The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Tuesday, August 20, 2002  

Eric Alterman’s E-Mail Box Has Become a Cesspool

Wow. Eric Alterman gets an awful lot of truly vicious e-mail.

Much of it, or at least much of the recent barrage of nastygrams headed Alterman’s way, is, sadly, part of a well-orchestrated campaign of intimidation and abuse, a campaign he has done nothing to deserve.

Compared with the barrage of moronic and invective-filled messages filling Alterman’s in-box, our generally steady trickle of hate mail, even with its occasional flare-ups, seems inconsequential.

However, the effect is still the same: Hate mail, provided it doesn’t include credible threats of physical harm and does not breach the line of harassment, has no effect -- none whatsoever -- on writers with strong opinions.

Frankly, we can’t imagine what Alterman’s foes thought they might accomplish through their juvenile crusade, except possibly embarrassing themselves.

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Jottings from The Reading Room

Tapped gives Camille Paglia a well-deserved slap.

Eschaton points out the obvious folly of this summer’s most popular Republican sport: Norman Mineta bashing.

Slacktivist takes on the bogus polls (“Your opinion counts!”) that accompany interest-group solicitations.

Talking Points Memo, the real one, managed by Joshua Marshall, dissects the Republicans’ lame remaining argument about the budget deficit.

Chilicheeze has been libeled in a manner that is not too different from our experience, though his libeler is anonymous.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Ad hominem 101

We recently learned that someone named Mike, scribbling with a broken crayon during what must have been a wrenching fit of hysteria, has decided that we at The Rittenhouse Review are “idiotarians,” albeit “mild” ones.

There are several criteria that must be met in order to meet Mike’s definition of “idiotarian.”

Let’s go through them one by one to see how we measure up.

Idiotarians “[b]elieve that September 11 was the United States’ fault.”

Response: Never thought it, never said it, never wrote it.

Idiotarians “believe Israel is always wrong.”

Response: Never thought it, never said it, never wrote it.

Idiotarians believe “Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are nice guys who are just misunderstood.”

Response: Never thought it, never said it, never wrote it.

Idiotarians “use . . . a strange vocabulary, similar to English but different, as outlined below”:

“Activist: Someone who has a strong belief about the current situation, and who works with others to advance his or her viewpoint, and who expresses his or her feelings about current events, as long as those feelings are against the U[.]S[.], Israel, or the war.

Response: We are not activists. In fact we once wrote that we that protests were too often “pushy and whiney.”

“Warmonger: Someone who has a strong belief about the current situation, and who works with others to advance his or her viewpoint, and who expresses his or her feelings about current events, as long as those feelings are in favor the U[.]S[.], Israel, or the war.”

Response: We have used the term “warblogger” several times. If we used the term “warmonger” it would have been in reference to a narrow group of individuals including Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz. We stand by that characterization of these wise and capable civil servants.

”Militant: A misunderstood and sensitive Palestinian person who only wants peace for his people, and who works for peace by killing as many Israelis as he can.”

Response: Actually, we would define a “militant” as a person with a combative character in the service of a particular cause. Mike fits that description as well as we do.

“Terrorist: Ariel Sharon, or George W. Bush[.]”

Response: Never thought it, never said it, never wrote it.

“War criminal: See terrorist. Please note that war criminals and terrorists can only be American or Israeli.”

Response: Never thought it, never said it, never wrote it.

“Sovereignty: Good if we are talking about Iraq’s, bad if we are talking about America’s.”

Response: Never thought it, never said it, never wrote it.

“Improved Security: Strip-searching an [sic] 90-year-old grandma at the airport or banning plastic knives.”

Response: Never thought it, never said it, never wrote it.

“Profiling: Taking any conscious action based on the fact that all 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were young Arab men.”

Response: Never thought it, never said it, never wrote it.

“Racism: See profiling.”

Response: Never thought it, never said it, never wrote it.

“Palestinian Nationalism: A good thing, since those people deserve a homeland.”

Response: Agreed.

“Zionism: A bad thing, since those people do not deserve a homeland.”

Response: Never thought it, never said it, never wrote it. In fact we have written the exact opposite several times.

“Legitimate [R]esistance to Occupation: Blowing up teenagers at a disco, or bombing a pizza parlor filled with families.”

Response: Never thought it, never said it, never wrote it. In fact we have written the exact opposite several times.

“Afghanistan: A country in Asia that the United States deliberately went into and dropped daisy cutters on all the population centers intentionally killing over 580 million starving children and widows.”

Response: Never thought it, never said it, never wrote it. In fact, we supported the initial efforts of the Bush administration to break the Al Qaeda network and to dismantle the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan.

“Human Rights Violation: Taking enemy combatants and providing them with three full meals a day, shelter, the ability to worship freely, and proper sanitation.”

Response: Never thought it, never said it, never wrote it.

“Yassir Arafat: The freely elected and legitimate President of the Palestinian people[.]”

Response: Sometimes it’s necessary to deal with “the facts on the ground.”

“Saddam Hussein: The freely elected and legitimate President of the Iraqi people[.]”

Response: Never thought it, never said it, never wrote it.

“Oil: A substance which [sic] explains all U[.]S[.] interaction wit [sic] the Middle East, except for Israel, which is explained by the fact that Jews secretly control the U[.]S[.] government, media, and [H]ollywood.”

Response: Never thought it, never said it, never wrote it.

So you see, Mike’s little diatribe is nothing more than a lame, wilted, and dirty tissue of lies. We line up on just two, perhaps two and a half, of the -- more reasonable -- attributes of “idiotarian,” which is perhaps what makes us “mild idiotarians.” Alas, another libel to add to the list.

[Post-publication addendum: Isn’t it weird, or lame, or perhaps totally within character, that brainless warblogger Mikey Silverman found the courage to devote more than 400 words to a pathetic attempt to eviscerate me as an “idiotarian” that my response to him -- “We’re ‘Idiotarians’! Ad hominem 101 -- left Mr. Little Penis cowering in submissive silence?]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


And Mowed Down Revelers By the Sea

Lizzie Grubman, the disgraced New York publicist, is finally going to jail.

The New York Post reports Grubman has accepted a plea bargain that calls for her to spend up to 90 days in the Suffolk County DWI facility in Yaphank, N.Y.

Grubman had faced the prospect of up to seven years in prison if found guilty on 24 counts of vehicular assault and fleeing the scene of an accident, the “accident” being Grubman’s malicious backhauling into a crowd of people at Conscience Point Inn, a nightclub in Southampton, N.Y., on July 7, 2001.

Once she has completed her term, which could be reduced to 60 days on good behavior, Grubman will be on probation for at least three years. She also has been slapped with dozens of civil lawsuits as a result of the crash.

While in Yaphank, “Grubman will be forced to get up at the crack of dawn to do physical exercise, make her bed and perform maintenance tasks. The rest of the day is spent doing homework, more physical exercise, meeting with counselors -- and listening to lectures given by victims [of drunk driving incidents],” the Post reports.

But before getting to Yaphank, Grubman will undergo two days of processing, a set of procedures that “include being placed in a maximum-security cell in Riverhead, [N.Y.], with other inmates, where she’ll undergo physical and mental exams -- and be issued a green prison uniform,” according to the Post.

Grubman is scheduled to surrender Friday before Suffolk County Judge Michael Mullen.

Hey, at least she got to spend another summer in the Hamptons.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Monday, August 19, 2002  

The Joke’s on Us, Apparently
Comments from South Jersey

Here’s a letter just in from a, well, “reader,” an obvious sophisticate from southern New Jersey, home of such magnet destinations as Trenton, Camden, and Atlantic City.

It’s an interesting message, but bitterly disappointing to us given that we thought our audience was far more intelligent than this. Regardless, we offer the correspondence for your consideration.

From: Scott Welsh []
Subject: You are a joke
Sent: Monday, 08/19/02 9:00 p.m.

“You are the loser I see as I get off the Speedline in that filthy city.

“You are the one [sic; “The one”? Just us? Just me?] that [sic] has ensured the [D]emocrats stay in charge and keep the city in abject poverty.

“You are the one [sic; “The one”? Just us? Just me?] who reelected a mayor who bombed his own race, people he governed, and city [sic] and then ensured the scam continued by having a crony get the rebuilding work.

“You are the one [sic; “The one”? Just us? Just me?] who backs the convention center union idiots and believes that the way they run the center is the way the country should be run. Do you know how many businesses were displaced because of that s***-**** convention center?

“You are also a part of the Street ‘we are in charge’ mentality.

“Enjoy the erosion of a once great city...Just stay the hell out of south Jersey.”

That’s all Mr. Welsh had to say. It’s all very strange, really, particularly since at the present time we don’t even work out of Philadelphia, the city to which his misguided rant refers.

Below we offer some translations and other comments to help our readers make sense of Mr. Welsh’s tirade.


“Speedline”: PATCO, or the Port Authority Transit Corp., which operates a heavily subsidized railway that transports residents of persistently economically depressed southern New Jersey into the city of Philadelphia at below-market rates.

“That filthy city”: Philadelphia.

“[A] mayor who bombed his own race”: W. Wilson Goode, mayor of Philadelphia, 1984-1992. The reference being to Mayor Goode’s 1985 decision to destroy the headquarters of MOVE, a bizarre cult that had been terrorizing its neighbors for years. At the time our editor, the oldest member of our staff, was 23 years old and living in Washington, D.C.

