The Rittenhouse Review

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

Thursday, November 14, 2002  

Please Come Back Soon

Friends, it’s time for a break.

I know this is crushing news for all of you, but I’ve decided to take a hiatus from the site for a while.

I hope while I’m away to work through the massive stack of magazines and journals that has taken over my desk, and then to set aside time for reading something longer than a newspaper article: maybe a few real books for a change, perhaps even a novel.

In addition, several other of my writing projects have been woefully neglected, I have given too little attention to exploring the city I now call home, and I need to get Mildred enrolled in daycare.

Although the interval is likely to be brief, it is of undetermined duration. I hope you will check back now and again to catch the resumption of regular posting.

In the meantime, enjoy the fine weblogs listed in the sidebar at right.

And please consider visiting one of the newspapers or magazines from overseas to which I’ve linked.

Granted, not everyone can read Croatian, even me, but it couldn’t hurt to dust off that French, Spanish, or German dictionary you haven’t touched since college. And if not, there are plenty of English-language publications from which to choose.

The new perspective will do you a world of good.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Monday, November 11, 2002  

The Results Are In

Before I reveal the results of the catfight poll launched here last Thursday, let me say that I “drafted” Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears into this hypothetical battle -- an updated version of the fabled brawl between Chrissie Hynde and Carly Simon, which, truth be told, was more of an assault by the former upon the latter, and which was reported, with painstaking impartiality, here at the Review last week -- without knowing a single thing about either woman.

If you played recordings from both Aguilera and Spears, I would not be able to tell you who performed which selections.

I could not, even if tortured by means approved and authorized by Harvard Law School professor, renowned civil libertarian, and all-around loud-mouth Alan Dershowitz, name even one hit song produced by either singer. (I presume both have had some, perhaps many, hit singles -- Do they still call them that? -- since I’ve actually at least heard of these women.)

If you placed Aguilera and Spears in a line-up, police or otherwise as I’m making no value judgments, I strongly doubt I would be able to find either of them, though I believe I saw at least one photograph of Spears not long ago and may have mentioned that here.

I assumed and continue to assume both women are Americans, but at least one voter said something to lead me to question that presumption.

I have, however, learned from voters, or from them I can at least surmise, that the public perceives there to be a great deal of silicone involved in enhancing and sustaining the careers of both women, though one more than the other. Operating, as I always do, under the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, I’ll withhold the name of the “guiltier” party.

I say all this not to be smug or snide or condescending, but only to assure you that I am a completely disinterested party in this endeavor.

Disinterested . . . Now there’s a word the meaning of which no one seems to know any longer. Ditto, presently. Alas, sometimes the persona of the curmudgeonly editor wielding the feared, reviled, and yet respected red pen -- a.k.a. the “Bone Crusher” -- emerges. But I digress.

So, to the results . . .

Frankly, it wasn’t even close.

By a vote of 68 percent to 32 percent readers said Aguilera would be the aggressor in this match-up, that is, the one who started the fight.

And by a margin of 78 percent to 22 percent those voting in the poll concurred that Aguilera would defeat Spears, with a large portion of the winning side expressing their conviction in what could politely be described as “no uncertain terms.” (At the start of the poll I said votes and comments would remain confidential, which is kind of a shame because I have to say I have some very funny readers.)

The results of the voting were audited by the remnants of Arthur Andersen & Co. (Give me a break. I got a good deal.)

Thanks to everyone for participating.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Who Are These People?

Neal Pollack is back. As of yesterday, actually. And in celebration thereof, he gives himself a good “Fisk”-ing. In public, no less.

As for the departed Lizz Westman -- Wait, no, don’t cry! She’s not departed departed, she’s just not filling in Neal anymore. I mean, not filling in for Neal anymore. -- I want to marry her and have her children. We can work out the details later.

A shame about the election, isn’t it? Give the voters a real choice and, well, if you expect them to bring a pencil to the polls, you’re pretty much guaranteed to lose.


Gee whiz, William Burton of William Burton is really honked off, and frankly, I’ve been enjoying every minute of it. This is my favorite among his many great lines of late: “Any man still reading [Ayn] Rand past his twenties is no man to trust around heavy machinery.” And these wing-nut bloggers call me surly? Keep fighting the good fight, Mr. Burton.


Congratulations to Brian Linse on the one-year anniversary (November 10) of his weblog, the acclaimed AintNoBadDude, his expression of gratitude today to Professor InstaLinker notwithstanding. Linse: film auteur, pioneer blogger, Californian. Take your pick.


Now, has everyone already forgotten what I said last week about taking conservatives seriously? Eschaton relays the latest flatulence of the cretinous Michael Savage and the world heaves a collective sigh of, “So what?”

Trust me, people, Savage means it. This is not a joke to him. (If “cretinous” wasn’t a real word before today, it is now. Says who? Says me.)

By the way, Atrios, I don’t think one is allowed to say “naked” at, around, of, or in reference to Bob Jones University.


If Jeralyn Merritt of TalkLeft knows so much about crime and criminal law, how come she’s not a ten-most-wanted criminal mastermind by now? Or is she? Just kidding. I’ve learned more about the law from Merritt, online and off, than I have from any other resource I’ve met, or encountered rather, online or off.


Hey, Scoobie Davis! Thanks for putting up that blogroll . . . finally. There’s some nice follow through coming this way.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Notes From the Conservative Media

HERE’S A REAL CLIFFHANGER: New York Times emeritus columnist William Safire today ponders the question, Who should lead my beloved Likud Party? Super-hawk Ariel Sharon or super-hawk Benjamin Netanyahu?

Safire, who apparently is on an endearment basis with both men, writes, with tortured syntax, “So will it be ‘the economy, stupid’ favoring Bibi, or Dr. Win-the-War, favoring Arik? I don’t have a vote, but before it’s over I’ll cast an opinion.”

Gosh, I wonder whom Safire will choose?


YOU’VE BEEN LIVING IN THE CAPITAL TOO LONG WHEN…You write a sentence like this one and really mean it: “A Washington novel by Christopher Buckley is cause for rejoicing.” -- Noemie Emery, “Reality Fiction,” the Weekly Standard, November 4. [Online access to this article for some reason requires a subscription to the Weekly Standard. Guess a publisher’s gotta’ protect the really good stuff.]

And yes, that would be the same factually challenged Emery who recently scribbled something for the same magazine about “a tasteless funeral” when she was actually writing about a memorial service that included one, just one, political speech. Not that her editor, William Kristol, has ever displayed concern for facts when they get in the way of scoring partisan points.


“HEY, I’M NOT, LIKE, A MINORITY OR ANYTHING, OK?”: Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin takes up the Carr Brothers murder case in Wichita, Kan. Malkin, who we must assume, since she wrote a book about the subject, is neither a terrorist, nor a criminal, nor any other type of foreign menace -- and presumably not of immigrant stock, either -- turns for expert testimony to support her thesis to: a letter-to-the-editor writer.

“When such senseless, evil savagery takes place against politically correct victims,” Malkin writes, “the mainstream media is quick to make national news of such crimes. ‘If this had been two white males accused of killing four black individuals, the media would be on a feeding frenzy and every satellite news organization would be in Wichita doing live reports,’ wrote Trent Hungate of Wichita in a letter to the Wichita Eagle after the killings.”

Um, gee, I don’t know, standards, anyone?

Malkin’s is a clever little trick, though, and I think I might try it sometime. Sort of like this: “Ferd Shiflitt, of East Overshoe, agrees with me on this. In a crayon-written letter, Ferd writes, ‘Dang, eyve git me here six out vehicles on my proppertee n I thinks risyklin thems goot for the nvirrunmen, so . . .’”


INVETERATE PHILISTINE ALERT: If Andrew Sullivan had turned out to be the intellectual he once aspired to be and actually learned a few foreign languages, he might realize the offending poster from the weekend’s multinational rally in Florence to which he directs our attention today, and which no doubt was translated for him by the Sullivanista who sent it his way, is not representative of those displayed by the event’s participants.


“I’M REALLY BLOCKED. I KNOW! I’LL WRITE ABOUT . . .” Guess which issue right-wing Slate columnist Mickey Kaus employs in the litmus test he establishes for Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a predetermined effort to ensure she earns a failing grade?

Okay, I know, too easy. I’ll try harder next time. As for Kaus, don’t count on it.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Thursday, November 07, 2002  

Chrissie Hynde vs. Carly Simon / Britney Spears vs. Christina Aguilera

This is one of my favorite stories from the world of celebrity-dom, a world I inhabit, of course, but one to which I pay very little attention. The details vary depending upon the raconteur, but I will do my best to convey them in a fair and impartial manner.

On a November night several years ago, either 1995 or 1996, possibly the 6th of the month, but maybe not, singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell turned either 50 or 52 years old, an occasion she celebrated with a performance at The Fez, a small New York nightclub.

