Monday, May 29, 2006

Sep 19, 1862 - Remember not just who but what they went through

From a transcription of the diary of Lieutenant Colonel Ezekiel Silas Sampson:

Sampson was from Sigourney, Iowa. Forgive the choppy and sometimes difficult to follow text. I have copied it here as I received it in a transcription of the original (in possesion of one of my cousins).

August 31st were mustered. Had a heavy shower in afternoon. Received letter from J.H.Sanders informing me that Governor Kirkwood had commissioned me Lieutenant Colonel of the 5th Iowa.
September 1st received commission and was qualified.
September 2nd entered upon the duties of my new position. Leaving my Company is like leaving home and my friends.

Lieutenant Colonel E.S. Sampson had been commissioned Captain of Company F, 5th Iowa Infantry Division at Keokuk on April 26th of the previous year.

September 4th served as brigade officer of the day. Bought a horse from William Carpenter - owe him balance of $60.00.
September 7th in evening struck tents and loaded up and held ourselves in readiness to march in a moment's notice. Rebels reported in large force at Booneville.
September 8th continued prepared to move until 4 o'clock pm. When we unloaded tents and pitched them on old camping ground.
September 11th at 10 pm orders came to prepare two day's rations, have teams hitched up at 2 am load up at 3 and prepare to move at 4.

Much of the previous entries in the diary, which begins in August 1862, are like this. Marching, setting up camp, being prepared to move, not moving, striking camp, pitching camp, looking for supplies, dealing with weather... etc.

September 12th visited camp at post 3am. Had returned to camp but a few minutes when firing was heard on Monmethe Road. Mounted and rode over as soon as possible and found that a Company of rebel cavalry of 40 or 50 had made a dash on our most advanced post and driven the sentinels in and taken one prisoner. Post occupied by Company B the sentinels fell back on their reserve about 1/2 mile distance. On the 12th, 13th, 14th, and 15th had all camp equipage loaded up ready to move. On the 15th there was a skirmish with our pickets of Sullivan's Brigade. On 16th train sent to Corinth with only having sufficient transportation, entrenching tools and three day's rations.

September 17th had orders to prepare two day's rations in Haversacks and prepare to move by 3. Raining.
September 18th left camp at 4 am, very rainy about 5 o'clock. Halted 6 am remained along the road feeding our horses from neighboring field and roasting corn for ourselves until nearly sundown. When we returned 1/2 mile and bivouacked in field of tall grass. Just as we got back a man of Company I placed in our hands a prisoner to be taken to Colonel Sanborn. Rested fairly.

And then we arrive at Iuka...

September 19th reveille at 4 took up march again for Iuka at sun half hour high - morning clear. Marched on passing a small entrenchment. Across the road fallen trees on the left side. Made a day or two by the enemy. Marched on to about 6 miles of Iuka. Halted, formed line of battle on right side of road. Ohio battery on left and the artillery commenced cutting brush and masking artillery. Soon orders came in to move forward.

In short time General Rosecrans came in with Sanborn's Division on a road intercepting ours on the left. Shortly three Companies from the right of our Regiment were ordered formed as skirmishers. I was at this time riding at the left of rear of Regiment. Colonel Matthies rode back and told me three companies had been ordered forward as skirmishers, I had better see if General Hamilton did not want someone to command them.

I rode briskly forward and met General Price's Aid de Camp coming for a commander for the skirmishers. I immediately went forward to General Hamilton who directed me to follow the cavalry to move ahead but if they met with an resistance to throw the skirmishers forward and push through.

I deployed Company E on the right and D on the left and held Company A as a reserve on the road. In a short distance I found there was so much cavalry to possess I assembled the skirmishers to allow them to fall in rear of cavalry. At this junction, just as the head cavalry had crossed a small creek in site of a large white farm house. The enemy skirmishers fired when they wounded a Lieutenant and Private. I immediately moved my skirmishers past the cavalry and deployed them as before. As I rode to the right in site of house, balls swithering freely. Company D hurried rapidly around to left under cover of brush and timber and routed them.

