Friday, November 30, 2007

Umm...

Perhaps someone can explain a sentence from this article.

Devon M. Smith, 17, of 26 Cherry Street, was arrested after she punched a fellow student, despite the fact the victim has an order of protection that barred Smith from having assaultive contact with her, police said.

I'm not a legal expert but doesn't the law bar everyone from having assaultive contact with anyone else?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Former Iraq commander calls for withdrawal

So now retired Lt. Gen Ricardo Sanchez has called for US troops in Iraq to be withdrawn within a year.

Sanchez's comments in support of Congressional legislation are all the more damning considering that he was actually the commander of US occupation forces in Iraq from 2003-04.

He condemned Iraqi politicians for their failure to show any leadership. "The improvements in security produced by the courage and blood of our troops have not been matched by a willingness on the part of Iraqi leaders to make the hard choices necessary to bring peace to their country," he said.

If a Bush appointee who implemented Bush's policies and who knows the military situation in Iraq better than nearly any other American has come to this conclusion, when will Congressional Democrats finally grow a spine?

If our former top soldier in Iraq can't provide the craven Democrats enough political cover to do what's right, then clearly they have no business running the Congress.

It makes you wonder when well-meaning liberals will finally figure out that the corporate-controlled Democratic Party is either unwilling or unable to implement a progressive agenda and, therefore, they ought to hitch their cart to another horse.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Belgium's breakup imminent?

This essay is part of an occasional feature on this blog that presents interesting stories from elsewhere in the world, particularly Africa, that are little reported in the American media. It's part of my campaign to get people to realize there is a lot going on in the world outside the US, Israel, Iraq, North Korea and Iran.

The Guardian has a look at the political crisis in Belgium. The country has been without a government for five and a half months.

The country essentially split between Flemish (a dialect of Dutch) speakers in the north and Walloon (a dialect of French) in the south. Some argue has been held together by string and duct tape for decades, but the latent discomfort has been brought to ahead this year with parliament's failure to choose a prime minister and cabinet.

National identity has been at the forefront of Belgium politics for much of the year. On April 1, state television rather a somewhat tasteless April Fools' Joke by airing a spoof news report on the breakup of the country. The joke was not particularly well-received by the public.

However, the potential breakup of Belgium is a troubling idea. The whole concept of both globalization and the European Union is that smaller states united to form a more economically and politically powerful bloc. Belgium's disintegration would result in the opposite... ironic since most of the EU's institutions are located in Belgium's capital Brussels.

(Another idea floated is that Flanders would join the Netherlands and Wallonia would become part of France)

The breakup is also troubling for the same reason as Québec's potential secession from Canada. If prosperous, democratic, vibrant multiethnic states like Belgium and Canada can't survive, then what hope is there for any kind of real progress in places like the Balkans, Rwanda and Liberia?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Aid to Africa wiped out by war

This essay is part of a (more or less) weekly feature on this blog that presents interesting stories from elsewhere in the world, particularly Africa, that are little reported in the American media. It's part of my campaign to get people to realize there is a lot going on in the world outside the US, Israel, Iraq, North Korea and Iran.

I hate to succomb to Afro-pessimism. And I hate even more to write something that risks perpetuating crude western stereotypes about the continent. But at the same time, I can't read the news and be disingenuous about my reaction.

Pessimism in general is not in my nature. And having lived in West Africa, I know that the place has some of the most in innovative and resilient people in the world. I love the continent and its people and that's why events piss me off so much. I can't simply shrug my shoulders and say, "Ah, that's just the way people are there" because I know it's not true. At least not of the vast majority.

I am convinced that if the continent's post-colonial leaders had been just mediocre, if its leaders had simply stayed out of the way, then Africa would be in far better shape than it is now. Instead, it's been cursed with morons, megalomaniacs, gangsters, psychopaths and, at the best, mere crooks.

In recent weeks, I've read stories like this...

