Sunday, November 19, 2006

Will Michael Arcuri Join Pelosi in Silence on Military Commissions Act?

This morning, the Washington Post laments that the new Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives seems to have no intention of investigation, much less providing a remedy for, the infamous Military Commissions Act.

For those who have not paid attention to the news this autumn, the Military Commissions Act does the following:
  • Revokes the right of habeas corpus
  • Ends enforcement of the Geneva Conventions
  • Legalizes torture
  • Gives war criminals legal amnesty
  • Sets up kangaroo courts with absurd standards of justice
  • Provides the President of the United States the power to imprison people without any criminal charge or proof of wrongdoing

    Democrats were elected to Congress to challenge the Republican way of doing things. But, so far, Nancy Pelosi doesn't seem very interested in dealing with the most serious Republican abuses: The Republicans' attacks upon the liberty that Americans once held dear. Do Americans still hold that liberty dear?

    Some clearly do. Others don't seem to care - and among those others are many Democrats. Nancy Pelosi did not vote for the Military Commissions Act, but she faces a House of Representatives in which the majority of members did, or would have, if they had been elected. New Congressman Mike Arcuri is among those who supported the Military Comissions Act. He thought it was a jim dandy idea.

    When a big chunk of the Democratic Congress joins the Republicans in supporting laws like the Military Commissions Act, we may have a Democratic Party majority in Congress, but more functionally, we still have a Congress that disdains the effort to protect the freedoms guaranteed us under the Bill of Rights.

    We will see, in a few short weeks, what kind of Congressman Michael Arcuri will really be. Will he work with other Democrats to take action on the Military Commissions Act? If he follows the new House leadership, it appears that he won't. Here's what the Washington Post's editorial board had to say this morning about the House Democratic leaderships apparent plan of inaction on the Military Commissions Act:

    "Future House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) recently named three priorities for investigation, including private contracting in Iraq, the handling of Hurricane Katrina and the administration's formulation of energy policy. It's hard to understand why Democrats would insist on examining Vice President Cheney's first-term energy task force but would not seek to determine -- at last -- how senior military commanders and defense officials may have contributed to the prisoner abuse scandal at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. No one but low-ranking soldiers has been criminally prosecuted for the shocking abuse at Abu Ghraib, despite evidence that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and several top generals played a role in sanctioning practices such as sexually humiliating prisoners and threatening them with dogs. Democrats now will have the opportunity -- and the duty -- to insist on accountability."
  • Thursday, November 16, 2006

    Congress Must Act to Restrain Security State Insanity

    What's shown, or heard, in this video may be the tipping point that finally brings America face to face with the nightmarish implications of its Homeland Security paranoia. Watch it. More than that, listen to it, because much of the action is obscured by the crowd of witnesses...

    ...witnesses of the repeated attacks by police against a UCLA student, using a taser stun gun. What had the student done? Had he been violent? No. He was simply reading books in his own university library, without identification. For that, the police shocked him over and over again, with the student screaming in pain each time. I count at least 5 times the student was shocked.

    I'm putting this movie on this blog, because it is a sign of a serious problem that Congress needs to deal with: The security paranoia in the United States has gotten out of hand. As the Los Angeles Times reports, this is not an isolated incident. More and more, police are being caught on tape using violent force against people just for refusing to show identification in public places.

    The police in this particular incident were so violent that they threatened to attack one witness, David Remesnitsky, with their stun gun simply for not leaving the scene of the brutality.

    Describing the attack, Remesnitsky said, "It was beyond grotesque. By the end they took him over the stairs, lifted him up and Tasered him on his rear end. It seemed like it was inappropriately placed. The Tasering was so unnecessary and they just kept doing it."

    We don't need security sweeps of police officers through university libraries, attacking students with stun guns, to keep us safe. Homeland Security has gone too far. The Democratic Congress ought to be holding hearings on this problem, and finding ways to bring the security paranoia back under control.

