Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veterans Day Tribute

In Syracuse, N.Y., a citizens' memory board is filled with loving and respectful memories of all men and women who have served our nation.

No Mama-No Papa-No Uncle Sam:

A Veterans' Day Tribute to my Uncle Paul Nagurney
To Paul: a Veteran; a Patriot; a Great Man

"It is wrong to place our military in harm's way and not support them.
May God forgive those who did so in Bataan, and may God forgive those who forget the sacrifices of Bataan,
and those other Americans who rest here."

Maj. Richard M. Gordon (USA Ret.) Adjutant,
Battling Bastards of Bataan
Remarks at the Manila American Cemetery
at Ft. Bonifacio, Makati, Manila, Philippines, April 2, 2002
The late Senator Inouye, Senator Stevens, Ambassador Ricciardone in attendance

On this Veteran's day I wish to thank my Great Uncle Paul who died in 1981 at the age of 67...and whose sacrifices and stories I will not forget.

He was a survivor of the Bataan Death March of WWII.

He served 20 years with the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force.

He was wounded December 10, 1941 while stationed at Nichols Field in the Phillipines.

He was evacuated to Bataan and then to Corregidor.
When Corregidor fell to the Japanese, he was taken prisoner.

He survived the Bataan Death March, thanks to his sheer will and a secret stash of quinine, which he shared with others to
help sustain them.

Hundreds of Americans died or were killed in that Death March.

Uncle Paul survived over three more years imprisonment by the Japanese. He was later awarded the American Defense Service Medal with a bronze star, a Distinguished Unit Badge with two oak-leaf clusters, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with a bronze star, the WWII Victory Medal, the Purple Heart, and the Phillipine Defense Ribbon with a bronze star.

"Ghost Soldiers" by Hampton Sides tells one of the best stories about the Bataan incident.
Fourth Marine Mel Sheya, a Bataan survivor, wrote a first-hand accounting of Bataan in "The Battling Bastards of Bataan".
I am lucky enough to have an autographed copy of the book.

In one section of the book, Sheya writes:

"In our short stay at Cabanatuan, we had seen our comrades face the firing squad, hundreds die from dysentery, malaria, malnutrition, and shot by guerillas who were after the Japs.
When we left, the camp was in a precarious state, for many
men were lying around about to die. The camp looked more like a graveyard than a prison camp. Men weighed from sixty to eighty pounds and were unable to hold anything on their stomachs.
We bid them adieu, knowing that soon many would be buried.
Some of the dying would give buddies their sentimental valuables and ask them to give them to their wives or families when Uncle Sam liberated us.
The time for departure came and we lined up ready to march.
You wouldn't realize men could become so close in friendship until you could see the tears shed by the men whose close friends were leaving...."

He also wrote:

"Many nights I would dream of Mom and the friends I would love to see, then I would be awakened by the sobbing of some boy that was less fortunate than I in concealing his emotions. There was alwas some one of us prepared to comfort and try to console these men that were still human enough to cry..."

"Old Glory, to me, really means the flag of freedom and democracy.
May it forever fly proudly.
Damn the men that ever try to depreciate it."
Mr Sheya and my Uncle survived a living hell in captivity for
42 months under the Japanese. Corregidor was not only the bloodiest battle in the WWII Pacific, but was possibly the worst form of defeat ever inflicted in the U.S. armed forces.

There were very dark moments when these prisoners would feel they were forgotten and abandoned by the American generals. Lorcha Dock was where General MacArthur (realizing too late that he had spread his troops too thinly) uttered the words "I Shall Return", before departing for Australia. He had ordered a general retreat of his troops on Luzon to the Bataan Peninsula on the western side of Manila Bay. The American and Philippine Army troops scattered across eight of the other large Philippine islands were abandoned to the Japanese.

In a most human sense, how might YOU have felt if you were one of those left behind?

Uncle Paul learned that, when all is said and done, we only have ourselves on which to rely upon for our own survival.
He was not angry at his nation for what happened to him.
He held no grudge.
He believed in the cause of true American democracy and freedom.