-Sudanese strongman Gen. Omar al-Bashir is preparing for a return to war in the south of the country. Perhaps the general is trying to prove his grim multitasking abilities by conducting a war and a genocide simultaneously;

-Renewed conflict in Somalia, primarily Mogadishu, has caused the homelessness of some one million people;

-The head of the DR Congo's army insists that a return to all-out war is the only solution to the crisis in the east of the country;

-There are rumbles that Ethiopia and Eritrea may start another installment of the 'world's stupidest war';

-The Nigerian parliament is trying to reverse the handover of the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon. The handover was agreed by former president Olesegun Obasanjo after the International Court of Justice ruled that the land belonged to Cameroon;

-As usual, Zimbabwe's collapsing dictatorship is whipping up hysteria, this time by accusing Britain of preparing to invade the country. This wouldn't be a surprise. After all, the UK already stands accused by the regime of manipulating the weather.

All this comes in the wake of a report showing how armed conflict has cost Africa nearly $300 billion during the period 1990-2005.

The non-governmental organization (NGO) Oxfam says the cost of conflict was equal to the amount of money received in aid during the same period.

Being on the board of an NGO, I follow development issues pretty closely and receive a lot of news from and about the NGO world. I always read about this or that charity damning the western world for not giving enough in development aid. They use words like 'shame' and 'disgrace' and 'pitiful.'

Incidentally, African leaders tend to be more focused on securing fairer trade deals that getting more western handouts.

I understand the tactic. NGOs are trying to appeal to liberal western guilt to get more money.

But the biggest problem isn't western 'stinginess' but a small minority of armed African thugs who hold the majority hostage.

There are many reasons aid hasn't improved things in Africa. Africans like to point to things like neo-colonialism, like foreign exploitation of natural resources, like unfair trade deals. And all of these are legitimate complaints.

But one of the biggest can't be addressed by blaming others.

Aid isn't contributing to African economies. It's merely replacing the money that's being lost because of insane wars. So the continent is staying stagnant in absolute terms and regressing in relative terms.

Africa's so-called intelligentsia likes blaming everything on Europe and the United States. And these parties hardly have clean hands on the continent. After all, where do the arms for all these armed conflicts come from?

However, the result is that anyone who ever was an anti-colonial freedom fighter (Zimbabwe's Mugabe, Ethiopia's Meles, Eritrea's Isaias) seems to get a free pass... no matter how gravely they've betrayed the ideas of their own 'liberation' struggles... no matter how much they've destroyed their own countries or their neighbor's.

The US government spent 'only' 0.14 percent of GNP (in 2003) on international development assistance. Bear in mind that this 'mere' 0.14 percent translated to $15.7 billion, by far the biggest of any country... and that PRIVATE donations by Americans accounts for another $15 billion.

People aren't being killed in the Central African Republic because the US provided 'only' $30.7 billion in aid instead of, say, $35 billion or $50 billion. Europeans aren't killing Sudanese in Darfur. Americans aren't killing Congolese in Kivu. Canadians aren't starving people in Bulawayo or making them homeless in Harare.

Ending all armed conflict won't instantaneously eradicate all poverty in Africa. But if you want to get out of a hole, the first step is to stop digging.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

On Thanksgiving

I heard a recent radio essay about Thanksgiving. The commentator talked about how the holiday, or at least its myth, represented a shining example of a group of natives welcoming illegal immigrants and how it's an example from which open-minded people should take inspiration.

I heard somewhere that it's estimated that something like 90 percent of all Native Americans in North America had already died before the Pilgrims landed due primarily to disease by previous European settlers.

Of course, this was even before the 19th century's messianic Manifest Destiny and its genocidal destruction of the 10 percent that remained.

This is how the natives were thanked for their hospitality at that mythical dinner.

Let's hope that the Mexicans who come to this country are more civilized than their predecessors.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Scum murders baby

I don't usually write essays about police blotter, unless it's humorous. But a recent story is just so appalling, I can't ignore it.

Glens Falls, my hometown, is not a violent place. I don't believe there was a murder in Glens Falls during the entire decade of the 1980s. So any time someone is killed, it's big news. But when the dead is a baby, it's even more shocking.

A 23 year old piece of crap named Michael D. Flint killed the 7 month old son of his girlfriend.

He was 'taking care' of the baby while the mother was at work.

Now, this wasn't a shaken baby case like you read in the news sometimes. It wasn't a case of accidental death, of him simply being reckless and clueless. There was something savage about it.

During Flint's arraignment in City Court on Wednesday afternoon, [Warren County District Attorney Kate] Hogan said that Flint admitted beating, biting and choking the infant to the point of unconsciousness Tuesday night. She said he estimated he choked the child for 20 to 30 seconds.

