As the clock ticked over from 8:01 p.m.
on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2002, time (for sixty seconds only) read in
perfect symmetry. To be more precise: 20:02, 20/02, 2002. It was an
event which has only ever happened once before, and is something which
will never be repeated. The last occasion that time read in such
a symmetrical pattern was long before the days of the digital watch
(or the 24-hour clock): 10:01 a.m., on Jan. 10, 1001. And because the
clock only goes up to 23.59, it is something that will never happen
(Friday, Feb. 15, 2002 aboard Southwest
Flight 513 to West Palm Beach Florida.) It
seems we’ve been flying for some time – Allison, Lil and me. We
left MacArthur Airport this afternoon on the west way to Boca to visit
mom and mom-in-law. It’s our first air trip since Sept. 11. Of
course late booking, resulted in a plane change in Nashville – my
first trip to Tennessee.
We had canceled our Columbus Day visit
to celebrate mom’s birthday and took a pass on a Christmas vacation.
It’s the longest period between flights that I can recall in recent
years. Things have changed.
Security is tighter. At our stopover in
Nashville we saw a gentleman almost strip searched; then the security
officer a 20-something young lady, went on the prowl for a grandmotherly
looking victim. Both in Islip and Atlanta, gate check-in screening was
significantly more thorough than pre-terrorism. That’s good. I’m
certain the show makes passengers feel better and discourages amateur
terrorists. However, the real solution to making the airlines truly safe
and secure seems far away. Hassling grandmotherly types, however,
doesn’t seem to me to be the best use of limited security resources.
Political correctness has taken us so far that weirded-out, disheveled
guys with explosives in their shoes traveling internationally get by
while 70-something gray-haired ladies with an eight-year old companion
get body cavity clearance. I’ve been pushing the political correctness
envelope for the past several weeks, but profiling makes sense when
properly applied. I’m not going to get into the details of application
here and now, but of the sixteen terrorists, there was not one little
Not the subject of the column either,
but I’m not sure we haven’t, for the most part, fallen back into our
old pre-9-11 ways. Flying, Federal buildings and massive gatherings
display a clear difference, but regular life – especially in Queens
– seems unchanged. The stress and heightened alert are rarely evident
with the exception of occasional tales we hear from Queens mosques.
The mind is a wonderful thing. It allows
you to put that dreadful horror of Sept. 11 somewhere on the back pages
we refer to as history, as if they were a thing of the past and can
touch us no more than Viet Nam, the Holocaust or the Civil War. I hope
the chapter that began on Sept. 11 has ended, and the present chapter is
about homeland security, and the next about peace.
The flights, so far, naturally were
without incident and with interesting snacks.
I am using this time to write my column
to be published a week from now – the day we return home – because
otherwise it comes out of pool time or mom time or restaurant time or
shopping time or whatever. Finishing the column 25,000 feet in the air
takes the pressure off when you land.
There is, however, a major disadvantage
to writing up here. Although the laptop works fine, the modem isn’t
connected and the reference materials are non-existent. I can’t call
for rumors, gossip or to check facts. I’ll be in Florida for the next
week and the political thoughts can change as fast as Brian McLaughlin
As reported last week, the whimsical
Albany leadership played havoc in its deciannual (can’t check words
either – every 10 years) redistricting exercise. We complained about
it last week. Leaving the task of drawing political boundary lines to a
pack of politicians is no better than having the students make up the
test. What you get is reinforcement of standards somewhere between
mediocrity and pathetic.
Well the Albany leadership has done as
expected. Joe Bruno and his Republican thugs have played complete and
utter havoc with the City’s Senate lines. While Shelly Silver perhaps
had more benevolent motives in drafting the Assembly map, he again
proved to be no friend of the Borough.
In quick Assembly lines summary, Brian
McLaughlin – perhaps the most powerful of the Queens Albany delegation
– is running in a new district containing less than 25 percent of his
old district. The popular labor leader will have no problem and perhaps
no opposition easily winning the strangely-drawn district.
Two new seats now exist in the borough: one a Jackson Heights
centric district drawn for a Hispanic, the other containing the very
large Asian population previously represented by McLaughlin.
