Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Ray Meier is Blind to Corruption

In terms of policy, the bloody, disastrous Iraq War is the biggest burden for the Republicans in this year's congressional elections. In terms of legislative performance, however, it's the Republican Party's systematic problem with corruption that is weighing it down. It's become clear that there is a vast amount of bribery going on in the Republican-controlled Congress, and although a few Democratic members are guilty of corruption, the vast majority of corruption investigations are of Republicans.

Any Republican running for Congress this year needs to confront the issue of voters, and prove to them that he or she has a specific plan for avoiding the stain of corruption that has besmirched so many Republicans currently in Congress.

Here in New York's 24th Congressional District, the Republican frontrunner, Ray Meier, is refusing to accept this less. The Meier for Congress campaign is merely pretending that the corruption problem doesn't exist... much in the same way that Ray Meier pretends that everything is going just great in Iraq. Ray Meier doesn't mention the Republican corruption problem, perhaps because he doesn't think that the

This kind of weak silence on ethics is dangerous in a politician. We voters deserve an open, public, pledge from Ray Meier that he will not follow his Republican colleagues in their illegal schemes to profit from public office.

I'm not holding my breath waiting for Ray Meier to speak out on this issue, though. On the issue of corruption as in so many other respects, Ray Meier is not competent to serve in Congress.

Post script:

A little hint to Mike Arcuri, though: Could you please address this issue in your campaign? This is a potent issue in this year's campaign. If you're really so hungry to win, how come you're not using it? The Michael Arcuri for Congress campaign ought to be out front in this district, pointing out the huge corruption scandals of the Republicans in Congress, and proposing specific measures for preventing such widespread violations of the public trust from taking place again.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Michael Arcuri: The Campaign of the Empty Calendar

Remember, back when the Democratic voters of the 24th District still had the chance for a choice - to pick their own candidate on primary election day? Remember what all the Oneida County Democrats kept telling us about how a primary would be bad for the chances of the eventual Democratic nominee, and so all the other candidates should just step out of the way and let Michael Arcuri run?

If only Mike Arcuri didn't have to fend off Democratic challengers, they told us, he could run a strong campaign for the seat, focuising his fire on the Republicans. A primary battle would bog Arcuri down, they said. Being free of primary challengers, they said, Arcuri could put on his jogging shorts and run full force, unencumbered by democratic competition, campaigning hard from now right up until Election Day in November.

Well, look around you. Michael Arcuri doesn't have any Democratic competition any more. So, have the predictions of the Oneida County Democrats come true?

Sadly, no. The Arcuri for Congress campaign doesn't seem to be running a campaign so much as it is sitting on one. Arcuri hasn't put on his jogging shorts. He's still wearing his campaign pajamas, sleeping in, getting some rest, going back to his day job as District Attorney.

Take a look at the campaign calendar on the Arcuri for Congress web site. It tells the whole story. Nothing for the rest of May. Nothing for June. Nothing for July. For the rest of the campaign, no events, no speeches, no rallies. Nothing.

Now, I'm sure some smart alec from the Arcuri for Congress campaign would come up with the following retort: "Well, that's just the campaign on the web site. The real Arcuri for Congress campaign calendar that we keep locked up and secret in our offices is chock full of events!"

If that's the Arcuri campaign's excuse for an empty calendar, it's a pathetic excuse. First, it shows that Michael Arcuri is not particularly interested in reaching out to voters. Even without any Democratic challengers, Arcuri is withholding information about his campaign from the voters, as if the more that voters hear about what Arcuri is doing, the less likely they would be to vote for him. Is this the kind of Congressman Michael Arcuri would be, communicating with constituents only when he absolutely had no choice but to do so?

A truly active campaign will have a public calendar full of events. They won't keep it secret. They'll work to share the calendar with voters, so that people can know when the candidate will be appearing, to find out more, and so that they can begin to volunteer to help the candidate.

Besides, I just don't believe that Michael Arcuri has a calendar full of campaign events, just kept in secret somewhere. If the Arcuri for Congress campaign calendar is really active and full, then how come it's been two full weeks since there has been "breaking news" from Mike Arcuri's campaign? How come it's been 12 days since the Arcuri campaign even issued a press release?

Go on and take a look in the recent news - there's been almost nothing about written about Arcuri, not locally, not nationally.

Oh, yes, the Tompkins County Democrats did finally endorse Michael Arcuri - after there was no one else left to endorse. Even when there was no other choice but to vote to endorse Mike Arcuri, a siginificant number of members of the Tompkins County Democratic Committee abstained from the vote. Those who were there said that those committee members voiced strong concerns that they knew little about Arcuri, and had not even had the chance to meet with him yet.

Where is the vigorous campaign we were promised?

Where is the tough campaign they said we'd get if everyone else just surrendered and let Arcuri be the candidate?

It's starting to look like the presence of Democratic rivals was just an excuse.

Arcuri campaign: Wake UP! This is a district where Republicans outnumber Democrats. If you don't get up off your butts and start running hard and strong now, Arcuri will lose.

Then who will you blame? Without any rival Democrats to slow you down, whose fault will you say it was? Will you blame the newspapers for not running the press releases you didn't send about the activities that you didn't have?

Will you blame me, a little blogger, for not falling into marching formation and applauding this ineptitude, as every "good Democrat" should?

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Reader Corrects Rightward Democrat on History

Over the weekend, a right-wing-leaning Democrat left a comment here suggesting that I leave the Democratic Party, because the Democrats don't have room for progressives like me anymore. This reader also suggested that the Democrats lost control of Congress in 1994 because they had gone too far and become too liberal.

I wondered, when I read this claim, if the reader had actually been around and paying attention to politics back in 1994, when the Republicans under Newt Gingrich retook Congress. The Democratic Congress hadn't really been acting very liberal in the years prior to 1994. They had decided not to protect gays in the military, not to create any national health care system, and not to pursue any impeachment or even censure of Ronald Reagan, in spite of the evidence that Reagan was involved in a scheme to break the law by providing funding to a group of insurgents in Central America and sending high-tech missiles to the government of Iran in secret.

The Democratic Congress was by no means liberal. Politically, it played the middle of the road, passing some occasional progressive legislation but not really challenging the corporate, right wing Republican White House. The Democratic Congress back then was, however, very very corrupt. It was the corruption of that Congress, not any superaggressive political liberalism, that led to the loss of Democratic control in 1994.

The problem of the Democratic Party in 1994 was the problem of the Democratic Party now. Democratic politicians in Congress did not regard themselves as accountable to the actual Democratic grassroots voters. Instead, they were only held accountable to the Democratic Party machine, which then, as now, squelched party primaries whenever possible and worked to promote machine politicians with connections to "important" people in their districts. The result was that Congress was filled with Democrats who saw it as their duty to give these "important" supporters a return on their investment, rather than standing up for the good of the American people.

The Republicans in control of Congress now are behaving like the Democrats in Congress did before them. So, the Democrats are using corruption as an election issue this year, as the Republicans did in 1994, but as the scandal of William Jefferson from Louisiana reminds us, corruption is not really a partisan issue. Congress attracts people who are hungry for power, and is a tempting spot for those open to corruption. We need systematic changes in Congress to address this problem, not just a change in the party in control. Without better restraints, the new Democratic leadership will become just as corrupt as the Republicans are now.

I was glad to see that I'm not the only person who remembers what really happened back in 1994, that the problem with the Democrats was not liberal politics, but rather, that the congressional Democrats were not idealistic enough. Yesterday, another reader left the following rebuttal to the first reader's claims:

"The Democrats didn't go too far, they went too long. The voters tire of policies that don't work and politicians who don't serve.

The muddling middle isn't going to cure any problems or provide stability.

The real issue is self versus group. The conservatives represent self interest taken to an extreme. The liberals have not had power in many years but they represent group interest over self. Don't forget the United States is not your personal interest, it is our group interest.

Being in the muddled middle is not leadership, it's ducking responsibility. Paraphrasing Ted Turner, either lead, follow or get the hell out of the way and do it for all of us not just the few or yourself."

Well put.

I'd like to point out that we have no specific reason to believe that Michael Arcuri or Ray Meier would personally become corrupt if elected to Congress. Maybe they would, and maybe they wouldn't. My point is not to accuse these politicians personally, but to point out that the political party machine systems in both the Republican Party and Democratic Party in New York's 24th congressional district are designed in such a way as to separate the candidates from the people they are supposed to serve, and to make them indebted to the very kind of big corporate donors who are most likely to come later asking for special favors in return for special rewards.

Whether we voters in the 24th District are Republicans, Democrats, or independents, we would be better served if we had a process in our district that was less behind the scenes, less dependent upon money, and more involved with the voters outside the political establishment. The lack of any special effort by Ray Meier and Mike Arcuri to reach out to the ordinary voters of our district is but a mild symptom of a deeper underlying problem that could, in the years to come, manifest itself in a much more profound and criminally corrupt form.

Sam Adams visits the 24th Congressional District

In the spirit of not quitting, I bring on this Saturday the thoughts of Sam Adams. No, no, not about beer, but about the proper role of a minority opinion in politics:

"It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in the people's minds."

In these days when the leadership of the Democratic Party seems devoted to the idea of sidling up as close, ideologically, to the right wing Republican Party as it can, political tinder abounds.

Friday, May 26, 2006

What is the Role of a Democratic Voter in the 24th District?