How demented does a so-called man have to be to beat, bike and choke a 7 month old?

But this is not the first time this coward has had trouble with the law. He had 10 prior criminal convictions, according to The Post-Star.

Some of them give a clue to exactly how screwed up this so-called man was.

Most recently, he was arrested in July for brutally beating a 5-month-old puppy, breaking its teeth and hurting it to the point a neighbor who called police reported the dog was "screaming."

[...]

Flint pleaded guilty to felony criminal contempt in September 2006 and was sentenced to 5 years on probation, but violated that probation within weeks by getting arrested again for violating the order of protection by confronting and shoving the ex-girlfriend in the parking lot of Glens Falls Hospital, according to court records.

He also refused to complete anger management counseling through the Men's Opportunity Program, court records show.

Flint was then charged with violating his probation and sentenced to a year in Warren County Jail. He served about 8 months of that term, with the statutorily required four months off for good behavior.

Court records show Flint also has misdemeanor convictions for petit larceny, criminal mischief and aggravated harassment.


This begs the question why exactly he was a free man. It's one thing to give someone a second chance. But this piece of garbage showed a consistent pattern of having no clue how to act like a civlized human being. Let's be honest... if you knew someone who stalked an ex-girlfriend, assaulted her, refused to seek anger management help and brutalized a puppy, is it really that shocking that he'd beat to death an infant?

This prick should have been in prison long before he murdered that innocent baby. At least if he tried beat the crap out of someone in prison, it would have to be a man who could defend himself, not a helpless infant.

Flint has a long criminal record. But hopefully it will be at least several decades, preferably the rest of his life, before it gets any longer.

He told a reporter as he was leaving court, "I should die for what I did."

I don't support state murder, or the death penalty as it's more commonly called. But I'm sure many other residents would hope he gets his wish.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Speechless

When I work late, I usually stop at Cumberland Farms on Bay St. around 11:00 PM on my way home. It has a very strange atmosphere late at night. Think I'm kidding? Check this out.

Stanlee F. Urbanowicz, 42, of Glens Falls was arrested at 12:40 a.m. after city police got a call from the Cumberland Farms store on Bay Street, said Glens Falls Police Sgt. Keith Knoop.

Store staff told police he had eaten $1.50 worth of food in the store, but refused to pay, Knoop said.

"The store employees said they didn't want him arrest, that they just wanted him to pay," he said. "He had $500 but just wouldn't pay."


Some things just defy comment.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Democrat hypocrisy torturing America

This op-ed in The Los Angeles Times contends that the 'legality of torture takes over as the political litmus test in campaigns and confirmation hearings.'

And the author argues that this is not a bad thing.

Far more than the abortion debate ever did, the debate about torture goes to the very heart of what (if anything) this country stands for. Do we want to be the nation imagined by the signers of the Declaration of Independence, a nation with "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind," committed to a vision of human dignity and unalienable rights, limited government and the rule of law?

Or would we rather bring back the methods of the Spanish Inquisition?

As litmus tests go, that's not such a bad one.


And as such, it's a test that the Democratic Senate failed.

During his confirmation hearings for attorney general, Michael Mukasey waffled on the question of whether waterboarding was torture.

He said he found it personally 'repugnant' but that he'd have to wait until he received secret briefings to determine whether it was legal.

No secret briefing should be necessary.

The US military has already banned its use.

And more to the point, waterboarding has been prosecuted in U.S. courts since the late 1800s and was regarded by every U.S. administration before this one as torture.

But it's a tactic that the CIA still uses, which is why Mukasey was quizzed about it.

The UK Independent reported that a former anti-terrorism advisor to President Bush, Malcolm Nance, denounced the practice and stated categorically, "waterboarding is a torture technique – period".

While US media reports typically state that waterboarding involves "simulated drowning", Mr Nance explained that "since the lungs are actually filling with water", there is nothing simulated about it. "Waterboarding," he said, "is slow-motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of blackout and expiration. When done right, it is controlled death."

Michael Mukasey can't figure out whether this Inquisition tactic is legal or not.

But this didn't seem to bother the Democratic-controlled US Senate.

Only 40 of its members were repelled by Mukasey's equivocation on torture and war crimes enough to vote against him.

