It's Painful to Admit, But Giuliani's Right Again

| 16 Feb 2015 | 04:19

    Gore Still Slip-Slidin' Away It was another tumultuous political week, contradicting once again all the left-wing, and left-behind, pundits and elected officials who claim the 2000 presidential race is "boring." Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, a steadfast supporter of Al Gore (now that's an unholy marriage of convenience) pooh-poohed the sudden rise of Bill Bradley, saying on CBS' Face the Nation that the Vice President was in solid shape because "[t]he campaign hasn't really begun yet." Gephardt really is from Pluto: not only is he betting on the wrong horse, but his faceoff with hapless Speaker of the House Denny Hastert over the $792 billion tax cut Bill Clinton vetoed was so politically transparent, and misleading, that I can only hope The Weekly Standard soon dedicates an entire issue to detailing what a deceitful man he really is. The most fascinating item I found in reading newspapers was a "minor memo" on the front page of The Wall Street Journal last Friday. Ronald Shafer tells how Clinton and Gore recently used a 17-car motorcade to make the one-block trip from the White House to the Hay-Adams hotel. That's the Dogpatch in Clinton for you: Why walk, with Secret Service agents in tow, when you can take an ostentatious one-minute limo ride, a la faux-populist Michael Moore? Gore, a wealthy creature of Washington, takes such excess as second nature, but it certainly doesn't square with his Jesse Jackson cadences when he's in a black church speaking passionately (for Gore) about the plight of the working and poverty-stricken classes, held hostage to those arrogant Republicans with their "risky tax scheme," most of whom grew up in less opulent surroundings than the Vice President.

    It reminds me of the '92 campaign when Clinton, lying and pandering his way to the Democratic nomination, stayed at the Waldorf in New York, all the while talking about the corruption of money in politics. Meanwhile, Jerry Brown slept on the couches of friends and used a 1-800 number to solicit small donations to his budget-conscious, yet enormously influential, campaign. When history is written about the political events of this past generation, Brown will be revered as an eccentric visionary, while Clinton, even though he was president for eight sordid years, will be sullied. That's the punishment he deserves and fortunately he'll be still be alive to read it.

    I dislike Sen. John McCain intensely, but can you imagine him ordering up a 17-car motorcade for a one-street trip? I can't. Same goes for Bradley, who'd just be disgusted by the waste of it all; likewise, George W. Bush would scoff at the very notion and, like the other two, do what almost any other American would: walk. On the other hand, protectionist/bigot Pat Buchanan would revel in the pomposity of it all and probably expand the entourage to include 20 vehicles. It's an Outer Limits world in Washington and I'm just thankful I don't live there and get sucked into that sick culture. Cheers to Chris Caldwell and Tucker Carlson for retaining a certain amount of civility.

    I was disappointed that Gov. Bush urged Buchanan to remain in the Republican Party. It was an unnecessary act of appeasement, to use the word of the week, and didn't demonstrate the leadership he's capable of. Even though Bush hasn't promised Buchanan even a janitor's job in the White House, in the absence of denouncing this kook, he could've remained silent. On the other hand, it was probably smart politics. Let McCain (who said, "I don't believe Pat Buchanan is a part of the Republican Party when he uses statements and beliefs that we should not have fought against Hitler's Germany and Tojo's Japan"), Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Dole bash away; they've got nothing to lose in their desperate quests for the GOP nomination. Buchanan called Bush's remarks "gracious" and if that helps in the general election, I suppose it's a strategy I can reluctantly live with.

    The most vivid fireworks on the Buchanan front came from the Clinton News Network (CNN) last Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday's "Inside Politics," Corespondent Bruce Morton delivered a scathing editorial about Buchanan's book A Republic, Not An Empire, quoting the now-infamous passages that suggest the United States, along with France and Britain, should've ceded Poland to Hitler.

    Morton: "We learn that he is a 1930s anti-Roosevelt isolationist who would have stood aside and hoped Nazi Germany and communist Russia would fight." He then reads a Buchanan excerpt: "Hitler saw the world divided into four spheres: Great Britain holding its empire; Japan dominant in East Asia; Germany, master of Europe; and America, mistress of the Western hemisphere."

    Morton continues: "That would apparently have been fine with Buchanan, never mind Germany's Jews, though he notes elsewhere that the Dachau concentration camp began receiving prisoners as early as 1933. Jewish influence on U.S. policy worries Buchanan... Nowadays, it's immigration Buchanan worries about... You can argue over whether that's racist, whether the stuff about Jews is anti-Semitic. What voters?perhaps in the Republican Party, perhaps in the Reform Party?must decide is, Does this man speak for us."