I was tempted to write, today: "Count me out. No, not from writing this blog. Count me out from the Democratic Party."

For the first time in years, the Democratic voters of the 24th District had the opportunity to select a candidate with a realistic chance to get into Congress. Then, they had that opportunity taken away from them.

What is the role of a Democratic voter in the 24th District now? There is nothing left for us voters but to line up behind Michael Arcuri, a candidate that we did not select for ourselves.

The Democratic Party is, in theory, set up as a democratic organization, with the goal of enabling voters to select who will represent the Democratic Party in the general election. Operationally, the Democratic Party works to squelch voter choice, stopping primary elections whenever it can. Democratic politicians and their aides now generally believe that primaries are "good for voters, but bad for the Party".

I'm not making up that quote. It's a phrase I've heard spoken almost identically from people working on the different Democratic congressional campaigns in our district this year.

"Good for voters, but bad for the Party" - please, pause for a minute and consider the meaning of that phrase.

Once, I served as a member of the State Democratic Committee. I actually believed that, given the choice of what is good for voters and what is good for the Party, most Democratic politicians would choose what was good for voters. I don't believe that any more.

Over the last few years, I've seen too much to contradict that notion. At a time when it could finally stand up for the great American tradition of progressive values like honesty, liberty, accountability and the rule of law, the Democratic Party is choosing to abandon those ideals for a whatever-it-takes-to-win approach to retaking Congress.

In its campaign to replace the Republicans in Congress, the Democratic Party is adopting more and more Republican attitudes, becoming the very thing that it seeks to replace. Over and over again, the Democratic Party is failing to make any kind of principled stand for what's right. Instead, Democratic politicians are choosing whatever works.

In the Senate Intelligence Committee this week, the majority of the seven Democrats voted in favor of recommending General Michael Hayden as the next Director of the CIA, in spite of the fact that General Hayden has worked at the NSA to help George W. Bush set up illegal programs to help the government engage in electronic spying against huge numbers of completely innocent Americans.

Here in New York State, our two Democratic senators voted in favor of starting the Iraq War. They voted in favor of the infamous Patriot Act. They have actually defended President Bush from a resolution of censure. When America needed them to stand up, they remained comfortable in their seats.

Democratic politicians from across the nation are rushing over to Connecticut to defend right wing Democrat Joseph Lieberman from his progressive Democratic challenger, Ned Lamont. These Lieberman supporters include the likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Watching them try to find something to praise about Joseph Lieberman is deeply embarassing, and profoundly troubling. The ineptitude and valueless pursuit of power by Democratic politicians has become every bit as much of a threat to the integrity of the tradition of American liberty as the Republican Party.

There are good progressive Democratic leaders out there, but I won't have the chance to vote for them any time soon. So, what's the point of giving my support to the Democratic Party? I care more about what's good for the voters of our District than I do about what's good for the Democratic Party.

So, I was tempted to march on down to the Tompkins County board of elections and change my registration to independent - no party affiliation. I was tempted, but I won't go.

I thought about the Democratic supervisor of the Town of Ulysses, a man who was cross-endorsed by the Democratic and Republican parties in last year's election, leaving voters in my town with no choice but to vote for him or not vote at all. I thought about Russ Feingold, preparing his progressive run for the White House in 2008. I thought about Jonathan Tasini, who is daring to challenge Hillary Clinton's support for the Iraq War from within the Democratic Party.

I don't really care about the Democratic Party, but I do care about the Democrats who are brave enough to work for the old values enshrined in the Bill of Rights, in spite of the fact that the leadership of the Democratic Party is doing everything it can to distance itself from those values.

In a time when the Democratic Party is competing with the Republican Party to see which party can better appeal to right wing voters, leaving the rest of America behind, it's more important than ever for Democrats who disagree to remain within the party and resist.

Maybe I don't represent the majority opinion within the Democratic Party, but I do have the right to represent myself as a Democrat. So, not just in spite of the failure of Democratic leadership, but also because of the failure of Democratic leadership, I will remain a Democrat - and make as much trouble for the right wingers in our party as possible.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

24th District Race Drops Below the Radar Again

There was a brief moment, after the retirement announcement of Sherwood Boehlert, when it appeared that New York's 24th District congressional race might be one of the most-watched from across America this year. It's a red hot congressional election year, so that's saying alot.

Lately, however, there just hasn't been that much to watch. On the Democratic side, there is no primary contest left, with only one candidate, Michael Arcuri, willing to place himself in consideration.

On the Republican side, Brad Jones once promised to make things interesting with a primary challenge from the right to Sherwood Boehlert. With Boehlert out of the picture, and right wing Ray Meier the new institutional Republican choice, the candidacy of Brad Jones seems less relevant, and is now far behind Meier's campaign in spite of Jones's head start in fundraising.

The candidates might take advantage in this lull in horse race campaign news to get busy talking about the issues, issuing press releases, giving policy speeches, and making appearances throughout the district. That's not happening. As I've noted, Michael Arcuri's campaign is mostly silent these days, and Ray Meier's last press release seems to have been his campaign announcement from back in March.

Do a blog search on Google, and you'll see that nobody much is talking about the 24th District race anymore, from either the Democratic or the Republican side. The race has lost its buzz. Even using the word "race" to describe this political contest seems misplaced. Both Arcuri and Meier seem content to saunter through the summer, uninterested in breaking a sweat.

So it is that a search for a story about Ray Meier turns up the most recent article as a story about comments by Ray Meier that the Mustang Softball Association needs to do a better job of getting money for the maintenance of its fields... in Oklahoma. Some guy named Ray Meier in Mustang, Oklahoma is getting more recent coverage talking about the financing of small town softball fields than the candidate for an open congressional seat.

I think that could go in the encyclopedia as an example of how to tell when a political race has lost its heat.

As a blog writer, all there is to talk about these days is what isn't happening. I know... hold back on your excitement at the controversy.

It feels like nap time.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Will a Right-Leaning Candidate Do The Right Thing Later?

Yesterday, an anonymous reader left a comment here trying to clue me in to the way politics really works. Obviously annoyed at my preferential devotion to ideals rather than candidates, the reader wrote,
"If you want to WIN, you have to pay attention to the real heartbeat. Later, when you win, you get to do what is right. It's the way it is."

The anonymous reader obviously means well. I give credit to this reader for at least being interested in eventually having politicians "do what is right". But, I can't agree with what the reader says.

This argument is a condensed version of a political argument I've seen far too many times. It's the "saving our ammunition" argument.

1. A Democratic candidate runs for office, and explains that he or she must lean toward the ideological right and reject the Democratic base in order to win, but suggests to voters that, after the election, of course he or she will do what is right and vote like a good Democrat. We'll save our ammunition until after the election, so that we can get good things done.

2. The candidate wins, goes to Congress, and then explains that, as a junior member of Congress, it's important for the district that he or she gain influence by getting a position on an influential committee. In order to do that, he or she will have to be a dutiful junior member, and vote as he or she is told to vote by party leadership, even if it means voting for something like the invasion of Iraq. Later, after he or she gets that seat on that committee, or maybe, well, the seat as chair of that committee, he or she will do what is right and vote according to conscience. We'll save our ammunition until after getting that position, and then we can get good things done.

3. After a few terms, the politician climbs to the position of chair of a powerful committee. But, the politician explains, it's important to give some strategic votes in favor of Republican policies, and wrestle junior members into voting that way too. After all, an election is coming up, and we wouldn't want to keep the Republican majority, would we? No, of course not, so it's important for Democrats to grab the loyalty of Republican voters by suppporting Republican legislation. We'll save our ammunition to triangulate and surprise those Republicans by not opposing them!

4. The elections go on and on and on... Sometimes the Democrats are in the majority, and sometimes they're not, but in the House, with elections every two years, the excuse of kicking the progressive base in the teeth in order to try to attract Republican voters is always there to be used. The funny thing, though, is that the Democrats never really save up any extra political ammunition, because they're constantly directing their fire at their own progressive base instead of at the Republicans.

Think back to the key votes of the last six years and you'll see the impact of this reflection. Democrats voting along with Republicans for tax cuts for the rich, for the invasion of Iraq, for laws to help President Bush spy on American, for laws that undermine rights as basic as habeas corpus, for right wing judges on many courts from the Supreme Court on down.

There have been courageous Democrats in Congress to counter the cowardly Democrats, but the cowardly Democrats have left voters feeling that the Democratic Party as a whole doesn't stand for much other than the desire to get back into power. The polls show pretty clearly that Democrats are not picking up all the approval that has been lost by the Republicans. There's a lingering distrust that Democrats will say whatever it takes, and, as a whole lack a moral compass.

Looking at the incoherent whole of the Democratic Party, one can easily miss little spots of individual coherence, but then again, few voters exercise that kind of focus. The one chance we have for increased focus is from our small district's candidate - if the candidate speaks clearly.

Michael Arcuri's problem as a candidate has been a combination of terseness and ambiguity. Arcuri has made some good starts at statements on some important issues, but he's not extended those starts to completion. It's difficult to know exactly where Arcuri stands on most issues, and his brief statements seem designed to create that fuzzy impression.

As a result, I have some hope that a Congressman Arcuri could cast some good votes in Congress, but that hope is tempered with a great deal of skepticism. Arcuri's fuzziness, his infrequent communication with the public, and his occasional jabs at the progressive base of the party elicit reflections on the stark failure of the Democrats in Congress over the last few years to act as a genuine opposition party.