Yes, through it all, my Uncle Paul loved America for what he believed she stood for.
Freedom and democracy.
I learned many important lessons from Uncle Paul through the years I was lucky enough to have his
company and his counsel.
His thoughts, his patriotic love run through me and through all the words you see here on this page.

I intend, as long as I live, to never let his memory die and I will turn my ears and heart away from any contemporary political leader (hack) who tells me to just shut up about a troubled war in which our nation is engaged. Why? Because it's not for myself that I speak, it's for our Constitution - and especially for the sanctity of the very lives and souls of the very men and woman who risk all their earthly ties to serve the U.S. Constitution and the people of this nation.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Being A Desert

Being a Desert

There is an ancient teaching that is at the
core of true spiritual development: in order to connect constantly to the Light of the Creator we must develop and become like the desert.

The desert is un-owned, open space within which anybody can do anything they want. This is the level to which we are supposed to develop. Being like the desert means that you do not care what people do to you, what people say to you, or what they do not do for you or say to you. It means being free in the deepest sense.

Our nature is usually the opposite of the desert. We are extremely and constantly concerned about what people do, say or even think about us. We are captive to almost everybody, for their actions, words and even thoughts can influence our feelings and life. In order to develop spiritually we need to constantly work on becoming like the desert, feeling open and free like the desert. It is not an easy process but one that not only greatly enables our spiritual development, but also brings to a level of equanimity and peace that cannot be reached any other way.

It is a process that takes constant focus and effort but one whose spiritual and practical effect is immense.

- Rabbi Michael Berg

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Democrats Won on the Minimum Wage Issue

The elections are over now. The Democrats made a tremendous showing, taking scores of seats away from entenched Republican incumbents. American voters clearly recognized the need for change in the direction in which our nation has been headed. Political analysts will spend a lot of time deciding which issues helped to push Democrats over the top in 2006, and I believe that the ballot inititives to raise the minimum wage in six swing states will be seen by analysts as a key issue and an important catalyst for this Democratic landslide. While we can breathe a temporary sigh of relief about our big win, we know that our work has just begun. After ballot proposals to raise the minimum wage passed in six states, the new speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has called raising the federal minimum wage a top priority.

Mainstream media is reporting that the outcome of the elections will drive Congress toward a federal minimum wage hike. I'm sure that Republican strategists are asking themselves whether or not the GOP's failure to create the fair political conditions for minimum wage legislation to come to a vote last summer has actually lost them elections in many states. Firing RNC mouthpiece Ken Mehlman won't change the fact that the Republican agenda and strategy backfired. After the smoke over the election's burnt-over Republican fields has cleared, we can look back and recall the energy and commitment that leaders like former Senator John Edwards and Senator Edward [Ted] Kennedy [D-MA] devoted to the cause of raising the minimum wage, providing the moral national leadership that Americans have been looking for.

According to Business Week, this year, voters in 37 states weighed in on 208 statewide ballot measures, up by a third from the last election. It's also the third-highest number of initiatives in history, trailing only 1996 and 1914.

Senator John Edwards, who has focused on eliminating poverty as we know it (and aims to do so within 30 years) had campaigned on the front lines over the past 18 months on behalf of raising the federal minimum wage and supporting Labor as they stood with him on the minimum wage issue. Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts has called Senator Edwards a "tireless advocate" on the minimum wage. Understanding that a power change in the House and Senate would be necessary to see many of these proposals succeed, Senator Edwards traveled to a total of 39 states, raising more than $7.6 million for Democratic candidates, party committees and allied organizations. He traveled to the six states where ballot initiatives on raising the minimum wage were present. The states were Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, and Ohio. Union representative groups like the AFL-CIO and the Change to win Coalition, along with community groups such as ACORN and many faith-based organizations also promoted the raise in minimum wage in each respective state. The ballot proposals were designed to give workers currently making only $5.15 an hour a raise of $1 to $1.70 an hour, indexing the rate to inflation each year to protect against wage stagnation. This type of inflation indexing was considered to be a significant labor victory in Tuesday's elections.

Americans understand that not only is it impossible to get ahead on minimum wage, but you can't even make the monthly bills, send your kids to college, gas up your car, or buy groceries to properly nourish your family. 37 million Americans are living in poverty today and in a nation where so many who have wealth beyond measure have been further enriched by the majority Republican leaders in Washington D.C. while the poor are forgotten, we see that moral national leadership is missing. America spoke on November 7. They said, "No more. We can do better than this - we know it."