When the Democrats gained control of Congress, they had us believe that everything would change. Yet when pro-torture attorney general Alberto Gonzales resigned, the Democratic-controlled Congress approved a pro-torture successor.

NY Sen. Charles Schumer called on Gonzales to resign for failing to uphold the rule of law and the Constitution.

Schumer not only voted for Mukasey to be attorney general, the New York senator actually recommended him to Bush in the first place.

The Democrats spent six years pissing and moaning about how terrible that fascist George W. Bush is. But when they have a chance to actually stop him, to make an important stand in favor of American values, they cave yet again.

The Democrats are clearly unwilling or unable to take a clear stand against torture and militarism. This is yet another example of why The Greens are the best choice for those who want to advance a progressive agenda.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Boycott SJ Garcia's, Depe Dene, Taste of Poland and four Queensbury/Lake George motels

It's politically correct nowadays to blame illegal immigrants for everything that's wrong in this country. Ironic, since it was citizens who put George W. Bush in the White House. But even being an immigrant here legally doesn't prevent you from being exploited by scumbags.

The Albany Times-Union reported that seven businesses in the Lake George/Queensbury area exploited foreign workers and cheated them out of wages. The state labor department accused the businesses of breaking child labor laws, refusing to pay required overtime and deducting rent from wages.

Bear in mind, these foreigners are encouraged by the State Department to come here to fill out the work force.

How are these invited guests treated?

Irena Lyahkanova from Russia said she worked like a "slave" at Taste of Poland restaurant for "nothing." The owners did not pay any of its tipped employees, the 10 to 12 waitresses and bussers through the summer, Lyahkanova said. Many went back to Russia and Poland with no money.

She said many were afraid to complain because they feared being deported.

Approximately 600 foreign workers come to the Lake George area in the summer and provide an invaluable workforce, [village mayor Bob] Blais said. Without them, business owners would face a staff shortage.

Last year, The Glens Falls Post-Star ran a long feature on the foreigners, mostly Eastern Europeans, who work in Lake George. The piece quoted several business owners who praised the Eastern Europeans and bad-mouthed local teens.

Maybe the supposed 'poor work ethic' of local teens is that they refuse to be treated like 'slaves.'

Maybe the problem is that because there are enough tourist jobs in this area, local teens won't accept crooked owners stealing the wages they rightfully earned.

The accused businesses, which I will boycott and you should too, are..

-SJ Garcia's
-The Quality Inn and Econo Lodge (Queensbury)
-Ramada Express
-Depe Dene
-Taste of Poland
-Choice Inn & Suites

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Excuses are like...

I wrote earlier this week about The Post-Star's publication of the name of a Fort Edward football player accused of public urination and fleeing police who tried to question him about it. This despite the fact that the paper has a policy of not publishing names of people under 18 charged with misdemeanors or less.

When I posted this query on the paper's website about this apparent hypocrisy, an editor responded as follows:

There are a couple of reasons why we chose to run his name. First, our policy is that we 'generally' don't run the names, but we make exceptions in special cases where the arrest is of an unusual nature or interest. In this case, the player was indeed charged with a crime -- a misdemeanor count of resisting arrest. It carries a jail term of up to a year. This was not a routine arrest; it involved a police chase in which an officer was injured. In addition, a superstar football player in a sports town like Fort Edward at sectional time can be considered a public figure, and therefore his arrest is of interest to the general public. And finally, we have a separate policy in which we do publish the names of minors who have been arrested for drinking-related crimes. The justification is that the threat of publishing names might discourage some minors from drinking and discourage some parents from hosting parties in which alcohol is served to minors.

The main point is legitimate, although I'm not sure I'm convinced. The last point, however, is ridiculous.

According to this policy, the paper will not publish the names of minors accused of sex crimes or assault, provided it's not a felony.

A kid was recently arrested by the FBI and state police for posting a message on the Internet that indicated someone intended to infiltrate the Queensbury High School with firearms.

Police did not release the name of the kid but an editor stated that even if the authorities had released the name, the paper wouldn't have published it.

The editor stated that 'a case involving a 13-year-old is a completely different matter than one involving a 17-year-old.'

Yet, there's also a difference between a kid who implicitly threatens a Columbine-style massacre and a kid taking a leak on a public street.

Apparently the paper sees a more compelling public interest in discouraging a 17 year old from having a beer than a 13 year old from threatening gun violence in a school.

