The Rittenhouse Review

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

Saturday, January 31, 2004  

Get with the Program

Look, if a bunch of old, white, single, unmarried, highly educated men in Rome, by which in this context I am referring to the Vatican, and actually, come to think of it, to myself -- except for the Rome part, since I live in Philadelphia, and otherwise because I’m impoverished and because I don’t get out much, let alone to Rome -- can deal with Charles Darwin and evolution, why can’t Georgia educators do the same?

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The What?

Here at TRR, and by proxy, at The Rittenhouse Review, we’re just going to pretend the “Wing Bowl” never happened.

However, if you insist on reading local coverage of this bizarre event, go here, if you dare: “A Little Woman Shall Lead Them,” by Dawn Fallik (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Thong and Dance,” by (the incomparable) Tanya Barrientos (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Wingador Ousted by Alien Muncher,” by Jim Nolan, Philadelphia Daily News

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Pets, Dead Chickens, Eggs, Jimmy the Bull, and Icy Waters

Some thirty years ago my family moved from New Jersey to a dairy farm in upstate New York. It was, in retrospect, a disaster from the get go. And yet, there are memories.

Within a month, I think, if even that, we were greeted by a once-in-a-lifetime snowstorm that dropped six feet of that crap, snow, I mean, not chicken kaka, on the farm, snow that forged its way into drifts of something psychotic like twelve feet. And it was, at the same time, bitterly and viciously cold.

Then there were the painters. They were assigned an appropriate nickname that I will not publish. Suffice it to say they were among the stupidest people ever born.

We had English springer spaniels, Lady and Duchess, I think they were called, and of course, Tessa, the whippet. And a bunch of cats, but, in the long run, who remembers cats' names? It's just not the same.

I remember when the chickens arrived. They were transported to us in burlap bags in a journey that many didn't survive.

I was eight years old then, and I saw all those dead chickens, and it really hit hard. I still remember one particular chicken, because it was at that moment on the verge of death. I swear she was looking at me as I patted her feathers, telling her how sorry I was. "Stop that," I was told, and sent out of the barn. I was saying good-bye to a chicken. How will I ever say good-bye to Mildred?

We sold eggs for 50 cents a dozen. (Adjusting for inflation, at most $1.33 a dozen today. [Assumes a compound annual rate of inflation of three percent.])

I drank milk that came straight from the cow. A few times; not all the time.

A bull was named after me.

After a cow was slaughtered and cut up, my mother one day made us sandwiches. They were delicious. It wasn't until we finished that she told us the meat in the sandwiches was tongue. And as much as I liked that meal, I still, some thirty years later, have not yet eaten tongue again.

There were horses too, at least for a while. Two, I think. One of my sisters was going through that stage. I don't remember their names. Horses are like cats in that respect, I guess, at least for me.

A neighboring family was hired to help out. I remember Joy cleaning up after the cows in the barn, doing some of the nastiest of all possible work, and seemingly thinking nothing of it. I was amazed.

We caught tadpoles and frogs in the stream at the foot of "the back mountain."

My sister L. fell through the ice of that same stream while we were skating on it. I thought she was going to drown, to die. I really did. My brother P., I think, or maybe it was my brother J., pulled her up and out of the water. I've never been so scared in my life.

Boy Scouts from Scarsdale, N.Y., a troop led by my uncle and including my cousin, camped near the stream and planted trees back there. [Ed.: Obscure fact: I have three cousins, C., G., and T., who were Eagle scouts.]

Once, in the middle of the night, my mother awoke and saw a bat sitting upon her. How she endured that episode without experiencing a heart attack remains to me a great mystery.

We climbed "the front mountain" regularly and rolled down its mostly treeless surface.

We, or at least I, never climbed "the back mountain." Too many trees, too much forest. Too scary.

There's a picture, somewhere, of my sister C., then a toddler, wearing a pretty white dress, with a flower in her hands, standing in her playpen set up in the side yard. It's beautiful. She's beautiful.