    The following day, Buchanan appeared on "Inside Politics" and engaged in the following exchange with anchor Judy Woodruff (married to The Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt, just to give a hint of her bias).

    After saying he wasn't interested in an apology from McCain, since "these apologies are mostly synthetic and false," Buchanan turned up the volume.

    Buchanan: "But let me say, my problem is more with CNN, Judy. I thought that was a piece of political hack work by Bruce Morton, yesterday. A dishonest journalist that really was trying to win him the Peter Arnett Trophy."

    Woodruff: "Well, I think that's an unfair statement, because..."

    Buchanan: "I know you do, and I appreciate your indignation on his behalf. I wish there were more on mine. But let me say this: If I were really?you know, basically indifferent to the suffering of the European Jews and when the Holocaust started, and I'm that kind of person, really, CNN should never have hired me, and should not have brought me back after three leaves of absence. And if I am not that kind of person, why would CNN allow something like that to go on the air when they know me very, very well. They know Pat Buchanan is not a hater, or a bigot. He's done 3,000 shows on Crossfire. I don't think ever once have I had to apologize for something I said on the show."

    Score one for Buchanan; CNN has always been interested in ratings over solid reporting and commentary.

    Woodruff: "But to suggest that Bruce Morton is a dishonest journalist, I can't let that lie there... I can assure you, I was not part of yesterday's program. But whether I was here or I wasn't, Pat Buchanan, I can assure you that CNN's interest is in getting the news on the air. There is no desire to go after, to attack any one candidate or any other..."

    Then, Buchanan jostled with The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol. The Standard's editor said on Tuesday's Hardball: "Pat Buchanan, I think, is leaving the Republican Party. It is a good thing for the Republican Party. It's a good thing for conservatives. And I say this as a conservative Republican. I've worked for Bill Bennett, I worked for Dan Quayle. I've been on the right wing of every administration I've been in, I think. I'm pro-life. It is good for conservatives to lose Pat Buchanan. He is not an authentic American conservative... He is willing to play with people who were appeasers of Hitler... He hates Winston Churchill. He does not want America to be strong in the world... I think Pat's argument is ridiculous. If you read [his] book carefully, it's not good history. He cites various, sort of, revisionist, flaky historians in a somewhat haphazard way."

    Buchanan responded to Kristol's criticisms in both the Standard and on tv shows, by saying that the editor and GOP strategist is a "teeny character," spouting off with "cheap little shots" with his "dinky magazine," and who doesn't have his history in the Goldwater movement. Kristol told Howard Kurtz on Saturday's Reliable Sources, "No, Pat can dish it out, but I guess he can't take it."

    Even P.T. Sharpton got in his digs, commenting to the Times' Gail Collins about the fraud that's taking place in the Reform Party right now, where left-wing extremist Lenora Fulani is shacking up with Buchanan. Sharpton said about Fulani, who withdrew her support from the carnival barker because he was too "mainstream": "To go from Al Sharpton to Pat Buchanan would make a dead person suspicious."

    It's telling that one of Buchanan's few remaining supporters is the New York Post's brain-dead Steve Dunleavy, who, on Sept. 20, pleaded with the insurgent not to bolt from the GOP. He wrote, after dismissing other third-party candidates, and presumably knocking back several pints: "But not Pat. He is too valuable to a Republican Party which has forgotten that Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan were the real reform leaders."

    My deadline approaches rapidly this Monday afternoon, so just a few more comments. When will mainstream journalists stop referring to Donald Trump as "The Donald"? It's an infuriating tic that should be axed by editors, although they probably take lunch with Trump and so don't want to give up the charade.

    The New York Post's "On the Newsstand" for Sept. 27 gives high marks to Newsweek for having "the guts to call Pat Buchanan a 'crackpot' in a headline." At this point, that's about as "gutsy" as predicting that Gov. Bush will win the GOP presidential nomination. Once again: Rupert, you're not minding the store. Get rid of John Podhoretz. Now!

    Slate's Jacob Weisberg, to his credit, was one of the first pundits to trash Buchanan, but in his Sept. 16 posting he devoted most of his anger to the candidate's obvious anti-Semitism, when there's so much more to criticize. He writes: "If dabbling in Holocaust denial doesn't convict Buchanan of anti-Semitism on its own, it makes a powerful case in combination with the many things he has said and written pointing to Jews as a surreptitious, sinister force in American life." Weisberg says that Buchanan will attack "New York bankers" like Goldman Sachs, but never Bear Stearns or Salomon Smith Barney. Uh, Jake, Bear Stearns, like most financial firms, is controlled by Jews; that's just a fact. Weisberg also complains that Buchanan uses code words like "media elites" to say that the communications and entertainment industries are populated by a disproportionate number of Jews. That's also a fact. And frankly, I don't give a fuck. But it seems that Weisberg is getting a little touchy here, to the exclusion of Buchanan's other myriad prejudices and 18th-century political views.

