The choice facing our American friends

This morning, with my breakfast cup of Melvin’s Tangawizi Tea, I read This article in the Guardina Weekly. Got me interested in Ralph Nader.

So come on… leave a comment and tell me what you think/know/wish about Ralph and the US Elections.

8 Comments

  1. natty Says:

    Ah yes, Nader. I heard Nader speak at Tulane Law School five years ago, one year before his 2000 campaign. I was struck by how honest and earnest he was about his convictions and policy suggestions. But you know, he’s so rabidly socialist, I can’t bring myself to vote for him. One of his policies includes a minimum wage of $12 an hour (it’s $5.15 now) and a MAXIMUM wage of $100 an hour to keep CEO’s from raiding companies. Maybe it’s a good idea, I dunno, but I’ve been raised just a little too red-blooded American not to flinch at the idea. Yes, he stands for something, but it’s not something America can agree with and get behind. Americans vote for him as a protest vote, not on those principles.

    We had the same phenomenon in 1992, but in reverse and much bigger. Texas millionaire Ross Perot ran against George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton and grabbed a good 12-15% of the vote, as opposed to Nader’s 3%. Perot was kind of crazy, but he was an alternative to Republicans bad off in the recession, and he talked a whole lot of sense about economic policies (he was against NAFTA and other free trade that would allow "that giant sucking sound" of jobs to mexico and elsewhere, and twelve years later, damned if the crazy SOB wasn’t right). My parents voted for him, and they’re long time military conservatives.

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    I’ll tell you why Kerry is doing lacadaisically. #1: Rich white people who have money to donate and actually go out and vote got lots of tax cuts from Bush.

    #2: In the last ten years, TV media in this country has mutated into a 24-hour radioactive ratings seeking monster. I’ll tell you why this has happened. CNN used to be the only 24-hour news network, and it was owned by rabid leftist Ted Turner. He kept politics out of the news, and CNN was his baby. He let it lose money in order to keep its integrity and its newsworthiness. Switch to the late ’90’s when CNN and other Turner broadcast stations get swept up in the AOL-TIME-WARNER mega merge disaster. AOL money crunchers run the show, Ted Turner is pushed aside. Also around this time, FOX of all people starts their own news channel, FOX NEWS. FOX NEWS is owned and run by Rupert Murdoch, which should give you an idea. It’s a right wing news channel that spends a lot of time giving reporters and commentators chances to spout their opinions as fact. FOX NEWS gets great ratings, which means they make money selling lots of ads. AOL-TW money crunchers get a wiff of this and start pushing CNN towards the same format. Now instead of reporting a variety of news from all over the world, CNN sits on one useless story, like Michael Jackson’s trial, for weeks at a time, filling air time with useless drivel trying to get stupid joe-public to watch to increase ratings to increase revenue. I know high up people at CNN, and they’ve been in hell about the last 8 years.

    One more thing happened to the media: September 11th. It scared the hell out of them, as it did all of us, and they’ve been super-alarmist ever since.

    So what does this mean for Kerry and Bush? Well, Kerry is getting caught up in the same focusing on one thing til we hammer it to death mentality that Michael Jackson and Lacy Peterson have. TV media spent a week on whether or not Kerry threw his medals over a fence thirty years ago, for example. And in the last few weeks, there’s been the false attack ads from the swift boat veterans campaign. It doesn’t really matter that Bush didn’t go to Vietnam and was passed out in a pool of his own vomit next to a line of coke at the time, the scrutiny is over whether or not Kerry lied. Damage is done.

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    #3, and this is the big one: Bush’s handler Karl Rove. He’s the nastiest, conniving, do absolutley anything son of a bitch anyone has ever seen. Most people here are convinced he had a hand in the swift boat ads, and I’m one of them.