Numerous luminaries from the music business were in attendance, including the beautiful and talented, Grammy-, Oscar-, and Golden Globe-winning singer-songwriter Carly Simon, and the late-in-arriving trailer-park refugee Chrissie Hynde.

Hynde, who was either drunk or tweaking, or who may just have been acting like the complete asshole she is, was, by all accounts, exceedingly boisterous, repeatedly yelling unneeded encouragement to Mitchell -- “I love you! I love you!” -- during the 80-minute performance.

Simon, justifiably disgusted by Hynde’s psychotic episode, told the decrepit “rocker” either to please be more quiet, or to, well, shut the hell up. To that apparently outrageous provocation and insult, Hynde, testosterone a-flowing, pounced on Simon, grabbing her by the throat, and, according to some observers, wrestling her to the ground and punching Simon twice.

Long afterward, in April of this year, actually, Simon summarized the episode this way:

Well, Chrissie was a bit intoxicated and was yelling out during Joni’s performance, which, needless to say, everybody wanted to hear. Chrissie was sitting right next to me and I asked her to be a little quieter. No one else would have dared say that to her, but me, stupid me, didn’t know it was Chrissie.

She started choking me in a loving way, saying: “You’re great too Carly, get up there, you need to do this too.” Very nice, the only problem being that it was right in the middle of Joni’s song and people were looking at us. So I moved seats. That’s all it was about.

I must say that her choking me in “fun intoxication” looked to a lot of the audience like a fight. It was not. I just couldn't believe that no one was interceding and saying anything to her. I love her music and respect her as an artist. It was just one of those things.

What really happened? I have no idea; I wasn’t there. But since Simon is an all-around class act and Hynde is, well, trash, I’m inclined to think a drunken Hynde -- Is there any other kind? -- pitched a catfight and that Simon, appalled, revolted, and perhaps physically wounded, left The Fez, the club’s management having displayed remarkable tolerance for Hynde’s attempted British hooliganism, and now years later Simon is displaying her characteristic graciousness by downplaying the particulars of the incident.

I’ll bet you’ve never heard that story before.

All of this brings us to a little poll about a completely hypothetical catfight, one in which the participants will be familiar to Rittenhouse Review readers younger than 40: If a similar altercation were to occur, say, tonight, between Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, which performer would have started the fight and which woman would win?

Please send your votes to the Review at the e-mail address provided in the upper-right corner of the home page. Your votes will remain confidential and your e-mail addresses will not be used for any personal or commercial purpose. (Please, like I have time to assemble mailing lists?)

Have fun!

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Heads Must Roll

Unhappy with the pathetic performance of the Democratic Party Tuesday? Me too.

So head over to Angry Democrats and let Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, know that Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) isn’t the only person who should be resigning his leadership position this week.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


But I’m a Little Rusty

Venturing far from my expertise, but eager to please readers, I have translated the Italian text of a previous post into English to the best of my limited abilities. Be kind. It’s been a while and Italian isn’t even my best language. Abbondanza! Mangia! Enjoy.

“Cruella Finds Her Place in the House”
The state official who certified Al Gore’s defeat in the presidential elections

They called her Cruella DeVille, the Republicans’ hatchet man, Jeb Bush’s lover.

The normally reserved New York Times criticized her generous use of make-up and television comedians mocked her passion for hairspray (“The hole in the ozone layer is all her fault.”).

But for at least two years they will have to call her “Congresswoman,” as she has been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the 13th district of Florida.

This is the revenge of Katherine Harris, the Republican official who during the Florida electoral debacle of 2000 offered herself as the sacrificial lamb, certifying -- by her statutory authority -- the results of the state’s chaotic balloting.

“Everything is in order, the results are clear,” said Mrs. Harris, ignoring brawls at voting sites and a multitude of controversies including mis-punched ballots, hanging chads, and evidence that blacks were prevented from voting.

She may have lacked an appreciation for the absurdity of the moment, but she undoubtedly acted with perfect party discipline. [Note: I’m fairly sure I’m missing a colloquialism here.]

But the Republican Party leadership, with its devotion to “family values,” does not abandon its loyal sons -- and daughters -- and so rewarded her with the party’s nomination in a particularly safe district, the conservative Sarasota area. And now Cruella has become a congresswoman.

She was determined to pursue a judicial path and took her case to court, a case that ended shortly before Christmas when the Supreme Court, by a vote of five to four, brought the Florida recounts to a close and sent Bush to the White House. [Note: The translation of this paragraph and the next is “soft” due to my own shortcomings.]

During the campaign she had to deal with some steadfast/stubborn Democrats who brought renewed attention to the defective ballots and who waved billboards splashed with “5-4” (a reference to the Supreme Court decision in which the Republican judges outvoted their Democratic counterparts in favor of George Bush).

But she has won. And, as she learned -- Or taught? -- two years ago, in politics winning is the only thing that counts.

It’s better in the original. But then again, translators always say that.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Damned if I Know. But the Italians Do.

I’m not quite sure what it means when foreigners, in this case Italians, understand the horrors of American politics -- also known as former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris (R) -- better than do we ourselves.

The article below comes from the November 7 edition of Corriere della Serra.

La Crudelia del Duemila Trova un Posto da Deputato

Da funzionario statale la Harris certificò la sconfitta di Gore nelle elezioni presidenziali

L’hanno chiamata Crudelia DeMon, sicario repubblicano, amante di Jeb [!] Bush, un giornale generalmente pacato come il New York Times ha criticato il suo abbondante utilizzo di make-up, i comici tv hanno irriso la sua passione per la lacca da capelli («il buco nell’ozono è tutto colpa sua»). Ora però, almeno per due anni, dovranno chiamarla «onorevole»: perché è stata eletta come deputato del 13esimo distretto della Florida. E’ la rivincita di Katherine Harris, la funzionaria repubblicana che durante la débâcle elettorale di Florida 2000 si immolò per il bene del partito certificando -- come del resto era suo potere -- il risultato del caoticissimo voto. «Tutto regolare, elezione cristallina», disse la signora Harris ignorando le risse ai seggi e le infinite polemiche su schede malpunzonate, «coriandoli» ed elettori neri tenuti alla larga dai seggi. Forse agì con scarso senso del ridicolo, ma indubbiamente con perfetta disciplina di partito.

Il vertice republicano, che insistendo sempre sui «valori familiari» non può non amare i suoi figli -- e le sue figlie -- obbedienti, l’ha premiata con la candidatura in un collegio facile facile, quello della conservatrice Sarasota, e ora la signora Crudelia è diventata deputato.

Certo fu lei a dare il via alla corrida giudiziaria che, accompagnata da un tribunale all’altro da un esercito di avvocati, finì poco prima di Natale con la decisione finale della Corte suprema (che, per cinque voti a quattro, fece fermare i riconteggi della Florida e, di fatto, mandò Bush alla Casa Bianca). Certo, durante i suoi comizi ha dovuto fare i conti con qualche irriducibile democratico che la irrideva stracciando delle finte schede elettorali o sventolando cartelloni con la scritta «5-4» (la spaccatura della Corte suprema nel voto sullo scontro Bush-Gore, giudici repubblicani contro democratici).

Ma ha vinto. E, come ha imparato -- o insegnato? -- due anni fa, in politica è l’unica cosa che conta.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, November 06, 2002  

Perspectives on the Election

A sampling of perspectives on the results of yesterday’s elections from some of the best political commentators in the country. My apologies to anyone I overlooked, neglected, or just haven’t gotten to yet.



What kind of world do we live in where the governor of Virginia is a Democrat and the governor of Maryland is a Republican?


A LEVEL GAZE - David Yaseen:

Yes, this debacle of an election is the media’s fault. But it’s our fault as well, and we need to drastically change the way we do things in the Democratic Party, not diddle around with how to phrase things to make them palatable to the electorate. If we have to drag American voters, kicking and screaming to chose their own interests, so be it. Otherwise, let’s just give up and leave the fray to Ralph Nader.



It is hard to muster up the will to fight, especially with the deck stacked against us. But to give up our individual and collective voices, especially now, would be to remove the last form of checks and balances that this country has. Debating, questioning, speaking out, envisioning change, demanding change, creating change -- we need to pull together and keep working to improve this country and our way of life.


BODY & SOUL - Jeanne D’Arc [Note: There’s either a message in here or I’m over-reaching and Mlle. D’Arc just really didn’t feel like talking politics today.]:

I have a seven-year-old who needs a supervised bath, a chapter of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and tucking in. Priorities and all.

In last night’s chapter, the White Witch and her evil hordes tied Aslan down, muzzled him, cut off his mane, made fun of him, and killed him. Evil is greedy. People doing bad things always overreach. I could see from the look on my daughter’s face that she was very confused. This is not the way things are supposed to go in children’s books. Evil is not supposed to win. Trickery is not supposed to be rewarded. Oh, maybe it will look that way briefly, but by the end of the chapter, someone is supposed to come and save Aslan. Or Aslan will fight back and win.

