A Million For Your Thoughts

| 16 Feb 2015 | 04:21

    A Million For Your Thoughts, Beauregard: What's Cookin'?

    Was Pedro Martinez robbed? Absolutely. At least that was the consensus among the dads at Junior's final Downtown Soccer League game last Saturday morning, with my friend Rick Gilberg leading the chorus of disgust. It's a trivial matter, but how the heck could Martinez, who carried the Boston Red Sox to postseason play this year, be denied the American League's Most Valuable Player award? Because some knucklehead sportswriter at the New York Post, George King, who fancies himself a baseball "purist," didn't place Pedro in his top 10, on the theory that pitchers don't ever deserve the honor. Oh, and maybe King being a Yanks beat reporter had something to do with it.

    It was a relatively warm morning, a welcome change from the usual frigid winds that blow off the Hudson during soccer season, and Mrs. M and I had a lot of fun talking to friends while Junior's team, the New York Press Queens Park Rangers, battled the Norwich (coached by Bob Potter, one of the city's swell cats) squad to a 4-4 tie. (At least that's what I'm told; with Rick's son Sam scoring three goals himself, I have a hunch that my own tyke's account of the game was a little off.) The boys and girls were thrilled to receive their trophies?the ceremony takes place after the last match of the season?and we said our goodbyes to parents we might not see again until Little League in the spring. One fellow was a riot: He was searching all around the field for his son and couldn't find the scamp anywhere. "Oh well," he said, "I guess that's one less mouth to feed." We all laughed and then, out of nowhere, young Marlon appeared.

    Aside from the elections, and the farcical budget debated by our country's deplorable Congress, there wasn't too much news that grabbed me last week. I was surprised that a crank at London's Daily Star actually registered disapproval at the announcement of Cherie Blair's pregnancy; yes, somewhat unusual for a woman of 45, but it's one of the few positive things I can think of that her husband Tony, England's Clintonesque prime minister, has accomplished. The tabloid writer blustered: "Quite aside from the fact that Tony and Cherie still have sex with each other, for God's sake, what on earth are they thinking of, inflicting another sniveling bundle on us. Aren't the Cabinet enough?"

    An inordinate amount of ink has been spilled in recent days about Regis Philbin's ABC game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. I don't get it. It's innocuous enough television programming, on a par with the Today show, Oprah or most of the primetime sitcoms and drama/soaps. In fact, Mrs. M and Junior have been watching of late, and they get a mother-son kick out of it. Sometimes, it's even educational. One of the more difficult questions the other night, when a guy actually won the million bucks, was, "What president appeared on Laugh-In?" It gave me an opportunity to chat with my boy about Richard Nixon, politics in general, and why I dislike Bill Clinton so much. Not that he needed much more tutoring on that score. When one of the contestants couldn't figure out which of the multiple choices wasn't a Pokemon character, Junior laughed and said, "What a bacon-brain that guy is!" I explained that he probably doesn't have children, so maybe ease up on the sarcasm (although in truth I'm not the best role model in that department).

    Anyway, last Friday in The Wall Street Journal, Eric Gibson wrote a sour piece about Millionaire and conjured up this rather cynical idea: "The point of the show isn't testing knowledge and rewarding its possession: It's the crashing?putting ordinary people within reach of big money and watching them fail. Thus Hollywood has taken a venerable form, the game show, and OJ'd it?made it a prurient spectacle of voyeurism and schadenfreude." I think Eric's wasting those $1.50 words on a damn quiz show (George Will essentially filched Gibson's lines on Sunday's This Week, adding that viewing Millionaire was akin to hoping a driver at the Indy 500 would ram into a wall, his car bursting in flames), but at least his analysis isn't as grating as Frank Rich's orthodox liberal take in the Nov. 20 New York Times.

    Rich begins with a preposterous, and cliched, theory about the show's imprint on history. He rhetorically wonders what historians will examine when they look back at the turn of the century: Rich dismisses Y2K and "millennial spirituality" and settles instead on Regis. He writes: "What they are going to see instead is a country drunk on a TV quiz show called 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.' As the countdown to the new millennium intensifies, it is impossible to exaggerate the appeal of ABC's nightly national Vesuvius of greenbacks."