Some people believe that the Democratic Party is just fine the way it is. I'm not one of them, and it worries me that we have seen no signs that Michael Arcuri will stand for anything much on his own. Arcuri seems devoted to following the party line, whatever that is.

It would be nice if the 24th District could be represented by a leader instead of a foot soldier.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Who Will Defend Science?

When it came to the defense of science, Sherwood Boehlert was an imperfect representative. He made a lot of talk about the importance of science, but when it came down to actually doing something, exercising oversight as was his duty as chair of the House Science Committee, Boehlert was nowhere to be seen. Even when the Bush Administration started distorting scientific findings for political purposes and punishing government scientists who dared to contradict the right wing religious Republican agenda by truthfully reporting the results of their studies, Boehlert did nothing of substance.

Still, Sherwood Boehlert did enough talking to convince people in the 24th District that he was an adequate representative of the interests of science in the House of Representatives. The creation of that impression helped Sherwood Boehlert last as long as he did. I remember speaking to many 24th District Democrats in during the 2004 election who told me that they would be voting for Boehlert because of Boehlert's support for funding of scientific research locally and nationally. These pro-Boehlert Democrats included members of the county Democratic Committees who had spouses working on scientific projects that had federal funding arranged with the help of Boehlert.

Boehlert used science as a wedge issue. Could Ray Meier do the same?

At present, neither Meier nor Michael Arcuri is addressing the integrity of science as an issue in itself. However, Ray Meier does address the importance of independent scientific research in his issue page on energy policy. Meier's energy policy goes into great detail on the importance of sustainable energy alternatives to fossil fuels, neutralizing what should be a core Democratic issue.

In fact, Mike Arcuri hardly addresses energy at all. Arcuri has issued two press releases on energy issue, but has yet to develop a coherent energy policy paper as Meier has. Arcuri's issue statement on energy remains at the level of a sound bite, a mere paragraph. Nowhere have I found a statement in which Arcuri even uses the word "science" or "scientist".

Arcuri cannot afford to continue to allow Ray Meier to be the sole voice to what should be Democratic constituencies. The science voters will not deliver the election to Arcuri, but they could deliver it to Ray Meier. If pro-science voters in the 24th District conclude that Ray Meier will be the better representative for science in the House of Representatives, then it will become even more difficult for Arcuri to win the general election.

The Arcuri for Congress campaign seems to be operating under the assumption that support from traditionally Democratic constituencies is all wrapped up. Arcuri should not mistake support from county Democratic committees for support from the mass of Democratic voters themselves. On Election Day, it's the Democratic voters Arcuri will need to convince to turn out for a mid-term election.

Arcuri needs to wrench his campaign out of the back rooms, and start speaking to the voters. Yet, even after the exit of Les Roberts from the race, there has been no sign of a reinvigoration of voter outreach from the Arcuri camp. While Arcuri continues to coast along on the power of a few old snippets, Ray Meier has offered deep, piercing commentaries on core issues.

I don't agree with a lot of what Ray Meier has to say. Ray Meier is just plain wrong on most issues. However, the Arcuri camp is not effectively countering Ray Meier's statements. At least Ray Meier has proven that he has the personal gravity to give energy issues more attention than just a glance and a nod. It is time for Michael Arcuri to go beyond his superficial talk and prove to us that he is serious about more than just winning. Arcuri needs to prove that he cares enough to think deeply about the issues that matter to Democrats in our district.

Support for funding of scientific research and the reestablishment of the integrity of scientific processes in the federal government would be an easy place for Arcuri to start. Arcuri can't afford to play this waiting game any longer. Ray Meier is already speaking about science, cutting away at the base that Arcuri will need to even make a respectable showing in November.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Ray Meier Runs With the Religious Right's Anti-Marriage Crusade

Republican Ray Meier loves trying to have it both ways on the marriage equality issue. In most public statements, Ray Meier tries to offer a mushy, ambiguous message that he thinks will mollify Democrats while not offending his right wing religious base.

When he talks to a Republican audience, however, Ray Meier lets his inner bigot emerge. Meier recently told the right wing rag Human Events that he's anti-marriage rights all the way.

"Meier said he believes marriage is a union between a man and a woman. Even though he would normally take the federalist position and let states decide, he said he would likely support the Federal Marriage Amendment because courts had left Congress no other option."

This statement by Ray Meier contains one of the tightest ideological turnabouts I've seen in awhile. Like most Republicans, Meier says that he supports States Rights - which has long been a code word for opposition to civil rights for African Americans and other minorities. In a broader sense, States Rights is supposed to represent a political philosophy that the federal government should defer to the states when it comes to matters of legal authority.

Yet, on the issue of marriage, Ray Meier performs a quick about face, and says that, on this one issue, States Rights should not apply.

Why? There's nothing legally distinct about the issue of marriage that would justify such a discrepancy. In truth, Ray Meier doesn't seem to be a deep thinker when it comes to political philosophy. Instead, Meier follows his cultural instincts, and culturally, Ray Meier comes down solidly in the old right wing tradition of using fear, bigotry and hatred as a political tool.

When fear and hatred were consistent with a States Rights opposition to civil rights for African Americans, the Republican Party was for States Rights. Now that fear and hatred are consistent with an anti-States-Rights crusade against same-sex couples, Republicans are against States Rights.

Forget all the talk about preserving the institution of marriage. The real question we ought to be asking in this debate is: Which candidate is trying to help more people get married?

Right wing ideologues like Ray Meier are smothering marriage, holding it back, cutting it down, and making it shriveled and smaller. They want to prevent more people from getting married. Progressives, on the other hand, are trying to strengthen the institution of marriage by helping more people get married.

It's time to talk plain truth on this issue.Ray Meier and his Republican supporters are anti-marriage. After all, you can't strengthen marriage by making it illegal for people to married.

Friday, May 19, 2006

I Was Wrong on Immigration: Arcuri Must Now Speak Out

It seems that I was wrong. I gave too much damn credit to Ray Meier, thinking that he had actually had the decency not to dive into the mudbath that is the current immigration scare. I don't read the Republican rag Human Events, you see, so I missed their reporting on Ray Meier's extremist position on immigration:

"Ray Meier hasn't been all that silent on immigration. Here's what he told an interviewer from the conservative magazine Human Events:

Immigration Reform: Borrowing the title of Rep. J.D. Hayworth’s (R.-Ariz.) new book, Meier said Congress must do “whatever it takes” to gain control of the border. While he wouldn’t commit to building a fence, he also wouldn’t rule out some sort of physical structure. He supports the deployment of additional Border Patrol agents to the U.S.-Mexico border. As a lawmaker who represents a large population of immigrations from Bosnia and Eastern Europe, he said it’s highly unfair to legal immigrants when people enter the country illegally."

Oh, damn, what a creep Ray Meier is. Thanks to the reader who pointed this out to me, though.

This "whatever it takes" attitude is something that really bothers me about Republican politicians these days. They take problems, ordinary problems, and do their best to blow them up into huge crisis proportions in order to justify a right wing ideological extremism in the law.

The fake Social Security Crisis is the prime example, of this, of course. There's a problem with Social Security funding, but there's not a crisis. Republicans say that there is, and propose cutting the benefits for people in my generation, in spite of the fact that we've been paying into the system for years.

That's the typical Republican pattern of manipulation for you. Take an ordinary problem, try to exaggerate it into a massive crisis, and then use the threat of that fake crisis to get voters to support "emergency" measures to do "whatever it takes". Whenever I hear "whatever it takes" coming out of the mouth of a Republican politician, I hear this translation: "We're about to break a promise".

So it is with immigration. There has been no striking increase in illegal immigration over the last few years. The idea that there has been, as some hateful right wingers put it, a new "Mexican Invasion" of the United States, is a myth. Of course there are illegal immigrants. Why? Because some cheap people in business are so greedy and unpatriotic that they don't want to pay good American workers the wages that they deserve. But this has been a consistent problem for years. There's nothing new to merit the recent hype about illegal immigrants... except that Republicans have rightfully earned bottom basement approval ratings, and are looking for some way to get people afraid again, knowing that when people fear for their security, they tend to vote Republican.

Ray Meier is going right along with this terrible charade, giving us this "whatever it takes" language. Remember that translation, folks: "Whatever it takes" means "We're about to break a promise".

What's the promise that Ray Meier and the Republican fearmongers are breaking now? How about the promises of the rule of law and freedom of speech as written in the First Amendment?

A lot of people don't remember that, last year, the Republican Congress passed a law saying that the Secretary of Homeland Security has the right to render all laws of the United States of America null and void within ten miles of the U.S. border. It sounds crazy, but it's true. Now, with the idea that there is some kind of immigration crisis, the President is marching the National Guard right into that new Law-Free Zone. If that combination of events doesn't raise your eyebrows, I don't know what will. But Ray Meier says it's no big deal. Whatever it takes, he says.

Then there's yesterday's Senate vote to make non-English speakers second class citizens. Under the new law, to now be negotiated by the House and Senate, American citizens who don't speak English as their first language, like many people born in the USA in the Southwest, will become second-class citizens who can legally be denied basic government services. Government services can include things like getting married and renewing a driver's license.

The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees us freedom of speech. If the government can dictate to us now which language we have to speak, then freedom of speech in the United States is a joke.

No problem, says Ray Meier. Whatever it takes. He speaks English, so what's the problem right?