[Post-publication addendum (February 5): I’ve been reminded that the primary, initial, and most important lifesaving endeavor related to my sister L. was at the hands of my brother P., though the save eventually was a collective effort on the part of P., my brother J., and even me. Hey, it was a long time ago, and when you are faced with the near death of your closest sister, or are called upon to remember the event, things get hazy, confused, and downright scary.]

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It's Enough to Make You Turn Vegetarian

An editorial about mad cow disease in today's Philadelphia Inquirer caught my eye if only for this one sentence:

[W]ith little public fanfare, the Food and Drug Administration last week announced smart, new rules: Cattle blood and blood products are now banned from cattle feed; chicken waste cannot be fed to cattle; cattle brains cannot be used in human dietary supplements.

These are new rules? We've been eating beef that has been fed "chicken waste"? How long has this been going on? Was this common knowledge? Why didn't anyone tell us?

"Little public fanfare"? No kidding. If I were running an agency tasked with ensuring public health and these were new rules governing the nation's food supply, I'd do my damnedest to slip them in under cover of darkness.

Readers may be surprised to learn that I once lived on a dairy farm in upstate New York. I was too young then to be pulled into most chores, but I watched and saw a lot, and our cows never ate chicken waste. (Did they?)

As best I can recall, the cows ate grass, hay, silage, and molasses. Not chicken crap. (Right?) (By the way, if you've never seen a cow eat molasses out of a pail you are holding in your eight-year-old hands, you've missed a small, but rather amusing, part of life.)

Denying the cows poultry kaka apparently was an oversight of inefficiency on my father's part, since we were also raising chickens. The chickens' waste could have been transferred from one barn to the other, thus reducing the costs associated with feeding the cows, but it wasn't. (Was it?)

Either that, or, more likely, my father, in not feeding the cows chicken droppings, of which, I assure you, there was an ample supply, was just using common sense. Or maybe, way back in 1970-1971, my father was a pioneering organic farmer and I never knew it. Until I hear more from the family, that's the story I'm going with.

But getting back to the editorial . . . With unintentional, I think, humor, the Inquirer continues:

For those who have not followed the outbreak of mad cow, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the new rules may make little sense.

What? You mean as in, "That makes no sense! I want to eat beef raised on chicken waste! The FDA is out of control! Washington regulators are ruining farming!"?

I've really got to start researching my food.

[Post-publication addendum: I have been informed, by the best and most appropriate and reliable source, that our cows were not fed chicken waste, nor poop of any kind, and only the feed that I previously mentioned. So it really was organic farming, intentional or otherwise, some thirty years ago.]

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And All That

Here at TRR, and by proxy, at The Rittenhouse Review, we’re just going to pretend the “Wing Bowl” never happened.

However, if you insist on reading local coverage of this bizarre event, go here, if you dare:

A Little Woman Shall Lead Them,” by Dawn Fallik (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Thong and Dance,” by (the incomparable) Tanya Barrientos (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Wingador Ousted by Alien Muncher,” by Jim Nolan, Philadelphia Daily News

[Note: This post originally was published at TRR: The Lighter Side of Rittenhouse.]

| HOME |

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Yes, But Where?

As my readers know, I am probably leaving Philadelphia within the next three weeks. But before moving I would like, just once, to do something I never before in my life have done: karaoke.

And I know exactly with whom I want to perform this undoubtedly humiliating -- for me -- experience: with my oldest friend in the world. Maybe not my “oldest” friend, but my most longstanding friend, the woman who has been been my friend, without fail, without failure, and without failing (you heard it here first), for twenty-three years.

And she can sing.

And so I hope, if we do this, she will cover for me.

The thing is, as I noted above, I’ve never “done” karaoke, anywhere, let alone with such an accomplished vocalist. And since I don’t get out much, I don’t even know where “quality” karaoke is done in Philadelphia.

So, while time is short, and I cannot and will not promise you an invitation to this bizarre event, if you have any ideas as to where the most wonderful friend in the world and I might make a fool of, well, me, please send me your suggestions.

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A Little Civility, Please?

