Saturday, September 04, 2004

To Those About to Slip N Slide...I Salute You!!!

A group of University of Kansas students have successfully put together one of the most unique clubs in school history: the first ever Slide 'n' Slide club. Looking to capitalize on student desires to recapture the thrill of activities they participated in years gone by, the club offers members a chance to once again enjoy backyard water sports.

Sophomore and club president, Libby McConnell, says she and her friends were fed up with participating in more rigorous and demanding sports clubs at KU. Because they wanted to stay active on campus, in January the group came to the conclusion that the University may have a place for an organization dedicated to the Slip 'n' Slide.

"We came to the conclusion of, "Slip 'n' sliding? Why not," McConnell said. "We started this club (joking around), and we're really surprised that the Center for Campus Life has approved us as an official club."

The KU campus and Lawrence community have responded with extremely positive for the new club. Some people are amazed that the University has officially recognized such a unique sports club. McConnell and the club's other officers have written up a proposal for funding that was presented before the school's Student Senate. The Senators agreed to fund the club $431. The only catch was that the club's vice-president, sophomore Liz Newman, was asked to sing the Slip 'n' Slide theme song (which she did successfully, according to the Student Senators).

Already, the club has purchased $250 worth of supplies: Slip 'n' Slides, water hoses, sprinklers and beach towels. The club will receive another $431 next semester.

"A handful of people just look at us like we're crazy, but we don't want people like that in our club anyway," McConnell said. "We're really relaxed and laid back, an excuse for people to get together and have fun."

Attempts to secure sponsorship from Slip 'n' Slide's commercial distributor and creator (Wham-O!) have so far been unsuccessful. McConnell suspects that the product's creators would not want to endorse a group of people that exceed the weight and height requirement warnings on the packaging of the product. Warnings for the toy urge people only five to 12 in age, less than five feet tall, and less than 110 pounds, to use Slip 'n' Slide. The club's officers dismiss the warnings as being overly cautious and even ridiculous.

The club has already developed a Web site that details the group's mission, as well as allows students to get involved with the organization. For hardcore Slip 'n' Slide fans, there is also links to buy merchandise through the club. These items range from a Slip 'n' Slide T-shirt, to swimwear that can be worn while sliding.

"We definitely incorporate Slip 'n' Sliding into everything we do," McConnell said. "It's much more interesting to say you're in the slip and slide club as opposed to just in a group of friends. It gives a name and provides a fun conversation topic."

The club is also aspiring to secure loftier goals. Club member Tommy Bobo will try to earn a spot in the Guinness Book of World this fall when he tries to set the world record for the longest Slip 'n' Slide run. The North Augusta, S.C., junior plans to build his own 300-foot slide out of high-density plastic sheeting and slide down Mount Oread (a famous, lengthy slope on the hilly campus).

Bobo's attempt will pay homage to the University's celebrity daredevil, Dan Wessell. In 1973, Wessell or, "The Great Wessellini," attempted to fly over Memorial Stadium in a home-built airplane, and a year later tried to skateboard over Potter Lake in a Plexiglas bubble. While Wessell was unsuccessful in both attempts, Bobo is still in the process of working out what he hopes will be a much more memorable stunt. All he needs now is to figure out how to get enough water up the hill to campus.

For now, the group is happy to have made their mark on campus this year. With summer being a time when students in Lawrence leave to head back home for a few months, the group says it will be reinvigorated to get things rolling in the fall after tasting success in their first event in May.

"Our kickoff party on May 1st went really, really well," McConnell said. "We had a lot of people show up, a definite success, especially for the first ever meeting."

Friday, September 03, 2004

The Daily (Kerry) Show Needs a Hiatus ASAP

Jon Stewart took over the Daily Show in 1999 from then host Craig Kilborn. With Kilborn, the show lacked any thread of political edginess. That all changed when Stewart and his crew (Stephen Colbert, Lewis Black, etc.) came aboard. For two years, the show sustained a relatively modest following. After 9/11 the show hit its stride, holding nothing back against the government, criticizing efforts to pull the country into war, and highlighting the usual shortcoming of "real" American news media outlets.

The show, while at times hilarious, was always walking a tight rope. Gradually, the show deteriorated sometime over the last year as the election issues started making their way into the daily news cycle. It became increasingly clear that Stewart, while still applying heat to conservative leaning guests on the show, was content to lob softballs to the Clinton's, Kerry's, and Al Franken's of the world.

Stewart's interviews have always been the weakest part of the program. Eliminating this segment in favor of more tongue in cheek commentary from Black or more 'news' packages from Colbert and company would be a huge boost to the show. That will unfortunately not happen. The show was put on cruise control sometime this summer with a destination set for the November election.

