Our Own Monsters
United Nations Weapons Inspector continues challenging conventional
wisdom on Iraq
you have policies
that call for regime change, it becomes part of the internal
mission to maintain the image of a noncompliant Iraq,” said
former U.N. inspector and Bethlehem resident Scott Ritter
of his experience looking for weapons of mass destruction
in Iraq before the war.
Ritter was speaking Saturday at a well-attended forum sponsored
by local peace groups at the Bethlehem Town Hall.
According to Ritter, when U.S. policy shifted inspectors’
focus from surveying compliance with U.N. regulations to finding
violations, unlikely concepts such as the “mobile chemical
weapon factories” mentioned by Secretary of State Colin Powell
in the build-up to war were a natural result.
was one of the worst ideas I ever came up with,” said Ritter
of the mobile factories.
Ritter also discussed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian
reported to have claimed responsibility for recent terrorist
actions in Iraq and surrounding areas. According to Ritter,
it’s unlikely that a single unpopular foreigner like Zarqawi
could control a network as complex as the one described by
U.S. officials. But the idea that he is the one responsible
for all the terrorists acts is perpetuated because it would
benefit both the Iraqi insurgents and the U.S. forces, said
Ritter. It creates a link the Bush administration badly needs
between U.S. action there and the prevention of global terrorism.
And the association would benefit Iraqi insurgents, as responsibility
for civilian deaths could be heaped upon a foreigner rather
than other Iraqis. This, said Ritter, equates to dangerous
order to win the war in Iraq, we have to destroy Iraq,” said
Ritter. “And there can be no real victory when those are the
Case You Weren’t Getting Enough Electioneering
photo: Joe Putrock
Evans of Avon, Livingston County, was a vendor at the political-items
show and sale held last Friday and Saturday (Oct. 15-16) in
Albany’s Best Western Sovereign Hotel. The sale, which included
an exhibit celebrating the centennial of Teddy Roosevelt’s
election to the presidency and a range of other historical
political buttons, posters, etc., was sponsored by the Monroe
D. Ray Chapter of Central New York of the American Political
haven’t seen anybody that exciting on the street
since Jerry Jennings back in 1993.”
Senate candidate Mike Conners talking about Albany
District Attorney candidate David Soares.
2000 Comes to the West Coast
Nevada, thousands of people recently made a mistake
that could cost them their right to vote on Nov.
2: They registered as Democrats. After a Republican-funded
voter-registration group was accused by former
employees, who had physical evidence, of shredding
Democrats’ registration forms, a judge—also Republican—ruled
that the disenfranchised voters would not be able
to vote in November. While the group is currently
under investigation for voter-registration fraud,
it is still operating in Oregon, West Virginia
and several other states.
York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi recently announced
that the state’s pool of retirement benefits for
married couples would be extended to include same-sex
couples married in Canada. With this announcement,
the state’s retirement system becomes the first
state program to officially recognize same-sex
Cheaper in Canada, But Don’t Tell
Oct. 13, 25 seniors and other patients from the
East Coast traveled on two chartered Amtrak cars
nicknamed the “Rx Express” to Toronto to buy more
affordable prescription drugs. But press coverage
was hampered during the New York City-Buffalo
leg of the trip, said sponsors Foundation for
Taxpayer and Consumer Rights and NYPIRG, when
Amtrak retracted press access to the cars during
stops, kept passengers from moving between the
chartered cars and the rest of the train, and
stopped the cars short of the platform. Amtrak
said it was just trying to keep the trains running
Are Not Your Friend, Part 453
new federal law on check clearing goes into effect
next Friday (Oct. 28). Bank customers will now
not get their cleared checks back, and checks
will clear faster. The Albany County Department
of Consumer Affairs urges people to be cautious,
since the new law will save banks $2 billion a
year, but doesn’t require any of that savings
to be passed on to their customers. Fees may be
charged for “substitute checks” printed from electronic
images of the original and banks have no privacy
restrictions on what they can do with the information
on the electronic images of customers’ personal
blues and reds: State Senate candidates Neil Breslin
(l) and Michael Conners (r).
photos: John Whipple
Donkey in Elephant’s Clothing?
names, a party-switching candidate and
overlapping platforms in the race for the 46th district state
loyal to my oath of office, not to any party loyalties or
party ties,” said Albany County Comptroller and longtime Democrat
Michael Conners, who recently became a Republican in order
to challenge longstanding incumbent state Sen. Neil Breslin.