    Rich, habitually hung up on the 1950s, makes the hyperbolic claim that the show has captured the country's attention as I Love Lucy did almost 50 years ago. Mind you, Millionaire has been on the air periodically since mid-August and probably won't last beyond the New York presidential primary.

    The columnist, just one of the Times' embarrassing pundits, wraps up all the themes he's subjected readers to in the past two years with the following passage. "Low-attention-span kids and surly teenagers watch [how Rich would know that, unless they're his own, I can't say]. Parents watch. The elderly watch. Who could imagine a happier ending to our long siege of White House sexual revelations and workplace massacres? At last, a G-rated cultural value that unites the entire American family?greed! All brought to us by the wonderful world of the Disney Company, which has finally found a dirt-cheap entertainment formula that pleases Wall Street without offending any major faith."

    He then launches into a pious lecture about the haves and have-nots in American society, the buildup of Las Vegas, the proliferation of Internet commerce and day trading, finally adding for good measure, "For children addicted to acquisitiveness but not old enough to put cash on the table, there are chips, in the form of Pokemon cards."

    Amazingly enough, Rich doesn't mention gay martyr Matthew Shepard once in his column, setting a personal record.

    City Council Speaker Peter Vallone must have a publicity jones. What else can explain his absurd proposal to outlaw banks from charging fees at the thousands of ATMs around the city? He has a lot of support: judging by the call-ins to radio talk shows, many consumers feel ripped off by the financial institutions, believing it's immoral to charge $1 or $1.50 for the privilege of withdrawing their own money. There's a smidgen of truth to this; it's kind of annoying to fork over a percentage of your earnings, especially if the amount spit out of the machine is small. However, don't any of these malcontents remember the days, just 20 years ago, when you'd have to go to your bank?whose hours are quite short?to get cash? The ATM is one of the major conveniences of modern-day life, not on the level of the computer of course, but up there with cellphones, I'd say.

    The question is really quite simple: If you object so strenuously to the surcharge at a deli ATM or bank other than your own, don't use them. Frankly, I'm not always near a Citibank, and am thankful for the luxury of obtaining cash in a hurry. If banks are greedy, well, what else is new? That's like saying Americans are overtaxed or that most lawyers are a blight on society.

    Surprisingly, a Nov. 21 Times editorial made some sense on the subject. It read: "Critics of surcharges argue that they drive depositors from small banks to large banks so that they can take advantage of machines spread all across town that are free, of course, only to the large bank's depositors. There is, however, no evidence that this has happened. In fact, it is the bans on surcharges that most threaten to harm small banks. After Santa Monica passed its ban, two large banks, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, shut their machines to noncustomers. That, more than modest surcharges, threatens to make customers flock to big banks."

    Politicians' views on America's anachronistic trade embargo of Cuba are all over the map; Bill Clinton has continued the ancient policy and Gov. George W. Bush, if elected president, would as well. As Sen. Robert Byrd would say, "Fie on them all!" The time to resume a commercial relationship with Cuba is long overdue. Steve Forbes is correct when he calls Fidel Castro a "butcher," but the Cuban dictator is on his last legs, at least politically. If the United States allowed companies to modernize the small island and let business prosper, a few things would happen. A Cuban revolt, similar to those in Eastern Europe more than a decade ago, would inevitably arise, with Castro forced to flee the country or live out his days in obscurity. Once democracy is established?assuming another dictator doesn't replace Fidel, an unlikely occurrence?some Cubans would emigrate en masse to Florida, creating short-term difficulties for the state. That would be a challenge for Gov. Jeb Bush, but immigration is generally a positive force for the United States, and shouldn't be discouraged.

    The Los Angeles Times, in a Nov. 19 editorial, summed up this administration's dated view toward Cuba. "At the end of the century," the piece read, "the United States retains a policy of boycotts and embargoes meant for the Cold War instead of the constructive engagement that marks U.S. policy toward other troublesome governments. There is no justification for continuing full-bore with a policy whose sole purpose is to pander to the most reactionary forces of the Cuban exile community in Miami."