Do you want to know something I don’t like? I don’t like it when after I’ve expressed my preference for a Democratic presidential candidate during the primary season and I bend over backward, both on this blog and off, to be fair to my favored candidate’s opponents, that politically minded friends who have reached other conclusions are eager to trash my candidate, in front of my face and almost baiting me, based on nothing more than rumors and innuendo.

I’m not the enemy here, by any means, nor is Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.). I thought we all had one goal in mind: defeating President George W. Bush.

If I’m wrong about that, let me know. Because while “your” candidate does not, by any means, stir in me enthusiasm or excitement or passion or whatever your word of the day is, I think he is a fine man and ample presidential material. I would be more than happy, ecstatic even, to throw my heart, my soul, and my body into his -- “your” candidate’s -- campaign, because I’m looking beyond South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Missouri. I’m looking toward November.

But without backing up your own heartfelt zeal and your certain conviction that no one other than your candidate can “inspire” voters in that fateful month, you are acting in a fashion that is at best misguided and at worst no better than the self-appointed punditocracy’s doling out of imaginary delegates by virtue of the candidates’ appearance, dress, and demeanor. I’m sorry, I thought we were better than this.

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And I Can’t Wait

For a brief moment or two I actually thought my landlord’s agent, she with the office so far removed from me that I need not, even in this weather, put on a coat to reach it -- as the office, where much make-up is applied throughout the day, is but 300 feet, tops, down the hall -- was unaware that she, or that her employer and their attorneys on her behalf and command, was actually suing me, dragging me into court for what can only be described as a false, faulty, hasty, premature, and frivolous complaint.

But late on Friday afternoon, as is her wont, her inclination, and her penchant, I learned I was wrong. Said agent, she of the sometimes big hair and the thick local accent, is well informed, believe it or not. She knows we’re going to court on February 12. In fact, in Friday afternoon’s scrawled, almost incoherent, note to me, which she slipped under my front door without knocking, she all but bragged about it:

[J]ust to let you know you have a hearing [illegible, unintelligible] next week for the unpaid rent for January, plus late fees[,] and attorney[s’] fees[.] If you don’t show up for the hearing you will get [sic] an automatic judgement [sic] against you. Once you have paid all [of] the balance due I can[’]t [illegible, unintelligible] and all judgements [sic].

(By the way, this, at least from what I assume she was trying to convey, is a lie. The complaint asserts far more than this, alleging faults on my behalf that said agent knew, or should have known, and by any reasonable-man standard would have known, were false no later than January 7, 2004.)

Now, I don’t know whether Miss Thing went to college, let alone graduated therefrom, and I will leave it to you, the reader, to make your own determination based on the simple yet ruined and completely bawlderized, the utterly abominable, sentences quoted above, but I have heard a rumor she holds a certificate in dog grooming, which, in her case, is the equivalent of a Ph.D. in cosmetology or personal hygiene.

You know, I’m actually looking forward to all of this.

Hey, you think I’m being mean? Hell, sometimes being a bitch is all a faggot has to hold on to.

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When is a “Free” Download Not Free?

Have you ever downloaded a “free” package or piece of software only to find that it’s not free at all? Or at least that the “free” part is basically worthless, or at best, everything for which you paid?

I have.

It’s called SpyHunter. Free! Free! Free!

Download it. Install it. Run it. And you will learn whether certain well known “spyware” programs or “worms” have been installed surreptitiously on your PC.

I did just that and found there were four such annoyances on my computer.

Now, getting rid of them is another story. Your “free” download won’t help you with that. It’s just a scan. Fortunately, through my own efforts and, for one last little cretin, a little extra searching, I was able to remove them all by myself.

Maybe there should be a new word for “free” downloads like SpyHunter’s: teaseware.

Oh, wait, I now see by way of the godsend known as Google that the word already exists, but also that it has yet to receive the circulation it deserves.

Let’s all put it in motion, shall we?

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Friday, January 30, 2004  

Wiffle Ball on North Broad Street

I’ll bet almost every blogger has had this experience at least once. Something’s on your mind. You want to blog about it, and you want to offer readers something more than a link. You want to put in your two cents or, in the case of some bloggers, like me I suppose, your six or seven cents (and then there’s that guy in San Diego who puts his cents in using handfuls of dimes). But you’re not sure what to write. It’s gone through your head a couple of dozen times. Maybe there’s even a draft on your hard drive. Yet the moment dissipates. The link looks stale. Another time, maybe.