    Well, that's my reaction, anyway, after watching a student being electrically shocked over and over and over and over again. But, as the Democrats in this district keeps on telling me, I'm just part of the liberal fringe that Congressman Arcuri wants to distance himself from.

    Maybe this kind of thing is what the Democratic mainstream wants: Strong shows of force against students emperiling the security of the Homeland by reading books without an ID. Maybe most people feel safer with these kinds of security sweeps taking place. Law and order and all that.

    We're all in danger, after all, right? There are terrorists lurking in every airport, just waiting for us to stop putting our shoes through the X-ray machines, right?

    Tuesday, November 14, 2006

    Don't Judge Michael Arcuri On This Vote

    Michael Arcuri is set to take one of his first actions as a member of Congress, voting for majority leader of the House of Representatives. There's a real contest for that seat, between Steny Hoyer and John Murtha. Steny Hoyer is the longtime Democratic Party Whip in the House of Representatives, and John Murtha gained nationwide fame recently by coming out in favor of ending the Iraq War.

    John Murtha is to be thanked for supporting an end to the Iraq War, and giving cover to other Democrats on the issue. However, Murtha has a right wing voting record on many issues that makes him a troubling pick for Majority Leader in a Democratic House. Murtha voted in favor of starting the war in Iraq in the first place, for one thing. Murtha has also supported attacks on the Endangered Species Act and voted in favor of ridiculous measures such as amending the Constitution in order to ban flag burning.

    Worse than John Murtha's affinity for parts of the right wing agenda is his long history of corruption. The Democrats promised to clean up corruption in the House, but that promise looks like a sham with the nomination of Murtha. Melanie Sloan, the Executive Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, comments, "Pelosi's endorsement suggests to me she was interested in the culture of corruption only as a campaign issue and has no real interest in true reform."

    Steny Hoyer doesn't have the long history of corruption that John Murtha has had, but he does share Murtha's propensity for abandoning the Democratic Party mainstream in Congress in order to vote with the Republicans on important issues. For example, Hoyer recently crossed party lines in order to vote to renew the Patriot Act in spite of serious concerns about the law's use in assembling gigantic government databases filled with information about the private, legal activities of American citizens. Hoyer's job as Democratic Whip was to make sure that as few Democratic members of the House crossed party lines as possible, so what was he doing crossing working with George W. Bush and the Republicans? Hoyer's failures as Democratic Whip, serving during a time when the Congressional Democrats became famous for their lack cohesion, suggests that he won't do a good job as Majority Leader.

    Then there's Congressman Hoyer's support for the Iraq War. Like Murtha, Hoyer voted against the will of the majority of Democratic voters in 2002 when he helped George W. Bush start the war. At least Murtha eventually saw the error of his ways. Not Hoyer. Steny Hoyer has kept on supporting the Iraq War, long after any rational justifications for doing so fell away.

    Who will new Congressman Michael Arcuri vote for in this election for Majority Leader? Arcuri says he supports Steny Hoyer. That's not a good choice. On the other hand, voting for Murtha wouldn't be a good choice either. Arcuri's worth as a member of Congress cannot be judged by this vote.

    However, the Democrats of the House of Representatives in general certainly can be judged for this vote. Steny Hoyer and John Murtha may be powerful, but they are not at all the most qualified for the job of Majority Leader. The Democrats said they'd run things differently if they got the majority back, but the Murtha-Hoyer contest does not instill confidence.

    Friday, November 10, 2006

    Reason for Skepticism of Arcuri and House Democrats

    The Democrats have retaken the Congress, and this has been the cause of much celebrating across America. Celebrating is fun, but it doesn't actually get anything done.

    Luckily, the new Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives has come out with a plan for getting things done. Unfortunately, that plan gives great cause for skepticism.

    Go ahead and look at the House Democrats' legislative plan. Notice something missing? I'll give you a hint: The central issue of the 2006 congressional campaign was, for most voters, the war in Iraq.

    There's nothing in the House Democrats' plan about Iraq at all. No plan for Iraq.