When the Witch’s rabble muzzled Aslan, my daughter announced quite confidently that Peter would come with his sword. That was why Aslan had told Peter to make sure he kept his sword clean, wasn’t it? -- because Aslan knew that Peter would need it to save him. . . .

At the end of the chapter the children turned away because they couldn’t stand to watch Aslan be killed. My daughter thinks she sees a loophole there. Since Lucy and Susan didn’t look, maybe Aslan didn’t die after all. Maybe he got away. Maybe Peter came, and Lucy and Susan just didn’t see it. That’s what happened, right?

“You’ll just have to wait and see, sweetheart,” I said. . . .

Tonight I’ll read the next chapter of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. In case you’ve never read it -- Aslan comes back.


CAL-PUNDIT - Kevin Drum:

I think the main lesson of this election is that President Bush is a take-no-prisoners campaigner -- which we already knew -- and that there’s not a lot of discontent out there. There’s nothing big to energize the Democrats, but the tiny margins of victory show that the supposedly “angry base” in the Republican party didn’t exactly come out in droves either. (Turnout for the past three midterm elections has been almost eerily steady at 62% of registered voters. I’ll be interested to see what the final figures are this time.)


COOPED-UP - Jeff Cooper:

The president and the Republicans now have their chance. They are certainly more able to claim a mandate than they were two years ago. As for the Democrats, it should be clear now that they are doomed to failure unless and until they are able to put together a platform of ideas, a Democratic analogue to the 1994 Republican Contract With America, around which to rally. Such a move carries risks, to be sure -- it provides the opposition with a target for criticism. But we’ve now seen what risk-aversion produces, and the party can’t afford any more results like yesterday. It’s time for the party leadership to figure out what it stands for, not just what it stands against, and to put up or shut up.



It’s time to build up some street [credibility] with the average voter out there. Treat them like adults. Be HONEST with them. Point out, correctly, that the Republicans throw you a big party, and wind up sending your kids and grandkids the bill. Be principled. Tell them things they might not want to hear. But, be optimistic. Say that while there are challenges before us, and it might be a little painful now, it’s worth it for the bright future in store for everyone. Talk about inclusiveness, the value and gift of diversity of culture and opinion. Talk about fairness, and justice. Talk about upholding our principles as a nation that is not an aggressor, but a defender. There are many things we can fight for. It’s time we, as Democrats, did that.

The Republicans, in their hubris, will self-destruct. They cannot do otherwise. Let’s be there to pick up the pieces when it happens, and give the American people a stark choice.

Fish or cut bait, America. Either we are an intolerant, irresponsible, aggressive, violent, uncaring nation. Or we are all Democrats.



To be clear, I don’t think the Democrats need to turn hard left. What they need to do (as many have pointed out in the comments) is to start acting like Democrats. The Democrats ousted yesterday were all running and voting to the right of the DLC [Democratic Leadership Council]! I have nothing against the DLC -- I’m not an ideological purist -- but when you make the DLC look “progressive,” you’re in trouble. If you run as a Republican, a (D) next to your name won’t bring out the base.

Make no mistake about it, the Democrats lost fair and square. Despite voting irregularities in some parts, none were decisive (especially now that Johnson has apparently won his race). The system didn’t fail our party -- our party’s leadership did.


ESCHATON - Atrios:

The other cunning plan is to make tax cuts that mostly come into effect years from now “permanent,” including of course the [elimination of the] estate tax. I’m not surprised this one is popular with his ideological base of course. I’m sure some unproductive junior members of the leisure class are pretty jazzed about it too -- a couple hundred of them more per year might just be able to never work again. Soon as Dad kicks off, anyway. As for the other tax reductions, I bet the 1% of the population that’s going to find their wallets a bit fatter 3-4 years ago, if we’re all still here anyway, are putting in their private jet orders as we speak. Or, perhaps ordering some tasteful knockoffs of Roman sculptures to put in the front lawns to replace the pink flamingos. Ah, the high class of and refined tastes the nouveau riche. Trailer trash with money. Shudder. Maybe they’ll have the cleaning woman in a couple more times per week, too. Trickle down, trickle down.


FREE PIE - Kim Osterwalder:

I’ve just been prevented from voting. The polling place for my precinct is in the middle of a gated community, where there are homes in the million-dollar plus range. The guard at the gate was instructed not to let any one in that doesn’t live there, including the riff raff who only want to come in to vote. I live about 50 yards away. [Note: Visit Free Pie to see how the story turns out.]


GROUPTHINK CENTRAL - Yuval Rubinstein:

I’ll be downing double shots of Cuervo like there’s no tomorrow.


MAD KANE’S NOTABLES - Madeleine Begun Kane:

I’ve been struggling for hours to come up with something positive to say about the election, and I’ve finally got it: Election 2002 is the death knell of Bush’s 2004 Presidential campaign. Think about it. Two years from now, when the country is in even worse shape, who will Bush be able to convincingly blame? Clinton? Naaaah! A GOP-controlled House and Senate? Hardly. A Judiciary jam-packed with right-wing gems? Nope. With all branches of federal government at his beck and call, Bush -- and the rest of us -- will only have himself to blame. Hey -- a girl’s gotta dream!


MAKING LIGHT - Teresa Nielsen Hayden [Note: This is but a small fraction of an outstanding piece of commentary. TNH’s essay is must reading.]:

[I]f even a fraction of the effort some lefties put into personally gratifying but politically low-yield activities like petitions and street theatre were to instead go into voter registration drives, door-to-door canvassing, and get-out-the-vote operations, their causes would be in much better shape right now.

Real political action is always social. The primary interaction isn’t between you and your political ideals; it’s between you and other people. If you don’t engage with your fellow citizens, you might just as well have stayed home, or joined a community theatre group.

And I don’t mean confrontations, or hectoring and lecturing them. You have to talk with people--real talking, the kind where you make eye contact, take turns, and respond interactively.


THE POOR MAN - Andrew Northrup:

To the extent that the election results were influenced by President Bush’s (inexplicable) personal popularity, there was nothing that could have been done. To the extent that many races had to do with local issues than with national concerns, and with the individual failings and qualities of the various candidates, they defy sweeping generalizations. But to the extent that the Democrats’ failure reflects a lack of a national agenda for the party as a whole, it’s their own damned fault.


READING & WRITING - Joseph Duemer:

A few items from Duemer’s “Lexicon for Democrats”: Deficit-loving Republicans. Tax and spend Republicans. The Republican privatization plan for Social Security. The class war started in the boardroom.



I find it extraordinary that people can rave about the extent to which the President “involved” himself so much in the election when in fact he didn’t have to answer one direct question on a single key issue. Is there any more insulated political figure in world politics than the President of the United States?

He’s “involved” in the campaign in a democratic and political sense in the same way that Jay Leno is involved in the staging and production of “The Tonight Show.” Like a television front man, Bush just gets to show up at rallies populated by his supporters who would, let’s face it, cheer if he stood up and sang “I’m a Little Teapot,” and all he has to do is make like an evangelist, recite his motherhood statements about the resilience and greatness of the American people, take a bow, and be deemed “Presidential.”

How would American politics change if the actual President had to do what they pay Ari Fleischer to do?


THE SIDESHOW - Avedon Carol:

Why no exit polls? What was wrong with them? I’m sorry, I just don’t believe the official figures reflect how people voted. The evidence is that the Republicans were pulling out all the stops to make sure they won whether they had public support or not, and I have no reason to doubt that they did exactly that. I don’t think it’s an accident that we don’t even have exit polls to compare. You can call me a raving lefty paranoid if you want, but the evidence is on my side and the official results simply don’t make sense.



Leaving home this morning my daughter had on MSNBC (which is weird since she usually watches CNN in the morning), and as I walked through the room, I saw a commercial promoting MSNBC’s “fiercely independent political coverage.” That’s enough to make you hork a waffle through your nose. I assume they meant “independent” of the facts.


TWO TEARS IN A BUCKET - Ann Salisbury:

Five percent. That’s all that separated Bill Simon from overcoming Gov. Gray Davis (D-Calif.). And those numbers certainly didn’t match the Davis internal polls -- at least not the ones I heard about. That five percent is 329,420 votes. That’s a lot, but one wonders what could have happened had the President campaigned more for Simon and if Simon had more money. I bet there are a lot of Republicans this morning saying “hmm...” I’d probably even be a bit bitter if I were Simon. He had more of a chance than anyone gave him credit for -- maybe. If I remember correctly (always a big “if”), Simon never broke over 43 percent in any poll.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


I’ll Play That

If this were a time to assign blame, if I thought assigning blame would do any good, and if I were the type to do so -- Aw, what the hell, everyone who knows me knows I am exactly that type, so why not join in? I blame the fiasco known as Election Day 2002 on: the Democratic Party leadership; unprincipled Democratic lawmakers at the federal, state, and local levels; the Democratic rank-and-file nationwide; dishonest Republican politicians; dishonest Republican voters; and the media, particularly the punditocracy, our useless chattering class, our nattering nabobs of narcissism.