And then it happens. Every thoughtful blogger’s nightmare. Someone writes that very same post. And does it so well there’s just nothing to add. (Okay, maybe not a nightmare, really, but you know what I mean.)

It happened to me yesterday. Not in the blogosphere, but in Philadelphia magazine, which is kind of a shame, because it’s a great article but it’s not on line.

In “X-treme Annoyance” (Philadelphia, February 2004, pp. 42-43), Noel Weyrich says everything I was thinking -- and more -- about the inexplicable controversy surrounding skateboarding in Philadelphia’s John F. Kennedy Plaza, at Benjamin Franklin Parkway and 16th Street, also known as “LOVE Park” in recognition of the Robert Indiana sculpture that resides there.

You see, a few years ago skateboarders took over the park, which from what I understand and concede had fallen into rather consistent disuse, though that is irrelevant now, and trashed the place. And the neighboring sidewalks. And the public-space plazas abutting nearby office buildings. And, in the process, they managed to scare the bejeebus out of nearly anyone who dared to try to assert his or her right to engage in such outrageous behavior as, say, to walk through the park or on the neighboring sidewalks and plazas, or to sit in the park or on the few available benches on the neighboring sidewalks and plazas.

The city, finally recognizing the damage to the park and the sidewalks and the plazas, and the general deteriorating quality of life the area, finally said enough, and rightly banned skateboarding in JFK Plaza. An uproar of sorts ensued, with the local major dailies experiencing repeated attacks of righteous apoplexy and a stray politician or two, pandering for the “youth” vote, whatever that is, standing up for principle, whatever that might be.

For now, all I can offer from the Weyrich essay are a few excerpts, enough to generate some disagreeable e-mail but not so much that I invite a ruckus over copyright infringement. (Oh, and a few remarks of my own. What did you expect?) So here goes:

Skateboarding -- “street skating,” more precisely -- is a sport the way graffiti is an art. Half the thrills come from messing with something that doesn’t belong to you.

Center City building owners have fought back, blighting their plazas by bolting ugly little-L-shaped steel clips on walls and benches to deter the skaters from “grinding” (a skateboarding term) their axels along the edges. But the steel-clip defense holds other risks. In an incident that went unreported in the papers last spring, skateboarders frustrated by new clips at one office plaza pried them up and pitched them through a nearby shop window. [...]

Among recent college graduates surveyed last year by the Center City District, the top four criteria for choosing a place to live were cost, walkability, safety, and proximity to work. The thrill of vandalism didn’t come up.

Street rats

I’m with Weyrich. Shoo these obnoxious vandals, these “street rats” (his words, and mine) away once and for all. Frankly, as starved for revenue as this city is, I think we’ll manage just fine without the pittance of sales tax these detestable urchins might occasionally cough up when buying chewing tobacco and bubble gum, both of which, I might add, they also use to deface the park and the sidewalks and the plazas.

We’re supposed to share LOVE Park with these guys? The same knuckleheads who can’t share Walnut Street, or Chestnut Street, or Market Street, preferring instead to terrorize genuine shoppers on those thoroughfares, to say nothing of the tourists they send scattering on the Parkway? Build the park you say they need so badly, build it somewhere else, but let the city’s real taxpayers have JFK Plaza.

(I’m willing to bet, though, that if the city builds the skateboarding park currently under discussion it will rarely, if ever, be used. Not because, as the editorialists would have you think, because JFK Plaza is in the heart of the city, but because, as Weyrich says, vandalism -- and terrorism -- is the name of the game.)

