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U.S. election notebook

Globe and Mail Update

Glad you're a fan, but...
The Bush campaign abruptly stopped using the 1970s hit "Still the One" at campaign rallies Friday after the songwriter, no fan of the president, claimed the Republicans never got permission.

John Hall, a former Democratic county legislator in upstate New York, co-wrote the song and recorded it with his band Orleans almost 30 years ago.

The cheery pop tune was opened and ended a Bush campaign rally in New Hampshire Friday, but after Mr. Hall complained it then vanished from the political playlist.

"Out of deference to Mr. Hall's views, the song will no longer be played," said Bush campaign spokeswoman Nicole Devenish. She said the song had been included in a catalogue of music that the campaign's licensing company used to provide music for events.

Mr. Hall is still a working musician at 56, saying he's "not just some guy that's stoned out and happened to write a song."

"And even if I were," he added, "it would still be a problem, because you should always ask permission to use the work."
Associated Press
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Sox pitcher backs away from campaign
Only days after endorsing George W. Bush in an interview just after his Boston Red Sox won the baseball World Series, pitcher Curt Schilling has apparently cancelled a campaign appearance with Mr. Bush.

In a statement thought to have come from the pitcher, he cited his injured ankle as the reason but left open the possibility that he had also had time to reconsider his political activism.

A person identifying himself as Schilling posted a message on a fan website that the pitcher has been known to contribute to.

"I am now not medically cleared to do anything until I see Doc on Sunday, so I cannot travel with President Bush," the message read, according to Associated Press.

The e-mail goes on to say that he should have kept his opinions to himself.

"While I am a Bush supporter, and I did vote for him with an absentee ballot, speaking as I did the other day was wrong. While I hope to see him re-elected, it's not my place, nor the time for me to offer up my political opinions unsolicited," the email read.
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Bush wins British election
In a result unlikely to bring comfort to the incumbent's campaign team, U.S. President George W. Bush has been named the year's best movie villain by a poll of almost 10,000 Britons.

News of Mr. Bush's victory came as he campaigned furiously against Democratic challenger John Kerry. The most recent polls showed a statistical dead heat only days before the election.

But Mr. Bush comes second to none among these British voters — not even Leatherface, cannibal star of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, and the beautiful and sword-wielding Elle Driver, one-eyed assassin in Kill Bill, Volume 2.

Mr. Bush also bested Doctor Octopus, who appeared in Spider-Man 2, and Gollum, the creepy obsessive from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Although not commonly known for his acting chops, Mr. Bush was ruled eligible for the appearances he made in Fahrenheit 9/11, the anti-Bush documentary made by Michael Moore.

The poll was conducted by Total Film Magazine. The magazine's editor conceded that the vote may have "a little bit tongue in cheek here."

"But they are also saying that Bush was very scary in Fahrenheit 9/11," magazine editor Matt Mueller told Associated Press.
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'Were we rolling tape on that?'
An anti-Bush group has released a short video clip that shows the President, or an actor bearing unnatural resemblance to him, making a rude gesture.

The tape appears to date from Mr. Bush's days as Texas governor and seems to show him fooling around during the taping of an ad or a speech.

Mr. Bush counts down from five to one, reaches up to adjust his hair and then offers what he calls a "a one-fingered victory salute" to the unseen audience. He remain straight-faced until the audience reacts and then bursts out chuckling.

The group that posted the ad on-line, Texans for Truth, says that "time has come for America to learn the truth about Bush's shadowy past." The group was established by Glenn W. Smith, who is also director of DriveDemocracy.org.
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Vehicular expression of opinion
A man has been charged with aggravated assault after Florida's former Secretary of State — who infuriated Democrats with her role in President George W. Bush's victory there four years ago — said a car had tried to run her down.

According to a police report obtained by The Smoking Gun, Barry Seltzer does not deny threatening Katherine Harris with his car but denies doing anything wrong. "I was exercising my political expression," he told officers after being invited to come to the Sarasota police station.

Ms. Harris says that she was campaigning at an intersection in the central Florida city, on the sidewalk, when the driver of a silver Cadillac mounted to the sidewalk and headed straight for her. She told police that she felt her life was in danger and that she could not move. The car swerved to miss her "at the last minute" and sped off.