For the next two months it will continue to experience decline. The only hope is that the election will pass and Stewart will snap out of funk. His propensity to reduce himself to a shill for Kerry and the DNC is not surprising. Bill Mahr, a self-described LIBERTARIAN (ha!), has also used his HBO show to pump up the democratic base.

Naturally, the essential element of these shows (comedy) has been compromised to accommodate the campaign messages of the Kerry camp. Unlike Kerry, I still see a glimmer of hope in Stewart. His only real crime is playing the role of government apologist, something that every other liberal or conservative ideologue resorts to when it becomes convenient.

Cheney Puts (Grand Ole') Party before Family

If Robert Stack was still with us, he'd be my first choice in heading up an investigation into one of the Republican convention's biggest unsolved mysteries. Mary Cheney, the now infamous 'gay' daughter of Dick and Lynne Cheney was curiously absent from the stage when it came time for the Vice President to conclude his speech and be joined by his family.

The family patriarch paused for about a minute with the remaining members of his family before hurrying backstage. One can't help but wonder if this relatively short pose for the camera was due in part to feelings of guilt the Vice President was experiencing. Nevertheless, he sent a clear message to the Republican 'base.'

By not insisting on having Mary and her partner Heather join him on stage, Cheney did little to reinforce the message of the Republicans as being the political party of family values. Once again, we see a politician willing to shove his family aside for the benefit of his political cronies.

No one is asking why exactly Mary Cheney was not there on stage with her family. My only guess is that she could possibly be detained (as I type) as a prisoner in Kansas. Only time, or Attorney General Kline, will be able to tell us for sure.

What is for certain is that this campaign (based whole heartedly on the Republican agenda) is creating the circumstances for the utmost amount of torment for her as she tries to maintain a normal life.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

So Long to our Right to Protest.....

The media has (not surprisingly) dropped the ball once again. Protestors have flooded New York, as they did in Boston, and the mainstream media haven't blinked an eye.

They're sitting and waiting, hoping for violence to break out and blood to shed, before they will agree to get out and do some real reporting. For those that traveled to first Boston and now New York to express their dissenting views, they were welcomed by an all out police state that quickly escorted them to the nearest cage (or 'free speech zone').

The August 26, 2004 New York Daily News headline read:
ANARCHY, INC. The message is quite representative of the way the media has tried to frame protestors at the DNC and RNC as belonging to an out of control, criminal cult. In times of war, this sort of thing is to be expected. The anti-war movement is painted by the media as being unstable, irrational, and uncompromising. These depictions inevitably further the disconnect between those showing unwavering support to Bush's agenda, versus those who see opposition to it as the only way to bring Americans home from overseas.

The only 'coverage' of these protest demonstrations that we do see occurs when police target a
small group of "unruly" protestors. The estimates of the crowd that we were given at the beginning of the week were proven to largely a fabrication. Police on the ground threw out numbers like 90-100,000, while 'unofficial' estimates said 200-400,000 was a more accurate number.

The protests, along with the record amounts of donations to the Bush and Kerry campaigns, are the two biggest stories (Iraq withstanding) of this election. These things are buried in the underground media, while big media turns their attention towards analysis of Jenna and Barbara Bush's address to the delegates and the next juicy book to be published from a Capitol Hill intern.

Republicans Oppose Moore's Presence with Schoolyard Bullying Tactics

Michael Moore is being called a lot of things this week as he attends the RNC as a guest columnist for USA Today. Republicans say the filmmaker is a traitor, a liar, and even...fat?

Chants of
'fat pig' have greeted Moore on the floor of Madison Square Garden, reminding us all too well that it is still acceptable to use such slurs in public against those they disdain.

The Republicans are behaving exactly like the schoolyard bullies they are by falling back on socially acceptable slurs that once tormented them and their fellow classmates. Kudos to the GOP for always raising the level of discourse in the country (currently it rests at a notch above Andrew Dice Clay, but about two below Pauly Shore).

It's All About the Benjamins Bay-Bee!

CNN had a very interesting link posted on their site earlier this week. Now, I'm kicking myself for losing it. The chart illustrated who was donating what to each candidate. It gave a good sense of how companies like Time Warner are sure to play both sides of the field by handing out big sums to Kerry and Bush. Enron remains Bush's number one supporter, while candidates like Al Sharpton relied on...I kid you not...Don King Enterprises to fund their fledgling campaigns. God, I wish I hadn't lost this link.