    Now, how this brings me around to the Village Voice, I'm not sure. But I'm compelled to cite Michael Musto's Nov. 16 column in which he mentions, in passing, Beauregard Houston-Montgomery, one of this newspaper's best friends when our small offices were located at Spring and Broadway back in 1988. Beauregard, a staple of "Page Six" and a slew of publications now years out of business, would stop by periodically, hand out miniature books, amaze the full-time staff of eight with tales of his Barbie collection, and write articles for our 32-page tabloid. He was one of the few fab people on the downtown scene who acknowledged New York Press?and vice versa?and I hadn't seen his name in print in years. Here's hoping he'll stop by for a visit at 333.

    My attention span must be unusually flexible this week since I've found another Voice article worth commenting on. However, this one, by Jason Vest, just shows the Voice at its Voiceiest. Lord knows I've got problems with Steve Forbes' vanity presidential candidacy this year?I far preferred the flat-tax architect of '96 compared to Mr. Christian Coalition of '99?but he doesn't deserve the following treatment from a know-nothing like Vest. Attention! Katha Pollitt's newspaper of record speaks: "That Malcolm Stevenson 'Steve' Forbes Jr. continues to exist as a presidential candidate is almost an allegory for the worst of American excess and sanctimony. His shoveling load after load of daddy-derived dollars like wheelbarrows of Weimar marks into the maws of media buyers?who provide sustenance for the fiction he is a serious political candidate?makes the nascent Trump candidacy look endearing and modest by comparison."

    Vest's idea is that Forbes is having a midlife crisis?he's only about the last journalist to figure that stumper out?and instead of riding in hot-air balloons and partying in Morocco, he's preaching to the converted about tax codes and family values. But Vest's naive dismissal of Forbes' business acumen is way off: The candidate is a skilled deal-maker who minded the Forbes store while his father was out on the town. More importantly, although Forbes will never get anywhere in politics?unless he finally wises up and runs for the open New Jersey Senate seat, a distinct possibility?his advocacy of the flat tax, like Jerry Brown's in '92, will probably become the law of the land in another five or six years. That's not such a bad political legacy.


    Let Jesse Join Pat & Lenora

    Now that Pat Buchanan has bolted the GOP, with conservative leaders like Bill Kristol and Bill Bennett wishing him godspeed, isn't it time for Jesse Jackson to stop humiliating the Democratic Party? Isn't it time for race-baiting liberals such as Teddy Kennedy, Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt to say enough is enough, we don't need this showboat trivializing our causes any longer? Obviously, Al Gore and Bill Bradley can't lead the charge: they're too dependent on the black vote in the coming primaries; but surely the party's brain trust knows that Jackson's latest stunt in Decatur was a parody of the civil rights movement, a sad example of a washed-up huckster who refuses to recognize his own irrelevancy.

    When Jackson was arrested on Nov. 16 for protesting the expulsion of six students who were involved in a Sept. 17 brawl at a high school football game, the rhetoric that came gushing from his mouth like especially foul diarrhea might as well have served as his last statement as a respected politician. For when Jackson compares the punishment of these thugs to the gallant struggles of his supposed mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King (let's remember that it was Jackson, not a key member of King's entourage, who showed up on television the day after King's assassination, his shirt still bloody), he minimizes King's movement and all the people who died in those meaningful protests and marches.

    Jackson had the gall to tell reporters on Sept. 16: "We pray for God to see us through. It worked for us in Montgomery. It worked in Selma. It worked in South Africa. It will work in Decatur."

    The fight in Decatur wasn't at all similar to redneck cops hosing down blacks in Southern states 37 years ago; it wasn't an issue of students being refused service at the local luncheonette or forced to shower in different stalls from their white peers. Jackson doesn't have much going in this Al Sharpton-like crusade, as The Washington Post reported on Nov. 21: "Opinion surveys also reflect a sharp drop in public support of the six expelled Decatur students after a brief home video of the Sept. 17 fight in the football stadium's bleachers was broadcast nationally on network and cable television. The video shows the youths storming through one end of the bleachers and beating other students as men, women and children flee in clearly visible fear."

    This is the kind of behavior that Jackson is reduced to defending. Further proof he's a raging hypocrite: When other black, and white, leaders lambasted Bill Clinton for his dismantling of welfare, Jackson's criticism was obviously mere lip-service, for not long after he was "counseling" Clinton about his affair with a young intern. Anything for the spotlight. As Jeff Jacoby recalls in his Nov. 18 Boston Globe column, Jackson said in '93: "There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery?then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved."

