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by J. Myrle Fuller

Democrats take control... The Democratic Party, fresh off its "wave" from the 2006 midterm elections, rode to power at the beginning of the year, with Nancy Pelosi becoming the first woman speaker of the House of Representatives and Harry Reid assuming the Senate Majority Leader post.
...or not: Despite bold and boisterous claims of massive changes from the course set by the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress that preceded it, the Democrats found themselves unable to fulfill their goals. Trying to negotiate an end to the Iraq military operation, the Democrats tried everything short of cutting off all funding-- inserting timelines, reducing funds, etc.-- only to be thwarted by the veto pen. Other desired reforms died in the Senate, which was nearly evenly split among Democrats and Republicans.

The 'surge' worked: Noting that a change of course was necessary in Iraq, President George W. Bush put together a new strategy. Nicknamed "The Surge," General David Petraeus engineered an increase in troops that sought to root out terrorist targets in Baghdad and other hot spots in Iraq. After several months of operations, violence in the country dropped dramatically... as did coverage by the major media networks.

Amnesty flops: Illegal immigration once again rose to the forefront as a bill for a "guest worker" program for illegal aliens was scuttled in the Senate after mass opposition from the populace. Meanwhile on the northern border continuing problems provoked a postponement of requirements for a passport on the Canadian border until July 2008.

Let the election season begin... really early: With George W. Bush and Dick Cheney hightailing out of Washington faster than Jerry Falwell at the Blue Oyster (more on Jerry later), the result was one of the most wide-open Presidential races in 40 years headed into 2008. Democrats knew who their first choice was-- Hillary Clinton, currently serving as Senator from New York, who passed up running in 2004. However, she wasn't the only interested Democrat, as Barack H. Obama, the Senator from Illinois best known for his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention and his "kumbayah" style of politicking (but should be known for his dirty tricks against Jack Ryan), also joined the fray, as did 2004 Democratic VP nominee and former Senator John Edwards, running on a populist/socialist platform. While Clinton held the lead for most of the year, by the end of 2007, the three were locked into a horse race in Iowa. Other Democrats with far less support included Senator Joe Biden, Senator Chris Dodd, former Senator Mike Gravel (best known for his support of a plan to overthrow the Constitution with a "national initiative") and 2004 candidate Dennis Kucinich. Governor Bill Richardson also is running for the Democrats and is often mentioned as a Vice Presidential candidate, as Richardson served under Hillary's husband, Bill.
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, a plethora of very diverse candidates entered the race. At the end of 2007, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (running primarily on his record of handling 9/11 and his relatively disciplined fiscal policy, while downplaying his liberal stances on social issues), Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts (who talks a good game but whose past record leaves many questions about his honesty, and whose Mormon faith has raised questions), Senator and 2000 candidate John McCain of Arizona, Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas (the religious zealot and fiscal liberal), Representative Ron Paul (a paleoconservative anti-war activist who has courted young voters and unusual groups, including the 9/11 Truth Movement) and Representative Duncan Hunter (a border hawk and fair trade activist who the mainstream media made a blatant effort to bury) remained in the race, as is former Senator Fred Dalton Thompson, who entered later than the rest of the pack after snubbing a New Hampshire debate and missing the Ames Straw Poll to announce on Jay Leno's show in September. (Thompson is trailing heavily in both states.)
Affecting both sides of the issue was a series of moves, started by Florida, to move its primary further up in the year. Many other states followed suit and so the primary season has both moved up several days and compressed itself, with "Super Tuesday," when most states vote in their primary elections, moving from March to February 5.

Trouble in Pakistan: The nation of Pakistan was brought to attention this past year when former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, known for notorious corruption, returned to the country after years in exile. The move prompted General/President Pervez Musharraf to shed his military uniform and call for elections and everything seemed to be on pace until, as often happens on December 26 and something major happens, Bhutto was shot and killed.

Meanwhile in New York: Eliot Spitzer took office at the beginning of the year with a bold vision of "one New York," with visions of tax reductions, spending reform and order in Albany. What resulted was faux pas after faux pas, misstep after misstep, looking more out of place than Lindsay Lohan at a Presidential dinner. His health care reform plan immediately drew the ire of the unions (although this was nothing new), he tried to push forth a gay marriage plan that fell flat, his budget grew by thrice the rate of inflation, he picked an "upstate czar" that lived in affluent Saratoga Springs, he was caught using the State Police to investigate his arch-rival, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno in a fiasco known as "Troopergate" or the "Dirty Tricks Scandal," and perhaps most notably, he drew fire for attempting to hammer through a policy that would allow foreigners to receive driver's licenses and removed designation of temporary legal residency from other licenses. He also drew fire for a plan that was put forth by the state Thruway Authority to increase tolls on the state's main highway, and failed to push through a candidate for comptroller as Sheldon Silver's Assembly chose one of its own, Long Island Democrat Thomas DiNapoli for the position.