When interviewed by police, the official report continues, Mr. Seltzer "was adamant about wanting to discuss the matter" and "spontaneously" began discussing traffic issues that bothered him. He said that Harris supporters had been impeding traffic and that he acknowledged trying to "intimidate" them.

The explanation by Mr. Seltzer that he had scared the pedestrians only "a little" was interrupted when an officer stopped the account and read him his rights.
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Student eyes 2020 presidential election
A university student in California hopes his 16-year campaign will pay off when he runs for U.S. president in 2020, the earliest election he will legally be allowed to contest.

Matthew Cooper cannot run for the top slot in the United States because of regulations barring candidates under the age of 35. But that doesn't mean he can't lay the groundwork.

"The Cooper 2020 campaign plans to redefine the term 'grassroots' by spending over 15 years familiarizing America with Matt Cooper," his website explains.

The liberal-leaning candidate promises "progressive reforms" and the elimination of the Electoral College, according to his site.

Mr. Cooper says he could offer a "Generation Y style" of reform, but the site adds the caveat that the positions outlined are those the candidate holds currently, not necessarily those he will implement in the event that he actually reaches the Oval Office.
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Readers' Choice 'Best Blog' awards
With each election the Internet has a greater effect on the democratic process. Opinions are more widely disseminated, news is more critically examined and anyone with something to say can start up a web log, more popularly known as a 'blog'.

But the populist nature of blogs means that some are far more useful than others. While some are interesting and informative, many others are little more than partisan ranting. But collectively, the good and the bad, they form the blogosphere that has hovered over this election.

The Washington Post recently asked it readers to vote on their favourite blogs and the results are in.

National Review won several categories — including best campaign dirt, best party coverage and best 'inside the Beltway' information — and instapundit.com took honours as the blog most likely to survive past election day next week.

The full list of winners is available here.
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U.S. election for sale on eBay
A New Mexico man has offered the entire U.S. electoral system for sale on eBay — "Every office and official in America" — and wants euros, precious metals or oil certificates he can easily leave the country with.

The seller admits to being disillusioned with every party, candidate and official but the Libertarians. He currently enjoys a 100 per cent rating from the on-line auction house, based on a single piece of positive feedback.

The seller appears to be a middle-aged man from Farmington named Barry Digman.

"This offer is open to foreign citizens, multinationals, drug cartels, secret brotherhoods, dictators, royal families, religious organizations, and anyone else with the cash," the eBay description reads.

"Even though you won't BE the commander-in-chief, you'll have 'access.' Really, really, really good access."

Bidding started slowly, causing the seller to consider adding a bonus, but has picked up gradually. The auction ends on Oct. 29, three days before the U.S. vote.
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Bush denies electronic lifeline rumours
The mysterious bulge under George W. Bush's jacket during the first televised debate, which set off furious internet speculation, was simply a badly tailored shirt, the U.S. President said in an interview Tuesday.

Mr. Bush characterized as "absurd" the rumours suggesting that he had been receiving discreet radio communication from his aides during the debate.

"I'm embarrassed to say it [was] a poorly tailored shirt," he told ABC television in an appearance Tuesday morning.

When the journalist persisted, Mr. Bush became exasperated.

"Please explain to me how it works so maybe if I were ever to debate again I could figure it out," he said. "I guess the assumption was that if I were straying off course they would, like a hunt dog, they would punch a buzzer and I would jerk back into place. It is absurd."

Some speculated after the debate that the bulge in Mr. Bush's jacket could be an electronic receiver used to channel ready-made responses from his aides into a discreet earpiece for him to repeat word-for-word.

The rumours were fuelled by the easily visible bulge and by an odd comment Mr. Bush made during a rejoinder to Mr. Kerry.

"As the politics change, his positions change," Mr. Bush charged, in a comment that can be seen by clicking here and fast-forwarding 40 minutes and 30 seconds into the debate.

"And that's not how a commander in chief acts," he continued. "I, I, uh - Let me finish - The intelligence I looked at was the same intelligence my opponent looked at."

