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Clinton Bashing 101

Green Party Senate candidate and Ralph Nader blast Hillary while campaigning in Albany

The U.S. government’s war on marijuana jumped to a new platform this week—YouTube. The White House announced plans to place anti-pot commercials on the hugely popular Web site, which allows anyone to post almost any video for free. They are betting that their anti-drug message will be well-received by the site’s viewers; we are betting otherwise.


Despite the United States’ status as a democratic nation, it is a country of coronations rather than elections, according to consumer advocate and three-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader. The political activist joined Howie Hawkins in Albany Monday to endorse Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate, and to criticize—and that’s putting it nicely—Sen. Hillary Clinton.

“She views this election as her coronation,” Nader said of Clinton, condemning her for refusing to engage in political debates with her challengers.

“Elections are rare intervals in our country when people have an opportunity and a chance to discuss important issues with a candidate,” he said. “If she is going to insist on proceeding in an authoritarian mindset, which is to refuse a debate with all ballot-qualified candidates to the office she seeks, she is displaying the kind of personality and character we’re all too used to in Washington, D.C.”

Although Clinton is overwhelmingly expected to retain her Senate seat in November, five politicians are challenging her incumbency. Republican candidate John Spencer and four antiwar minor-party candidates, including Hawkins, have thrown their hat in the ring.

“If people vote on issues, if they know what their options [in candidates] are and they vote on the issues, I’ll be the next senator because the majority’s not pro-war, and the majority can benefit from the national health plan I propose,” said Hawkins, who has made bringing the troops home and national health insurance central issues in his campaign.

They are two issues he and Nader said Clinton has, to the detriment of her constituents, avoided.

“She has also turned her back on abuses that she knows a lot about,” Nader said. “She no longer, if ever, supports single-payer universal health insurance—that is, full Medicare for everybody. She [hasn’t addressed] the pharmaceutical industry, in a state where lots of its residents head to Canada to buy cheaper drugs, and she simply won’t challenge the insurance industry.”

Nader cited these and other hands-off politicking as evidence of Clinton’s surrendering of “her integrity, her principles and her past beliefs in order to gain the arrogance of power.” He described her as shifting from a moderate Democrat to a “profoundly corporate Democrat,” faithful only to her big- business campaign contributors.

“There’s a contradiction in the Democratic Party between their voter base, which is antiwar and generally progressive, and their funder base, which has been pro-war and more conservative,” Hawkins said. “Clinton is acting in office like her funder base wants her to, and ignoring her voter base.”

She is “marching arm-in-arm with major corporate lobbies toward the White House,” Nader said, stating he has no doubt Clinton will make a run for president in 2008. “I think she wants to raise so much money that the money itself will scare off some of her challengers in the primary. She’s going to come in with $80 or $90 million, and that’s a horrific sum for any candidate to challenge.”

As for whether he’ll step forward as a candidate in 2008, Nader said he doesn’t know yet, but he isn’t ruling out the possibility.

Hawkins is the only candidate in New York state whom Nader has thrown his weight behind during this election cycle.

—Nicole Klaas

What a Week

Best Insult Ever

Ann Richards, the one-time governor of Texas, died this week at age 73. It was at the 1988 Democratic National Convention, while treasurer of Texas, that she gained national attention by leveling this criticism at George H. W. Bush: “Poor George. He can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.” She would go on to become governor of the Lone Star State in 1991 and serve in that office until 1995, losing her reelection bid to George W. Bush.

Press Price

Earlier this month it was revealed that the U.S. government has been paying 10 journalists in Miami to write news the government wanted written. TV, radio and print journalists received hundreds of thousands of dollars to write anti-Castro stories targeted at Miami’s Cuban population. The practice of paying journalists to write slanted stories has become common in the Bush administration. Although reports about the Miami incident also reference the Pentagon paying Iraqi newsman to write positive stories about the war, they neglect to mention that the Education Department also paid pundits and journalists to promote the No Child Left Behind Act.

Coup for Democracy

In what is being called a peaceful and bloodless coup, key players in Thailand’s military took over Bangkok this week and deposed the country’s controversial prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. The overnight coup was led by Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratglin and received the blessing of Thailand’s influential but otherwise powerless king. Many see the ousting of the freely elected Thaksin, who has been embroiled in a corruption scandal, as a boon for democracy. Many of Thailand’s urban middle class began protesting Thaksin last year for actions, they allege, that were directed toward dismantling the fledgling democracy. Gen. Sonthi said that free elections will be held by October 2007.