    Four years ago, John McCain was winning the Republican primaries. He was a vietnam POW for six years. He’s been in the senate forever. He’s a maverick moderate republican, and the far righters like Bush and Cheney hate him. But the fact that he’s moderate, speaks intelligently, speaks exactly what’s on his mind, and is a bit of a loose cannon has made him extremely popular in America. So he runs for president and is doing really well until he gets to the South Carolina primaries. South Carolina is staunch, staunch, staunch republican. It’s very Southern Baptist. They kept Strom Thurmond in the senate even though he was 100 years old. There’s often a bit of racism just under the surface in older people, who are usually in power and usually vote. So along comes Karl Rove: he sends out a polling group to call South Carolinians on the phone. Among the questions is "Would you vote for John McCain if you knew he had fathered a mixed race child out of wedlock?" People heard this planted seed, then looked at footage of McCain with his family, which includes his ADOPTED biracial son. Damage was done. Bush won South Carolina, and McCain lost his momentum.

    McCain and Bush hate each other passionately, but McCain is currently stumping for Bush in order to stay in good graces with the party so he might run again in the future. McCain is also very good friends with Kerry, and there were reports for ages that Kerry was begging McCain to be vice president running mate under a "unity ticket." Oh god, if only that had worked, there would be no problem now.

    But I digress. Karl Rove is an absolute bastard and he’s smearing Kerry left and right. The smears get picked up and compounded by the media, which apparently has nothing better to do at the moment. Kerry can’t bring himself to push back as hard as Bush and Rove are doing to him. So there it stands.

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    I could get onto campaign finance reform, or lack of it and how it affects the election, but I’m tired of punditing at the moment.

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    It will be interesting to see voter turnout for this election. Usually we’re deathly low and apathetic. Now everyone’s so charged, I hope we come out in force.

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    At least Bush can only do four more years worth of damage at most. Thank Christ for term limits.

    *************

    You DID ask for what we thought, you know.
    Natty

  2. natty Says:

    Why did some of that turn out bold?? *shrug*

  3. Mark Says:

    Darling Natty!

    You were in my mind when I wrote this invitation. You’ve delivered so well I’m a bit afraid others, especially us Britts who know precious little about the US election*, might be intimidated into not adding anything.

    (* Im generalising here in order to provoke a reaction from someone! I didn’t even know about term limits, how does that work? do they have to replace the man or the party? Won’t the Republicans just put another puppet up there in place of Bush)

    But your insights are just the sort of thing I wanted to hear. Someone taking the lid of things and not afraid to call a bastard a bastard. There was stuff in other Guardian articles about Rove and the Swift Boat Veterens, and one absolutely terrifying one about well off women in Texas who genuinely can’t imagine why anybody would dislike what Bush has been doing during his term.

    I sit in my living room in Africa and sip tea and read my newspaper. And I quate in my boots. I’d like to go spend some time bumming around the States when Im done here, but Im afraid Bush will turn it into some sort war zone.

  4. Webmaster Says:

    I don’t see any bold.
    But I do see some asterisks. I have a feature turned on in GreyMatter that makes things bold if you put two asterisks at the beginnig and end like **this**.

  5. natty Says:

    Term limits: For a long time there were no official term limits on the presidency. Our first, good old george washington, did two terms and graciously stepped down. After him, it was a tradition to only take two terms. Franklin Deleanor Roosevelt was the only one to take more than two terms: he did four, through the Great Depression and WWII. He died not long after his fourth election.

    After FDR died, Congress passed an ammendment to the constitution (don’t ask me which one, I’ve forgotten and I’m too lazy to look it up) limiting the president to two terms. Neither the Senate nor the House have limits. Sometimes state and local positions have limits. I know the mayor of NYC has limits. Rudy Guiliani was at the end of his term when Sept. 11th happened, and many people wanted to overturn the term limit and keep him on; which was strange because on September 10th, NYC hated the man for some of his policies and for cheating on his wife when she had cancer.

