ralph_nader.jpg

Every summer the waterfront is clogged with tourists about to board those giant white cruise ships towering above Elliott Bay, each about as classy and

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Voyage of the Damned

If an iceberg struck this ship...

ralph_nader.jpg

Every summer the waterfront is clogged with tourists about to board those giant white cruise ships towering above Elliott Bay, each about as classy and attractive as a floating Motel 6. All-you-can eat buffets and shuffleboard may have their appeal for out-of-towners (who seem to be the sole sub-species of tourist disgorged from those buses stacked up along Alaskan Way), but it's hard to conceive of a cruise-ship voyage that would appeal to Seattleites who disapprove of those huge sewage-dumping, carbon-pumping, way-below-minimum-wage-paying vessels. Or so I thought, until I discovered The Nation magazine's celebrity-filled, liberal-biased cruise to Alaska, which departs Seattle this Saturday, July 28. And the best part? Ralph Nader is your skipper!

Oh, but it's not just a week-long sightseeing cruise to Alaska, it's a seminar, a learning opportunity, a chance to rub shoulders not only with Nader (guaranteed not to remove his suit in the hot tub), but The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel and Victor Navasky, actor Richard Dreyfuss, journalist Mary Mapes (she who pushed the Bush-Air National Guard story a little too hard on 60 Minutes), several other lefty authors, the mayor of Salt Lake City (he's a liberal Democrat?), and actress-journalist Annabelle Gurwitch (whom we kind of like after her stage show and movie Fired!, which leads from getting shitcanned by Woody Allen to a broader examination of downsizing and corporate insecurity).

But the point is this: Liberals on the high seas! Birds of a feather flocking together! It's a blue-state booze cruise, and some tickets may yet be available. (Prices range from $2,631 to $8,657 for the round-trip voyage to Sitka, cheaper for double-occupancy, meals included; see Web site for details.) It's like limousine liberalism on a larger, nautical scale. And, just to assuage that liberal guilt while downing G&T's with Dreyfuss, as he tells you about his coked-up misadventures on the set of Jaws, the whole trip features a carbon-offset option to subsidize reforestation efforts in Guatemala. (At only $11 per person, it's probably best not to consider what those Guatemalan tree planters are being paid--just like the Filipino deckhands and boiler stokers laboring in the bowels of the ship.)

Naturally we sneaky, underhanded journalists at Seattle Weekly considered sending a mole/stealth blogger on The Nation cruise. But $8,000 is a lot of money; and besides, I get seasick easily. And sick of Ralph Nader. More important, the idea's been done to death. First The Nation itself crashed a similar benefit cruise sponsored by The National Review in 1997; then The New Republic dusted off the same trick earlier this year, again punking those conservative mariners sailing under The National Review's pirate flag. But, seriously, if there's WiFi and anyone aboard The Nation cruise cares to send us a secret bulletin or scoop (Nader to run again in 2008, perhaps?), please do drop us a line.

Of course it was the success of The National Review's cruise that obviously prompted The Nation's first  seminar-at-sea 10 years ago, a clever means of fundraising, cultivating subscribers, and rallying the base, so to speak. And I'm not sure which is worse: a boatload of smug, rich, insular conservatives, or a boatload of smug, rich, insular liberals. And much as I might like to drink and hang with Dreyfuss and Gurwitch (but only for their Hollywood gossip), and much as I might be tempted to set Capt. Nader out on an Alaskan ice floe, the ship's manifest lacks one crucial name from a Nation cruise past. That being inveterate God-hater and drink-lover Christopher Hitchens, who'd undoubtedly put a different interpretation to old salt's adage "Any port in a storm." (Or any rum, or any vodka, or any bourbon...) In other words, wonks at sea equals no fun.

And one final note of warning for those loyal lefties about to embark on the premium passage: Just remember Richard Dreyfuss' last prominent film role--in the disaster movie remake Poseidon. We're just saying...

 
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