Larry Tisch

Larry Tisch, who died last week in Manhattan, made extraordinary contributions on many levels throughout his 80 years. A Brooklyn-born

Larry Tisch, who died last week in Manhattan, made extraordinary contributions on many levels throughout his 80 years. A Brooklyn-born self-made billionaire who gave to others far more generously than he did to himself, he had a brilliant business mind coupled with a big heart which he extended to his family, his friends and to some of New York’s most prominent cultural institutions. He transformed New York University from a commuter school with serious economic problems into what is today arguably the world’s most important global university.

Few men or women come along who have a significant impact on society, build a multibillion-dollar business and end up with a squeaky-clean reputation that should be the model for C.E.O.’s in today’s corporate world of greed and overreach. Larry was one of the few. His career will be studied in business schools for decades to come. After graduating at age 18 from New York University, he received a master’s degree from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. His parents, who owned a small garment business, gave him $125,000 to invest. Starting with a nondescript New Jersey hotel, he and his brother Bob created Loews Corporation, a hugely successful conglomerate, relying on Larry’s acute financial instincts and bottom-line judgment.

When Larry arrived at CBS, it had been mismanaged for almost a decade. Bill Paley’s health was failing, and the succession of C.E.O. wannabes trying to fill his shoes was less than competent. Larry cleaned up the balance sheet, ran the company as a business should be run, and created great value for the shareholders.

He was a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of Art and the New York Public Library, as well as serving as president of the United Jewish Appeal of New York and director of the Legal Aid Society.

For those who knew Larry Tisch, both friends and family, there will be a profound loss. His judgment about life and careers was pitch-perfect. A man who lived unpretentiously and devoted his private time to his family, Larry Tisch lived a remarkable New York life. The Observer extends our condolences to his wife of 55 years, Billie, his brother Bob, and his four sons, Andrew, Dan, James and Tom.

The Real McCall?

It’s hardly a secret that the state’s finances are in miserable shape. New York may not be California-at least not yet-but we are hardly in a position to look with disdain on Sacramento’s follies. We spend too much, we tax too much, we borrow too much. Making matters worse, very few politicians seem to think this is a bad thing.

That’s why a recent conference sponsored by the Citizens Budget Commission was extraordinary. For once, bitter truths about the state’s perilous finances were spoken. Republicans and Democrats alike bemoaned the state’s refusal to make hard decisions, condemned the scandalous way in which Albany fashions its always-late budget, and predicted that reforms are necessary if New York is to avoid becoming an economic backwater.

Oddly enough, some of these dire assessments were offered by the former state comptroller, H. Carl McCall.

Voters may remember that until recently, Carl McCall was in a public position to speak the truth about New York’s fiscal realities. As the elected official whose job it was to monitor the state’s books, he could have blown the whistle on the silent conspiracy between Governor George Pataki and the State Legislature to paper over the state’s problems. He could have forcefully condemned the New York tradition of spending and borrowing without a moment’s thought for the consequences.

Instead, save for the occasional tepid press release, he went along with Albany’s shenanigans during his several years as the state’s chief financial officer. He had a see-no-evil approach to Albany’s bizarre accounting procedures. Yet he had the nerve to tell the C.B.C. conference that “we’ve found a new way to do business in New York, and it is called utter failure.”

Where were those fine words three years ago, when Mr. McCall was signing off on Albany’s financial schemes? He couldn’t bear to utter such sentiments when he was in Albany, because he was part of the sleazy get-along, go-along crowd which rules the state capital.

Carl McCall spent much of his career allowing governors and legislatures to fool the public; but we’re not fooled by his recent discovery of the failed policies which he tolerated while in office.

Al Gore’s Bathroom Break

Al Gore, the man who would be President, has been steadily re-emerging from the self-imposed exile-weight gain, tweed blazers, a professorial beard-which followed in the wake of his 2000 loss to George W. Bush. A few weeks ago, news came that he was developing a liberal-leaning cable news channel. But he hasn’t stopped there: Mr. Gore has just joined the advisory board (translation: no salary but stock options) of Falcon Waterfree Technologies.

What, you may ask, is Falcon’s product? What drew the attention of the man who was America’s Vice President for eight years, who operated in the country’s deepest corridors of power? Falcon’s mission is to design, build and promote the waterless urinal. James Krug, president of Falcon’s international division, told reporters that Mr. Gore has “encouraged us to be very active politically to get our message out there, because it’s such a compelling technology.”

It’s compelling, indeed, that Mr. Gore would choose to devote his energy to bringing the bathroom into the 21st century. One can see the attraction: Mr. Gore fancies himself a futurist (he’s still living down his claim that he invented the Internet), and the company’s urinals have neat space-age names like the Vitreous China F-1000 and the Acrylic F-2000A. Perhaps the former Vice President was lured by Falcon’s Web site, which offers an animated demonstration, complete with a computer-generated stream of urine, of how its urinals work.

We can offer some free advice to anyone lucky enough to be invited over to the Gores’ for dinner: Take care of your business at home.

Larry Tisch