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Three-Way Run

Politics, profits, and parasites

By Bob Harris

WHO'S GONNA BE president in 2000? Time and Newsweek are already asking that question almost every week. In most civilized countries, an election takes a couple of months, tops. Canada's campaign started about the same time baseball season did, and it'll be over before Albert Belle's first suspension.

But since our whole political system is now just an elaborate auction to the highest bidder, candidates have to stockpile cash years in advance like Art Bell fans hitting the dry goods. Which means the Inaugural bar tab hasn't even been settled before we gotta start the whole dance party all over again.

And since wealth and power are centralizing, next time looks depressingly like last time.

On the Democratic side, Al Gore's already got enough cash that he's pretty much untouchable. Even so, Dick Gephardt is picking his fights, Jesse Jackson's considering a run, John Kerry is in and out, and Paul Wellstone has been building a national organization from the day he arrived in DC. Too bad nobody knows who he is.

As to Republicans, Liddy Dole can count on Newt Gingrich's help now that Bob holds the mortgage on his soul. Colin Powell's doing magazine covers again for some reason. John Kasich, from Ohio, just did a fundraiser in Iowa. Jack Kemp will wobble onward once he's done flip-flopping on immigration. Lamar Alexander persists, even though I just sat behind him on a plane and no one even recognized him. Bob Dornan still commands the red-faced lunatic demographic. And Dan Quayle started campaigning for 2000 before the '96 election was even over (honest), but then math always was a tricky one for the boy.

Meanwhile, Perot's still rich. So is Steve Forbes, who really doesn't want the office as much as a "flat tax" billion-dollar inheritance tax handout.

And then there are the New Party, the Greens, the Libertarians, the Professor, and Mary Ann. None of whom have enough money to play.

Same as it ever was.

The only way out is campaign finance reform. If nothing else, it'll shorten the whole process. Even if the candidates don't improve, at least we won't have to get depressed about them for three more years.

Y'KNOW HOW when you play Monopoly, you try to gather up all the properties in a color group, because then no one can pass without paying you money?

Rupert Murdoch, the richest man in Southern California, wants to buy the L.A. Dodgers. (Actually, he wants to buy everything, including your dog. The Dodgers are just next on his shopping list.)

As it stands now, Angelenos can hardly watch a game he doesn't own. Murdoch already owns the broadcast rights to the Lakers and the Clippers, the Kings and the Ducks, and both USC and UCLA.

And Murdoch already owns the Fox TV network, Fox Sports West channels 1 and 2, the Fox News, the FX, and the FX movie channels, and the local Channel 11. He also owns TV Guide, Harper Collins Books, the Twentieth Century Fox movie studio, and more than 100 newspapers and magazines.

So one day soon, L.A. residents will watch a Murdoch sports team on a Murdoch sports channel, then watch the highlights on a Murdoch news channel and read about it in a Murdoch newspaper. They'll then read a Murdoch paperback about the star player and watch a Murdoch movie dramatizing his big game. Later, that'll be on a Murdoch movie channel with promotional interviews in a Murdoch magazine, and the listings for it all will be in Murdoch's TV Guide.

If there's anything wrong with that situation, you can be sure Rupert Murdoch will tell you about it.

Guard your dog.

IF YOU LIKED Ebola, you'll love this. In a recent study sponsored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, scientists discovered that passenger airplanes are spreading infectious viruses worldwide. Not in the air, and not in the food or water. In the restroom waste.

That's right: airline food's bad enough. The results are even worse. Just made your day, didn't it?

The scientists discovered this by collecting sewage samples from various international flights landing in the United States. And you thought you had a lousy job.

Almost half the samples contained active viruses that weren't killed by the airlines' disinfectant. And scientists think bacteria and parasites are spreading this way as well. Here's the fun part. Y'know where waste pumped from aircraft entering the United States goes? Straight into the sewers just like local waste to be treated at municipal plants, which might not kill our new little visitors.

What can we do? Airlines can add a water-soluble oil called glutaraldehyde to the mix. It kills these bugs dead. And it's way cheap, so it won't boost ticket prices, although I'd personally pay an extra dollar. Hell, 10.

Call your airline and see if they use the goo. Some do, some don't.

The other solution is a little more complex: Get everyone on Earth to, um, go before they get on the plane, with big posters in every airport explaining the problem.

In which case, I'd like to humbly suggest a slogan:

Think globally. Tink locally.

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From the June 5-11, 1997 issue of the Sonoma County Independent

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