    There's also nothing in the House Democrats' plan for dealing with the Military Commissions Act, or the new warrantless wiretapping legalization, or any of the other serious attacks on our liberty. Go ahead and search the entire website of the incoming House Democratic leadership. I did. On the entire web site, there is not a single mention of the Military Commissions Act. There isn't one mention of habeas corpus.

    The House Democrats do mention torture, though - 4 times. Unfortunately, the last time they did so was in April, 2005.

    At the bottom of the House Democratic leadership's 100 hours plan, there is the statement, "This new direction represents the priorities of a unified Democratic Party. This is our pledge to the American people."

    Were these your priorities in voting for Democrat Mike Arcuri? No plan for Iraq? Do nothing about restoring the foundations of liberty in America?

    Maybe the House Democrats have another, second, secret plan to deal with these other priorities later. Maybe, but there is good cause for skepticism.

    The time for party loyalty and the election rhetoric is over. We need to look at the facts of what the Democrats say they plan to do, not what we assume or hope that they would do.

    Promises by someone who has no legislative record are easy to make, and easy to break.

    Michael Arcuri hasn't had the chance to actually do anything as a member of Congress. No votes yet. No cosponsorships yet. As those opportunities for action come, however, I'll be keeping track here of what Michael Arcuri actually does.

    Wednesday, November 08, 2006

    Learned from Michael Arcuri's Victory

    I learned a few very important things from Michael Arcuri's strong victory last night:

    1. My political opinions are not representative of the opinions of the Democrats in the 24th congressional district.
    2. My political opinions are not represented by the Democrats of the 24th congressional district.
    3. In our district, the huge majority of Democrats will not reject the Democratic candidate for Congress
    4. Independents are a major force to be reckoned with in the 24th congressional district, even though they're poorly understood, and may not really be a force so much as a collection of tens of thousands of forces that occasionally move in the same direction
    5. I really ought to stop making predictions about what will happen in the future

    Most Democratic voters in this district seem to have been unconcerned that Michael Arcuri supports the Military Commissions Act. Heck, they may not even know what the Military Commissions Act is, or care to know. There may even be some Democrats in this district who know what the Military Commissions Act is and are glad that Michael Arcuri supports it.

    This makes me part of that "liberal fringe" that Michael Arcuri blasted earlier on in the campaign. That bothers me, that it's just a tiny fringe of the Democratic Party now that cares about things like the end of habeas corpus and the Geneva Conventions, and the legalization of torture.

    There is another group of Democrats in this district than those I've already mentioned, though, a small group: They're the Democrats who know what the Military Commissions Act is, know that Michael Arcuri supports it, are disturbed about that support, but voted for Arcuri anyway. This small group voted for Michael Arcuri because they were worried that, if they didn't help Arcuri get elected, they would be responsible for the Democrats failing to take back control of the House of Representatives.

    This group of Democrats made a figurative deal with the devil. As with all deals with the devil, the devil came out on top. Michael Arcuri's win was actually not at all necessary to the effort to take back the House of Representatives from the Republicans. The Democrats needed 15 seats. By my count, they got at least 27.

    Some of these Democrats may harbor fantasies that Michael Arcuri will be challenged from within the Democratic Party in 2008. I'm not going to predict for certain that that won't happen, because I've learned that I'm pretty bad at making political predictions. However, I will observe that the Democratic County Committees have learned a couple of nasty lessons:

    1. If they don't let the voters have a political primary, victory results.
    2. With a shift toward the right wing of the Democratic Party, victory results.

    Given this learning, why in the world would the Democratic County Committees in this district abandon what gave them success, and support a progressive challenger? No, the Democrats are stuck with a decidedly unprogressive Michael Arcuri now, at least until he's defeated by a Republican.

    But, then, I'm not a Democrat any longer. I started out this year blogging as 24 Democrat, but now end it writing as 24 independent. Clearly, a person like myself doesn't really fit well within the Democratic Party of New York's 24th congressional district. I'm re-registered as a non-affiliated voter, though that registration won't take effect until 2008.