Disgraceful.

That said, the reaction to the paper's coverage of the Fort Edward case was equally shameful. As anyone could have predicted, there were legions of apologists out in force for the drunk football player.

Awww, he's just a kid and kids do stupid things.

He was just celebrating a "MAJOR milestone" of winning a big game.

Everyone has "been deluded by the politically correct police...."

There was even a thread which blamed the volleyball team.

Umm... yea.

Forget for a moment whether you think it's a big deal for the kid to be drinking.

The fact of the matter is that athletes in Fort Edward (and most other schools around here) agree to a code of conduct promising, among other things, not to drink.

There are no exceptions for "MAJOR milestones."

There is no loophole allowing a football player to blame the volleyball team.

I don't want the kid crucified but I think the punishment by the school is appropriate.

But the message that some people are really sending to ALL the kids in Fort Edward is that it's ok for your word to mean nothing. It's ok for your promise to be worthless, so long as there's a "MAJOR milestone" involved. It's ok to sign something without reading it or with no intention of following it. You must follow certain standards of behavior, except if you're winning.

No wonder there are so many problems in Fort Edward if this is the message the so-called responsible adults are sending.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Post-Star outs minor in violation of its own policy

Recently, there was another alcohol controversy regarding a star athlete in Fort Edward.

A player for their football team was arrested for allegedly urinating on a public street and running from cops who tried to question him.

The player was suspended for two games by the school, the state quarterfinal and (potentially) the state semifinal, for violation of the school's athletic code of conduct.

Earlier this year, their star basketball player was spotted in pictures on the Internet attending a party where kids were drinking alcohol, another violation of the code of conduct. This long, drawn out fiasco was played out during the basketball team's run to the state final. No one was suspended.

So at least school officials learned from their PR black eye and did the right thing this time.

Not surprisingly, some people in Fort Edward are again blaming the newspaper, claiming they have a vendetta against the town and the school, blah blah blah. Hey Fort Edward, if your star athletes are lushes, it's not the daily's fault, it's the parents' fault! And don't complain to the paper if every corner of your downtown smells like piss.

However, there was one legitimate question raised about the paper's coverage this time around (just like last time).

One commenter to the online article asked, "I thought it was the policy of the POST-STAR not to list the names of underage people who have been arrested?"

And he's right. Many articles on alleged underage criminal behavior (such as this one) contain the disclaimer, "The Post-Star generally does not publish the names of those under 18 charged with misdemeanors or less."

The football player was charged with two non-criminal violations and a misdemeanor.

So why was his name plastered all over the paper?

The disclaimer does include the key word 'generally,' which is a pretty broad and vague loophole.

But no where did the paper explain why an exception was made in this case.

Yes, conspiracy theorists are running wild claiming The Post-Star hates Fort Edward, the school, etc. They have a vendetta. They want to tar and feather this poor kid to make an example out of him.

I suspect the paper's counterproductive editorial crusade against teen drinking is affecting its coverage of news stories. Most journalists will swear up and down that editorial positions do not affect news coverage. I can accept that the editorial positions of a newspaper may not affect HOW news stories are covered but I firmly believe that editorial positions often affect WHAT news stories are covered, HOW OFTEN and HOW MUCH PROMINENCE is given to each (front page vs the bottom corner of page B13).

The Post-Star provided no explanation why it ignored its own policy and chose to publicly flog this minor for actions which were stupid, disgusting and, yes, criminal but hardly a threat to public safety (he was on foot). As long as the daily refuses to provide an explanation for its apparent hypocrisy, the conspiracy theorists will thrive.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Policy on use of my work

Please bear in mind that the ultimate objective of this blog is to develop a syndicated column. If you are a print publication and would like to republish an essay of mine, please contact me at popeyeckn@yahoo.com.

If you are a blogger and would like to use small excerpts of one of my essays, I have no problem with that on two conditions:

1) Please do not edit it in anyway except to omit parts for brevity. Any omissions should not be done in such a way that changes the meaning of the essay or the excerpted parts.

2) Either before or after my excerpted work, please provide a link to the original. My blog's policy is that I always link to postings that I excerpt from, whether I agree with the original work or disagree. It's simple courtesy both to the original author and to readers who might want to see the excerpt in its full context.

#2 has become a little bit of a problem. Particular with the blog Upstate Blue (notice I'm linking to said blog).