Had one man Lieutenant Jones wounded in hip. When I rode up to house found citizen there denied that the rebels had fired from his house. Said there had been two Companies near there - moved the skirmishers briskly forward twice to the lines and gave me very valuable assistance. We deployed as skirmishers and drive the scouts of the enemy before us until we were relieved about 3 o'clock by 6 Companies of the 26th Missouri under Lieutenant Colonel Hellman on foot. Where we were retired there was a house after the boys drive the rebels from it and helped themselves to the bread, butter and preserves.

We killed two of the enemies and wounded several. One was dead in a peach orchard, another was dying on the left in a low swampy place of brush and timber. I asked him a few questions which he answered freely. As I was passing through this swamp a grape vine caught me around the neck and jerked me from my horse, I wasn't hurt - it only halted me for a moment.

Soon after we were relieved - someone found in a small log house on the road a jar of cream and some cornbread. I got a glass of cream and a small bite of bread. We were all very hungry. After we got this, someone told us there was a woman in the other room. I didn't see her. In nearly every houuse we passed there was a table set as though they had been feeding the rebel soldiers. Men, women, and children had generally fled on our approach. We had not passed the house where we got the cream but about a half mile when a heavy volley was fired by the rebels into our skirmishers causing them to fall back double quick. The brigade was immediately deposed in order of battle.

The 11th Ohio battery was on the road, our Regiment on the right, 48th Indiana and 4th Minnesota to the left, 26th Missouri, 17th Indiana Sesame near where our left rested was a very small unfinished, not old looking school house and a road on a ridge running parallel with our line. Left on the crest of the hill and right on the slope to the West timber with tall underbrush of oak and pines, some places especially to rear of our right uncommonly dense and difficult to pass through. While we were forming we could hear the rebels forming and they were picking us with grape which went mostly over. Suddenly we formed and the battery fired a half a dozen shots. When the whole rebel line opened fire of musketry which was very severe on the battery. Our line opened in return except one Regiment which mostly reserved its fire. The sound of the tramping of the many through the leaves and brush of the line and the menditious force. (Often under curtail they had three lines.)

Enemies moved steadily forward shouting vociferously. Heard above the din and roar of arms. From the tremendous volley fired into us it would seem the enemy relieved each other with new Regiments frequently. Soon our battery was silenced. Half of the men and nearly all the officers either killed or wounded and the 48th Indiana Regiment of horseback. We had poured into the enemy with our wilfilled rifles and by the din of the 4th Companies of the 36th Missouri such a good fire as to cause them to move and fall back.

Twice we moved forward over the crest of the hill pouring into them our incessant fire. They would fall back and then return apparently with a fresh line firing in destructive volleys. Then there was battle in all this terrible realities. The lines of the contending armies swayed back and forth. Twice we moved forward firing a most destructive fire into the enemy. As we raised the rest of the hill their fire was terribly destructive on us.

We fell back to the first position where we continued firing until our cartridges were exhausted. We soon were enveloped in clouds of smoke. The roar of arms, shouting of contending armies, swithering of bullets were constant and deafening. The screams and the groans of the dying and wounded could scarcely be heard. The Regiment on our left 48 gave way. The enemy rushed forth upon the battery which had sometime been relieved. More than half of the men being either killed or wounded and from the most destructive fire from the left which nearly struck them to the earth.

Four companies of the 26th were brought in at the request of Colonel Matthies but when they were approaching them Colonel Brown was badly wounded. Colonel Matthies tried to get them in line with our Regiment but it was too hot a fire. They came promptly up and commenced firing, fought well but were forced back a short distance. Our Regiment had fixed bayonets at the commencement of the action and were continually ready to receive or make a charge.

