Friday, September 19, 2008

The Mississippi presidential debates: Does Jackson have a public transportation system?

(Photos were taken on the set of the CNN South Carolina presidential primary debates)

Several months ago I applied to the commission in charge of presidential debates in order to cover the Obama-McCain debate in Jackson, Mississippi on September 26, 2008.

But days and weeks went by and I still hadn't heard anything back from the commission, so I called them up. "If you haven't heard anything so far," they told me, "that means that you HAVE been credentialed."

Have YOU heard anything back from the commission about not being credentialed for the Jackson presidential debates? If you too haven't heard anything so far either, does that mean that you too have been credentialed?

See you in Jackson.

As June Carter Cash is fond of saying, "I'm going to Jackson...." Yeah, but what do I do once I get there -- besides report back on how America is apparently yet again ready, willing and able to vote for what Deepak Chopra refers to as the "shadow" candidate rather than voting for a rational candidate who actually appears to know what he is doing and can actually find Spain and Iran on a map.

According to Chopra, "By appealing to fear, resentment, hostility to change, suspicion of 'the other' and similar dark impulses, the Republicans have been the shadow's party for a long time." And if America once again votes for a "shadow" candidate, then the country I love will once again be plunged into four more years of chaos at a time when rationality is called for more than ever. But I digress.

So. Hopefully, I will be able to use my frequent-flyer miles to arrive at Jackson airport next week. But then what? How do I get to the debate site? Ole Miss? Does Jackson have a public transportation system?

Next question. Of course I'm a hot-spit reporter but I'm definitely on a shoe-string budget -- and I travel to lots of places by scheming ways to get to my destination spots either cheaply or for free (the "shadow maverick" McCain hasn't got his hands on my Social Security check quite yet), so I still have a working budget. However, said budget does NOT stretch to encompass $200-a-night stays at the Jackson Sheraton or the Hilton -- or even a Motel 6. So. After I finally arrive in downtown Jackson, where can I stay? Does anyone know of any good homeless shelters in Mississippi?

Next question -- what to eat? Of course the media will be getting free buffet lunches during the debate, but what about before and after? Does anyone know of any churches in Jackson that give out free meals? Or any soup kitchens? Or Meals on Wheels for the elderly? Please let me know.

I'm asking about free or cheap transportation, housing and meals in the Jackson area so that I can cover the debates of course. But I am also checking to see what kind of social safety nets they have in Mississippi. Why? Because if the next candidate in a long line of Republican "shadow mavericks" does make it into the White House again, Mississippi and all the rest of America are going to need all the social safety nets we can get.

PS: "This social safety net that you are proposing smacks of socialism!" wrote one of my conservative online friends.

Yeah, well. Wall Street, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Merrill Lynch, AIG, Halliburton and General Electric have all benefited from socialism, so why not us too?

And I also just got an e-mail from a friend in Cedar Rapids who was a victim of the Iowa floods last year. "It's going to take at least a decade for our town to recover," she wrote. But do you think that her town will be getting sufficeint financial help from the federal government to allow them to recover faster? Or will the feds be too busy bailing out Wall Street to offer Main Street a hand?

"Those people in Iowa need to learn to be self-sufficient," said my conservative friend. "And besides, those floods were last year's news."

PPS: I just found out that that the presidential debate is being held 90 miles NORTH of Jackson. And not only that, but my frequent-flyer miles won't even GET me to Jackson. I'll have to fly into Memphis. No Jackson at all! Sorry about that, June.

This whole thing is getting really complicated and expensive. Maybe I'll just have to end up going to see Sarah Palin bitch-slap Joe Biden in St. Louis instead. But I'm leaving to spend a month in Iran on October 9 so that complicates things even more. Crap, it's hard being a journalist. Why don't all these people just come to Berkeley!