Nadering nabobs

Saint Ralph will bless us with his presence. On Presidents' Day, after months of waiting, Ralph Nader announced his intention to seek the Green Party's nomination for president.

Unfortunately, the renowned civic activist's "make me run" act of these past few months makes his candidacy already seem very stale. By delaying, Nader missed the primary season, where attention might focus on a fresh alternative; potentially kept himself off the ballot in states where lengthy ballot access drives must be mounted; and put the doubt to his insistence that this time, unlike his 1996 noncampaign, he really means it.

Not so far. If he were waging a serious third-party campaign for the nation's highest job, he would be crisscrossing the country trying to build Green Party organizations by putting a real campaign machine in place and hiring someone other than a progressive Democrat as his campaign manager (Mike Dolan, last seen whipping up the troops against the WTO in Seattle).

Nader's reputation and name could do wonders to help build a real third-party alternative, particularly with the Reform Party imploding and the Gore/Bush (or, on an optimistic day, Gore/McCain) choice so unappealing to so many. Instead, Nader dithered, just like he did in his abortive 1996 run. Washington was one of his strongest states that year and probably will be this year, too. At this rate, given our lax ballot access laws, it may be one of his only states.

For all of the amazing legacies of citizen involvement that Nader has created, a third party seems to be one he can't quite get the interest in to seriously pursue. It's too bad.

The reptile works for you

At Senator Slade Gorton's (R-Hell) bidding, the Pennsylvania chairman of a key Senate committee is pressuring the State Department to release $2.5 million originally earmarked for reimbursement to the city of Seattle for WTO costs. It's an embarrassing reminder that Gorton is the state's most effective elected official when he wants to be. (Normally, he couldn't care less about Seattle, but he's got a reelection bid coming up.)

It's also a reminder that his colleague, Senator Patty Murray, is perhaps—the competition is stiffer here—the state's least effective official. It's her party's administration, after all, that she's been unable to dislodge the money from, even though she's spent the last eight years sucking up to Bill Clinton (and has now moved on to shilling for Al Gore). It's unfortunate that Gorton is on the wrong side of almost every issue, but "Free Trade" Patty ain't so hot, either.

Meanwhile, it's doubtful that the City Council committee investigating the city's handling of the WTO meetings will tell us anything about police abuses of nonviolent protesters that we didn't already know. That's because council member Peter Steinbrueck has given up in disgust and pulled the plug on the subcommittee studying police abuses of civil rights. Critics had predicted that the investigation was doomed to failure because it didn't have enough resources and wasn't adequately independent of elected officials, and those are exactly Steinbrueck's complaints.

In the finest tradition of civil Seattle, the consensus seems to be: The WTO's not coming back, so why rock any boats? Here's why: The heavily armed police attacks on defenseless civilians were among the most abominable violations of state power seen in this country in years, and if the Constitution can be violated by cops and political decision-makers with such impunity, it makes a travesty of the system. That's what we're going to get out of this investigation, 18 hours of gut-wrenching anti-cop testimony notwithstanding: The system is stacked, and the powerful don't have to answer to their own laws.

Not so fast

I wrote a couple weeks ago about the Federal Communications Commission's decision, over the objections of the National Association of Broadcasters, to establish a new low-power FM service. Last week, the NAB struck back: The House of Representatives held hearings on Representative Mike Oxley's bill (HR 3439) to prohibit such a service. The bill's list of cosponsors in this election year is growing as the deep pockets of broadcasters scramble once again to stymie nonprofit competition to their bland, nonlocal fare. Make sure Representative Jim McDermott and our other local reps are on board in opposition to this industry-pandering assault on free speech and community media.

Send him home

So, to all of this country's other human rights violations, we can add kidnapping. The pathetic saga of Elian Gonzales is winding its way through the courts (latest stop: February 22 in Miami), and the Clinton administration gets credit for being on the right side on this one, despite all of Florida's electoral votes: The kid should go home. Period. Heated right-wing rhetoric about returning children to slavery ignores the reality that by the time Gonzales is an adult, Uncle Fidel will be long gone. Meantime, he'll get a better education in Cuba's sterling schools (they're by far the best in Latin America) than in Florida's, and all the free Mickey Mouse gear in the world—a different kind of slavery—can't make up for losing his sole remaining parent.

You could as easily make a case for kidnapping a child from the Bronx and sending her to the improved moral climate of Havana. It's that outrageous.

Feed me!

Someone in the Seattle Police Department has decided they don't like Food Not Bombs. As has happened in all too many other cities, for the past few weeks cops have been harassing the nonpermitted free weekly vegan street feed, taking photos, chasing off the homeless (who might actually—gasp—eat something), and threatening arrests. This from the mayor who once promised to have all homeless families in shelters by Christmas 1998. There's safety in numbers; if you want to lend support or help with the feed, it's every Sunday at 5:30 at Occidental Park.

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