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photo cap: The man stands alone: Presidential candidate Ralph Nader during a recent press conference.

photo credit: Joe Putrock

Talking the Good Talk

Presidential candidate Ralph Nader tells the Capital Region a vote for him is a vote against corporate
control of America

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader spoke to a sympathetic crowd of about 350 at the Egg last Thursday (Oct. 7), defending his decision to run and criticizing both George W. Bush and John Kerry in no uncertain terms, calling Bush a “corporation disguised as a human being” and saying it was no wonder Bush looked dazed in the first debate, since Kerry was trying to “out hawk” him.

“This is not a candidacy that in one or two efforts can topple a two-party electoral dictatorship,” said Nader in press interviews before the rally. “[The Democrats and Republicans] are going to control the election, but they’re going to be exposed and undermined. They’re going to lose the confidence of the American people, so that someday there will be more political voices and choices who stand up for the American people and make corporations their servants and not their masters.”

Nader expects to be listed on 40 state ballots in November, and will rely on write-in votes for the remaining states. Nader will be on the New York state ballot under the Peace and Justice and Independence party lines, and is endorsed by the state’s Green Party.

“Do I have any regrets about the 2000 election? Sure I do,” said Nader. “If Al Gore withdrew and I became president, we would definitely not be in Iraq right now.”

“As long as we have an equal right to run for election and take votes from each other, we’re either all spoilers or none of us are spoilers,” he added, comparing his run to third-party candidates on the abolition or women’s suffrage lines a century ago. “Those small parties never won an election, but they won the agenda,” he said.

Nader’s agenda is clearly being anti-
corporate-control. “These ‘capitalist’ companies are outsourcing jobs to China and using a Communist dictatorship as their labor enforcement arm,” he told the crowd. “They have no patriotism. But when they get into trouble, they don’t go to Tokyo for a handout. They don’t call the British Marines.”

Nader also addressed terrorism, noting that U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft is “0 for 5,000” in terrorist convictions, and saying that he [Nader] spearheaded a campaign in the 1970s to make hardened cockpit doors a Federal Aviation Administration requirement—a requirement that might have prevented the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy—but the campaign was unsuccessful when “the FAA buckled to the airline industry.”

Nader spoke with bluntness absent from much of the 2004 presidential campaign when discussing recent debates, calling Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards a “sniveling coward” because of his response to Vice President Dick Cheney’s mention of “frivolous lawsuits” during their Oct. 5 debate. Instead of acknowledging the importance of medical malpractice lawsuits as a method for citizens to stand up for their rights against the power of the nation’s medical industry, said Nader, Edwards’ admission that “we do have too many lawsuits” was “the worst display of cowardice” in the 2004 presidential campaign.

Though Nader spoke proudly of being the only candidate to campaign in all 50 states, his presence was enough to arouse the ire of some Capital Region residents, including Matthew Kampf, who wrote in an e-mail message, “Advertised as the only non-bought-and-paid-for man in the election, and good for the democratic process, I have to ask why his supporters (especially Albany’s Green Party) have rushed to embrace a man who is only too willing to pimp himself out to whatever party will get his name on the ballot. . . . If Nader really cared about anything other than getting his ego stroked, he would be doing the shoes on the pavement work necessary to counteract the evils of an exclusive two party system.”

But when asked by reporters about the common opinion that this election is too important to skew, Nader responded: “Every question I get like that, I give the same answer. What would you have us do? If you say [we should] withdraw, that means you think the two parties own the voters in this country and we should have no competition—at which point there’s really nothing more to discuss.”

While most in the crowd seemed to feel similarly, for one group of attendees there was plenty more to discuss. Mark Wimmer’s “Decisions 2004” history-and-
government class from the Albany Academy for Boys stood out in the crowd in their shirts and ties. “We’re here to hear some of Mr. Nader’s ideas and discuss them afterwards in class,” said Wimmer. Though the boys, some of whom had brought along “Anyone But Bush” signs, joked and sometimes seemed uncomfortable during the pre-Nader presentations, which included slam poetry and some ’60s-era folk songs, they paid rapt attention during Nader’s speech.

Speaking a few days later, several members of the class said that they came away with a more favorable impression of Nader on the issues than they had had before, but only one felt that he had made his case for a vote in the presidential election. Their lively debate mirrored similar ones happening among progressives around the country.

“He would make a good congressman,” said Nathan Bruschi. “But he’s not presidential.”

“He should try to communicate his messages through Kerry,” agreed Humza Jafri. “It’s an ego trip.”

“And it’s not for the other candidates?” said Doug Mabee.

Patrick Wright said he thought the third voice would be a good thing in any election that didn’t have quite so much at stake, though he noted that for himself he actually agreed with Kerry on more things than with Nader.

“You guys are on crack,” rejoined Mabee. “Why vote for someone you don’t believe in?”

Wright argued that Kerry may share more of Nader’s beliefs than he can risk admitting during the campaign, citing some of Kerry’s speeches during his anti-Vietnam War days. “What Bush did [in going into Iraq] was wrong, and everyone understands that,” he said.