Justifiably taking to task the city’s two major dailies, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, both of which have been harping on this issue -- in enthusiastic support of the skateboarders -- with an intensity and frequency better reserved for such issues as the wage tax, corruption, development of the waterfronts, and, what else, oh, how about why the hell there are so many damn parking lots and parking garages blighting Center City, Weyrich observes:

[N]one of the people who actually use LOVE Park are clamoring for the return of the skaters. Only ivory-tower suburbanites (the majority of both editorial boards) and pandering city politicians are seriously pushing this idea. At a low point of a mayoral campaign filled with low points, Sam Katz actually mounted a skateboard at a press conference, falling on his ample ass. [Local notes: The Inquirer and the Daily News share offices in a building that is literally, one could say, an “ivory tower.” Katz, a Republican, unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Mayor John F. Street in the November mayoral election.]

Wiffle ball anyone?

Weyrich, mindful of the need for as many recreation opportunities as possible in Philadelphia, cleverly has proposed a new Wiffle ball league. The league’s proposed stomping grounds, its suggested playing field? Out front at 400 North Broad Street, the home of both the Inquirer and the Daily News.

“We’ll have a great time for about five minutes,” Weyrich writes. “But when the security guards race to shoo us away, I am fully confident that the editorial boards of both papers will rally to our defense.”

According to Weyrich, the first meeting of the North Broad Wiffle Ball League will be held on Thursday, February 5, with the first pitch tossed at noon.

Damn! Can’t make it. Jury duty calls.

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Heidi Fleiss on Martha Stewart

Most everyone missed it, but this week we had another of the countless truly surreal moments in American journalism, this one stemming from coverage of the federal prosecution of Martha Stewart.

In The Wall Street Journal, of all places, we read:

“Toads come out of her mouth -- the jury won’t like her,” contends Heidi Fleiss, the “Hollywood Madam” who was convicted in 1995 on federal charges of money-laundering and tax evasion in Los Angeles in connection with the high-priced call-girl ring she once ran. Ms. Fleiss, now a 38-year-old owner of a lingerie store called “Hollywood Madam,” spent 21 months in prison -- and believes she would have been acquitted had her lawyers allowed her to testify.

Ms. Fleiss says her lawyers told her to keep mum, a decision she regrets because jurors were left with only the portraits of her painted by prosecutors and their witnesses, including actor Charlie Sheen, who paid her large sums for sex with women Ms. Fleiss procured. “They made me look like the Anti-Christ,” she says now. Ms. Fleiss believes her own testimony would have put her in a more sympathetic light because “jurors would have gotten where I was coming from and maybe even liked me.”

Actually, in context with the rest of the article, “Putting Martha On the Stand,” by Laurie P. Cohen (WSJ, January 29), it does fit, in its own bizarre way, as the subject under discussion is whether celebrity defendants should, must even, take the stand.

Still, this -- seeking commentary from Fleiss -- has to be the most humiliating moment Stewart has had to face in Karen Seymour’s rampant, flawed, poorly conceived, and run amok prosecution.

“Toads come out of her mouth”? And what about you, Heidi? Where are your warts?

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Giving the Doctor the Eagleton Treatment

There’s something about Howard Dean, and his wife, that makes some people crazy. I have no idea what it is, because I don’t see it. Dean and his wife seem to me to be perfectly normal adults, though with above-average sets of accomplishments and more ambition than most people. Good for them.

So why is it that so many in the media are all too happy, all too eager, to paint Dean as a man possessed? Could it be . . . projection?

Case in point: Michael Smerconish, a local talk radio personality and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. Smerconish, as befits his profession, is more blunt than most Dean critics. He apparently thinks Howard Dean is crazy, or unbalanced, or of unsound mind, and he wants you to think that to. (“When Dr. Dean Met Dr. Freud”)

Smerconish this week raised the subject of Dean’s mental health, not in relation to the post-Iowa caucus rally, but because of what, best I can tell, was a brief period of generalized anxiety many years ago. The talk-radio personality writes:

In a[n] . . interview with People, Dean confirmed having anxiety attacks later in Vermont. He explained that he “was just anxious, and I didn’t know why.”

Dean said that, through counseling, he traced his anxiety attacks to his brother Charlie, whose remains were recently discovered in central Laos.

His counseling? I don’t recall that coming up in the debates. Never in all the negative campaigning. And Diane Sawyer didn’t raise it in her recent interview with the Deans.

