but Mr. Meier did his best to come up with a solution to the problem. He straightened his back, squared his shoulders, and proposed the following policy for fixing the bloody mess in Iraq: Meier said that the government should have "a much more definitive discussion" aiming toward eventual "better articulated benchmarks", but quickly added that "People don't necessarily want to see a detailed timetable."

    Things are getting worse in Iraq, with the country descending into a civil war with American soldiers right in the middle of it, and all Ray Meier can think of to say is that a bunch of people in business suits in Washington D.C. should sit down in a conference room somewhere and talk about "articulated benchmarks" and how to avoid a "detailed timetable".

    That's not a plan for solving the disaster of the Iraq War. It's just more of the same mumbling, incoherent, timid babble we've been hearing coming out of politicians in Washington D.C. for years. Does Ray Meier really think that we want to hear more of this garbage?

    Wake up, Ray. This is serious stuff. There's a war going on. You can't just follow your Internet strategy of putting on a happy face and giving us meaningless banter like "Hello, world! Coming Soon!"

    We deserve straight talk on Iraq - not just some new Republican face telling us that we just need more of the same. If Ray Meier can't bother himself to get serious about grownup problems like the Iraq War, then he ought to drop out of the race.

    Campaign Issues - Long Term and Short Term

    I've been surprised at the number of people who have chosen Land Claims as the most important issue of the 24th district congressional campaign [in the poll you'll see over on the right hand side of the Take Back 24 Blog]. Living as I do on the western side of New York's 24th district, when I think of land claims, my mind immediately jumps to the Seneca-Cayugas, and not to the Oneida Nation. Even then, it's not high on my personal list - and I believe that a lot of 24th district residents are going to be displeased, no matter what kind of solution is reached.

    Apparently, many people see this issue differently than I do, and believe that Land Claims are the most important issue of the campaign.

    I'll allow that voters may be very interested in the Land Claims issue, and that it may affect their vote in a strong way. This morning, however, I want to ask the following question: Then what?

    Let's say you vote for a candidate for Congress, and that candidate takes the action you want to resolve the Land Claims mess. Then what?

    After that, if our last US Representative is any indication, you may have another 22 years of an incumbent to deal with. Those will probably be 22 years during which the Land Claims issue won't come up again.

    What kind of choice is that?

    The matter at hand isn't really the Land Claims issue itself, but discernment of short term problems and long term issues. Sometimes it's tricky to tell the difference. For example, one might conclude that the Iraq War is a short term problem. End the war, and the issue is over.

    The thing is that the Iraq War is part of a much larger complex of issues: War and peace, budget priorities, energy policy, and international relations, for example. These are eternal issues. So, voting for a candidate on the basis of where that candidate stands on the Iraq War makes some sense to me, because the stand a candidate takes on this particular war is likely to reflect the candidate's attitude toward the enduring issues in general.

    What larger, enduring issue is the Land Claim dispute a part of? Yes, there's the enduring issue of how Native Americans and the US government should relate to one another. But, once the local issues of the claims of the Seneca-Cayugas and Oneidas are settled, is this really the kind of issue that will continue to motivate voters in New York's 24th District?

    Is there a bigger picture that I'm missing?

    Sunday, April 02, 2006

    Does Ray Meier Oppose In Vitro Fertilization?

    I was reading through the Utica Observer-Dispatch's collection of short statements by all the congressional candidates on the issues this evening, and my attention was caught by the statement Ray Meier made on the issue of stem cell research.

    Meier said,

    "I oppose creating life for the purpose of destroying it for whatever purpose. Stem cell research is of dubious medical value and the subject of ethical debate. We should turn our attention to adult stem cell research."

    That's a jam-packed statement, much more indicative of complex, if convoluted, thought than the terse statement from Brad Jones, but one thing in particular stood out in the first line. Ray Meier is suggesting the embryonic stem cell researchers create life for the purpose of destroying it.

    Of course, that's blatantly untrue. Stem cell researchers use live blastulas that were created for another purpose altogether: To serve as frozen human extras.

