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Cream Rises

Election funds go hellishly high

By Bob Harris

YOU ALREADY KNOW that the Dow Jones Industrial Average has lately been moving up even faster than the video release date of the latest Batman movie. So why the surge?

Barron's and Business Week say it's because inflation is relatively low. OK so far. At the same time, however, the upward spiral might also be related to a drastic price increase in the one major commodity not figured in the Consumer Price Index: political office.

According to a Common Cause study of filings with the Federal Election Commission, the Democratic and Republican parties are raising money for the next election cycle at twice the rate of just four years ago. There's already $34 million in the kitty, even though the hangover from the Clinton Inaugural Pub Crawl only wore off six months ago.

Adjusting for inflation, the two parties already have as much money in their war chests now, three and a half years in advance, as they spent running Carter and Ford throughout all of 1976.

At this pace, the two parties combined will need to accept almost half a billion dollars in private money just to field viable candidates for president. Including Congress, the governorships, and so on, the total tab for Death Race 2000 may actually exceed $4 billion.

Presidents Bush, Carter, and Ford are now all on the record stating that the money in Washington is getting out of hand. Folks, these are politicians saying there's too much cash on the table. Remember when Geraldo decided to clean up TV? Same thing.

Often you can see what the big donors are after--a piece of legislation maybe, a tax loophole, etc. Strangely, however, the single biggest donation so far is a million bucks to the GOP from the head of Amway.

So next time you see a bunch of congressmen trying to kick some hand cream into our foreign arms sales--well, now you'll know why

REMEMBER The Day The Earth Stood Still? Microsoft just bought $150 million worth of Apple Computer.

This is the part of the movie where the giant saucer lands and the 8-foot robot Gort steps outside and everyone feels really helpless. Then Bill Gates appears serenely in the doorway and speaks the immortal words, "Klaatu Niktu Barata copy c colon backstroke filename."

And the Pentagon flips out trying to find someone who can understand DOS.

To give you an idea of how powerful Microsoft is getting, 90 percent of all of the computers on earth run at least some of the company's software. Y'know what the people at Microsoft actually call all the other computer companies in the world? "Noise."

Look, if aliens landed and took over 90 percent of the computers on earth, we'd send out Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. But somehow because Bill Gates looks like Mom still combs his hair, we let slide with the anti-trust laws. Instead, we just roll over and reboot our machines when they lock randomly and consider ourselves lucky not to be forced to confront an Alpha Geek head-on.

Part of the Apple deal also pushes Microsoft's Web browser onto all new Apple machines, which means Netscape's days may be numbered, too.

Swell. I use an Apple PowerBook and Netscape Navigator. I am now officially obsolete.

But I'm not going without a fight. Tell you what--I'm gonna crank up the eight-track, get out the BetaMax, call my friends on a rotary phone, and have me a party.

Not that it's gonna matter. We'll just be making a lot of noise.

IN THE MOVIE Conspiracy Theory, Mel Gibson plays a nutball who publishes a newsletter of weird musings and accidentally stumbles onto a real plot. All of a sudden the bad guys show up, he's on the run, and only Julia Roberts believes him. The music gets loud, they destroy stuff, and it turns out pretty much like most Hollywood movies.

It's a cool flick--especially since I know the actual guy.

My buddy Jim Martin publishes a 'zine called Flatland, which pokes around declassified government documents and interviews former intelligence operatives and so on. Jim and his writers don't theorize so much as report what they find, although you usually just wind up with even more questions, which is part of the fun. Jim also sells a pile of books from the world of fringe politics, some of which is reliable, some of which isn't. You decide.

Apparently the screenwriter for Conspiracy Theory snagged a few issues of Flatland while researching the script, got hooked, and then asked for the entire backlist. The writer even mentioned Jim in a couple of interviews. The screenwriter's a good guy and all, and he had other sources, too, so I'm not criticizing him. He just did his job.

Still, Jim hasn't seen a dime. I think he deserves at least this much. I've known him for years and he is assuredly not crazed or unstable (although he lives in Northern California, so that could change at any time). He's just a citizen who doesn't have much access to the media and wants to get stuff he considers important in front of people however he can.

Ben Franklin and Thomas Paine did the same thing, y'know. Of course, neither they nor Jim got so much as a peck on the cheek from Julia Roberts.

That's Hollywood for you.

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From the August 21-27, 1997 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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