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April 3, 2006

A weblog about the politics and affairs of the old and glorious City of Albany, New York, USA. Articles written and disseminated from Albany's beautiful and historic South End by Daniel Van Riper. If you wish to make a response, have anything to add or would like to make an empty threat, please contact me.

April 3, 2006

Three Short Items

A terrible tragedy, a political dismemberment, and a terrorist at large


The Shooting In Seattle

For those of you who didn’t catch it, our friend Jim Travers, formerly of Albany and recently of Ravena, was hit with the worst sort of senseless tragedy. His son, Jason Travers, was one of seven people shot fatally in Seattle, Washington by a lunatic gunman, apparently at random and without motive. Jason, who was 32, grew up in Albany and was a graduate of Albany High School.

Jim Travers is the guy who is leading SCRAP, Selkirk Coeymans Ravena Against Pollution. These are the folks who have stopped cold the City of Albany's absurd plan to turn 350 acres of farmland and wetlands along the Hudson River into a giant dump.

SCRAP and Save the Pine Bush are the two organizations responsible for forcing The Mayor and the Common Council to start seriously examining reality concerning the City of Albany “Landfill.” The City Dump, which imports garbage for apparent profit, has turned into a monetary heroin addiction for the City, and is just as destructive as heroin to the City's health. A description of the work that SCRAP is doing to stop the Coeyman’s Dump can be read here.

On Thursday we spoke to SCRAP co-conspirator Linda Marshall at the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy. She spoke to Jim on Monday, just before he left for Seattle to collect the body of his son. She said that he was “doing as well as expected under the circumstances.”

Linda told me that shortly after Jim learned of the event, he went straight down to the offices of the Hearst Times Union to make sure that the initial story of the tragedy would not be overly sensationalized. My guess is that Jim knew damn well what the Hearst content providers would do with his son’s reputation if no one stopped them, indeed he is the loyal and protective father even unto death. As can be seen in the front page Hearst article, Jim was mostly successful in protecting his son’s reputation.

Linda was the first of several people I spoke to who pointed out that Jim raised his late son and his siblings all by himself without help from the mother. One very reliable source, who watched his late son grow up, told me bluntly that his mother abandoned him when he was a year old.

I mention this because the Hearst Times Union has reported that the mother is establishing a fund to bring the body back to Albany. Since Jim is already on the case, this fundraising appears to me to be highly suspect. Another very reliable source that I spoke to is cautioning people to think twice before contributing to this fund, “because the money may not be used for what is intended.”

Words of condolence are almost ridiculous in such an incredibly tragic situation like this. All the best to Jim and his surviving children. Jim is one tough guy, he’ll find his way through.


Divided They Fall

The following bulletin was sent out by the RFK Democratic Club on Tuesday afternoon, March 28:

We have been told that a meeting is taking place this evening, Tuesday, March 28, involving the town leaders and city ward leaders of the Albany County Democratic Committee. This meeting is reportedly to discuss creating a separate city committee from the county committee. Stay tuned for more information. We will be updating this on our website forum as we gain more information.

Well, the meeting took place, and us outsiders still have no clue what happened.

But we don't have to know. This meeting is an attempt by Mayor Jerry Jennings to hold on to unchallenged power at any cost, even if he has to build a 12 foot high wall topped with razor wire around the City of Albany.

You see, it's been obvious for some time that Jennings and his followers, who control the City Democratic Party, have been steadily losing power in the County Democratic Party. It is pretty much understood by all observers that before summer we will see the ouster of his minion Betty Barnette from the post of Albany County Democratic Party Chair.

The Democrats have been on the rise all across the County, taking over one municipality after another from the ancient Republican machines. Only the Colonie Republican machine has remained in control, and that senile machine is showing clear signs of tottering.

The success of the Democrats out in the suburbs means that the City Democratic Committee is no longer the majority. It has finally come to the point where the suburban Democrats are outnumbering the City Democrats.

(For those of you who don’t know, The Democratic Committee is composed of representatives elected by registered voters from neighborhoods, both in the City and the County. These committee persons, at least in theory, choose the candidates and the policies of the local party. Most of the time they obediently rubber stamp decisions from above.)

Jennings is losing control of the County as he gets outvoted at the County Democratic Committee meetings. This will probably be the first time, since the Dutch stole the land under Highway 787 from the Indians to build Fort Orange, that the City politicians will not control the County.

Now, I’m for the City over the suburbs in all things, except this.