“Street”: Current Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street. “You are also a part of the Street ‘we are in charge’ mentality.” Wrong. We have nothing to do with Mayor Street. Nobody here voted for Mayor Street. Nobody here is particularly fond of Mayor Street.

“Enjoy the erosion of a once great city”: Actually, many parts of Philadelphia are doing quite well. In fact, the city has a greater density of full-time residents in the core downtown area than any city in the country. And this erosion, we are expected to presume, has absolutely nothing to do with decades of flight to the suburbs.

“You are the one who backs the convention center union idiots and believes that the way they run the center is the way the country should be run. Do you know how many businesses were displaced because of that s***-**** convention center?” A complete and absolute lie. Simple as that. We have expressed our opinions to the contrary at our site |||trr|||.

“Just stay the hell out of south Jersey”: Hey, no problem, pal.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


A Man of Greatness Greets Death in the Spirit of Life

“Pope John Paul II, wrapping up an emotional homecoming that has revived him and his fellow Poles, asked Monday for the physical and spiritual strength to continue his pontificate ‘to the end.’ Once again dismissing speculation that he has any intention of resigning, the 82-year-old pope, visiting his native Poland for perhaps the last time, said it was in God’s hands how long his life and his pontifical ministry lasted,” reports Keith Miller of “(Pope Bids Farewell to Polish Faithful”).

“‘I hate to go’ were the final words the aged pope uttered to the adoring crowd gathered for his poignant departure after a four-day trip. . . . Clerics and politicians lined up to invite the pontiff to return for a 10th visit,” writes Miller. “But the pope asked to be remembered in prayers after his death and urged his countryfolk to acknowledge he may not live that long.”

“Earlier he spoke at a place that was instrumental in forming his religious mission, the Baroque hilltop Kalwaria sanctuary outside Krakow where his father took him as a boy in the 1930s to pray after the death of his mother. ‘Most Holy Mother, Our Lady of Calvary, obtain also for me strength in body and spirit that I may carry out to the end the mission given me,’ the frail pontiff prayed,” according to MSNBC’s report.

“The pope is revered by Poles as a father figure who inspired the resistance to communism and has steadied them during painful economic changes since they won freedom in 1989. On Sunday he lifted national spirits at an open-air Mass [in Krakow] for 3 million people, the largest crowd ever to see him in Poland,” Miller writes.

“On the final day of his ninth return to his homeland, papal concern for the future of his native land was at the fore. Democracy has brought excessive secularization, the pope has warned, and a society suffering more than 17 percent joblessness, social unrest and deep pessimism needs God’s help,” reports Miller.

Let’s see, now.

A man of faith, love, hope, and conviction tirelessly supervises his flock, the largest single organized religious body in the world, for nearly a quarter-century.

He is the first non-Italian pope in more than 450 years.

He overcomes a dramatic assassination attempt three years into his pontificate and later meets with the deranged gunman to express his forgiveness.

He authorizes the first catechism in English since the 16th century.

He authors numerous profound encyclicals and groundbreaking documents, including, among others, the 1983 Code of Canon Law for the Latin Rite, the 1990 Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches, the Apostolic Exhortation Resulting from the 1985 Extraordinary Synod on the Second Vatican Council, the Redeemer of Man (Redemptor hominis), the Father who is Rich in Mercy (Dives in misericordia), the Holy Spirit who is Lord and Giver of Life (Dominum et vivificantem), Mary Mother of the Redeemer (Mater Redemptoris), Splendor of Truth (Veritatis splendor), Gospel of Life (Evangelium vitae), the Moral Dimensions of Human Work (Laborem exercens), On Social Concerns (Sollicitudo rei socialis), That They May Be One (Ut unum sint), Commemorating Saints Cyril and Methodius -- Apostles to the Slavs (Slavorum apostolic), and Mission of the Redeemer (Redemptoris missio).

He writes a dozen or more learned apostolic letters and other documents, including. Among others, The Mystery and Worship of the Holy Eucharist (Dominicae cenae), Correcting Abuses of the Holy Eucharist (Inaestimabile donum), St. Joseph as Custodian of the Redeemer (Redemptor custos), the Dignity of Women (Mulieris dignitatem), Celebration of the Mass According to the Missal of 1962 (Ecclesia dei), and On Keeping Sunday Holy (Apostolos suos).

He plays a critical role in undermining communism in Poland.

He works closely with western leaders to help facilitate the demise of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European empire.

He displays a consistent, unwavering, and heart-felt concern for the poor, and unequivocally and vociferously supports social justice not only in the Third World but in the developed world, in the heart of Europe and even in the United States, where he chastises greed, selfishness, intolerance, and the indignity of the lives of the poor.

He holds a doctorate in philosophy.

He is fluent in eight different languages.

He is a best-selling author.

He is named Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1994.

He visits more than 125 countries and his very presence draws millions almost everywhere he goes.

Approaching death he canonizes two of the most worthy of the blesseds, now known as St. Pio of Pieltricina and St. Juan Domingo, traveling all the way to Mexico for the latter event.

Nearing death he travels to Canada for World Youth Day, an event of such significance and filled with so much activity that it lasts a week.

Is there another religious figure alive today whose accomplishments even approach those of John Paul II? To ask the question is to answer it.

And yet they ask, “What kind of crazy religion is this?


-- J.M.C.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Not Packing Heat, Child Left Vulnerable at Family Event

“A 10-year-old girl was shot and killed by a stray bullet after gang members looking for free food and beer crashed a baby’s christening party at a church,” reports the Associated Press.

The girl, Maleny Mendez, was shot at approximately 1 a.m. Sunday as an argument between guests and party-crashers escalated into violence outside St. Paul's Lutheran Church in the Parkchester section of the Bronx.

“Another party guest, a 28-year-old man, was shot three times in the neck and remained in critical condition Monday, police said,” A.P. reports.

According to police, about a dozen men, described as members of a Mexican gang, burst into the party, held in a meeting hall at St. Paul’s, took over the deejay’s microphone and eventually got into an argument with the now-deceased 28-year-old man.

“The girl was wounded as she, her mother and sister left the party. She died at Jacobi Hospital a short time later,” the article concludes.

One wonders how Miss Mendez would have fared had she been packing heat herself.

Of course, there are other questions: Why was the deejay not armed?

And where was the pastor? Could this tragedy have been prevented had he been carrying a semi-automatic in his jacket that evening?

And the newly christened child, could not a small, pearl-handled revolver have been stowed under the christening garment for added protection?

Or would so much more firepower have raised the death toll of this already heartbreaking event?

[Staff: Please prepare for hate mail overflow.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Cancelled After Just Two Episodes

We’re not quite sure what to make of this incoherent set of remarks, recently posted by Andrew Sullivan at the “Daily Dish”:

“In her inimitable style, Camille Paglia set about answering your questions but managed to produce 1[,]500 words for the first one. So here’s our second Camille installment. She’s indicated that perhaps later this year, we might send her some questions again. Here’s the question and answer. As to [sic] me, I’m still in the hammock, having a wonderful August. See you after Labor Day.”

As best we can determine, this means “The Lucy & Ethel Show” has been cancelled after just two episodes.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Saturday, August 17, 2002  

Still One of the Great Ones

Readers will find a quirky but admiring tribute to one of the best actresses of all time, Patricia Neal, in the latest issue of the New York Observer, “A Different Breed of Celebrity,” by Ronda Kaysen.

Kaysen is an usher at the Gramercy Theater, where celebrities apparently expect, and get, special treatment, including the best seats in the house, on a recent night was told by an excited colleague, “Patricia Neal needs to be reseated.”

“I didn’t know who Patricia Neal was, but I didn’t let on,” writes Kaysen. “I can recognize Reese Witherspoon when I see her, and Laura Linney’s not too hard to pick out of a crowd, either. If I don’t recognize the celebrity, usually the name rings a bell. I know I’m supposed to know who they are,” she continues.

“But Patricia Neal meant nothing to me. My only excuse is that I’m 25 -- I was born after her career had come and gone. . . . And then she came into the lobby herself. . . . But I still didn’t recognize her,” Kaysen notes.

Neal, who of all celebrities deserves a good seat, got one.

Kaysen humbly adds, “It wasn’t until later that evening, after I took the train home and searched for her name on the Internet, that I knew the full extent of my gaffe.”

We’re not sure it was a gaffe, but we can understand Kaysen’s embarrassment.

As Kaysen sums it up: “Patricia Neal was an Academy Award-winning actress, Gary Cooper’s mistress and Roald Dahl’s wife. She was the husky-voiced seductress who starred opposite Paul Newman in ‘Hud.’”

And more. To this list of accomplishments (and that’s the right word: judging by the historical record, being married to Dahl was no picnic), we would add that Neal, with the help of Cooper and director King Vidor turned Ayn Rand’s tiresome, overwrought, and sophomoric novel, The Fountainhead, into an on-screen masterpiece.

And Neal’s has been a life full of tragedy, one that puts to shame the whiney complaints of so many contemporary actors and actresses.

“Her 6-month-old son was struck by a car while in his stroller, then she lost a 7-year-old daughter to measles,” writes Kaysen. “Three years later, she suffered a series of massive strokes at the age of 39. Reported dead in Variety, she clung to life in a hospital bed -- three months pregnant. She went on to be a leading force for stroke victims, founding the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center, the first of its kind in the country.”

