The Hypocrites at Philip Morris

It goes without saying that the peddlers of poison at Philip Morris know no shame. They sell death in packages of 20. They spend millions of dollars glorifying their product in ways drug pushers can only envy. They are in the tobacco business, and to stay in business, they must create new consumers. So it’s a given that Philip Morris is shameless. Even still, the company’s latest advertising scheme is stunning in its hypocrisy.

Local media have been bombarded recently with a new ad campaign from the oh-so-concerned people at Philip Morris, who apparently are shocked to realize that young people are using the very product they are pushing. The ads urge adult smokers to tell kids not to smoke-which is, of course, sane advice. But Philip Morris wants it both ways: tell your kids not to smoke, because smoking is bad for one’s health-but please, you yourself continue puffing away to an early grave. What nonsense.

Indeed, even the premise of the new ads-that the executives at Philip Morris doesn’t want minors to smoke-is absurd. What would Philip Morris do without a new crop of future cancer victims? The fact is that they need young smokers, and the more nicotine addicts they can create, the more blood money they’ll make. If the caring people at Philip Morris didn’t want teens to smoke, they’d close up shop tomorrow and stop selling their wretched cigarettes around the world. They’d get out of the tobacco business entirely and urge their fellow sellers of carcinogens to do likewise.

Clearly, the tobacco pushers understand that they have an image problem. Philip Morris and its competitors want policy makers and outraged citizens to believe that they really don’t want new customers. Right. They simply want to kill the customers they already have.

Mike Bloomberg: We’re Lucky to Have Him

Michael Bloomberg came into office facing the dual effects of a national recession and a slowdown after Sept. 11 that severely hurt the city’s economy and tourism business. The word “crisis” became part of everyday parlance. Now, just two years later, the numbers indicate that Mayor Bloomberg’s budget policies have revived New York’s economy at a rate that has stunned and impressed many of his most hardened critics. To reflect on this achievement is also to ponder what a mess we could have been in, if someone else had been sitting behind the Mayor’s desk in City Hall.

Indeed, the way various fiscal monitors have weighed in, you might think that Mr. Bloomberg had opened in The Producers on Broadway. “The city clearly has emerged from that period of fiscal crisis,” Robert Kurtter, a Moody’s analyst, told The New York Times. “Both from a fiscal and an economic sense for New York City, the worst is behind us,” said Rae Rosen, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The Mayor deserves these accolades. He told New Yorkers from the start that he would be making painful choices, and he has done so. Facing a budget gap of more than $5 billion, the Bloomberg administration raised property taxes with the cooperation and support of the City Council, cut municipal services and convinced Albany to support higher income taxes for the city’s middle- and upper-income households. This is no way to win a popularity contest, and Mr. Bloomberg has paid with low poll numbers.

But those New Yorkers who take a dim view of the Mayor are, with all due respect, out of touch with reality. To take but a few examples of Mr. Bloomberg’s able handling of the city: He balanced the budget without resorting to borrowing or the politically popular-but fiscally unsound-gimmick of “one-shots,” in which valuable assets are sold off to plug a deficit. He did so without the help of a commuter tax, which would have brought $400 million into city coffers. And although he slashed spending and brought the city’s full-time work force to its lowest level since 1986, Mr. Bloomberg has kept the streets safe, as he and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have presided over a crime rate that mirrors that of the Giuliani years.

There’s still a long way to go. The labor-union bosses have shown themselves, typically, to be unwilling to do their part to help the city recover, and are outraged that the Mayor has taken the radical stand that union raises should be tied to productivity.

But New Yorkers with some appreciation of the city’s economics know that we are lucky to have this Mayor for these times. Mike Bloomberg understands that elected officials are supposed to govern and to achieve results, not just preside over political theater.

August in New York

For many New Yorkers, August is traditionally the slowest month of the season, the time to rusticate in the Hamptons, the Catskills, the South of France or Litchfield County. But New York, of course, never really takes a vacation, and the city saves some of its most idyllic moments for those who stay in town in August. You can always get a table at a favorite restaurant, find theater seats to a show that was booked solid all spring, or visit that exhibit which somehow eluded you for months. August weekends are a particular pleasure. Sure, you could spend hours stuck in snarled traffic on the Long Island Expressway, only to find the beaches and restaurants jammed with other ambitious, weary Manhattanites. Or you could remain in the city and have a truly relaxing weekend, content in the knowledge that you’ve recharged your batteries and saved a bundle on a summer rental.

It’s true, the weather can get a bit brutal in August. Does it mean you’re crazy if you prefer a weekend in Manhattan curled up with a good book over a patch of breezy beach in Easthampton? Maybe. But it doesn’t matter; all the therapists are away. What’s wrong with them? Indeed, along with its other pleasures, August gives New Yorkers permission to go a bit nuts until Labor Day.