When asked by People if the counseling was hard, he said, “No, it actually was great. It was really helpful. I mean, I like that kind of stuff. I had done a lot of it -- I learned a lot about it in medical school. I had done some during my psychiatry rotations, so it was actually a terrific experience. It wasn’t easy. You’ve got to work and you’ve got to uncover things that matter to you. And of course we talked a lot about my father an all that other stuff.”

Sounds to me like Dean was lying on somebody’s couch. Which makes him no different from many Americans. Except, of course, that he’s running for president. (Dean said that he wasn’t medicated.) […]

A “little anxiety” from a man who would be commander-in-chief? […]

Maybe, in light of his losses in Iowa and New Hampshire, this is an irrelevancy. But to the extent that the campaign of Dr. Dean is resuscitated over the next few weeks, here’s what he should be asked:

When have you required professional counseling? What events in your life gave rise to such a need? Exactly what type of professional help did you require?

Is this what it’s come to? You know, beginning nearly four years ago and continuing right up to the present day, it was and is considered impolite, unseemly, inappropriate, and yes, impolitic, to ask questions about the health of the heart of our post-operative vice president, Dick Cheney.

But now, suddenly, it’s supposed to be fair and proper to submit to a presidential aspirant, during primary season, a request for a full detailing of his mental health. One would think we all outgrew this a long time ago, but the likes of Smerconish would drag us all back to 1972.

I, for one, am pleased to learn Dean sought appropriate and professional treatment for his extraordinarily common -- almost mundane -- problem, unlike a certain president we all know who, if he’s been sticking to his pledge against drinking, has likely been gnawing his knuckles for more than 15 years.

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Chopping the Tree

The heavy lifting of Ann Coulter (did I just say that?) and her screeching against Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) has been done by others:

By John Emerson at Seeing the Forest and by Diana at Letter From Gotham (Sound bite [so hard to pick just one]: “Girl, check your temperature. You have a fever. He didn’t say that. He sat in Congress, looked Senator Fulbright in the eye, and blamed the powerful men sitting in those chambers for those war crimes. At age 28. You wouldn’t have the guts to speak truth to power at age 88.”).

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Wednesday, January 28, 2004  

And, Really, It’s Just About Pancakes

Uh-oh, she’s sending me fightin’ words. She, M.E.C., I mean.

In an e-mail sent this evening, M.E.C. slipped a bit and told me she makes her pancakes on “a griddle,” and not on a pan.

Damn, this could be tough.

Hello, Martha? I’m calling in my chits. You know the number.

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All of This, Over Pancakes

Apparently the aforementioned M.E.C. has built herself, without my realizing it, a little reputation as a pancake-maker.

Well, good for you, M.E.C.

Congratulations and all of that.

As I am currently absorbed in a reading of the magnificent Don Quixote, I herewith challenge you, M.E.C., to a duel.

Name the time, the place, and the pans.

Our judge? Our newest niece.

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Patting Myself on the Back Here

Okay, so there’s been this exchange of correspondence, via e-mail, between my cousin L.M. and my sister C. and me that, to anyone privy to it, and that likely does not include you, I regret to say, proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am, in C.’s own words (and she’s just friggin’ incredibly funny herself, and gee whiz, just finish one of those books or something, would you?), “the funniest person in the world.”

So take that, Dennis . . . Dennis . . . Dennis, what? . . . Dennis something . . . Whatever . . . P.J. . . . Christopher . . . Taki . . . Megan . . . I don’t know, I don’t care. Nobody knows, nobody cares.

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Just Ask Her

Aw, man, they say she likes pancakes.

The girl’s just going straight for my heart isn’t she?

I say that because Uncle Jim makes, among very little else, a really mean pancake.

Just ask Debbie. (Actually, I think I’m the only one who calls her Debbie. I don’t know why. Why I call her that or why I’m the only one, I mean.)

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Very Impressive

On Monday I told you my newest, my impending, my incipient niece would be greeted, solely on my side of the family, by nine uncles, seven aunts, and 14 cousins.

At the time I was uncertain of the comparable gifts the other side of her new family would offer.