”Perhaps even more impressive,” adds Kaysen, “she went back to acting, and received an Academy Award nomination for her role in ‘The Subject Was Roses.’ In short, Patricia Neal wasn’t just a celebrity . . . she was someone who’d overcome real adversity and made a significant contribution to the world.” [Emphasis added. Past tense in original.]


The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Friday, August 16, 2002  

More and More Starving Palestinians

Believe it nor not, particularly those readers who continually cast the most malevolent of aspersions upon The Rittenhouse Review, especially when the subject at hand is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we present the information below without blaming any particular party for the serious problem addressed.

Instead, we blame virtually everyone involved. Moreover, we hope, but doubt, that everyone involved will be ashamed by the tragic issue we bring to your attention.

“Malnutrition and poverty are rising in Palestinian areas, affecting hundreds of children as overall access to health and medical facilities diminishes in the West Bank and Gaza. A seven-week Israeli clampdown in Palestinian areas -- combined with a spike in Palestinian suicide bombings and economic mismanagement -- is driving up unemployment and causing shortages of high-protein foods and infant formula,” that according to a piece by Sudarsan Raghavan in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer.

Who’s to blame? Everyone, at least by our reading of Raghavan’s account (“Malnutrition Rising Among Palestinians”).

“Most Palestinians view the crackdown [that began in June] as a collective punishment that will breed more hatred and violence. Yet some believe corruption within Yasir Arafat’s Palestinian Authority is contributing to the crisis. And others . . . are starting to blame Palestinian militants who provoke Israeli crackdowns, expressing a view rarely heard publicly here,” write Raghavan.

“I blame them, I blame them, I blame them,” says Shihada Ashish, a resident of Gaza. “The whole world will be better off without them.”

Raghavan quotes Emad Sha’at, the Palestinian Authority’s director of international aid coordination, as saying, “Palestinians are partially to blame for the change of tactics that started the intifadah, that it was changed to a military intifadah. We maybe should have continued with a peaceful intifadah.”

The situation is, by all accounts, dire. “Last week, two surveys funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Atlanta-based CARE International found 22.5 percent of Palestinian children were malnourished -- on the same level as those in such poverty-ridden nations as Nigeria and Chad. Acute malnutrition is three times higher -- just above 13 percent -- in Gaza than in the West Bank.”

Israeli cooperation in meeting the needs of the local population is scattershot. According to the Inquirer, “Yitzhak Sever, head of the Israeli Health Ministry's International Affairs Department, told reporters last week that Israel had offered to help improve the diet of Palestinian children. ‘We were rejected,’ he said. ‘The Palestinians didn't want any cooperation.’”

Yet the Israeli government has done everything in its power to prevent overseas aid from reaching the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. No surprise, the Israelis blame the entire situation on the Palestinians, the Sharon regime’s constant creation of obstacles preventing access to Palestinian population centers apparently are regarded as inconsequential factors in the persistently increasing Palestinian rates of poverty, unemployment, hunger, starvation, and death.

Finally, the apparent lack of assistance from wealthy Arab states -- at least according to what we know from the Western media -- is heinously deplorable.

In the larger scheme of things, worldwide, the Palestinians truly have been made the lowest of the low.

Why so few Americans care is a question for the ages.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Long Live the King!

It’s hard to believe, but 25 years ago today Elvis Presley died at the tragically early age of 42. I was never a big fan of Presley, or even a small fan, but that doesn’t mean much because I listen to very little music of any kind. I remain, however, fascinated by his appeal, by the devotion of his legion of fans, particularly so long after his passing.

Admittedly, being a “dyed-in-the-wool” Northeasterner, the passion so often associated with being a Presley fan is something to which I find it difficult to relate. I would emphasize that the paragraphs reprinted below, taken from today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, are not intended to be insulting jabs at Presley’s fans, only observations of the emotional attachment so many Americans have to this, yes, great performer.

“A lot of the male acolytes hanging around Graceland this week are so passionate about Elvis that they’ve morphed into him. They’re not Elvis impersonators, exactly. They don’t sport the full Vegas regalia or do the macho strut. They’re more like Elvis hybrids. They wear their own clothes and walk their own way -- but, from the neck up, it’s the pompadour, the shades, and the sideburns.

Raymond Hart wears the Elvis sideburns just long enough to hold down his job as general manager of a big hardware outlet in York, England. ‘So many people only see one side of the man,’ he says. ‘I mean, they take the bad stuff and make it bigger.’

“‘A lot of bad things happen in our own lives, with our families’ -- Hart’s wife is beside him, nodding sagely – ‘and imagine how we’d feel if some of those things got the kind of attention Elvis got. And he was under a lot of bad pressure.’

“That’s the official take on Elvis’[s] drug-related death spiral, that he was a victim of celebrity. ‘He was a prisoner of fame,’ says buddy Patty Parry, who recalls how Elvis watched lots of TV because he was wary of leaving the house. ‘It was a hard life.’”

The article in the Inquirer includes a particularly arresting tale from one of Presley’s guitarists: “‘There was a time Elvis damn near killed me,’ recalls John Wilkinson, Elvis’[s] rhythm guitarist. ‘This was in Las Vegas. He was one of the great practical jokers, although he didn't much like it when the jokes were on him.’

“‘Anyway, we were on stage. Elvis walks out, and I see he’s got something in his right hand. He looks at me. It was the look he'd get where you knew something bad was going to happen to you.

“‘I’m playing the lead-in to ‘That's All Right,’ key of A. And I see he’s got a water pistol. Doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know about water and electricity. The water hit me, and there was a blue arc that went between my fingertips and the guitar. Lucky I wasn’t hurt. I said, “Elvis, why’d you do that?” He said, “’Cause I have a water pistol and you don't!”’”

R.I.P., Mr. Presley

-- J.M.C.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


At Least the Right Man Has It

Does Lloyd Grove have the easiest job in the world or what?

The Washington Post’s gossip, who writes a twice-a-week column, the incredibly misnamed “Reliable Source,” was out with one of his typical yawners yesterday, the only interesting feature of which is that it blatantly reveals how little effort Grove puts into his work.

Yesterday’s scribbling runs 842 words, excluding the byline, the headline, sub-headlines, and captions. Of these, 331 words -- 39 percent of the column -- were all but lifted from a story that ran on “Page Six” of Wednesday’s New York Post.

Not word-for-word, mind you, but it may as well have been. We invite you to compare the texts. Regardless, Grove’s lead story was not his own and as best we can determine, the scribe’s contribution to his readers’ understanding of the event under discussion amounted to a few telephone calls, only two of which are mentioned specifically.

Grove’s big “scoop,” which again, comes from the pages of the New York Post and not from original reporting, has an aide to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) briefly removing her blouse and revealing her bra at Rise, a bar in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in lower Manhattan, an act that led to her ejection from the cocktail lounge.

Here’s the sum of Grove’s reportage:

(1) Grove, or someone working for him, called the aide in question, Kara Hughes, once. Hughes did not return the call. That’s not too surprising, and arguably was unfair to Hughes. After all, when we sought a comment from Grove a while back we made four calls to him, none of which was, nor has been, returned even to this day.

(2) Grove, or someone working for him, called Sen. Clinton’s spokesman Philippe Reines, who responded, appropriately enough, “We don't comment on stories about staffers’ personal lives -- including mine.”

So that’s it, two phone calls, though Grove makes a vague reference to performing “some due diligence,” which could very well amount to nothing more than the two phone calls we just mentioned.

Other than serving as a gratuitous swipe at Sen. Clinton, what was the point of publishing this wholly unoriginal piece?

Just when you think he can’t go any lower, Grove finds another way to debase himself, pulling the reputation of the Post down with him.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Thursday, August 15, 2002  

Choice Words From the Watergate Tapes

It looks like former President Richard Nixon hated pretty much everybody, except perhaps bickering daughters Julie Eisenhower and Tricia Cox.

By now we’ve all heard snippets from the Watergate tapes in which he disparages blacks and Jews, but, speaking for ourselves, we only just today came across these lovely gems from a 1970 conversation between Nixon and his adviser, John Ehrlichman:

Nixon: “The Italians. We musn’t forget the Italians. Must do something for them. They’re not, we ah . . . they’re not like us. Difference is, the . . . They smell different, look different, act different. After all, you can’t blame them. Oh no . . . can’t do that. They’ve never had the things we’ve had.”

Ehrlichman: “That’s right.”

Nixon: “Of course, the trouble is . . . the trouble is you can’t find one that’s honest.”

We found these statements in a modest yet remarkably informative book, Five Centuries of Italian American History, by Richard A. Capozzola.

[Now, before everyone jumps on us for plugging yet another Capozzola, two days in a row no less, we’ll add that Richard Capozzola and Jim Capozzola, editor of The Rittenhouse Review, only became acquainted after the launch of this site. A family relationship between the two has not been established and is currently the subject of research on both sides.]

After having read this Nixonian dialogue, with which we were completely unfamiliar until now, we did what any good webloggers would do: We “Google’d” it. Guess how many citations we found? Two. Just two. And one of the two was written by the same Richard Capozzola.

