Didja hear the news brief about the septuagenarian officials of a town back East who promised to jump out of a plane if voters would

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Daredevils

Didja hear the news brief about the septuagenarian officials of a town back East who promised to jump out of a plane if voters would retain an endangered sales tax? They're taking a cue from skydiving George (not W.) Bush and from school officials who offer to shave their heads and do other wacky things if students will read books and do other good things. I smell a political trend: despairing of persuasion and desperate to engage distracted citizens, more and more politicians will trade wild stunts for votes. Such as . . .

City council member Nick Licata will wrestle Jesse Ventura if the city will establish combined homeless shelters/ artists' spaces throughout the city.

Governor Gary Locke will personally fix your plumbing if you'll vote for adequate education funding (i.e., an income tax).

Mayor Paul Schell will drink screw-top wine and trade his house in France for a time-share in Orlando if the city will sell Key Tower and spend the money on a real city hall.

Seattle Times executive editor/columnist Mike Fancher will write like Alexander Cockburn if the P-I will switch to afternoons.

And if the county will only pay the Mariners' stadium overruns, Mariners chairman John Ellis will . . . come back and ask for more money next year.

Artistic evictions

Licata suggests an apt site for that artists' space: the Alaska Building, which the city wants to turn over to a housing nonprofit. Plenty of artists desperately need affordable housing and studios. This might replace Pioneer Square's Occidental Shoe Building, which landlord Samis will redevelop.

There, there, we know it's just business

If the Mariners ever try to shake the county money tree again, the P-I's editorialists will be ready. Even without First Booster Virgil Fassio, the paper coddles the M's no matter how rank and disingenuous their schemes. Last Thursday's editorial was a classic of the genre. Don't blame the M's for trying to squeeze out more public dollars, it argued; that's just "business," and, gosh, you know, businesspeople will be businesspeople, and who can blame them? So render unto Ellis what is Ellis', since all this "has nothing to do with the game of baseball." The editorial actually credits the owners' claim that extra tax revenues should go to them, rather than to retiring the stadium bonds early.

Compare this to what the team and the paper were saying a year ago—as in the online summary of this July 22, 1998, editorial:

M's Owners Will Pay Costs, as They Promised at Start

As large as the unfortunate cost-overrun is for the Seattle Mariners' new ballpark, there is no reason to doubt the team's owners will fulfill their word to cover all the extra costs. Some speculate that the M's will raise ticket prices. Others worry that they will dump their many high-priced players in order to cover the costs. The promise not to do either came Monday from Mariners Chairman and CEO John Ellis. . . .

Of course, he didn't say they wouldn't demand more tax dollars.

Notes from a news hole

Once again, P-I reporters are steaming at the way their paper (which, like other dailies, gets a circulation boost from baseball coverage) covers for the M's. A cut-and-paste version of the paper's editorial page, posted around the newsroom, changes the slogan "Voice of the Northwest since 1863" to "Voice of the Mariner Owners." Below that, the P-I samizdat reads "P-I Editorial Endorses Mariners' Lies & Greed as Good Business Practices" and "Confused P-I readers ask: How could a paper justify such blatant abuse of the public trust?" And, in ironic retort, a cartoon character clipped from Apartment3-G intones, "Because I possess a rare trait called 'journalistic integrity'!"

Is God a Mariner, or a Nazi?

Meanwhile, an anonymous wag at the Seattle Times has gone farther, penning a fine line-for-line parody of the P-I's apologia, with each reference to the Mariners replaced by...

For the parody's full text, see below. And for the full flavor, compare it to the original on page A12 of the June 24 P-I (www.seattlep-i.com/pi/opinion/staded.shtml).

Now you tell us

The P-I editorial also notes, tellingly, that "to save baseball [the owners] must make money." But as the M's have proven for two decades, win or lose, you can't make money from baseball in Seattle without public subsidies. And "making money" wasn't what was pitched seven years ago, when Sen. Slade Gorton arranged for Nintendo owner Hiroshi Yamauchi to buy most of the team, with various new local tycoons taking minority shares. This was, in Gorton's words, "a civic gesture" made "out of gratitude to the people of our state." I suppose gratitude is no longer its own reward.

The M's are lucky that the Japanese economy's been on the ropes since then. Imagine how this story would play if "Japanese economic juggernaut" paranoia still ran rampant. As it is, the coverage scarcely mentions Yamauchi.

The full text of an anonymous parody, circulated at The Seattle Times, of the P-I's June 22 lead editorial, with some typographical corrections:

If this were 1939:

Those most outraged over the Nazis' bid for power forget that it has nothing to do with humanity and everything to do with the governing of the governed.

Countries are a mythical kingdom of smiling faces and blue skies, where heroes sometimes rise to greatness through their valor, grit and their innate ability to lead, inspire and imagine. It is a spiritual land with bright shining lights.

Governance is a concrete realm of realpolitik, where winners sometimes rise to wealth through cunning, guile and their ability to grasp and manipulate the masses. It is a black-and-white land where trains must run on time.

Nazi leaders Adoph Hitler and Martin Boorman have made it perfectly clear that this is simply that, a calculated power play. To them, the potential gain in world domination is worth some bad publicity.

Compassion is the stuff of charities, not governance. You can't count on compassion in votes.

The Nazi claim on their nation may follow the letter of the law laid down since the days of Genghis Khan. That will be decided - as it should - through testing the will of other nations, raw military might and diplomatic duplicity.

But the Nazis' gambit does violate all that talk at Versailles.

The spirit may triumph in parlor talk, but the letter of the law trumps in the real world.

Time after time, year after year, the news media passed along repeated assertions (and assurances) that the public's obligation was to insist on decent government. The Nazis allowed those assertions to go unchallenged publicly, until now. It seems bad form indeed to keep quiet so long if there was such a gross misunderatanding. Now the Nazis say - and seem appalled we didn't know all along - that the only limit on their ambition was the time it took to convince others that they were more than a gang of jackbooted thugs.

The Nazis make a political argument for their case.

They say its time to stop letting the rest of the world kick them around and let them get around to establishing a master race.

It's not as if they haven't put some effort into their mission, as demonstrated at Munich.

And as Germany has cowered since the end of the Great war, it is the Nazis who have "advanced" their bold vision. No one has more riding on their plans than the Nazis themselves.

The Nazis also argue that their platform would immunize the nation from its economic plight.

To save Germany, they must take power. It takes some unpleasantness to field a competitive army, purge those you don't like and build lots of monumental structures. Handing over power to them could restore the nation to greatness.

Hitler and Boorman emphasized to the editorial board that this was a "political decision" that is worth pursuing despite "this kind of controvery" and they will do "what is in their self-interest....This is not a utopian bunch."

So let any remaining spiritual illusions be dispelled by the hard-headed realities of governance.

Only the most naive should now mistake the Nazis for something different than so many of the their predecessors since the dawn of time. Like prior tyrants, they are what they say they are: populists.

 
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