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June 18, 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.

June 18 , 2006

The New Michael McNulty

The Congressman appears to have finally caught on about Iraq, and he earns approval from a key constituent

At the annual Labor Picnic on Labor Day, 2002, in the village park in Menands, about a dozen of us waylaid Congressman Michael McNulty (Dem-21st District) on the path out of the park as he tried to escape.

We had him surrounded. My friend Rezsin Adams, who is very short and wrinkled, clamped her fingers around McNulty’s knuckles and squeezed. McNulty was forced to look down into Rezsin’s face and lock eyes. We all frowned at him.

“Congressman, please,” she said, “do not vote for this war. It is wrong. Don’t do this to us.”

McNulty is a real pro, and he kept his cool under severe contradiction. He managed to stammer out the beginning of a coherent line about how the vote was technically not a vote for war against Iraq, it was merely giving the White House power to take whatever action necessary, etc.

“Mr. McNulty,” said Rezsin, “you know, I know, we all know what the White House is going to do. If Congress gives them this power then many, many people will needlessly die. We’re asking you to do what is right. Please,” she added emphatically.

Even the most hardened politicians have limits to their endurance. I can tell you from personal experience that when Rezsin is in full persuasive mode that few, if any, can deny her. For the first time that I could ever recall, I saw a bead of sweat form on the Congressman’s brow, just below his immaculate hairline. We were watching him yield to a greater force.

“Okay, um, I’ll take what you say into consideration.” I saw a second bead of sweat.

“Promise me,” she said. His knuckles must have hurt. “Please.”

“Alright,” he said, barely audible. “I promise.”

“Thank you Congressman,” she said, with great relief. We all murmured approval. She let go of the man’s knuckles and he scurried down the path out of sight.

Of course he did no such thing. When it came time to vote a month later, McNulty joined with his Republican colleagues to give the White House carte blanche to do any damn thing it wanted without any oversight. He did so enthusiastically, and to hell with the US Constitution. Here is some of what he said on the floor of the House of Representatives, October 8, 2002:

There are 135,000 American service personnel within the range of Saddam's missiles right now. And what is most disturbing of all, Mr. Speaker, is Saddam's efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. Most of the experts up until recently have been saying that he is 2 to 5 years away from a nuclear capability. Now several are saying it is less than a year.

...Mr. Speaker, this is the bottom line. Saddam Hussein can never be allowed to possess a nuclear capability. This bipartisan resolution emphasizes international cooperation, working with the United Nations, and exhausting all other options before we go to a military option. It ensures that military force will be used only as a last resort.

Anyone at the time who paid attention to the issues could see that the White House was lying about the need for war. You didn't need to be smart or privy to insider information, just alert. If McNulty had listened to constituents like Rezsin, who is older and wiser than he is, then he would not have made such an idiotic and regrettable statement on the floor of the House.

Thanks to Michael McNulty and other Congressional representatives like him, our nation is being bled like a hamstrung pig in an abattoir. This War Against Iraq may very well destroy our country the same way Afghanistan destroyed the Soviet Union.

So, imagine my surprise the other day when Rezsin told me on the phone that she planned to carry qualifying petitions for McNulty’s re-election campaign for Congress.

This requires a bit of explanation. Rezsin and I are both Democratic Party committee persons, myself and The Wife for, what... twelve? fourteen years? Has it been that long? As for Rezsin, she’s been on the Democratic Committee since the late 1960s.

Back in the bad old days, the Democratic Committee “Man” in Albany was the appointed neighborhood leader, the allegedly elected representative to the Old Boy party machine. His job was to tell people how to vote, or else. Not any longer. Today, the Democratic Party machinery has been marginalized in the neighborhoods, and the Old Boys are barely clinging to power.

Rezsin is probably the original “Dissident,” one of or possibly the first non-Old Boy on the Democratic Committee, elected fairly by the neighborhood around her home on Chestnut Street in Center Square. The Old Boys tried every trick to unseat her and failed. Finally, they were reduced to punishing her neighborhood.

One day in the early 1970s, a City Water Department crew removed the single fire hydrant on her part of Chestnut Street. All that was left was bolts sticking out of the sidewalk. After a few days Rezsin called up “The Mayor,” Erastus Corning, at his office in City Hall.

“Mayor, please,” she begged, “you have to put back our hydrant.”

“I’m sorry Mrs. Adams,” said The Mayor, “nothing can be done.”

