Jewish World Review August 25, 2004/ 8 Elul, 5764


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Real Electoral Reform is Ignored: Why Not Vote Twice? | Not that anyone will pay attention to a newspaper story that's of far greater import than Bruce Springsteen proving it all night for John Kerry or whether Karl Rove orchestrated the Swift Boat Vets attack ads against the Massachusetts Democrat, but last Sunday the Daily News revealed that approximately 46,000 New Yorkers are registered to vote both in the city and Florida.

Russ Buettner's expose — a legitimate one — is proof that after the 2000 Florida fiasco Congress and editors of The New York Times and Washington Post would've spent their time and ink more wisely advocating state-by-state electoral overhaul rather than campaign finance reform. In contrast to the spring of 2002, when the McCain-Feingold monstrosity of a bill was debated in Washington and the Times ran perhaps more editorials and misleading front-page articles on the subject than bristling ripostes on Abu Ghraib this year, the paper has only on occasion commented on the record-setting amount of money being spent in the current election cycle. Maybe that's because George Soros, for example, has laid out more than $15 million to defeat President Bush.

The News, which provided evidence of both Democrats and Republicans voting twice in recent elections, underscores the political reality that election-day corruption is as common as jaywalking and was only highlighted four years ago because of the fluke results — a virtual tie — in Florida. Buettner reports: "The News found that between 400 and 1,000 registered voters have voted twice in at least one election, a federal offense punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Norman Siegel, for example, is a registered Republican in both Queens and Pinellas Park, FL and has voted twice in seven elections since 1988. When confronted by the News reporter, he said, "That's illegal. You have to pick one place as your residence and vote there." When told of his voting record, Siegel hung up, saying he had "to go."

Democrat Edwin Peterson, registered in Palm Coast, FL and Queens, was more forthcoming, explaining his 2000 double-dip as a hedge against official mischief. "That was a situation where Florida is so messed up with the Republicans, you don't know if your vote is even going to be counted. It's been like that forever."

Negative political ads have gone on forever as well, and as most of the media complains about the candidates not discussing the issues, honest reporters will confess they're thankful for a little juice to spice up the campaign. I do think Kerry's being an incredible crybaby about fellow Vietnam veterans protesting his fitness to lead the nation, especially since the amount of money spent by "independent" groups hurling mud at Bush outstrips conservative posses by a long shot. One only has to remember the repulsive sight of Michael Moore sitting next to Jimmy Carter at the Democrat convention last month to figure out that Kerry can't take a little heat.

He probably wasn't too pleased with Bob Dole popping up on Wolf Blitzer's CNN talk show last Sunday. While Dole speculated that Kerry probably has a lead over Bush currently, he gave a withering critique of the candidate's reliance on his Vietnam service as the main reason he should be elected.

Dole said: "I think this [the ad wars] can hurt Kerry more than all the medal controversy. I mean, one day he's saying that we were shooting civilians, cutting off their ears, cutting off their heads, throwing away his medals or his ribbons. The next day he's standing there, 'I want to be president because I'm a Vietnam veteran.'…And I think he's got himself into this wicket now where he can't extricate himself because not every one of these people can be Republican liars… Maybe he should apologize to all the other 2.5 million veterans who served in Vietnam."

But who knows what the next turn of events will be. Maybe Soros (or Moore, Teddy Kennedy, John Podesta or Matt Damon) will claim that Dole, who nearly died in World War II, was a Nazi sympathizer.

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Marquis de McGrath
I've no idea what the lead-time is for the Times' Sunday magazine — two or three weeks, probably — but that's no excuse for Charles McGrath's lame "The Way We Live Now" contribution to the Aug. 22 issue. The topic, the Boston Red Sox once again chasing the tail of the New York Yankees, is, of course, wholly unoriginal and a complete waste of space, but McGrath forges ahead regardless, ignoring the enormous embarrassment caused to both his own reputation and slumping newspaper.

McGrath obviously zipped off the piece when the Yanks were way ahead of the Sox — and probably will be again by this time next week — but that's just bad luck. It's the very thesis, if you can call it that, that's offensive.

