Oh Canada

Be prepared to trade Monday Night Football for the Hockey Night on Saturday. Be ready to stop drinking beers with under six percent alcohol. Trade in the bald eagle for the beaver. And don’t forget to bring your metric system conversion chart.
It’s time to go to Canada. And not just for a night of heavy under-age drinking, but for forever .
With the re-election of George W. Bush just over two weeks ago, and Republicans gaining control over all three branches of government, many disillusioned liberals are looking to the “Great White North” as a possible new home. In fact, on November 3, Canada’s immigration Web site received six times the number of hits as usual. But how can Americans survive in a country of which they know so little?
Most Americans recognize Canada for its hockey, beer and the eskimos, but I quickly discovered that Canada is a country with quite a history of its own.
Located somewhere about 120 miles north of Buffalo, NY., Canada is, according to economics major and Canadian, Dan Sweet, “a country with a government and laws that are completely distinct from those of the United States.”
Surprisingly enough, it has a system of taxation, healthcare, a military and a system of periodic elections to select its leaders. It even has its own complex financial system revolving around “Canadian dollars,” which aren’t worth quite as much as real dollars, but can be used in exchange for such integral Canadian goods as ice and Canadian bacon. Don’t toss around those “big quarters” either; they are actually loonies and toonies worth $1 and $2 respectively.
[leaf] What also came as a surprise was that the capital of Canada is not Toronto, but Ottawa. It is located in what is called the “province” of Ontario. A “province” is a kind of political subdivision that is almost as good as a state. In all, there are 13 Canadian provinces and territories, including one, Nunavut, that is completely controlled by Inuits. Nunavut accounts for almost one-fifth of the Canada’s land area. What a concept- letting natives live freely and govern themselves- how strange.
Despite that oddity, engineering major and Canadian, Thomas Keller, said there isn’t much provincial about the Canadian provinces. In fact, Canada has all of the makings for a modern-day nation.
“Well, we have television, the radio, CDs, and I think we even have the internet now,” Keller said. “We also have the CBC, which provides us with the best programming one would expect from a government-funded and financially strapped institution. We also have these ‘Canadian content’ laws that mandate that a certain percentage of our programming be uniquely Canadian. This was instituted to keep Alanis Morissette’s career afloat.”
If you’re a linguistic liberal, Canada definitely has the United States beat in the area of languages. In Canada, people speak English and French. Whoa. The Canadian Prime Minister (kind of like a president) Paul Martin said in a recent speech that: “French is the primary language in some parts of our nation, English in others. This national question has divided our nation deeply, even causing Quebec to threaten to leave the union.” Threatening to leave a nation because they didn’t get their way? Perhaps we have more in common than we thought!
The seriously disengaged American may want to consider becoming a Canadian citizen as soon as possible. Some of the fastest options are marrying a Canadian or obtaining a visa. Sites like www.marryanamerican.ca, the satirical site ran by This Magazine, Canada’s alternative political and pop culture read, have sprung up to make meeting a Canadian lover much easier. The site lets “single, sexy, American liberals –already a dying breed” post profiles for some Northern nookie. For those not interested in matrimony, visit www.immigration.ca for information on getting a visa.
However, Americans seeking political refuge should not necessarily expect a warm welcome after coming through customs. Sweet said that some Canadians hold a strong grudge against their neighbors from the south, and they are not just political.
“They refuse to acknowledge the enormous cultural impact of great Canadians like Jim Carrey and Howie Mandel,” Sweet noted. “And for some reason, any time someone mentions the city ‘Regina,’ [pronounced Regyna] Americans will not stop giggling.”
But tensions run much deeper between the two North American nations. Canadians are terribly upset at the United States for taking many of their National Hockey League teams and causing the increase in salary among hockey players. This has left owners no recourse but to lock-out the players, keeping them off the ice for the entire season thus far and leaving many Canadians bored and lonely.
“It’s a part of our blood, it’s a part of our heritage, and the Americans have bastardized it,” Keller said. It is apparently so important to Canadians that it is their “national sport,” along with lacrosse.
Despite these problems, Keller remains optimistic about the future of his homeland.
“Canada will be a free, strong and proud country for years to come. We will be a place of equality, peace and justice and an example for the rest of the world.”
Isn’t that cute? Well, Americans looking to escape the Bush regime may find comfort in knowing that such a great nation lies just to its north. The thought of leaving the States may be a reality for some progressives, or just comic relief for others. Whether you’re a part of the Anybody but Bush camp crossing the border in droves or waiting it out here, raise your Molson (or Moosehead or Labatt’s) and join in a rousing chorus of the Canadian national anthem. “Oh Canada, our hmm and hmm hmm hmm..”

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What the Hell Happened?