On Tuesday, the ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage wound up winning in every single one of the six states where they were on the ballot. According to Let Justice Roll, state wage increases won by:

76 percent in Missouri,
73 percent in Montana,
69 percent in Nevada,
66 percent in Arizona,
56 percent in Ohio, and
53 percent in Colorado.

Let Justice Roll's message is one that most Americans can understand:
"A job should keep you out of poverty, not keep you in it."

Steven Kest of ACORN has said:
"ACORN members in fours states--Missouri, Arizona, Colorado, and Ohio--celebrated the overwhelming success of ballot initiative campaigns to raise the minimum wage. They also applauded the successful efforts of other coalitions which passed wage increases in Nevada and Montana. 'Around the country, people came out to vote and did what politicians have failed to do-raised the minimum wage. Huge majorities around the country agree raising wages is the right thing to do because hard work deserves fair pay,' said Mary Keith Ohio ACORN's state board chair. 'The new U.S. Congress needs to put a higher minimum wage and the needs of working families on the top of its agenda.'" [Huffington Post]
In an email this week, Senator Edwards particularly congratulated the six states where the proposals were passed, saying, "Winning these minimum wage ballot initiatives is a huge step toward lifting millions of working families out of poverty."

Raising the minimum wage was supported by voters across party lines, and this was shown in polls leading up to the 2006 election. Upon analyzing their data, the Pew Research Center found, based upon last Spring's polling results, that a heavy majority - 83% of Americans - felt that it was right to raise the minimum wage - including 72% who called themselves Republicans. The GOP had the same access as Democrats to this important polling data. They should have understood the mood of the nation, but their agenda made no room for accomodating the mood or the needs of the average American citizen. The way I see it, if you weren't among the small percentage of the wealthiest citizens, you didn't significantly figure into the Bush Republicans' master plan.

Democrats were hoping the minimum wage would draw voters to their side in 2006 as a values issue (as gay marriage ban initiatives were a successful catalyst for Republicans in 2004.) Just before the elections, Senator Edwards spoke of Missouri's minimum wage ballot initiative as an effort to "talk directly to the voters" since Congress has failed to act.

So - did the wage issue swing close races? Although we cannot say for sure, it could be said that the bipartisan attitudes toward raising the minimum wage as a values issue (and the GOP leadership's failure to do anything about it) likely helped Democrats to win in at least five of the six states where the proposal was on the ballot. Nevada was the only exception. Philgoblue has provided an analysis of Democratic wins beside breakdowns of the minimum wage initiative votes in each of the six states at Daily Kos.

President Bush has talked a lot about a great economy, but too many Americans can find no correlation between their sinking under daily economic pressures and this legendary rising tide for the world's wealthiest investors. Republicans, in what some called a double-cross by the majority party, tied permanent tax cuts for the richest (slashing the estate tax) to Senator Edward Kennedy's proposed legislation to raise the minimum wage last summer. Because of the political blackmail by the GOP leadership, a raise in minimum wage never even got to a Senate vote. The hardest working (and lowest paid) families deserved to be treated with respect by their elected representatives after not seeing a raise in ten years, and they couldn't even get an up or down vote on the wages for their labor because of the stubborn wealth-coddling majority leadership. The LA Times writes more about it and about the post-election hopes of Democrats to bring relief to these families.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) proposed legislation earlier this year to raise the federal minimum wage to $7.25, but Republicans prevented him from bringing it to a vote. On Wednesday, Kennedy said his party's leaders had promised to put his bill to an immediate vote. Kennedy's staff said a vote could even come during this month's lame duck session.

Because of inflation, workers on the bottom rung of the pay scale are able to buy less today than a decade ago. But Kennedy's proposal would more than make up for lost ground, economists said.

"A hike to $7.25 would put its real [inflation-adjusted] value higher than in the 1980s and 1990s but lower than in the 1960s and 1970s," noted Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist for research firm Global Insight. "Part of the federal increase will merely catch up with higher minimums already in place in roughly half of the states."

Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez), who is expected to lead the House Education and Workforce Committee, said the minimum wage would be among his top three priorities.

"Democrats will work in a bipartisan way with Republicans so that, together, we can take our country in a new direction," Miller said in a statement. "We will work to ensure not only that the economy grows but that all families benefit from it." [LA Times]
In a telephone press conference Thursday, Nov. 9, state minimum wage ballot organizers from Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana and Ohio; leaders of the national Let Justice Roll campaign; and two business leaders analyzed the historic minimum wage election victories and discussed future action. You can find out how to hear a replay of a teleconference on the minimum wage landslide victory by going to the Let Justice Roll website. The American people have spoken and, as satisfied as we feel, we know that our work has only just begun. Let's keep up the fight for a decent minimum wage in this country and thank every leader and organization that has led on and supported the important issue.

A Song For Democratic Campaigners

After this low
we’ll be rising
after this low
we’ll be rising
and we wont fall again
fall again

This anthem by Ireland's young troubadour Barry McCormack is dedicated to all the people who worked so hard to move their grassroots candidates into their new seats in Washington, D.C. after so many years of Republican rule.

After this Low  Hag's Head

(Lyrics on left, music on button to the right)

Allen to Concede VA Race - Dems Will Have Sen. Majority

National Journal's Hotline blog is reporting that Sen. George Allen (R-VA) will concede his Senate race to James Webb (D) at a 3pm news conference. As a result of the 2006 election, the Democrats will have control of the Senate (by one seat) as well as the House. A senior staffer says that Allen is not emboldened to fight this. LAst night, Taegan Goddard reported that the Allen adviser said that Allen, who is trailing by more than 7000 votes, "wanted to wait until most of canvassing was completed before announcing his decision, possibly as early as Thursday evening."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Bush Dumps Rummy and Shows He's Out of Touch

"I didn't know we were gonna lose so many seats - - you didn't either!"

That's the "classy" way in which George W. Bush answered a journalist's question about being so out of touch with the voters in Election 2006 that he was totally clueless about the political trouble he was in. It happened today at his press conference where he announced he was finally dumping Donald Rumsfeld. After hearing from so many retired Generals and the editorial boards of the newspapers representing every branch of the military, the only person left to beg Bush to dump Rumsfeld was probably Rumsfeld himself. No - wait - Rumsfeld offered himself up for the slaughter well over a year ago and Bush refused to take his resignation.

Walsh Not Prepared to Claim Victory in NY-25

Incumbent House representative James Walsh is currently ahead by just under 4000 votes in New York's District 25. Dan Maffei has not conceded and will not concede until all of the votes have been fairly counted, which will likely mean waiting at least a week for all absentee ballots to be gathered and counted.

Dan Maffei says that, regardless of the outcome of the final count, he isn't going anywhere. Forcing the national Republican party to pour over a million dollars into an 18-year Republican incumbent's campaign in 2006 has been a profound contribution to Democratic victories nationwide.

There's a video at Channel 9 WSYR explaining the fact that it will be some time before we'll know with any certainty the outcome of the Congressional race in N.Y.'s 25th district.

Only 75% of Onondaga County's approximately 6500 absentee ballots have been returned so far. WSYR Channel 9 lists the absentee ballot breakdown by county as follows:
Outstanding Absentee Ballots by county

-Onondaga County: About 6,500
-Wayne County: 1,151
-Monroe County: 1,144
-Cayuga County: 153
Next Wednesday (a week from now) will be the day we may know a lot more about who has won this tight race. Until then, James Walsh can hope (and act) as if he has won the race if he likes, but he's admitting that he's not prepared to call it a solid win.

Onondaga County elections commissioner (Democrat) Ed Szczesniak says that the district voting machines cannot be recanvassed until the courts say so - which will likely be next Monday or Tuesday. The State Democratic Committee has petitioned the courts in Albany to impound the absentee ballots. Mr. Szezniak feels that Dan Maffei has a pretty large hill to climb in order to win because absentee ballots are generally pretty close in outcome to machine votes, and teh machines decided a 51% Walsh - 49% Maffei outcome.