This blog recently commented (again I'm linking to said blog) on my entry How to increase voter turnout? More choices!.

Blue was not the only one. So did Adirondack Almanack. But while the Almanack linked to my essay in question, Blue did not.

A deeper look at the situation perhaps reveals why.

Blue quoted the following paragraphs from my essay:

Update: According to County Board of Elections numbers, this year is no different regarding the Democrats inability to field candidates. Republicans are running unopposed in three of the four countywide offices up for grabs."

"Of the 67 local offices available countywide, there are no more than 13 actual Democrats running. There are at least 2 Republicans who lost their party's primary and are running on the GOP line. There are 12 Republicans who were also handed the Democratic line."

"All this means that over 80 percent of the offices up for grabs in Warren County will have no actual Democrat contending."

"It also means that countywide, there are more Republicans on the Democratic ballot line than Democrats."


The thesis of my entry is that since the county Democrats are unable to provide an alternative to Republicans, then other parties should fill that void.

I wrote: What I'd like to see The Post-Star do is encourage people to considering joining and being active in smaller parties. It should encourage smaller parties to run their own candidates, rather than to simply glom on to a GOP primary loser.

I also have links in my blog to the New York and US Green parties.

However, Blue read the same entry and same blog and essay and concluded: Goes to show you just how much work actually to be done in order to finally build a viable Democratic infrastructure throughout this region....

He is more than entitled to his own opinion. We both recognize the same problem but offer different answers. He believes Democrats are the solution. I believe Greens are the solution. This is perfectly legitimate. I don't disrespect his position. I have no problem working with or voting for Democrats who truly are and act progressive. I certainly am not trying to trash his blog. And I certainly welcome a discussion on the issue... if it's done in the right way.

If Blue had written, "Brian thinks x is the answer but I believe y is the solution because...", I wouldn't have had a problem with that.

However, I consider it very dubious to quote my essay to support a conclusion that's completely different from my own without even acknowleging my conclusion or linking to my essay for people to make up their own minds. When President Bush compared himself to Gandhi, people were rightly revolted.

Bear in mind that this is not the first time Blue has excerpted my work out of context.

I really hope Blue is interested in dialogues, not echo chambers. For example, in this piece (AGAIN I link to his work for readers to judge for themselves), he criticizes one of my essays (AGAIN without linking to it). He claims I misrepresented his position on term limits in Glens Falls and the objective of his blog. Ironic, considering s/he misrepresented my conclusion on the Democrats' inability to field candidates.

Simply put, I support the increasing involvement and influence of smaller parties in general and of the Green Party in particular. It should be quite clear to anyone who reads my blog regularly.

If excerpts of my essays are going to be used to support Democrat politics, then I expect that my pro-smaller party position should at least be acknowleged... if only for the author who's USING MY WORK to explain why that's not the path to follow. Again, it's simple courtesy.

Whether I misrepresented Upstate Blue's objective or position is a matter of interpretation. It is something I'd be more than happy to discuss. However, Blue never left a comment in the apparently offending blog entry. He never sent me an email. He never contacted me in any way to express his concerns about my alleged misdeed. He simply wrote a blog entry that I discovered five months later only because someone else had directed me to a more recent entry and I happened to do a search of the site on my name and blog.

This doesn't facilitate dialogue.

(For the record, I HAVE recently emailed Blue to express my concerns.)

The purpose of this entry is not to attack Blue. Although it's not one of my regular reads, it certainly has some interesting stuff and I would never dissuade anyone from reading it. I simply want to ask Blue and all others to link to my entries they use and to quote my work in an appropriate manner.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Update: I sent a cordial email to Upstate Blue on this topic three days, however it has not even been acknowleged. Blue has posted an entry since I sent the email so I assume it's been read.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Amateur hour in the Spa City

I know that issue of the municipal water supply is a big issue in the city of Saratoga Springs and apparently with good reason. Given all the shenanigans that have gone on in city politics, I can only conclude that there's something funky in the water.

Take this story from the daily Saratogian.

Police are investigating a report that Public Works Commissioner Tom McTygue was involved in taking down his opponent Skip Scirocco's signs on Election Day morning.

McTygue is a 32-year incumbent.