It strikes us as more than a little odd that Nixon’s crass comments about Italian-Americans have been so casually overlooked. They would appear to be deeply held beliefs: Coming in 1970, they were made years before Nixon found enemies in the forms of Rep. Peter Rodino and Judge John Sirica.

Did not one single historian or hobbyist listening to the tapes recoil at this ugliness? Did not one of them think the remarks strange enough to warrant at least a passing mention? What are we missing here?

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Raising Questions About Attacking Iraq

Just a quick quote:

“But the central point is that any campaign against Iraq, whatever the strategy, cost and risks, is certain to divert us for some indefinite period from our war on terrorism. Worse, there is a virtual consensus in the world against an attack on Iraq at this time. So long as that sentiment persists, it would require the U.S. to pursue a virtual go-it-alone strategy against Iraq, making any military operations correspondingly more difficult and expensive. The most serious cost, however, would be to the war on terrorism. Ignoring that clear sentiment would result in a serious degradation in international cooperation with us against terrorism. And make no mistake, we simply cannot win that war without enthusiastic international cooperation, especially on intelligence.”

Rep. Cynthia McKinney? Ramsey Clark? The editors of The Guardian?


Brent Scowcroft.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, August 14, 2002  

Susan Sarandon Speaks Out -- Prepare for the Smack-Down

Let’s guess the completely predictable reaction of the wing-nuts to certain recent, arguably intemperate, comments by the politically inclined and haphazardly coherent actress, Susan Sarandon.

According to a report from, Sarandon, currently performing in Glasgow or Edinburgh or Leeds or some other godforsaken city on the primary British Isle, observed that in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, “the country united in a way that showed ‘America at its finest.’”

Within three weeks, however, according to the reasonably talented actress and consummate poseur, “a cut-out of John Wayne showed up and a jingoist kind of thing started taking over, and nobody could ask questions anymore.”

Continuing along the same vein, Sarandon, who is married to the hopelessly untalented and apparently unemployable Tim Robbins, added, “We’re not supposed to talk about how there might have been something leading up to this, that it could have been prevented, or that our actions have ramifications.”

Then, ratcheting up the rhetoric more than a few notches, Sarandon added, “We’re living in a lock-down in terms of information and a certain point of view, and if you challenge that point of view, you’re anti-American.”

Granted, we share Sarandon’s concerns, though we would like to think we could express them with greater sophistication.

Nonetheless, just watch. Within 24 to 48 hours, tops, the wing-nuts, the talk-radio hosts, and the White House will be up in arms over Sarandon’s purported disloyalty, anti-Americanism, and brazen left-wing inclinations.

Frankly, we have little tolerance for actors and actresses who believe their political views and opinions regarding American foreign policy are of interest, let alone consequence, to anyone other than themselves.

The very idea that Sarandon, Robbins, Barbra Steisand, Alec Baldwin, David Geffen, Leonardo DiCaprio, and the rest have any influence on public opinion, let alone public policy, is ludicrous on its face.

Thus, like any intelligent person, we pretty much ignore political observations and prognostications coming out of Hollywood.

The sad part is that these stars and starlets offer unthinking conservatives all the more straw men -- their favorite targets, after all -- to knock down with easy impunity.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Looks Like She’s Down to Number Seven

It appears, appropriately enough, that the “girly boys” of National Review -- Rich Lowry, Jonah Goldberg, Rod Dreher, Byron York, and, presumably, Kathryn Jean Lopez -- have caved.

Hey, the words “girly boys” aren’t ours, they come from Ann Coulter, who after a well deserved hiatus, is returning to National Review Online, her future association with the loony bin known as Front Page Magazine, operated by ex-Stalinist and current-crybaby David Horowitz, being at this point unknown.

We’re surprised by the decision of the editors of National Review. It can’t be because Coulter has anything to contribute to political discourse in America. She certainly has no readily discernible positions on the major issues of the day, other than that she’s eager to destroy “Arabia” and seems to like guns an awful lot.

Of course it could be because Coulter has a best-selling book on the racks, the self-referentially entitled Slander, which, we were surprised to learn, is not an autobiography.

Perhaps Coulter has been rehired by National Review because the “girly boys” fear she might go postal on them -- a not entirely unrealistic concern, we think, given her clearly evident mental instability.

Ann Coulter Taking Aim at Jonah Goldberg

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


A Shameless Plug for a Reviewer of Ralph Fasanella’s America

A promising young scholar, Dr. Christopher Capozzola (A.B., Harvard College; M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D., Columbia University), assistant professor of history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is out with a thoughtful review of an exhibition of the works of the self-taught American painter Ralph Fasanella. The review, entitled “Bread and Roses,” appears in the Sept. 2 issue of In These Times.

A quick teaser:

“The idea of a painter walking around an art gallery wearing a gas station attendant’s shirt with the name ‘Ralph’ stitched above the pocket, spouting off lines like ‘the function of the artist is to disturb,’ is an old cliché -- and embarrassing to anyone but an art school sophomore. At first glance, it would seem that the painter Ralph Fasanella would fit right in among today’s urban hipsters. But Fasanella, who really was a gas station attendant and who really was named Ralph, ought to make such people squirm in their shirts.”

The exhibit is on display at the Mennello Museum of American Folk Art in Orlando, Fla., from Aug. 16 to Nov. 3, after which it will travel to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum in New York.

Dr. Capozzola’s review of the exhibition is not yet available on the web site of In These Times. We urge you to buy a copy of the magazine -- specifically the Sept. 2 issue -- at your local bookstore, newsstand, or food co-op.

[Full disclosure: Dr. Capozzola is a brother of the editor of The Rittenhouse Review.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Rah! Rah! Rah!

We didn’t spend too much time listening to or reading about the economic forum hosted by President Bush in Waco, Texas, yesterday.

From the first we learned of the event, we assumed it would be nothing more than a public relations session devoted to cheerleading, as if that would be enough to spark a stronger economic rebound.

Regardless, Eric Alterman neatly sums up the event for everyone.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, August 13, 2002  

A Dead Child in the House

Douglas J. Donohue is dead.

Donohue, 12, of Millsboro, Del., accidentally shot himself to death Monday morning while playing with a loaded handgun he found in his home, according to Delaware State Police, the News-Journal (Wilmington) reports today.

Donohue was baby-sitting his sisters when he found a loaded .25-caliber semi-automatic handgun in his parents’ bedroom, police said.

According to the News-Journal, “The boy began playing with the gun in the living room as his sisters, ages 9 and 10, looked on, police said. The boy pointed the gun at one of his sisters, but did not pull the trigger before sitting down in a recliner and removing two of the bullets in the gun, along with the magazine, police said.

“The boy mistakenly left one bullet in the chamber before pointing the gun at his face and pulling the trigger, police said. He died around 11:25 a.m., they said.

“His sisters were still in the room with him, said Cpl. Bruce Harris, a state police spokesman. After the shooting, they ran from the home to find a neighbor. . . .

“The boy’s parents, Fred and Julie Donohue, were at work at the time of the shooting and were interviewed by troopers Monday, along with their daughters, Harris said. The gun belonged to them, he said.

“Reached at her home Monday night, Julie Donohue said her family moved to the home on Winter Road last year and some boxes remained unpacked. She said she suspects the gun was in one of those boxes. . . .

“‘I didn’t even know where the damned thing was,’ she said.

“No charges were filed Monday and the investigation continues, Harris said.”

Take it away, Ann & Co.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Monday, August 12, 2002  

OVER AT |||trr|||
The Lighter Side

If you have a couple of free minutes, stop by our second weblog, |||trr|||, the home of “The Lighter Side of The Rittenhouse Review.” The latest posts at |||trr||| include:

“Potentially Truly Great Awful Movie Alert”

“Baseball Legend, Crossword Godsend Passes On”

“Patio Man and the Kids’ Clothes”

“Like Father, Like Daughter?”

“The Worst State?”

“The Stinkymeat Project”

“Bonnie Fuller’s ‘Reign of Terror’”

“Living in the Wrong Country”

“Lame ‘Larry King Live’ Alert”

“Pretentiousness Watch”

“So Many Voices . . . So Little to Say”

“Macho, Macho Man!”

“Best TV Lines Ever?”

“The Joy of Blair”

“Todd Oldham is Back”

“Ron Borges Libels Lance Armstrong”

“That Traficant’s a Funny Guy”

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Washington Post Publishes “Gossip” on “A Wing and a Prayer”

Welcome back to Journalism 101. Three days ago we announced a pop quiz on standards of journalistic integrity in which we asked readers to explain in no more than 500 words whether they would have published a report by an unidentified gossip columnist (“Gossip A”) had they been the columnist’s editor at the place of employment (“Newspaper X”). (For details about the quiz, direct yourselves here.)

Now, obviously, the correct answer to the hypothetical presented to the class is NO. As in, “No, I would not have published the piece written by Gossip A.” Although it is conceivable, albeit far-fetched, that a case could be made in favor of publishing Gossip A’s minor scribble, not one person submitting an essay could do so.

To be honest, this quiz was a give-away intended to help everyone raise his grade point average.