Within the Democratic leadership, Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) have proved, beyond any doubt whatsoever, that they are unfit to lead the party. This was not only a failure of election campaigns, but a failure of political leadership, even political will, during the past two years. If these two men do not have the decency to resign their leadership positions they should be forced to prove why they should continue to hold them. If their colleagues cannot or will not field capable challengers, then it is time to start taking names.

And it is high time for those same colleagues -- who must not be held blameless -- to stop playing their childish “me-too” games, time to stop caving in to the juvenile taunts of the right-wing media and crazed interest groups, time to stop living in fear of confrontation, and time to start taking stands, speaking out and voting against absurd “compromise” legislation, and time to start defending, with vigor and conviction, the core values of the party.

For their part, our part, rank-and-file Democrats must take a more active role in politics, both within the party and in their communities. Running for office, grassroots activity, local party politics, city hall, the town board, the school board, voter-registration drives, petitions: these things matter. It’s been years since I joined an organization of any kind, or at least played an active role in one, and I doubt I am alone in that regard. Maybe yesterday’s fiasco will be the spark that promotes participation from all of those smart-aleck know-it-alls carping from the sidelines. And yes, I’m talking about myself, too.

It also is time to start taking the Republicans seriously. Yes, the Republican Party long ago was hijacked by representatives of the lunatic fringe and the vested aristocracy, groups that have succeeded in making their extremist agendas the standards with which all else is compared. Contempt for the right-wing party and its ideas or policies can be strangely satisfying on an intellectual level, but it is dangerous when it veers into hubris and it easily renders itself useless in politics.

When we fail to understand that Republicans and conservatives actually believe the words they say, believe them to be the truth, and intend to take action upon them, we yield the advantage to the other side. Lamenting the devastating effects talk radio and the talk radio culture have had upon our political discourse -- and now on our polity as a whole -- does little if anything to advance our cause. Millions of people are listening to talk radio every day and Democrats have not only failed to refute the lies and defamation it spreads, they seem incapable of even pretending to be able to speak the pidgin language of the medium.

Taking Republicans seriously does not mean giving credence to their morally and fiscally bankrupt platforms and policies. It means listening to their arguments, determining the messages they are sending, finding the reason voters respond, and then attacking them, vigorously and mercilessly, and exposing their lies, relentlessly and repeatedly, in a way that speaks to the real needs and interests of the American people.

A large portion of the population believes Democrats are habitual liars. One of the right wing’s most vocal crackpots even peddled her little tome based on this slander to the top of the best-sellers list, an accomplishment that reinforced the grip the ideologically insane have upon our political culture. This farce must end.

I cannot let today pass without rebuking two groups that long have raised my ire: the so-called socially liberal fiscal conservatives and the self-styled libertarians. Such as these, when they vote for right-wing Republicans, are truly contemptible. These people are either fools or liars. Their much-vaunted self-interest rarely leaves their wallets, even when their purses are being snatched by the very same lawmakers they rally around. The right wing of the Republican Party, and that’s the only wing remaining, is no friend of libertarian principles. If these fools and liars have not yet realized this elemental fact, they should soon enough, as that oh-so-reliable bastion of civil rights and civil liberties, the Supreme Court, yesterday was handed over to extremists with dangerous and decidedly un-libertarian agendas.

And enough with this ridiculous spineless creature we accept as our media. It isn’t enough that the loudest mouths with the most bizarre claims and loopiest one-liners hold the microphones the longest, it’s been that way for years. But the inability or unwillingness of so-called journalists to raise difficult questions, to expose dishonesty, criminality, and culpability, to reject spoon-fed rationalizations for demented policy choices is not only an affront to our intelligence, it represents a grave danger to our democracy.

Rush Limbaugh on national broadcast television on election night, as if he were a thoughtful, wise, and experienced political analyst! Imagine: “This is Edward R. Morrow with radio talk-show host Father Coughlin bringing you the latest election results . . .” The political scene has changed drastically, my Democratic friends. Now let’s get with the damn program!

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, November 05, 2002  

SEC Chairman Pitt Resigns

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Harvey L. Pitt submitted his resignation to President Bush in a letter delivered to the White House this evening, according to various media reports.

Bye-bye, Harvey.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Wandering Around the Web

I’m not sure why, but this afternoon I popped over to Salon, the online “magazine” to which I’m no longer a premium subscriber and the online “magazine” that will not refund any portion of the money I paid them for the premium subscription to the “magazine” that I no longer want, and saw the latest from gossipeuse Amy Reiter. The subject of the lead item in Reiter’s column? Rebecca Romijn-Stamos. Again. The second time in three weeks.

What gives? Any “full disclosure” we should be hearing? Are Reiter and Romijn-Stamos, like, sisters or something? What’s interesting is that in this lead item Reiter discusses the alternate career choices Romijn-Stamos has ruled out -- rat wrangler, jockey, professional bungee jumper, dentist, exotic dancer -- and I have yet to figure out what it is she’s already done. I’ve really got to “Google” this woman once and for all. Apparently she’s a major celebrity.

Speaking of full disclosure, I heard CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo made a guest appearance on the latest episode of “The Sopranos,” HBO’s celebrated paean to the contributions of Italian-Americans to our great country. (I understand next season’s HBO line-up includes “The Steppinfetchits: Three Generations of Welfare Dependency” and “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion: A Musical Mini-Series.”)

Unfortunately, I missed it. I missed it because: (a) I’m not a regular viewer -- I’ve only seen the show once; (b) I never remember when HBO’s real shows are on, even the good ones, like “Oz,” which may not even be around anymore for all I know (Note to self: Call Chris Meloni and ask if “Oz” is still running and whether he’s free Saturday night.); and (c) I still haven’t set up an appointment for a visit from the Comcast guy. Yes, it’s true: I haven’t watched television in a month. Try it sometime. It’s easier than you think.

Anyway, full disclosure . . . um . . . full disclosure . . . oh, right, so I heard Maria was on “The Sopranos” and I can’t offer my opinion on her performance. Just as well, I suppose, because “full disclosure” would require that I inform you that for three years I worked for Bartiromo’s husband, Jonathan Steinberg, at the late, great Individual Investor magazine, that Bartiromo had a column in the magazine, that I have met Maria, that I have the number of her direct line at CNBC, that on occasion I socialized with her (A very small number of work-related occasions. Okay, like two or three times.), and that she plays a mean game of . . . Whoa, I’ll stop there.

I was surprised to hear about Bartiromo’s appearance and I wonder if the organizers of New York’s annual Columbus Day parade have caught wind of it, what with them not being big “Sopranos” fans. Not that I think she shouldn’t have done it. I can’t imagine she wants to appear on CNBC forever and if she can find a new career -- one where she wouldn’t be surrounded by so many nerds all day -- more power to her.

Now there I go talking about Maria after I said I wouldn’t because of the full disclosure thing. But I did fully disclose, so I guess it’s fine. Except I didn’t tell you the name of the card game she plays so well. And I won’t. Oh . . . I didn’t mean to let “card” game slip. Well, now that I have, let’s just say it’s a game I enjoy a little too much and one that Bartiromo, Steinberg, and I, among others, spent many hours playing over the course of several nights in the Caribbean. Fewer than, ahem, 21 hours, but pretty close.

Meanwhile, Goldberg-the-Much-Lesser-If-That’s-Possible, Jonah, last week disclosed, in one of the most despicable essays ever to appear at the cesspool known as National Review Online, that he would like to be buried wrapped in bacon.

And, while this was not fully disclosed, only implied, it appears there could be more Podhoretzes coming down the pike. New York Post columnist John Podhoretz, son of prominent neoconservatives Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter, on October 13 married Ayala Cohen in a ceremony in Cedarhurst, N.Y. Oy vey. Just kidding. Really, I am. Congratulations, best wishes, and all that. (Yeah. Like they care.)

And one last note, let me fully disclose that I think this is a terrible idea.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Saturday, November 02, 2002  

Once More Around the Bend

Bob Somerby of the Daily Howler takes on, and with ease demolishes, the despicable Sean Hannity, a shameless liar on any number of topics, nabbing him this time for trying to pin Bush Family campaign prop Willie Horton on former Vice President Al Gore.


For a quick, though illiterate, review of Hannity’s new book, Let Freedom Ring, by rabid and prototypical Hannity fan Don Hood of something called the “White History Month Campaign,” waltz on over to Barnes & Noble. [Corrected post-publication, swapping in B&N for]


Jesse Taylor of Pandagon hits Peggy Noonan -- the already stupefied Wall Street Journal scribbler and unrivaled queen of the remaindered books table -- right upside the head but good.