    Dan Quayle, an excellent candidate for president, unfairly tarred by a malevolent press, has dropped out of the GOP race. He's finally convinced that Gov. Bush will be the nominee, saying, according to an adviser to his campaign, "At some point, your head takes over your heart." There's a bit of bad blood between Bush and Quayle, but a fast endorsement by the latter would go a long way toward securing him a key position in the Bush administration.

    Martin Peretz, the sad-sack owner of The New Republic, is not at all pleased that his former pupil Al Gore is stumbling so badly. In a "Washington Diarist" column in the Oct. 11 issue, Peretz takes the opportunity to viciously eviscerate Bill Bradley. Fine by me, I think both Gore and Bradley are sanctimonious nobodies, but Peretz's column no doubt caused internal strife at his magazine. He writes: "The New York Times' Richard L. Berke reports that many important Republican operatives think Bradley would make a stronger candidate against Bush than Gore would. Thanks for the free advice, gentlemen. You may be able to gull Berke into believing that this is neutral analysis. But if I were a GOP state chairman or a Republican senator, I'd be saying exactly the same thing. They want the Democrats to select a loser. So they disparage Gore to strengthen Bradley."

    This is hogwash. The Bush campaign would far prefer Gore as a challenger because of his ties to Clinton. Bradley, on the other hand, takes away some of Bush's luster as a "new face," and a Washington outsider who'll help remove the stench from the past seven years.

    Peretz concludes with this dopey remark: "One more consideration: Bradley is not boring; he is deadly boring. Compared to Bradley, in fact, cerebral Al Gore is Ricky Martin."

    Finally, Time's cover story this week on Bradley, "The Man Who Could Beat Gore," was a mushy, conventional-wisdom piece that needn't have wasted so much space. Reporter Eric Pooley unearthed nothing new about his subject, instead relying on the cliches that we've read countless times. This one's especially lazy: "Bradley is confident, watchful; when he left the Senate in 1996, he spent two years traveling the country, talking and listening to people, looking inside himself. And when he decided that he was ready and that those who said the nomination belonged to Gore were wrong, he committed himself to the race with a shrewd, methodical relentlessness that harks back to his Scotch-Irish forebears..."

    In addition, Pooley, in his article, which could've been written by Bradley himself?a Sidney Blumenthal example of unctuous hagiography?talks about the "chattering classes" who are finally realizing that the former senator has a real shot at the nomination. "And," Pooley writes, "surely it doesn't hurt that he had that wicked jump shot way back when."

    I'm done. I just can't stand to write about any more "listening tours" and "chattering classes." Next week, I promise I'll finally get to John McCain, the sleazeball who amazingly hasn't yet been discredited by the Beltway media.

    It's Painful To Admit, But Giuliani's Right Again Is Rudy Giuliani a mean-spirited demagogue who craves attention no matter how much discomfort he causes the citizens of New York City? Of course. Has he radically improved the living conditions of this city, even with draconian measures (some failed, like his no-jaywalking scheme) that are viewed as Mussolini-like by his detractors, especially living-in-the-past liberals? Yes, again. And is he an art reviewer, with the acumen to adequately critique deliberately shocking, and often quite arresting, pieces of work? No. But he's entirely within his bounds to bully the Brooklyn Museum for its planned British exhibit that includes a portrait of the Virgin Mary decorated with elephant shit. No matter what the Mayor's opinions of the show at the museum?"sick stuff" is just one of them?and whether or not they prove him to be a stuffy and prickly prude (he is), he's correct in threatening to rescind the city's $7 million in subsidies to the public institution. In a Sept. 24 New York Times report, Giuliani said: "If somebody wants to do that privately and pay for that privately, well, that's what the First Amendment is all about. I mean, you can be offended by it and upset by it, and you don't have to go see it, if somebody else is paying for it. But to have the government subsidize something like that is outrageous."

    I'm looking forward to the exhibit, if it's eventually staged. This sort of provocative art doesn't offend me in the least, whether it's a display of genius or just shock-value garbage in search of publicity. But the Brooklyn Museum's director, Arnold L. Lehman, is not on solid ground when he implies that his institution's First Amendment rights are being violated. Taxpayer money shouldn't be spent on the arts, just as it makes no sense to fund schools that are run by illiterate teachers. If Lehman is intent on presenting exhibitions such as "Sensation: Young British Artists From the Saatchi Collection," he should seek a private benefactor. Lord knows there are plenty of filthy-rich New Yorkers who approve of such artwork. Where are they with their movie-star and Wall Street money?