Hindsight may be 20-20, but the question weighs on the mind of every democrat post-election: Where did Kerry go wrong?
With the issues of the economy, a war on terror, a troubling conflict in Iraq and a majority of voters unsure about the president’s next move, many analysts predicted that John Forbes Kerry would be the guy celebrating on November 2. Now, with George W. Bush reclaiming his job as commander-in-chief, many critics at MSU are now re-evaluating the 2004 presidential race, mulling over the key mistakes the Kerry camp made during the his bid for the White House. [kerry]
One of his primary blunders appears to be his ambivalent position on the War in Iraq. MSU Students For Bush vice-chair Mike Flis thinks that Kerry had to take a much more decisive stance to win voter’s support.
“He had a big problem with taking a strong stance on the issues, and I don’t think that most people could take him for his word,” said Flis. “This is especially true with the War in Iraq. I couldn’t tell day-to-day what his position was.”
Mathematics junior and self-described independent Cliff Kraus agrees. “Kerry’s position needed to be crystal clear and it just wasn’t,” commented Kraus. “Was it ‘the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time,’ or was it necessary to disarm Saddam Hussein?”
Krauss went on to note that Kerry missed an opportunity for a strong critique of the Bush administration at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. “Instead of working to characterize his position on Iraq at the convention, Kerry decided to focus on his Vietnam credentials,” added Krauss. “I don’t think this election was decided based on who did what during that war. I would rather know who is willing to win this war.”
Kerry’s focus on his war record opened the doors for groups like the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” to shift the dialogue to his anti-war activities after returning from service. These attacks went prominently unanswered for weeks, and some analysts believe that they were quite damaging for Kerry in swing states like Ohio and Iowa.
According to exit polls, the issue of “moral values” ranked very high among voters. Sarah Chesney, a member of the MSU College Democrats believes that this gave Bush an advantage. “Bush spent so much time talking about his religion,” explained Chesney. “Kerry should have had stronger language regarding his religious beliefs. I think, especially in the last debate, that Kerry’s religious values came off as artificial. Bush seemed to speak from his heart a lot more.”
Professor Doug Hoekstra, who teaches political science at James Madison College, feels that larger mistakes made by the Democratic party contributed to Kerry’s downfall. “Traditionally voters see Democrats as being stronger on domestic issues,” remarked Hoekstra. “Bill Clinton advised the campaign to run a campaign based on domestic issues, but they put a tremendous focus on Iraq and the war on terror.”[class]
Curtis Stokes, who is also a political science professor as well as the director of the Ph.D. program in African American and African studies, agreed that the Democratic party misplaced its focus.
“The Democratic Party has not really acted as a working class party in recent years,” he said. “Corporate control runs rampant in the party, and I think that a new party will have to emerge to play the role of a party that represents American workers.”
Whether or not the Democrats need to reinvent or just rejuvenate the party will be the subject of four more years of debate. The leaders of the party will study every move, second guess every word and try again in 2008 with another candidate they hope can steal the wind the Republicans’ sails.
Despite all of the talk regarding the weakness of the party, some partisans are not giving in to what they see as mere hype. In an e-mail sent to members of the MSU College Democrats, President Randy Neice proclaimed the strength of the Democratic Party was still evident, especially here on campus. It read, “Do not lose faith in the Democratic Party. The true majority of Americans know that our values are their values. In 2006, Congress is up for re-election and our voices will be heard, and the message that our voices will be yelling is liberal and proud.”

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Damn Nader

Democrats have been losing sleep over it. Republicans have been helping to fund it. No, it isn’t the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth advertisements. It is the Ralph Nader Presidential campaign.[nader2]
Ralph Nader emerged as threat to Democrats, especially considering his candidacy in the 2000 election. Nader is on the ballot in nine of the twelve states that have been labeled as “swing-states,” including Michigan. Nader could tip the ballot in any one of these states, which could mean a loss for John Kerry. Since the winner is reliant on electoral votes and not the popular vote, Nader’s presence makes Kerry and the Democrats very nervous.
Despite pleas from the left urging Nader to throw in the towel, he continues his campaign, asking voters to vote for their conscience. He focused much of his campaign on college students. When he spoke at Wells Hall on September 13 he explained: “I’m concerned about Bush and Kerry taking votes away from our insurgent candidacy. Americans want more voices and more choices. Kerry is taking liberals for granted, he’s letting Bush pull him in his direction.”
This marks a drastic change in campaign rhetoric for Nader. When he visited Kerry at his campaign headquarters in May, he praised Kerry for being “very presidential.”
However, Nader support appears to be very small nationally. In recent weeks he has polled from a fraction of a percentage up to one percent. Yet history has shown that even the tiniest amount of Nader vote can make a big difference. In 2000, when George W. Bush defeated Al Gore, Nader’s vote was larger than the difference between the other two candidates in eight states: New Mexico, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Iowa, Oregon, Wisconsin and Florida.
Web sites like StopNader.com are dedicated to motivating progressives to actively support John Kerry instead of Ralph Nader. The website claims that while everyone has a right to run for office, that does not necessarily make it right to run for office. With a nation as polarized as ever, many on the left consider the stakes too high to vote for Nader.
Gloria Totten is a strategic advisor for StopNader.com said she was glad to see the exchange of new ideas in the presidential campaign, but she thinks that Nader is going about recruiting voters the wrong way.
“Nader doesn’t just ‘express’ ideas,” Totten said. “He is actively challenging liberals and Democrats. This is giving a pass to the Republicans. Even worse, Nader has been accepting funds from right-wingers who want to sabotage the Kerry vote to help Bush win the election.”
Mark Johnston, a member of MSU Students for Nader, thinks the need for bringing new concepts into the campaign outweighs the importance of electing Kerry.
“If people continue to worry about Nader stealing votes away from Kerry or Bush, we will probably never develop a legitimate third-party in this country,” said Johnston. “We need new ideas in this election, I think that everyone is tired of the same old rhetoric. Every voter must ask themselves, ‘Do I really think that John Kerry is the best alternative to Bush?”
Johnston added that he believes Nader’s long-term goal is to destroy the two-party dominance in this country.
“In essence, as Nader has said himself, we lose to win,” Johnston said. “We will continue to fight and lose, until we win.”