After all, proponents of publishing Gossip A’s column had virtually nothing to go on, what with the obvious political motives of at least two, and arguably all three of the gossips; the spotty track record of Gossip A and Gossip C (Gossip B being so insignificant a player in “the business” as to not warrant any concern); the blatant political agenda of the new girlfriend of Gossip A and her transparent influence on his writing since the relationship began; the apparently, to him at least, embarrassing lack of a girlfriend by Gossip C; the almost complete absence of any on-the-record sources; and the virtually irrefutable denial of the spokesman for the subjects of the gossips’ smear.

For the record, as responsible journalists often say, Gossip A from the original quiz is Lloyd Grove. His employer, “Newspaper X,” is the Washington Post. This is the article in question. Gossip B is Roger Friedman. His employer, “Web Site Y,” is And Gossip C is the psychologically tortured and sexually ambiguous Matt Drudge of the unselfconsciously eponymous Drudge Report, also known as “Web Site Z.”

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


So Very Sad

It is so very sad to watch a complete meltdown take place in public view. Such things are more properly taken care of within the confines of a properly licensed and fully regulated mental institution. It makes everything safer, and, well, so much more pleasant, for everyone concerned.

[Ed.: Forgot the link.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


It Just Can’t

This just can’t be right. A one-hour radio show? Every morning? Every morning? Our society has descended to these depths?

The Perpetually Inebriated Lucianne Goldberg
Doing What We Think is Her Best Mae West Impersonation

Does anyone know whether Mickey Kaus and Andrew Sullivan are regulars on this stooge-fest? We would imagine they would feel quite comfortable in Bubbe Goldberg’s company.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Sunday, August 11, 2002  

Visit the Latest Editions

Today we added a number of new sites to our list of “Better Blogs.” The newer sites, including some that were posted before today, are highlighted in bold text in the column at right.

We hope you will visit our latest additions and their latest editions.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Friday, August 09, 2002  

Moral Relativism, Cambridge Style

The Israel army’s recent assassination of Salah Shehadeh by means of a one-ton bomb dropped in a crowded residential neighborhood in Gaza City, an action that produced substantial collateral damage, including the death of at least 15 innocent civilians, has proved difficult to defend even by the most ardent supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the excessive force of the country’s military.

Let it not be said, however, that Martin Peretz couldn’t rise to the challenge, taking to the end page of the August 5 edition of his prized wedding gift, the New Republic, in an effort not only to justify the Israelis’ assault but to contend that the U.S. would have acted similarly, an argument he extends to the point of asserting Israel’s moral superiority over the U.S.

Noting the Bush administration’s half-hearted criticism of the attack, delivered by spokesman Ari Flesicher, (“this heavy-handed action does not contribute to peace”), Peretz writes: “It is true that Fleischer tried to draw a distinction between civilian casualties in the American-led war in Afghanistan and Israel’s bombing in Gaza. But, alas, this comparison does not redound in favor of the United States.”

Peretz cites a July 21 report in the New York Times in which it is asserted that the “American air campaign in Afghanistan, based on a high-tech, out-of-harm’s-way strategy, has produced a pattern of mistakes that have killed hundreds of Afghan civilians.”

The Times cites the U.S. bombing of a mosque last November during which 65 noncombatants were killed. Quoting the Times, Peretz adds: “[T]he evidence suggests that many civilians have been killed by air strikes hitting precisely the target they were aimed at . . . or because . . . Americans did not carefully differentiate between civilians and military targets.”

If true, this is more than carelessness,” Peretz argues. “But let me pose a question,” the polemicist continues. “If we knew Mullah Omar and his men were riding in a convoy with women and children, would we refrain from bombing, even though noncombatants might be killed? I doubt it.” [Emphasis added.]

Is this how Peretz writes about his own country? Is he suggesting that the U.S. military’s operation in Afghanistan is being conducted in manner that lacks 100-percent moral rectitude? Is he accusing the U.S. military of acting with reckless disregard for innocent human lives? Is he suggesting the U.S. has committed war crimes? Is he seeking to undermine public support for the war on terrorism?

As usual, Peretz has much to answer for.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Details on the Utopia Still Lacking

Max Sewicky makes quick work of Mary Matalin’s assertion lie on yesterday’s Today show that “every single economist agrees” that the 2001 recession would have been “longer and deeper” had it not been for the Bush administration’s tax cut and “stimulus package.”

But we’re still waiting for the administration’s point man on the economy, Karl Rove, to offer up an explanation for Matalin’s leak about the president’s agenda for establishing an economic and social utopia -- ensuring that “everyone who has a job wants one.” [Emphasis added.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


A Matter of Integrity and Sound Reporting

Welcome to Journalism 101. Today we’re having a pop quiz on standards of journalistic integrity.

Scenario: Gossip A from Newspaper X, where you work as an editor, picks up a story about a prominent politician and his wife put out by Gossip B, of Web Site Y, whose report cites only anonymous sources.

In an attempt to lend an aura of credibility to a second-hand story, Gossip A, who has submitted politically biased stories to you in the past, leans on a Gossip C, of Web Site Z, who has a decidedly mixed record of accuracy and reliability.

In Gossip A’s article, the politician’s spokesman provides convincing evidence that the story is made of whole cloth.

In opposition to that denial, Gossip A asserts contact with unnamed sources and then turns to Gossip B for a quote defending the original report, a quote in which Gossip B stands his ground but offers nothing else in his defense other than an unsubstantiated reconfiguration of the time line of events.

Your assignment: In an essay of up to 500 words, explain why you, as the editor of Gossip A’s newspaper, would or would not publish Gossip A’s story. Discuss and defend your position and base your defense on well-established standards of journalistic integrity.

It is not necessary for you to identify Gossips A, B, and C, Newspaper X, and Web Sites Y and Z. This information will be provided at the conclusion of the assignment.

[Ed.: Minor post-publication edits for purposes of clarity.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Thursday, August 08, 2002  

We’re Staying on His Good Side

Damn! Hesiod Theogeny, the voice behind Counterspin Central, is on a tear this week!

Chickenbloggers, be warned, he has your number.

We’re glad we’re on Hesiod’s good side. . . . Or at least we think we are. . . . We are, aren’t we?

Stop by and enjoy a good read. This guy knows his stuff.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Moving Beyond the Pale

Has Mickey Kaus, or “The Mickster,” as fellow far-right-winger Andrew Sullivan ingratiatingly calls him, gone completely off the deep end?

We vote YES. (See entry at 11:57 a.m. on August 8.)

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


It’s All Too Easy Being Green

We had no idea die Grüne were such a touchy bunch!

Based on the juvenile content and oh-so-wounded tone of many of the plaintive green-hued e-mails coming over the transom, we’d like to pass along a tip: If you people plan to play in the big leagues, you might want to grow, or otherwise acquire, thicker skins.

You might also give some thought to a basic political principle: Choose your targets carefully, particularly when you’re on the fringe.

Of course, we might be acting a bit condescending here, as it appears the Green Party has chosen its primary target -- Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) -- all too carefully.

Sen. Wellstone, despised by the Republican Party generally and the Bush administration in particular, looks vulnerable this year. One would think the Greens would go all out to ensure Sen. Wellstone’s re-election given the admirable record he has accumulated over the past 12 years, one that could serve as a template for Green Party campaign brochures.

But no. Sadly, it’s just that vulnerability that has attracted the narrow-minded and politically reckless Greens to launch their campaign against Sen. Wellstone, despite the Democrats’ precarious majority in the upper chamber.

Greenies: A Favorite of Dogs Everywhere

Let’s listen in on one of their strategy sessions, shall we?

“Dudes, let’s go for it. Let’s play the role of the spoiler.”

“But where, man? Where?”

“Like in Minnesota, dude. If we can beat Wellstone and throw the Senate back into the hands of the Republicans, then the Democrats will have to play ball with us. We’ll be players, man.”

“Dude, we can’t beat Wellstone!”

“Dude, I don’t mean beat beat, I mean just help make sure Wellstone loses. We gotta’ make sure the man falls.”

“Righteous sentiment, dude. Hell, there’s no difference between Republicans and the Republican-Democrats anyway, so why not screw them both?”

“Awesome analysis, my friend. To hell with all the crap the poor, the working class, and the middle class have to deal with. We’re on the edge of sparking a revolution, man!”

“Sparking a revolution! That’s like awesome, dude. You really mean it?”

“That’s what Ralph says. Who am I to question our revered leader?”

“But what if Coleman wins? Won’t the Democrats be ticked off at us? What if the Senate goes back to the Republicans? Won’t we be at least partly responsible?”

“Responsible? I don’t follow you, dude.”

“You know, like it’s partly our fault.”

“Who cares about ‘responsible’? This is bigger than us, dude. And in two years we’ll just pick a few more elections where we can help the right wing beat the not so right wing. Dude, this is what Ralph wants. Are you with us or against us?”

We’ll say it again, Greens. Get real!

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Joshua Marshall on the Bush Administration’s Incompetence

Joshua Micah Marshall of Talking Points Memo has one of his reliably interesting, informative, and provocative articles coming out in the next issue of the Washington Monthly.

It’s a “must-read” and you can get an early look at it by heading here.

Teaser quote: “With their trademark bravado, the Bush administration recast warmed-over or failed initiatives as sure bets. And for a while, the media, the public, and even some Democrats bought in. Today, however, its signature domestic accomplishment -- the 2001 tax cut -- seems destined to yield dividends of deficits and political fallout for years to come. When you look past the promises and the tough talk and the spin, you see an administration whose major policy initiatives are stalled or postponed to some unspecified point in the future.”

