Friday, October 22, 2004

Seeing John Kerry last night...

Before the weekend, here is a barrage of my news-picks:

John Kerry was in Minnesota yesterday for a rally very close to my university. So, I decided to go. He was not speaking until 6:30pm but the gates opened at 4:30pm. Because I had a class until 5. I didn't make it there until 5:40 and had to wait for over an hour to get inside! I am so glad it didn't rain nor was it very cold. 30,000 people showed up to support him! Buses, trains, and the streets were filled with people wearing Kerry-Edwards buttons or carrying signs, and there was a general spirit of joy. From where I was standing at the back, I had to tip-toe to see Kerry and he still was the size of my thumb! We could also barely hear him from the loudspeakers, but I doubt he was saying anything new. There were several cute kids in the crowd chanting his name - one kid beside me was sitting on his father's shoulders and said "Look at all these people just in Minnesota who are going to vote for Kerry!"Looks like political education begins at home. A friend of mine was standing close to the stage and got to shake his hand. It's amazing how we treat our politicians as celebrities when they are in fact, supposed to be working for us! Minnesota is considered a swing-state because Gore won it by a narrow margin in 2000, so both candidates have been wooing Minnesotans. I doubt Bush will win the state - if all those people voted Gore in 2000 (before 9/11 & Iraq), many more will vote against Bush! I don't really trust polls because they don't capture new voters or people who have become more politically aware after 9/11 & the war in Iraq & are very upset by Bush. Voter registration has been taking place in record numbers all over the country, and new registrations usually favor Democrats because they are by students, women & minorities. The military usually votes Republican, but I wonder how many will vote Kerry because of Bush's disastrous policies.

Speaking of voting, many states have "early voting," where some people can vote before Nov 2. One of them is Florida & on the first day, problems arose. Unfortunately, there have been reports nation-wide about fraud where groups act like they are registering voters but destroy the cards, so many people who will turn up to vote on Nov 2 will find out they can't because they have not registered. This has been taking place more by Republicans to disenfranchise Democratic voters, rather than the other way around. In many swing states, the Secretary of State is Republican giving him or her power to decide how the elections should take place (just like in Florida in 2000). An alarming report by the Guardian sheds light on such problems in Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and South Dakota. Incidents include jamming phones when Democrats have been phone-banking for support, printing fewer ballots, destroying registration cards, phone calls to people telling them their polling station has been relocated...the list is endless & an obstruction to the democratic process. Only time will tell how the election will go. John Kerry has already been preparing a team of lawyers and other officials to fight back if the situation in 2000 repeats itself.

Interestingly, the
Committee of Concerned Journalists, a consortium of reporters, editors, producers, publishers, owners and academics, has surveyed its own membership about the quality of election campaign coverage this year, and the results aren't pretty. Nearly three quarters of respondents gave the press a C, D or F grade, and only 3% gave an A. By large majorities they felt the news media has become sidetracked by trivial issues, has been too reactive and has focused too much on campaign strategy rather than substance. They gave particularly low grades to television and much higher grades to newspapers and online coverage. The online news sites in fact got more A grades than any other medium.

I am a big believer of personal stories instead of political theory & rhetoric - because after all, politics is about the people. This is a gruesome
story (with pictures) from Electronic Intifada describing the after-affects of the recent Israeli incursion (Days of Penitence) into Gaza: "It smells unbelievably bad here. To walk down any street, if you dare to, you skirt, or sometimes unavoidably walk through, pools of blood. There are shreds of human flesh, some of them unrecognizable as human remains -- all over, on rooftops, plastered to broken windows, on the street. The stench of rotting blood mixes with the more acrid odor of flesh burnt to black char by the rockets fired by the Israeli Army's American-made Apache helicopters...Funeral processions are everywhere, and "houses of mourning" the tents bereaved families set up in which to receive their families and friends...nothing protects you from the sounds, the tears and laments of the mothers and fathers, husbands, wives and children of the dead, the screams of the injured, the wail of ambulance sirens, sniper fire, the thud of tank shells and the too-frequent explosions as another Apache shell lands." The Israeli army, with utter impunity, has killed more unarmed Palestinian civilians since September 2000 than the number of people who died on September 11, 2001.