Phil Kline and the Anti-Gay Agenda in Topeka

Phil Kline is starting to become a local celebrity. Pitch Weekly did a huge feature recently on his tenure as Kansas Attorney General. The recent library incident in Lawrence is what people really took notice of (deservedly so), but the really remarkable thing Kline has managed to do involves keeping gay people in prison for.....being gay. Yes, Kline has managed to remind us that he does not condone homosexuality at every turn of the job.

Under Kansas law, sex involving someone under 16 is illegal. The state's "Romeo and Juliet" statute lessens penalties if one partner is under 19 and the other is within four years of that age. Knowing that the statute, as written, applies to heterosexual couples only, Kline has utilized it to keep gay men like Matthew Limon jailed. Kline makes it seem as though Limon poses a threat to the institution of marriage. When the ACLU got involved with the case, Kline revealed to the Lawrence Journal World their real motives as being to protect "...all people, no matter their sexual orientation...from discrimination" (A shocking revelation that only government officials can usually provide).

Not only does the ACLU echo this sentiment, but we read these little references about equality sprinkled into other documents you might have heard of...The Bill of Rights? Ring a bell? The U.S. Constitution? That one also makes a small mention of this concept.

Kline said that freeing Limon and allowing him to lead a homosexual life (away from the prison) would then lead to the legalization of gay marriages (stay with me)-- as well as marriages with multiple partners, incestuous marriages, bestiality, pedophilia, and much more.

What this case really represents is the state's last gasp to incarcerate young gay and lesbian people for living a life that they see as being morally inconsistent with the views of the establishment.

Even the Vice-President showed us that we all can acknowledge (just once in a while!) the need for equal protection under the law. The Vice President's words speak clearly to the kind of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness that you are determined to deny to people you disdain:

"With respect to the question of relationships my general view is that freedom means freedom for everyone. People . . . ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to."

Would Phil Kline have prosecuted Mary Cheney (daughter of Dick and Lynne) if he had knowledge that she (at the age of 18) was having (in the words of her father) 'any kind of relationship [that she wanted] to' have with a younger female? Thank goodness for a few of these 'activist judges', who for all of their above the law-type behavior at least have the decency to protect our privacy in our bedroom, despite the desire government to keep their eyes on all of us.

People in Kansas that find themselves in Mary Cheney's circumstance will never be able to marry the person they love thanks to these policies. At the very least, Cheney's recent admission gives us hope that he and others in similar positions of power might see the light. I am mailing Kline these questions and eagerly awaiting for the day when his office in Topeka sends me on of those wonderful standard responses that our tax dollars pay for. If I'm lucky, someone from his staffer will write me back with an explanation about why exactly we lock these people up.

The following is a copy of the letter I mailed to Kline's offices (I will post his response at a later date):

Mr. Kline:

Vice President Cheney acknowledged last week that he hopes to see us view his daughter, Mary, just as we see our other friends, neighbors, and co-workers: equally. Mr. Cheney painted quite a clear picture of the kind of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness that he hopes to extend to every American. He articulated why this must be an unalienable right, and not just a token gesture of courtesy.

"With respect to the question of relationships my general view is that freedom means freedom for everyone. People . . . ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to."

The concept and ideas behind those words ring just as true today as they did when the founding fathers incorporated them into the Bill of Rights and in our Constitution. Clearly, our Vice President expects his daughter (as well as other men and women like her that are involved in same sex relationships) to have the same laws and standards that heterosexuals are judged by applied to her as well.

Unfortunately, people in Mary Cheney’s situation seem more likely to end up in a court of law, facing legal woes, rather than be recognized as a fellow American who is capable of making significant contributions to our society. Her only crime appears to be one of attempting to pursue a life of liberty and happiness, not unlike the very principles that have defined our union throughout its existence.

As we move forward, it is my hope that our great state will continue to be recognized by the ways in which we provide all of our fellow citizens with the liberties and freedoms that constitute who we are as one nation, and make it the greatest country on earth.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

The Return of Bob "Hatchet Man" Dole

The late 90's and early part of the new millennium brought us a kindler, gentler version of Bob Dole, the former U.S. Senator from right here in Kansas. After his loss to Clinton in '96, Dole made an almost overnight transformation that shed his image as the nation's grouchy old grandfather. He started making the rounds on SNL, David Letterman, and more recently the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The parade of this new Bob Dole through our television sets was almost enough to make us forget his true legacy as the hatchet man for Nixon and Republican Party.

Dole said Sunday that Kerry should apologize for his testimony thirty years ago to Congress about alleged atrocities during the Vietnam War. Dole, like many other Americans, still holds a grudge against those of us who would prefer to see the truth told about Vietnam, however uncomfortable that may be.