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


But Not the Type to Get Conservatives’ Knickers in Knots

By now most readers are aware of the controversy surrounding the assignment of Approaching the Qur’an: The Early Revelations as required reading for incoming freshmen at the University of North Carolina.

Apparently operating under the belief that the book, written by Michael A. Sells, professor of comparative religion at Haverford College, is a manual for terrorism, Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly recently had an on-air coronary during which he spewed forth some invective about forcing impressionable youngsters to study “our enemy’s religion.”

Naturally, a lawsuit has ensued, filed in federal court in North Carolina by something called the Family Policy Network, “a socially conservative Christian educational organization.”

Joe Glover, president of the FPN, contends it is unconstitutional for a public university to require students to study a particular religion, ignoring the obvious facts that the students aren’t be directed to study one specific religion and that they are being asked to read not the Qu’ran but a book about the Qu’ran.

Anyway, having said all that, we have another point to make.

“In response to the uproar, the university last month amended the assignment,” according to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Instead of writing a one-page paper about the book, students who object to the reading can skip it and take to campus Aug. 19 a one-page paper explaining their objections.”

What the hell is a “one-page paper”?!

Up to this point, you have read fewer than 250 words. Had this post been printed on paper, doubled-spaced, as is normally required of college papers, you would already be on the second page.

Fourth-graders, at least back in our day, wrote longer book reports on My Friend Flicka.

Knock yourselves out, kids, give it your all. But don’t save the writing assignment for the last minute. You will want to set aside plenty of time to work on that “paper.”

Such, apparently, is the state of higher education in America today. And yet on this particular controversy we expect Second Lady Lynne Cheney and über-proctor William Bennett will speak nary a word.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Lying With a Straight Face

Mary Matalin, counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney, is on CNBC as we write this, lying through that tiny mouth of hers that never seems to open wider than one-eighth of an inch.

Two howlers:

First, according to Matalin, “every single economist agrees” that the recession of 2001 would have been “longer and deeper” were it not for the Bush administration’s tax cut and “stimulus package.”

Take it away Drs. Sewicky and DeLong.

The second howler is really more of a misstatement or an odd Freudian slip. Matalin maintains that the Bush administration is focused on jobs, “it’s all about jobs,” she says. Better yet, the administration wants to make sure “everyone who has a job wants one.”

And thus the pursuit of happiness takes on an entirely new meaning. And a great way to increase unemployment.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Sen. Paul Wellstone Facing Three Opponents

Please give serious consideration to making a contribution to the re-election campaign of Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), a two-term U.S. senator facing opposition for a third term from no fewer than three candidates: Norm Coleman (Republican), Jim Moore (Independence Party), and Ed McGaa (Green Party).

Maintaining this seat for the Democrats is essential to the party retaining control of the U.S. Senate. Do not underestimate the importance of this race. Contributions to the Wellstone campaign can be made by visiting the Wellstone for Senate 2002 site.

Anything you can afford would be of great help: $10, $25, $50, $100, or more. Join us in making what was admittedly a more modest donation than we would have preferred to have made. If you can only afford $25 now, consider making another donation a few weeks from now as we intend to do.

Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.)

Sen. Wellstone is one of us. Let’s make sure Ralph Nader and his slavish followers, an odd assortment of weirdos who each day more and more resemble the zombie-like supporters of the psychotic Lyndon LaRouche, and who are the very same people who, in conjunction with the U.S. Supreme Court, ensured former Texas governor George W. Bush (R) would be installed as the nation’s president, don’t win another of their stupid “principled victories.”

These days, politics are for real. Not a game. Not a playground for a washed-up and overrated former consumer advocate who refuses to take even such basic steps as releasing his tax returns and his deluded mob of disheveled college-aged minions. It’s time to get real. And getting real has nothing whatsoever to do with the so-called Green Party.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, August 07, 2002  

Different Perspectives on the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict
With -- Shock! -- Both Sides Presented on the Same Page

Okay, maybe it isn’t really an “overlooked web site.” Maybe we were just slow in finding it. Regardless, Bitter Lemons, while a bit uneven at times, has proved to be a valuable stopping point on our daily trips across the web. At least they’re talking to each other rather than past each other.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


The Unconscionable “Hubris and Greed” of L. Dennis Kozlowski

As if we didn’t already have enough evidence that L. Dennis Kozlowski, the former chief executive of Tyco International Ltd. was headed for the history books, today’s Wall Street Journal seals his fate, earning the crooked honcho a special place in the corporate hall of shame.

Tyco Spent Millions for Benefit of Kozlowski, Its Former CEO,” a page one masterpiece by Mark Maremont and Laurie P. Cohen, documents a pattern of “hubris and greed” that would put Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette to shame.

Kozlowski turned Tyco’s till into a personal slush fund, the article reveals, buying a $19 million mansion in Boca Raton, Fla., in 1998 with an interest free loan provided by Tyco that later was forgiven as part of a corporate “bonus program.” Even better for Kozlowski, the $13 million of taxes due on the forgiven loan were also paid by Tyco.

And that’s just the beginning. “All told, it appears that more than $135 million in Tyco funds went to benefit Kozlowski, largely in forgiven loans and company payments for real estate, charitable donations, and personal expenses,” according to the Journal.

Maremont and Cohen document a pattern of abuse that includes $25 million in loans forgiven in 1999; $11 million of antiques, art, and furnishings for Kozlowski’s New York apartment; and $18 million for the apartment itself.

Kozlowski made donations estimated at $35 million to various charities using Tyco funds. Two large donations are particularly notable: Nearly $2 million to the Berwick Academy, a private school in Maine attended by his daughters, for an athletic center that bears the name not of Tyco but of Kozlowski; and $5 million to Seton Hall University, his alma mater, to build Kozlowski Hall.

It just goes on and on. Kozlowski put his doctor, his physical trainer, a chef, a masseur, and a yachting expert on Tyco’s payroll. The latter’s duties included helping Kozlowski build a 150-foot sailboat.

In mid-1997, when Tyco acquired ADT Ltd., Kozlowski, who three months earlier had publicly expressed his contempt and disdain for stock options as “a free ride . . . a way to earn megabucks in a bull market,” was granted 3.3 million options. “Mr. Kozlowski also pocketed $9.3 million in pay in the first three months after the ADT deal closed,” according to the Journal. “His pay rose to about $24 million in fiscal 1998 -- plus another $41 million in options gains. Tyco then added a rich retirement program for Mr. Kozlowski that currently guarantees him at least $4.1 million a year for life after age 65. A huge life-insurance policy was also executed for his benefit.”

The conclusion of Maremont and Cohen: “All told, Mr. Kozlowski reaped more than $400 million in salary, stock grants and gains from the sale of stock options during the past four years.”

The New York apartment, a Fifth Avenue duplex, was decorated by Wendy Valliere, a friend of Kozlowski and his second wife. “Her firm’s tab for furnishings and decoration totaled about $7.5 million, according to people familiar with the company,” write Maremont and Cohen. “Nearly $4 million was spent on other furnishings and art.”

Valliere, when contacted by the Journal, said the $7.5 million figure cited in the article is “too high,” but declined to provide an alternative figure. The job she did for the Kozlowskis, Valliere said, was “so mid-range compared to what a lot of people do.”

Perhaps, but there was nothing mid-range about L. Dennis Kozlowski did.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, August 06, 2002  

Beating Terrorism With Education

To The Rittenhouse Review:

My idea of a memorial to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and elsewhere is similar but more grandiose than Gabriella De Ferrari’s proposed bench-making.

Congress should appropriate funds to build seven new high schools in each of the 435 congressional districts.

The federal government would provide the buildings, furniture, and supplies, making the schools turnkey operations.

Each school would be named for a victim of the terrorist attacks. We could let the terrorists know that for each person that is killed, another new school would open.

The more educated the population is the better off the whole country is. This is the best antidote to terror.

Peter Stanley

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Sullivan and Paglia Bring Unexpected Joy

To The Rittenhouse Review:

Andrew Sullivan and Camille Paglia.

Words can’t begin to describe the magnitude of the joy with which this post fills me.

It's pretty damn big, though.

Anticipatorily . . .

Julia Mueller

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Not to be Published Here

As most of our readers know, The Rittenhouse Review, despite its center-liberal political and social orientation, is rather traditional with respect to the appropriate forum for the discussion of certain topics and the presentation of certain issues.

Call us uptight if you will, but we feel compelled to restrain from publishing on this site an interesting item we recently encountered, and thus refer our more mature readers instead to one of our affiliated web sites, |||trr|||, for a look at British Tory expatriate and American right-wing pundit Andrew Sullivan’s latest incarnation.

We’re not quite sure what to make of Sullivan’s latest display [Link may be temporarily out of service.] -- whether it’s a retrograde image donned in homage of the Village People or some Camille Paglia-inspired nouveau-butch look -- but we’re sure we don’t want to publish it here.

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It’s Ex Cathedra After All

From a weblogger named or called “Junius”: “[A]s far as I can see, almost everything on the RR [The Rittenhouse Review] has the tone of an ex cathedra pronouncement. I find that decision about authorial voice a little strange for this medium.”

Apparently Junius is not a regular reader of Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish.