The problem is that this "whatever it takes" attitude is stomping all over the fundamental principles of our open, lawful, and democratic society. By joining in on the hateful anti-Hispanic crusade, Ray Meier isn't just hurting Hispanics. He's damaging the basic rights and protections from the government that we all depend upon.

Now, when I wrote earlier this morning, I was thankful for what I thought was the restraint of both Michael Arcuri and Ray Meier on the immigration issue. Even then, before we learned about Ray Meier's unwise foray into the crude anti-immigrant crusade, a reader here who goes by the name of Biggus suggested to me that the candidates actually had the duty to speak up and argue vigorously against the bigotry of the anti-immigrant crowd. I wrote back to him that I was still hoping for the hysteria to die down, but that candidates would need to speak out against it if it got any worse.

Well, Ray Meier's involvement in the border security scare makes it worse. Furthermore, it seems that Michael Arcuri hasn't really been all that silent on immigration ayway. I found the following in an article in the Hamilton College Spectator:

"A few striking mistakes were made during his talk, including a repeatedly botched pronunciation of the word Dubai (which was corrected by an audience member), and the attribution of Social Security's creation to Truman, instead of Roosevelt. Arcuri also referred to New York as being "not a border state," during a discussion about immigration."

It looks as if I was very wrong about the state of the issue of immigration in this campaign when I wrote that article this morning. It seems that Ray Meier and Mike Arcuri are both talking up the immigration issue when they talk to reporters and directly to voters. We know that Ray Meier is on the wrong side of the issue, but it's not yet clear to everybody what Mike Arcuri's position actually is.

It would be reassuring to see a press release from Arcuri now, talking reasonably about the immigration issue, and refusing to join in the anti-Hispanic, anti-immigrant furor. The Republicans have dragged the issue into the race, and now we are in desperate need of a candidate who will do the honorable thing and say no to the hate.

Thankful for Silence by Arcuri and Meier on Immigration

I have written quite a bit during this race about issues that I wish that the candidates would talk more about, but this morning, I want to turn an about face and thank the candidates for not talking about a particular issue: Immigration.

There's a lot of fuss and bother coming out of the White House and Congress about immigration these days, but the fact is that there is no particular immigration crisis. The United States of America is not getting more illegal immigrants than it has in recent decades. There is no new problem with legal immigration either. All that's new is that the Republican Party seems to have found a new way to express its bigotry, with ridiculous White Pride anglocentric campaigns for making it a crime to sing the national anthem in Spanish, though Congress approved a Spanish language version decades ago, and even an insistence coming from a Fox News television personality that non-Hispanics have more babies so that "our" culture doesn't become overwhelmed.

The immigration issue is being played shamelessly to whip up racist fears and hate. It's this year's Willie Horton. So, Michael Arcuri, Ray Meier, and Brad Jones deserve some gratitude for refraining from taking advantage of the raw emotion involved.

I am concerned that, even by bringing the issue of immigration up in this form, the spell will be broken, and one of the Republicans will try to ride the anti-Hispanic pony to victory, but at a time when our President is trying his hardest to distract us all from the terrible offenses against our liberty being committed by his Administration, it's refreshing to live in a refuge from the storm.



In a sign of the dangerous levels of hate excited by the Republicans' anti-immigrant crusade, the United States Senate joined the House of Representatives yesterday in voting to approve a law that makes English the only official language of the United States, and authorizes the refusal of government services to people, even American citizens, who do not speak English.

This kind of ethnic-based nationalism is frighteningly reminiscent of the rhetoric of the Nazis and Fascists. It should have no place in American government.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Will Michael Arcuri Now Strengthen on Iraq?

It has been suggested to me that Les Roberts felt comfortable dropping out of the race because he met with Michael Arcuri and was assured that Arcuri will be promoting the issues that Les Roberts cares about - issues like ending the Iraq War quickly. I hope that's true, but I have strong doubts. Hope isn't enough. We need to see action.

For months now, we've seen the same small, ambiguously-worded sound bite on the Iraq War from the Arcuri campaign:

I am proud of our troops in Iraq, and grateful for the sacrifices made every day by them and their families. That is why we need a realistic exit strategy based on tangible, achievable benchmarks that allow us to monitor our progress and lead us out of Iraq as soon as possible.

The President made a bad, unnecessary decision. Equally bad, he created a situation that we now have to deal with because a precipitous withdrawal could ensure that Iraq will become a haven for terrorists. He says we must STAY THE COURSE but that is no longer prudent. We must CHANGE THE COURSE. We have toppled a dictator, facilitated free elections, and given the Iraqis an opportunity for democratic government. Our troops have done everything we have asked of them, and now we should reward them by gradually redeploying them. Our commanders tell us that a strategic redeployment is critical to maintaining the integrity of our ground forces. That requires a realistic but definite exit strategy, a well-conceived plan with benchmarks that provide intermediate, achievable goals that enable us to monitor our progress toward a stable democratic Iraq. Benchmarks, wisely arrived at and competently administered, can help us CHANGE THE COURSE.

When you look at this short statement by Arcuri, and read it for meaning instead of feeling, you'll see that there isn't much content there. In essence, Arcuri has suggested no plan at all, although he suggests he has by putting the words "change the course" in all upper case. The closest that Arcuri gets to an actual plan in his statement is the idea that someone will, at some later time, come up with a "well conceived plan with benchmarks", though Arcuri has no idea what that plan would be, that someone will, at that time, set "achievable goals", though Arcuri has no idea what those would be, and that will create "a stable, democratic Iraq" so that American troops can leave. Essentially, Arcuri is proposing that America does something about the Iraq problem, and does it well. If that's a plan, it's a tautological one.

This final point is the only unambiguous one in Arcuri's short statement on Iraq, and it worries me. It worries me, because Arcuri is suggesting that he believes that Amer"ican soldiers should only leave Iraq after the creation of a "stable, democratic Iraq". The trouble with this plan is that the government that we're creating in Iraq is neither stable nor democratic. The new Iraqi government can't survive on its own, and it may not deserve to. It's been caught using brutal methods reminiscent of the Hussein regime: Torture rooms and death squads, among other things. That's not what democracies do.

As much as Arcuri criticizes George W. Bush's handling of the Iraq War, in this last point he seems to actually be in agreement with Bush war policy - that the war can only end when we achieve victory. Well, when will that happen? When could the Iraqi government conceivably be "stable and democratic"? Five years? Ten years? With a permanent American presence keeping the thing from falling apart, like we see in Korea?

Compare Arcuri's short, yet troubling, statement on Iraq with what Les Roberts had to offer. The following is just a short excerpt from a longer policy paper Roberts wrote that went into details about the challenge America faces in Iraq and ideas for what we can do to get out:

“What is to be done?

I believe that we need to extricate our troops from Iraq and promote our national well-being by:

a) Undermining the perception that our troops are in Iraq to get oil by passing legislation to prohibit any for-profit U.S. companies from operating in Iraq for a five year period. We have prohibited U.S. corporations from doing business in Cuba and Libya in the past, and it is even more in the national interest to do so in Iraq today. This would help defuse the anger of the average Iraqi and de-fuel the armed resistance.

b) Setting a timetable for removing troops from Iraq. Opponents of this idea say that this will only encourage the resistance by showing them that if they just lay low and hold out, they will be able to win. I argue that if the resistance might in some way let up as we prepare to withdraw, even if only to lay low, this hiatus still is good if it permits the building of Iraqi governmental capacity. A public timetable will pressure Iraqi police and security forces to step into the security void. A public timetable will discredit radical elements within the country that have argued that violence is the only way to regain control of their country. Twelve months is a reasonable period for withdrawal of all U.S. forces.

c) Setting a date to rescind the President’s authority to conduct war in Iraq. The international image of this President helps fuel the resistance in Iraq and terrorism internationally. Much of the Muslim world perceives George Bush to be defending the interests of the oil companies and conducting a religious or personal crusade. Rescinding his authority to conduct war in Iraq without ongoing Congressional approval will send the message that our withdrawal plans are genuine. Moreover, for the safety of our troops we need to display that there is a check within the U.S. government on this man who is so mistrusted and unpopular throughout the Middle-east.

I am convinced that we can withdraw from Iraq in a rapid manner with minimal chance of open civil war erupting. However, this will need to involve a comprehensive plan that addresses economic activities and the Iraqis’ impressions regarding the US. At this moment in time, having made a mistake invading Iraq, we need a plan that is humble and wise rather than proud and belligerent.

Big difference, huh? That difference came from experience. Les Roberts had extensive foreign policy experience, and he'd been on the ground in Iraq. Michael Arcuri just doesn't have that kind of background.

It's said that Les Roberts got assurances from Mike Arcuri that the sole remaining Democratic campaign would start presenting a position on the Iraq War of a kind that Roberts would agree with. We ought not just to believe such assertions, however. We ought to put them to the test.

Well, here's the test: In the days to come, will Arcuri attempt to learn from the unique experience of Les Roberts in Iraq? Will Arcuri adopt any of the ideas we see above? Will he use Les Roberts as an asset, a source of fresh ideas, or will he cast Les Roberts aside in favor of continuing with safe, yet essentially meaningless, soundbites?

Michael Arcuri has the Democratic nomination wrapped up (so long as no scandal or other problem comes along for Arcuri - we have no backup candidate now). It's the general election he has to worry about now. But, without ever having brought any actual Democratic voters to the polls to prove their support for him, Arcuri has yet to achieve a clear show that the Democratic base is behind him. Donors and Democratic Committee members who are looking for a "winner" aren't at all the same kind of creature as a rank-and-file voter.

