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Stateside with Rosalea: Small News and Big


Stateside with Rosalea

Small News And Big

By Rosalea Barker

***The unfathomable fathomed***

Aha! Apparently, the reason for the unusual early non-binding Democratic primary in Washington DC is to try to draw the nation's attention to the fact that residents of DC, who pay taxes and serve their country in time of war, have no representatives in the House or Senate, and thus no say on matters of taxation or presidential war powers.

Delegate Eleanor Homes Norton has a vote in committee, but not in the full House of Representatives. It is she who has been pressing for the national media to pay attention to this, for example by a Christmas Eve visit to a DC-resident Time magazine war correspondent and other DC residents wounded in the war, at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Norton and DC Mayor Anthony Williams have also written to Howard Dean, asking him to take part in a locally televised candidate debate on January 9. As I said last week, the other media-annointed Democratic presidential hopefuls - Kerry, Edwards, Gephardt, Clark, and Lieberman - removed their names from the ballot before it was printed. Perhaps they mistakenly thought they could be write-in candidates instead. The DC Democrats decided not to allow write-ins four years ago.

Washington DC is a majority black electorate, and it's a slap in the face for that constituency for those five major candidates not to deign to have their names on the ballot. But, hey, where was the Democratic Party in Florida in November 2000 when black voters there were protesting against being removed from the official voting registers and turned away from polling places?

***Berkeley voters prefer Republican candidate***

Shock! Horror! In a city where the oldest running political joke is that the mayor knows every Republican-registered voter by name - all three of them - news has just surfaced that a majority of voters in a recent gubernatorial election favoured the Republican candidate.

It wasn't a real election for governor and all the voters weren't from Berkeley but, rather, audience members of the two-play cycle Continental Divide, by British playwright David Edgar. Having seen both plays, and stayed for audience-actor discussion after each, I'm not surprised at the result. I was among those who voted for Sheldon Vine, the Republican challenger to an incumbent Democratic governor, purely on the basis of a speech he makes in which he recounts the utopian vision he had for a Jeffersonian-style America when he first entered politics. Of course, neither the Republican nor the Democratic Parties live up those ideals these days.

The plays have finished here now and will be moving on to London where they open at the Barbican Centre on March 20th as part of BITE:04 (Barbican International Theatre Events.) As an aside, was that David Edgar I spotted at the Hearst Castle visitor centre, telling his mum and dad he needed to quickly go see someone about some research he's doing for an upcoming play?

***Texas Democrat files as Republican***

On Friday, Democrat Ralph Hall, who has been the state's Fourth Congressional District representative to the House since 1980, placed his name on the Republican Party's list for the state's March 9 primary. Hardly surprising. He's voted with the Republicans on most things, and is in cosy with the Bushes.

By saying he's on the primary list, I don't mean Hall is running for a presidential nomination. If parties choose to use the primary process, they can use their state's primary election date for choosing candidates for all the other offices that will be on the November ballot. A good central internet resource for linking to state party websites and official election information is www.dnet.org. Although Democracy Net seems to suffer a lot of linkrot, the two tabs marked "voting info" and "officeholders" lead to reliable information.

***So what's a caucus?***

Well, this is another way that voters registered to a party get to feel like they influence the choosing of a US President. As The Almanac of American Politics says: "On a frosty evening in January every four years, more than 100,000 Iowans troop to caucuses in some 2,131 precincts and begin the process of choosing a president of the United States." The first-in-the-nation status is enshrined in Democratic (but not Republican) rules, and the habit started back in 1972.

The Democratic and Republican caucuses will be held on 19 January. It's bizarre that the media and the parties make so much of this. As all the various caucuses and primaries take place, presidential candidates drop by the wayside and never even appear on the November 2004 ballot. I ask you - if it's acceptable that so few voters so early in the process can effectively decide the choices available to the whole nation, why can't the voters of just one state decide those choices? Let's hear it for a rotating presidency!

**It has already been decided**

"Some of the things he said - we used to use the term malapropisms." So said televangelist Pat Robertson on his 700 Club TV programme on Friday. He was referring to Howard Dean. Uh, isn't that the criticism Democrats love to make of George W. Bush?

The 700 Club news is a scary thing indeed. The reporters are very capable, but keep deferring to Robertson by asking questions like: "What d'ya think, Pat?" After a summary of recent earthquakes, Robertson opined that "The Lord speaks to the world through natural disasters." What worries me about that is that he is just the sort of person who thinks he is being used by the Lord to speed up the End Days. Hey, if somebody came to you, Pat, and asked to use your satellite transponders for clandestine military purposes would you let them do it?

According to Robertson, the Christian Broadcasting Network has the No. 1 program in Indonesia, which is its second biggest audience after India and before Nigeria. CBN now has a station in Beijing, and he's counting on big numbers of converts there. Having communed with the Lord just before Christmas, Robertson was told that it's going to be a year of prosperity and money for the church, CBN and worthy endeavours.

The Lord also told him that 2004 will be another blowout year for George W. Bush: "No matter what he does, God picks him up," said Robertson. God or the religious right, who are in every level of government, public policy formation, media and economics? But the most scary thing on CBN was the prediction for 2004 from a Jerusalem Post correspondent who said that Israel will attack Iran.

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