“No they don’t,” argued Mabee. “Because Kerry won’t say it.”

Though the rally didn’t seem to have changed many minds at Albany Academy, it still may have won Nader a few votes. Stanley Goodman, a recent transfer to the University at Albany, hadn’t been planning to vote for Nader, but Nader’s speech made him want to “look into it.” “It’s not actually most important to get Bush out,” he said. “It’s most important to get informed voters out there and vote.”

—Miriam Axel-Lute, with reporting by Rick Marshall

maxel-lute@metroland.net, rmarshall@metroland.net


Overheard

Overheard:

“Imagine if, instead of calling the police and waiting two hours for them to get there, you could call a council meeting in the street, like we do at school, and call on your neighbors to come out and help you.”

—A teacher from the Albany Free School talking with students before the Nader rally last
Thursday. Any student or teacher at the Free School can call a
whole-school meeting at any
time to resolve conflicts.



What a Week

Who Needs NYC?

Albany achieved another one of the unofficial benchmarks of becoming a tech-happy metropolis with the debut of a local version of the popular Internet bulletin board Craigslist: http://Albany.craigslist.org. The popular, and still noncommercial, site is considered by many to be one of the top job- and apartment-finding tools in Web-savvy cities like San Francisco. As of this week the Albany site has less than 50 posts—New York City’s version regularly hosts about a million posts—but you’ve got to start somewhere.

New Voters Need Not Apply

In Ohio, more than 100,000 new voters will be heading to the polls on Nov. 2, a dramatic increase from last election’s 14,000 new registrations. Yet, uncertainty prevails over how many of these new voters will actually have their ballots counted, thanks to Ohio’s secretary of state, Republican Kenneth Blackwell, who actually threatened to enforce an archaic law that voter registrations must be printed on postcard-weight paper. He took that back, but he hasn’t backed down from a statement calling for the majority of provisional ballots to be tossed out, nor has he committed to making sure ex-felons in 21 Ohio counties who were wrongly told that they had no voting rights are told that they do.

Our Servers Are Gagged

So much for freedom of the press. The FBI recently seized two Internet servers in the United Kingdom for independent-media outlet Indymedia at the request of Italian and Swiss authorities. A gag order has prevented the ISP, Rackspace Managed Hosting, from providing any information as to why the servers were seized. One of the servers would have been used to provide streaming coverage of the European Social Forum in London. The seizure comes on the heels of an informal FBI request made earlier this month for Indymedia to remove a story featuring photos of undercover Swiss investigators taking pictures of anti-globalization activists.

 

Hypocrisy at 11

Sinclair Broadcast Group, the company that cited a policy against airing shows with a “political agenda” in its refusal to show an April episode of Nightline during which ABC anchor Ted Koppel read the names of American soldiers killed in Iraq, has required its member stations to preempt other programming to show a documentary criticizing Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry’s post-Vietnam antiwar activities. While campaign finance records show thousands of dollars in donations from Sinclair to the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign, company spokesman Mark Hyman said that the documentary is being aired because “it’s the news.”

 

photo credit: Alicia Solsman

History Close to Home

Girls examine a facsimile of the Emancipation Proclamation at the New York State Museum last Thursday (Oct. 7) while they wait in line to see the real thing, which was on public display for one day. (The original is too delicate to be photographed.) The final proclamation was lost in the Chicago fire of 1871, but the preliminary proclamation, issued on Sept. 22, 1862, which promises that all slaves in the Confederacy will be free in 100 days unless the states in rebellion lay down their arms, was purchased by the State Museum after Lincoln’s death. It is preserved in a nitrogen environment, and only rarely exhibited to the public. On Thursday, school buses lined Madison Avenue bringing children to see the famous document.



photo cap: Aware, engaged: Siena students listen to Carl McCall lecture on civic participation as part of Siena Votes 2004.

credit: Teri Currie

Class Participation

Local campuses come alive with a flurry of voter registration and education

With the first two presidential debates out of the way and the Oct. 8 deadline for voter registration passed, local universities are no longer worrying about whether their students are suffering from stereotypical college-age-voter apathy. “I won’t call it political unrest, but it’s a political savvy among students we see today,” said Candice Merbler, a University at Albany librarian who was involved in the State University of New York’s Rock the Vote campaign.

The campaign featured a competition among all 64 SUNY campuses to see which campus could register the most students to vote. The campaign registered 12,000 SUNY students in total; UAlbany registered 1,366 students by the end of the campaign and Hudson Valley Community College registered 103, but both lost to SUNY New Paltz, which registered 1,772.

At UAlbany, the New York Public Interest Research Group booth could be seen in front of the Campus Center until last Thursday, the day before the voter-
registration deadline. “Student life has been amazing! We ran out of registration forms, so they gave us 500 more,” said Laurie Wheelock, a NYPIRG representative who was manning the booth cheerfully despite the chilly October air. UAlbany’s Rock the Vote team also ran an event called “Dorm Storm the Freshmen,” in which volunteers went door-to-door to freshman residence halls to root out and register lowerclassmen.