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Monday, August 05, 2002  

The Not-So-Subtle Agenda of the Word of the Week

The “Word of the Week” included in right-wing linguist and military strategist Laura Ingraham’s latest e-mail blast is: prepotency.

Here’s how Ingraham presents the “Word of the Week”:

“prepotency \pree-POTE-n-see\ noun

“The quality or condition of having superior power, influence, or force; predominance.

“As in--

“The awesome prepotency of the American military will ultimately ensure that Saddam Hussein doesn’t have a chance of fending off an American invasion.”

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Fire-Breathing Right-Winger and Hand-Wringing Right-Winger
Taking Time Off . . . Rendezvous Location Unknown

What are the chances of such a fortuitous confluence of events?

Neither fire-breathing right-winger David Horowitz nor hand-wringing right-winger Andrew Sullivan will be spouting off publishing for at least the next several days.

Is there a meeting somewhere to which we weren’t invited?

Regardless, we’ll enjoy the respite while it lasts.

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Sunday, August 04, 2002  


We’re scratching our heads wondering why a weblog called “Junius” (Sorry, no permalinks, you’re on your own.) jumped to the conclusion that this statement had anything whatsoever to do with his/her/their site.

Actually, as best we can determine after the fact, the inclusion of “Junius” on our list of “Better Blogs” was something more akin to a typographical error than anything else. Thus, removing the link, which, frankly, we cannot remember having done, would rank at about the same level of seriousness or severity.

We would be happy to see “Junius” join the list of links on our site, should it merit inclusion, and we expect to review the site, with which we are admittedly only vaguely familiar, over the next several weeks.

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Friday, August 02, 2002  

Treasury Secretary Playing Out of His League

We never thought Paul O’Neill was a particularly good choice to head the Treasury Department and with each passing week we find our initial instincts vindicated. In fact, we believe the time has come for Secretary O’Neill to resign.

The Washington Post weighed in with a smart editorial on this topic on Thursday, August 1, entitled “Mr. O’Neill’s Gaffes.” Although the Post did not suggest O’Neill resign nor did it call for the White House to replace him, the editors may as well have done so, given the tone of their remarks, not one of which we can disagree with.

“On Fox News last Sunday, Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill declared that, by the president’s designation, he is the administration’s chief spokesman on the economy. It is not a role at which he excels,” the editors wrote, in a masterful understatement.

“In the very same program, Mr. O’Neill made comments that contributed to a fall of more than 5 percent in the value of Brazil’s currency the next day and triggered a formal protest from Brazil’s government,” the editors continued. “This was Mr. O’Neill’s second gaffe on Brazil in the space of five weeks. At the end of June, the treasury chief said he opposed fresh International Monetary Fund loans to Brazil because its problems were ‘political.’”

Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill

Then, after having upset the Brazilians, their neighbors, and the currency markets, O’Neill did virtually the same thing again. “After that remark, the Treasury issued a regretful statement expressing confidence in Brazil’s economic management. But the episode did not prevent Mr. O’Neill from jumping into more hot water last weekend,” write the Post editors. “Referring to Argentina and Uruguay as well as Brazil, the secretary said the challenge for these governments is to make sure that financial assistance ‘doesn’t just go out of the country to Swiss bank accounts.’”

It’s quite possible that Secretary O’Neill, who did an admirable job while at Alcoa Inc., simply lacks the diplomatic skills required for his position. But as the Post points out, the secretary apparently is clueless as to the significance of his position and the seriousness with which his remarks are viewed worldwide.

“[P]erhaps Mr. O’Neill hasn’t gotten used to the idea that, as Treasury secretary, his comments can move markets,” the editorial reads. “‘I’m constantly amazed that anybody cares what I do,’ he said the other day. If he’s not careful he’ll be out of a job, in which case his amazement will be ended.”

We have no reason to expect Secretary O’Neill to exercise discretion in his public remarks in the days, weeks, or months ahead. As a result, we believe his days in the administration are numbered, an idea with which we are well pleased.

Our nominee for his replacement?

Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.

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Insurance Premiums Not “Sticky,” Governor Implies

“Nevada lawmakers capped pain-and-suffering awards at $350,000 in most lawsuits yesterday, part of an effort to end a health-care crisis triggered by soaring malpractice insurance rates. Gov. Kenny C. Guinn (R) said the legislation would help keep doctors in the state because insurance premiums would be expected to fall in a few years.” [Emphasis added.]

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More Than Just Numbers

“When Benjamin Blutstein visited his parents’ home in Harrisburg a few weeks ago, the Hebrew University student left behind a book on their coffee table. The title: Understanding Islam,” begins a moving article in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer about the life of one of the American victims of this week’s bombing at the university’s Jerusalem campus.

“By most accounts, the younger Blutstein was a study in contrasts,” writes Ovetta Wiggins. “By day, he immersed himself in an intense Hebrew language course, learning to speak the language with a native fluency. By night, he spun hip-hop albums at a local nightclub owned by an Arab from Nazareth.”

Blutstein was one of seven people killed in the attack, which also wounded at least 80 others. Sometimes we need to be reminded there’s a person, a life behind each of those numbers.

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Thursday, August 01, 2002  

A Day Late, Many Dollars Short

To The Rittenhouse Review:

There is irony in Pat M. Holt’s call for a $1 million limit on executive compensation.

Section 162(m) of the Internal Revenue Code prohibits a public company from deducting any compensation of over $1 million to its chief executive officer or to the four other employees with the highest pay. Two exceptions are any pay based on commissions or any “performance-based” compensation.

This limit first affected U.S. corporations in 1994. Until then, compensation was deductible only to the extent that it was “reasonable.”

The burgeoning of stock options in the 1990s was an unintended consequence of this provision. As long as stock option plans were somehow based on the performance of the company, were approved by outside directors and the shareholders, there was no effective limit on executive pay.

All this occurred after Congress thought it had the problem solved.

Never underestimate the power of creative accountants and lawyers!

Tim Francis-Wright

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Glassman, Hassett Concede Their Book Was of No Value

Time for some serious damage control.

James K. Glassman and Kevin A. Hassett, writing in today’s Wall Street Journal (“Dow 36000 Revisited”), virtually negate whatever value their book, Dow 36000, might ever have had as economic prognostication or even as an intellectual exercise.

Glassman and Hassett today say:

“When our book, Dow 36,000, was published in September 1999, the Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at 10318. The Dow closed yesterday at 8736. What went wrong? Actually, nothing. Despite its flamboyant title, Dow 36,000 was a book of sober explanation, not of wild prognostication. We calculated that 36000 was the point at which the 30 stocks that comprise the Dow Industrials would be fully valued, and we warned that ‘it is impossible to predict how long it will take.’”

We admit to having only skimmed a review copy of Dow 36000 prior to its publication three years ago, dismissing the book as yet another attempt to cash in on an overvalued equity market. But if the above paragraph constitutes an accurate summary of the Glassman-Hassett thesis, anyone who bought the book deserves a full refund because the explanation offered here includes nothing of any value whatsoever.

Apparently we are to believe it was the publisher’s fault, or perhaps the marketing department of the publishing company. A catchy title was needed to sell the book, and Glassman and Hassett here seem to imply they wouldn’t have chosen such an aggressive title. This doesn’t quite get them off the hook, but it is a very convenient argument.

Determining “full value” -- Is it worth it?

Glassman and Hassett, resident fellow and resident scholar, respectively, at the American Enterprise Institute, fail to explain what they mean by “full value.” That’s unfortunate, because as anyone who has valued equity securities knows, the calculation of a stock’s fair value to a particular investor (and they are not all alike) includes numerous factors, the most quantifiable of which are, among other things, the expected rate of return, the equity risk premium, the investment horizon (or time period the stock is expected to be held), and the discount rate (needed to calculate present value).

When will the 30 stocks in the Dow Industrials become “fully valued”? Who knows and who cares? What difference could that possibly make to an investor? The phrase “fully valued” seems to imply that there is a terminal point at which individual stocks achieve their full value, their complete potential as it were. The odds of this happening to all 30 Dow stocks at the same time are virtually nil.

And irrelevant. The investor cares only about the “fair” or “intrinsic” value of the security in light of current and anticipated economic conditions, interest rates, inflation, desired rate of return, and, to be blunt about it, his “cash out” date.

Stating the obvious . . .

According to today’s article, Glassman and Hassett argued that an investor with a “long-term” horizon (“at least five years and, better, 10 or more”) should invest primarily in stocks and equity mutual funds and avoid bonds. In addition, investors should “buy and hold, and not try to time the market.” Why? Because “[s]tocks will not go straight up, we warned.” And third, they argued, “stocks are undervalued relative to their long-run trend.”

The first two points are conventional wisdom. The third point sounds the most impressive but it is also the most obvious. Except during periods of mania such as we experienced roughly from 1998 to early 2000, the stocks of quality companies are almost always undervalued relative to the long-term trends of the stocks’ prices, i.e., to their long-term value.

After all, if an investor believes a share of Gillette Co. will be worth $150 in 20 years or so, why would he pay $150 to own a share of Gillette right now, particularly when a share can be had for $33? He wouldn’t, for the simple reason of what is called “the time value of money.” The investor, if he’s smart, would be willing to pay the present value of the stock 20 years out, factoring in his expectations of growth, interest rates, the equity risk premium, the value of dividends, the manner in which he invested his dividends, and so forth. Naturally that figure will be lower than the “long-run trend” of the stock’s price.