Dole was selected as Ford's running mate in '76 based primarily on his reputation he built under Nixon as the guy willing to do the dirty work. If Nixon needed someone to threaten those pesky protestors setup outside 1600 Pennsylvania, Dole was never hesitant to do so.

I'm no fan of Kerry and the Democrats, but for God's sake the guy volunteered (like Dole) for service at a time when he could have ran and hid (a la Bush, Clinton, etc.). These self-righteous Republicans are now mocking him and every other American out there that have been in the line of fire. Their contempt for Kerry's courage of one kind on the battlefield, and then again before the Congress, shows just how narrow and close-minded their definition of 'patriotism' has become. Bush still has time to distance himself from the behavior of the GOP on the convention floor, as he appears to be doing by issuing a condemnation of the 527 groups.

Anyone Feeling a Draft?

The closer we get to the election, the more it becomes apparent that Bush and Kerry both have their eyes set on increasing the size of U.S. forces overseas. The problem is that neither man has given us an idea of how they will go about accomplishing it. The media has failed to press either man on just how much of an necessity conscription is in order to accomplish this military growth spurt.

If you happen to be a male, age 18-25 (such as I), and you don't hear anything about this subject before the election, then go ahead and start packing for a desert vacation. Iran, Sudan, and Korea are all on the radar (not to mention those small expeditions in Iraq and Afghanistan), and Kerry and Bush are working towards fulfilling Woodrow Wilson's vision of America's place in the world.

As Ayn Rand said, the military draft is the worst of all violations of individual rights. It negates our fundamental right (to life) in order to provide the blood (war) of life that the state feeds off of. It tells us that our lives belong to the state, and that at any moment we can be sacrificed to uphold the establishment's power.

Of course, none of this sort of philosophical opposition to reopening a military draft is going to be discussed. Does the media not see this inevitability on the political horizon? Of course they see it, but they are (just as they were in the 60's) too afraid to approach this juggernaut. It's a no-win situation in an era when questioning the system amounts to criminal behavior. No one in the media wants to be labeled by the Rupert Murdoch wing of the media as being unpatriotic or even treasonous.

3rd party candidates such as Nader and Libertarian Michael Badnarik have both made strong cases against the draft. I'm not holding my breath for either of them being included in the televised debates to dicuss them, but their voices could still be the saving graces in getting the issue to the forefront before it's too late in November. Compulsory military service has shown to be a foolish and unwise step to take in a free and democratic society, too bad that the big media doesn't have the cojones to speak up and remind the politicians.

Tomorrow...Signs that you're losing the First Amendment and becoming a Police State.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Local Media Refuses to Televise the Nader Revolution in Kansas City

