In any normal year, this should be the lull time, the predictable rest between election night and when the governing begins.

Who said this year is normal?

Instead of basking in his victory, Barack Obama is staring over the edge of a steep fiscal cliff. And instead of sharpening their knives -- OK, along with sharpening their knives -- the president's Republican opponents are speaking the usual words of intransigence but in notably softer tones. There is in the air the slightest whiff of hope.

It's a hope born of desperation, to be sure, but hope nonetheless.

We've got real problems, and they must be confronted, like, now. If Republicans and Democrats can't reach a post-election fiscal deal, taxes will shoot up for everyone. Federal spending will take a giant whack, including federal spending that no sane person would ever want to cut. Sequestration: Even the word sounds ominous, as does the phrase "busted debt limit," which is just as real.

On Friday, Obama said he was prepared to make some compromises with Republicans, which is fairly gracious for someone who just thumped them in his re-election vote. John Boehner, the House Republican leader, repeated his usual no-new-taxes-on-the-rich pledge, adding that Republicans want to make a deal "in a manner that ensures that 2013 is finally the year that our government comes to grips with the major problems that are facing us."

So what exactly does that mean? We get one more week for optimism. Then things could get ugly fast.



1. Bankruptcy Bluff

2. Profit Peaks

3. Austerity Acres

4. Capital Cul-de-sac

5. Revenue Ridge

ASKED AND UNANSWERED: How many other local disaster officials agree with Smithtown's John Valentine that "LIPA has been extremely responsive"? Please, don't raise your hands all at once . . . The out-of-town utility workers or the National Grid crews? Who's better at restringing wires and cutting back trees? When this thing is over, who's up for a Power Restoration Rodeo? . . . How cold would your house have to be to go to the Dix Hills Warming Center at the Dix Hills Ice Rink? . . . Odd and even? Why not ration gas by odd and normal? On second thought, maybe the lines would be too short on normal day . . . Does Andrew Cuomo deserve any blame for leaving LIPA without a permanent CEO so long? . . . Did some idiot Kansas congressman just say that Sandy aid is "political payback" for Mike Bloomberg's Obama endorsement? Would Tim Huelskamp like a personal tour of Long Beach?

THE NEWS ON SONG: Searching for anther overload: Utility workers don't have an official theme song, but "Wichita Lineman" comes closest, thanks to North Shoran Jimmy Webb:


Many fine groups (and a few loathsome scamsters) are raising money for Sandy relief. But here's one effort I can vouch for personally because my friends and colleagues are running it. Newsday, News 12 and The McCormick Foundation guarantee that every dollar raised by our Hurricane Sandy Long Island Relief Fund will stay right here on the Island, supporting proven nonprofits working hard on the ground. Not a nickel will go to administrative expenses. We're covering that. And the McCormick people are sweetening every donation (up to $500,000) an extra 50 percent. Plus, it's really easy to donate. Even I have. Go to


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