Oil prices in the US has been steadily going up in the past few months and is currently about $55 a barrel. One of the blatant remarks by Kerry has been that the US needs to break ties with Mideast oil & the Saudi family. The solution? Alternative energy. According to this
article in the Christian Science Monitor, "the alternative-energy movement is moving well beyond the novelty phase. It is becoming more ingrained in the nation's power grid and in middle-class homes as technologies improve. Consumer demand has Toyota predicting the sale of 100,000 of its Prius hybrid cars in the United States next year. Even solar panels and windmills, often associated with the Jimmy Carter cardigan sweater days, are showing up in more suburban neighborhoods and other unexpected places...Although alternative fuels still make up a small fraction of US energy supplies, they are growing at a 30 percent rate compared with 4 percent for oil and 6 percent for natural gas. The projects are especially popular among states with governors opening up new wind farms and farm-belt ethanol refineries...Even oil companies are jumping on board, using ethanol to augment gasoline supplies." Personally, I don't own a care of my own yet, and I have vowed that my first care will be environmentally-friendly.

Although I disagree with many of Bush's policies, one thing that scares me the most is that he will get to appoint judges to the Supreme Court in his next term - for life. From the
NY Times: "Mr. Bush's ambitions for the courts are clear, but his record is mixed. He has succeeded in placing staunch conservatives on the bench in many cases but has been foiled in others by Senate Democrats like Charles E. Schumer of New York who charge him with trying to "create the most ideological bench in history."The conflict between the White House and the Democrats has been particularly sharp, in part because Democrats reasoned that Mr. Bush could not claim any mandate to remake the courts, given his contested victory over Al Gore. With the nation now preparing to elect a president who will almost certainly have an opportunity to name at least one Supreme Court justice, Democrats and Republicans remain deeply entrenched in their positions over who belongs on the bench...Of the 45 or so appeals courts candidates who have gone to the Senate floor, the Democrats have blocked 10, going so far as to use a filibuster, or threat of an extended debate, to stop consideration on all 10. The Republicans hold a slim majority with 51 votes, but overcoming a filibuster requires 60 votes...The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, based in Richmond, Va., is widely regarded as the nation's most conservative appeals court...The current administration has tried to have as many terrorism-related cases as possible brought in that circuit, precisely because its conservative members tend to favor presidential authority...Prof. Sheldon Goldman of the University of Massachusetts, a leading authority on judicial selection, said of "even more so than his father's, his administration is clearly coordinated and is expending its resources to place on the bench those who share his philosophy."... also noted that Mr. Bush had the best diversity record of any Republican in history...roughly a third of Mr. Bush's district and appeals court nominees had been women or minorities or both...most of Mr. Bush's nominees come before the Senate Judiciary Committee with clear conservative records."

Following careful consideration of overall U.S. interests, interaction with presidential campaign officials and extensive input from the Islamic community, the
American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections - Political Action Committee (AMT-PAC) is calling on Muslims nationwide to cast a protest vote for Sen. John Kerry due to Bush's disastrous policies. However, "while the Kerry campaign has critiqued a number of Bush administration polices, it has so far failed to explicitly affirm support for due process, equal justice and other constitutional norms. We are also disappointed that his campaign has shied away from expressing unambiguous support for principles enshrined in the U.S. Constitution that prohibit use of ex post facto laws, secret proceedings and secret evidence."

More political movies on the scene: this time. a conservative reply to Michael Moore,
Celsius 41.11 - "the filmmakers cut from an image juxtaposing Michael Moore with Hitler straight to an image of John Kerry and John Edwards. If the juxtaposition weren't so shameless, if the political climate were not so scurrilous, if the country were not actively at war and men, women and children were not dying in that war, this composite triumvirate of Moore-Hitler-Kerry might be easy to laugh off...the filmmakers behind "Celsius 41.11" spend surprisingly little time actually going after Mr. Moore. What Mr. Knoblock, Mr. Chetwynd and Mr. Steinberg want to do with their movie is make you afraid — very, very afraid. And so, in between talking heads expounding on American policy and international politics and extolling the vision and virtues of President Bush...the film presents a vision of the world verging on the apocalyptic...The film opens with the image of the second World Trade Center tower being hit by a plane, and returns to the attack, with the towers in flames and then tumbling, again and again. The filmmakers make their political line of reasoning clear when they soon follow this Sept. 11 imagery with snippets of antiwar demonstrations."