    "Wealthy in Texas." Well, Texans are pretty much their own breed, they’re the American frontierist spirit on steroids. Wealthy support of Bush is partly tied up in the campaign finance crap. Let me do a little research and I’ll go on a diatribe again. If you want.

  6. Chris Mungbean Says:

    Oh blimey, I thought I almost understood this stuff and then… So other people (ie. Nader) can run as well? Hmmm.

    Are there any published figures on how much money is being donated to, and spent on, these campaigns? I find this quite sickening. They must be spending something close to the GDP of a Benelux country on all this stuff.

    How much does it cost to become president of the USA?

    How much does it cost to take out a contract on the president of the USA?

    Blimey.

    That 4-year term limit thing is a tiny slither of consolation amongst the huge, steaming pile of dinosaur droppings that is this election.

    Someone’s put together an expose of Murdoch and Fox called OutFoxed… see

  7. natty Says:

    Argh. Toby has food poisoning today and I’ve been taking care of the poor babe. So no time for crazy research.

    Here’s what I remember about campaign finance laws. Anyone can run for president as long as you’re a natural born citizen and you’re 35. To get listed on the ballot, you have to get a petition with so many registered voter signatures in each state. If you’re not on the ballot, people can write your name in and vote for you. I could vote for Mickey Mouse if I really wanted to. Generally there are around five names on the ballot: democrat, republican, usually the green party (nader) and the libertarian party, sometimes the communist party gets on there. etc.

    For example: Did you guys hear anything about the screwed up butterfly ballot in Florida the last election? It was a really confusing setup, and a lot of people in that disputed county accidently voted for Reform candidate Pat Buchanon instead of Al Gore. Food for thought.

    The government will even help finance your campaign if you stick to certain rules. They will match your fundraising dollar for dollar, but there’s a donation limit for individual citizens ($2000 I think) and a donation limit for businesses (don’t remember, but not much different).

    Here’s where it went wrong. First: everyone got around limits with "soft money" donations. You don’t donate $2000 to John Kerry, you donate $2 million to the Democratic party, or a front support group, and THEY fund the commercials and ads and such instead of the Kerry campaign funding it. John McCain got rid of soft money campaigning in 2002 with the McCain-Feingold act.

    Worse: In the 2000 presidential elections, Bush gave the government campaign funding the finger and solicited donations WITHOUT LIMITS. Why bother with $2000 in government funds at a time when your Texas oil buddies can give you millions? Bush raised a record amount of money and outspent every other candidate 2 to 1. Unfortunately, when so many people donate soooooooo much to your campaign, you feel a little bit obliged to scratch their back while you’re in office. Business is currently out of control in this country, the tax system on business is completely backwards (why do businesses get huge tax breaks for closing their american centers and shipping the jobs to China? WHY?), and the richest one percent of Americans got the tax breaks while the working middle class got jack shit.

    John Kerry, to keep up, has had to forego government finance as well, and managed to catch up to Bush in donations and spending. Not sure if this is a good thing. Both candidates raised over $200 million this campaign.

    And before you think Bush is the only one who had shady donations, Clinton took lots of money from the Chinese.

    88888888888888

    From the nine months that I lived in England, I was really struck by how Europeans underestimate how huge and diverse America is. So many times people would ask if New York were next to Los Angeles (um, nope. It’s a full, grueling five-day, 3000 mile drive between the two). That’s twice the distance from London to Moscow.

    Think about the differences between Britain and France. Or Britain and Germany. Hell, England has had a hard enough time keeping hold of Scotland and Ireland over your history.

    Now realize that we can fit all of Great Britain over three times just in the state of Texas. Germany is roughly the size of Montana. And we have fifty states spread out over six time zones.