I instructed the right wing not to fire until the enemy came near. When they fired it told fearfully upon the ranks. I was close to the line on the right wing. Not off of my horse and making every effort to keep them in line and to keep men in line in two ranks to prevent them from getting into confusion and backing to the rear. Many whom I ordered to the ranks who were coming to the rear would show me they were wounded. Lieutenant Marshall 2nd Missouri also on the right doing noble service.

When our cartridges failed, we fell back through very thick brush to an open field. Of very high grass but a short distance to our rear. Just as we came to the edge of the field the 11th Missouri passed up towards the enemy into the brush in the direction of the line we had occupied, and we soon heard their volley firing out upon the enemy but it was now quite dark. We returned across the field stopping a short time behind a fence then around on the road and obtained a fresh supply of ammunition. On the way we passed the 10th Missouri and part of the 26th under Colonel Hellman.

Near the road was a great crowd of stragglers, the 48th Indiana, 6th Iowa and 80th Ohio, and a few from other Regiments. Nearly all of our Regiments were with us except the killed and wounded. It had now been dark some time - we distributed cartridges by candle light. We were directed to remain where we were. Harry Lumbuck of my old Company gave me a bit of hard cracker and sugar which I divided with Lieutenant White who had none.

We were near the hospital and could constantly hear the groans of the wounded. We lay down near the road to get a little rest expecting a hard day's work on the morrow. The ambulances were running all night moving the wounded to the rear. I visited the hospital once in the night. It was a bloody sight. I noticed two lying on the ground who had just had their legs taken off above the knees.

About 11 o'clock there was quite a brisk picket firing. We had our horses saddled and everything ready to work. During the remainder of night we were quiet, not withstanding the great bustle, stir and passing of ambulances within a few feet of where we lay, I slept quite soundly.

Between 3 and 4 o'clock on the morning of the 20th we moved a short distance and formed a line of battle right in line of road. Stanley's Division had the front. We remained in line until break of day - moved a short distance to the rear, halted in road and those who were fortunate enough to have coffee made coffee and ate. My old friend of Company F gave me a cup of tea and some crackers which were delicious.

Here we heard from whom we supposed had been killed. Here during our hours of halt, the scenes of the evening before and the night were fully discussed - everybody talking. The fact that those present were so fortunate to exist left not withstanding their sorrow for their comrades told what they were doing, saying, how acting when the fatal shot struck them.

After our meager repose the brigade returned again toward town and passed back by the hospital and along the road into the battlefield where details were made to convey the wounded still on the field and to bury the dead of both armies; the Colonel being engaged away from the Regiment. I was obliged to remain most of the time with it.

As we passed by the hospital saw quite a pile of legs, arms, hands and feet which had been amputated and thrown together. From here on the dying and dead were stretched along the road. At first they were all blue uniforms but when we approached the rebel line of battle the butternuts lay in profusion. Between the line, blue and butternut were intermingled. The ground, grass and bushes were smeared and spattered with blood and limbs and mangled bodies lay thick around.

Saw two rebel brothers lying one partly on the other. I thought they had found a file with the bottle as shot of grape. The rebel corps were very black in the face supposed to have been caused by being intoxicated at the time of death. When in close contact the men said they could smell whiskey on their breath.

Saw Lieutenant Holcomb and acting Lieutenant Lister. The expression of Holcomb's countenance was firm and tense. Lister had the appearance of having bled to death. He was shot through the thigh and had tied a strap around his leg to stop the blood. To see so many noble boys lying dead on the field caused one to reflect that the glory of the field was dearly bought. Saw most of the dead and wounded of Company F either on the field or along the road or near the hospital and passing in the ambulance. Remained on the battlefield until about noon, then leaving a detail to finish burying the dead returned to Jacinto road 6 miles and bivouacked for the night. Boys had plenty of fresh beef and sweet potatoes.

With all our advances in technology, medicine, and efficiency in killing each other... I don't think that war has really changed all that much in 143 years.

Ezekiel Silas Sampson, my great-great-grandfather (his daughter was my father's much beloved and fondly remembered "GrannyBird"), went on writing in his diary until spring of the following year, including the battles of Champion Hill and Vicksburg, but then he stops writing...