*Note - The following is based on Ralph Nader's visit last Thursday (Aug. 27th) to a downtown Kansas City, KS hotel.
Labor rights icon Eugene Debs said of voting: "It is better to vote for what you want, and not get it, than to vote for what you don't want-and get it."
Democrats around Kansas City were banking on potential voters ignoring Debs's message, and therefore ignoring Ralph Nader when the independent presidential candidate visited town this week.
On Thursday, August 26, a handful of media members and almost two dozen supporters gathered inside the conference room of a Kansas City, Kansas hotel to hear the former Green Party superstar candidate speak. Ironically, just three days earlier this same city was responsible for filling up a stadium (approximately 79,000 in paid attendance) to watch an exhibition football game. The population's passion and devotion to their favorite sports teams is something Nader fears will, unfortunately, never translate into the political theatre.
"I always wonder what would happen to the country if people cared about voting as much as they worry about their favorite sports teams," Nader said. "With sports, the people seem very much able to cut through the bullshit rhetoric of players and coaches and demand a certain level of high performance from these people."
"When they see these people performing poorly on the field, they hold them accountable. Why can't we treat politicians the same way? Imagine if they were scrutinized like these players and coaches! What would happen to the country?"
This barely publicized press conference and campaign speech resulted in a near empty room greeting the man who finished third in the popular vote in 2000. The KC Star and the LJ World did small, token write-ups of the event, but that was the only thing people saw or heard reported.
The sight of Nader attempting to rally support in such modest surroundings also served as a reminder of just how far his 2004 campaign is from recapturing the kind of energy and passion he aroused just four short years ago. Then, large venues, like the Madison Square in New York City, were sold out for his appearances. Now, he faces an uphill battle against a multitude of forces that begin and end with a mainstream media that he often chastises for going through the same old motions, a rut that he feels all but ensures the perpetuation of the two party ideology in American politics.
"I always try to challenge reporters to refrain from asking me the same old questions," Nader said. "There is a clear disconnect between the press and the campaigns of third party candidates. Are they of the mind set that the two parties already own the voters? They never seem to be able to make the connections about what's going on."
"If they could just look at the stories they have in front of them they'd see what I'm seeing: that we're losing control of the country. Still, in their finest moments the press is capable of great things."
According to Nader, the country's fall from grace is directly related to the ability of the two major political parties to manipulate every facet of American life, while any opposition is quashed from the debate, much less public office. The multi-party system Nader envisions to remedy the situation, is something that is difficult to make a reality.
The Republicans ("a wholly owned subsidiary of giant corporations") and the Democrats ("a decaying party that will never be accused of having a smart strategy") have ensured what Nader calls the worst kinds of politicians emerging form the pack and heading to Washington. For now, Nader is focusing his attention on the Democrats, whose dirty tricks have forced him to get tough on many of the more progressive, liberal politicians that he shares ideological agreements with.
"There are millions of unregistered African-Americans who historically vote up to 90% of the time with the Democratic ticket," Nader said. "Even Jesse Jackson talked to me about this problem recently."
"If the Democrats really cared about this campaign, why would they not be out registering African-American voters? Instead they're busy harassing me and the people trying to gather signatures to get me on the ballot."
Though largely unreported, Democrats have been quite overt in launching operations across the country to interfere with the Nader/Camejo campaign. Only a handful of news snippets have made their way into the media documenting the Democrats work. Nader speaks candidly about discussions he's had with some of the very Democrats that have interfered with and violated his constitutionally guaranteed right to run for president. A handful of young men in the crowd have their own stories of encounters with these Democratic goons. While volunteering to collect signatures to help Nader gain access to state ballots, some have also managed to collect horror stories of physical threats and various forms of strong-arm intimidation tactics.
"I was expecting to go to Montana and Wyoming to collect the signatures that the laws require for ballot access," 20-year-old Jon Matthew said. "I was harassed and assaulted in some instances. I was fondled as well as choked by police officers. I was jailed. Wherever we went to gather signatures we we're met by security or police who would throw us out and tell us we had to leave areas of public property."
The bloody and bruised lips Matthew bears tells part of the story about his trip north to assist the candidate he stands behind. Michael Bittinger, Kansas Coordinator for Nader/Camejo 2004 and resident of Rush Limbaugh's favorite left-leaning town, noted the lack of KU Campus Greens that would've stormed an event like this four years ago. Bittinger pushed Nader merchandise and memorabilia from the fundraising booth setup outside the conference room. Attendees were offered a chance to purchase one of Nader's books, including his newly released work, "The Good Fight." Despite rumors of rampant Republican donations to his campaign, Nader is using the new book as a vital tool in his fundraising efforts ("When you give to my campaign, you should get something back," Nader said).
