Madison County Opinion...

APRIL 28, 2004

By Frank Gillispie
The Madison County Journal
April 28, 2004

Frankly Speaking

We the People’ are tired of the negativity
I am already sick and tired of the political season. The campaigns so far are full of distortions, mudslinging and out right hatred. This is the kind of campaign that causes so many Americans to drop out of the process and not bother to vote at all.
We need to find a way of expressing our disgust with all this negativity while still expressing our feeling. What I would like to see is a new option on each ballot, one that says “none of the above,” with a rule that if it wins, a new election will be required. Those rejected candidates would not be eligible to run in the replacement election.
Another idea is to resurrect term limits. Representing the people in elective office should not be a career. “We the People” should select a neighbor to lay aside his or her current duties to represent us for a limited time. After their time is served, they should take up their previous occupation and send another to take their place.
Better yet, let’s find some way of shutting down these “political consultants.” These professional politicians have become so good at dividing our country into enemy camps that chances of compromise are all but eliminated. Thanks to them, our nation is not spilt between left and right (blue and red on the map). The entire focus of these groups is their hatred for the other side. The largest segment of Kerry backers list their hatred for President Bush as their primary reason for supporting him.
Meanwhile, we are stuck with the nonsense being broadcast around the country in the guise of political campaigns. We have the choice of putting up with the trash or turning off the TVs and radios and put a good CD on the player.
Here in Georgia the mud is already flying in the Republican race for U.S. Senate. Congressmen Mac Collins and Johnny Isakson are already challenging each other’s voting record and fitness to serve. They should take a lesson from Herman Cain who seldom mentions his opponents. He spends his time stating his position on issues from taxes to abortion. That is what we need to hear, not why the other guy is a jerk.
What can we do? I plan to support the underdog, the candidate who cannot afford these high priced political consultants. I will be looking for candidates who say what they stand for without distorting the possessions of their opponents. I will be looking for candidates who limit their ties with national parties by running as third-party candidates or independents or those who refuse support from their party’s mudslingers.
There is hope out there. “We the People” are becoming rebellious. We are tired of being told how to talk, where to work, how to spend our money, even which singers we should support. When given a chance, we are turning our support to the underdogs simply as a way to express our dislike for those self made “leaders.” The recent “American Idol” vote is an example of this rebellion. The steady decline in ratings for the major TV networks is another example.
There is an old saying that if you want to lead, find out where everyone is going then get out in front. We need that kind of leadership today, and “We the People” are likely to demand it in the fall elections.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is

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By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
April 28, 2004

In the Meantime

From hanging chads to hacker ‘Chad’?
Remember hanging chads and the Florida cross-eyed vote counters? Oh, it was awful, wasn’t it?
But if the Bush-Kerry battle is as close as the 2000 election, we could be in for an even greater election fiasco this year. The new electronic voting machines by Diebold Election Systems are apparently far from hacker-proof.
According to an article “Hacking the Ballot Box” by Dana Mackenzie in the May 2004 Discover Magazine, the electronic voting machines offer “the potential for undetected mischief.”
“You can rig it (the electronic voting system) in an invisible way on a massive scale,” said Peter Neumann, a computer scientist at the consulting company SRI International.
Some computer scientists say that the coding system for the voting machines is “comparable to giving a master key to everyone in an apartment building.” The article in Discover notes that scientists who studied the voting system discovered that “anyone who figured out the code for one machine could tamper with every machine in the country.”
Of course, Diebold Election Systems officials say the computers are safe.
But after all the fights I’ve had with crashing computers over the years, I’m not so eager to put the weight of democracy on a hard-drive.
Wouldn’t hard-copy printouts be a good safety measure in all elections? Let the voter cast his ballot on computer, then have the computer generate a printout, which the voter could see and then put it in a ballotbox himself. California’s Secretary of State issued a directive that all touch-screen voting machines in the state be equipped with printers by 2006.
That way, if there’s any question of crookedness or any question of computers adding or taking away zeros, there will be some hard proof.
Otherwise, elections could be rigged by hackers, and such computer heists could be awfully hard to detect.
Whatever we think about the war in Iraq, there’s one phrase that we should all agree needs new life, “support our troops.”
And this needs to be done with more than just “hoorahs” and without partisan bickering. The low pay of soldiers and National Guard members in Iraq has left many servicemen and women facing not only the stress of staying alive in a foreign land, but the added worry of their family’s financial well being at home. Front-line battle troops who have been in the service about a year earn about the same money as Wal-Mart clerks.
For instance, did you notice the salary of former pro-football player turned fallen soldier Pat Tillman? He went from a $3.6 million football contract to an $18,000 Army salary.
Tillman’s story of dignity and sacrifice in our society of star-lust was unusual and should provoke us all to think about priorities.
But Tillman, too, was unusual in that he had pro-sports wealth already in the bank. Many soldiers are saddled with financial pressures that remain after they are many miles away in a foreign land. They find themselves unable to take an active role in paying for their home or car, or helping maintain a small business, or taking care of the kids while their spouse works a late shift.
There are lower ranking enlisted men and women who even qualify for food stamps. I think we can all agree, soldiers and food stamps, those words shouldn’t mix.
Of course, we can argue about the war. I’m sure we’ll continue that indefinitely.
But in the meantime, let’s not allow platitudes to fill the empty space in the family bank accounts of servicemen. Our politicians, our country should do them better than that. Our government is offering lucrative contracts to private firms involved in Iraq’s reconstruction. But in the billions we pour into Iraq, let’s not forget the soldiers, the National Guard and Reserves — or their families.
Shouldn’t those who volunteer to make the ultimate sacrifice for this country have financial worries put on the backburner?
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.
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