... except for lists of the names of the dead and wounded.

On this Memorial Day let us not simply remember our own loved and lost warriors but the hell we as a society put them through by not working towards real solutions to the common problems we, all societies, face in this world.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Brian Keeler for NY State Senate

Brian Keeler is a New York DFA member running for the State Senate in the 41st district (Columbia and Dutchess Counties). I've know Brian (NYBri) on-line for a year or so now but met him personally for the first time at our DFNY state convention last month. I think he'll make a great State Senator.

He is making his formal announcement and posted it on-line at DailyKos:

I'm told Markos of DailyKos will be featuring Brian's campaign today. If you are a DailyKos member please recommend Brian's diary. If not, please read and learn about Brian and his campaign. His is a very winnable seat. Democrats only need to win 5 seats to take control of the state senate and I think Brian's can be one of those 5.

Brian's district overlaps with Kirsten Gillibrand's and you might consider helping out both campaigns over the summer and fall if, as I do, you Brian is one of your candidates for this year.

Please check him out!

I think you'll like what you see.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

John Sweeney's Labor Record

Congressman Do-Over... er... Rep. John Sweeney sent his first campaign mailer the other day. I haven't received one (what? you don't love me anymore John?) but curtesy of the Albany Times Union we have this shot:

According to the Times Union:
"U.S. Rep. John Sweeney’s latest campaign mailer highlights what seems to be the central theme of his (yet to be announced) re-election effort: That he’s just a local blue-collar boy running against a rich, New York infiltrator who’s out of touch with working-class families in the 20th CD."

"Sweeney’s brochure also gives a nod to organized labor, a traditionally Democratic bastion, noting that his dad helped found the Troy branch of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union, Local 196.

Unfortunately for working men and women in the 20th district John’s father isn’t running for office. Instead we have Congressman Do-Over with his atrocious voting record on labor issues.

Fortunately we have Project Vote Smart available to see just what sort of friend of the working man Dear John is. He can't run on his fathers record. He has to run on his own. A small sampling:

2005 Representative Sweeney supported the interests of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers 25 percent in 2005.

2005 Representative Sweeney supported the interests of the Service Employees International Union 12 percent in 2005.

2005 Representative Sweeney supported the interests of the United Auto Workers 21 percent in 2005.

2005 Representative Sweeney supported the interests of the AFL-CIO 27 percent in 2005.

2005 Representative Sweeney supported the interests of the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers 0 percent in 2005.

2005 Representative Sweeney supported the interests of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Worker 17 percent in 2005.

2005 Representative Sweeney supported the interests of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees 13 percent in 2005.

Oh... and it turns out that Teachers (0 percent) and farmers (17 percent) don’t like him much either.

"My actions in Congress aren’t guided by political opinion surveys or by some Washington special interest group," the mailer reads. "My actions are guided by a lifetime of living here and the opinions of people who put me in office…I will never forget where I came from, or who I'm fighting for now."

Congressman Do-Over’s actions are unfortunately very much guided by Al D’Amato, Bill Powers, Tom DeLay, George Bush and the lobbyists that put him in office. Fortunately it is still possible for the people of the district to over rule those folks and remove him from office. Which we will do in November. Every 2 years we get an opportunity for a "do-over" too and we’ve had enough of Sweeney and the "do-over" approach to government of he and his republican bunch.

It’s time to get people into office that are serious about getting it right the first time around.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Republican Trickery and Misinformation

Yesterday John Sweeney finally admitted the obvious,
"I was wrong," Sweeney said to thunderous applause and laughter.

Sweeney hosted a a fund raiser headlined by John McCain, a man called the head of the "anti-New York, anti-northeast" caucus during the 2000 Presidential primary.
"As I said, you can be wrong in this business and you get do-overs. This is a do-over."