    In the Nov. 15 Chicago Tribune columnist John McCarron, while blasting Jesse Helms for his 16th-century view of life (why he hasn't joined Buchanan is one of the minor mysteries of the presidential campaign), also put Jackson's laughingstock status into perspective. He wrote: "Rev. Jesse Jackson (a one-time Democratic presidential candidate and civil rights leader from South Carolina, Chicago and the world) is the best thing the Republicans have going. Every time Jackson jumps into a racial or diplomatic trouble spot, as he did last week in Decatur, and reduces a complex situation into one of his catchy, made-for-TV rhymes, he forces the Great Middle to confront the sad state of the Democratic Party and its ever-so-correct politics of victimization. Jesse Jackson creates Republicans."

    Jackson's latest escapade?one that will erode whatever credibility he has left, and that isn't much?even put Crossfire's ultraliberal Bill Press in a dither. After interviewing Jackson on Nov. 17 and being pelted with double-talk, Press concluded: "Mary [Matalin, his cohost], you know, I have three words to say?come home, Jesse. I mean, seriously, I love this guy. I have marched with him in South Central L.A. I've marched with him with the farm workers. I've marched with him with the machinists. This is not worth his time and attention. These are six kids, troublemakers, who got in trouble again, got caught, and they got expelled, rightfully so."

    Never mind all this "Come home, Jesse" bullshit: throw this opportunist to the dogs, marginalize him like Pat Buchanan. When will influential Democrats realize that this carny is an albatross who's doing their party great harm? No skin off my nose?I'd like to see Jackson campaign extensively, district to district, in the 2000 elections?but you'd think that some left-winger would have the brains to shut him up.


    Sloth Is Not a Virtue, Maureen

    Is Al Gore gay? I don't think so, or particularly care, but Maureen Dowd's phoned-in Times column of Nov. 10 might lead you to wonder. She writes: "So Al and I are dishing about clothes. I figured if I covered politics long enough, I'd have uncomfortable moments when a president or vice president would want to hash over something I didn't know much about, like helium reserves or the money supply.

    "Nah. With this White House, I'm safe. The deeply important issues are sex and clothes. I ask the vice president about his new color palette. He's in his casual uniform, a blue shirt to bring out his eyes, a heathery brown sweater, khakis and black cowboy boots. 'Tipper picks out my clothes,' he says quickly, before I have a chance to mention That Woman Naomi."

    On Nov. 14, after Gov. George Bush flunked his world leaders pop quiz, Dowd got together again with Gore, and he bragged about his breadth of cultural interests, in an obvious dig at that cowpoke down in Texas. One of Gore's favorite books is Stendhal's The Red and the Black; he's a fan of Christo, van Gogh, Paul Klee and Thelonious Monk.

    Dowd, working hard, asks Gore what he'd do if he could "play hooky for a day."

    The answer, in an ideal world, would knock him out of the presidential race. "I'd watch the sun rise... Be with the people I love outdoors. Tipper and my children and grandchild... Go for a long walk on the farm. Go swimming in the river... Organize a touch football or softball game with the family and friends. Have a picnic for lunch."

    All this, as Dowd notes, before lunch.

    Afterward, he'd ride a horse, take a spin on his boat, enjoy another dip in the lake, build a fire, fix a barbecue and "light candles and talk and tell stories. And laugh. And laugh some more."

    I'm not sure what's more nauseating: Gore's answers or Dowd actually sharing this tripe with her readers. I guess she figures it's better than exposing her colleague Richard Berke for his consistent Gore-shilling, which is no doubt at the behest of publisher Artie Sulzberger Jr., who's apparently decided that the 2000 presidential election must pit Gore against "maverick" John McCain. And so that's why Berke wrote a story on Nov. 9 about Bill Bradley, the rumpled, Adlai Stevenson-Paul Tsongas candidate of this cycle, actually turning to Madison Avenue to spruce up his image and come up with a slogan. (Not that "It can happen" is worth whatever Bradley paid.)

    Presidential candidates hire pollsters, consultants and advertising experts. So was the headline, "To Polish His Ad Campaign, Bradley Worked With Madison Avenue for 16 Months," really necessary? This revelation, Berke writes, "demonstrates the seriousness of his presidential campaign." Imagine that: Bradley's not putting up with shits like New York Times hacks for a lark.