(At that point, the green light was on, indicating that Mr. Bush had at least 30 more seconds to complete his response.)
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Call for Bush assassin poorly received
The Manchester Guardian issued an apology Monday for printing an apparent call for U.S. President George W. Bush's assassination.

The progressive-minded British newspaper ruffled some feathers on the weekend when television columnist Charlie Brooker hammered Mr. Bush and pleaded for a political assassin to emerge.

"John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr., where are you now that we need you?," the column concluded.

(All three men attacked sitting presidents of the United States. Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln in 1865, Oswald killed John F. Kennedy in 1963 and Hinckley wounded Ronald Reagan in 1981.)

The newspaper's apology called the comment "tasteless" but argued that it was intended as irony and "not as a call to action."
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Jesse 'The Body' Ventura endorses Kerry
Former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura — whose career path has ranged from special forces soldier to professional wrestler to actor — has apparently endorsed John Kerry.

The move puts him at odds with Predator co-star Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has been campaigning for George W. Bush.

Mr. Ventura appeared at Minneapolis press conference with former Maine governor Angus King. He gestured his approval of what Mr. King was saying, nodding when Mr. King argued that the United States is in danger under Mr. Bush's leadership.

But the normally outspoken Mr. Ventura remained almost completely mute during the press conference, apparently still nursing a grudge with the Minnesota media that dates to his days as governor.

"He plans to vote for John Kerry," Mr. King said, in comments reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "But he doesn't want to make a statement and subject himself to the tender mercies of the Minnesota press."

As Mr. Ventura retreated to his car after the appearance, he told the pursuing reporters that he would give interviews only in Los Angeles, adding: "You attacked my children."
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Heavy stakes on Redskins game
If the candidates are serious about victory they should take a moment Sunday to cheer on the Washington Redskins, bearing in mind the 68-year-old pattern that the outcome of that game points to the victor in next week's vote.

The urban legend site snopes.com explains that the Redskins' last home game before the election has built an uncanny record of coincidence. The games have correctly predicted the winner of every U.S. presidential election since 1936.

The formula is simple, the fortunes of the incumbent party micmic those of the team. If the Skins loses, so does the incumbent party. If the team wins, so does the incumbent party.
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New Yorker drops neutrality, backs Kerry
John Kerry has picked up an endorsement from The New Yorker, the first time in its 80-year history that the magazine has backed a candidate.

A five-page editorial in the coming issue, previewed by the Associated Press, criticizes President George W. Bush's tax cuts, his environmental policies, his execution of the war in Iraq and his Justice Department's record of "secrecy and arrogance."

On Iraq, it says that "the cakewalk led over a cliff, to a succession of heedless and disastrous mistakes that leave one wondering, at the very least, how the Pentagon's civilian leadership remains intact and the president's sense of infallibility undisturbed."
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Lost in cyberspace
A sharp-eyed reporter noticed that the list of countries participating openly in the "coalition of the willing" is no longer available the White House website.

In the absence of formal approval by multi-national institutions, the Bush administration has chosen to rely in Iraq on an ad hoc coalition of nations. The list of nations that publicly backed the toppling of Saddam Hussein was once available to anyone with a computer and internet connection.

But no more, as a reporter from Agence France-Presse found. That particular part of the White House site can still be found here, but the link that once said "Who are the coalition members?" is gone.

"This is not unusual. If there is incorrect, or out of date information, we take it down," White House spokesman Jimmy Orr told the French wire service. "What we're doing right now, with the entire Iraq site, is we're updating the information."

Some Bush critics said that the list may have been removed to protect Dick Cheney, who seemed to argue during the vice-presidential debate that Iraqis had become part of the Coalition.

"When you include the Iraqi security forces that have suffered casualties, as well as the allies, they've taken almost 50 percent of the casualties in operations in Iraq," Mr. Cheney said, countering the suggestion that U.S. troops were 90 per cent of coalition casualties.

But the problem is, Iraq was never considered a coalition member and was never on the official White House list of coalition nations. At least not yet, the list may have a symbolic addition if and when it goes back on-line.