For his opponent's part, An automated call campaign by Skip Scirocco went haywire Monday night, with some citizens receiving as many as a dozen calls over a few hours. The call was a recording of Scirocco and listed his phone number.

Update: the voters had their say and booted out the decades-long incumbent. Scirocco won with a landslide 61.8% of the vote. Now McTygue can take his own signs down, as he won't be needing them anymore.

Monday, November 05, 2007

NYS citizens to vote on clean water for Raquette Lake

In odd-numbered years, municipal and county races are the only offices on New York state's ballots. There is generally very little media coverage of all but a few races, perhaps because so many are uncontested. State referenda questions get even less coverage.

For example, Adirondack Musing blog helpfully points out that state voters will get to vote on whether residents of Raquette Lake will be allowed to have clean water.

Residents of Raquette Lake want to trade 12 acres of forest for 1 acre of state-owned "forever wild" land where they will build their badly needed village water supply but since it's within the constitutionally-protected Adirondack Park, this must be approved approved in a statewide vote.

Please remember to vote on this issue tomorrow.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

How to increase voter turnout? More choices!

Last month, the Glens Falls Post-Star asked readers to submit suggestions about what the paper could do to encourage higher voter tournout. Here are some of my thoughts...

I believe there's a link to the fact that the United States is the only western country with only two parties represented in our national legislature (and nearly all state ones) and and the fact we have the lowest voter turnout in the western world. I vote in every election that I can, but most of the time it's out of a sense of duty, rather than a true belief that I'm voting for a great candidate.

The high registration/low voter turnout dichotomy has causes, not all of which are apathy and ignorance.

On the national and state level, these causes are well known. Corporate media bias against smaller parties as expressed by its near universal refusal to give anything other than the occasional token coverage to smaller party candidates. And rigged state electoral laws that create a distinctly unlevel playing field for the non-major parties.

Locally, its roots are in the suffocating dominance of the Republican Party in the region combined with the impotence and cluelessness of Chairman Keith Lawrence and the rest of what passes for the leadership of the Warren County Democratic Party.

Nearly every election cycle produces scores of uncontested races in Warren County**, outside the city of Glens Falls. County Democrats can't even find people to run for high profile countywide positions like sheriff and district attorney. And even those rare contested races are quite often between a Republican who won the primary and a Republican who lost the GOP primary but got another ballot line. People are obviously dissatisified with the paucity of choices on offer. Three different flavors of vanilla doesn't excite a lot of people.

A great example is the recent race for sheriff. This was by far the most high profile local race in Warren County. Supporters of the two Republican candidates, Bud York and incumbent Larry Cleveland, deluged the paper and other local media with their comments, smears and abuse. York beat Cleveland in both the GOP and Independence primaries. He will be the only person on the ballot in November.

So the sheriff was decided by 8000 Republicans and 140 Independence Party members. The opinions of the 18,000 registered voters who didn't belong to either party were irrelevant. 44% of the registered voters in Warren County were disenfranchised in this race.

What I'd like to see The Post-Star do is encourage people to considering joining and being active in smaller parties. It should encourage smaller parties to run their own candidates, rather than to simply glom on to a GOP primary loser.

And when those candidates run, it should give them a decent amount of press coverage to the Republican candidate (and Democrat, if there is one). Not the one or two token stories about the quirky gadfly running for whatever office. But a consistent amount of press coverage comparable to the GOP and Democrat candidates. Any time a major party candidate is quoted in a story on an issue, so should the smaller party candidate(s). It's not that difficult but it requires a change of mindset on the part of the paper.

It is unacceptable for The Post-Star to criticize the apathy of voters if the paper itself can't be bothered to seek the opinion of all candidates on important issues.

I believe that the greater diversity of choices offered will increase voter turnout simply because more people will find their views represented in a candidate... but only if the public is made aware of all their choices.



**-Update: According to County Board of Elections numbers, this year is no different regarding the Democrats inability to field candidates. Republicans are running unopposed in three of the four countywide offices up for grabs.

Of the 67 local offices available countwide, there are no more than 13 actual Democrats running. There are at least 2 Republicans who lost their party's primary and are running on the GOP line. There are 12 Republicans who were also handed the Democratic line.

All this means that over 80 percent of the offices up for grabs in Warren County will have no actual Democrat contending.

It also means that countywide, there are more Republicans on the Democratic ballot line than Democrats.