The merchandise booth confirmed just how much of a shoe string operation Nader was running these days. Still, supporters wielding their student ID's lined up to buy the autographed books. With no Secret Service in place (Nader is accompanied on the campaign trail with only one other associate), Jameson and Jonathan Piedimonte of Independence lined up with copies of the new book and told stories of their initial experiences as supporters of a third party candidate.
"I try to talk to older people, but they just seem stuck in the rut of supporting everything the two party system does," 18-year-old Jonathan said. "They just respond with the same old arguments against Nader and against Bush. They really seem like they've given up."
Jonathan's older brother, Jameson, echoed the sentiments. After spending time at the Country Club Plaza trying to gather signatures for the Missouri ballot petition, he too had a tough time finding any rebuttals that didn't revolve around the "Anybody But Bush" mind set.
"The Democrats you talk with can be really nasty," 21-year-old Jameson said. "I've already had my share of confrontations with security guards. A lot of areas feel they are private property (when they're not) and you have no rights, meaning I'm breaking the law."
Nader himself has fielded calls and letters from volunteers in the field who have had the misfortune of coming across the forces of the Democratic Party itself. One 58-year-old woman in Arizona volunteering for the campaign reported being monitored from her home. This kind of spying and intimidating threats (in person and over the phone) are what Nader sees as developing into a mini-Watergate scenario for the Democrats unless Kerry takes a stand against the "dirty tricks" being endorsed by the very leadership of the DNC.
"Every time [Democratic National Chairman] Terry McAuliffe sees me he asks me to drop out [of the race]," Nader said. "The next time I see him and he asks that question I'm going to ask him when John Kerry is going to withdraw."
"They really think that their problem is me or that they're not raising enough money to get their guy on TV. The fact of the matter is that [Kerry] is just another 'Me Too! Republican'."
Despite the Democrats' best efforts, Nader's small, grassroots volunteer task force has been successful in gathering enough signatures to get his ticket on the ballot in more than forty states (a figure still fluctuating because the Democrats will be contesting the signatures in court up until the election). In Kansas, the Nader/Carmejo ticket will be representing the Reform Party, a party that has endorsed Ross Perot and Patrick Buchanan in years past.
"The Reform party, like Kansas, has deep populist roots." They see what's happening to the environment, and where the WTO and the amount of power corporations are taking this country," Nader said. "We certainly have disagreements with certain social issues, but they're very strong on a number of the big issues that we've identified."
While Buchanan and Perot exhibited more traditional conservative tendencies, the Kansas Reform Party's push for a notoriously left leaning consumer advocate reveals their priorities for the upcoming election. Nader expects other conservatives disenfranchised with the Bush Administration's handling of the economy, Iraq, and other foreign policy issues to support his candidacy despite the disagreements they may have with other elements of his progressive politics. Nader sees a much less united Republican party than what is portrayed by the mainstream media.
Recently, he aligned with Texas U.S. Representative Ron Paul (an elected Republican, but a self-described Libertarian) to help get a bill to Congress that will legalize industrial hemp. Hard-line conservative and Editor of The American Conservative Magazine, Patrick Buchanan even offered Nader praise for his stance on the war and foreign policy during an interview between the two in June.
"Conservatives are furious with Bush's deficits, with their tax dollars going to corporate welfare; all of which undermines the market and wastes their money," Nader said. "Polls conducted with those who voted for me in 2000 indicate that up to 25% of them would have voted for Bush if I hadn't run. Another 40% say they would not have voted at all. I'm looking to appeal to those independents, liberal republicans, and conservatives again."
"Conservatives are upset about the way the WTO and NAFTA are threatening our sovereignty. They see jobs being shipped overseas to a Communist regime in China. This is depressing wages here at home and preventing workers from unionizing."
Nader's solution is an immediate withdrawal from entangling trade alliances like NAFTA and the WTO. Furthermore, he is calling for a repeal of the 1947 Taft/Hartley Act, which he says only leads to reoccurring 'Wal-Mart scenarios', and a lack of strong unions for workers.
Kansas drew his spotlight when discussing the corporate welfare state he sees the major parties refusing to discuss. Farm subsidies that are leveled against farmers here in Kansas were pinpointed as a major aspect of corporate welfare that he aims to eliminate. Again, he expects that the anti-trust laws will be effective in breaking up these companies, which have been redefining the ability of rural farmers to take their goods to market.
"The farm subsidies allow the agri-business community to make farmers into supplicants; selling their products well below market value," Nader said. "It's a state of peonage and the farmers are becoming the serfs."
Nader remains confident that he will speak with voters in all 50 states prior to the election. Kerry and Bush began conceding states to one another years ago, forfeiting the need to make stops in entire sections of the country. Earlier in August, a midnight gathering at the local Amtrak station in Lawrence was all that prevented the Kerry/Edwards campaign train from speeding through Kansas without taking the time to speak with any of the thousands of Jayhawks that had gathered on the Friday night. Edwards returned the next day to say a few words, but Kerry managed to slip through and push on to Colorado where the Democrats saw electoral votes up for grab.
"There are people who will continue to say I shouldn't visit swing states, but I say we have a responsibility to visit the areas of the country where we've seen the most passion for our ticket," Nader said. "I just got back from Hawaii and Alaska. They were furious that the other guys never bother to venture out there and speak with the voters."