Mad Kane recently overheard a tangled conversation between President Bush and Vice President Cheney regarding, well, sort of regarding, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Harvey Pitt. White House political advisor Karl Rove makes a brief appearance, too. Listen in. Go ahead. You know you want to.


Noted Eschaton-ite Leah A. is among the smartest women in America without a weblog. She really needs to get herself a site. What is she waiting for? A MacArthur Foundation grant or something?


Speaking of which, Atrios, the proprietor of Eschaton, draws our attention to the contemptible and newly converted Robert Novak, who lately has been telling nakedly partisan, race-baiting lies about Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page and the state’s Democratic party.


Just one more item picked up at Eschaton and then I’m moving on, I swear.

It really says something about the state of the media in America today when comedian Jon Stewart is more perceptive and more honest about the quality of the cable news networks than is Washington Post “media critic” Howard “Thanks for Sharing” Kurtz.

Gee whiz, you just want to yank Howie aside and scream, “No, you clueless stooge, it isn’t true that ‘a lot of people’ watch Fox News. Hell, the WB’s pathetic new retread, ‘Family Affair,’ pulled better last month!”

And does anyone else think it’s strange, inappropriate, wrong even, for Kurtz to be taking a salary as a “media critic” when he’s simultaneously feeding at the troughs set out in every corner of the whole damned business?

This guy is a disgrace.


Two thought-provoking items from University of California, Berkeley, economist Brad DeLong in his Semi-Daily Journal: one on the labor market and the other on capital spending on computers and related hardware.

The latter is particularly interesting. It makes me wonder why Hewlett-Packard Co.’s stock is in the toilet. Could it be because the fabled and much-hyped Carly Fiorina -- whose business plan is truly risible and whose pre-H-P days were spent with a firm, Lucent Technologies Inc., at which cooking the books appears to have attained gourmet status -- really just ain’t all that?

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


The Writing is on the Wall

There are some harsh words for Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Harvey L. Pitt from the Washington Post editorial board today, coming a day later than might have been expected, but no less scathing in their criticism of the agency’s Keystone Kop.

Last week, at an open SEC meeting, Mr. Pitt misled the public about the process of selecting a new board to oversee auditors, pretending he had not switched from a stronger candidate to a weaker one as a result of pressure from politicians or lobbyists. And reports this week suggest that Mr. Pitt withheld information from fellow SEC commissioners that would have compromised the lobbyists’ preferred candidate, William H. Webster, possibly even impeding his selection.

The SEC has now invited its internal inspector to inquire into the process that led to Mr. Webster’s selection, and Congress promises its own inquiries. If these confirm that Mr. Pitt withheld important facts from fellow commissioners as they prepared to vote on Mr. Webster’s appointment, Mr. Pitt ought to resign, or President Bush should replace him. Allowing Mr. Pitt to survive in office would signify the Bush administration’s contempt for business ethics.

Unfortunately, it’s not clear that Mr. Bush can be counted on to do the right thing, because his own advisers appear to have been complicitous in Mr. Pitt’s awful performance. White House staff were in touch with members of the commission during the period when the selection of the audit oversight board was hijacked by lobbyists. Andrew H. Card Jr., Mr. Bush’s chief of staff, called Mr. Webster to urge him to accept the job. Treasury Secretary Paul H. O’Neill was consulted on Mr. Webster’s appointment. . .

[T]he Bush team opposed the appointment of John H. Biggs, a champion of investor interests, as head of the newly created audit oversight board. Instead it supported Mr. Webster, whose weak grasp of the technicalities of accounting is reassuring to the accounting lobby. As a result of the administration’s choice, the new audit oversight board has had its credibility battered even before it gets going. There is still an opportunity to repair the damage -- unless the president decides that a battered and ineffectual regulator is exactly what he favors.

But more significant is today’s page-one article, “SEC Chief Losing White House Favor,” by David S. Hilzenrath and Mike Allen. I don’t know if Pitt is politically astute enough to grasp the significance of this piece, so I’ll just spell it out: Mr. Pitt, the writing is on the wall.

Based almost entirely on leaks from “Republican sources” and “SEC sources,” the Post today reported that “White House support for [Pitt] was deteriorating.” The mood in the White House sounds gloomy: “White House officials were said to be exasperated that Pitt’s handling of the appointments had created a political crisis for President Bush days before midterm elections that could determine which party controls Congress. These sources said the White House is considering asking Pitt to step down, or allowing him to resign, after the elections.” The Post notes that while President Bush cannot force Pitt’s departure, it can demote him out of the agency’s chairmanship, adding, “Pitt has few, if any, friends among Democrats in Congress to come to his aid.”

The paper reports the SEC didn’t learn of Webster’s role at U.S. Technologies Inc. before the vote, a fact pointed out to me late Friday by one of several particularly smart readers who e-mailed me with their comments and observations about the controversy. According to the Post, “SEC officials said yesterday that the search for accounting board members was so rushed and sprawling that the agency did not begin formal background checks on the candidates before its commissioners voted on the appointments last week.”

This is a strange statement. Although I can believe the factual matter presented here -- that the SEC was not fully informed -- I find the agency’s explanation bewildering. With a consistent drumbeat of support for the appointment of Biggs in the background, and clearly wounding the chairman’s ears, Pitt and the SEC staff appeared to be on little more than an “Anyone But Biggs” hunt. The implication, if I’m reading this properly, is that the SEC searched high and low for the most qualified individual for the job, an assertion that is thoroughly incredible.

We also see in today’s Post what may be an effort by Pitt’s supporters to shift blame to Robert K. Herdman, the SEC’s chief accountant and the man who reportedly “drove the selection process.” According to unnamed SEC sources, “Pitt asked Herdman to look into the U.S. Technologies matter. It is unclear what Herdman did to investigate.” Herdman, incidentally, is a former vice chairman of the accounting firm of Ernst & Young L.L.P.

The Bush administration remains in Pitt’s corner, at least publicly, albeit with obvious lack of enthusiasm. White House spokesman Scott McClellan yesterday said, “The president continues to support him in his efforts to crack down on corporate wrongdoing.” He emphasized, however, that the White House was waiting for the outcome of the SEC’s investigation. And according to at least one source, “Card believes Pitt embarrassed him by allowing him to call Webster and urge him to serve, without knowing about the potential vulnerability of his former service on the audit committee.” That’s really all it takes -- a leaked message from the White House Chief of Staff. We all have seen this before, time and time again: the actors change, but the script remains the same. And so, I say: Bye-bye, Harvey.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Former First Lady Expresses Contempt for Democracy,
Warns Elderly Floridians Not to Vote

VERO BEACH, Fla. (TRR) - Former First Lady Barbara P. Bush took her anti-American crusade on the road this week, traveling to a political rally in Florida where she expressed her contempt for the U.S. and for American democracy, and warned the elderly not to vote.

Speaking at a Republican Party event in Vero Beach, Fla., Mrs. Bush, wife of former President George H.W. Bush and mother of President George W. Bush and Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.), disparaged the U.S. political system using the abrasive language for which she became known during the 1984 presidential election campaign.

“We’re the most disgraceful state,” Mrs. Bush exclaimed, deliberately using a word that rhymes with “hate,” openly denigrating the state of Florida, and viciously mocking the Sunshine State’s well-documented difficulties administering elections and maintaining accurate voter registration lists.

Mrs. Bush, “to the delight of the crowd,” continued, roaring, “Not state! Country!”, directing her venom at all of America.

As she prepared to leave the rally, the former first lady turned to the audience -- most of them senior citizens -- and, in her final remark of the day, warned, “We do not vote,” her send-off a chilling admonition that stirred painful memories of voter intimidation and fraud in nearby Palm Beach County during the November 2000 presidential election.

[Photo Credit: CIA]
Mrs. Bush (right) Pauses to Catch Her Breath
As Former President Bush Stows His Wife’s Prepared Remarks

Mrs. Bush did not say whether she planned to take her anti-American message to rallies in other states. Nor did Mrs. Bush offer comment on the possibility of her leading a new right-wing, anti-American, grass-roots movement.

A spokesperson contacted later said Mrs. Bush was headed to Texas, where the Houston hotel room that is the permanent residence of the former first couple “really needs a good cleaning.”

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Friday, November 01, 2002  

The Bipartisan Spirit of the Wellstone Memorial Service

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.)
Just One of Many Politicians From Both Parties
Mourning the Passing of the Late Great Paul Wellstone

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God [is] with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, [and be] their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. -- Rev. 21:3-5 (KJV)

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


The Papers on Pitt

Surprisingly few newspapers and print pundits have anything to say today about the Securities and Exchange Commission’s top Keystone Kop, Harvey Pitt. I say surprising because we haven’t been presented with so clear cut an ethical lapse in the Bush administration since, what, Monday? But, to be fair, to the media, the election is just four days away and many papers are issuing or re-issuing their endorsements.