Sweeney is under increasing pressure from Democratic challenger Kirsten Gillibrand. So much so that he felt it necessary to bring in McCain for a kiss and make up session. So much so that his Deputy Chief of Staff Melissa Carlson felt it necessary to engage in a deliberate misinformation campaign regarding Gillibrand's own high profile fund raiser tonight.
Sweeney's deputy chief of staff, Melissa Carlson, said Gillibrand's camp canceled today's fundraiser with Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., because of pressure exerted by Republicans. The Clifton Park GOP issued a release Thursday calling Emanuel, a Chicago congressman, "corrupt."

When will the media start calling Republicans like Sweeney and Carlson on their lies? The inability of Republicans like Sweeney to campaign on the issues is not excuse for their blatant falsehoods.

"Republicans are going to have a difficult challenge in this election." Gillibrand campaign manager Bill Hyers said his camp is shocked McCain would stump for Sweeney after the congressman's remarks in 2000.

"It's obvious that (Sweeney's) an endangered incumbent seeking to get any popular Republican that's out there," Hyers said.

Hyers said the accusation [against Emanuel] was ridiculous and that Emanuel couldn't come to the fundraiser because of a family emergency. Steny Hoyer, the House Democratic whip, will come to the Crown Plaza event in his place tonight, Hyers said.

In Saratoga, about 125 people picked at cold Asian chicken salad and chocolate chip cannolis for $150 a plate as McCain spoke.

Outside about 3 dozen "Swillionaires for Sweeney" organized by the Alliance for Democracy showed their "support."

Later that afternoon Sweeney and McCain joined State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno at a charity picnic in the Town of Brunswick, Rensselaer County.

Meanwhile, members of the Rensselaer County Democratic Committee, a local grassroots organization 20TrueBlue, and Democracy for the Hudson-Mohawk Region, canvassed the Town of Brunswick with Kirsten Gillibrand introducing her in Joe Bruno's backyard as a serious and intelligent alternative to the failed policies of Republican "leaders" like Sweeney, Bruno, Bush, and McCain.

Sweeney cannot hide from the fact his votes in Congress have been as "anti-New York" as John McCain's...
Outside, about 30 protesters hoisting picket signs and brooms said it was time to "clean out the House" by not re-electing Sweeney. Stillwater resident Lisa Scerbo cited Sweeney's support of CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement), which passed by a 217-215 vote.

"How many New Yorkers lost their jobs over that," she said.

Scerbo said she was disappointed that McCain, who she used to respect, had cozied up to Sweeney.

For the record:
Democratic House Minority Whip the HONORABLE STENY HOYER cordially invites you to a reception honoring KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND Democratic candidate for Congress, NY 20
Sunday, May 21 from 5:30-7:00pm at the Crowne Plaza (corner of State and Lodge Streets)Albany, New York

You are all invited. See you there!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

"... is to be governed by your inferiors."

Today was graduation day at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. My niece, 2-time All-American Sarah Elizabeth Berheide (Field Hockey and Lacrosse), graduated Magna Cum Laude today. Her story is already an inspiring one... and it is just beginning. I couldn't be prouder if she were my own.

Included with the 600+ Class of 2006 Honorary Doctorates were bestowed upon 3 distinguished guests, Douglas Greenberg, visiting professor of history at the University of Southern California and executive director of USC's Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education; Thomas Kean, former governor of New Jersey who was head of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the U.S.; and Arthur Mitchell, founder and artistic director of the Dance Theater of Harlem.

Mr. Greenberg spoke about the joy of watching his daughter Molly graduate that day. His memorable quote was that when people asked him what lessons he has learned from history, particularly the Holocaust on which he has particular expertise, he said that there are 3 decisions that people should never make.

1. To be a perpetrator
2. To be a victim
3. To be a bystander

He spoke of Darfur and other troubles in the world today and said that we are all mostly bystanders. Unfortunately I missed what Mr. Mitchell had to say as SPAC is an outdoor theater and it was very cold so I returned to the car to get a blanket for my granddaughter.

