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Tweedledee and Tweedledum

Many years ago, the economist John Kenneth Galbraith wrote of "the liberal hour" -- a time, according to his fertile imagination, when even the most obdurate and unreasonable right-wingers suddenly see the light and embrace, if fleetingly, all that is true and good in American politics.

Yeah, right.

I think there's an opposite phenomenon, though. Let's call it "curmudgeon time" -- when it's time to administer a swift kick in the butt to the prattling princes of politics, be they left or right.

Let's start with George W. Bush's best friend, whose untiring efforts may send his pal back to the White House for another four years. He's a person whom many credit with Bush's victory in 2000, an aging but vigorous multimillionaire, supremely skilled at voter manipulation, a master at targeting crucial states where a few thousand votes can make all the difference. No, it's not Dick Cheney, or Tom DeLay, or Karl Rove -- it's Mr. Ego himself, Ralph Nader.

Here's the usual respectful shtick on Nader: He courageously stood up to Corporate America, and forced the evil oligarchs of the time to make safer cars, pollute less, and be more responsible, thereby training and empowering a whole generation of selfless activists. Blah, blah, blah. Now he just wants to offer voters a real alternative to the unresponsive hegemonists who run the two major parties -- and if Bush wins, it won't be because Nader siphoned off a bunch of liberal votes. To which I'd reply: bullshit, and bullshit.

Nader got his first taste of notoriety -- the drug that he craves -- by publishing a book called Unsafe at any Speed in the early '60s. He took aim therein at the Corvair, a sprightly, innovative, rear-engined GM product, and damned it as dangerous. Were the allegations true? Maybe, but here's some evidence to the contrary: A couple of times a year, local Corvair aficionados show off their immaculately restored vehicles. Are they unsafe, difficult to handle? Not according to Vern Davis, the proud owner of a bright red Corvair Monza convertible, the "Best small car Detroit ever built!" Vern's prejudiced, of course -- he's a former automotive engineer. But he likes Nader just fine. "Because he put the bad rap on the Corvair, they're a lot cheaper than they should be. I've got two more in my garage."

And does idealism drive Nader's presidential run? Watching him on television the other day, I had a creepy feeling of dj vu. The smug self-righteousness, the contempt for the interviewer, the inability to admit error, the belief in his own infallibility, not to mention the felt presence of legions of brain-dead followers -- where had I seen that before? Surely there couldn't be two Naders; two arrogant crazies ready to take down anything and anybody just to gratify their own immense egos? And yet ...

Douglas Bruce. Like Nader, a lonely, socially inept, terrifyingly smart millionaire white guy. Like Nader, ruthless, irascible and brilliant at creating and burnishing his own image. And like Nader, a man perhaps best described by an old movie title: Menace 2 Society. Let's forget about Bruce's deeply cynical politics -- the initiatives, the lawsuits, Colorado's fiscal train wreck -- and just consider one of his rental properties.

Many years ago, an old duplex at 1326 W. Kiowa St. was severely damaged in a fire. A child died in the blaze. The building was subsequently boarded up, and Bruce bought the damaged structure for a song. He got a building permit and tacked it to the front door, and that was it. No repairs were ever carried out.

For 10 years the building has sat vacant and deteriorating. The lot's strewn with trash and overgrown with weeds. Properties across the street and next door have been devalued as a result of this blight. Several years ago neighbors, with sadness, noted how every time they passed by the boarded up structure, they were reminded of that poor little boy who perished in the fire.

There are plenty of ordinances that ought to give the city the power to compel Bruce either to tear down or fix up the blighted structure. But the city does nothing, probably because they're afraid of him. They know how nastily litigious he can be, and they probably don't much care about a poor West Side neighborhood.

But for you folks on the East Side who are thinking voting for Bruce for County Commissioner in the August primary, drive by the house on West Kiowa. Just one look, and you'll know all about Bruce's character.

-- johnhazlehurst@earthlink.net

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