    Let the Democrats celebrate. As for myself, I'll be watching what Congressman Arcuri actually does in Washington D.C., for good and for bad.

    Read on, if you like, when the next session of Congress begins in January.

    Tuesday, November 07, 2006

    Mike Arcuri and Ray Meier Death Penalty Pander

    Congressional elections sort out the wheat from the chaff. True leaders respond to the pressure of campaigning by rising above the level of crass politicking and popular gimmicks to stand for what's right, inspiring voters to join them in the effort to make things better. Weak-minded politicians who cannot muster the courage or creativity necessary to make such a stand appeal instead to cheap, crowd-pleasing gestures that turn voters on without requiring them to think.

    Here in the 24th congressional district of New York State, we have been stuck with a couple of big pieces of chaff this year, weak-minded politicians so obsessed with pleasing voters that they have descended into pandering to us.

    Take flag burning, for example. Both Ray Meier and Michael Arcuri have come out in opposition to it. But, is it a meaningful issue? Have we got a rash of flag burnings going on here in the 24th district? Can anyone remember the last time that someone burned a flag here? Would we really want to make it a crime to engage in that kind of protest, and if so, what other forms of protest should we criminalize? Flag burning isn't so much an issue as it is an opportunity for Michael Arcuri and Ray Meier to appeal to the bigoted resentment of the expression of unpopular ideas.

    The pandering gets more serious when it comes to the death penalty, however. Both Ray Meier and Michael Arcuri have campaigned as strong supporters of the death penalty. That's a popular position to take. It makes a lot of people happy to think of bad guys getting killed as punishment for their crimes.

    The problem is that the death penalty is nothing but a crowd-pleasing gimmick. It isn't a serious policy.

    Thanks to the pandering of Republican politicians in Albany, we had the death penalty in New York State for many years. But, during all that time, not a single person was actually executed. The last execution of a person in New York State was in 1963. Then, you have to back another 19 years to get the last execution before that. Although there was a death penalty in effect for most of the 20th century in New York State, only 8 people were executed during that time.

    The reason for this tiny number of executions is that the death penalty just doesn't work. The legal apparatus of the death penalty has never really been worked out, and the result is that either hardly anyone is ever executed, or too many people, including a lot of innocent people, are put to death. The recent DNA proof of large numbers of innocent people put on death row ought to give any thinking person serious doubts about the death penalty.

    Of course, Ray Meier and Michael Arcuri haven't shown themselves to be thinking people this year. They're politicians out pandering for votes.

    Mike Arcuri and Ray Meier support the death penalty, not because the death penalty would do a thing to make our lives better here in New York, but because they want to create the impression that they're tough guys.

    Tough guys are the last thing we need in Congress right now. We need smart guys, and guys with integrity. We need leaders who have the capacity to grow into statesmen.

    We here in the 24th district won't what we need this year. Go out and vote today. Voting is important. Just don't have any illusions about the race for the House of Representatives. This year, you'll only have the opportunity to pick your particular preference of pander.

    Just close your eyes and think of 2008.

    Monday, November 06, 2006

    Bob Johnson is What Integrity Looks Like

    24th district Democrats, Michael Arcuri has broken his promise to local Democratic elected officials. He recently tried to placate angry Democrats by promising Democratic elected officials from our district that he would come out with a public statement opposing the Military Commissions Act. Mike Arcuri said he would put that statement on his web site.

    Michael Arcuri lied to them. He hasn't done it. Michael Arcuri's staff confirmed to me today that Arcuri still supports the Military Commissions Act.

    Arcuri's new line would be amusing, if it weren't so darkly pathetic: Arcuri now says that if he had been in Congress this September, when the House of Representatives voted for the Military Commissions Act, he would have voted for it, and then, later at some time or another, would try to work to amend it.

    Interesting idea, that: A freshman member of the House of Representatives amending a law pushed through Congress by the President of the United States. Come on, history buffs, think hard now. When was the last time that happened?

