Ray Hartmann's cynical column in last week's RFT ("A Primary Primer from Bad-Attitude Guy," RFT, Aug. 2) probably sums up the frustration of many voters in the state viewing an upcoming election with the focus on the candidates' issues and beliefs.
In the day and age of politics controlled by money, the average citizen not only has a smaller voice when it comes to being heard but is also usually exposed only to paid advertising. Therefore the average voter is less educated when it comes to understanding the substance of a candidate's campaign.
Where has the true art of public debate gone? No longer are candidates voted for because of their values and ideas: Instead, they win because they can outspend opponents, buying more face time and airtime.
The U.S. is one of the few countries that do not provide free airtime to candidates during election campaigns so they can communicate to voters in formats conducive to substantive and accountable discourse. Therefore the amount candidates will spend on political advertising will rise sixfold between 1992 and 2000. Ask a candidate why he or she spends so much time raising money to run ads that the public says it hates, and the response is always the same: "It's the only way I can be heard on television."
MoPIRG is working in partnership with Alliance for Better Campaigns to call on all television stations in Missouri to encourage candidate-centered discourse by offering free nightly broadcasting for five minutes 30 days prior to election.
We also call on all candidates running for public office -- locally and nationally -- to take advantage of this forum. It's time to put substance back into the campaign trail.
Missouri's Public Interest Research Group (MoPIRG)
The "Red Meat" cartoon by Max Cannon published in your Aug. 2 issue certainly does not contain any humor or insight that would justify its publication. What it does show is a new level of bigotry and hatred toward Catholic priests and a new level of irreverence toward religion in general. The author seems to be a rather pathetic human being who can only convince himself that he is alive by expressing some deep-seated hatred.
If this cartoonist was living in the early part of this century, he would no doubt be creating cartoons ridiculing Jews and blacks as well as Catholics. Religion happens to be an acceptable target today, but this person would find something to hate in whatever society he lived in.
Please spare us any further demonstrations of this individual's anger.
Thomas L. Karst
While I found Jason Toon's review of Mermaid Avenue, Vol. 2 ("Avenue of the Americas," RFT, Aug. 2) entertaining, I also found it erroneous. Sure, it's amusing to read a Brit-rock critic -- whose most recent offerings on American music include essays on dinosaur rock, slacker punk and jam bands -- pronounce on these "dark days" for our musical legacy. It's less amusing to read him confusing the members of Wilco and Uncle Tupelo (there are no plural "guys from Belleville, Ill." in Wilco) or stating that Wilco and Bragg have challenged an image of Guthrie as a "cheery, simpleminded hillbilly clown." It would be no surprise if such an image existed in Toon's mind; it certainly exists nowhere else. Since his death, the boy from Oklahoma has been venerated as an American icon. If Guthrie has ever been attacked or distorted, it has been for being a leftist, not a moron. Toon may believe Bragg and Wilco are the true saviors of Woody's legacy -- not to mention saviors of American music itself! -- but he should tell it to Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Arlo Guthrie, Mike Seeger, James Talley, Jimmy LaFave, Lucinda Williams and the scores of rock, folk, bluegrass and country musicians who have been singing, recording and understanding Guthrie's music for years.
I'm confused. Ten years ago, when Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney pulled the rug on the McDonnell Douglas A-12 program, Ray Hartmann was beside himself in heaping praise on Cheney. On the other hand, last week Ray wrote an editorial to criticize Cheney for this action. And for years the political cartoons in the RFT have been lopsided in their liberal (small "L") tone. So, on July 26 you publish one that virtually underwrote the Cheney candidacy ("A Cheney Link to St. Louis").
C'mon, RFT -- either crap or get off the pot before the political world passes you by.
THE PARENT TRAP
This letter is in response to your report by Wm. Stage in the July 26 issue of the RFT, titled "The Hard Knock that Won't Stop," regarding the plight of men as fathers and the good work of Fathers' Support Center. As a supporter of FSC, I've seen firsthand what it means to have organizations like this one.
The stereotypical "deadbeat dad" is all too common in today's world. As Mr. Sullivan stated, it should be "dead-broke" dad, as personally witnessed by two of my relatives, both men. It's certainly not fair for the mother to have to bear all the burden, both emotionally and financially, but it's also not fair for the mother to have all the rights and choices, either, because she carries the child and gives birth to it.
I suggest giving joint custody, not sole custody, to parents whenever possible. Then there will be less arguing, taking children across state lines and, most of all, questioning who's paying more or less than the other parent. It would also be good if judges would take children in their chambers, away from parents, and ask the child how they are treated by the sole custodial parent. Then there will be less of a chance for fathers to stay in a 15-by-20-foot room with unimaginable living conditions, such as my father some 20 years ago.
The feature article of the July 26 edition of the RFT, "Logan's Run," referred to Dr. Logan as both black and African-American. I think a little more care should be taken by your publication when referring to the color of one's skin. Dr. Logan is black. One of my church's pastors is African-American, and his skin color is not black. African-American should be used to refer to an ethnic group, not the color of an individual's skin.
I never said children are members of the Missouri Militia. Your July 19 cover story ("This Ain't No Party") implies I did, else why would "parents" grow "alarmed"? It's also implied by your title for an earlier, quite enjoyable satire of my school-board candidacy ("Back to Basic Training," RFT, March 19, 1997), illustrated with a machine-gun target. When speaking to audiences ignorant of Missouri's militia statute, I mention that the statute has exceptions, such as age. Perhaps you were misled by your anonymous source.
Joseph C. Keller, M.D.
Reform Party candidate for Missouri governor
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