Term Limits: Let Voters Decide

Council Speaker Gifford Miller and some of his colleagues are working on a plan to refine a glitch in the city’s term-limits law. The legislation, as it reads now, will force Mr. Miller out of office at the end of next year. Meanwhile, other incumbent Council members will be able to serve as long as 11 years, despite the law’s limit of two four-year terms.

It’s pretty clear that New York voters like the idea of term limits. They’ve voted in favor of them twice; the second vote was necessary when the Council tried to extend those limits to keep its members employed for a few extra years.

Mr. Miller is not proposing another gambit to evade the law. He simply wants to adjust the Council’s calendar a bit, to accommodate those who were elected in special off-year elections. As it stands now, he is not moving against the core position of term limits, which prevents members from hanging on for more than eight years.

What Mr. Miller ought to do, however, is state his intentions plainly, and explain to voters why this glitch ought to be fixed. He does his cause no good if voters think he and his allies are skulking around City Hall trying to undo the public’s will. He has a case to make, and he ought to make it boldly.

And then he should present the reforms to the voters for their approval. Anything less will seem like a political fix.

There’s something to be said for tweaking the term-limits law. Voters clearly don’t want Council members serving forever, but nobody wants to see an injustice done, either. As long as the spirit of term limits is preserved, Mr. Miller has every right to make a modification here and there-even if one of the beneficiaries happens to be Mr. Miller himself.

Of course, if you took self-interest out of politics, you wouldn’t have much left, would you?

Jackson and Sharpton: The Circus Comes to Town

His talent all but gone, his place as a role model to children severely and permanently compromised, Michael Jackson took to the streets of New York City last week in a bizarre attempt to slander the Sony Music Group and its chairman, Tommy Mottola. By his side was that consummate charlatan and rabble-rousing clown, Al Sharpton. They made several public appearances, ostensibly in support of a group Mr. Sharpton formed to defend black musicians against perceived mistreatment by the music industry. But whatever legitimate complaints might exist among black musicians were just a pretext for Mr. Jackson to indulge in some deeply disturbed behavior and for Mr. Sharpton to hurl himself in front of a television camera.

Mr. Jackson displayed a side of himself that the public does not often get to see. He proclaimed that Mr. Mottola was “a racist” and “very, very, very devilish.” He carried a poster that read “Go back to hell Mottola” and a photograph of the Sony chairman with horns drawn on top of his head. By calling white people devils, Mr. Jackson was taking a page from the bigoted ravings of Louis Farrakhan. In a city that has put a particular premium on civility since Sept. 11, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Sharpton barreled across town spewing hatred at every stop, finishing up by picketing Sony’s offices on Madison Avenue.

What was behind Mr. Jackson’s twisted behavior? To put it simply, his last album, Invincible , was anything but. Released by the Sony subsidiary Epic, the record sold just two million copies, a modest number for a star of Mr. Jackson’s stature-and this despite Sony spending $25 million to promote it. Which means, by the way, that Mr. Jackson may owe Sony a fairly sizable piece of change. Rather than settling up with Sony, Mr. Jackson may be trying to slip out of his contract, record-industry executives told The New York Times , and for some reason he seems to think that throwing around the word “racist” and publicly attacking Mr. Mottola with adolescent stunts will make that happen.

Mr. Sharpton was happily along for the ride-that is, until black record-industry executives called him and said that Mr. Mottola had been a great friend and supporter of black musicians. Mr. Sharpton quickly backpedaled, saying he was “taken aback” by the pop star’s comments about Mr. Mottola-but not quickly enough to erase the fact that Mr. Sharpton has once again shown himself to be an opportunist with a taste for inflaming racially charged situations. Whether refusing to repudiate the anti-Semitic hate speech of Mr. Farrakhan, or helping Tawana Brawley fabricate charges against innocent cops, or inciting a riot outside a white-owned store in Harlem, Mr. Sharpton has little use for the truth and is apparently happiest when New York is on the brink of mayhem.

Mr. Jackson will go back to his Neverland Ranch, where he can enjoy his paranoid fantasies unimpeded. Mr. Sharpton, meanwhile, awaits his next opportunity to stir up trouble at the expense of truth and dignity.

Mothers and Sons

If you’re a woman who wants to live long and prosper, it helps if you don’t have any sons, according to new research out of Finland. Evolutionary biologists at the University of Turku found that each son shortens a woman’s lifespan by an average of 34 weeks. The researchers aren’t clear exactly why-it has been shown, for example, that giving birth to a son is harder physically on a woman than giving birth to a daughter. But one of the biologists involved in the study leans toward what may be the obvious answer: that boys cause their mothers more tsores . “Generally, boys get on their mothers’ nerves more than girls because they are running around, and girls are more willing to help their mothers,” Samuli Helle told the journal Science .

The study also revealed that a daughter will actually increase a mother’s lifespan slightly-information which daughters may find useful the next time Mom starts bugging them about their clothes and boyfriends.

Term Limits: Let Voters Decide