    Continuing his righteous fit, Giuliani again stated his position to the Times last Friday: "Last time I checked, I'm the Mayor... People have an absolute right to express anything they want to express, but they do not have an absolute right to have that funded by the taxpayers." On the same day, the Times got on its sky-high horse?I don't see Arthur Sulzberger Jr. rushing in to get the Brooklyn Museum off the public dole?to denounce Giuliani's actions, mostly, I believe, for political reasons. The editorialist wrote: "Art is the name of a perpetual human struggle with the limits of perception. The Mayor's most valuable esthetic role is to defend the autonomy and artistic freedom of the city's museums. This week he is failing dramatically in that role in a fashion that makes him and the city look ridiculous."

    But not nearly as ridiculous as the Times. First, the museums are not autonomous; your tax dollars are used to partially fund them. Second, as Slate's usually loathsome Timothy Noah (see item below) said on Thursday, what would the Times' opinion be if the controversy was over "a government-funded silk screen that said ALL NIGGERS MUST DIE or KIKES INVENTED THE HOLOCAUST." Your guess is the same as mine.

    Newsday's paleolib Ellis Henican doesn't understand in the least what the fuss is about. On Friday, all he could muster was this: "Thankfully, [City Council Speaker Peter] Vallone knows the difference between Cincinnati or Salt Lake City and New York. He knows that New York is not some hick town where the citizens need to be protected from disturbing images and ideas. We don't rattle too easily here, and we pride ourselves on it." Fine, Ellis, after you consult with Times Mirror's Mark Willes about ponying up the annual subsidy the Brooklyn Museum needs, write another column.

    On Monday, Times affirmative action op-ed regular Bob Herbert mustered up this week's dose of moronic wisdom. Not even mentioning that Giuliani objects to the exhibit on fiscal grounds, Herbert writes: "Artistic freedom? Intellectual freedom? These are terms empty of meaning to some politicians. Mayor Giuliani appears to enjoy the chilling effect he has on artistic and intellectual enterprises. He likes to exhibit his raw, naked power... There is no larger principle."

    Finally, New York Post associate editor John Podhoretz published a typically ham-handed column last Friday that just confused the issue. While the Pod correctly pointed out the absurdity of the government financing projects that should be supported in the private sector, whether by wealthy benefactors or the artists themselves, he offers a very stupid opinion on art itself, which is beside the point.

    "Whatever this disgusting pile of crap is," Podhoretz wrote, "it's not art?that is, if you accept the classical definition of art as creative work that causes you to see the world anew through the eyes of the artist. If anything, it's a form of emotional pornography, and pornography is the opposite of art." What an idiot. The quality of the art is not the question at hand. In Podhoretz's ideal world, the Beatles or Nirvana would've never existed; Andy Warhol would have been imprisoned (to say nothing of Al Goldstein); only Sinatra and Gershwin would be allowed on jukeboxes; and David Mamet's plays would be outlawed. What a cross it is to bear being on the same side, at least politically, as Podhoretz. I know Rupert Murdoch is busy as ever, but sir, take a look at your foothold in New York, if only for a week, and you'll agree that the Pod is only causing the Post to be a laughingstock, a newspaper that belongs in, say, Salt Lake City.

    Say Amen, Brother Noah! Paraphrasing my college buddy Marc Duvoisin, now an editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, God knows why I even bother to read Slate's Timothy Noah, but He ain't tellin'. Noah's "Chatterbox" column is badly written, obnoxious and supremely earnest. What can you expect from a boomer who graduated from the odious Charles Peters school of good-government journalism and was subsequently mentored by one of the most despised men in the business, Father James Fallows? Peters also infected a slew of mainstream worthless writers, such as Newsweek's Jon Meacham and Jonathan Alter (rumored to take over the editorship of George, zzz...), Gregg Easterbrook, Taylor Branch, Nicholas Lemann, Joseph Nocera, Walter Shapiro, Scott Shuger, Matthew Cooper, Matthew Miller and, naturally, Michael Kinsley. Noah is so tight-assed one assumes he sleeps in pressed Dockers and an L.L. Bean plaid shirt. His Sept. 21 entry was priceless. After speculating on the drug use of George Will, Cokie Roberts and Sam Donaldson, Noah wraps it up with one of his patented "disclaimers." It read: "Although Chatterbox deplores self-righteousness and hypocrisy regarding illegal drug use, he also deplores illegal drug use itself."

    Bully for you, Tim, but what's the problem? I haven't touched an illegal drug in years, but marijuana should certainly be legalized. Think of the revenue the government would reap on such a relatively benign substance; one more boom to the economy. In addition, by eliminating the black market, consumers could buy their weed by variety and strength, assuring they don't get cheated by unscrupulous dealers who often lace the stuff with catnip or a jaguar tranquilizer.