One assumes McGrath at least furtively favors the Sox since he repeats for the 136th time John Cheever's quip "All literary men are Red Sox fans," and this former editor of the moribund Times Book Review would likely rather perish instantly than be excluded from the "literary" class. So, as if Roger Angell's semi-annual articles in The New Yorker aren't punishment enough for those who follow baseball, not to mention the anti-Red Sox articles written by Times hack Murray Chass (inexplicably inducted into the sport's Hall of Fame this year, while real-life scoundrel Pete Rose continues to be shunned by the virtuous baseball establishment), McGrath, apparently desperate for a subject, adds to the mush written about the famous rivalry.

The author, even while poking fun at the sportswriters in both Boston and New York for doing their jobs when covering the two teams' 19 games each year, makes dolts like The Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy or the New York Post's Kevin Kernan seem like true oracles by comparison.

McGrath begins — and whether this is actual plagiarism or not is beside the point — by pointing to the Yanks' certain postseason plans while Sox fans are relegated once again to noses-pressed-against-the-window suckers. He writes: "Once again, you can tell it is August by looking at the American League baseball standings. In the East, the Yankees are in their accustomed perch at first place; in second place are the gasping Boston Red Sox, who when not quarreling among themselves have virtually conceded the top slot to the Yanks and are instead nervously calculating their wild-card chances. This is a late-summer pattern as regular and as predictable as the one that causes the goldenrod to begin turning yellow right about now."

It's the mention of "goldenrod" that tips off the reader that he's in for a long slog, a piece that might top off at 1000 words but seems longer than one of Seymour Hersh's batty investigations in The New Yorker that portrays the United States as one of the most evil countries in the past two centuries. McGrath obviously doesn't follow baseball closely; otherwise he'd know that in 2004 the Sox, after a quick start, played .500 ball for most of the season, only recently reeling off a streak of wins, perhaps fleeting, that turns his shopworn August metaphor on its head. As for the team "quarreling among themselves," that's simply wrong. Even I get a little queasy upon seeing David Ortiz et al hugging each other at every opportunity.

McGrath claims, not without merit, that George Steinbrenner and his Boston counterparts are heavily invested in the rivalry, for both business and schoolyard bully reasons. But he slips up by saying, "It's the Bostonians who truly care, and the New Yorkers mostly pity them, when deign to notice at all." I guess that's why last April, when the teams met for the first two series, there was an absurd World Series aura in both cities, both stadiums sold out, with more media covering the games than October's National League championship series.

No article about the Yanks and Sox this year would be complete without another mention of the heroic Derek Jeter who, according to McGrath, on July 1 "risked his knees and his career by racing full-tilt after a foul ball and diving headlong into the stands." Jeter's grab was worthy of a "web gem" on ESPN, but that's what he's paid to do. Never mind that the millionaire shortstop (whose defense is inferior to teammate Alex Rodriguez) whined like a rock star denied Evian in the dressing room when, during the first game of the 2003 season he slid into the shin guard of then-Toronto catcher Ken Huckaby, causing a serious injury and then blaming it on the marginal player — also doing his job — who wouldn't even be on the Jays' roster when Jeter returned to the Yanks lineup some six weeks later.

McGrath concludes with the equally trite conclusion that Sox fans secretly enjoy their team's quixotic quest of a World Series title. He writes: "Non-sports fans must wonder why Bostonians don't just get over this fretting about what is after all only a game, but that's unlikely to happen unless by some fluke the Red Sox actually prevail. The masochist enjoys himself more than the sadist, because he knows that real pleasure lies not in pain itself but in pain remembered and pain lovingly anticipated."

Thanks a bundle, Dr. McGrath, but I must point out that "non-sports fans are most likely unaware of Bucky Dent, Pedro Martinez tipping over Don Zimmer or A-Rod mouthing off at Bronson Arroyo this year. Second, as a lifelong Sox fan, I have no interest in "masochism," and do not relish the "pain" of seeing the team punk out in October. Like most Sox fans — and not the "literary" men who sit in Fenway Park's box seats — I simply want the club to win this year, next year, and the year after that.

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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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