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Ralph Nader and the Green Party are willfully naive about the consequences of their recent electoral actions, but events such as their upcoming People Have the Power Tour are the birthplaces of broader, more effective coalitions, the setting for new alliances.

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As tempting as it is to indict Ralph Nader and the Naderites for their willful blindness to the consequence of their actions, I won't go on too long. Reading Amy Smith's Nader piece in this issue's News section, where he bemoans the loss of sensible regulations while comparing the list of the damage done by the Bush administration, is not amusing. It is profoundly and politically sad.

The truth is there is a desperate need for events like the People Have the Power Tour, coming to the Toney Burger Activity Center Saturday, January 26. I'm no fan of Nader's and don't buy the Greens' overall strategy -- that they can woo enough dissident Democrats to become an influential force. The Austin Fair Elections Act is a sad joke providing a bad solution to a problem that doesn't really exist. The only group that has held undue sway at the local ballot box is the engaged progressives, rather than some mythical big-business bogeymen.

But the war storm has obscured the truth that the Bush administration has begun a devastating assault on all kinds of regulatory agencies and laws. The economy is collapsing, but progressive forces have never been in more disarray. The time to stop indulging in lazy rhetoric and address the very real and currently growing social problems is now. If there really is an exploration of new ideas at this rally, it will be great. A lot of the speechifying, I suspect, will be mindless left-wing demagoguery, which I'm more sympathetic with than mindless right-wing demagoguery, but no more respectful of. The gathering of folks and organizations will be the real dynamic. Such meetings are the birthplaces of broader, more effective coalitions, the setting for new alliances. The social issues that absorb us now will seem irrelevant as soon as we have to deal with the dismantling of the safety social net. There are real long-term concerns and issues facing the progressive community, but few offer easy answers or identifiable villains. If nothing else, this event should bring the progressive community together.

I have a clear conflict of interest involving Mike Clark-Madison's cover story on the Mueller redevelopment plan. As a member of the Austin Film Society Board, I helped negotiate with the city for Austin Studios, located on the site of the former airport. The project has been incredibly successful already: Five Hollywood and two independent films have shot there. It is also a textbook diagram of how the city and a nonprofit can cooperate for the good of the city. But this puts me in the position of having a vested interest in the long-term development of Mueller. Thus, I won't weigh in on this controversy.

The Austin Music Awards are when the people's voice on Austin music is heard. This issue's ballot is your last chance to vote in the Music Poll. The response has been overwhelming, but the more we receive, the more it reflects the community. VOTE! end story

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