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There is life outside the election

By G. Michael Dobbs Managing Editor With all of the focus of the national media on the presidential race, you may not have heard the following stories: The Associated Press reported that Exxon Mobil posted its "biggest profit from Operations by a U.S. corporation, earning $14.83 billion in the third quarter." Hmmm, but windfall profits tax on oil companies are still a bad thing, right? The AP also had an interesting story on the bailout money by John Dunbar: "First, the $700 billion rescue for the economy was about buying devalued mortgage-backed securities from tottering banks to unclog frozen credit markets. "Then it was about using $250 billion of it to buy stakes in banks. The idea was that banks would use the money to start making loans again. "But reports surfaced that bankers might instead use the money to buy other banks, pay dividends, give employees a raise and executives a bonus, or just sit on it. Insurance companies now want a piece; maybe automakers, too, even though Congress has approved $25 billion in low-interest loans for them. "Three weeks after becoming law, and with the first dollar of the $700 billion yet to go out, officials are just beginning to talk about helping a few strapped homeowners keep the foreclosure wolf from the door." So just what was this bailout really all about? Apparently it wasn't about helping people at the grassroots level. And writing in "The Guardian," Jonathan Freedland reported, "We are about to enter the twilight zone, that strange black hole in political time and space that appears no more than once every four years. It is known as the period of transition, and it starts a week from today, the time when the United States has not one president but two. One will be the president-elect, the other George Bush, in power for 12 more weeks in which he can do pretty much whatever he likes. Not only will he never again have to face voters, he won't even have to worry about damaging the prospects of his own party and its standard bearer (as if he has not damaged those enough already). From Nov. 5 to Jan. 20, he will exercise the freest, most unaccountable form of power the democratic world has to offer. "How Bush might use it is a question that gained new force at the weekend, when U.S. forces crossed the Iraqi border into Syria to kill Abu Ghadiya, a man they said had been funnelling 'foreign fighters' allied to al-Qaida into Iraq. That American move has touched off a round of intense head-scratching around the world, as foreign ministers and analysts ask each other the time-honoured diplomatic query: what did they mean by that? To which they add the post-Nov. 4 question: and what does it tell us about how Bush plans to use his final days in the White House?" Indeed, the next few months could be very interesting and scary to say the least, but is anyone in the press talking about that here? And USA Today has reported that Britney Spears might "permanently" lose the custody of her children and the legal ability to make decisions for herself. Gasp! Ironically, this is the one story you might have already heard about. *** Speaking of the election, here's one poll that I found interesting: "Pleasantville, N.Y. Oct. 29 Just days before Americans choose our next president, voting has concluded in the Weekly Reader Student Presidential Election Poll. And the nation's students resoundingly say that Barack Obama will be the country's next leader. In the 14th Weekly Reader election survey, with more than 125,000 votes cast from kindergarten through 12th grade, the result was Obama 54.7 percent and John McCain 42.9 percent (with 'other' candidates receiving 2.5 percent of the student vote). The Obama victory in the classroom electoral vote was even more resounding: the Democrat won 33 states and the District of Columbia, garnering 420 electoral votes, while McCain took 17 states and 118 electoral votes. "For the past 52 years, the results of the Weekly Reader poll have been consistently on target, with the student vote correctly predicting the next president in 12 out of 13 elections. (The only time the kids were wrong was 1992, when they chose George H.W. Bush over Bill Clinton.) This year, as in 2000 and 2004, the student election was conducted in conjunction with noted polling organization Zogby International." So as I write this on Thursday morning and you read it on Monday and Wednesday depending which edition of our fine community newspaper serves you we'll see if the kids are right again. This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments to mdobbs@thereminder.com or to 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, Mass. 01028.
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