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Jewish World Review Jan. 2, 2002 /19 Teves, 5762

Matt Towery

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A few adjustments and 2002 might turn out all right -- NO one wants to end the year on a sour note. But I have to say that so far, this new millennium just hasn't been a whole lot of fun. And there is evidence that the next phase of the 2000s won't be any picnic. But there may be some adjustments that will make this year better than we expect. Certainly we need to veer from the course that seemed to start on Jan. 1, two years ago.

It seems as if the moment the lighted balls, apples, peaches, oranges and other symbols dropped to the ground in their respective cities and that big 2000 came aglow at midnight on Jan. 1, everything started sliding toward chaos. Indeed, we are now learning that had bin Laden had his way, chaos would have reigned that very night, with an attack on Seattle's Space Needle.

Admittedly, the first part of 2000 seemed OK, but by the fall, we were witnessing a major constitutional crisis. My memories of that first year -- yes, I know there is a debate as to whether 2000 or 2001 was the change of the millennium, but I'll go with the crowd -- will forever be dominated by dimpled and swinging chads. It seemed like every five minutes I was running out the door to the Atlanta NBC affiliate to comment on some new twist or turn in the presidential race.

I knew we were in trouble when I went live on the air, still talking about the unresolved Bush-Gore contest, and realized that the news set's red, white and blue motif with the NBC peacock had been replaced with a bevy of red Christmas flowers.

That year ended in a blur. And like so many other people, I was so overwhelmed by the political upheaval, the slide in our economy, and the general sense of national instability, that I didn't realize the international situation was deteriorating at a frightening pace. The new year came, ushering in either the second year of the new millennium, or, for those of opposing view, the start. Either way, no one could have predicted what was in store for us in 2001.

It was a year that seemed, prior to the autumn, a period of much suffering for those in the business world. And by early September, it had become clear that the collapse of smaller technology companies had become a rapid decline in most segments of the economy. Unemployment was starting to rise significantly, and consumer confidence was dipping.

Then it struck. A clear September day brought our world crashing down. Suddenly we lived in a world where the tallest of buildings and mightiest of leaders could be threatened. What so far had been a pretty lousy millennium had become inconceivably worse.

Perhaps it was all the unrealistic fun -- relatively speaking -- that we enjoyed in the 1980s and '90s that led America and its allies into letting down our guard and allowing for the rise of the greatest evil this generation has ever witnessed. So rather than face the new year with rose-colored glasses or a white flag of surrender, let me offer a random set of suggestions that might make the year 2002 a pleasant surprise.

First, stop playing games over immigration into this country. Clamp down on who gets in and who stays.

Second, ask the French to stop playing the "loyal wimps" and join Great Britain and Germany with an equal fervor of support in fighting terrorism. Leave it to France to question a mad "shoe bomber," only to let him go. And for all you pro-France Jerry Lewis types, don't bother writing me -- my dad's name is Maurice.

Third, retire Alan Greenspan. Yes, he's brilliant, talented, and so on. But he wrecked small business with his idiotic rate hikes and he has come close to creating full-blown deflation with his equally goofy rate cuts. All he managed to do was kill off a whole new technology-based economy in 2000 and destroy any reasonable rate of return on fixed investments in 2001.

Finally, pray that House Republicans make someone other than Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, their leader following the retirement of Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas. We need to keep a Republican House, and Tom DeLay would open the fastest possible route to losing it.

See, just a few adjustments and 2002 might turn out all right.

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