While I'm sure that that is likely to be true, I think each and every voter in District 25 deserves to be heard. The vote is the most important citizen-method of participating in government and when you get this close, every vote truly does count in a local race. I'm glad to see both candidates, James Walsh and Dan Maffei, being respectful and mindful of the citizens who voted.

Wanting to appear confident, Rep. Walsh has said while there will probably be a recount, he bets that he's feeling a lot better than Mr. Maffei right now. I realize that he's probably quite nervous himself right now. I'm wondering how either fellow can be feeling particularly confident in this situation. It's a nail-biter. It can go either way at this point. The race is just that close.

I'm pulling for Dan Maffei, but regardless of who wins, it's been a wonderful exercise in democracy. I'm proud of Dan and his campaigners - the hard work I know they did and the hope they projected for change in Washington D.C. All involved in the campaign should be very proud of what they've accomplished.

I wish that the DCCC had come to our district and been more supportive from the start. The homegrown grassroots campaigners for Mr. Maffei showed that when you believe, you can accomplish things that even the DCCC and Washington consultants could not envision.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

NRCC Refuses to Stop Illegal Robocalls in NY

The Robocall Scandal

One type of political advertising that is going to remain in the spotlight even after the elections have passed is the "robocall." Chairman of the DCCC Rahm Emanuel is saying that the DCCC is preparing to file civil suits and pursue the use and abuse of this method of political advertising to the fullest extent of the law.

This is not only hitting home here in Central New York. It 's a national problem. In Indiana, the practice has been rightfully squelched by the Indiana Republican party, who has cut ties to the firm responsible for the legally questionable robocalls. The Crooks and Liars blog has MSNBC's Keith Olbermann talking about the robocall situation.

Hear this 570 WSYR mp3 about people getting phonecalls (robocalls) over and over again with no political identity being given until the tail end of the call - an illegal political practice per Federal rules. The National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) is the culprit here. A N.Y. Democractic Campaign Committee spokesman says the effect of the robocalls are a voter turn-off toward the candidate they connect with the annoying phonecall. An example of a call is given on this WSYR mp3, and in this case, it is congressional candidate Dan Maffei who is the target of the NRCC robocalls. In a recent Zogby poll, Maffei was 4 percentage points ahead of incumbent James Walsh.

The NRCC has received official complaints and have said they were just going to continue their misleading and potentially illegal political practice. Leave it to the Republicans - even if caught doing something in the light of day that's clearly not above board, they refuse to back off. Reminds me of Dennis Hastert refusing to step down after we learned how long he'd known that Mark Foley was chasing after little boys who were Congressional pages. It's no wonder they've lost the trust of folks who value personal responsibility and fairness.

Update: Buffalo Geek has more.

What would possess Andrea Mitchell of NBC to make baseless accusations that Democrats have engaged in the same "dirty tricks"? Shame on Ms. Mitchell! The next time MSM accuses the entire blogosphere of making baseless claims, let's remind them that they are no more professional at times like this - and they get paid the big bucks for their so-called "professionalism" while the biggest reward I can hope for is a link from another website.

In a similar disappointing and misleading sub-headline, ABC News shows that they are apparently afflicted with the disease that NYT columnist Paul Krugman calls the "curse of even-handedness." In journalism, it's the curse that results in the key point of the piece being reduced to talking points-pablum in a race to seem "balanced." In the ABC article in question, the key point is that the Democrats claim the GOP has launched a dirty robocall campaign - yet the ABC editors feel the Fox News-like need to throw in a lame sub-headline saying that people are also annoyed by general political phonecalls by Democrats (that are not anything like the aforementioned robocalls!)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Gore Vidal: 'The Most Important Election in My Lifetime'

The Klinghoffer Contradiction

I learned about an NRO article about Pastor Ted Haggard by David Klinghoffer from blogger Andrew Sullivan, who commented about it at his blog Daily Dish. Andrew has made his own points - and they're very good ones, I think.