In order to eliminate the fears of his candidacy running counter to the 'Anybody but Bush' campaign mounted by Kerry supporters, Nader has proposed support for the instant run-off system. This election system is already in place in cities like San Francisco. Under instant runoff elections, voters would rank their choices among a field of multiple candidates (allowing a voter to assign a '1' to Nader and a '2' to Kerry, or vice versa). If no candidate can secure a majority of the votes, elections officials would then take into account the secondary choices of voters to determine a winner. Nader sees a number of positive and humorous effects resulting from a conversion to this system.
"Under the instant run-off system, we'd be also be able to vote for 'none of the above'," Nader said. "Wouldn't that be great? To be able to vote 'no' to the whole system?"
Under the instant run-off, a majority vote of 'no confidence' in the candidates listed would result in a new election in 30 days, at which time only new, alternate candidates would be allowed on the ballot.
"Imagine how humiliated they would be when they have to tell their family that they were defeated by 'none of the above'," Nader said.
Nader's efforts to create a more direct democracy that would allow people to give the whole system the symbolic middle finger do not end there. He even is strongly considering a push to eliminate the Electoral College. The College, criticized by Democrats four years ago for failing to authenticate Gore's win of the popular vote, would be eliminated in a Nader White House to allow for a more direct democracy and the creation of a true multi-party system in government.
The behind the scenes requests from the Democratic Party leadership have not been the only propositions made to Nader. Earlier this month, he became the target of a humorous (albeit pathetic) plea from Michael Moore in front of a television audience. While appearing on HBO's Real Time with Bill Mahr, Moore went as far as to getting on his knees (along with Mahr, the show's emcee) to beg Nader to reconsider his candidacy. Nader smiled and assured the two men that they were in fact the ones who had been duped into believing in a candidate that offered nothing new from President Bush's agenda. First and foremost on Nader's mind are the hundreds of thousand American troops in Iraq.
"Kerry is taking a 'me too' attitude about Iraq," Nader said. "This is the major issue in this election, and he has said nothing different from what Bush has done."
Despite polls showing close to half of all Americans favoring the return of troops from Iraq, Nader stands alone as the only candidate speaking out on a withdrawal plan. Nader promises to have the troops out of the country and back home within six months. He also vowed to oppose the construction of permanent military bases in the country.
"The plan that I've outlined on my Web site is the only plan to withdraw American military and corporate forces and give the people of Iraq true sovereignty," Nader said. "Then, the Iraqis will have their country back, and they will no longer be the target of international terrorists."
"We have 14 [military] bases going up in Iraq. Kerry and Bush have no plan to achieve an 'end game', meanwhile we're bleeding troops and billions of taxpayer dollars."
The lack of an alternative for the future of Iraq highlights the deficiencies of the Democratic Party for Nader. With the televised Presidential debates approaching (something Nader is still fighting an uphill battle to gain access to), the laundry list of issues that Bush and Kerry are on record as agreeing upon is staggering (and very much reminiscent of what happened in the debates between Gore and Bush). The two have said little to distinguish themselves from one another on questions regarding U.S. foreign policy and the war in Iraq, the Patriot Act, the bloated military budget (which Nader promises to slash and still position it to maintain an impenetrable domestic defense), healthcare, the environment, fossil fuel dependency, and workers' rights.
"The democrats just don't understand that people want to see contrast when they go to vote," Nader said. "Their real problem isn't raising enough money or whatever happens to my campaign. They just lack a message."
Just a few miles east from where he was speaking in Kansas City, Kansas, is the 'Show Me State' of Missouri, which represents one of Nader's biggest challenges. With Missouri playing a crucial role in deciding the presidency in the last century, the Democrats have invested in a long legal fight to challenge the authenticity of the 12,000 plus signatures gathered for the state ballot (the Democrats are fighting successfully to get close to 3,000 of those signatures voided from the petition). The courts are openly cooperating with efforts to kill off independent candidates.
The opposition forces mount by the day for Nader. The Anti-Defamation League berated him for having the courage to speak out on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in a way that did not show undying support for the U.S. position. Hints of anti-Semitism were inevitably charged, but when Nader called the group to task for failing to recognize Palestinians and Israelis working together toward a peaceful solution, they went silent.
The pressure being applied on him to pack up and go home has done little to alter his resolve. He spent the entire morning speaking with a small, but dedicated group of citizens who refuse to turn away on his cause. At seventy-years-old, his stump speech was still coming across by way of a razor sharp delivery. Being continually ignored by the media has clearly kept a chip on his shoulder, a quality that seemingly endears him to the hordes of young voters that make up his audiences. He's made a pact with them that he isn't about to break.
"Thomas Jefferson said that our system may need a revolution every 50 years to keep it updated," Nader said. "If the founding fathers would come back and see what the country looks like now, they'd be amazed at how little we've evolved." "If I were to drop out I would be betraying the support and sweat of all those who've believed in us and believe that there's a place in Washington for progressive politics. I'm not dropping out. That's not going to happen...not now...not on October 30th...never."