Conners’ switch from Democrat to Republican last July surprised—and
angered—many party loyalists, despite his long history of
voting contrary to the party line. In one of the more blatant
examples, the comptroller endorsed Gov. George E. Pataki,
a Republican, during the last gubernatorial election.
tension that had been developing between Democrats and Conners,
who had long been viewed as a “loose cannon” by the party,
reached its breaking point this summer when the comptroller—a
Democrat at the time—was denied the money necessary to challenge
incumbent Republican Bob Prentiss for his Assembly seat. According
to Conners, he was left swinging in the breeze by his party.
was opportunity and dollars,” said Breslin of Conners’ quick
change. “My opponent saw an opportunity, and [Senate Majority
Leader] Joe Bruno had the dollars. It was a perfect marriage.”
Now, the two men are in the midst of what has become an unexpectedly
close race, thanks to a flood of funding directed at Conners
from Bruno and fellow Republicans. But questions remain about
not only Conners’ chances of victory, but whether Bruno will
get a loyal Republican out of a Conners win, or if the candidate
will continue his party-crossing ways.
One thing is certain, however. The call for reform of New
York’s bloated and ineffective state government is getting
louder, and both candidates are answering.
During the recent debate, Breslin indicated that he has proposed
a number of reform-minded bills during his eight years in
the Legislature, including a call for the creation of conference
committees within seven days after the governor’s budget is
introduced. A range of reforms have been dismissed by the
Senate majority when proposed by his minority counterparts,
Senate is broken,” said Breslin. “The only way it will be
reformed is when the Democrats take over.”
Conners acknowledged that state government has deep problems—especially
those involving partisan politics—but he insisted that the
solution lies not in one party’s leadership, but in a bipartisan
effort that begins sooner rather than later.
not about Democrats taking over or Republicans,” said Conners,
who claimed that taking his plan for reform to the majority
would be the easiest way to get the ball rolling. “Honestly,
we all know that it’s the majority that will have the lead
in reform,” he said. Having an elected official in the majority
would also have local benefits, he added.
Along with pledging to introduce legislation that would limit
legislators’ terms and create an independent agency to handle
redistricting, Conners also pledged to donate any “lulu” compensation
he might receive by chairing a Senate committee to the district
Throughout his campaign, Conners has pointed to his own history
of going against party line as an indication of his independent
thought. (The Breslin campaign has reportedly indicated its
thoughts on the matter with large inflatable rats with Conners’
name on them.)
The two candidates do share a common perspective on certain
issues. They both believe a union between two gay partners
should be afforded the same rights as a married couple, and
that drastic reform of the state’s public authorities—a major
sticking point for Republican legislators during last session’s
negotiations on budget process reforms—is needed.
Both candidates also have said that legislators sent to prison
during their time in office should not only forfeit their
pensions but also be barred from running for reelection, and
they’ve both called for a constitutional convention to be
held in order to have the public shape the government more
Similar goals, but different methods, have been voiced by
the candidates on the issue of tax relief, with Breslin arguing
that legislators “can cut taxes by beginning to streamline
the way we collect revenue.” Removing loopholes in corporate
taxation is a linchpin of the Breslin platform, along with
raising taxes for the wealthy and funding all of the mandates
handed down from state to local governments.
According to Conners, better management of state and local
spending practices should be the first concern when trying
to get a handle on the region’s tax burden.