    But for Noah's most recent bout of sermonizing, look at his Sept. 16 Slate entry, where he castigates the fine writer Peggy Noonan for writing a speech?and being paid $9000 for it?on behalf of former Speaker-to-be Robert Livingston, delivered to the GOP conference upon his election. What specifically roused the ire of the watchdog journalist was that after Livingston resigned, Noonan wrote a piece for The Wall Street Journal in which she praised the self-deposed Congressman's words to the members of the House. You'll remember that glorious day in December when the GOP (along with a few Democrats) impeached Bill Clinton; just hours before, Livingston stepped down, after the pornographer and Democratic activist Larry Flynt exposed adultery in Livingston's marriage. The Democrats in the House were shouting at Livingston to resign, instead of Clinton, and were shocked when he actually did.

    Noonan wrote in the Dec. 21 Journal: "That breathtaking moment, the hooting and the hand and the announcement, seemed to me revealing of different styles, of almost characterological differences between Democrats and Republicans these days. The Democrats in Congress now are like the young Chuck Colson, partisan, ruthless and tough. The Republicans seemed like the young William Cohen, thoughtful and stricken."

    It's Noah's high-minded contention, odd for someone who works for the scummy Kinsley, that Noonan should've mentioned in her Journal article that she had recently collaborated with Livingston and was paid for the work. From Noah's soapbox: "Chatterbox has no difficulty believing that Livingston was someone Noonan liked, but it would be inhuman of Noonan not to like Livingston a little more after she billed him $9,000." Why is that "inhuman"? I've received payment (scant, I may add) from both The Wall Street Journal and The Weekly Standard for articles I wrote for them, and I can assure you that my high regard for both outlets didn't rise because of the transfer of funds. In fact, I contributed to Slate recently (which pays better) and I still think the online New Republic clone sucks.

    Noah, who at one time in his career worked for The Wall Street Journal, seems to have a vendetta against his former employer. His silly beef with Noonan is annoying, but it doesn't compare with the malicious attacks he lobbed at Dorothy Rabinowitz earlier in the year, when the Journal board member published a groundbreaking and gutsy piece about Juanita Broaddrick. Rabinowitz told me later that Noah was a "quarter-wit." As befitting a generous and kind woman, Rabinowitz was far too gentle. Noah, not to mince words, is an asshole: a disgrace to the profession he seeks to monitor.

    Not so, says Howard Kurtz, The Washington Post's media critic. Kurtz, who also works for CNN, wrote on Sept. 27: "Tim Noah must be one courageous guy to call up his boss and ask whether he'd ever done cocaine." Kinsley answered in the affirmative. Kurtz continues: "The background is a bit more mundane; Noah says he hatched the idea while Kinsley was sitting next to him in Slate's Washington office. 'I told Mike I was doing the item. He said, "If you're doing the item, you should ask me." So I am not the bravest soul in America. Mike is.'"

    So Noah's not only a pious prig?in the George Will sense of the phrase, but with about 10 percent of Will's intellect?but also a brownnoser extraordinaire. That's something he can brag about to his kids.

    Just a Working Stiff A little mop-up after the Best of Manhattan '99. The management of 333 finally got the message that their occupant on the 14th floor?and we're not talking WEVD?is not at all pleased with the conditions of this rathole building. Took them long enough. After repeated mentions of the disgusting bathrooms, shoddy elevator service and frequent water turn-off in last week's issue, someone must have given the owners a synopsis. Had to be a snitch who's able to read; the paper's only been trashing 333 since we moved in almost two years ago. Our punishment: NYPress is no longer allowed to distribute our curious journal in the lobby. Fuck it. There are street boxes at 28th and 29th Sts., so I don't think the readers that we share space with (a majority of whom, on the elevators, cheered us on, by the way) will be deprived. The latest travesty on management's part is that they've turned the express elevator into a local, meaning that workers on floors 2-11 are now eligible to use the scary boxes that used to transport passengers only from 12-20. Not that the other bank of elevators isn't working. I'd say it's sheer spite, but maybe I've been reading John McCain's this-isn't-a-campaign-book! Faith of My Fathers too closely. A few members of NYPress' editorial and production staff gathered for a celebratory dinner last Tuesday at Sosa Borella, the Tribeca restaurant that's been the recipient of so many fawning yet honest words in these pages the last two months. It was quite a sight: John Strausbaugh, amateur sommelier, must've ordered every bottle of wine on the menu, leading Andrey Slivka to dip his ample snout into glasses of rose, sparkling wine and beer, although not at the same time. Mrs. M and the boys arrived a few minutes late and it cheered me immensely: Junior and MUGGER III were dressed in blazers and rep ties (both askew) and they immediately sat down next to their hero George Tabb to gab about video games and punk rock. George's wife Wendy had a dazzling adjustable bracelet on, a sterling silver, hand-crocheted number with Swarovski crystals, just one in a line of jewelry she sells commercially (at Troy, 138 Greene St. in Soho, and by private appointment), and so she and Mrs. M chatted about her latest creations, which are really quite beautiful and affordable. I got a kick out of George insisting that they live in the City Hall district; Wendy gently agreed with Mrs. M and me that their apartment, a block away from ours, is smack in the middle of Tribeca.