. . . And a weak conclusion

Sadly, Glassman and Hassett end their essay with a resounding thud: “No, the Dow is not at 36000 right now, and we didn’t say it would be. But there is little doubt that, as long as the U.S. economy remains sound, stock prices will rise to 36000 and beyond.”

Do they mean that if an investor buys the Dow 30 now and then holds these stocks for some unspecified period of time he will be handsomely rewarded because the index will eventually reach 36000?

No kidding! Really? Amazing!

This is a no-brainer. We just created -- in less than 10 minutes -- an Excel spreadsheet demonstrating that the Dow could reach 36000 in about 16 years assuming a 10 percent annual return, and in nearly 20 years assuming the S&P 500’s historical annual rate of return of 7.6 percent. And if we accept the 15.2 percent annual rate of return Glassman and Hassett refer to with respect to the 20 years ending in 2001 (and we shouldn’t), the Dow would reach 36000 in just over 10 years.

All Glassman and Hassett are saying is the same thing every two-bit broker says over a few cocktails: “In the long run, stocks always go up.” Every element of that seemingly profound statement is true. Pick almost any “long run” -- 10-, 20-, and certainly 30-year period -- and you will find that the major stock indexes (i.e., “stocks” as a group, rather than a particular stock) appreciated, usually substantially.

That’s our view and we’re giving it to you for free.

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WTC Memorial Proposals Continue Their Downward Slide

Further evidence that the proposals for a World Trade Center memorial continue their perpetual slide from dignity to absurdity comes from novelist Gabriella De Ferrari writing in today’s New York Times (“Solace in the Stars”).

De Ferrari’s idea came to her while flying into New York after a month in Tuscany, where the sun apparently shined upon her with stupefying intensity.

It takes some time for De Ferrari to present us with her suggestion. We must first wade through much chatter about skies and stars, attempts to wax poetic about an old carved wooden bench, and the obligatory quote from a foreign writer, in this case Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz.

De Ferrari comes down to this: “The city is now pondering what to build as a memorial to those killed on Sept. 11. Most of the talk is about a monument at the World Trade Center site. But perhaps the families of those who died may also find comfort in something smaller and more personal.”

The climax: “We could build each family a bench to be placed in a spot of their choosing for their own observatory, a place to meditate and think of those who died. Each bench would be a private shrine in a public universe, each star, at times visible and at times imagined, bringing thoughts of eternity that might help us confront what we have seen.”

Yes. And for pigeons to drop on and vagrants to sleep on. Sounds lovely.

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Norah Vincent, Theologian

Norah Vincent is described by the Los Angeles Times -- a major voice of the “liberal media” that we have heard relentlessly seeks to silence conservative voices and yet for which Vincent writes a regular column -- as “a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a think tank set up after Sept. 11 to study terrorism.”

Now, Vincent’s contribution to our collective understanding of democracy and terrorism between Sept. 11 and today has been, well, nothing. And Vincent extends this curious phenomenon, one for which someone actually pays her money, with today’s column, “In a Clash of Cultures, We’ve Put God in the Middle,” a trite attempt at melding theology, politics, and foreign policy.

A brief excerpt (Bet you don’t make it to the end!):

“Where is God? . . . And so I repeat, where is God? Where is our God? And what is he? Is he just a euphemism for getting what we want, a capricious projection of our selfish wants, a good day for a rescue crew or, like the Islamist’s Allah, a convenience we invoke to sanction our victories? In these times, the answers to these questions matter more than ever because we are in a religious war with militant Islam, every bit as much as we are caught in a clash of civilizations, and God is in the middle of it.”

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Like That Will Ever Happen

Here’s a go-nowhere idea from Pat M. Holt in today’s Christian Science Monitor: “Rein In the Pay of America’s CEOs.”

“Congress could . . . [change] the tax code to provide that no part of the compensation paid to any employee exceeding, say, $1 million a year, can be treated as a business expense and thereby qualify as tax deductible,” Holt writes. “This would not prevent a company from paying an executive more than $1 million; but if it did so, the excess over a million would come from profits and not operating expenses.”

It would appear that Holt, former chief of staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was either asleep or on the moon during last year’s debate over the Bush administration’s tax cut, the main purpose of which was to make life even easier for wealthy executives.

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Avoiding the Real Stuff: The Issues

This -- a brief but valuable point -- comes from The Hamster:

“[I]t’s interesting to note that while the thesis of Ann Coulter’s book [Ed.: Slander] is that liberal name-calling contributes to the decline of political issue debate in this country, when have you ever heard people like Ann Coulter debate issues? What issues does Coulter push? She only attacks liberals. That’s all she does. She advocates no public policy issues. Same with Sean Hannity. [Neither] of these people get their kicks off of advocating an issue. They get their kicks of[f] of kicking people, more specifically liberals. Indeed, that’s the point of modern day conservatism.”

The Hamster posted these remarks, which actually are part of a larger argument we urge you to read, yesterday, July 31.

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Does It Mean Anything Anymore?

Normally we wouldn’t be particularly interested in reading an article in the Village Voice entitled “On Being Called a Commie” (by Richard Goldstein), but since the hyper-vigilant David Horowitz called us “commies” and “post-modern commies” recently, we figured we ought to at least take a look.

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Sullivan and Myers Do the Perp Walk

Federal prosecutors this morning arrested Scott Sullivan and David Myers, the former chief financial officer and controller, respectively, of now-bankrupt WorldCom Inc.

The two were arraigned in New York this morning and are expected to be charged with mail and securities fraud.

Although Sullivan and Myers turned themselves in, they were still forced to do “the perp walk” in front of photographers while handcuffed. CNBC played the film of that incident several times this morning.

Former Chief Executive Officer Bernard Ebbers has not been arrested but it’s likely Sullivan and Myers will provide sufficient evidence to prosecutors whether or not they enter plea bargains that include lesser sentences.

Meanwhile, CNBC “Squawk Box” reporter David Faber today raised an interesting question: “Where are the Enron arrests?”

Faber observed that arrests came relatively quickly after the public first learned of the various forms of malfeasance cases at WorldCom, ImClone Systems Inc., and Adelphia Communications Corp.

And yet there have been no arrests of any former Enron Corp. executives, the most likely candidates for which would be Andrew Fastow, Kenneth Lay, and Jeffrey Skilling.

In fact, according to Faber, former Enron Chairman Lay has been seen “playing golf on posh courses” around the country, locations he reaches by flying on his private jet.

We seem to recall the oh-so-lovely second Mrs. Lay appearing on national television tearfully lamenting that “it,” meaning all of their fortune, tied up in Enron stock, “was gone.”

Indeed, the rich are different. They’re shameless.

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Tuesday, July 30, 2002  

Another Look at a Letter to William Safire

Below I have reprinted a letter I sent to New York Times columnist William Safire on February 21, 2002.

Mr. William Safire
New York Times
New York, N.Y.

Dear Mr. Safire:

In your Feb. 21, 2002 column you wrote, “Enron, which mostly embarrassed Republicans, has been wrung dry in the media; the sight of the tilted ‘E’ symbol elicits yawns from viewers.”

You don’t get out much do you, Mr. Safire?

The demise of Enron Corp. is a very important issue to those who are following it, and I include in that group a surprising number of middle-class and working-class people I have encountered over the last few months who are extremely distressed and concerned about the issues raised by this debacle.

Many people I have talked to -- family, friends, colleagues, and strangers -- know more than you might expect about Enron. Believe it or not, they understand what Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, Andy Fastow, and Mike Kopper [A list to which I would now add Tom White.] did and did not do at Enron, and why their actions or inactions were wrong.

They know how much Enron’s executives and board members profited even after it was clear within the Enron Tower that the ship was sinking.

They know how willingly the Street played along with the game for its own benefit.

They know how badly the media failed in its task of watching for wretched excess and holding accountable those responsible for this disaster.

They even knew enough to laugh at the second Mrs. Kenneth Lay’s pathetic, tearful plea for sympathy.

To cite just one example, two weeks ago in Philadelphia a cab driver raised the subject with me for no particular reason. Not because the radio was on and Enron was under discussion at the moment, but because he was genuinely incensed by the rapacious actions of the company’s executives and friends.

And almost every day I watch “ordinary” people on the trains and subways reading stories about Enron in the New York Post, the New York Daily News, Newsday, and the Philadelphia Daily News.

Perhaps you and your colleagues at the Times aren’t perturbed by any of this, but far more people than you think are watching and are well informed.

They are eager to see how politicians, regulators, and the securities industry respond. Rational or not, they may decide to hold their congressional representatives and senators responsible. That’s just the way the system works.

Yours truly,

James M. Capozzola

And this was seven months ago!

As an addendum I would like to add that a New York cab driver not long ago asked me to explain -- in more detail than I would ever have expected -- what WorldCom did wrong when preparing its bogus financial statements.

It's not often that I get the opportunity to discuss capitalized expenses, operating expenses, depreciation, the calculation of earnings per share, and the concept of the price/earnings ratio with foreign-born cabbies, but in this case I was more than happy to spend the quick -- though insufficient -- 20 minutes doing so.

And it was on his tab, as the conversation took place after he had accepted my payment.

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