    The 24th district's county Democratic committees got a real first class weasel in Michael Arcuri when then they rushed to prematurely appoint a nominee in order to prevent a primary. Oh, Mike Arcuri talks tough in his campaign speeches. He'll stand up to George W. Bush, he says. But when it comes down to actually making a stand, to showing some integrity, Michael Arcuri folds like a piece of origami paper.

    When the heat was on, Arcuri stood with Ray Meier and George W. Bush. Whatever it takes to win an election seems to be Arcuri's motto. Of course, as soon as this election is over, if Arcuri wins, he's got the 2008 election to think about. Heck, the House of Representatives is almost constantly up for election. If a candidate for the House can't show some backbone during an election, he never will.

    So, it seems that Arcuri's campaign is willing to say one thing in public, and another thing to Democratic supporters in private. Does Michael Arcuri even remember what the truth is any more? If he's willing to deceive members of local Democratic committees, why should we trust anything he says?

    Bob Johnson, the Democratic candidate to the north of us, didn't get the early and constant assistance from the DCCC that Michael Arcuri, Rahm Emanuel's "recruit", got. But Bob Johnson has one thing that Michael Arcuri will never have: Integrity.

    Go ahead and listen to what Bob Johnson had to say about the Military Commissions Act in the campaign commercial below. Listen, and just try to imagine Michael Arcuri getting this kind of moral strength to pass through his lips.

    Yes, Michael Arcuri has a good shot at winning tomorrow, but at what cost? No matter whether Ray Meier wins or Michael Arcuri wins tomorrow, we will get a representative who is happy to support the worst right wing causes that the Republicans bring forth. That's not the choice we deserved.

    Yes, Bob Johnson probably won't win, but he's standing up for something more important than victory for the sake of victory. Bob Johnson aligned himself with a noble, but dying, cause: The defense of liberty in America.

    Tomorrow, will you be like Michael Arcuri, or will you be like Bob Johnson?

    Has Michael Arcuri Relented on Military Commissions Act?

    I got a telephone call this morning from a Democratic office holder in my town informing me that Michael Arcuri has finally reversed his endorsement of the Military Commissions Act, and now opposes the law. This person told me that the Arcuri for Congress campaign has promised people to announce Arcuri's opposition to the Military Commissions Act on the Arcuri for Congress web site.

    I regard this source as very credible. This source also told me that this statement promising to declare opposition to the Military Commissions Act has been made by Michael Arcuri to several different people.

    Geneva blogger Jodi Dean writes that she saw Michael Arcuri say on October 30 that he has reversed his position on the Military Commissions Act. She notes that Democrats in Geneva have been up in arms against Michael Arcuri because of Arcuri's support for the Military Commissions act, writing, "there has been substantial pressure from left voices here in Geneva since his last visit".

    Here's the trouble: I just called the Arcuri for Congress campaign, and was told that there has been no change in Michael Arcuri's support for the Military Commissions Act. I look on Michael Arcuri's web site, and I see that there is no statement at all indicating that Arcuri now opposes the Military Commissions Act. My source here in Ulysses also acknowledges that she has not seen any documented proof that Michael Arcuri has acknowledged his error and changed his position.

    Nowhere in any place of public record, not in a newspaper or in a blog, has Michael Arcuri indicated a change in his support for the Military Commissions Act.

    This issue is a vital matter in this race, because it's an indicator of whether Michael Arcuri will stand up to the Republicans in Washington D.C. or collaborate with them on the worst aspects of their legislative agenda.

    The Military Commissions Act:
  • Revokes habeas corpus
  • Ends enforcement of the Geneva Conventions
  • Legalizes torture
  • Provides legal amnesty to George W. Bush for any war crimes he may have committed
  • Sets up an alternative system of kangaroo courts with absurdly low standards of justice
  • Gives President Bush the power to declare someone an "enemy", and then lock them up in a secret prison without any trial, for as long as he likes

    It ought to be a no-brainer for a Democrat running for Congress to be against such a horrid law, but Michael Arcuri went and declared his support for the Military Commissions Act earlier this autumn... without bothering to actually read the law first.