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Voices of Alternative Media

In the shadow of the upcoming election, American voters see each Presidential candidate’s policies and rhetoric almost exclusively through the eyes of corporate television and newspaper reporters.
Many of these same Americans are bothered by the possibility of bias in the news. Does the news seem to have a liberal slant? Is Fox News really the “fair and balanced” resource that you can trust? Are important stories being underreported?[news]
But more and more citizens are discovering that there is an alternative to these traditional news outlets. The Independent Media Institute (IMI) is a group attempting to address some of these questions. IMI has been working to organize and strengthen alternative and independent media sources for the past twelve years.
One of the IMI’s most successful projects, AlterNet.org, is an Internet information source that gathers, evaluates, and organizes links to independent media sources on today’s issues. AlterNet.org currently boasts a readership of 1.5 million readers per month despite refusing to advertise, relying only upon the word of mouth to popularize its content.
Daniel Price, a writer and media critic based out of Los Angeles, is a contributing writer to AlterNet.org. He encourages readers and listeners to maintain a critical eye towards mainstream media and seek out alternative sources.
“The problem is that everyone in this country is surrounded by news sources that feed misinformation, non-information, and disinformation from every side,” Price said. “Most of these large media outlets are run by huge conglomerates that need to constantly augment their earnings to keep their shareholders happy. They are not concerned with keeping the public informed; they worry much more about their bottom line.”
Another alternative source is the Independent Media Center, alternately known as indymedia.org or IMC. IMC is an unusual group, as it is a network of media organizations and journalists whose content is determined by the participants. This is in contrast to many other independent sources that tend to be regulated by small editorial groups that determine content.
This lack of editorial oversight has led to some negative consequences for IMC. The IMC is often criticized for publishing conspiracy theories, degrading material (i.e. racist or sexist), and factually inaccurate content.
The IMC’s content has also interested the FBI. On October 7 the FBI seized some of the IMC’s servers located in Britain. In a press release by the IMC’s hosting service, it was noted that the seizure complied with court orders mandated by the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty which governs the policing of “international terrorism, kidnapping, and money laundering.” IMC said that it was prohibited from giving any further detail.
“I think that groups such as the FBI and the CIA usually do a lot of work to stifle alternative news sources that tend to be critical of our government,” comments freshman Raf Mojica, who is a James Madison major as well as an avid reader of alternative news sources. “However, there may be a legitimate reason for the FBI to get involved with the Independent Media Center. With the amount of material posted by them, it is hard to know exactly what could have happened.”
Peter Werbe hosts the radio show Nightcall on Detroit’s WRIF and was also involved in the publication of The Fifth Estate, an anarchist newspaper formerly based out of Detroit. He explained that while alternative sources may contain offensive or even dangerous language, it is still important for them to be heard. “It is incredibly important that we know that these voices of dissent exist in our society,” Werbe said. “They should not be silenced as these are ideas that are clearly not expressed in the mainstream media.”
Price concurs that the mainstream media will always silence certain viewpoints. “The mainstream media is trying to appeal to as many people as possible, and of course these kinds of opinions are not prevalent in mainstream society.”
However, Price refutes any claim that the mainstream media is trying to push any kind of specific political agenda. “Partisan bias is just one thing that I refuse to complain about because it is overblown,” Price commented. “The slant in our news is not left or right, it is at the bottom line. Media is profit-driven.”
Only time will tell what effects both the mainstream media and alternative media sources will ultimately have on the results of the Presidential election. However, bias in the media will certainly remain an object of intense debate, even after the votes are counted and the winning candidate settles into the Oval Office.

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