In the general election, Arcuri will need as many Democrats to turn out as possible. The stand he takes on the Iraq War may well determine how many Democratic voters decide that a vote for Arcuri is worth the effort of getting out behind the TV.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Les Roberts Drops Out, So It's Arcuri Whether We Like It Or Not

Yesterday, in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Oregon, voters had the chance to choose between Democratic politicians of differing political philosophies. Today was our primary, but we were not invited to vote.

It's a pathetic thing to have to report, but I have called the Les Roberts campaign headquarters, and they're confirming that Les Roberts has quit. He is no longer campaigning to get the Democratic nomination to our seat in the United States House of Representatives.

Now, the Democrats of the 24th District will have no say in the selection of our own candidate. For Democrats, the decision is now Michael Arcuri or nothing.

I'm told that Mike Arcuri told Les Roberts that he will work to advance the issues that Les Roberts promoted. That's a nice promise, but so far, Mike Arcuri hasn't even done a good job of promoting his own issues.

The truth is that those of us who want to push Michael Arcuri to be more progressive, and to stop his irresponsible attacks against what he calls the "liberal fringe", have no leverage now. Les Roberts just lost all the power he once had to influence this race. After all, what can he do if Arcuri keeps up his slide toward the right, get back into the campaign?

Michael Arcuri now can pander to the right, to try to get Republican crossover votes, without any rival to question what he's doing. We progressive Democrats can disagree with Arcuri, but we should not expect to have much impact. Why should Michael Arcuri listen to us now?

The press coverage on this race will now go down. With a petitioning process that will be merely mechanical, voter outreach efforts on the Democratic side will decline. What is there to say to the Democratic voters of the 24th District now: Stand by your man, even though you didn't choose him?

The insider political game played by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has just been handed a victory. The Oneida County Democrats, who have been making arrogant comments for months that the rest of the district doesn't count, have been handed a victory. But, in the end, we can't blame the DCCC or the Oneida County Democrats.

Les Roberts is the only one to blame for quitting. He's the one that made the decision, and no one forced him to make the choice.

I hope that his decision turns out to be the right one. I am deeply concerned about it, but my concern may turn out not to be well-founded.

I now have to take a hard look at my assumptions about the race, and the issues that matter to me, and conclude that they don't matter very much to most other people. I don't think that there are as many idealists in the 24th District as I hoped there were. The political pragmatists and the party loyalists seem to outnumber idealists these days, and maybe it's always been that way.

Local democratic process took a bit of a hit today, but the choice of local Democrats may have been the same in the end. It's probable that most Democrats would have made the simple choice to pick the candidate that looked more like a winner because, this year, most Democrats are more focused on winning than on thinking about what it is that they're trying to win.

So, Les Roberts fades now, but he was never what the progressives in the Democratic Party were really fighting for. Mr. Roberts only stood for four short months as a representative for the real goal. We progressives have been through enough failed candidates on the local, state and national level in recent years to realize that the ultimate work is not about electing any particular person. It's about the ideas that form the highest tradition of politics and government in America: The ideals of progressivism that, although on the wane in popularity, still hold the key for the revitalization of our nation's promise.

I'm inclined to believe that Michael Arcuri will be less representative of the progressive tradition than Les Roberts would have been. I've been very disappointed in Mr. Arcuri's campaign so far. But, perhaps, I will be surprised by Arcuri. Perhaps, without any Democrats to compete against, he will stop attacking the left, stop pandering to the right, and start speaking up on the issues that matter to me.

It is clear Michael Arcuri would do a better job in Congress than Ray Meier or Brad Jones, though how much better is not clear at all. Michael Arcuri has earned victory in the field of the Democratic primary by assembling the most powerful political machine, but he has not yet earned the support of progressive Democrats. In order to earn that support, Arcuri has to convince us that he has a political vision that extends beyond whatever it will take to get him a seat in the House of Representatives. Whether Arcuri will try to reach out to progressive Democrats has yet to be seen. Certainly, many successful Democrats have made their way into office by taking progressive support for granted.

Though Les Roberts will now be joining the ranks of Bruce Tytler and Leon Koziol, this blog will keep on going, with the same mission, dedicated to the campaign to take back the 24th District from those who aim to dismantle Central New York's tradition of progressive civic values. That's not a campaign any politician will represent, but it is a campaign nonetheless.

I'll be pointing out the many ways in which the Republican candidates fail to represent progressive values, but when Michael Arcuri goes against a progressive vision, I'll nip at his heels too.

The drama of primary season is now over, and it won't pick back up until autumn. The drama of a possible progressive campaign against the Republican Congress is also over. Now, we'll all be watching a battle between two politicians from the same county (as surely the gig is up for Brad Jones), both claiming to be centrists, arguing about the issues that they regard to be safe to talk about.

Right now, the prospect of such a campaign feels about as exciting as an invitation to watch a weekend full of reruns of The Golden Girls. Yet, it remains important to pay attention, and it is up to us outsiders to make it more interesting. It's up to us to continue to speak out of turn.

Stay tuned.

Ray Meier Gets It Right And Wrong On Energy

Let me start out by saying that I'm genuinely glad to see that the Republicans have finally come around to the position on energy that progressives have been holding for years: The fossil fuel economy cannot continue, and we need alternative energy technologies. So, thanks to Ray Meier, Brad Jones, and Ken Camera for accepting this basic fact so that we can all move forward together on the issue.

Thanks also to Ray Meier for pointing out that "band-aid" measures like the Republican proposal for a $100 rebate for gas, as proposed by Republicans in Congress, or a temporary elimination of the gas tax, as proposed by Michael Arcuri, are "silly". We need serious proposals like the Apollo Energy Initiative supported by Les Roberts.

Ray Meier does not deserve credit, however, for riding over 100 miles in a 1976 Cadillac El Dorado as a part of his campaign. Ray Meier says he was trying to make a point. Really, all he made with this gesture was a long trail of blue-black smoke.

Polluting the atmosphere and guzzling gas while campaigning on an alternative energy platform just doesn't make sense. Ray Meier would have done better to do what Dennis Hastert tried to do, picking a small hybrid car like a Prius to campaign drive around the 24th district instead.

Then again, Hastert didn't exactly pull that stunt off very well himself. He told reporters he was driving back to his office in a Prius, but then stopped around the corner and was caught by photojournalists climbing into a sport utility vehicle.

Ray Meier's talk is just as empty. What does Meier actually propose for energy "reform"? News Channel 36 described Meier's idea of clean enery generously, as "developing more oil reserves across North America." Translation: Ray Meier thinks that the way to solve the problems inherent to the fossil fuel economy is to keep on drilling more oil wells.

It seems that all the Republicans have learned to do on energy reform is to talk. Their actions remain as dirty as ever.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Am I Curious? Well, not THAT Curious.

There are people who know how to play hardball politics, and then there are people who try to play hardball politics, but just end up being silly.

It's in this second category that we have to place Robert Hyde, webmaster for the Oneida County Democrats and writer of the pro-Arcuri Weekly Democrat blog. Bob Hyde is a pretty fervent Arcuri supporter and he gets pretty enthusiastic about promoting Michael Arcuri's candidacy at any opportunity.

So, it seems, Bob gets pretty upset at independent bloggers like myself who feel free to ask questions and make criticisms of any candidate we choose. So, Mr. Hyde comes on over and reads through the blog looking for anything he can get outraged about. He's even placed personal messages about me on the Oneida County Democratic Committee web site, promising to expose me.

Exposing me for what? For writing on blogs. Big shocker, I know. But, that revelation was supposed to make it "all over", to force me to stop writing on blogs... because no one who writes on blogs should be... um... writing on blogs.

Well, apparently Bob Hyde is now going after other people online, including someone who leaves comments here under the screen name "Curious".

Curious left a message here this afternoon that reads as follows:
"24 Dem--Bob Hyde has gone off the deep end to the point where he thinks I'm you (being apparently incapable of imagining that anyone else might disagree with him). I have communicated to the Arcuri campaign that he is not doing their candidate any favors and that they should consider distancing themselves from him. We'll see if that has any effect. And he never WAS able to explain to me what he liked about Mike Arcuri, which is even more of a handicap to that campaign than his general berserk tone. I hope a sensible Arcuri blog starts up soon, so we can actually learn something about the guy before we're forced to pull the lever."

Look, it's okay if Robert Hyde wants to get silly and write alarmist stuff about people, and confuse who I am with who they are, but I know very well that very few people are interested in my identity.

What people are interested in is the campaign for Congress in New York State's 24th District. They're interested in the issues of the day - war and peace, freedom and Big Brother spy programs, global warming, jobs, energy, and so on... you know, important stuff. They're interested in the differences between the candidates on these kinds of issues, like the differences between Mike Arcuri and Les Roberts in health care policy that I wrote about this morning.

These personality conflicts are kind of fun, but let's try to focus on the personalities of the candidates, and their performance in this great race.

Arcuri and Roberts: A difference on health care

It's nice to see the Democratic candidates are speaking out on an important issue. In this morning's issue of the Utica Observer Dispatch, a much-too-short article reports on the comments of Michael Arcuri and Les Roberts on the deadline for senior citizens to enroll in the labyrinthine Medicare Part D prescription drug program.