It does not profit us citizens of the City of Albany, Democrats or otherwise, to have our politicians expend effort to maintain control over the suburban political parties. If anything, it distracts our politicians from doing their jobs properly. Let the suburbanites run their own elections without interference from the City. There's no reason to fight each other for party positions. Let it go.

But Jennings and company do not appear to be making the best of a bad situation and adapting to a new political equation. In a bid to cling to unchallenged power, the Old Boys in town are imitating the City Republicans. They are planning to hopelessly dismember the Democratic Party by having the City Democratic Committee secede from the County Democratic Committee.

Look at the Republicans. Joe Sullivan is the head of the City of Albany Republican Party Committee, and he runs it like an independent nation. Several Albany County Republican chiefs have tried to reassert control over the City Committee, but in vain. Joe refuses to budge.

As a result, the local Republican Party is hopelessly fractured. This ridiculous situation has allowed the Albany Green Party, at best a marginal outfit, to plausibly brag on it’s website that they “consistently out poll the Republicans.”

As long as he is alive and in charge, Joe Sullivan will probably not let go of the City Republicans, and the County will never be able to fight against a united Democratic Party. But thanks to Jerry Jennings, who seems to be imitating Joe Sullivan, the Republicans may have a chance to recover and fight back.

The Mayor has always shown a lot of sympathy for the Republicans, even holding fundraisers for his buddy John Sweeney, who represents General Electric in the US Congress. It now looks like The Mayor's sympathy for the Republicans extends to an appetite for self destruction, an appetite that has been a prime characteristic of Republicans across the nation as of late.

Sadly, part of the fallout from this impending collapse of the united Albany County Democratic Party is the cancellation of the annual Democratic Picnic at the Altamont Fairgrounds for the first time in thirty years. Various reasons for the cancellation were given to the media, but it sure looks like the structure of the local Democratic Party has so broken apart that it cannot even organize a picnic. Perhaps there is an understanding among the competing party officials that too many devils of disunity would be released if the picnic were held this year.

A certain Democratic activist from the suburbs gave an interesting take on this. “Both parties,” she said, “are obsolete. They are destroying themselves.”


Albany’s Number One Terrorist

There was widespread amusement at the fit thrown by Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings at the State Capitol when the Legislature denied some key funding for his Convention Center project. From the Hearst Times Union:

"If this stays the way it is, the convention center will never happen," Jennings said after confronting several lawmakers Monday. "It's dead if this bill goes through." So angry that he mused about wanting to "blow this place up," Jennings clutched the key pages of a local government aid bill that had been printed overnight, part of a roughly $112 billion budget plan lawmakers are piecing together.

Now, wait a minute. The so-called “Patriot” Act has established a whole new category of criminal, the “Domestic Terrorist.” This is defined as anyone who tries to "change government policy by threatening the government.”

The key word here is “threatening.” The US Constitution already adequately covers “committing” or “inciting” acts of violence against the government, since 1789 AD. This business about “threatening” is a whole other matter, a thought crime, if you will. Nevermind the obvious contradiction to the First Amendment, if you “threaten” the government to make it change policy, you may be held in detention without due process for an indefinite period.

Don’t believe me? Look it up for yourself. The “Patriot” Act may be obviously unconstitutional, but it’s considered legitimate “law” by lots of people who ought to know better.

So then, the Mayor of Albany has loudly and publicly threatened to “blow up” the New York State Legislature unless he gets the money that he wants. It sure sounds to me he is using threats to change policy. Clearly, Mr. Jennings fits the profile of a Domestic Terrorist.

I am calling on the FBI, the NSA and the other nameless Secret Police divisions of the Executive Branch of the Federal Government to pay Mr. Jennings a visit, preferably at 3 AM. They need to kick down his door and pull him out of his bed. They need to tear his house apart to search for incriminating material that might tie him to terrorist organizations. It is essential that they drag him, still in his bedclothes, in front of his terrified family, out of his house and into a waiting unmarked van.

Once they transport The Mayor to the FBI Fortress on McCarty Avenue, it is most important that he be properly interrogated. If the Secret Police need to apply torture... excuse me, “abuse,” in order to get him to “confess,” then that is the price we must pay to maintain The Empire. Tie him to a drainpipe in a closet, deprive him of sleep, put a hood over his head and attach electrical wires to his private parts. Whatever it takes to maintain “security.”

Very funny, right? Let’s hope that stays hilarious. The “Patriot” Act is like a deadly parasite firmly imbedded in the flesh of our nation. Our unpatriotic politicians have placed it high above the US Constitution. And the Secret Police are watching us... and waiting... and watching us...

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