Jewish World Review Oct. 23, 2002/ 16 Mar-Cheshvan 5763

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Dirty drawers


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Two weeks remain before Election Day, and you'd have to be either nuts or Terry McAuliffe to place a bet on the outcome more than 24 hours prior to Nov. 5. Normally, I've put a modest pile of money on the table by mid-October, if not earlier-won big in '94 and 2000, got wiped out in '98-but this set of midterm races is the strangest since at least 1962, when the Cuban Missile Crisis made congressional campaigns seem trivial by comparison.

There's a similar feeling this year. The Bali massacre, repeated killings in the Philippines, nukes in North Korea, a sniper possibly still on the loose in the DC metro region (and farther south), the upcoming war with Iraq, Israel's intensified struggle for survival (as anti-Semitism escalates in the West) and the potential for another huge attack in the United States almost guarantee a low turnout in all 50 states.

Here in New York City, Mike Bloomberg is all over the map with his trial balloons for tax increases. Last week, he floated a 25 percent increase in property taxes-an opening gambit to secure a 10 percent hike-and shocked residents by proposing tolls on all East River bridges. And it's almost guaranteed that mass transit fares will be $2 early next year. As a homeowner, I don't care for the property tax idea at all-the real estate bubble is about to burst anyway-but far more significant is the effect it'll have on commercial space. One more reason for corporations to move outside the city. Can anyone spell Newark?

The New York Times, in an Oct. 21 editorial ("The Bloomberg Way"), is rather sanguine about the Mayor's bluster, writing: "Mayor Michael Bloomberg seems not to care that he can be a lightning rod for frustration. He matter-of-factly talks about the fiscal pain to come for New York City, offering no sugar coating... While it appears that the honeymoon is over, Mr. Bloomberg didn't become mayor to spend his time publicly canoodling with anyone... Still, Mr. Bloomberg must not appear aloof [like the Times?] as he charges full speed ahead with his agenda."

A Daily News editorial last week was more to the point: "Raising taxes and cutting services is like hurling a wrecking ball at the local economy. Must we learn that hard lesson again? Surely, the Dinkins administration hasn't faded into memory that quickly."

Frankly, if I had Mayor Mike's ear for just 10 minutes, I'd suggest a plan that would swell city coffers and revive tourism: legalized gambling. Bloomberg's proven himself too much of a prude to even entertain such a measure, but casinos and slots in Times Square and maybe one of downtown's west side piers would be an instant success. You'd probably have to cut Donald Trump into the deal, to offset his loss of revenue in Atlantic City, but that needn't be an obstacle. Bloomberg, if he had a pulse on small businesses in the five boroughs, might even consider allowing slot machines in all the bodegas he knifed with that punitive, and regressive, tax on cigarettes last summer.

Welcome to the 21st century: Just as Starbucks and Barnes & Noble have dotted the city's landscape with outlets, and chains like Olive Garden, Target, Home Depot and Wal-Mart scout new locations, both the government and residents have to understand that the once-exquisite retail environment that set New York apart from the rest of the country is over. We're a long way from the era of Brentano's, a newsstand on every street corner and single-outlet pizza joints that aren't threatened by Domino's.

Can't say I like all the homogenization, but after an initial resistance to the Barnes & Noble customer-friendly approach, I'm a devotee. Who needs the snotty attitude of clerks at bookstores like Broadway's Shakespeare & Co., when a pleasant sales assistant at B&N will gladly help you locate a copy of an obscure 18th-century novel?

BACK TO THE SCUMMY BUSINESS OF NATIONAL POLITICS

The single most stupid statement I've read in the past two weeks-not counting those in The New York Times-was written by USA Today's Walter Shapiro in an Oct. 17 column decrying the gutter tv ads in North Carolina. He writes: "What makes this onslaught of negative advertising so dispiriting is that Bowles and Dole are exemplary candidates, and until the campaign season turned ugly, no one had ever challenged their ethics and integrity... A book on this down-and-dirty Senate race could be entitled, When Good Candidates Use Bad Tactics. So much for the naive hope that the horrors of Sept. 11 would lead to a different type of politics."

McKinney

Has this daily's resident Pangloss taken an extended vacation in the past year? Did he miss the hysterics of Cynthia McKinney, Jerry Falwell, Susan Sontag, Pat Buchanan, the chick who edits The Nation, Jimmy Carter, Molly Ivins, Paul Krugman, Jesse Jackson and Maureen Dowd? Guess so. Jackson, speaking in Athens, GA, on Oct. 20, revived Brother Belafonte's slurs on Colin Powell. He told a church audience: "[Powell's] not on our team. If he wins, Trent Lott wins. We're not on that team. If he wins, we lose. If he wins, poor folks lose."

Dowd set a new record for op-ed sludge this past Sunday with a column that even DNC-surrogate-chairman Howell Raines must've raised an eyebrow at during cocktail hour. Continuing her tired ridicule of George W. Bush, Dowd fantasized: "The Boy Emperor picked up the morning paper and, stunned, dropped his Juicy Juice box with the little straw attached.

"'Oh man,' he wailed. 'North Korea's got nukes. Sheriff Musharraf was helping them. Al Qaeda's blowing stuff up again. The Pentagon's speculating that the sniper might really be Qaeda decoy teams trying to distract the law while they plan a bio-blitzkrieg or a dirty bomb attack on the capital.

Tenet's broken out in hives about the next 9/11. Powell spends all his time kissing up to the Frenchies. Saddam's ranting about a river of American blood. Jebbie's in a world of hurt. The economy's cratering. At least Karl says our war strategy will open up a can of Election Day whoop on Congressional Democrats.

"'This is not the way my new doctrine was supposed to work. We are supposed to decide who we pre-empt and when we pre-empt them. The speechwriters called it an Axis of Evil, but it was really just a Spoke of Evil. Condi and Rummy said once we finished off Saddam, nobody would mess with America again. But everything's gotten fuzzier than fuzzy math. Some people are actually talking about my doctrine leading to War War III!!! Karl says that would be bad.'"

And pampered, brain-dead celebrities like Woody Harrelson, Barbra Streisand, Rob Reiner, Martin Sheen and Sean Penn are claiming that the administration is shredding the Constitution. Gee whiz, what a country.

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JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press (www.nypress.com). Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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© 2002, Russ Smith