Gov. Thomas Kean spoke of public service. He told how when he was the age of the graduating class a young President, John F. Kennedy, urged his generation to public service. He pointed out how his generation was ready to retire and asked who would replace them. He then urged them to at least consider spending a number of their years in some form of public service or other.

And then former Gov Kean (R-NJ) quoted Plato:

"Plato said, "The penalty for not participating in government is to be governed by your inferiors." Think about it. It may be happening."

Gov. Kean did not know that a liberal blogger was in the audience and would be posting his words on the internet within hours. However, Skidmore holds it's graduation at SPAC, The Saratoga Performing Arts Center and it was a full audience. He most certainly knew that he was speaking publicly. By his intonation one could tell that he intended a particular effect. By the applause and laughter he received (from most, not all) one could tell that the effect was achieved.

Elsewhere in Saratoga Springs today, John "anti-New York" McCain was the guest at a fund raiser for embattled Congressman John Sweeney. Swillionaires for Sweeney were on hand to show their support.

Meanwhile today, 20TrueBlue and Kirsten Gillibrand were canvassing in New York State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno's backyard of Brunswick, NY. Last week, Democracy for the Hudson-Mohawk Region canvassed with Kirsten Gillibrand in Clifton Park, NY, currently John Sweeney's backyard.

"Plato said, "The penalty for not participating in government is to be governed by your inferiors." Think about it. It may be happening."

Democracy is not a spectator sport. Are you participating?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

"Nobody will be calling me George Bush's favorite Democrat."

Ned Lamont is running for US Senate in Connecticut against Joe Lieberman. His campaign has a new video out introducing some reasons why not-Joe and some reasons why Ned Lamont will be the next Senator from the State of Connecticut.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Sweeney reaches out to female voters

Rep. John Sweeney (R-Alpha Delta Phi) is continuing his plan of reaching out to a wide range of constituencies.

Following on his successful outreach to the youth vote the increasingly desperate Mr. Sweeney is now working on securing women's votes.

In an article in Sunday's Troy Record Sweeney is quoted as saying in regard to his female Democratic opponent Kirsten Gillibrand...
"You can't take a resume and a pretty face from New York City and say to people this is good for you simply because we can spend a lot of money and raise a lot of money."

Judith Hope, former chair of the New York Democratic Committee and founder of the Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Committee had this to say...
"Someone should tell John Sweeney that it's 2006, not 1906. Women are serving in Congress, serving in the military and are not just pretty faces. The fact is Kirsten Gillibrand is an accomplished civic leader and attorney. Mr. Sweeney's behavior has become an embarrassment to himself and his constituents. Comments like these make it clear how out of step he is and how desperately this district needs a change."

Asked if she thought the comment was sexist, Hope said:
"That's for voters to decide. The remarks jumped out at me because I think it's so inappropriate for the congressman to use... As a woman in politics I call on Mr. Sweeney to represent the district and address the issues and provide accountability and some answers."

Sweeney's remarks wowed another politically active woman as well...
The Working Families Party weighed in, with Capitol Region co-chair Karen Scharff saying: "Maybe he thinks he can talk that way in a frat house, but it doesn't play real well with grown-ups."

John Sweeney's long-time support of working women shows that he knows how to play with adults too.

Kirsten Gillibrand will be the guest speaker at the Working Families Party Capital District Annual Fundraiser, Wednesday, May 10, at Ristorante Paradiso, 198 Central Avenue, Albany NY, 5:30pm - 7:30pm.

Speaking of accountability the Albany Times Union sure was impressed with Sweeney the reformer...
It's time for a reassessment. The toothless and cowardly lobbying bill that the Senate voted for in March, much to our denouncement, isn't necessarily the worst way to fix a Congress that's too susceptible to corrupting influences after all. It's instead merely the second worst. For that, thank the House, which has shamefully outdone the Senate.