Curiously, Klinghoffer is taking religious license to remove all responsibility for Pastor Ted Haggard's personal choices. In its place, Mr. Klinghoffer puts responsibility for Haggards' actions squarely on culture's back - revealing a view that I would not think to be classicly conservative in a cultural or spiritual way. Read the following excerpt and you'll see what I mean:
"..the experience of Ted Haggard strengthens the case for legally constituted social institutions like traditional marriage. Did the acceptability of gay love in today’s culture hasten Haggard’s fall? No doubt it did. It’s possible that the same man in a better time and place would have been beset by no such temptation."
"Same man" in a "better" time and place?

Who is Mr. Klinghoffer to judge time and place - from ancient times to the present - as "better?"

By "better," does he mean the days when a woman could be stoned to her death for committing adultery? I know a story about a "better" man in a time and place that was probably not so different from ours in terms of temptation. His name was Jesus of Nazareth. That "better man" pleaded with those who were preparing to stone such a woman to stop and think about their own temptations. He implored that those who were without sin should cast the first stone - and no stone was thrown.

In this case, Mr Klinghoffer is throwing stones at everyone except for Pastor Haggard. Instead of seeing Haggard as a man who consciously chose to break his vow of faithfulness to his marriage partner again and again, Klinghoffer makes a victim out of him - the culprit, in Klinghoffer's scenario, being "time and place." And this confused man, Pastor Haggard, is Klinghoffer's poster boy for maintaining legal exclusivity matrimony between a man and a woman. I'm sorry - the tissue of that kind of religious and political philosophy is just too rationally disconnective to be believed.

Pssst - Evangelicals: A word to the wise. Make the fellow on the right the poster boy for values rather than the confused political fundamentalist on your left. David Klinghoffer may not like the politics of the fellow on the right, but the fellow on the right believes in equal rights for every human being, possessing the compassion required to make him a Christian who actually lives what he says he believes. There is no room for hypocrisy in religion or politics in today's world where so many leaders use the values wedge to divide citizens.

Religion may prescribe that we fight against all kinds of sexual temptation in ourselves, but people like Bill Frist do not have the same moral right to ask us to fight the human tendency to love another human being, regardless of their sex. Leaders like Dennis Hastert should never have the right to choose or regulate the gender of our partner for life. Legislators present and past [like known child predator Mark Foley] surely do not have the right to discriminate against those committed people who remain faithful to one another for life simply because the members of the couple are of the same gender.

The key here is that none of this discussion about civil unions has a thing to do with Pastor Ted Haggard, a man who presented himself as a moral leader and who was a moral failure in his 'traditional union.' The sacred vow he'd taken was broken - not by "time and place," but by a fallible human being who enjoyed intimacy with other men.

Klinghoffer says, "all homosexuals deserve not our condemnation but only our most sincere compassion." To me, that sounds just like another meaningless platitude coming from behind a fundamentalist's smoke screen. I neither condemn nor feel a compulsion to harbor special compassion for my gay friends and acquaintances. They are simply my friends and acquaintances. It would be unnatural for me to think I'd need to be any more compassionate toward them than for my heterosexual neighbors.

The level of "compassion" I would offer to Pastor Haggard right now is to feel extremely embarrassed for him. I have deep regret for the sham he perpetuated on devout and trusting New Life Christians for so long. If he decided he'd been in the closet for too long and wanted to come out, I'd respect that decision fully and I would support his forthright honesty and self-awareness. If he chooses to make amends with his wife in private, it's none of my business and I would respect that decision. But if he chooses to play the "You're going to hell if you're gay" game, I will not respect him. The "compassion" I would feel for him then would be the compassion for I'd have for anyone of whom I suspect suffers from mental illness.

The real corker here is Klinghoffer's contention that secularism denies personal moral responsibility - yet personal moral responsibility is exactly what Klinghoffer himself denied on behalf of Pator Ted Haggard in this article, blaming "time and place..." pining for a "better" past that never actually existed.

All this mumbo-jumbo for the purpose of discriminating against equal rights for gays. Yikes. Keep trying, Klinghoffer.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Wesley Clark Rallies for Dan Maffei in Syracuse

[New York Congressional District 25] This afternoon in Syracuse, about 200 Democrats came out to the Dan Maffei for Congress campaign office in North Syracuse for a rally at which General Wesley Clark attended and spoke. He arrived at about 1:45 pm and worked his way from the street through the crowd in the parking lot, smiling and greeting Maffei supporters as he and the Maffei team approached the microphones awaiting them near the front of the building.