The two Republican candidates are not to be heard at all on the troubling program. That's sadly typical and in line with what seems to be a Republican agenda to make our lives harder with increasing government bureaucracy. Let's not forget that incumbent Republican Congressman Sherwood Boehlert actually voted for this albatross.

But what do Les Roberts and Mike Arcuri have to say about Medicare Part D? They both decry the brutality of the deadline for enrollment, but there are some differences important differences in their positions.

Arcuri says he thinks that the Medicare Part D prescription drug program is a good idea, but want there to be some changes to it. He wants the deadline for enrollment to be permanently eliminated, and believes that the government ought to have the power to negotiate prescription drug prices on behalf of Medicare recipients. Arcuri also wants there to be more flexibility in the plans offered by Medicare Part D.

Les Roberts, on the other hand, opposes the Medicare Part D program, and calls it a "fraud". Roberts says, "People have been led to believe that it represents a straightforward addition of prescription drug coverage to Medicare. Part D represents a privatizing of prescription drug coverage."

Roberts has issued a health care policy paper in which he calls for the expansion of federal government coverage, including prescription drug coverage, in a series of stages until all Americans have coverage. "I believe the most expedient way to ensure that uninsured Americans get coverage is to expand the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. This program already provides coverage to all federal government employees by providing a wide range of health plans to buy into. The risk pool created by opening these plans to a great number of people may eventually reduce costs to everyone in the plans."

Arcuri has not issued any policy papers yet, but he does say, "We must ensure that all Americans have access to quality health care coverage." How Arcuri proposes to do so is not clear.

Monday, May 15, 2006

From Within the Lansing Democrats

For a couple months now, I've been copied on the email list of the Democratic Committee over in Lansing. I don't know why, as I don't even live in Lansing, but I enjoy reading the messages, as they give me some interesting odd bits of news.

Take, as an example, the following message from Marcy Rosenkrantz, who seems to be on the Tompkins County Democratic Committee:

"Fellow Lansing Democrats,

Greg, Dan and I attended the Dryden committee meeting, at which Les Roberts spoke and answered questions. I can't speak for Greg, but Dan and I were very impressed with his remarks and responses to questions. He followed up with us with a phone call over the weekend. He and Arcuri will be talking at the county meeting later this month. I hope you will all vote for endorsing him. If you cannot attend the meeting, PLEASE make sure to get your proxy in to someone who will attend. This vote is very important to all residents in the 24th Congressional District. If you need more info about Les roberts visit his web site http://www.lesroberts2006.com/
Dan and I will be attending if you want one of us to carry your proxy please let us know in time to receive it.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Ken Camera on the Revitalization of Democracy

Rebel Republican Ken Camera is talking about the attacks on our democratic society with a passion and detail that none of the other candidates has yet been able to muster:

"The assault on America's democracy today is happening in many ways. Some of the nuances are particularly disturbing.

If the public votes but is deprived of the unbiased facts, have we achieved the potential of our democracy? Modern media is so multifaceted in its assault on our senses and emotions, that it easily lends itself to the presentation of distortions and personal attacks by those in power or hungering to be in power. In this arena democracy is sort of a bystander, or worse, window-dressing for what is really going on - the grab for power without any genuine commitment to the democracy and its essential food - accurate information, separation of church and state, checks and balances (separation of powers), and the idea of service to the common man. The grab for power without conscience or with self-righteous conscience is ugly and vile.

As the paid stewards of our democracy politicians must get back to the roots of this democracy. And if they can't, because they are so caught up in their struggle for power, then ordinary people are going to have to put down their private pursuits and by the power of their votes commit the politicians to a number of activities as a prerequisite to holding office:

1. Gathering and presentation of accurate facts
2. Making government and its representatives more accessible
3. Facilitating the affiliation of private citizens and their access to government
4. Limiting the private access of corporations and their representatives to elected officials and public servants.

Let me repeat this. By the power of our votes, we must tell our politicians, before all else, that the bottom line is being committed to the truth, helping the common man get better and easier access to the halls of government, and conversely limiting private and privileged access of business to legislators and the executive branch."

What will our Democratic candidates say about telephone database

"Revelations that the government collected the phone-call records of millions of Americans touched off a political fire-storm Thursday, prompting calls for a congressional investigation."

That's from the USA Today this morning. It's the political story everybody is talking about. Now, I'd like to hear from the two men who are competing for my vote to become the Democratic nominee for New York's 24th District to take a seat in the United States House of Representatives. Les Roberts and Michael Arcuri, what do you have to say on the issue?

So far, nothing.

The President of the United States has just been caught grabbing records of tens of millions of Americans' telephone private calls, including information about who they called and when they called. These are innocent Americans who have had their privacy ripped apart. It was all done without the legally required search warrants or other forms of oversight.

This is no petty violation. This is a high crime - an impeachable crime. The President of the United States not only violated the legal protection against unreasonable search and seizure of personal papers guaranteed in the Bill of Rights - he also encouraged American corporations to break a very specific law: Section 222 of the Communications Act of 1934, which makes it against the law for telephone companies to share information about their customers' calling habits.

A congressional investigation is being called for, and that investigation could lead to impeachment. As this is now a congressional matter, we voters deserve to know what the candidates would do if they were sitting in the House of Representatives right now. Would they stand up and take action, or would they sit down and do nothing.

We know what the Republican candidates would do. They would defend George W. Bush, no matter how crimes he committed. But what about Congressman Les Roberts or Congressman Mike Arcuri?

Release a statement. Stand up for us, for our right to make a simple telephone call without George W. Bush, the NSA, CIA, FBI and Pentagon knowing about it.

Speak out, or your silence will be your messsage.

What is Michael Arcuri doing with that primary campaign money?

Index of the Michael Arcuri campaign:

  • Last "breaking" news article on the Arcuri campaign web site: 17 days ago.

  • Last press release from the Michael Arcuri campaign: 8 days ago.

  • Last press release before that: 18 days ago.

  • Items on Michael Arcuri's campaign calendar for May: Zero.

  • Items on Michael Arcuri's campaign calendar for June: Zero.

    What is Michael Arcuri doing with all that campaign money donated specifically for his primary campaign? Arcuri proudly boasted of bringing in almost $100,000 for the primary campaign, but what's he doing with it?

    The people who donated thousands of dollars of their hard earned money deserve a Democratic candidate who will work like hell to get elected.

    Michael Arcuri has a full time job as District Attorney for Oneida County. He was re-elected to that job just a few months ago, so I understand that he has a lot of pressure to devote his time to that job instead of to his own campaign.

    That's why he needs to use the money he's raised to hire people to build a campaign.

    Mike Arcuri is waiting too long and moving too slowly and speaking with too little initiative. If he is able to use the secretive support of the DCCC to win the Democratic nomination, he will be in a weak position to take on Ray Meier... and still working full time as Oneida County District Attorney.

    I don't want to wake up on Election Day this year to look back on a campaign year where the Democratic candidate ambled his way casually to the polls. I want to see a Democratic candidate running hard all the way to the finish line.
  • Thursday, May 11, 2006

    Michael Arcuri is on MySpace

    Yesterday, I wrote about my consideration of the potential for the sites MySpace and TagWorld for political outreach. Some people's reaction was that, as someone in my mid-30s, I shouldn't try to stick a toe in those places online. They say I'm just too old.

    This morning, I found out, to my surprise, Michael Arcuri is already on MySpace. It turns out that he committed suicide three years ago.

    Right now, those of us who are sitting comfortably in our post-youth could stick to the old ways of communicating. We could do what's already been done. We could stay with the now-stable-and-staid format of conventional web page and email. The Republicans will do the same thing, and so it will all cancel itself out.

    While we stand still, sites like MySpace and TagWorld will surge to new heights of popularity, but we, as mature adults, will say that the Democratic campaign for the 24th District seat in the House of Representatives just doesn't need that much attention.

    And then, when someone searches for Michael Arcuri in the busy world of MySpace, they won't find a way to send a donation or volunteer for the Arcuri for Congress campaign. Instead, they'll find a touching memorial to a young man who killed himself three years ago.

    There seem to be a large number of people involved in the political campaigns who are terribly afraid of new ways of communicating that they don't understand. They'd rather stick with the tried and true and predictable.

    I say that approach will get us a predictable result: A Republican Representative for another quarter century.

    We Democrats are underdogs. We have a good chance at winning this race, but we don't have the advantage. If the Democrats are going to win, they're going to have to be energetic and imaginative, because we cannot beat the Republicans with a paint-by-numbers approach.

    So, am I too old to be on MySpace or TagWorld? There's one way to find out - try it. At least I'll be showing up, which is half of the struggle. I certainly don't think that the political moment will go to the political party who has the largest number of people who feel like they're too old to get up and do something.

    Wednesday, May 10, 2006

    Considering an extension in political media

    Blogger, the Google-owned site through which this blog operates, has been a great resource for a few years now. It's a quick and easy way for people to get information and ideas online. It's a very popular place that has expanded the scope of political debate.

    Yet, a pure blog format has its limits for political expression. It enables me to have some words, with pictures if I want to add them, in a linear succession of pages, each of which disappears down the page and into an archive that is rarely visited. The form is eternal, but the content is fleeting.

    I'm a few days into exploring another medium for political expression: TagWorld. TagWorld is one of those relationship sites, like MySpace, but it offers users a great deal more flexibility - and spares visitors the trashy advertisements for how to get dates with sexy young things who don't wear much in the way of clothes.