The Times Union was pleased to point out that Democratic Congressman Michael McNulty voted against this worst of all reform bills and that John Sweeney was completely in favor of it.

Sweeney has also been working hard to secure the absentee vote since the beginning of 2005 as well.

Too bad for Sweeney's opponent this year, Kirsten Gillibrand, that he is being so successful in his outreach programs. I'm sure his efforts will go a long way in swaying youthful voters and female voters and reform voters regardless of her recent listing on Democracy for America's DFA-List of endorsed candidates, or her endorsement by EMILY's List.

The Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Committee, an organization dedicated to funding and training progressive women candidates in New York State, on whose board Kirsten has spent the last few years is sure to waste it's time and effort supporting her campaign as well.

Sweeney's impressive record on reform is sure to blot out the fact that Kirsten Gillibrand is also on the board of the Brennan Center for Justice which has taken a lead role in government reform issues in New York. I'm sure John Sweeney's sterling ethics record will outshine Kirsten's call for ethics reform as well.

Yup, John Sweeney sure has a strong, aggressive and intelligent campaign strategy revving up.

Regardless of Sweeney's impressive campaign Democrats are targeting this district as one of the 15 seats they need to gain to take back control of the House of Representatives featuring John Sweeney as their inaugural "crony of the week" at the GOP Auction House.

The Glens Falls Post-Star reported various political pundits points of view...
"If Democrats take back the House, it's going to be with New York as their backbone," said Clark Todd, contributing editor to, a nonpartisan political newsletter.

Republicans in the 20th Congressional District are clearly taking Gillibrand's campaign seriously, said Robert Turner, a political science professor at Skidmore College.

"They are, in the words of one Republican consultant I talked to, 'going to take out their (Democrats) legs early,'" he said.

The district is "one of the safest districts in the Northeast" for Republicans, said Alexander "Sandy" Treadwell, who represents New York on the Republican National Committee.

"I don't get it," Treadwell said, referring to Democrats targeting Sweeney's seat. "But if they want to spend their money and waste it, so be it."

Treadwell had been rumored to be mulling a primary battle of his own against Sweeney before chickening out.

Kirsten Gillibrand is running and will need our help against Sweeney's strong campaign tactics.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

"It's hard to imagine a congressman more embarrassing... "

... than John Sweeney of the New York 20th congressional district."

So begins the endorsement today of Kirsten Gillibrand by Democracy for America.

"In addition to voting in lock-step with President Bush, enjoying ski trips with lobbyists, accepting thousands of dollars from Tom DeLay, and partying at college fraternity houses on the weekends, John Sweeney's found time to try to privatize Social Security and give away billions to the oil industry.

Thankfully, DFA candidate Kirsten Gillibrand is everything that Sweeney is not. She's smart, ethical and will represent Upstate New Yorkers with the honor and dignity they deserve. Let's help Kirsten bring dignity back to DC."

Within minutes of the announcement being posted and my cutting and pasting the post here the contribution page at DFA for Ms. Gillibrand has had these words added...

"So far, we've raised $165.00 from 8 contributors!"

Whoops... make that...

"So far, we've raised $175.00 from 9 contributors!"

What will it read by the end of the day? The week? This month? This cycle?

Kirsten has made a strong commitment to combining traditional large dollar fund raising (at which she has been outstanding - outraising the incumbent over the last 3 quarters despite all his PAC and lobbyist money) with local house party and internet generated small dollar contributions. Her campaign organization is based on the local grassroots organizing pioneered in the Dean campaign.

I had the pleasure of meeting Kirsten 2 years ago when we were looking for a candidate in 2004. I knew in the first few minutes that this was my candidate. Kirsten immediately impressed me with her intelligence, capability, and understanding of what it would take to win this campaign and rid the 20th district and the United States House of Representatives of one of the worst of Republican rubber stamp congressman. Kirsten had a plan and now I am having the pleasure of watching her execute that plan and being a small part of it.

