TCS Daily

Vegas Returns to Normal, and Tom Friedman Steps Up

By James K. Glassman - October 29, 2001 12:00 AM

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - In the Bellagio casino, wearing a duck suit while playing blackjack is impermissible. That is what the pit boss is telling the duck, and he is quacking mad. I have been at the roulette wheel wishing I had been chased off because I was wearing a duck suit, but that's another story. (To those who say that the stock market is a casino, I reply that losing all your money in an hour is nearly impossible in the market but extremely easy in a casino. In the stock market, you are the house - random plays over time should net your 11 percent annually. In a casino, the house has an edge of 3 percent or so, and that's all it needs to deplete you of substantial resources.)

But the story about Las Vegas is how normal it is this weekend, a month and a half after two hijacked planes destroyed the World Trade Center and 5,000 lives. Not that anyone here has forgotten -- the tee-shirt and flag pins are blooming. Instead, Las Vegas, the home of the abnormal, has returned to normal. The Bellagio is sold out, the Venetian has only expensive suites, Siegfried and Roy perform their fabulous shows (you know, with the disappearing animals) and the cabdrivers aren't complaining.

I just heard departing Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) say that we aren't changing our lifestyle; the terrorists are going to have to change their lifestyle. Well said, and on display here in Vegas on a beautiful October weekend, with the sports book booming with football and the World Series.

Yes, the Yankees (America's team this year) are getting clobbered in the first two games, but one New Yorker who continues to perform well is Tom Friedman, The New York Times columnist. On economics, which has been a good part of his beat for the past few years, Friedman has little original to say, but on foreign policy - especially Mideast policy - he is excellent. His columns since Sept. 11 have risen to the occasion as no other journalist 's have. He is tough, straightforward, and he knows what he is talking about. (Friedman isn't always right; he can't resist blaming part of the world's reluctance on Bush's "unilateralism" - a silly argument, and inaccurate.)

On Friday, his headline advised, "We Are All Alone." He writes, "Let me see if I've got all this straight now:...Egypt is with us on Sundays, provided we don't tell anyone and provided we never mention that we give the Egyptians $2 billion a year in aid.... The Saudi ruling family would love to cooperate by handing over its police files on the 15 Saudis involved in the hijackings, but that would be a violation of their sovereignty..." In other words, in this battle, we will have to understand "we'll have to pay our own way. Unfortunately, killing 5,000 innocent Americans in New York just doesn' t get the rest of the world that exercised."

And finally, Friedman dismisses the Ramadan canard. We're not supposed to kill terrorists on Ramadan? Since when did Muslims themselves get so fastidious? The 1973 Middle East War, started by Egypt and Syria in a surprise attack on Israel is called "the Ramadan War" among Arabs. "Oh, well, I guess the Arab world can launch wars on Ramadan, but not receive them."

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