    Embryonic stem cell researchers get their stem cell lines from blastulas, little undifferentiated balls of cells, that were created en masse for use in fertility treatments. Those readers who are old enough will remember all the news that came out with the first "test tube baby" created through in vitro fertilization.

    Well, it's part of in vitro fertilization techniques to create more blastulas for implantation in the mother's womb than will actually be used. This is done to avoid repeated intrusions into the mother's body, and because not all attempts at in vitro fertilization are successful.

    After the woman receiving in vitro fertility treatments becomes pregnant and decides not to have any more children, the remaining frozen blastulas are destroyed.

    So, if Ray Meier was interested in being fair and accurate, he would have said that he opposes creating life for the purpose of helping women to have babies. After all, it makes no ethical sense to oppose embryonic stem cell research on the moral grounds of not wanting blastulas to be destroyed, but to approve of in vitro fertilization. Either way, human life is ended.

    If Ray Meier does really try to have it both ways, and supports in vitro fertilization while opposing embryonic stem cell research, then what he should have said is that he opposes creating life for the purpose of helping sick and dying people to get better. After all, in such a case, the destroying of life is not the matter of debate. Ray Meier would support destroying life in order to make babies, but not in order to help sick and dying people.

    It is beyond me why Ray Meier would make such a cruel distinction.

    Then there's that strange pair of sentences that Ray Meier concludes his statement with. First, Ray Meier says that stem cell research is of dubious medical value. But then, in the very next sentence, Meier proposes pursuing stem cell research.

    Come on, Ray. Either stem cell research is important or it isn't. Don't play these kind of bumbling word games with us voters.

    If the Ray Meier for Congress campaign can't work out a coherent policy on stem cell research, then perhaps it's best for them to remain silent on the matter, and allow less muddled minds to wrestle with the ethical issues involved.

    Little Consensus on Most Important Issue for 24th District Race

    So far, the poll of readers here about what they regard as the the most important issue in New York's 24th District congressional campaign is not revealing any patterns.

    There are some votes for the Iraq War, some for the economy, some for health care, and even some for the land claims dispute. Ending the Republican majority in Congress and the federal budget deficit got some attention too, but no single issue stands out.

    Perhaps the question that Michael Arcuri, Les Roberts, Leon Koziol, Ray Meier and Brad Jones ought to be asking themselves is not what the most important issue of this campaign is, but instead, whether the voters yet have gathered in any coherent manner around any particular issues at all?

    The dominant frame of this district's congressional race has yet to be established. That's a great opportunity - for any candidate with enough organization and strategic creativity to take advantage of it.

    The Issues: Jobs, Land Claims, and a Democratic Majority

    Commenting on the new issues poll here on Take Back New York's 24th, a reader writes,

    "As a soon to be graduating student I must say that all of those issues are important, but there are two that truly stand out for me: one is jobs/the economy, the other is democrats taking back Congress. The first is an obvious one, I want a job (hopefully in the upstate 24th area)that I can support a family with. The second issue is important to me because I feel that the future of this country, of this district, my future, ultimately my future rests in the hands of the democratic party and them taking back the Congress.

    That does not mean that none of those other issues aren't important to me becuase I deeply care about education, health care and the rest, but I feel that the democratic party taking control can hopefully fix all of those other issues."

    This comment brings to me the thought that perhaps the selection of giving the Democratic Party the majority control of Congress is a kind of "all of the above" selection. But, what, I wonder, are our expectations of new Democratic majority? How would we, as Democrats, judge whether a new Democratic majority in Congress is successful? What specific actions would we want them to take in their first year in charge of the House and Senate.

    A second development related to the new poll has to do with the land claims issue, which I've already discussed a bit this morning. I see that two votes have been cast in favor of the idea that the land claims dispute is the number one most important issue in New York's 24th congressional district race this year.

    How can those votes be justified? That's not a rhetorical question. I'd really like to hear a justification from the people who voted in the poll this way. What is it about the land claims issue that makes it more important than the state of the economy, or the war in Iraq?