    TagWorld lets users create blogs, but it also allows space for more enduring pages to supplement the blogs. Audio and video, as well as graphics, can be more easily integrated into a page that can serve as a solid center.

    I'm still just in the process of playing around on TagWorld, and haven't yet made it sing for me, but I'm getting to feel more comfortable with the interface.

    I'm contemplating the creation of a space centering around the 24th district congressional race there, as a way to reach out to a different kind of person than those who read this blog. Don't get me wrong - you're all great, but this format tends to attract people who are already interested and involved in politics.

    TagWorld appeals to a very different crowd - younger, technologically saavy, but not yet involved in politics. Whether Michael Arcuri or Les Roberts becomes our nominee, we 24th district Democrats need to find new ways to expand the reach of the campaign, beyond cheesy television and radio advertisements, and glossy brochures that glimmer but don't say much. We also need to reach out nationally - local resources alone will not win the race.

    Take a look at MySpace, and you'll see that many politicians, like Russ Feingold, Ned Lamont, and Louise Slaughter, are using the interface there to expand their political networks. Nobody is doing that yet on TagWorld, even though the TagWorld space is more flexible and powerful, and encourages people to link to eachother like crazy.

    So, I don't think I'll abandon this place on Blogger in dealing with the 24th District race, but for those who are following the campaign in our district, I may be soon extending into the richer and more youthful environment of TagWorld. Give me a few days and I'll get back to you on it...

    Tuesday, May 09, 2006

    Ray Meier's Empty Interview

    There's a hilarious blog entry up from Eric Kuhn at Hamilton College up recently. It's an entry about a recent interview with Republican congressional candidate Ray Meier.

    I went to this blog expecting to find out more about what Ray Meier has to say on the issues. I expected to read about the content of the interview.

    That's not what I found. The blog entry has nothing but a collection of silent pictures of Ray Meier. No words. Apparently, nothing Ray Meier said during the interview created much of an impression.

    Ray Meier: Wallflower for Congress.

    Monday, May 08, 2006

    Taking the Debate to the GOP

    In a dark little corner of my mind, Ken Camera makes me want to register Republican, just to cause trouble.

    Ken, more literally known as Robert Camera, is running for the Republican nomination to the United States House of Representatives for New York's 24th District. More plainly, he's running a campaign to get on the ballot for the Republican primary for Congress this year.

    Can he do it? Well, Camera is quite frank about the genuine grassroots nature of his campaign. He says he's raised $50.00. But, Camera is online with greater speed than many of the big name, big money candidates in this race were, and with a more incisive and gutsy political platform. Check it out:

  • Leave Iraq before the summer of 2007 with the exact timetable and orchestration to be decided in collaboration with the Iraqi government.
  • Realign our foreign policy to be consistent with the Bill of Rights and the United States Constitution so we can reengage the world with new strategies to address international terrorism, climate change, energy security, human rights, and trade.
  • Develop and enforce new rules that govern lobbyists, campaign contributions, and the general code of conduct. Guidelines will be written by a commission of non-partisan citizens rather than by legislators.
  • Create a non-partisan Federal commission that will expose to the people the shameful history of gerrymandering practices in all fifty states in the Union in order to encourage reform of our legislative system.
  • Develop a national energy policy that will be a "win-win-win" for the people rather than a corporate welfare delivery mechanism. Win-win-win means we must create an energy policy that reduces environmental degradation, increases our energy independence, and moderates the cost of fueling our economy.
  • Eliminate all earmarks for Congress and get legislators back to the business of passing legislation that addresses national and/or major regional problems. Earmarks are the way elected representatives maintain incumbency and job security.
  • Separate the Federal Emergency Management Agency from the Department of Homeland Security to assure that future disasters are handled professionally and create some needed redundancy in our national security network.
  • Apply competency principles (under the principle "mal administration") to the expected impeachment of George Bush and his administration.
  • Apply "the pay as you go" approach to government spending and start reducing the financial burden to future generations created as a result of the Iraq War, the failed drug prescription bill, and Katrina reconstruction, by repealing the 2003 Bush tax cut for families with incomes over $200,000/year.
  • Given that we are supposed to be a participatory democracy, fulfill the following promise to the American people: You deserve to have the facts regarding important issues facing our country. We will not corrupt or alter scientific research or legal records to suit our political agendas. The point of departure for debate on any issue should be complete compilation of known facts and making them accessible to the electorate.

    Ken Camera may not have much potential to win the Republican primary, but he does have great potential to affect the course of the general election. Especially if Camera can get on the ballot, which is no mean task, he'll be in a position to talk on the issues you see above as a Republican, and that may be just the kind of dramatic shock to otherwise unreceptive audiences that could open up their minds to this quite progressive set of ideas.

    The result: Ken Camera could shift the ideological center of this campaign a few degrees to the left.

    Take a look at Camera's position on the war, for instance. It's much more explictly anti-war in its actual policy proposal than what the Michael Arcuri for Congress campaign has been able to come up with. Mike Arcuri's people have only been able to muster a kind of mushy suggestion for "a realistic but definite exit strategy, a well-conceived plan with benchmarks that provide intermediate, achievable goals that enable us to monitor our progress toward a stable democratic Iraq."

    Understand that Michael Arcuri isn't as free to speak courageously as Ken Camera, because Arcuri is focused on winning the primary and general election, not on campaigning to promote the ideals that he believes in. Ken Camera knows he doesn't have much more than a tiny chance of winning, so he doesn't have to be afraid of speaking the truth as he sees it.

    Some people will immediately dismiss Ken Camera because he won't win the election. Such people generally fail to perceive any dimensions in this race besides the simple dimension of winning versus losing. Ken Camera will win if he is able to affect what the other candidates have to talk about, by making Republicans and right wing independents slightly more skeptical of the GOP party line, and by shaming Democrats into finally acting like Democrats instead of scared kids trying out for auditions to become honorary Republicans.

    Keep it up, Ken. Stir the pot. On both the Republican and Democratic side, the establishment formula for running a campaign has become too stale, and out of touch with the urgent needs of the political moment.

    Any readers out there with a bit of extra energy and a puckish reaction to convention may be able to help Ken keep his campaign going all the way until primary election day in September. Unless I'm confused in the early hour of the morning and am thinking about election rules in another state, it would be perfectly legal for a Democrat to carry petitions for his or her Democratic candidate of choice and then to go out the next day and carry petitions for Ken Camera on the Republican Party line. Certainly, any petition signatures gained from Republicans for Ken Camera will make it that much more difficult for the other Republicans, right wingers Brad Jones and Ray Meier, to get their ballot work done.

    (help me out with confirming this rule, all you readers who love to show your knowledge of teeny weeny political details)
  • Friday, May 05, 2006

    Les Roberts Noted by Pro-Peace Psychoanalysts

    I just wrote an article noting the pathetically thin online presence of the Brad Jones for Congress campaign. The three other significant candidates in this race have each established more of an impressive online footprint. As New York's 24th district race gains ever more attention on the national level, it's becoming possible to find discussion of our candidates in ever-more interesting nooks.

    For example, this morning I found that Les Roberts has gained the attention of a group called Psychoanalysts for Peace and Justice, which wrote an article entitled, Les Roberts, of Lancet fame, running for Congress.

    I don't know that anti-war psychoanalysts are a vital constituency in this race, but then again, every bit of publicity helps.

    Brad Jones: Shaolin Monk?

    Republican congressional Brad Jones has had an entire year, more than all the other candidates combined, to establish a credible online presence, but he's failed. The consequence to his campaign? When I did a Google Blogsearch for Brad Jones this morning, the top five results were for:

    - Brad Jones, Best Male Athlete at Fraser High School in Michigan

    - Brad Jones, Australian soccer goalie

    - Brad Jones, Shaolin Karate instructor

    - Brad Jones, Fishing guide in Colorado

    - Brad Jones, expert in the role of vitamins and minerals in nutrition

    There was nothing at all in the top 5 hits about Brad Jones running for Congress. A search for the other candidates, Les Roberts, Michael Arcuri, and Ray Meier, does not yield the same empty result. Debate the worth of these three candidates as you will, but at least they aren't being ignored online.

    Thursday, May 04, 2006

    Conservation as Important as 18 Cents of Savings

    A couple days ago I wrote an article about the credibility of the different candidates running for New York's 24th District seat in the US House of Representatives in discussing the energy crisis. In that article I focused one side of the issue: Reducing the price of energy through the extension of alternative energy technologies.

    A reader who commented on that article last night reminds us that there is another side to the energy issue: Consumption. The reader wrote,

    "I want a politician who straight up tells us we can't continue to lead a lifestyle with such extravagent energy use. I want a politician who gives us a smart direction to significantly reduce our energy consumption while maintaining a high standard of living.

    Energy is in demand and the price is rising significantly but you miss the other half of the coin. Commodities are rising just as fast. We simply can't afford to continue a highly consumptive lifestyle. No sense bitching about it. Time to deal with it."

    I think that this reader has a good point. Most of the political debate in Congress right now is focused on extremely short-term solutions to what is basically a long-term, and probably permanent, problem. Fossil fuels just aren't going to cut it, and temporary measures like that ridiculous one-time $100 rebate won't help Americans.

