Jewish World Review July 30, 2004/ 12 Menachem-Av, 5764


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Consumer Reports

Boston Beanballs: Two Johns Flagging Down Tricks | The pickins' are bound to be mighty slim for any naïve voter expecting drama at this week's Democratic convention in Boston — unless, of course, the racist Al Sharpton loses his cool at the podium and compares President Bush to Jefferson Davis — so you make do with morsels picked up like discarded pennies on the street.

Who can blame the networks for devoting just three hours to both political advertisements when the proceedings are scripted, airbrushed and vetted in advance? The bigger mystery is why so many print reporters (and a total of 15,000 in the media) have been sent to Boston — and next month to New York — to file stories that could've been researched in newsrooms. I don't fault the journalists: The quadrennial five-day vacations are no different than gatherings of any trade organization. It's a time to meet old friends, drink too much, maybe get a little on the side and ring up fat expense accounts while eating at smart restaurants interviewing the ubiquitous anonymous source. The denial of such a perk would probably cause more havoc with newspaper unions than a skimpy salary raise proposed by management.

But where are the accountants at major dailies like the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal during this orgy of company waste? Maybe taking a few weeks at the summer home, trying to forget that reporters and pundits will be stuffing more credit card receipts in their undies than even Sandy Berger could dream up. Couldn't the Times, for example, make do with three or four Kerry cheerleaders, say Adam Nagourney, Paul Krugman, Katherine Seelye and Elisabeth Bumiller, as the paper's contingent in Boston?

Incidentally, I had no idea that November's election balloting is already underway. Clicking onto to AOL's "News" page last Sunday, the lead headline read "Kerry Trails Bush in Electoral Votes." I've never objected to the "horse race" coverage of politics, unlike the high-minded pundits who pretend they're more concerned with "issues," but isn't this going a bit far? Never mind that the ridiculous volume of polls show varying results in different states — John Zogby, for example, has the candidates tied in Tennessee, which seems a reach — or that a sizable number of Americans are mowing their lawns rather than tuning into Hardball. If we're going to be subjected to daily electoral vote guesses from now until Election Day, readers can't be blamed for focusing instead on the box office receipts of the abysmal Anchorman or Bourne Supremacy.

Anyway, I did get a kick out of an Associated Press blurb last Sunday in which it was explained that members of the media are extremely upset with the Democratic National Convention Committee's paucity of toilets laid out for their use. Brian Johnson writes: "Twenty portable restrooms, like those used on construction sites, are lined up in front of the media pavilion to service nearly 1,2000 members of the print media who will be working around the clock. That's about 60 serious coffee-drinker per toilet. 'That's absurd,' said Jim Drinkard, a political reporter for USA Today, when he heard of the ratio of toilets per media member. 'This is not the type of planning you'd expect out of someone trying to be a good host.'"

It is a disgrace when a host trying to cut costs disrupts a lavish junket. Anyone can imagine the indignity of a "working around the clock" word processors being forced, from all that coffee-drinking, among other beverages, having to use the same kind of facilities that lesser mortals, such as construction workers, do their business, whether number one or number two, in.

But let's turn to the plight of whatever number of protesters show up in Boston to rail against the war, the poor quality of hallucinogenic mushrooms, Heinz ketchup, the plight of bumblebees and the Democrats' complicity in turning the United States into a police state not dissimilar to Cuba. Oh, wait, Fidel's one of the good guys. Let's switch that to Singapore.

DNC officials, faced with obvious security threats, have designated less than desirable quarters for the kids (and a few graybeards) traveling to the city on a lark. Again, from Sunday's AP: "On a rainy morning made darker by overhead girders, protest leaders held a news conference at the demonstration zone Saturday to object to the site [not close enough to the "high-tech confines" of the FleetCenter]. Some called it a violation of their free-speech rights. As they spoke, pools of rainwater collected on pavement."

Today's youth must be getting soft: As I recall, not many kids complained about the rain and mud at the '69 Woodstock festival.

