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Jewish World Review Jan. 16, 2004 / 22 Teves, 5764

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald
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Caucuses bore you? You're not alone


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Most good American citizens, of course, have been closely following the excitement of the Iowa caucus for weeks.


But if you need to catch up on which aspiring Democrat — Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt, John Kerry or John Edwards — is likely to win the first major primary of 2004 on Monday night, you have several options.


You can bore yourself into turning on C-SPAN 3 by reading the on-the-campaign-trail-in-Iowa reports in Time and Newsweek. Or you can read Time's "Like Jury Duty? You'll Love Caucuses," Joel Stein's humorous explanation of how horribly painstaking, complicated and inherently meaningless a real caucus is.


After bravely attending a practice caucus workshop for voters living somewhere in deepest, dullest Iowa, Stein offers this brief, brutal, but no doubt accurate definition:


"The caucus is a three-hour Monday night political dorkfest reserved for the kinds of people who get psyched about jury duty" that apparently is "constructed to keep away everyone but hard-core party activists and the pitifully lonely."


Much more of interest to even the most casual follower of politics is Rolling Stone's "House of Bush," a Q&A with Kevin Phillips, the former Republican strategist of the Nixon Era and a long-ago-lapsed conservative.


His new book, "American Dynasty," describes how the Bush family has spent the past 100 years using its "back corridor" connections to elites in the oil and defense industries, in investment banking and in the intelligence establishment to acquire political power.


In Rolling Stone, Phillips sometimes sounds like he needs to spend some quiet time in a rest home. He contends the power-hungry Bush family "has made the presidency into an office infused with almost hereditary dishonesty" and that the current Bush in the White House is a threat to "what we value about our republican and democratic government."



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Of course, as they say, power does corrupt, and sometimes the powerful among us do get absolutely carried away. Look, for example, at how New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been tyrannizing the inhabitants of what once was one of America's most open, least oppressed cities.


As Christopher Hitchens details in his February Vanity Fair column, "I Fought the Law," Mayor Bloomberg has been encouraging his gendarmes to enforce a swarm of petty ordinances that prohibit everything from feeding birds in Central Park and sitting on an upturned milk crate to riding a bike without keeping your feet on the pedals at all times.


Hitchens, a serious intellectual, former socialist, unrepentant smoker and congenital anti-authoritarian, went on a one-man crime spree in New York to protest these "impossible to obey" laws.


As he wittily and spiritedly details, and as documented by seven photos, Hitchens successfully challenged the "Niagara of pettiness and random victimization" in a No Smoking city he laments is now "the domain ... of the anal-retentive cop with his nose in a rule book" and a mayor he says is a "picknose control freak."

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JWR contributor Bill Steigerwald is an associate editor and columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002, Bill Steigerwald