    There is a temptation for candidates for Congress, as well as sitting members, to offer quick fixes for the short term. Just yesterday, for example, Michael Arcuri stood in front of a gas station sign with a small group of people from his campaign, and for the television cameras, declared that he supports a repeal of the federal tax on gasoline. That would save drivers 18 cents per gallon.

    Mike Arcuri said, "If we suspend that, we would give some relief to the people who use their vehicles each and every day to get back and forth to work and, just as importantly, the small business owners, the people that own construction companies, the people that have trucks on the road, the people that drive for a living, they need help."

    Well, we do need help from energy costs. That's undeniable. But, will a one time 18 cent reduction do the job? That 18 cents would be more than made up for by the time we hit summer, and if the Gulf gets another major hurricane or George W. Bush starts a new war against Iran, 18 cents will look like nothing in comparison to the price hikes we'll see.

    To be fair to Arcuri, he also proposes investment in research into alternative energy. That's a good part of the solution - but it needs to be funded by sources like the gas tax. If anything, the tax on gasoline needs to be increased by a few cents per gallon, and that money needs to be put directly into the kind of research that Arcuri, Les Roberts, Ray Meier, and all the other candidates say they support. The reality of the budget is that America's surpluses have been drained into huge deficits by the borrow-and-spend Republicans in Congress. Reducing the gas tax and calling for increased alternative energy research at the same time just won't work.

    The other important function of the gas tax is to encourage conservation. The patterns last year showed it quite clearly: When gas prices went up, people stopped buying SUVs, and got in line for hybrids. They stopped driving long distances for vacations, and spent more money locally. They stopped driving in separate parallel cars to work, and started carpooling. Reduce the gas tax, and you'll encourage people to keep driving more, reducing supply, and moving the price of gasoline right back up again.

    I'm glad to see that Michael Arcuri's ill-thought gas tax amnesty plan has some balance in talk about conservation. On the Arcuri for Congress web site, under "issues", Arcuri states, "we need policies that encourage energy conservation. It would make far more sense to give tax breaks to encourage state-of-art energy policies for the future than to give tax breaks to oil industries to build new refineries which permit them to continue to profit from exploiting oil."

    That's a nice sound bite. Now, Arcuri needs to show that he can get serious about energy policy, in both funding alternative technology and in encouraging conservation, by issuing a comprehensive energy policy paper.

    Les Roberts has released a policy paper on the energy crisis that is much longer than Arcuri's short statement, though it could still include much more detail, especially about conservation. In that paper, Roberts writes:
    "Our federal government must lead an Apollo-like effort to develop and promote renewable energy alternatives. The effort must involve researching and developing new energy sources, providing start-up capital and tax incentives to apply those technologies, and developing a social commitment toward creating a sustainable economy. An initiative like this will end our dependence on fossil-fuels, which will promote improved national security and will help to protect our nation’s natural resources. New York’s 24th District would benefit from such an initiative more than many others in the country. With 10 four-year universities in the 24th District, we could see millions of research dollars pour into the District. This translates to more high-paying, high-quality jobs. The work needed to convert our buildings systems to alternative sources of energy would create thousands of new jobs for our region. Furthermore, every resident and business in the 24th District would see the benefits of this initiative through reduced energy costs associated with living and working in our region."

    Les Roberts has put his support behind Maurice Hinchey's bipartisan Energy for Our Future Act, co-authored with Moderate Connecticut Republican Congressman Christopher Shays. The bill "repeals the billions of subsidies for oil and gas industries given away in the Republican Energy Policy Act of 2005, encourages innovative mass transit solutions, increased conservation and weatherization, requires renewable energy portfolios and increases the corporate fuel economy standard to 40 miles per gallon."

    The Energy for Our Future Act is the kind of comprehensive effort that we need to see coming out of the House of Representatives. It would be an easy thing for Mike Arcuri to follow the lead of Les Roberts and endorse the bill, thus adding to his own credibility on the energy issue, and moving away from cute gimmicks like the promise to save 18 cents for a few months. Will Arcuri make the move?

    Wednesday, May 03, 2006

    Will the Republican Candidates Repudiate Bush?

    There are many issues, but just one question, that matters when it comes to evaluating the Republican candidates: Will they repudiate George W. Bush, or do they embrace him and his failed policies?

    Ken Camera says YES. He favors impeaching President Bush for incompetence.

    Brad Jones won't say.

    Ray Meier won't say.

    We deserve to know whether these Republicans intend to help keep America going down the disastrous path of the last six years. The question of support for George W. Bush ought to be prime question in for the entire campaign. After all, a strong majority of all voters, not just Democrats, believes that George W. Bush has been a miserable failure as President.

    Make this election a referendum on George W. Bush, and the Democrats win. Elect a Republican to Congress, and you might as well be voting for George W. Bush. It's clear that the majority of the voters in the 24th District would not do so.

    Get off topic with silly pork barrel proposals like expanding route 12 or continuing Sherwood Boehlert's sponsorship of the Family Dollar chain, and the Democrats lose. After all, every candidate can promise with equal credibility to bring money home for local projects. Local loyalties are not going to win the election for the Democrats. We need a Democratic candidate who is smart enough to transcend the mire of local politics and unite the 24th District's voters with a concept they can almost all agree with, no matter where they live: Rejection of George W. Bush.

    Tuesday, May 02, 2006

    Which Candidate Has Most Credibility on Energy?

    Seen yesterday on the eastern edge of the 24th District: An advertisement for the "low" price of $3.05 per gallon of gasoline.

    We dodged the bullet this winter with unseasonably warm temperatures, but it is not wise to rest our fortunes on good luck. We need serious ideas for reforming our energy infrastructure.

    Plainly put, the Republicans have no credibility when it comes to energy. They've been pushing America to keep the same old rusty energy infrastructure it had in the 1950s, and only now that fuel prices are going through the roof are they trying to change their tune.

    The Democrats have been trying to prepare a more sustainable, efficient energy infrastructure in place since the 1970s, but, starting with the short-sighted politics of Ronald Reagan, those efforts have been thwarted. We are paying the consequences now.

    We cannot afford to spend any more time denying that a serious problem exists. We cannot afford to follow Republican plans for perpetuation of fossil fuel technologies. We need serious people who have experience in dealing with environmental issues in our national government.

    Both Michael Arcuri and Les Roberts seem to be sincere in their desire to promote clean and efficient energy alternatives. Les Roberts has the edge in training and experience, with a PhD in environmental engineering from Johns Hopkins University and years of experience working to establish infrastructure in crisis situations, dealing with the delivery of water and power to vulnerable populations.

    On the Republican side, Ken Camera has some experience as an energy consultant, but it's not yet clear whether he is a serious candidate, or a gadfly. Ray Meier is not even a shadow of what Sherwood Boehlert was when it comes to issues of energy, the environment, and science. Meier's interest in energy policy is only to follow the party line, whatever it is at the moment.

    Gasoline prices are beginning their climb toward summer highs, and if we get struck by another strong hurricane or another foolish military adventure in the Middle East, our economy may not be able to cope. We may be lucky again this year, and dodge another bullet, but we'll face the same challenge the next year, and the next.

    We need a new Congress that can take strong action to address this growing energy crisis, and not just slap a new coat of paint over the same of jumble of excuses and corrupt neglect.

    Monday, May 01, 2006

    Painful Photographs Key to Brad Jones Campaign

    There's something compulsive about career politicians like Brad Jones. They just can't seem to resist having their picture taken with anybody who is willing to stand next to them for as long as 5 seconds. The campaign web site of Republican Brad Jones is littered with photographs of Brad Jones standing next to people - even people who seem to appear that they can't wait to get away from Jones.

    brad jones Joe Parmon Herkimer

    Take, for example, this photograph of Brad Jones standing next to Joe Parmon, a reporter for the Evening Telegram newspaper in Herkimer. Parmon sure doesn't look happy about having the picture taken, but Brad Jones is oblivious, giving his practiced, eager smile.

    I'd love to know what Brad Jones said or did to give Parmon that look, but even more than that, I'd love to know what the Brad Jones for Congress campaign was thinking putting this picture on their web site. Are they thinking of a new campaign slogan, perhaps?

    Vote Brad Jones for Congress:
    Isn't It Time A Politician Made You Feel Nervous?

    Michael Arcuri Trading Cards???

    I can't take it anymore - I need answers. From the first day that the Michael Arcuri for Congress campaign web site has been up, there's been this link entitled Trading Cards that leads to a page that reads merely,
    "Michael Arcuri Trading Cards
    Stay tuned for a fun new way to learn about the candidate and the 24th Congressional District!"

    This is just plain weird.

    Is this the ace up the sleeve of the Arcuri for Congress campaign? I don't get it. Are we voters all supposed to collect these trading cards about Michael Arcuri, like he's some kind of superstar?

    I can picture it now: Two twelve year-old boys, sitting under a tree at a picnic table. One says to the other, "I've got the Herkimer County endorsement card." The other kid responds, "Cool! Wait 'til Dad sees that! I'll trade you two announcement speech cards and a jogging shorts card for that one, okay?"

    Who thought this up? Really, I'd like to know names. Was it a political consultant? Someone in the DA's office brown nosing for a promotion?

    What's worse than the hubris of thinking the the voters of the 24th District are hungry for a "fun new way" to idolize Michael Arcuri is the ongoing neglect of failing to actually produce these promised trading cards. The link has been up for weeks and weeks, but where are the cards?

    The anticipation builds... will you be waiting in line when these cards are released?