In the meantime, viewers can read these statements of support from coalition members. It dates from early February of 2004 and includes 42 countries, provided you count Denmark both times it is listed
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Kerry, Bush share secret brotherhood
The near-certainty that the next President of the United States will be a member of the most exclusive and secretive club at Yale University has raised the hackles of some, notably third-place candidate Ralph Nader.

Although both George W. Bush and John Kerry have done much while campaigning to strengthen their credentials as "regular guys," the two are actually very wealthy men. They both have connections to the patrician sectors of New England (Mr. Kerry grew up there and Mr. Bush's extended family maintains a compound there), they were both educated at exclusive prep schools and they both went to Yale.

And, while at Yale, both men were selected for the Skull and Bones club. The club chooses the most ambitious and promising Yalies for inclusion and reportedly helps these people keep contact as they grow up to positions of power.

Alexandra Robbins, author of a book based on interviews with Bonesmen who broke their vows of secrecy, told Reuters that she shares the concern of those who worry about a club like Skull and Bones in a democratic society.

"It's disturbing that the presidential candidates are both members of [Skull and Bones] because it seems that they're prioritizing the interests of a secret society above the interests of the rest of us," she told the wire service.
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On the road
Locked in a close election race, U.S. President George W. Bush has stumped relentlessly to keep his job, spending three-quarters of the last 12 weeks on the campaign trail.

Number-crunching reporters at Agence France-Presse have noticed that Mr. Bush, who typically took a month-long vacation at his ranch during the summers of his early presidency, has become a constant traveller, often returning home only to sleep.

Reporters at AFP say that, in the past 82 days, Mr. Bush has spent only four days in the White House, 12 at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, and three at his parents' home in Kennebunkport, Maine.

The President makes full use of his mobility by regularly sleeping at the White House, flying to battleground states for a day studded with multiple appearances and then returning to Washington for the next night sleep.
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Politics makes for strange bedfellows
Since sex sells everything else, a racy get-out-the-vote campaign is hoping that the same urges will convince young Americans to go to the polls on Nov. 2.

The premise is simple: "This Nov. 2, I pledge ... To vote. To have sex. To experience ... a Votergasm."

The idea is to sign up thousands of people willing to have sex with a young voter on election night -- after they've marked their ballots, of course. The most dedicated of these people are also being asked to withhold their sexual favours from those who shun their patriotic duty, until the next election.

The on-line campaign, launched around Labour Day, says that it wants to find 100,000 pledges and that it is well on the way.

The interested, curious and otherwise prurient can find out more by going to votergasm.org. (Fair warning: the site may be blocked by some employers.)

Speaking of those who disapprove, the campaign has raised the eyebrows of Rush Limbaugh. In an episode aired late last month, the influential right-wing broadcaster accused the group of "selling sex for votes" and urged his listeners to flood the site and shut it down.
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Court sinks lawsuit by marine mammals
A recent court decision means that the Bush-Cheney campaign can devote its legal team to potential fallout from the presidential election, without having to worry about a lawsuit from the world's marine mammals.

A Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled Oct. 20 that these animals had not been granted the right to sue over alleged damaged cause by naval sonar equipment, the Associated Press reported.

The now-floundering suit was brought by Lanny Sinkin, a marine mammal activist and the self-appointed lawyer of "The Cetacean Community" of whales, porpoises and dolphins.

"If Congress and the President intended to take the extraordinary step of authorizing animals as well as people and legal entities to sue they could and should have said so plainly," Judge William A. Fletcher wrote in an 18-page opinion for the panel.

The decision upheld a lower court ruling.
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Justice may be blind, but it must be clothed
Wal-Mart has decided that a doctored photo combining images of U.S. Supreme Court Justices with the bodies of nudists is too much for its in-store customers.

A popular new satire from Jon Stewart, called America (The Book), was riding high on bestseller lists but some of its content raised eyebrows at Wal-Mart.

The retail colossus reportedly cancelled its order after deciding that the photos failed their criteria on potentially offensive material.

Although Wal-Mart spokeswoman Karen Burk told USA Today Oct. 19 that "a majority" of the chain's customers be uncomfortable with the images in the Stewart book, it will continue to be sold on at walmart.com because "[that's] a different audience."
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