    It seems to me that Michael Arcuri may be trying to play this issue both ways, telling Democrats in private that he'll oppose the Military Commissions Act, while maintaining his support for the Military Commissions Act in public. Or, it could be that the rumors of Michael Arcuri's change of heart are merely that - rumors.

    It seems that the Democrats in our district are getting nervous, and are deciding that Arcuri may well need the support of the progressives in this district after all.

    Michael Arcuri, you know what you have to do to get our support. Make a statement in public, where it's documented, that you now oppose the Military Commissions Act.

    It's that simple. Do the right thing. Your time is running out.
  • Sunday, November 05, 2006

    What kind of Democrat is a Boehlert Democrat?

    "I always say I consider myself, to a large extent, to be the Boehlert Democrat." - Michael Arcuri

    So Arcuri would have voted for the Iraq war, like Sherwood Boehlert did?

    Mike Arcuri would have voted to give government-funded groups the right to fire people for not belonging to the right religion, like Sherwood Boehlert did?

    Mike Arcuri would have voted to give President Bush the power to use the American military against the American people with HR 5122, like Sherwood Boehlert did?

    Mike Arcuri would have voted with the Republicans to give a special tax break to millionaires like Paris Hilton, like Sherwood Boelert did?

    Boehlert Democrat? Michael Arcuri sounds more like a Lieberman Democrat to me.

    Look at who Michael Arcuri's campaign is taking money from, and you'll see why Arcuri is talking so much like Joseph Lieberman these days. Michael Arcuri's top ideological contributor is the New Democrat Coalition, an organization set up by Joseph Lieberman to promote right wing ideology within the Democratic Party.

    Know what you're voting for on Tuesday, 24th district Democrats.

    Blogs Covering Arcuri Meier Race Fell Apart

    Whatever happened to the CNY Underground blog? The Republican-leaning site, often criticizing Michael Arcuri but rarely praising Ray Meier, has been replaced with an automatically-generated page full of links about phentermine, home mortgages, credit cards, and the like.

    The fall of CNY Underground follows the disintegration of the Weekly Democrat, the abandonment of You Go Mike, and the slowdown of Maimun Khan's blog to the pace of molasses in November.

    It's a mystery to me why, the closer we've gotten to Election Day, the more election-themed blogs have fallen by the wayside here in New York's 24th district.

    One possible explanation is that people feel much less personal interest in the general election than they have in the contest to see who will represent their political party. Primary season was hot with excited discussion and debate in a way that the contest of Michael Arcuri against Ray Meier has not been.

    Of course, neither the Republicans nor the Democrats got a chance to vote for who would represent their party in the general election. The local parties' leadership arranged the nomination all on their own. Perhaps that set the precedent for people's feelings about the election in general.

    Talking to both Republicans and Democrats in person about this election, I've noticed a complacent sort of feeling, with little attachment to either to Mike Arcuri or to Ray Meier. This election seems to have become a contest more of the political parties than a contest between the actual candidates. It's more about the Republicans vs. the Democrats than Ray Meier vs. Michael Arcuri.

    Most voters don't know much about what kind of policies Ray Meier or Michael Arcuri stand for. When they think Ray Meier, they think generic Republican. When they think Michael Arcuri, they think generic Democrat. This generic perception of the candidates is so dominant that voters are inclined to reject any information that doesn't fit expectations of what a Democrat or Republican will do in Congress.

    Without much specific attachment among voters to particular candidates, information about the candidates has come to seem not so important. The race has become not so much of a local affair as many campaign insiders suggested it would be. Rather, the election seems to have become just a local representation of the national contest for control of Congress. Voters seem less concerned about having a good representative than they are about which party has majority rule in the House of Representatives.

    We seem to be less citizens of New York's 24th congressional district than we are citizens of the United States of America in general. Local control of this campaign was ceded long ago, with the national Republican Party and the national Democratic Party setting the beat.