The candidates have found ample room to disagree on several
issues, however. While Breslin is strictly opposed to the
death penalty—he described the punishment as “racist” at a
recent debate—Conners has said that he might support such
a punishment for crimes against police, firemen and other
The two disagreed in a more general sense when discussing
their overall plan for the relationship between state and
local economies, with Breslin insisting that the key to a
healthy dynamic was making sure that the state properly funds
any of the mandates it places upon local governments. According
to Conners, granting local governments more power over their
finances would provide the greatest benefit to the state and
The best indication of the two candidates’ differences may
be reflected in their personalities and styles of governing
thus far. Conners has developed a reputation as a bullish
agent for change who, once he sets his mind on affecting the
status quo, refuses to let enemy—or friend—stand in his way.
In a heavily Democratic district, he’s pitching himself as
someone who will be able to get things done on areas of common
ground more effectively.
Breslin’s style has always been one of patient perseverance.
As a self-described “liberal Democrat” in the Republican-
dominated Senate, Breslin’s complaints about being ignored
by his conservative counterparts have been well documented.
we keep speaking out in a serious intellectual way that this
is wrong,” said Breslin, “people will listen and changes will
with the good guys: Rep. Michael McNulty during the
photo: Cassie Suen
Nader isn’t the only guy saying there’s no difference between
Democrats and Republicans
Redlich, candidate for the 104th Congressional District, is
pro-choice, supports gay marriage, and opposes the death penalty.
He was opposed to the Iraq war from the start and favors repeal
of both the Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Patriot Act. He
thinks we should reduce our dependence on oil by seriously
investing in mass transit, and has told voters who asked him
what he would do about the price of gas that they should get
a smaller car. Oh, and by the way, he’s a Republican.
only one party; it has two names,” said Redlich. “It’s a fictional
divide.” He notes that his opponent, incumbent Michael McNulty,
is pro-life, pro-death penalty and against gay marriage, supported
the war in Iraq and the Patriot Act, and has consistently
voted against medical marijuana.
For the record, McNulty says he opposes only public funding
of abortions, supports “correcting” the parts of the Patriot
Act that “went too far” and voted for the Iraq war “based
on information [the president] gave to members of Congress,
which it turns out to have been inaccurate.” Though he did
vote against the Federal Marriage Amendment, he refused to
give his position on it to the Pride Agenda before the vote.
became a Republican because during his stint as a Democratic
committeeman in his hometown of Guilderland he thought the
town Democrats’ agenda of keeping commercial development out
but allowing continued residential development was disastrous,
and found he aligned more closely with the thinking of the
To be fair, there are also plenty of traditional GOP issues
that Redlich, who can best be described as a libertarian,
lines up behind. He’s opposed to gun control, is a firm fiscal
conservative who believes both taxes and spending are out
of hand (W. is spending like a “drunken sailor,” he says),
and is uncomfortable with a welfare state because “people
who work hard and earn things should benefit from those earnings.”
According to Redlich, his support for things like mass transit
comes under the rubric of “correcting market failures.” “[McNulty]
believes money grows on trees, and we’re the trees,” he said.
McNulty says he is proud of supporting programs in nutrition,
housing, and health care to take care of people in need, and
he believes Kerry’s plan to reverse the tax cuts on the wealthy
and corporations will bring about fiscal soundness.
But the centerpiece of Redlich’s platform, and perhaps his
most interesting proposals, are not easily identifiable with
either party. His health-care proposal, for example, is to
offer universal coverage for basic primary care—which would
save everyone money because of its preventative functions—and
emergency care, which is currently an “unfunded mandate .
. . destroying our area hospitals.” Everything else would
have to be covered by private insurance, but that insurance
would now be more affordable.
Redlich’s top issue—the only one printed on his campaign business
cards, which he’s handed out to 25,000 voters at public events—is
to stop “wasting money defending our rich allies like Western
Europe, South Korea, and Japan.” He estimates that New York
taxpayers are each spending $2,000 per year for these overseas
presences. “That’s not what our troops are doing,” responded
McNulty, who said the military presence in those areas is
a “staging ground” and essential for things like providing
more rapid medical care “with American doctors” to soldiers
wounded in Iraq.