“C’mon, we have children on this block,” she said. “What if a building burned and someone died? You don’t want that on your conscience.”

“I’m sorry,” the old dictator murmured mournfully, “nothing can be done.”

I guess Rezsin hadn’t perfected her persuasive technique back then, or perhaps old Erastus was such a sociopath that he couldn’t empathize with live human beings. Corning didn't replace the hydrant until six month later, and fortunately no one died by his act.

Thanks to pioneering Dissidents like Rezsin, the only important job left for us members of the Democratic Committee today is to carry qualifying petitions for politicians. Every June, we have to knock on our neighbor’s doors and cajole them into scribbling their signatures a half dozen or so times. It’s all part of the process.

Since we are Dissidents, we don’t carry petitions for politicians that we don’t like. If the incumbent is a jerk, we leave their paperwork at home on the coffee table. I guess that’s how we volunteer party functionaries make our little voices heard.

Last time McNulty ran for re-election two years ago, Rezsin let everyone know that she was not carrying for him. But recently he has made some statements in opposition to the War Against Iraq. Therefore, she informed me, she would collect signatures for him.

I have a lot of respect for Rezsin, but I was skeptical, to put it mildly. I assumed that McNulty's recent statements against the war were mere conditional posturing. I figured that when the noise and nonsense got too loud, he would fall back in line with the Republicans. So I consulted the internet, and got another big surprise.

You see, the internet has completely changed the way we interact with our elected representatives. When we want to find out how they voted on an issue, all we have to do is a quick search. They can't hide their records from us anymore. There are plenty of sites online that post legislative voting records, often within minutes of the votes being cast.

No longer do we constituents have to rely on the unreliable corporate media for this knowledge, held hostage to their information filter. No longer do we have to call up our representative’s offices and argue with their staff. The middlemen have been rendered obsolete.

For starters, I found that McNulty has joined the Out of Iraq Caucus in the House of Representatives! I certainly never thought that would happen. Here is what he is quoted as saying in he December 7, 2005 edition of The Hill:

Rep. Michael McNulty (D-N.Y.), one of the six who have joined the Out of Iraq Caucus, called the situation in Iraq a “colossal failure” and expressed disgust that thousands of troops were killed or wounded “going after a guy who did not attack us while the one who did is alive, free and planning additional attacks.

“I know the pain of war. My brother was killed in Vietnam. I know what it’s like to sit at the kitchen table and have the military inform you that your loved one is dead.”

Interestingly, he used that same line about his brother back in 2002 to justify his support for the war.

I then discovered that he voted the other day against that dumb resolution calling for perpetual war against “Terror.” That passed overwhelmingly in the House, so perhaps his vote could be dismissed as a safe vote, that is, a vote that means nothing but can be used to impress the folks back home.

Then I found the most important vote of them all, which somehow didn't get mentioned in the local corporate media. On June 13 he voted against the Emergency Appropriations Bill to fund the war.

“Well,” I said out loud as I read about that on my laptop at the Muddy Cup Cafe on Madison Avenue, “I most certainly will be dipped.” I sure never expected anything like that to happen in this universe.

The way I look at it, fine words fed to the media and meaningless votes don’t add up to very much. However, when Congressman McNulty votes against the money to carry on the war, that means something. Especially when you consider that he risks punishment not only from both parties in the form of lost disbursements for his district, but from the media for opposing corporate war profiteering.

Could this be a new Michael McNulty? Has he finally, after all these years, learned to listen to voters like Rezsin, who is most certainly brighter than all of the current occupants of the White House combined? Or, is this mere political posturing, a temporary ploy to ensure big numbers for his re-election?

One thing is for sure. The evil creatures in the White House will continue to demand more and more money from the taxpayers until there is none left, unless someone tells them "no more." We'll see if McNulty continues to vote against funding this horrible and unnecessary war after his certain re-election.

Rezsin intends to reward McNulty by carrying his petition. But she won’t be supporting Hillary Clinton. “She has no excuse for wanting this war," she said. "I’m disgusted with her.”

I think I’ll be following Rezsin’s lead on these things. After all, she is older and wiser.

You can hear Rezsin's radio show on WRPI FM 91.5 on Friday mornings from 10 AM to Noon, and during the summer also on Friday from 4:30 PM to 6 PM. Her show is a great way to catch up on the news behind the news, especially if you don't have time to search for it.

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