    So, what's a local blogger to do in this atmosphere? Repeat the party line? React to campaign commercials from the national Democratic and Republican parties? I don't blame so many bloggers for dropping out. The race has not produced much inspiring material to work with. Both Ray Meier and Michael Arcuri have demonstrated more cowardice than leadership.

    Then again, I don't really know what's led CNY Underground to hit the dirt, or for other blogs to call it a day. Maybe something else is afoot, leading the bloggers to fall by the wayside. Anyone have any hints?

    Saturday, November 04, 2006

    Ray Meier and Michael Arcuri Lead America Down the Rabbit Hole

    Think that the Military Commissions Act doesn't have any real impact on people, that it was just a political show? Maybe this news from the Washington Post this morning will convince you otherwise:

    "The Bush administration has told a federal judge that terrorism suspects held in secret CIA prisons should not be allowed to reveal details of the "alternative interrogation methods" that their captors used to get them to talk."

    "Alternative interrogation methods" is put in quotes by the Washington Post because everyone knows what that phrase really means. It means torture.

    The President of the United States is now asserting the power to torture people, and then to forbid people to tell anyone that they've been tortured. It's insane, but George W. Bush is right. He does have that power now, thanks to the Military Commissions Act.

    Professor Joseph Margulies, who teaches law at Northwestern University, says of this implementation of the Military Commissions Act, "Kafka-esque doesn’t do it justice. This is Alice in Wonderland."

    The survival of American liberty depends on the repeal of the Military Commissions Act. Does either Michael Arcuri or Ray Meier, running for Congress in our district this year, support the repeal of this unjust law? No. Both Meier and Arcuri support the Military Commissions Act.

    That's despicable, but it's also understandable, given that neither Democratic voters nor Republican voters were given the chance to select their own candidates. Local leaders in both parties prevented a primary election from taking place. No primary election means no voter choice, and so the local party leaders in effect appointed these two turkeys to run for office.

    You now only have the choice to vote for Turkey #1 or Turkey #2. So, why should these two candidates fret about a little thing like the Military Commissions Act? The way the political power game in our district is set up, voters don't have the chance to say no.

    Friday, November 03, 2006

    Ray Meier and Michael Arcuri Want Inappropriate Censorship

    At the recent debate between Democrat Mike Arcuri and Republican Ray Meier in Oneonta, both congressional candidates stepped over the line in their push to control negative campaign advertisements. Both Ray Meier and Michael Arcuri said that they want the law to be changed so that candidates will have the ability to control what other people say about the campaigns.

    We've seen a lot of negative campaign commercials this year, including commercials against Michael Arcuri accusing him of using public money to pay for calls to telephone sex numbers, and commercials accusing Ray Meier of beign responsible for high taxes. (Yes, for Republicans, taxation is equally as tawdry as phone sex.)

    The thing is that these commercials have been produced and paid for by organizations other than the candidates' own campaign committees. So, Michael Arcuri and Ray Meier haven't had a darned thing to do with them. That's what campaign finance laws require. If there's coordination with the candidate that the commercials appear to support, then the financial backing of the commercials, and the organization that produces them, become subject to campaign finance regulation. Negative advertisements become, in this way, a way for powerful organizations and individuals to exercise influence over an election.

    That's not an ideal situation, to be sure. However, the alternative arrangement that Mike Arcuri and Ray Meier support would be much worse.

    Ray Meier and Michael Arcuri don't like it that they don't have control over public messages about this race for Congress. So what? I'm sure Wal-Mart doesn't like it when outside organizations criticize its corporate practices. Wal-Mart would like to control the public messages about its operations, but the public safety would be put at risk if such control were allowed. The same would be true if candidates were allowed to control the public messages other groups spread about political campaigns.

    Free speech gives us each the right to criticize or praise whichever politicians we choose. There are some restrictions on non-profit organizations that receive tax-exempt status, but that's only because those organizations are, in effect, given a special privileged status by the government. If those organizations wish to give up that status, then they are free to communicate about political campaigns in any way they want to.

