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What to Do?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

What are third-party candidates to do when the country's two major political parties exclude them from crucial upcoming presidential debates?

Piggyback on the hype and hoopla surrounding the Democrats' and Republicans' respective national conventions, that's what.

Independent Ralph Nader and Green Party nominee former Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney, Georgia Democrat, will not only be in Denver during next week's Democratic National Convention, the third-party presidential candidates will stage an "Open the Debates" rally at Magness Arena on Wednesday evening. Numerous Hollywood celebrities are already signing up to attend, including Val Kilmer and Sean Penn.

"I met with Sean Penn, and we talked at length," Mr. Nader said. "He was very clear that he is not currently planning to endorse any candidate in the general election, but that he has serious concerns about the state of presidential debates. He did support [Ohio Democratic Rep. Dennis J.] Kucinich in the primaries and saw how Dennis was excluded from MSNBC debates." Mr. Nader hopes to be on the ballot in 45 states come Nov. 4, which compares with 34 states in 2004.

A second debate rally is planned for Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis on Sept. 4, during the week of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn.


The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is circulating the rather humorous, if not uneducated, response of former Colorado congressman-turned-U.S. Senate candidate Bob Shaffer when the Republican was asked during a recent debate: "Do you have solar panels at your house?"

"We have windows at our house," he replied.


No, it's not Groundhog Day, it's Giant Hissing Madagascar Cockroach Day - when "hissers," as the pests are nicknamed, run a race to decide November's presidential election.

Today's exciting hissing cockroach contest coincides with the 61st annual New Jersey Pest Management Association Clinic and features Barack Obama Roach vs. John McCain Roach. Apart from the unique race, the annual gathering of the nation's top pest-management experts introduces the latest technologies to control rodents and other pests.

Giant hissing Madagascar cockroaches, it so happens, are often kept as pets because of their size, long lifespan and ability to hiss.


That's former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, a lifelong Democrat, signing up as "Chairman of Democrats for Pete King." Mr. King, a Republican, is campaigning for a ninth term in the House.

"I am proud to be a Democrat, and I am proud to support Congressman Pete King for re-election," said Mr. Koch, explaining that Mr. King is "independent and never afraid to take a tough stand. Like me, he denounces Islamic terrorism and supports offshore oil drilling and energy independence."

The Republican lawmaker, ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, has authored legislation on illegal immigration, port security and chemical-plant security.


Inside the Beltway reader Steve A. Brown of Springfield, Va., recently visited the official Web site of the U.S. Senate, which points out that on Aug. 18, 1856, legislation took effect that paid members of Congress an annual salary of $3,000.

"To make sure lawmakers did not collect their $3,000 without showing up for work, lawmakers would not be paid for unexcused absences," Mr. Brown notes. "The story on the Senate's Web site prompted me to inquire if senators campaigning for president are paid for days on the campaign trail? The answer from the Senate Historical Office was 'yes.'

"I wonder if there are other jobs in the United States that would pay employees for missed time while the employees are out seeking to fulfill personal ambition?"

Columnist note: If Benjamin Franklin had his way, elected members of Congress would not be paid a dime for their service to the nation. His suggestion, brought up during the Constitutional Convention, had few if any supporters. As a result, rank-and-file members of both the House and Senate are currently paid $169,300 annually. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be paid $217,400 in 2008.

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