Purposeful pottery: Potters at the Arts Center of the Capital Region create bowls to donate to the Empty Bowls project in Troy.

Bowls Runneth Over

After unexpected success with its inaugural event last year, a Troy project to fight hunger gears up for a second round

A community project based in Troy is turning to local artisans for help in achieving its mission of raising awareness about hunger and stocking local food-pantry shelves. Potters will produce and donate hundreds of handcrafted ceramic bowls for the city’s second Empty Bowls event, a fund- raising project hosted in various communities across the nation.

The event’s success is contingent upon the cooperation and enthusiasm of several community constituencies. The effort begins with local potters, whose handicraft becomes the focus of the Empty Bowls event, at which a $10 admission charge entitles attendees to a one-of-a-kind ceramic bowl and a hot meal courtesy of area restaurants and bakeries. At the event, scheduled this year for Oct. 1, it’s the financial contributions from community residents that enable the project to provide lump-sum donations to Troy food pantries.

Troy’s trial event in October 2005 sold out of bowls and raised more than $11,000, which was divided among the city’s nine food pantries—enough money for one to feed its hungry for the next two years.

Barbara Reeley, the Troy project’s founder and chair of the local Empty Bowls committee, said she was dumbfounded by the outpouring of support and excitement the event received in 2005.

“What I found out by talking to other potters throughout the country is that our event is one of the more successful [Empty Bowl projects],” she said. “We may not make 30,000, 40,000 or 80,000 dollars, but as far as how we sold out and that we’re keeping it all local.”

Reeley is upping the ante for this year’s event. She has increased the number of bowls to about 1,200, up from the approximately 900 sold in 2005. Additional restaurant and bakery vendors have agreed to donate soups, breads and baked goods. The Italian-American Community Center, which is hosting the event for a second year, also has agreed to provide more dining-room space.

While Reeley occasionally receives bowl donations from potters throughout the Northeast, who hear of the project and feel compelled to contribute, the bulk of the pottery is produced during weekly sessions at Reeley’s studio, River Street Pottery.

Her studio sessions have bustled with potters since early this summer. In addition to this steady output, Reeley was promised about 100 bowls each from an art class at Skidmore College and the Arts Center of the Capital Region.

JoAnn Axford, a professor at the Arts Center, has been a member of the Troy Empty Bowls planning committee since last year. After what she described as the “phenomenal” success of last year’s event, Axford said she wanted to allow more people the opportunity to participate. She planned three work sessions in September for her students and novice potters to attend.

“Can you imagine someone making a bowl for the first time?” Axford said. “They’re going to feel thrilled, and yet they’re giving it away. That’s pretty neat, I think.”

Although the Troy Empty Bowls project remains young, the event is well-rooted in other communities across the nation. The original event was the brainchild of a high-school art teacher and his students in Michigan, who concocted the Empty Bowls project as a solution in their quest for a creative way to raise funds to support a local food drive in 1990. After the event, the bowls would serve as a yearlong reminder of hunger in the world.

In addition to the support of local artists, restaurants and bakeries, Reeley has received raffle prize donations from area businesses and monetary contributions from others.

—Nicole Klaas

The Troy Empty Bowls event will be held Oct. 1 from noon to 3 PM. For more information, contact Barbara Reeley at 669-5296.

Not Appropriate for Our Audiences

Company says ads promoting birth control are too controversial for its Hudson theater

“There is pretty much nothing to do around here,” said Nicole Dallas about her hometown of Hudson. “We’re always wondering, ‘Where is there to go?’ And that’s where people go. Everyone I know goes there,” she said of the Hudson Movieplex 8 Cinema.

Nicole works just a bit down the road from the theater as a program assistant at Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood. There she helps educate area teens about responsible sex. She and her coworkers want to reduce Columbia County’s teen-pregnancy rate—a rate that, at last check, was 27-percent higher than the New York state average for 18 and 19 year olds.

If things had gone as planned, Dallas also would have been educating teens who visited the Hudson 8 Movieplex. Dallas modeled for one of the birth-control advertisements that Planned Parenthood proposed to run onscreen before movies in the cinema. But according to Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood spokesperson Blue Carreker, the advertising campaign was rejected by the Cinema North, the company that handles advertising for the theaters, claiming the ads were “controversial” because they promote birth control. (Cinema North did not return calls for comment.)