Monday, August 30, 2004

Issue Swiftly Disappearing


The swift boat issue and the way the media is engulfed by it - is really starting to make me sick. Let's face it, Kerry was involved in the same kind of brutal, murderous behavior that many others were in Vietnam. An Ohio paper -
The Toledo Blade - did an award winning series on some of the atrocities that happened.

Kerry, for some reason, has become a viable 'anti' war candidate. Realistically, he has even more hawkish tendencies than the sitting president. His Wilsonian like views on world alliances and on-going, never ending conflict against ideas have not been reported, much less emphasized, by the media. At least Bush finally came out today and spilled the beans on what everyone knew was a
war with no end.

Buchanan, Nader, et al. have been part of the small contingent that has articulated (not in the mainstream press) the opposition to nation building, and an isolationist policy that would create a true defense of American soil, minus the entangling alliances (i.e. Israel, NATO, UN, etc.).

‘Stick with the Devil you know’

Bush may be the better of the two, specifically because his repeated blunders have put a relative restraint on his military conquests. Whereas Kerry, may have a ‘clean slate’ in the eyes of the establishment, one that may allow him to put us into another Iraq situation elsewhere in the world (i.e. Iran, Korea, Sudan). Sudan is the most likely answer because the conflict is seen as the most ‘humanitarian’ war right now (one that even the Michael Moore crowd would eat up), which differs very little from the wars Clinton justified with little resistance from the press.

Job-less Recovery

I, like many other recent journalism and communications degree graduates my age, have had different media and writing related jobs on the eastern side of Kansas (all of them of the temporary, part-time variety with no capacity to transform into future, full-time employment).

The concentration of media ownership in the state of Kansas (when I say Kansas I always refer to the eastern border of the state - where about 99% of the state's population resides) is creating a uniquely, negative situation for would be workers. The World Company alone controls newspaper (LJ World, De Soto Explorer, Eudora News, etc.), cable (Sunflower), telephone, internet connections, local television news and programming (Lawrence), and coordinates a multitude of media services with the University (kusports.com, etc.). They've even produced a number of hugely successful calendars featuring KU coeds ("Girls of KU" will google you to these sophisticated products). They have effectively shut out any media competition from this college town.

Print publications, not just in Lawrence but in the greater Kansas City area in general, are awful about compensating reporters with a livable wage. A handful of my contemporaries have been forced to work substantial hours for blue collar operations on the side of their media jobs just to make ends meet. I have been able in some instances (unfortunately) to gather greater fees as a freelance writer/photographer than people my age receive for standard 40 hour work weeks in Topeka or Lawrence (You can’t even consider asking for a traditional salary or benefits at these operations).

Other indications from recent job interviews have furthered my belief that the economic climate for workers in this industry is going nowhere but straight to the bottom (not to be mistaken with ‘the bottoms’ by Kemper Arena in KC). Over the past year, I have perfected the art of the ‘return interview’ or what some might call the ‘runner-up candidate.’ A copywriter position at a Kansas City based yearbook publishing company, along with a media relations (PR) post at UMKC, were both recent examples of this phenomenon. While finishing second place in both instances (…apparently there’s no silver medal awarded anymore? So much for the Olympic spirit this time of year, eh?), what really disturbed me was the fact that both positions (entry-level by all accounts) were ultimately filled with vastly experienced practitioners of their respective industries. It’s a puzzling catch-22. I cannot match the level of experience of these alternative candidates, while my available options (continuing with hourly positions that pay less than the workers at fast food establishments) remain less than appealing.

More Great News for UMKC

A former UMKC student - Jonas Hughes – is running uncontested at this point for a Missouri House Congressional seat. Here's the kicker: this seven year UMKC student apparently did not know that he had NOT graduated last year, something he told the KC Star earlier this summer. This information came out prior to the election, nonetheless, he edged out the more experienced democratic challenger. He was jobless, much like many fellow UMKC grads and non-grads, so at least he has a government position for the next two years. We probably won't hear more about this story until another 'alleged' UMKC graduate pops up to run in opposition.

After seeing the 'dorm' my brother has at Nebraska, coupled with the new, modern looking structure at UMKC, I begin to wonder if a four year stay at UMKC wouldn't have been a lot more pleasant if such living accommodations had been around. There's still over a hundred poor souls in that dump on 5050 Cherry St.

Royals Break Out New 1/2 Week Legend

Sheesh, you'd think that Calvin Pickering's hot streak could have lasted at least a week. Alas, that is the reality of Royals fans: the only bright spot of the season lasted a grand total of three days. In that time, Pickering homered twice, tripled, and drove in a total of 11 runs. An offensive performance to make him a shoe-in for spring training next year, right? Wrong. After 72 hours, pitchers figured out that the 6'5", 270 lb. slugger couldn't reach the low, outside strike. To make matters worse, he has a tendency still to go for the high cheese. All of this won't help the soon-to-be 28 year old rookie in his quest to become an everyday big league player. There's always a reason why players like Pickering, Phil Hiatt, Bob Hamelin, Joe Vitiello, Sal Fasano, or Ozzie Canseco earn the title of 'minor league legend'.

Tomorrow... My visit with Ralph Nader.