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January 28, 2005



PAUL GIGOT: Winners and losers, picks and pans. We call it Tony & Tacky --- our choices for the best and the worst of the week. We begin here in New York, where a subway fire may make life miserable for half a million people for a long time, while also serving up a lesson for the rest of the country. Rob, sometime subway rider, tony or tacky?

ROB POLLOCK: Well I think you'd have to call that a tacky, at least for New York City's can't-do public sector. Just to give people out there an idea about what we're talking about, remember the Duke Ellington tune, "Take the A Train." Well, what did that refer to? Well, the A train was what you took if you wanted to go from lower Manhattan up to the Duke's home in Harlem. Now if you want to take the A train you're going to have to wait. And if you want to take the C train, which shares the same track, well, tough luck.

Tough luck for how long? New York City Transit initially said three to five years. Now they're saying, "only six months." Only six months for more than half a million people who are going to be seriously inconvenienced here. I think there just might be political ramifications of this election year for Mayor Mike Bloomberg. He's certainly not responsible for what happened, but there's also no question that he failed to take advantage of the opportunity provided by 9/11 to change the city's dysfunctional political culture and to do things like make badly-needed infrastructure upgrades. What's his priority instead? A taxpayer-financed stadium for the New York Jets, which I'd say is pretty tacky as well.

PAUL GIGOT: Only in New York, as we like to say around here, Rob. Thank you. Ted Turner has been at it again. Here's what he said when someone asked him about the success of Fox News against Ted's old company, CNN.

TED TURNER: Adolph Hitler was more popular in Germany in the early thirties than people that we running against him. So just because you're bigger, doesn't mean you're right.

PAUL GIGOT: Dorothy, this one seems almost too easy.

DOROTHY RABINOWITZ: Yes, well it's never too easy, it's never too simple. Of course Fox has been destroying CNN in the ratings. But, you know, Ted Turner has a very long record of this sort of thing. And you know, the Hitler analogy is vile, whether it's by Ted Turner, or whether by the political class that throw it around all during the election year. But Turner's long record begins most famously, I think, recently, with the attendance at a party where members of the staff of CNN were wearing ashes on their forehead. It was Ash Wednesday, and Ted Turner said, "What are you? A bunch of Jesus freaks? You should go work for the Fox network." And earlier he compared Rupert Murdoch, who of course owns Fox, with Adolph Hitler, and called him the dictator.

I would not be willing to wade into the psychological marshland that is Ted Turner's mind on the matter of Hitler. But let me just say that the whole thing was worth it this week for the comment that explained all this by the Fox News official who said, "Ted is understandably bitter. First he lost his network, then he lost his ratings and now he's lost his mind." A tony for that one.

PAUL GIGOT: All right Dorothy. Thank you. McDonald's is in the news again. This time a court rules it's okay to sue McDonald's for making us fat. Dan, tony or tacky?

DAN HENNINGER: Well, I would say tacky on this one. A group of plaintiffs in New York are suing McDonald's, saying that their children, who ate Egg McMuffins in the morning and a Big Mac dinner in the evening, got fat. And that McDonald's didn't tell them that that would be unhealthy. Now look, torts in this country are legitimate. But these frivolous law suits are ruining the legal system. They are corrupting everybody involved. It's basically like a burglar going into a hotel and trying every door to see which ones open. The problem is that the judges are part of the gang. They're the ones who allow these law suits. They're holding the door open and sweeping these people into the vault. I think that really these tort liability law suits are a clear and present danger to the United States, maybe as big as Saddam, maybe bigger.

PAUL GIGOT: Wow. Okay Dan, thank you very much. Finally, I'd like to offer my own tony this week to NEW YORK TIMES columnist William Safire, who is giving up his column and did so this week after 30 years of writing. We don't often praise a competitor, particularly a very good one. But Safire was the kind of writer who was so good because he never forgot he was a reporter who had to dig up facts, and he was always an independent voice. His readers are gonna miss him.

PAUL GIGOT: That's it for this edition of THE JOURNAL EDITORIAL REPORT. Thank you from all of us. We hope you'll join us again next week.