Route 219... hey, they're actually building something! After many years of no action construction finally has begun on the Route 219 Expressway, which if they ever finish it will lead into Salamanca. The current construction is on a four-mile stretch of soon to be freeway over the Zoar Valley, which will end up in northern East Otto, four miles south of the current terminus in Springville. There have been some problems although the project continues as planned and this stretch should finish by 2011.

Local politics: County and village elections were held this year with incumbent mayor Norman Marsh defeating activist Todd Fuller for the mayor of Little Valley position, and also retaining his seat on the county legislature, which remained in Republican hands. Fuller continued his pressure on the village board, particularly over maintenance of the Pat McGee pedestrian trail that runs through the town. Board member Kevin Mosher was ousted in the village elections and was handed a patronage position on the board of fire commissioners, which had its own slate of problems as investigated by former fire department member Bob Baase.
Meanwhile in Erie County, a new county executive was selected as Chris Collins won the election there.
In Olean, controversy erupted when Olean Mayor David Carucci placed a nativity scene on the municipal building lawn. A wiccan followed suit with a pentacle and said pentacle was run over by a truck.

Seneca Tax Wars: No year would be complete without continuing tensions with the Seneca Nation of Indians. This year the Senecas pulled stunts supposedly revoking its agreement to place Interstate 90 on Seneca land, then erected a sign claiming the highway was theirs and that they would bill the state $1 for every driver that crossed it. The total was $21,000,000. They later ran several months late with its casino payments.

Entertainment: If you were a fan of game shows, this was not particularly a good year. Long time host of The Price Is Right, Bob Barker, retired after 35 years as host, ceding his microphone to comedian Drew Carey, who also debuted as emcee of another hit game show, the survey-based "Power of 10." The game show community also mourned the losses of two key members of the hit 70s game show Match Game-- Brett Somers (who died at 83 in September) and Charles Nelson Reilly (76, died in May). Also passing away was singer and game show producer Merv Griffin (82), whose credits included Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy! and his latest work, Crosswords, which debuted in September. Kitty Carlisle Hart, longtime panelist on "To Tell the Truth," died this year as well, at 96.

Death roll: Other notable deaths included stuntman Evel Knievel, mime Marcel Marceau, tenor Luciano Pavarotti, baseball announcer Phil Rizzuto, former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, jazz pianist Oscar Peterson, film critic Joel Siegel, talk show host Tom Snyder, filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, actress Yvonne DeCarlo (best known as Lily Munster), NFL head coach Bill Walsh, televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker/Messner, religious leaders Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy, singer Frankie Laine, Hawaiian crooner Don Ho, former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, scientist Don "Mr. Wizard" Herbert, Rat Packer/talk show host/comedian Joey Bishop, lounge singer Robert Goulet, country singer Porter Wagoner, and Kentucky Derby winning horse Barbaro.
Notable local deaths included Megan Gordon (20) and Daniel Case (53), both killed in car accidents.

Hollywood stuff (Lindsay Lohan Watch): Lindsay Lohan was arrested in August after yet another car accident, being charged with DWI and possession of cocaine. She served four days in jail. Lohan also starred in the box office bomb "I Know Who Killed Me."
Paris Hilton's DWI sentence was more controversial-- after being sentenced to 45 days in jail, she was released after three, which resulted in public outcry and the judge threw her back into the clink for another 20, releasing her after 23 days (as is the norm in California).
It was not a good year for people named Spears. The elder, Britney, had a whole slew of personal problems ranging from shaving her head to losing custody of her children. The younger, Jamie Lynn, got knocked up at 16. Needless to say, their mother had her parenting book deal suspended.
Anna Nicole Smith died this year at the age of 39 of what appeared to be a drug overdose. Her daughter was given to David Birkhead in a media circus.

Sports: The Indianapolis Colts won Super Bowl XLI, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series, the recently rechristened Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup and the San Antonio Spurs won the NBA championship. Locally, the Bills failed to make the playoffs for the eighth straight year in a row but found itself what appears to be a new starting quarterback, rookie Trent Edwards of Stanford, and a running back tandem of Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson. The Sabres won the President's Trophy for the best regular season record but choked away their chance at a Stanley Cup with a pathetic series against Ottawa in May, and things got worse when the Sabres failed to re-sign either one of their captains, Daniel Briere (to Philadelphia) or Chris Drury (to the Rangers). Buffalo also provoked the Edmonton Oilers into giving restricted free agent Thomas Vanek a new $7,000,000 per year contract that the Sabres felt compelled to match, and Vanek thus far has been a bust. The good news, however, for the Sabres is that they will be playing an outdoor game called the Winter Classic (a.k.a. the "Ice Bowl") in front of 70,000 fans on New Year's Day.
Meanwhile, scandal ruled the day as Michael Vick was arrested and convicted of running a dog fighting ring and is now serving a jail sentence. Meanwhile, the great boogeyman that is steroids reared its ugly head as the "Mitchell Report" pointed a finger at many of baseball's biggest stars.