    I can't remember what everyone ate, but with 18 people I think we covered the menu: lots of thin-crust pizzas with sausage and Gorgonzola, white ravioli topped with meat, salads, mixed seafood grills and steaks, platters of sausages, short ribs and chicken with mashed potatoes, penne with mushrooms and fat tuna steaks. After a while the boys got a little rambunctious, wandering under the table, singing songs and playing with their fries. They were so excited to be at an adult dinner that they couldn't even finish their ice cream. After one of them pinched Mike Gentile's middle-aged wiener, we knew it was time to leave. We walked home, and I gave the guilty little scamp a stern lecture about messing with private parts, and then it was bedtime for me, curled up with the latest Commentary, while Mrs. M combed through the "Best of."

    The next day I finally got my skanked-up eyeglasses replaced, traveling to 40 W. 55th St. to have a session with Brian Bennett, my favorite sales rep at Leonard Opticians. I've been going there for years, after trying a number of establishments in the city, both expensive and discount. While I was waiting?it was jammed that day?two fellows walked in and almost left because of the crowd, but I convinced them the extra 15 minutes would be worth it, because there's no optician in the city that can compare with Leonard Op. Yeah, it's a little pricey, but their goods are durable and only need replacing when your prescription takes another turn for the worse.

    I then walked the few blocks to Tiffany's to buy a gift. It's crowded there too, but the service is always pretty quick. What amazes me about this revered NYC institution is the common assumption that your pockets have to be overflowing with yen even to enter. That's an egregious misconception: There are scores of items, whether it's baby presents, simple silver necklaces or fancy pens, that go for well under $150. Sure, there's the diamond and ruby earrings that'll take you well over the credit card limit, but if you're fortunate enough to be of means that kind of purchase can be made on exceptional occasions. And if you're getting married?congratulations!?Tiffany's is the place to go for wedding bands.

    Saturday was a full morning and afternoon: first, an 8 a.m. soccer game in which Junior's team, the Queens Park Rangers, won the opener 2-0, and fortunately it was warm enough to be an enthusiastic spectator. Those November matches can be bone-chilling. Mrs. M and I spoke with Lynton Gardiner for a while?he's a high-tech digital photographer and a fascinating fellow?and tried to ignore the classic Clinton soccer moms and dads who were screaming at their boys and girls to boot the ball with Pele-expertise, which seems a little silly when you're talking about seven-year-old players. I dislike that kind of hostility intensely: Soccer is worse than baseball in this regard, with some parents so wrapped up in their child's performance that they lose the perspective of the kids simply having fun.

    The boys later tagged along as I made a long shopping expedition to the Virgin Megastore at Union Square, picking up videos about Woodrow Wilson, Edward Murrow and the Vietnam War, and also a box set of doo-wop classics and a Goo Goo Dolls CD for Mrs. M. Not that the kids were deprived: MUGGER III got a new Arthur film, while Junior opted for Doug's 1st Movie (Porkchop always cracks me up, one of the coolest dogs in kids' tv programming). We also stopped in at Toys R Not Us, so I could buy some 50-cent worms and frogs for my office. Then it was off to work, so the tykes could terrorize Jeff Koyen and Giselle de Vera, trade business theories with Lisa Kearns and make sure Beth Broome was getting her factchecking absolutely correct.

    Lisa sent me Alex Cockburn's typically late copy, in which he proposes a bet or two. Since I've cleared all wagers relating to the Clinton travesty (save one, from a fellow whose address got lost in my jumble of clippings), I'm ready to take some action. I've already put $25 up with Joe Conason, saying that Hillary Clinton will not appear on next year's New York Senate ballot. As you can read in Cockburn's meandering column (page 4), he dissembles quite a lot like Clinton when actually proposing a bet. So here's one, Alex: $1000 says George W. Bush will be the country's next president. Of course, you have to come up with his challenger. And yes, your reputation as a skinflint is well-known, but I don't buy this jazz that you'll have to root for the dislikable Bill Bradley if such a transaction is consummated. Over to you.