    Also, how is the land claims issue a congressional issue? What do voters expect the United States House of Representatives to do about the issue? Most importantly, how do voters believe that Les Roberts, Michael Arcuri and Leon Koziol would handle the land claims issue differently?

    Leon Koziol's Professional Experience

    Oh my, those Utica Democrats are angry at me this weekend. Well, it's like I said to a member of the Bruce Tytler campaign after Bruce withdrew from the race: The intensity with which people try to pressure you to quit is usually a good measure of the impact of your message. I'll just keep on keeping on, thanks.

    The latest gripe comes from a student writing a blog on behalf of Leon Koziol, who is still using an AOL email and doesn't seem able to get his own web site up. This student is complaining that that, in an article from last week discussing the professional experience of Michael Arcuri and Les Roberts, I "blatantly not included Leon Koziol".

    Well, if Leon Koziol's supporters really want me to talk about Mr. Koziol's professional experience, I'll do so, but I don't think they'll like what I have to say.

    Leon Koziol's professional experience is that he's a lawyer who advertises for clients on television with hokey commercials. Koziol claims that his cases prove that he'll fight for the little guy, but there don't appear to be important larger issues at the heart of most of his cases. Maybe I'm missing something - I'm not a lawyer, after all - but Mr. Koziol's professional record doesn't seem to show any special kind of sacrifice, courage, or devotion to high-minded ideals. You want to see what lawyers who fight for our constitutional rights really look like? Take a gander at the Center for Constitutional Rights, right here in New York State.

    Mostly, Leon Koziol appears to have just been doing his job, representing his clients. The notable exception is Leon Koziol's involvement with the Land Claims issue. Mr. Koziol is proud of his land claims history. I wonder whether that pride is well placed.

    The land claims dispute has been for New York's 24th District what Destiny USA has been for the 25th District: An embarrassing squabble over turf that has gone on far too long, with petty local hucksters trying to use the issue as a platform for building political power.

    I don't care which side of the land claims dispute you're on. If you touch it, it's political poison. The history of repeated failures in negotiations and agreements scuttled at the last minute through short-sighted maneuvering ought to be a source of embarassment to anyone involved - especially the lawyers.

    Like I said, I'm not an expert in matters of lawyering, so maybe what the lawyers involved in these disputes are doing what they're supposed to be doing, playing hardball for their clients without any care for the impact on other people.

    Maybe. But, maybe, the role of a really good lawyer is to advise his or her clients in order to promote their best interest in a larger sense.

    Take the case of Bill O'Reilly against Al Franken, for example. Bill O'Reilly got all angry about the use of his picture, and the Fox News phrase "fair and balanced", on the cover of Al Franken's new book. So, O'Reilly pushed the legal department at Fox News to sue Al Franken's publisher for trademark infringement, claiming that Fox News owned the phrase "fair and balanced". Bill O'Reilly and the Fox News lawyers were laughed out of court - literally. The entire courtroom erupted into laughter at their ludicrous claims. Al Franken's book, which would have had middling sales without the publicity that came from the trial, shot to number one on the bestsellers lists. The Fox News lawyers played hardball and did what their clients wanted them to do, but served their clients poorly in doing so.

    I think it's fair to make a similar judgment about lawyers like Leon Koziol who have been highly involved in Upstate New York's tribal land claims disputes. Maybe they've done a crack job at finding ways to file creative legal motions and make aggressive stands on behalf of their clients, but they've shown exceptionally poor judgment in doing so. A good lawyer in such a dispute would have realized that a quick conclusion would be better for his or her client than years upon years of expensive legal maneuvering and embarrassing publicity.

    To my untrained legal eye, the lawyers involved in the land claims disputes appear more self-serving than anything else. They've been skillful lawyers, but terrible leaders.

    When it comes to Leon Koziol's prideful declarations about his involvement in the land claims issue, Democratic voters only need to ask themselves this simple question: Would you want Leon Koziol to bring the gridlock of the land claims disputes to other disputes in the United States House of Representatives?

    If the answer is yes, then Leon Koziol is the candidate for you.