    Berke is just one of the worst Beltway political writers: the lot of them are well-educated, high-income, culturally and politically liberal stiffs who travel in a pack, eating and drinking together and gossiping about private schools. Their big rush is to be on Imus' show. They yearn for power and for respect from those they cover, so are easy prey for someone like McCain, who fawns all over them. Bush treats them like (eventual) Gore toadies, so he's dismissed as a dumb fratboy who sullies their Ivy League diplomas. Bradley doesn't give them the time of day; he's treated like a crank who's somehow shady for calling in his basketball chits now after ignoring the game for years.

    Now if Dowd really wanted to earn her salary, and maybe win an honest Pulitzer, she'd write about the outrageous behavior of the Gore campaign last week when it attacked Bradley for having the gall to hire an adviser, Alex Kroll, who, according to Berke, "had extensive contacts with the tobacco industry when he was chief executive of Young & Rubicam, the Madison Avenue agency."

    One Gore campaign official told Berke that it was "hypocritical for Bradley to campaign on a promise of protecting young people, particularly the poor, while working with 'a guy who was responsible for trying to sell tobacco products right to inner-city kids.'" As Kroll told Berke: "I was C.E.O. of a company with 5,000 clients, one of which was R.J. Reynolds."

    I can just see Al, after his swim and horseback ride, telling Tipper, "That Bradley's an effer. How inconsiderate, after I told the country at the convention in '96 that I'd spend every waking hour, until my last breath, fighting the interests of big tobacco." Never mind that Gore, who bragged about his prowess as a tobacco farmer in his brief '88 presidential campaign?four years after his sister died of lung cancer?hired Carter Eskew, a brilliant advertising man, as a chief consultant on his campaign. Trouble is, Eskew, unlike Bradley's man, concocted the campaign that helped kill McCain's tobacco bill in Congress last year.

    But Maureen and Al like to dish.

    And while we're on the subject of the Beltway's favorite candidate, Sen. McCain, Maureen devoted her space to his fraudulent campaign just last Sunday, in which the headline "Nuts or Guts?" was the best part. I'd opt for the former, naturally, since I can't imagine that any man or woman, tortured and confined like McCain was during the Vietnam War, could emerge with a fully coherent view of the world. But in Manhattan, Dixville Notch and certainly DC, that's a minority view. But think about it: Despite Dowd's pandering to McCain, letting him make jokes at his own expense about being the Manchurian Candidate and "hearing voices," do you want the leader of the free world to be a man who views every additional day of his life as a blessing?

    Last Friday, Elizabeth Drew wrote a column, "Those Whispers About McCain," in The Washington Post?in a far more sober tone than Dowd's, which is why Drew's no longer at The New Yorker?about a "smear campaign of the ugliest sort" against McCain, but I think the idea should be debated in public. Does McCain have an itchy trigger finger? Did his confinement lead to a scrambling of his brain?

    It would appear so. Why would a hard-nosed conservative like the Arizona Senator, involved in the Keating Five scandal, propose something as ridiculous as campaign finance reform? Not only would it be a violation of the First Amendment, but it would give more power to incumbents. If McCain is so outraged about the corruption in Washington, why isn't he railing against Democrats like Patrick Kennedy and Dick Gephardt, who are stuffing their pockets with "soft money" in hopes of taking back the House? And bragging about it! Why isn't McCain, a Republican, attacking Hillary Clinton, an unannounced candidate for Senate in New York, who's using soft money for an advertising campaign? Is McCain a Republican or Democrat? Is his brain hard- or soft-boiled?

    Unlike Dowd, who just doesn't try very hard, I truly think her op-ed colleague at the Times, Gail Collins, simply isn't very bright. Another McCain supporter?until it's time to cast a ballot next November?Collins laments in her Nov. 12 column that the Senator, while making a contest of the New Hampshire primary, is "still way, way behind Mr. Bush in the Luck Sweepstakes."

    You see, according to Collins, "It's pretty apparent that Mr. Bush became the odds-on favorite to get the Republican nomination because he was born with a famous political name. He happened to start running for president at a time when the campaign began so early that asking voters to name their favorite candidate was like asking them for their favorite poet."