    I was very annoyed on Sunday morning when I found that Meet the Press and This Week were televised 90 minutes earlier than usual. Something about a "Ryder Cup." I asked Mrs. M what the heck that could be and just assumed it involved horses. She hadn't the foggiest either but suggested maybe it was a golf tournament. I turned to the sports pages and right she was.

    Paper Scam Alex Kuczynski, a media reporter for The New York Times, is a tough young woman who also happens to be quite charming. Too bad her public persona doesn't translate into print: her writing is naive, often dated and usually very puffy. It wouldn't surprise me if that's her mandate from Times editors, who apparently pride themselves on being the last to know on subjects both cultural and communications-oriented, but if that's the situation Kuczynski ought to raise a ruckus. Case in point: her Sept. 20 article on Paper magazine, headlined "Street Wise and Fashion Smart: Paper Relishes Role as Renegade Amid the Glossy Magazines." I yield to no one in my admiration for the tenacity of owners Kim Hastreiter and David Hershkovits, who've persevered for 15 years on a tiny budget, watching far-better-funded monthlies come and go. Their ability to market both themselves and the magazine is awesome. But enough is enough. Kuczynski, for example, takes at face value the owners' claim that Paper's circulation is "about 100,000," even though it's never been audited. That's preposterous, as any newsstand agent will tell you. She also falls for the implausible boast that Hershkovits and Hastreiter have invested just $350,000 in Paper during the past 15 years, a figure, they point out with glee, that's half the estimated amount that Talk spent on its Liberty Island party last August. Given the penurious wages the pair pays staff members and freelancers, I'm sure the investment total is low, but $350,000 is very hard to believe.

    Hershkovits says that Paper's editorial and advertising philosophy (the two components are often hard to differentiate) is dedicated to "the edge," a somewhat anachronistic phrase that was in fashion sometime in the very early 90s. I particularly like this quote from Hastreiter: "We don't care whether our readers are rich or poor or small or big or black or yellow or gay or straight. We just care that they are eccentric." Another reason to be skeptical of the inflated 100,000 circulation number: it's simply inconceivable that 100,000 "eccentrics" are devoted to this magazine. That certainly wouldn't include all the creative and art directors from the glossies who disgustingly condescend to the owners in the Times piece.

    As for Paper's "edgy" content, the October issue features actor Tobey Maguire on its cover; a profile of composer Philip Glass; hack columns by middle-aged writers Glenn O'Brien and Jim Mullen; an exceedingly stupid advice column by Mickey Boardman; and of course the treacly intro letter from Kim and David. An excerpt for your edgy pleasure: "Novice actress Jewel co-starring with young veteran Tobey Maguire in the movie Ride with the Devil? We had to know more about the odd pairing and the hard-working actor whose consistently good work has put him on our short list of next big things."

    In summary, Kim and David don't know a damn thing about publishing an important, daring magazine, but they're benevolent hucksters who, by whoring themselves to anyone who'll respond, have eked out a living in New York's incestuous media world. That's not a bad consolation prize.

    White Jews Own The Washington Post As a 21st-century kind of guy, I prefer The Washington Post to The New York Times, but that Beltway newspaper blew it badly by agonizing in print so laboriously over a simple headline about Baltimore's Democratic mayoral primary. On Sept. 15, the day after Councilman Martin O'Malley won 53 percent of the vote (tantamount to victory in this heavily Democratic town), the Post ran this headline above Angela Paik's article: "White Man Gets Mayoral Nomination in Baltimore." Big deal. It was an accurate description of the results, not only because Baltimore hasn't had a white mayor in 13 years, but O'Malley's majority tally, in a city that's approximately 70 percent black, was astonishing. And uplifting: The outgoing mayor, Kurt Schmoke, resorted to race-baiting in his reelection campaign of 1995. O'Malley (unlike his two main black challengers, Carl Stokes and Lawrence Bell) didn't, instead addressing the real problems of Baltimore: poverty, drugs and crime. Mobtown's citizens are hopeful that O'Malley can replicate the success of other mayors like Rudy Giuliani, Jerry Brown, Richard Riordan and Ed Rendell.

    But the next day, the Post "clarified," the headline, after receiving an outpouring of complaints from its readers. It said: "[The headline] distorted the role of race in the election and violated Washington Post policy about reporting racial identifications only in proper context." This was a major story, especially since the last poll before the primary showed Stokes leading O'Malley 32-30 percent. The magnitude of the councilman's victory was newsworthy, as was the fact that he's white. (It's telling that The Baltimore Sun, which endorsed Stokes to cover their butt with the black community, didn't commission another poll during the last week of the campaign.)

    The Post's "clarification" didn't stop the paper's self-flagellation. In the next two weeks, ombudsman E.R. Shipp, a black woman, wrote two columns deploring this one single headline.