Other local campuses also were concerned with registration, but focused their campaigns more on civic education. “Getting into a competition sends the wrong message. This is not about bragging rights. This is more important,” said Amnat Chittaphong, director of multicultural affairs at Siena College. Siena Votes 2004 has featured involvement by MTV’s Rock the Vote and lectures and speeches by local officials, but also what Chittaphong calls “an effort to make our students aware that they are more than four-year tourists.” In that spirit, Siena strongly encourages its students to register locally rather than voting by absentee ballot. To make sure voting locally is practical for its students, Siena has arranged transportation for students directly to the voting booths, and reached an agreement with the town of Colonie for the town to deliver completed registration forms directly to the Board of Elections (so none would get lost/delayed in the mail).

“We see this effort as an opportunity to prepare our students to be citizens of the world. As a professor, I try as much as possible to link current events, to show them how they are affecting current issues. I want them to be responsible for their own beliefs,” said Rachel Stein, chair of the Women and Multicultural Studies Committee and the English Department at Siena.

“We have a civic responsibility. We are here as educators and it is our duty to help our students make the connections,” said Siena’s Chittaphong.

According to Marianne Singer, adult admission counselor for the Sage Colleges After Work program, “Surveys we have done show nearly 70 percent of our students are registered to vote.” So rather than focusing strictly on voter registration, the Sage Votes campaign sent out a poll in the spring to find out what interested Sage students regarding the upcoming presidential election, and based a weekly series of events and lectures on the survey results. Each week is assigned a focus such as the environment and energy, the economy, or health care. Lecturers have included New Paltz Mayor Jason West, anti-death-penalty activist David Kaczynski and environmentalist swimmer Christopher Swain.

“You have to educate students; it’s not enough to have them put a stamp on a piece of paper and drop it in a box,” said Singer. Students can win a T-shirt that says “Do it in the booth” if they attend eight of the Sage Votes events.

Union College’s campaign has also focused on education over simple registration. For the first time ever, this semester Union offered its students a chance to take a class on a current election, called “Election 2004.” The class filled its registration limit of 150 students with no trouble. Debates and discussions have also been taking place in Union’s Minerva house system. “This is just another part of the larger community service most of our students take part in,” said Lisa Stratton, director of media relations at Union.

RPI did not reply to repeated inquiries for this article. That does not mean, however, that the election has passed the campus by. “None of my professors have said a word about voting, but there certainly is a discussion between students. I watched the debates and it makes me think I should run for president,” said 21-year-old business-management major and RPI senior Scott Van Sickle.

According to a Pew Research Center Poll, 57 percent of voters under the age of 30 have given “quite a lot of thought” to the 2004 election. This figure is in stark contrast to figures from the 2000 election that pegged interest at 41 percent. Still, while registration and interest are both up among the college set, surprising numbers of students are still uninvolved. It is easy to see how frustration can set in among young voters in a non-swing state. “Why don’t the candidates come here? I watched the debates and our president looked dumb,” said Eric Bogden, a 19-year-old in his second year at Hudson Valley Community College. Perhaps a little more attention from the candidates would get young people more excited, but it is unlikely that either of the major-party candidates—or even Michael Moore—will pay a visit to the Capital Region.

Recently, during his get-out-the-slacker-youth-vote campaign through the swing states, Michael Moore had a run-in with the Republican Party in Michigan, which called for him to be prosecuted for bribery for offering students who registered to vote clean underwear and ramen noodles. County prosecutors declined to bring the case, however, noting that they had better things to spend their time on.

On every campus there’s a recognition that the work isn’t over. “Our focus has been on registration, but our professors have set aside time to discuss the election and to have NYPIRG come to speak,” said UAlbany’s Merbler. “I really think everyone is beginning to realize that we all have one vote, and it matters.”

—David King

photo cap of facepainted kid: Grand Enjoyment

credit: Shannon DeCelle

Children on Grand Street in Albany’s Mansion Neighborhood at the Life’s Grand Block Party last Saturday (Oct. 9). The party was sponsored by Councilwoman Carolyn McLaughlin and the city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Loose Ends

Foie Gras, the delicacy created by force-feeding ducks [“Foie Wha?” Newsfront, Aug. 26], has been banned in California (to be phased out over several years), leaving New York the only state where it remains legal. . . . The law ensuring hospital visitation rights to domestic partners in New York state [“No Longer Out in the Cold,” Newsfront, Aug. 19], has been signed by Gov. George Pataki. . . . Both the Department of Environmental Conservation and the state power-plant siting committee have signed off on the contentious Besicorp power plant and newsprint recycling facility planned for Rensselaer [“Rensselaer Surrenders,” Newsfront, May 27].
. . . Kevin Hall, an attorney who spoke out against Columbia County Judge Paul Czajka [“Judicial Tempers,” Trail Mix, Aug. 5], has been suspended from the practice of law for professional misconduct. . . . St. Lawrence Cement Plant [“Cement Soundbites,” FYI, Aug. 5] has withdrawn its application for a “Coastal Consistency” determination from the state Division of Coastal Resources. This does not mean it cannot reapply, but it would have to start over from the beginning of the review process.



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