    I guess defeating Ann Richards in the '94 gubernatorial race in Texas was all luck, too, even though the incumbent was extremely popular in that state and the heavy favorite to win. And I suppose Collins hasn't considered that the GOP establishment, in looking for a candidate who could actually take back the White House, saw Bush as a telegenic, relatively young, dynamic governor with a successful record in the nation's second biggest state. Doesn't that make sense, especially after the '96 debacle when Viagra-pitchman Bob Dole sleepwalked through the general election?

    Despite Bush's gaffes on foreign policy?and let's remember that Bill Clinton, the Beltway's anointed candidate in '92 despite overwhelming evidence that he was a crooked and immoral scoundrel, wasn't a whiz kid on international relations?he's a quick study and has recovered from that unfortunate pop-quiz gimmick by a two-bit Boston television reporter.

    His defense speech last Friday in California has been roundly praised?except by The Manchurian Times and Washington Post?and his one-hour segment with Tim Russert on Sunday's Meet the Press, a live interview that no doubt worried the Bush campaign, was an admirable performance.

    The Weekly Standard, which flirts with Sen. McCain's candidacy from time to time, nonetheless gave Bush's speech last Friday a rave review. Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan wrote: "George W. Bush's November 19 speech at the Reagan Library represents the strongest and clearest articulation of a policy of American and global leadership by a major political figure since the collapse of the Soviet Empire. In his call for renewed American strength, confidence, and leadership, Bush stakes a claim to the legacy of Ronald Reagan."

    McCain has used up most of his time, even if he outduels Bill Bradley for the independent vote in New Hampshire and winds up defeating Bush there. With this one-two punch?the defense speech and his first major interview with a tough talking-head?Bush has reclaimed his aura of inevitability.


    Hillary R. Clinton, Will You Please Go Now!

    Hands down, the most exciting bit of information in Sunday's New York Post was that P.T. Sharpton is contemplating running for Daniel Patrick Moynihan's New York Senate seat. Giving Hillary Clinton a deadline of January, Sharpton told channel 4: "If you're too scared and too intimidated and too much of a lackey to challenge Giuliani, then step out of my way and let me take him on... My patience is running thin." If Clinton does run, which is unlikely, Sharpton says he'd run for mayor; but he'd prefer going to Washington because in the Senate he'd be "dealing with national foreign policy." What a thought.

    And, it appears we have another cliche for Election 2000: "the whispering campaign." According to Time's Eric Pooley, writing in the Nov. 29 issue, "For months, the idea that Clinton would drop out had been the subject of a Republican whispering campaign spread by miscellaneous kibitzers and Giuliani operatives." Pooley's all over the state in his essay: on the one hand, he quotes a Clinton aide who said, "If people think a few bad days are going to make her pout and go home, they don't know who they're dealing with." On the other, the Time reporter repeats many of the First Lady's miscues: the Yankees hat, the use of soft money ads, that charming Suha Arafat kiss and hug, the FALN clemency and her newfound Jewish roots.

    Meanwhile, there are plenty of people who aren't "whispering" about the desirability of a Clinton run: Democratic City Councilwoman Ronnie Eldridge said last week she's "the weakest candidate"; the New York state Democratic chairwoman, Judith Hope, had encouraged the First Lady to give up "her day job"; even Congressman Charlie Rangel, who first urged her to run, is wondering why she hasn't yet announced.

    Because she can't win.

    Meanwhile, according to syndicated columnists Jack Germond and Jules Witcover last week, "...Democrats are talking among themselves about who might serve as a replacement candidate, with speculation centering on Robert Kennedy, Jr., Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin."

    National Review's Kate O'Beirne wrote on the biweekly's Web edition last Sunday: "When she pulls out of the race next year, expect her to explain that she tried to juggle her responsibilities, but found she couldn't without sacrificing her White House duties. Therefore, she is sacrificing own political ambitions in New York to fulfill her responsibilities to the country. No one will believe her, but since when has that stopped a Clinton from insulting our intelligence?"