    In contrast, The New York Times also ran a supposedly controversial headline about O'Malley's win: "Baltimore Democrats Pick White Councilman in Mayoral Primary." The Times, which probably wasn't inundated with protest calls and e-mails, didn't see fit to issue a correction. Which wasn't surprising, since the paper is notoriously stingy in owning up to its stupefying number of mistakes. But this decision, if there was even a conversation about it, was correct.

    Clarence Page, a black columnist for the Chicago Tribune, joined hands with me in wondering what all the fuss was about. On Sept. 22, he wrote: "Silly me. I actually was delighted when I saw that headline. Maybe I've been covering politics too long. I did not think it added to the racial divide. I saw it as a sign that the divide has narrowed, at least in Baltimore, a city that is two-thirds black."

    And the San Francisco Examiner's Emil Guillermo weighed in on Sept. 18, also wondering why the Post was being so needlessly squishy. He said: "The state of our nation's ethnic sensitivity has come down to this: Is it offensive to call a white man a white man?... [The Post's headline] gets to the heart of the story. Here's a white guy winning in a black city. Isn't that calling a spade a spade?... A 'correction' is merited for something like a picture of Hillary Clinton with the caption 'Miss Puerto Rico,' or for a gross error like calling a Democrat a Republican, as if anyone can tell them apart these days."

    I'll ignore Emil's Buchananism and just compliment him on having more sense than The Washington Post.

    Finally, Al From Baltimore, commenting on this nonsense, wrote: "I say the Times let it stand because a) they're the Times; and b) they're outraged by yet another white mayor in an urban city. I say congratulations to the Post for being consistent in its p.c. policies."

    But Has Tina Figured Out How to Buy Pencils Yet? Don't know about you, but I think my prediction that Talk magazine would last 18 months was premature: a year might be the smarter bet. Last Friday, the Daily News' Celia McGee reported that Lisa Chase, the jumbled and jittery glossy's features editor, has resigned. The public comment from Talk spokeswoman was that Chase's departure was "honorable and amicable," but I assume that's Tina Brown spin. As I've written before, backed by impeccable sources, Brown's number two, David Kuhn, has been looking all over town for a new berth: there were rumors he'd replace Peter Kaplan at The New York Observer, apparently unfounded. His search continues for a venue that's not run by an egomaniacal woman who has no clue that 1994 was five years ago. Another top editor at the magazine, apparently chagrined that the staff was hauled off to a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in Connecticut, where the First Hick's wife rambled on for an hour, is also looking for a change of employment. Kuhn and Hillary sycophant Martha Stewart were very chummy during the affair, leading to not entirely facetious speculation that his next post will be at Martha Stewart Living. The November issue (at least right now) is scheduled to feature Arnold Schwarzenegger on its cover; so I guess I was wrong about Milton Berle receiving that dubious honor. But say this about Brown: she's got balls. Dissatisfied with her budget, she's gone hat-in-imperious-hand to co-owner Hearst to ask for further investment in Talk. I'd say lots of luck, considering the less than tepid reception the second issue of the magazine received, that infamous edition with Elizabeth Taylor on the cover. I suspect that early next year won't be a highlight of Brown's career: With newsstand sales dwindling even further, it's likely that both Hearst and Miramax/Disney might pull a partial-birth abortion on the feeble project.

    But don't rely strictly on my opinion. Here are a few comments from the stately Echo chatroom about Talk, reacting to Chase's departure.

    "If you compare mastheads from month to month, I think you'll see quite a lot of activity."

    "Dang. And [Chase] is the one I know there. She seems really sweet, too, unlike many in such jobs."

    "I never did get through the first issue of Talk."

    "I never did get my second issue and I subscribed and they cashed my $12 check."

    "Buzz is increasingly negative on Talk and its prospects. People say, 'Well, is this just anti-Tina Brown sentiment?' But consensus seems to be that no, it's because the magazine sucks... To me, the Liz Taylor cover seemed like a Richard Prince conceptual art joke. I've heard tales of some articles that to me sounded very interesting being denatured into that flat, dull 'hotness' Brown favors, or else being rejected because they were not that."

    "I wouldn't count it out just yet."

    "No, definitely too early, and it could change. But I've just been surprised at how negatively everyone I talk to seems to be reacting to it."

    "It's over."

    "They certainly managed to flatten [Bill] Monahan's piece in the first issue. It had none of the out-of-control drunk stuff that makes Monahan funny to read. It was just a straight travelogue."

    "Monahan's really funny in print. His dispatches from the UK in NYPress have been hilarious."

    "I just got my second ish in the mail this week?a full three weeks after I first saw it on the newsstand. They really give you your $12 worth, eh?"