Dan Maffei began the rally by saying that he is the alternative candidate who will, if elected, be sure that we change course - and not just in Iraq, but in Central New York as well. He promised that he would bring our young people back to Central New York and provide them with new and attractive opportunities. Young people will be exporting products and services from Central New York instead of us exporting young people from our area.

Chuck Harding, chair of the Salina town Democratic committee, came up to introduce General Clark. Having fought in the Vietnam war, Mr. Harding expressed his desire to see America changed for the better instread of the worse.

General Clark spoke for about twenty minutes, beginning by talking about America's reckless foreign policy in Iraq. He described the Bush administration's strategy as a failing mission with no end in sight, pointing out the fact that there is clear strategy for success.

In no uncertain terms, he said that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld should resign his position at once. With the war in Afghanistan sliding into failure, we have seen the effect of the economy of force. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld thought, when it came to the wars to which the Bush administration had committed our troops, that he could "do it on the cheap" - and he was wrong. Now we see Iran slipping away from our control - getting closer with each passing day to possessing nuclear weapons. Over five years after 9/11, Osama bin Laden is still on the loose. There are many more terrorists today than there were on 9/11.

"We are not winning," said General Clark "We are making more enemies than friends."

He said that there are some in Washington D.C. today who have their sights on "just another air campaign" - this time against Iran. When General Clark led the Supreme Allied Forces in Europe [the Balkans/Serbia/Kosovo] in the late 90s, he was able to win not only by air power, but also with Clinton administration diplomacy. The Bush administration has not used diplomacy for America's best interests and we cannot win any war by air campaigns alone. Without diplomacy., we stand to fail. General Clark warned that a change must come. "We cannot wait for 2008," said General Clark, "It must come now."

He explained that, when he was a General, he kept a troubleshooting list of his "top 40" reasons why he'd little or no success in certain battles. Below that list of 40 would be another list of 40. The secret, he found, was that Generals and top brass could plan and guide and command all they could, but in the end, it is the soldiers and only the soldiers who win the battles. He told those in the audience that Dan Maffei was a superior candidate, and he is capable of being a great leader, but it is only the supporters who will be able to win the battle on the ground in the next 48 hours.

On that encouraging note, he joined hands with Dan Maffei and raised them high in the air to a hearty round of cheers and applause.

[R to L] Dan Maffei and fiancee Abby; Brady the canine Maffei supporter waits for Gen Clark to arrive; General Clark signs his name for a supporter.

[R to L] A crowd of Maffei supporters; "Honk For Maffei" cheerleaders; Walking with Dan Maffei, General Clark is shaking hands as he arrives.

[R to L] Dan and General Clark greet supporters as they approach the podium; Greet supporters; Have their photo taken together.

[R to L] Walking through the crowd; Dan Maffei begins the rally; Speaking to the enthuisiastic audience.

[R to L] General Clark smiles at the supporters as Dan speaks; Dan finishes his speech; General Clark is brought to the mike.

General Clark tells the audience why they can't wait until 2008 for a change. Change must come now.

The crowd cheered as General Clark, Dan Maffei, Abby, and Charles (Chuck) Harding raised their joined hands.

Together, Dan Maffei and General Clark greeted more supporters after the rally.

Thanks to Lisa, I had my own photo taken with General Clark.

* * Crunchy Frog has this great video at YouTube!

*Update: Former president Bill Clinton appeared at a rally in Rochester on Monday morning to support congressional candidates Dan Maffei and Eric Massa. He said, "These races are still pretty close and we've got to get our votes out. And there are still people who will go to the polls tomorrow, not entirely sure of who they're going to vote for because, frankly, a lot of these people never voted for us before." [Photo credit: WROC TV Rochester].

Nelson Mandela on Poverty

"It is my fervent wish, as I come together with human rights activists around the world today, that we shine the candle of hope for the forgotten prisoners of poverty.

Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is people who have made poverty and tolerated poverty, and it is people who will overcome it. And overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom

- Nelson Mandela, from an Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award acceptance speech on November 1, 2006