Carreker noted that the theater had run Planned Parenthood ads in the past. She reported that a representative from the company complained that the new series of ads was too “in your face,” and “shows specific ways of using birth control.” However, as both Dallas and Carreker point out, the advertisements are fairly timid. Dallas’s ad features her picture, bordered by a quote that reads, “Some things I can control. That’s why I use birth control.”

Carreker said that the ads were deemed fit to run on the sides of buses in Albany. And she said that although she is glad the ads are getting out there, she thinks the Hudson theater represents a lost opportunity to reach an isolated teen audience.

Dallas agreed, and she thinks movie theaters have a greater responsibility to their young audiences to promote safe sex. “We are seeing sex in the movies,” she said, “and teens are seeing it everywhere in the media, but there is nothing advertising birth control.”

—David King

Trash Advance

Is the third time the charm in Albany’s quest to expand its landfill?

“My quick response,” said Chris Hawver, executive director of the Pine Bush Preserve Commission, “is that it is a much better plan than the last one.” After two other plans to expand the Rapp Road landfill were greeted poorly by the public and environmentalists, the city of Albany offered up another plan on Tuesday in hopes that it will be approved before the current landfill overflows its capacity. The city currently is taking in maximum levels of garbage from surrounding communities to maximize revenue from the dump.

The new plan would move the dump to where the transfer station is currently located. The transfer station would be relocated, and the city would attempt to purchase two bordering properties that are not part of the Pine Bush Preserve. Moving the structure of the transfer station is estimated to cost $2 million. However, the city also has hired a consulting firm to restore some sensitive environmental areas around the dump, and, as General Services Commissioner Bill Bruce pointed out, the price tag on that is unknown. The new plan is a much more expensive alternative than the previous plans.

But according to Lynne Jackson of Save the Pine Bush, the plan is just bringing the process back to where it started—taking land promised to the preserve and burying it in garbage. She insists the three acres that would be used in the newest proposal were involved in a deal brokered by Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings and Gov. George Pataki in May 2000 in which they agreed to trade 19 acres on Washington Avenue for 45 acres of Pine Bush. At the time, both Pataki and Jennings made it clear the land was intended for preservation. “By working creatively,” said Pataki, “we are protecting environmentally valuable Pine Bush land while putting 19 acres back on the tax rolls.”

Jackson further insisted that at least part of the land is actually already part of the preserve.

In the past year, Albany has twice presented plans to expand the landfill [“The Garbage Burden,” April 27, 2006]. The first would have expanded it into land that the city had legally promised to dedicate to the Pine Bush Preserve. The second plan would have taken already dedicated land. However, this past spring, Assemblyman John McEneny put a wrench in the process by killing a bill he had sponsored to move ahead with the second plan at the last minute, saying the bill was unnecessary for the review process to take place.

“After being vilified for stopping the expansion to the west, I feel pretty vindicated,” McEneny said last Tuesday. “Now we are talking, instead of going west into the preserve, talking about going east and not into the preserve. It’s a good thing I put my foot down when I did.”

“It wouldn’t create the awful precedent of taking already dedicated land from the Pine Bush” Hawver elaborated. “But is it great? No. It is still taking land from the Pine Bush.” However, Hawver, noted that the land now in the city’s sights is not “classic” Pine Bush.

Ward 12 Common Councilman Michael O’Brien said that although Pine Bush supporters are not likely to “stand up and cheer” over the new plan, it will be a lot more “palatable” to them. He hopes that once the plan is submitted for approval, it will give the city a chance to look at long-term solutions to its trash problems, as well the trash problems of the Capital Region Solid Waste Management Partnership members.

Still, Jackson insisted that solutions are currently available. Jackson, a number of members of the crowd, and Ward 1 Councilman Dominick Calsolaro asked city officials Tuesday if the city has considered simply lowering the amount of garbage it takes in as a way to increase the current dump’s life span. The response they got was silence.

Jackson also proposed ways—including tidal, wind and solar power—to balance revenue the city would lose from taking in less garbage. But O’Brien insisted that the problem will not be solved exclusively on a regional basis. “We need to find creative ways of limiting creation of all this throwaway stuff,” he said. “But it is beyond any municipality to do it by itself. It was beyond New York City, apparently, and they are a lot bigger than us and they threw up their hands. We definitely need the Feds involved in this. We need the state to not just be regulatory, but proactive.”

—David King

Loose Ends

-no loose ends this week-

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