But the times they have a-changed. "'We don't deserve to be put in a detention center, a concentration camp," said Medea Benjamin of San Francisco. 'It's tragic that here in Boston, the birthplace of democracy, our First Amendment rights are being trampled on'." And this was in advance of the Anybody But Bush convention! One can only speculate upon the grievances issued by San Franciscans and The Nation's staff at the Republican party for the media and politicians in Manhattan a month from now.

Last Sunday, Tom Hayden wrote a paint-by-numbers piece for the Times, praising the protesters — the "new Continental Army — for their "brains and courage… at the barricades." Hayden, whose political career in California doesn't even merit an historical footnote, didn't spare Kerry, writing, "Not that peace activists are happy with the Kerry campaign's march into 'muscular internationalism,' whatever that is." As R.W. Apple might've told Tom, the Senator's hollow promise of a new respect abroad largely consists of him relishing the cheese course in Paris or Cannes.

Hayden goes on to warn that "Next month's Republican convention in New York, however, could be Chicago 1968 all over again." That's possible, but let's remember that speaker Rudy Giuliani isn't likely to pull an Abe Ribicoff and criticize his own party for "Gestapo tactics." If there's a riot goin' on, and cops are the victims of the Continental Army's sticks and stones, I'd say the advantage falls to the GOP.

Oh, and let's not forget the muzzling of Linda Ronstadt. Two Saturday nights ago, as has been fully documented by outraged fans like the Times' editorial board, the beleaguered singer was booted from Las Vegas' Alladin Hotel after she caused a ruckus by dedicating a long-forgotten Eagles song to Michael Moore. On July 21, the Times was in a dither, conveniently omitting the right of Alladin's management to hire or fire entertainers.

The editorial concluded: "Perhaps her praise for Mr. Moore, even at the very end of her show, did ruin the performance for some people. They have a right to voice their disapproval — to express their opinion as Ms. Ronstadt expressed hers and ask for a refund. But if their intemperate behavior began to worry the management, then they were the ones who should have been thrown out and told never to return, not Ms. Ronstadt, who threatened, after all, only to sing."

Blame it on John Ashcroft.

The bench-clearing brawl between the Yanks and Bosox last Saturday afternoon was high-level theater — I blame A-Rod — and was only topped by Bill Mueller's improbable walk-off homer against the incomparable Mariano Rivera, a blast that might actually awake the fumbling, stone-fingered Sox and give the team a shot at making the playoffs. Better yet was Kerry's appearance at Fenway Park on Sunday night, sitting with wife Teresa (who earlier in the day demonstrated her delightful indifference to politics by telling a conservative Pittsburgh editor to "shove it," just one of the reasons I'm partial to the heiress over John Edwards' spunky spouse) and a gaggle of Democratic senators lining up to kiss his ring. Kerry, cheered and booed by Fenway fans, muffed his ceremonial first pitch, but that's probably the result of too much windsurfing and tense croquet matches.

The candidate raised my eyebrows when he told reporters on a plane from Ohio "The idea of missing a Yankees-Red Sox series right before a convention is unacceptable." Somehow, had Democrats not acceded to the idea that Kerry is boring but "electable" and chosen one of his rivals, I doubt the multilateralist would've been in attendance. Or even in Boston.

Kerry, a fair-weather Sox fan who several weeks ago performed the impossible by combining two of the club's Dominican bashers into one man — Manny Ortiz — was interviewed by ESPN's increasingly feeble Jon Miller during the game and, correct me if I'm wrong, he smiled at least once. Miller obviously wasn't going to ask any serious questions, but did find out that Kerry, probably like Bush, isn't a fan of the American League's disgraceful designated hitter rule.

But wouldn't it have been just smashing — I'm in Kerry-mode right now, anticipating his schmoozing with Tony Blair before the election — if Miller had thrown at least one knuckleball the Senator's way? Like this: "Senator, doesn't it strike you odd that President Clinton knew about Sandy Berger's purloined classified documents but you didn't? And, since Mr. Berger was until recently a foreign affairs adviser in the campaign, isn't it fair to question your judgment in choosing personnel? Not to be rude, Senator, but is it possible that Robert Torricelli might be Mr. Berger's replacement?"

Well, at least the Sox won.

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

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