Strangely though, the district seemingly
drawn for an Asian may go to longtime Flushing Community Board Chairman
Adrian Joyce. As we told you last week, look for former Council
candidates Ethel Chen and Terrence Park to pursue this seat. Longtime
civic leaders Pauline Chu and Debbie Markel have also been mentioned.
However, Thursday night as we were packing, the buzz seemed to indicate
that Joyce would emerge as the choice of the political insiders.
Why? We’re in Florida and are not
working the phones this week, but we’d ask John Liu, the Asian media
sweetheart who has recently won not only the Flushing Council seat but
also instant celebrity as the first Asian elected to the City Council.
Liu, who will emerge as a Democratic District Leader in the new Assembly
District, is in an ideal position to engineer the election of another
Asian American. The fact that the Democratic organization is going with
Adrian Joyce, a non-threatening, non-Asian, seems to indicate that Liu
is content with allowing Joyce to be a placeholder while he solidifies
his power base. Hmmm!
We ran into her recently and based on
her lack of spryness, we’re counting out Flushing matriarch Julia
This one is not over but look for all
the insiders to line up behind Adrian Joyce, the apparent choice of
Brian McLaughlin who continues to emerge as the political compass in
We’ll wait to return to see if any new
names have cropped up for the Jackson Heights seat hearing that
labor’s Jose Perralta is, for the moment, the frontrunner.
In the Senate, there were no socially
meaningful motives when the G.O.P. played pin the tail on the Democratic
They were not blindfolded when they
redrew districts, throwing two Democratic incumbents in the same new
district in four different places in the City.
In Queens, Toby Stavisky and Dan Hevesi
are both in the same strangely drawn seat while there is no incumbent in
a seat centered in Rego Park.
Hevesi could move and claim the Rego
Park seat, which sooner or later, is likely to go to a Latino. Otherwise
the young. Hevesi will have to square off against Toby Stavisky in a
district that seems to have been drawn to favor her.
Strange to political old-timers, but the
Stavisky political network seems more potent in Queens today than does
Evan Stavisky, son of Toby and her
predecessor the late Leonard Stavisky, is the creative force behind the
successful political consulting and lobbying firm, the Parkside Group.
He has become a force in the County, guiding winners and building
Toby will benefit from his efforts.
Dan’s family is coming off a devastating loss for Mayor and is
entering another major race as father Alan seeks to become State
Comptroller. This coupled with last year’s rumors of Dan’s
discontent in Albany has insiders betting the young Hevesi will cede the
seat to Stavisky.
Before we left New York, the Governor
had yet to declare a special election.
The Governor has the option of leaving
it vacant until filled at the regularly scheduled election this year. We
would expect an announcement momentarily.
Although not like last year’s melee
with all fourteen Council seats, there are sure to be a couple of
contests worth watching.
We received these by e-mail and though
you’d enjoy them:
KNOWLEDGE: A teacher asked one of her
pupils, “What’s the nation’s capital?”
The reply: “Washington DC.”
After the teacher asked the pupil what
‘DC’ stood for, the student added, “Dot com!”
CAMPAIGN FINANCE: Over 100 years ago,
Mark Twain said, “We have the best Congress money can buy.”
TALENT: It takes a very special talent
to take a simple question and phrase it in a way nobody can understand
it and then put it on a ballot for people to vote on it.
CONGRESS: “I have wondered at times
what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them
through the US congress.”
— Ronald Reagan
THE WHOLE STORY: five out of every four
Americans have trouble with fractions.
THOUGHT: “If 50 million people believe
a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing” – Anatole France
PRINCIPLE: People say I’m apathetic,
but I don’t care.
UPSTREAM: If you ain’t makin’ waves,
you ain’t kickin’ hard enough!
Pythagorean theorem: 24 words.
The Lord’s prayer: 66 words.
Archimedes’ Principle: 67
The 10 Commandments: 179 words.
The Gettysburg Address: 286 words.
The Declaration of Independence: 1,300 words.
The US Government regulations on the
sale of cabbage: 26,911 words