For his part, McNulty sees a clear party divide. “I’d much
rather be associated with the party of FDR, Harry Truman,
Jack Kennedy, and Bill Clinton than the party of Eisenhower,
Nixon, and others. . . . Republicans are the party of big
business interests, Democrats are the party of the people.”
It may be that he doesn’t see his challenger as a threat,
but when he talks about the race, McNulty seems more like
he’s stumping for John Kerry than running against Redlich.
His focus is reminiscent of the presidential debates, repeating
how the current administration has “failed in its efforts
in the war on terror” and turned a surplus into a huge deficit.
The main things McNulty has to say about Redlich are that
he “has an identity crisis on party affiliation,” has never
held public office, and supports “legalization of heroin,
cocaine, LSD and all drugs.” Redlich says while he once favored
complete legalization he no longer does. He does, however,
support the right of physicians to prescribe anything they
deem medically wise.
Redlich has convinced at least one self-described active member
of the “progressive faction” of the Democratic Party to make
his first-ever vote for a Republican. Michael Roona, who met
Redlich through their mutual interest in drug-war reform,
says his top issue is the preservation of the constitutional
rights, something he believes Redlich would stand firm on.
It wasn’t an easy choice. “I find the [national] Republican
Party . . . to be morally repugnant,” Roona said. But, he
said, “I wouldn’t want to paint all Republicans that way,
just like I
wouldn’t want to paint all Democrats as progressives.” Never
supporting “moderate or progressive” Republicans, he argues,
will just further the country’s political factionalization
and prevent good collective decision making.
It’s a hard sell, though. “I did encounter resistance from
some people I was surprised to encounter resistance from,”
said Roona. “Someone I work closely with to get anti-Patriot
Act bills through [various local government bodies], every
chance he got to trash McNulty he would do that, but when
I said I would vote for a Republican, he said ‘No, don’t do
that. You can’t do that.’ ”
in the Court
a last-minute candidacy, and party hijacking in Troy judgeship
Friday afternoon, only a day after the New York State Court
of Appeals removed former Republican candidate Henry Bauer
from the bench for improper conduct, Republicans gathered
to announced a replacement. From the steps of the Troy police
station, members of the Rensselaer Republican Committee, its
chairman Jack Casey, several Troy city councilmen and Mayor
Harry J. Tutunjian announced their nomination of Joe Ahearn
for Troy Police Court.
Casey introduced Ahearn as “a real law-and-order gentleman,”
but hastened to add that “he is sensitive to criminal rights”
in an evident effort to reassure the voters. Bauer was under
judicial review for more than 60 charges that included setting
excessive bail, coercion of suspects and failure to inform
defendants of their rights to counsel.
running on being a fair judge,” said Democratic candidate
Chris Maier. “That may seem like a pointed comment in this
race, but it is not meant as one.”
The ruling that ousted Bauer reshaped an unusual race for
Troy Police Court Judge. “Judge races aren’t usually full
of controversy,” said Maier, who is also breaking with usual
judgeship race tradition by having an issues-oriented platform:
He wants to improve the quality of life in Troy by enforcing
code violations, which he says in turn will keep crime down.
The 4-3 ruling by the state Court of Appeals came only 19
days before the election, leaving the Republicans little time
to regroup, but Casey said it could have been worse: “The
ruling could have come four days before.”
Bauer took the news of the ruling gracefully, saying “I’ve
read both sides of the ruling. They were well thought-out.
They did a good job, but I certainly prefer the dissenting
Earlier in the race, Bauer won the Working Families Party
line in what appears to have been a concerted effort to get
Republican-leaning voters to register as WFP members and vote
in the WFP primary. When asked if WFP saw this move as an
act of desperation, Working Families representative Karen
Scharff made it clear that “they have tried this before, this
is politics as usual for them. We hope our registrants will
vote for Chris.” After the primary, the WFP still listed Maier
as its endorsed candidate on their Web site.