Among the notable standouts is the allegedly uncorrectable New York Times, which not only rectifies an error made last week but rightly, and alas in vain no doubt, calls upon Republicans to join Democrats in demanding Pitt’s ouster:

A correction is in order here. Last week we mistakenly wrote that William Webster lacked any relevant experience to serve as chairman of the new oversight board for the accounting profession. It turns out that Judge Webster has some very relevant experience, but of the kind that should have automatically disqualified him from being considered for the post, to which he was appointed last Friday.

In his desperation to use . . . Mr. Webster to derail the appointment of John Biggs . . . Mr. Pitt did what any manipulative proponent of the indefensible would have done. He hid the facts from his fellow commissioners before last Friday’s vote. When another commissioner complained that the selection process was tainted, he didn’t know the half of it. Now the cleanest way out of this mess is for Judge Webster to step down from the post he never should have accepted, and for the S.E.C. to appoint Mr. Biggs in his stead.

As for Mr. Pitt, there appears to be no bottom to the hole he keeps digging for himself and the S.E.C. The new accounting oversight board was the centerpiece of the corporate reforms Congress passed this summer in the wake of the Enron and WorldCom scandals. Mr. Pitt, knowing full well that the spotlight was trained on him, has managed to bungle its creation. Democrats are lining up to call for Mr. Pitt’s resignation, but the outrage must come from both parties. President Bush’s continued loyalty to Mr. Pitt mocks his administration’s promise to restore investor confidence.

Also writing on the controversy, in an article that will here at the Review be filed in the folder “Great Minds Think Alike,” is Times columnist Paul Krugman. He calls Pitt’s motive for selecting Webster “The Pitt Principle”:

[I]t’s no accident that Mr. Pitt picked the wrong man. Mr. Webster was chosen over better candidates precisely because accounting industry lobbyists -- a group that clearly still includes Mr. Pitt -- believed he would be ineffectual.

Let’s call it the Pitt Principle. The famous Peter Principle said that managers fail because they rise to their level of incompetence. The Pitt Principle tells us that sometimes incompetence is exactly what the people in charge want.

In this particular case, ordinary investors demanded a crackdown on corporate malfeasance -- and Mr. Pitt pretended to comply. But this administration is run by and for people who have profited handsomely from their insider connections. . . . So he picked someone with an impressive but irrelevant background, whom he could count on not to get the job done.

Then of course, there’s The Wall Street Journal, which, near as I can tell, isn’t happy with Pitt, though the ire of Paul Gigot & Co. goes far back. In the Journal editorial board’s worldview, expressed in a piece entitled “In the Pitts” [Subscription required.], the Keystone Kop’s most recent misstep wasn’t pushing the appointment of Webster to the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), oh no: “In the latest banana-peel episode,” the Journal says, “Mr. Pitt has ordered a probe into his own appointment of William Webster to lead the new accounting standards board.”

On that we agree, at least in part. Yes, Pitt is an idiot, and arrogant and contemptible, for authorizing, hell, I don’t know, a couple of people at the SEC to take ex post facto notes about the whole matter. But it seems rather clear to everyone outside the World Financial Center with half a brain that there is quite a bit more to it than that.

Later in the piece, however, the editors add, “The problem here is Mr. Pitt’s credibility; you don’t have to be an ethicist to think he owed his colleagues the Webster news before they made a highly public and contentious vote.” So which is it, Mr. Gigot? Does Pitt have a credibility problem or an ethical problem? With all due respect, sir, if you think it’s only a credibility problem you are sorely mistaken and will be bound to continue to underestimate the political -- and financial -- ramifications of Pitt’s ineptitude.

The Journal editorial, naturally, includes a gratuitous swipe at that great bogeyman of 200 Liberty St., “trial lawyers,” and claims Democrats “are ecstatic that they can howl again for Mr. Pitt’s head five days from Election Day,” as if the issue will recede immediately thereafter. Don’t count on it, fellas.

In the end, however, to the Journal editors, good right-wing Republican boys that they are, this is just “politics.” But they graciously warn us “politics and honesty also matter to markets,” and Pitt’s failure was not his decision to maked a questionable appointment to head the PCAOB, but his resistance, along with “his fellow Republicans” (though none of the G.O.P.’s best and brightest at the Journal), to “any accounting reform for so long that when the WorldCom fraud broke no one believed their enforcement pledges.” And then those nasty Republicans, “They then ran for political cover and stuck everyone in business with the regulatory bill,” a reference to the bipartisan-supported and hardly onerous Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

It is for this great act of treachery that Pitt must . . . must . . . well, nothing. There apparently is no reason for him to resign. In fact, all the Journal can manage to say is that “Mr. Pitt is proving to be an expensive man to defend.” Better stock up on that pricey newsprint, guys. If you want Pitt to hang around, you’re going to need it.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Quick, Because That’s All They’re Worth

Howard Kurtz really is one sorry excuse for a “media critic.” After falling in line with the rest of crowd, lecturing Minnesota Democrats on how to hold a proper memorial service for a politician, Kurtz, Man of Principle, yesterday weighed in on the media for its failure to cover Walter Mondale’s political views and its purported over-emphasis on the latest polls. “[W]hen is someone going to do a tough piece on Mondale’s record, as opposed to all this horse-race analysis?”

When would they have had time? Everyone’s too busy falling all over each other playing Emily Post. And since when have “issues” become more important to the media than polls? Enough with the grandstanding, Howie. Anyway, isn’t that your phone ringing? Better answer it. It’s probably Marc Racicot again.


Mystic Peggy Noonan, channeling the late Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), tells us there are “no politics” in . . . heaven? I think she means heaven, but she doesn’t actually use the word. I figured there wouldn’t be politics up there, but who would have guessed they write memos? Lord, have mercy on this woman.


“What’s on Tina Brown’s mind?” Good God, who cares?


Charles Krauthammer, who hasn’t written a decent column since “Not Guilty, Insane” (March 21), about Andrea Yates -- a column that, incidentally, Krauthammer wrote while wearing his psychiatrist hat, the not-made-of-tin-foil hat he actually earned -- today frets, for the third time in four weeks, that the Bush administration might not be serious about waging war on Iraq. Imagine that. The Bush administration not serious about something.


Setting the bar remarkably low, New York Sun managing editor Ira Stoll tells the Daily News, “I’m pretty happy with the way things are going.”

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Thursday, October 31, 2002  

What Kind of an Idiot is Harvey Pitt?

Today while reading about the latest machinations of the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the question that kept arising in my mind was, “What kind of an idiot is Harvey Pitt?” I’m not quite sure I’ve answered that question to my satisfaction, or even whether it could be answered to my liking. That’s because Pitt is either a very special kind of idiot or just a garden-variety idiot, and neither is the type of idiot I would like to see running the SEC right now.

Pitt’s latest official act of stupidity was to force the appointment of former FBI and CIA director, former U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge, and Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy partner, William H. Webster as head of the new Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB). Pitt selected Webster after having had a temper tantrum over talk that the spot should go to John Biggs, the retiring chief executive officer of TIAA-CREF. The SEC last week approved Webster’s selection on a 3-2, party-line vote as the commission’s two Democrats, Harvey Goldschmid and Roel Campos, complained that Webster lacked the financial experience and accounting expertise needed to head the board.

I too would have preferred to see the appointment of Biggs, or someone else of similar stature and experience, and I thought the selection of Webster, with its heavy emphasis on his past accomplishments in law enforcement, was a strange one. However, I certainly wasn’t disgusted to learn Webster would be taking the job, as I viewed him as a capable administrator and a man of integrity. This is, after all, the Bush administration, and we could do much worse, I thought.

I was surprised, then, to learn that Webster until July was a director at, and the chairman of the audit committee of, U.S. Technologies Inc., a once publicly traded and now insolvent firm that fired its auditor, BDO Seidman L.L.P., in the summer of 2001, after the accounting firm complained of material weaknesses in the company’s internal accounting controls -- not exactly the likely initial response of the highly principled. U.S. Technologies since then has been slapped with numerous shareholder lawsuits alleging fraud arising from inappropriate accounting methods and disclosure policies.

According to media reports, Webster informed Pitt and other SEC staff members, including Chief Accountant Robert Herdman, of the controversy at U.S. Technologies. But Pitt saw no potential problems associated with the legal troubles at U.S. Technologies that arose while Webster was heading the audit committee, a position he held for a year beyond the firing of BDO Seidman. As a result, Pitt went forward with his previously established plan to push the Webster appointment through the SEC.