    If politicians like Michael Arcuri and Ray Meier were given the power to approve or reject the broadcast of messages about the races for public office in which they are running, we wouldn't hear anything negative about any candidates at all. Why would a political candidate allow any negative advertisement about themselves to be broadcast, if they had the power to stop it? Don't think that the candidate power to censor advertisements would be restricted to negative advertisements against their opponents.

    For that matter, if candidates were given the power to censor negative television or radio advertisements, what would stop them from trying to exercise this power over other media as well? What would stop Ray Meier and Michael Arcuri from claiming the power to approve or deny any given article I write for this blog?

    Besides, we would be naive to believe that Arcuri and Meier really want to eliminate negative advertising. The separation between candidates' own advertisements and the the advertisements created by unaffiliated organizations allows candidates to play the Good Cop/Bad Cop game. Arcuri and Meier say that outside groups are ruining the campaign for them by going negative, and get to take on the pose of virtuous indignation. At the same time, they benefit from the persuasive power of those negative advertisements, and they know it.

    Besides, what is a "negative advertisement" but a criticism of a political candidate? Do we really believe that the electoral process would become pure and refined if criticism of political candidates were outlawed?

    Michael Arcuri and Ray Meier both ought to be ashamed of themselves for requesting the power to censor what other people say about this race for a seat in Congress. They're condescending to voters, as if we're fragile children who have never heard or participated in a harsh argument.

    Everyone should be free to say what they want to about congressional candidates, so long as they don't engage in libel or slander. We voters are, after all, adults. Let us stop playing the game of pretending that we have virgin ears.

    Thursday, November 02, 2006

    Ray Meier and Michael Arcuri Drowned in a Sea of Babble

    There really isn't that much to say on the issues of this race that will matter - or that will get through to the voters. There are few undecided voters left, and besides, the practice of Google bombing by both Republicans and Democrats from across the country has reduced the level of political blog writing to mere cut and paste.

    Google bombing ought to be called blogosphere bombing, for the devastating effect that it has on online political debate. The practice involves bloggers cutting and pasting long lists of names of political candidates from the opposing party. Each one of those names is then linked to derogatory web site. The Google search engine then is supposed to note these links, and incorporate them into its algorithms, so that the top search result on Google for the candidate's name is a particular web site that has negative things to say about the candidate.

    The practical effect is that these cut and paste blog entries, which don't have any actual information themselves about the candidates, and are most often posted by people who don't even live in the district where the candidates run, clog up the blogosphere. People who search for up-to-date information on the candidates through blog search engines like Technorati or Google Blogsearch end up finding only a collection of babble Google bomb entries, all the same, none of them informing the voter. Thus, online politicial discussion about candidates is nearly erased. Only those online readers savvy enough to evade the Google bombing will have much success finding blogs that rise above the cut and paste frenzy.

    Besides, the Google bombs don't even really work very well. Do a Google search for "Ray Meier", for example, and the Google bomb target page hasn't even been elevated above the bottom link on the first page. One of the reasons is that the target page is a page with a video that doesn't have much in the way of text. Search engines pay a lot of attention to text content, so the video wasn't a particularly good choice for a Google bomb. Another reason the Google bomb has failed is that the Google algorithm is intelligently designed, so that web sites that pump out a lot of content that is identical to what other web sites publish tend to get demoted as spam.

    That's what a Google bomb is, really - spam. The voters deserve a lot better than that for information about the candidates.

    I see this morning that blogs are still doing Google bombs against Ray Meier and against Michael Arcuri, publishing the same old cut and pasted material. That shows you how unintelligent the whole Google bomb concept is - the results usually take at least a week to affect Google searches, even when they're successful. A week from now, the election is over.

    Of course, the real race is already over. Unless one of the candidates is photographed biting the head off a bat, perceptions aren't going to change in the next five days. Michael Arcuri and Ray Meier will be working on getting their voter turnout machines going, and will make a few stops here and there, going through the motions.

    Don't expect any fireworks. Nothing to do now but to vote, and then sit back and wait for the results.