Bauer, who had been suspended with pay since May, was dismissive
of the complaint. “The Democrats filled that party,” he said.
“They went around to the housing projects and signed people
up.” Following Bauer’s removal, the WFP officially replaced
Bauer with Maier on its line.
Maier also expressed frustration that he was never given a
chance to interview for the Conservative or Independence lines.
Even though he is not under investigation, Ahearn may be facing
a more uphill battle than his predecessor. Starting with only
18 days to introduce himself to the people of Troy will be
hard for someone trying to fill the shoes of a man like Bauer,
who has so much recognition in the community—both good and
bad. Joe Leahy, local Troy resident and owner of the sandwich
shop Leahy’s, who has a Maier for Troy Police Court Judge
sign hanging in his shop’s window, had only kind words to
say about Bauer. “Chris has more integrity than any 10 guys
in this city, but I feel bad for Henry. He knew the people
he was dealing with and he was only trying to straighten them
Ahearn, a 35-year-old resident of Troy and graduate of Albany
Law School and the University at Albany, has spent much of
his career as a prosecutor in the Rensselaer County District
Attorney’s Major Crimes Unit. “I’m going to get out there
and meet as many people as I can from now till Nov. 2,” he
According to Troy’s city charter, a replacement must be named
within 10 days of an open bench, and Republicans have a 7-2
majority over Democrats on the City Council.
Maier has made it clear that he feels the position should
be filled through an interview process.
Leaving aside the possibility of being a very-short-term incumbent,
Ahearn’s late-starting candidacy may get a boost from his
party’s strength. The GOP controls all of the major elected
positions in the county, and he has the backing of Joseph
L. Bruno, the Senate majority leader. However, some of Ahearn’s
hopes may rest on hundreds of reprinted absentee ballots getting
to people on time, and convincing absentee voters to fill
out a second corrected ballot. Old ballots returned with a
vote for Maier will be counted, but ballots returned for Bauer
will be discarded.
a closely watched decision, a judge threw out
two-thirds of the campaign finance lawsuit
brought by Republicans and other supporters of
incumbent Albany County District Attorney Paul
Clyne. Democratic and Working Families Party candidate
David Soares was cleared of wrongdoing, as was
the Drug Policy Alliance, which contributed to
the Working Families Party during the primary.
The judge did rule, however, that the Working
Families Party had illegally interfered with another
party’s primary. WFP plans to appeal the ruling.
. . . The IndyMedia servers seized by the federal
government two weeks ago [“Our Servers Are
Gagged,” What a Week, Oct. 14] were returned last
week, but questions remain regarding why the servers
were taken and which government agency was behind
the seizure. The FBI has denied any involvement
and a gag order prevents the servers’ owner from
revealing information about the case. . . . Community
media advocate Steve Pierce’s report to Saratoga
Springs city officials on the city’s cable
franchise renewal process [“Your Input, Please,”
Newsfront, July 29] recommended hiring an independent
consultant to negotiate with cable provider Time
Warner. Members of the Media Center Project, a
local organization advocating for the integration
of schools, government agencies and homes in a
broad cable-based network, support Pierce’s findings.
. . . Sinclair Broadcasting, whose decision
to air a documentary criticizing John Kerry’s
antiwar activities as part of its news programming
sparked national controversy [“Hypocrisy at 11,”
What a Week, Oct. 14], has decided not to show
the film in its entirety, opting instead to run
a special program incorporating segments of the
film. Shares in the company, which owns stations
reaching nearly a quarter of all American homes,
have dropped more than 11 percent in the last
week. . . . The Columbia County Judge race
continues to be controversial, as challenger Pam
Joern claims she is being told she cannot attend,
and has even been thrown out of, supposedly nonpartisan
public events where either her opponent Paul Czajka,
or other elected officials, were present. Officials
say she has been campaigning at these events when
asked not to.