The SEC’s spokespeople are, at the very least, hinting that Pitt’s conclusion was shared by commission staff members. Compounding the matter exponentially, Pitt in his infinite wisdom or unparalleled arrogance did not inform his fellow commissioners of the controversy, nor did he report the matter to the White House, according to the New York Times. Needless to say, none of these uninformed parties was pleased, nor were leading congressional Democrats who today renewed their call for Pitt to resign.

Resignation is not, however, the type of honorable action that would ever cross Pitt’s mind, at least this side of an indictment, I suppose. Instead, today the SEC chairman asked the agency’s inspector general, Walter Stachnik, to investigate Webster’s selection and the role Pitt played in the process. (Strachnik will be joined in the investigation by SEC General Counsel Giovanni Prezioso.) Despite this move, it appears Pitt views the entire situation as little more than an annoyance; his spokesman told reporters today, “In reviewing the situation with respect to Judge Webster’s service on the audit committee of U.S. Technologies, the commission’s staff identified nothing of concern regarding that service.” [Emphasis added. Note the shifting of blame going on here.] That statement says much about the commitment of the Bush administration to the myriad policies, proposals, and outrage floating around under the general rubric of “corporate reform.”

James D. Cox, a Duke University law professor quoted in the Times, nails Webster’s culpability here:

Even if we find out that Webster was totally passive in this process, it is an indictment on his ability to run the accounting oversight board. To let something like this go shows really bad judgment, and I think is automatically disqualifying. At a minimum, the audit committee had an obligation to investigate. This is exactly the kind of situation that the accounting oversight board is supposed to change, and that the new law creating the oversight board is supposed to fix.

That Pitt could not see this failure for what it is, and thought nothing of continuing to support Webster despite this, demonstrates an unconscionable degree of stupidity and a mindset that is clearly outside the boundaries of normal ethical considerations.

I say that with some trepidation. Time and again I have made the mistake of assuming this or that member of the Bush administration or the Republican Party or the Bush family entourage is stupid, and perhaps by asking myself exactly what kind of idiot Harvey Pitt is, I’m committing the same error again. Maybe Pitt isn’t so stupid after all. His support for, and appointment of, the highly questionable Webster is a major setback for the PCAOB, both to the board’s ability to begin the much needed work of improving public-company accounting practices and financial reporting and to its standing in the eyes of the public. The Bush administration is not serious about corporate reform, and that’s the thought that should have preoccupied me this afternoon.

It’s time, Mr. Pitt, for that phone call to managing partners Peter v.Z. Cobb and Michael Rauch. Don’t by shy, the boys at Fried Frank probably kept your old office open. After all, they knew you better than we did.

ADDENDUM: This entire situation begs the question, why didn’t anyone in the media break this story before the SEC voted on Webster’s appointment last week? I presume Webster’s affiliation with U.S. Technologies was included in the biographical material submitted to the SEC. It should have been known to reporters covering the agency. It was a matter of public record. Did not one reporter there, or at the White House, think to perform even the most cursory of research about the company at which Webster chaired the board of directors’ audit committee? Come on, people, I can’t do this all myself.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, October 30, 2002  

Sullivan Needs a Microscope to Find . . . Democratic Gay-Baiting

Not long ago Andrew Sullivan had us all on the lookout for “left-wing homophobia.” But today, all of the sudden, shamelessly partisan politico that he has become, it’s “Democratic gay-baiting” [“TDD,” October 30, third item] for which we’re searching.

No matter, I’m still not convinced.

As compellingly demonstrated by the always astute, possibly hirsute, and usually hilarious TBogg, Sullivan practically had to use a microscope, along with some creative maneuvering, to find his latest example of “Democratic gay-baiting.”

We should all have so much free time.

Remember . . . when you’re reading Sullivan, always click through to the linked article(s)!

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, October 29, 2002  

What the Smart Kids Are Saying

Tim Dunlop of The Road to Surfdom, known around here as “The Far Better Tim of Australian Blogging,” has performed an admirable service documenting the ups and downs of the Washington sniper story, garnering extra praise for keeping our eyes on the human angle of that seemingly interminable tragedy while all too many others were brazenly exploiting the crisis to support their bizarre ideological agendas.


Jesse Taylor of Pandagon is on a roll lately. Biting political humor, sarcasm, and satire, extremely well done. Don’t miss Taylor’s run down of Montana Republican senate candidate Mike Taylor’s campaign schedule. Among much else on Mike Taylor’s calendar: “10/24/02 - Meeting with Polar Bear Club, where he dons a Speedo and jumps into freezing cold water with twenty other men. When played on the news, he will accuse the Baucus campaign of yet more homophobia and withdraw for three days.”


More humor, this on the PBS line-up, from funny “Poor ManAndrew Northrup. Among my favorites: “3:30 PM – Clifford the Big Red Dog The people who drew He-Man make fun of this cartoon. What are there, seven frames of animation a minute? Is it being drawn in real time? I know this is PBS, but really.”


Of course one can’t discuss blogger humor without bringing up Tom of TBogg. A small slice: “I just checked in on Mickey Kaus and he went exactly 684 words before he mentioned Paul Krugman. On the other hand, Andy Sullivan only made it to 90 (possibly due to a case of premature articulation). This got me to wondering. Since Sully is so proud of his Sontag/von Hoffman awards, should we possibly have a Margaret Ray Award? Just a thought. . .”


Gee whiz, if Avedon Carol of The Sideshow gets any smarter or more observant or more prescient or more articulate, she’s going to get migraines or something.


Similarly, I don’t know about you, but when I stop by Jeanne D’Arc’s Body and Soul, I feel, like, really stupid. (Sadly, she is on hiatus.)


Yuval Rubinstein of the invaluable Groupthink Central alerts me to a phrase I’m surprised I haven’t heard before: “The New Republic is the Jewish Commentary.” And nobody gives it to the much-deserving Martin Peretz better than Yuval.


I sure miss the previously frequent but always succinct observations of Brian Linse, author of AintNoBadDude, even if I couldn’t pick Warren Zevon out of a line-up. (Not that I’m saying that would ever happen. The line-up, I mean.)


Finally, and only slightly off point, don’t you hate it when you can’t make a statement by terminating a service? Earlier today I wrote to So-Long to cancel my “premium” subscription and was breezily informed that at renewal time I would be dropped from the site’s rolls of paying customers. Nope. No refund for all of those password-protected articles I’m not going to read during the next six months. I’ve never before encountered a magazine that didn’t give pro rata refunds. Check the fine print, people. I know I will from now on.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Monday, October 28, 2002  

And Now This One Man Is Gone

I don’t cry when politicians die. When a hyena kills a lion cub on a National Geographic special my eyes tear up and my nose runs, but I don’t cry when politicians die. Until Friday, that is. Friday, the day Paul Wellstone died.

Those in public life called upon for their remarks on the passing of politicians are calling Wellstone determined, opinionated, pugnacious, outspoken, unapologetic, and quixotic. All of these observations are intended as compliments, and to me, as one who is opinionated, pugnacious, and unapologetic, they are that. But much is missing from most of the brief eulogies we have heard in recent days: words like kind, warmhearted, genuine, and humane, even words like angry, disappointed, and disgusted. These are the words that describe Wellstone’s much-disparaged “bleeding heart,” a heart that few seem willing to celebrate and honor even now that it has stopped beating.

I cared little for Wellstone when he first arrived on the national scene in the early 1990s. Another sputtering lefty, I thought; do we really need another Ron Wyden? With his hyperkinetic poses and irrepressible zeal, Wellstone droned incessantly about affordable housing, education, health care, senior citizens, living wages . . . “labor stuff,” “poor-people issues,” the things I cared little to nothing about as an aspiring 20-something and then 30-something professional.

Since then, of course, I’ve grown older and I like to think I’ve matured. In the intervening years I have lived more than a little and observed much, and as one’s life proceeds, things happen. It sounds simple enough, but things happen that you never expect will happen, at least to people you know. I watched perfectly self-reliant and individualistic people become mired in circumstances not of their choosing -- terminal illness, unemployment, family tragedies, crushing debt, lost savings, sudden death. No, life isn’t fair, but it doesn’t have to be so wretchedly unfair. Watching such as these suffer, these smart and successful people with their safety nets of family and friends, sparked wonder at how those truly less fortunate manage in difficult times, the times that make up the entirety of their lives.

And so, eventually, many of Wellstone’s greatest concerns became mine. I cared that too many children grow up in untended squalor. It mattered that too many senior citizens grow older in, well, untended squalor. And those concerns grew exponentially while living in turn-of-the-century New York, a city of unselfconscious class division where the exceedingly rich and even the merely affluent treat clerks, secretaries, waiters, and public employees as their very own servant class, downtrodden and maintained in a permanent state of steerage as if it were God’s plan to exalt this over class, this uppermost rung of society that subsists on -- and prospers by virtue of -- unfettered greed, unrestrained selfishness, and unmitigated gall.