    We’re very geographically isolated in the world. It’s easy for Brits to rack up stamps on their passport running around Europe. It’s at least a ten hour flight in either direction for us to get to Europe or Asia. So we just don’t get that kind of cultural exposure often (I’ve heard only 20% of Americans own passports). I get rather embarassed sometimes at the fact that Americans don’t value learning other languages. A few states in the Southwest, Texas and California make an effort at learning spanish due to the mexican influx (and Florida because of the Cuban community). But when you think about it, languages for us just aren’t very practical and are more academic. Why learn French if you’re never going to get out of Sioux City, Iowa? Spanish might have some use, but I’m a 16 hour drive from Mexico, and I’m only one state over in Louisiana.

    I think the point I’m trying to make is we’re so huge and diverse, and we’re trying so hard just to keep ourselves running, that the ordinary joe on the street has a difficult time empathizing with even other states in our own country. Florida is about to get hit by the third major hurricane in a month and the state’s pretty much destroyed. People in Ohio will send canned goods and chainsaws, but they have no idea what a category four hurricane is like and will have forgotten the incident a month later when Florida is still without power. They have tornadoes. And snow. California doesn’t have either of those, but they have massive earthquakes. Washington state has earthquakes and a volcano. I spent last weekend in Albuquerque, New Mexico and went through serious culture shock, even in my own country, because the grand 18th century Spanish architecture and 500 year old oak trees in my tropical, humid city had very little in relation to the super dry, desert, native-american influenced towns filled with squat adobe architecture.

    Trying to wrap your head around events and cultures in the US is hard enough. I think the empathy fades even more when we try to reach outside of our country, across big oceans, to what’s going on in the rest of the world. And that’s the mindset the average joe has when he goes to the polls.

    And I think that’s true for most countries. I moved to London six days after September 11th. I was deeply affected by it. But the British press covered it for a few days and then went on with their business. When I went back home nine months later, it was still a constant on the news and Americans were still dealing with it. And I can see why: nothing like that had ever happened to us. Ever. Al-Qaida had been blowing our ships and embassies up for years, but this was a serious attack on our home ground, and it really stopped people in their tracks.

    Which leads me to the American response. We are a very very new country as far as world leaders go. Britain has thousands of years worth of history. America has about 350 if you include colonial times. And our frontier spirit is very much still alive. What was Britain doing in the 1800’s? Still caught up in class and money, still wearing silly, restrictive clothes, reading books, playing piano, having sex when noone was looking. What were my ancestors doing in the 1800’s? My great-great-great-great-great aunt was one of the first 300 to settle Texas. When her husband went out on the range, she had to shoot the indians that raided the homestead, smoke them out of the chimney, chop off their toes when they tried to lift the front door off the hinges. My great-great-great-great aunt Sally Skull was a cattle rancher and a gunslinger.

    So you have to excuse us, we’re not quite evolved to civility yet.

    8888888888

    That’s kind of the long explanation for the mentality of people like G.W., or the Texans that support him to death. Hell hath no fury like a pissed off American cowboy.

  8. Mark Says:

    Wow, I love it when this happens.

    Most of what precious little I know about american elections I learned from Stupid White Men — why did it take me so long to get round to reading that book? I heard about ballot papers that were potentially confusing. And lots of other covert vote rigging shenanegins. I felt confused and slightly scared. Moore calls it a coup. I worried about the Bush family and their friends’ motives for slipping boy george into power through the back door. Did they want to manipulate him? To what ends?

    The way you tell it above, Natty, Bush found himself beholden to his corporate sponsors after accepting their bankroll for his campaign. I’d always preferred a sort of conspiracy theory where the heads of big business were so powerful and back-scratching, that they negotiated those tax breaks themselvs, and set about putting their own puppet into power to let them exploit Alaska, etc.

    But, as you can see, I really don’t know enough to have an opinion, hence this blog entry. Of all the people you named above I should think I’d probably want to vote for Jack Shit.

    Living in rural Kenya has given me a taste for different cultures. Reading your rants has just piqued my desire to visit some of those far-flung states and experience what british TV doesn’t show us about America.

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