As I review the campaign landscape across the country I see that Democrats have a great opportunity to take control of the House this year. We need to gain 15 seats to become the majority party in the people's House once again. Looking at the various campaigns that are in play I see Kirsten Gillibrand's campaign as that 15th seat.

Let's make sure Democrats win those 15th seats. Let's help Kirsten represent New York's 20th Congressional District. If you live in or near the 20th please contribute your time and effort. If you live elsewhere in the country but want a Democratic House to check the abuses of the Bush White House then please contribute today to the campaign of Kirsten Gillibrand.

Ummm... make that...

"So far, we've raised $845.00 from 30 contributors!"

Monday, May 01, 2006

Mayor says ethics and obeying law "doesn't mean anything"

Republican Harry Tutunjian, Mayor of Troy, NY says "To me, it doesn't mean anything," after hiring former State Supreme Court Judge Thomas Spargo to replace former City Court Judge Henry Bauer as the cities corporation counsel.

Spargo, a Republican, was removed from the bench for misconduct in March. He replaces Bauer who was recently elected to the city council. Bauer, also a Republican, was removed from the bench in 2004.

In Bauer's case:
The 39 misconduct charges upheld against Bauer essentially fell into two categories: more than two dozen cases where the commission found that the judge set excessive bail and several cases where he failed to advise defendants of their right to counsel. In general, Bauer was accused of abusing his bail discretion to coerce guilty pleas from unrepresented defendants.

One case cited by the commission and Court involved a man who was charged with a violation for riding his bicycle on a sidewalk without the appropriate lights. Even though the maximum penalty for that offense was a small fine, Judge Bauer sent the man to jail for seven days in lieu of $25,000 bail, records show.

While Bauer engaged in practices abusive of defendants Spargo, a "leading expert" on election law was guilty of breaking election law and subsequently of abusing his office to solicit contributions from lawyers with cases pending before his court.
The Commission on Judicial Conduct cited several acts of misconduct by the justice in releasing its removal recommendation Friday. They included his solicitation of a $10,000 contribution from one lawyer for his legal expense fund as he challenged the legal right of the commission to pursue a disciplinary case against him. The commission said Spargo also arranged a lunch at a local restaurant at which his friend solicited contributions for Spargo from other lawyers who had pending cases before the justice.

Other instances of wrongdoing cited by the commission dated back to 1999, when Spargo handed out $5 coupons and free drinks while he was campaigning for a town justice seat. The commission also said his appearance at a Monroe County Conservative Party fundraiser in 2001 violated state rules about judges' involvement in political activities in New York state.

Not cited in the case was Spargo's involvement with Rep. John Sweeney (R-Animal House) in the recount rioting in Florida 2000 commonly known as the Brooks Brothers Riot.

One can only assume that figuring out how to break election law is what makes one an expert in Republican circles these days. Sad, very sad.

Which leads us to Mayor Harry Tutunjian of Troy who hired first Bauer after his removal from the bench and now Spargo to replace Bauer.
"Tom Spargo is a talented, brilliant lawyer, and I am proud to have him be a part of my administration to represent the city in legal matters," he said.

The state commission on judicial conduct appeared to think differently when it said:
"By engaging in a series of acts that conveyed an appearance of 'exploiting his judicial office for personal benefit,' the respondent diminished public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary as a whole and has irretrievably damaged his usefulness on the bench," the commission wrote in its decision.

"Their actions as judges shouldn't translate into how they represent the city," Tutunjian said.

"To me, it doesn't mean anything," Tutunjian said. "We are searching for talented attorneys to help us run the city of Troy. To have someone of Mr. Spargo's caliber on our team is a bonus."

Troy, NY... the home of John Sweeney, Henry Bauer, Harry Tutunjian, and now apparently, Tom Spargo.

Ethics? Obeying the law? Judges shaking down lawyers? Locking people up for not having a light on their bicycle?

"To me, it doesn't mean anything," Tutunjian said.

For more on the wonderful adventures of Troy, NY see The Troy Polloi.