How satisfying, then, to hear Wellstone’s persistent and lonely voice speaking with conviction, determination, and brutal honesty in that most selective of country clubs, the U.S. Senate. Though he was still to my left politically, I admired Wellstone for standing at the edge of mainstream American politics, extending the reach of our all-too-stifled debate over public and foreign policy, not always successfully, and, this being politics, that great game that “ain’t beanbag,” not always with his principles perfectly intact either. But principles he had, and in spades, principles that led to his being roundly outvoted on the Senate floor, at times by a margin of 99 to one.

And now this one man is gone. In an instant American politics, the Senate at least, lost a critical anchor. Who shall -- who can -- maintain and extend this honorable legacy? The body politic has lost its soul to a higher plane. From this some good must come, and so I pray that we are deemed worthy to be so blessed again.

[Note: Wellstone’s book, Conscience of a Liberal, published last year, is available at and better bookstores everywhere. Buy one for yourself and for a friend that this man’s noble mission may live and grow.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Friday, October 25, 2002  

Andrew Sullivan’s Latest Witch-Hunt

In yet another breathtaking display of projection, one that might on its own generate a new field of study known as “devious political psychology,” Andrew Sullivan today attacked his opponents, some named, some not, for lowering the bar on contemporary American political discourse.

In an article written for Salon, “The Bigotry of Belafonte,” one that editor David Talbot strangely chose not to publish as the latest “Idiocy of the Week,” Sullivan worked himself into a lather over “liberal bigotry,” focusing largely on a stray comment about Secretary of State Colin Powell by that most influential of political theorists, Harry Belafonte.

Not content to embarrass himself with all manner of misguided accusations and imprudent conclusions on this subject, Sullivan extended his reach, sleuthing out evidence of something he calls “left-wing homophobia” by observing, “When a gay man can write a column asserting that another man is a ‘nasty faggot,’ it’s hard to think of how much lower the discourse can get,” writes Sullivan. [Emphasis added.]

This sentence would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad. The notion that Sullivan, who has debased political discourse every time he placed his fingers on the keyboard of his beloved and much ballyhooed Mac, and with a particular vengeance since Sept. 11, 2001, can self-righteously tag others with his own sins reveals as much about his character as anyone need know, that is, in the unlikely event they hadn’t already discerned the gaping vacuum that constitutes Sullivan’s conscience.

For those not clued in to Sullivan’s roundabout way of not quite discussing what he is discussing, the unidentified “gay man” to whom Sullivan refers in this quote is journalist and author Michelangelo Signorile. Signorile used the phrase “nasty faggot” in an article published in the New York Press on May 28, “Spreading Drudge’s Sludge.” Signorile is, of course, Sullivan’s nemesis, just one of many the British pundit has engendered over the years spent haranguing, taunting, and otherwise slandering anyone who dares disagree with his sanctimonious pronouncements from on high or otherwise errs in crossing his narrow path of self-defined rectitude.

But getting back to decoding Sullivan, “another man,” as he has employed the term here, refers to Matt Drudge, the West Coast web personality best known for his dopey hat and for trafficking in lies, smears, and innuendo, all the while calling himself a “journalist,” a ludicrously unearned descriptive that Sullivan has promoted with obsequious admiration.

With this all too clever construction, Sullivan avoids telling readers that Signorile’s “nasty faggot” comment was not exactly a case of “a gay man calling another man” the pejorative in question, but more accurately an instance of a gay man directing his obloquy at another gay man, namely Drudge, whose existence here on Earth as such is a fact demonstrated and documented by others, including David Brock, to my satisfaction. That Drudge was apparently more offended by the second half of this label than the first, and that Sullivan is too horrified by the whole exercise to portray the incident’s full particulars, is only the latest example of their shared dishonesty and their collective wallowing in still another form of homophobia.

And once again, we have Sullivan here practicing his selective approach to, and disgust with, what is called “outing.” Although not one to “out” Drudge, perhaps for fear of offending their rabid and shared core constituency, Sullivan in the past has thought nothing of performing the same public service upon various members of the Clinton administration.

For a man, gay or straight, to call a straight man a “nasty faggot” is one thing. Were the target a heterosexual man, he might well take offense, though if he were confident in the grasp of heterosexuality on his very being, knowing full well that such status is indeed his birthright, he might not be insulted. Rather, he might be more amused than anything else. (Don’t laugh: The moralistic fire breathers on the right wing, religious and otherwise, despite their protestations of revulsion seem to find homosexuality so appealing they are certain their children and even mature adults will sign on immediately upon their first exposure to it.) But a gay man calling another gay man a “nasty faggot” is a different situation entirely. Sullivan knows this. He’s simply not honest enough or brave enough to admit it.

Although I don’t do so in public forums such as the Review, I’ll call any gay man I want to “a drama queen,” “a theater queen,” “a steroid queen,” “a silly faggot,” or “a nasty faggot,” and I couldn’t care less what Sullivan thinks, even if I were to choose to do so here. Such terms, and much worse, are bandied about with what I have to say is deafening and mind-numbing frequency among gay men and their friends. Sullivan knows this as well, or he should, assuming his social circle is anything like mine, though that perhaps is an unfair assumption given his propensity to knock a few back with the likes of Jonah Goldberg, the proudly self-confessed “you-know-I’m-not-all-that-comfortable-with-the-whole-gays-as-decent-human-beings-thing” editor of National Review Online. That Sullivan is so utterly humorless almost sparks a touch of pity.

Make no mistake: Signorile is not solely at fault in the soiled mind of Andrew Sullivan. “Left-wing homophobia is now having a resurgence -- in Democratic ad campaigns and political discourse,” he writes, offering precious little evidence, indeed none whatsoever, to support the claim. Yes, Sullivan, with all the partisan führer of a charter member of the National Republican Committee, repeatedly has chastised the reelection campaign of Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), and Baucus himself, with “homophobia,” this for the transgression of airing a political advertisement drawing attention to the scandalous past business practices of former beauty-school operator Mike Taylor, the on-again, off-again, oh-so-principled Republican candidate for Baucus’s Senate seat. But saying something -- even over and over again -- does not make it so, and Sullivan has found few, if any, reasonable people, and none of prominence, to join him in his vociferous indignation over this issue.

Beyond the Baucus-Taylor campaign, where is the evidence of the “resurgence” of “left-wing homophobia”? Sullivan provides none because there is none. Readers who make the rounds of the political weblogs likely noticed a few mutterings about “left-wing homophobia” within the last week. I wrote about the subject extensively here on Oct. 19 in a post that has yet to be rebutted by any of those who are so blithely throwing around this newly invented term, one that Jesse Taylor of Pandagon astutely discussed under the apt heading, “Left-Wing Homophobia and Other Things Only Theorized By Lewis Carroll When High.”

What’s odd is that surrounded as Sullivan is -- as we all are -- by vicious, hateful, and influential right-wing homophobia, and worse, actively anti-gay agendas pursued by right-wing politicians, political parties, lawmakers, interest groups, and churches, even the mildest of this insanity warrants nary a nod from the Bishop of Adams-Morgan, even when he places himself within the very heart of the beast. For as we all have recently learned, though not from Sullivan himself, who has been uncharacteristically silent on the matter, Sullivan last week became the house homosexual of the Washington Times, the unselfconsciously right-wing and rather happily anti-gay newspaper of the nation’s capital.

The decision by the Washington Times to hire Sullivan or at least to print his material -- regardless, Sullivan is making money on the venture -- is inexplicable on so many different levels I scarcely know where to begin. Notably, though, the right-wing watchdog group Accuracy in Media certainly did. Upon learning that Sullivan would appear regularly in the Times, AIM’s chairman, Reed Irvine, quickly denounced the paper for “endors[ing] sleaze.” Irvine called Sullivan “an HIV-positive homosexual who supports gay marriage” and someone “who is often presented as a conservative homosexual,” abruptly, and in my opinion without cause, denying Sullivan his hard-earned and well-deserved right-wing bona fides.

Taking things a step further, as is his wont, Irvine added some choice words about a recent unpleasant episode surrounding the public exposure of certain details about Sullivan’s personal life, coincidentally the same episode that made Signorile a marked man of the Princess of Provincetown. About this outrage, this outburst of what those in their perpetual state of high dudgeon should properly consider homophobia, albeit “right-wing homophobia,” Sullivan has been, again, uncharacteristically silent.

The inevitable, and only honest, conclusion is that Sullivan is out on nothing more than a witch-hunt, and not his first, I might add. Perhaps when he actually finds a practitioner of “left-wing homophobia,” this newfangled form of voodoo, and I mean finds one, not invents one, he will actually take the time to provide his readers with the details needed to make their own decisions. Until then, he’s just our own little Joe McCarthy and he deserves to be treated as such.

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