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August 29, 2005: By now few doubt the war in Iraq will keep going and going and going. Meanwhile Osama bin Laden, the man directly responsible for making people leap to their death from the WTC inferno almost 4 years ago, remains at large. Presumably skulking in the rocky mountain high twixt Afghanistan and Pakistan, our off-again-on-again sweethearts. Thanks to our desire to deliver democracy as if it were a pizza, Iraq and its neighbors are in upheaval, with terrorism metastasizing across the region. The players and issues are inexplicable to many Americans. Lack of knowledge re the politics of the Muslim world helped Bush to bamboozle us into a war against a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. A similar ignorance leads others to dismiss the threat posed by radical Islam and to characterize efforts to preempt terrorists within this country as broad, indiscriminate racist attacks against all Muslims.

Though I never thought invading Iraq a good idea, I did think Bush might actually believe in a direct chain of command between Saddam and al-Qaeda. If so, I also thought it possible his belief might rest on his will to believe. Since many people couldn't accept 9/11 as anything other than a Pearl Harbor launched by an enemy nation. But after the WMD went MIA and the administration's answers to the question Why Are We In Iraq widened and bore less and less relation to kicking retaliatory ass, I started to see Bush as a supremely cynical liar adept at manipulating other peoples' will to believe. Strange how Dubya, the anti-Clinton, turned out to be cut from the same cloth. Though Our Bill didn't have a chance to con the country on such a grand scale, I have no doubt he would have risen to the occasion.

What HAVE the Democrats been doing about Iraq? Mostly blowing in the wind generated by day to day war reports, upticks in gas prices and the direction of Bush's poll numbers. As well as jostling with their Republican brethren for Homeland Security pork. Podunk needs to suit up for biological warfare! A security cam for every corner of Palookaville! X-Ray every granny flying to Florida! After all, public contractors who supply said suits, cams and X-Ray specs can be counted on for political contributions and the kind of perqs that make polls perky. On the other hand, the prospect of dealing with illegal immigration makes pols go limp. Even though the public is overwhelmingly-- and rightfully-- concerned about border security as regards to terrorism and strongly against any plans to grant amnesty to those who enter the country illegally. In this instance pols ignore polls and follow the voice of-- conscience?

Speaking of which, if you live one step beyond the city limits of Albany, New York, keep your conscience out of that city's business. On August 26th state Supreme Court Justice Thomas Spargo disqualified 224 signatures on a voters' petition to put two initiatives on the ballot in Albany's upcoming election-- based on the fact that these signatures of registered city voters were gathered by folks who didn't live in Albany. Both initiatives relate to city charter reform and shift power from the mayor's office to the Common Council: the Board of Estimate and Apportionment (which approves outside-budget spending) would be controlled by the Common Council rather than the mayor, and city commissioners and department heads could no longer be appointed by the mayor without an approval process by the Common Council.

The petition to get these initiatives placed on the ballot was launched by the Albany Civic Agenda, a group started by reform minded residents of Albany. One being environmental attorney Paul Bray. Who is not only active in efforts to change Albany's political landscape, but has demonstrated his commitment to the city in myriad non political ways for decades. He has the liking and respect of many in and around Albany. Even those who don't want to change Albany's current "strong mayor" form of municipal government, or who don't care for the prog politics of some who support the Civic Agenda, would agree that Paul Bray is not the kind of person who'd have to recruit carpetbaggers.

The Albany Civic Agenda got 3,756 signatures from voters living within Albany. A respectable showing of support in a city of roughly 97,000. Where many of the residents are transient and uninvolved in local politics. More than enough to meet the requirement to put the initiatives on the ballot. In all petition efforts, some signers turn out to be duds. Invalid addresses, lapsed registrations, etc. The Civic Agenda's petition had a decent margin for cover. However, City Clerk John Marsolais, a member of Albany Mayor Jerry Jenning's very own charter review commission, dumped a whopping 766. Ultimately, 136 were restored by Judge Thomas Spargo when the Civic Agenda challenged the matter in state Supreme Court. Which would have put the petition back in the running if Spargo hadn't also disqualified 224 other voters because their signatures were collected by out-of-towners.

Who were these signature gleaners? Freedom riders from way down south? Hoping perhaps, to stir up trouble by helping disenfranchised citizens up north exercise their democratic rights? Nope. Apparently most came from towns and rural areas near the city of Albany. Where populations have swelled from an outflow of Albanians over the 3 terms of Mayor Jerry Jennings. During Jenning's years as Burgermeister, the population of Albany dropped below 100,000 for the first time in roughly a century. Come this election day give that man another term! And if any former residents of Albany pounded the pavements for signatures in hopes of improving the city they left behind due to crime, neglect and a stifling political atmosphere, tell em to keep their noses-- and their consciences-- in their own backyards.

Also in August, teenagers and 20-somethings gathered at World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, to hear Pope Benedict appeal to their conscience. The following anecdotes are from an 08/18/05 Reuters story by Tom Heneghan, "Young Catholics want Pope to uphold Church sex stand":

"We don't want to hear only what pleases us" said Pascal Straszewski, 21, a Frankfurt law student. "Faith means holding fast to ideals."

Regina Gutierrez de la Peza, a 19 year old student from Mexico City, said Catholic youths could be critical about what consumer society was telling them to do. "The idea now is that nobody is supposed to be committed to anything... Young people are only supposed to do what they like and what's comfortable. But that's not what life is all about."

Felicity Elvis, 18, a journalism student from Brisbane, Australia added, "Nobody wants to hear a lie... Politicians lie to us all the time. We're tired of being lied to."

For those who despair about what condition our condition is in, consider this: Pascal Straszewski is studying to be an attorney. The profession from whence all pols now seem to spring. Felicity Elvis, who's tired of lies, wants to be a journalist; with that moniker she's guaranteed an instant byline. As for Regina Gutierrez de la Peza, who knows to what heights she'll climb? If their feet don't fail them we could be in for a real (as in genuine) revitalization!

Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

"The judge giveth and the judge taketh away. Unfortunately, he took away more than he gave."

Paul Bray, Albany Civic Agenda, "Charter appeal weighs free speech," Brian Nearing, Albany Times Union, 08/27/05

"I walk through the valley where the shadow of death iz/Top floor...the view alone will leave you breathless"

Kanye West, Jesus Walks, College Dropout, 2005

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Copyright (c) 2005 by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff. This material may be freely distributed subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the Open Publication License. This license relieves the author of any liability or implication of warranty, grants others permission to use the Content in whole or in part, and insures that the original author will be properly credited when Content is used. It also grants others permission to modify and redistribute the Content if they clearly mark what changes have been made, when they were made, and who made them. Finally, the license insures that if someone else bases a work on this Content, that the resultant work will be made available under the Open Publication License as well.

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