    In fact, in a decidedly downbeat week for Hillary, I heard of only one person who enthusiastically insisted the campaign was on, and full tilt! Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the ultraliberal from Maryland?and as representative of the East Baltimorean that you could find, with a wonderful accent?was bubbly about Hillary on last Saturday's Capital Gang. She said: "I think Hillary wants to be a senator. I think she's going to be a fantastic senator. Look, they bought a home in New York... Second, she has been raising her money. Third, she's putting together a team and we know, one of the things I liked about Hillary is that she is duty-driven. She has her duties as the First Lady. She's getting to wrap those up and stick primarily to ceremonials and I think after the first of the year you're going to see her really go like a rocket."

    Straight back to Chicago, I'd say.


    Last week I received an anonymous fax that contained Katha Pollitt's early admission entry for the National Magazine Awards. It's quite a stunning piece, actually, a reaction to a friend's critique of NYPress, and I can only hope The Nation's white feminist receives her due.

    It reads: "'A yeasty brew'? Sure?if you like to wash down your lunch with a big glass of fermented cat pee!

    "Those ubiquitous NYPress boxes are pretty full at the end of the week. At Film Forum (hip downtown theater much-frequented by the young and restless) the huge stack of Tuesday's NYPresses had barely been touched by Saturday afternoon. Russ Smith is pretty good at getting publicity for himself in the mainstream media he claims to despise (in which he certainly seems to take himself very seriously), but you never hear a column or story in NYPress discussed outside its pages, and almost none of its writers either. (I think so far the most famous writer they've developed is Amy Sohn, who wrote a column about her sexual humiliations, and went on to write for the trashy New York Post for about a minute.)

    "Can you name their movie critic and describe his/her taste? You don't even see tag lines from their reviews in ads for books, records or movies.

    "I should mention in interests of truth in advertising that Russ Smith offered me a column. I declined?politely too?and that is probably why they go after me so often. Some people just can't take rejection! Still, it shows you what a jerk Russ Smith is?obviously, he thought I was a pretty interesting writer when he wanted me to work for him! But once I said no thanks I became a boring liberal, a whiny feminist, a mediocre member of the journalistic establishment with nothing whatsoever to say.

    "Hard to respect a guy like that."

    Indeed. It's true that I offered "whiny feminist" Pollitt a column a few years ago and also accurate that she politely declined. But Katha, hon, it wasn't for your dazzling prose that I wanted to add you to our eclectic roster of writers. Rather, at NYPress, unlike The Nation, we encourage wide diversity of opinions. Who knows, one day faux-populist Michael Moore, if he took a few writing courses, might wind up in our pages.

    Now, on the subject of writers frozen in time, let's switch attention to Jenn Shreve, a contributor to the awful Salon online journal. Every Friday, Shreve presents a sampling of what she considers the cream of today's "alternative" press, which means a lot of excerpts from odious newspapers like the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Detroit Metro Times and LA Weekly. But on Nov. 19, Shreve throws her few readers a twist: a negative article. She objects to the predictable gift guides that weekly newspapers (and magazines) publish at this time of year, aghast that her favorite muckraking dinosaurs participate in the process.

    It so happens that in this very issue of NYPress we include our own Gift Guide, no apologies necessary. Like our annual Best of Manhattan, this supplement is as much a service to readers (and vehicle for writers) as anything else in the paper. In fact, it's really an expanded?with a holiday theme?version of our popular "Scouting Report" column.

    Shreve, who can't be a day over 21?otherwise her naivete is enough to have her locked in a halfway house, forced to read The National Review, Chronicles, Philanthropy, The New Criterion and The Boston Globe's Mark Jurkowitz until she pukes up her stupidity?has a romantic ideal of the alternative weekly that's almost charming.

    She writes (and I swear I'm not putting you on): "Imagine, if you will, the staff of your local alternative news sources as a dysfunctional family. In the basement you have the rebellious teenagers, bucking tradition, subverting social norms and crashing the family car; we call them 'editorial.' In the master suite you have the parents who earn the dough that feeds the brats and enables them to pursue their snotty dreams of journalistic glory?call them 'sales.' For the most part, these two factions coexist in a peaceful, though tense, state. Once a year, however, the parents demand that the kids dress themselves up, grab a tin cup and make with the caroling."

    I imagine Shreve believes that any shitty writer who's voted for Ralph Nader and wears a nose ring is one righteous dude. The Revolution, while on a respirator, lives on, however comical and yet depressing it must seem to veterans of The Great Speckled Bird and Los Angeles Free Press.

    November 22