Today, thanks to M.E.C., I have the relevant data: five uncles, five aunts, and 14 cousins.

So, if you’re doing the math at home, that means my newest, my impending, my incipient niece will soon arrive to 14 uncles, 12 aunts, and 28 cousins. (Plus Mildred.)

That’s 54 people. Fifty-four (54). (And one bulldog.)

And then there are grandparents, a species in a class -- a world -- of their very own. And great aunts and great uncles, and really great great aunts and uncles, and second cousins or first cousins once removed, or whatever the hell those people are called, and of them there is a multitude.

Good Lord, fix the girl, fix the girls, a drink.

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About Jack Paar

Reader Maureen B. writes:

My father-in-law used to own an electronics shop in Westport, Conn.

One day Jack Paar walked in. [Ed.: Paar was living in Greenwich, Conn., at the time of his death.] My father-in-law told Mr. Paar he was testing a tape recorder and would he mind helping him out on the test?

Jack Paar smiled and said, “I know what you're trying to do,” but he took the microphone and said, “You’re listening to Jack Paar coming to you from The Radio Shop.”

I think he still has that tape.

I’d love to hear it.

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The Worse It Gets

You know what? They’re not “stewardesses.”

The women and men who feed you peanuts, they’re on the friggin’ front line.

I lost a good friend on September 11, 2001, and I lived in New York then. And lately every reminder of that horrible day is not less but more painful than before. The words of Betty Ong, a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11, reported by ABC News, are horrific in their intensity and in their mock banality.

You know, when you think about it, there’s really nothing heroic about Ong’s work on that fateful day.

She was just doing her job.

And so the next time you hear stupidity from The Wall Street Journal and its loyal lackeys on the right-wing side of the blogosphere about “overpaid” flight attendants and the “demands” of their union, think again.

Think about Betty Ong.

She’s dead now.

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I'm Ready. Oh, Am I Ready.

I can't wait until my landlord starts showing my apartment.

The nasty, trashy woman who serves as their agent today sent me notice that she has initiated a municipal court proceeding against me. I am all of one month behind with my rent.

Fine. Good luck and all that. I'm leaving. In fact, I can't wait to get out of here.

And when she, or one of her minions, starts showing the apartment and waxing rhapsodic about the apartment's six-foot -- and unbelievably leaky -- windows, I'll be ready to counter with this:

You know, you really should call Peco and get the history of utility bills for this apartment. That's your right as both a prospective tenant and a ratepayer. Pay particular attention to June, July, August, and September, when massive air-conditioning is often a must, and to November, December, January, February, and March, when similar efforts are required to keep the hovel warm.

And for every other purported amenity, benefit, or feature, I have appropriate responses.

I love it when small-minded, big-haired people try to engage me in a war of words.

Who the hell do they think they're dealing with? I do this -- the war of words -- for a living. You're going to lose.

[Post-publication addendum: Oh, and if you, the small-minded, big-haired one, think I'm going to clean this place to make it "showable," think again.]

[Post-publication addendum: Hey, and guess what, the building has yet to fix the water damage in my bathroom resulting from the burst pipe about which I warned them more than 24 hours before said bursting, a catastrophe that mysteriously was greeted in its most heinous form not by me (and I’m surprised because I’m prone to experiencing such nonsense), but my across-the-hall neighbor. “Luxury Living in Center City.” I guess it all depends upon what you mean by “luxury” and “living.”]

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Requiescat in Pacem

Jack Paar: 1919-2004.

If you “get” Jack Paar, you “get” Rittenhouse, though this site is but a pale imitation of the work of the master.

“I kid you not.”

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Kevin, Gypsy, Vivian, a Suckling Pig, and Garlic

Aw gee whiz, I can’t believe I’m back on the subject already, but today there’s still more evidence in the media of “stripper chic,” this time in the Philadelphia Daily News.

In a fawning and inexplicably respectful piece (actually, the reporter does work in a few subtle and delightful slams), “The Guys at Delilah’s Go Hog-Wild,” complete with a photograph (not on line) of the establishment’s “head chef,” Kevin Simon, looking a tad uncomfortable, I think, flanked -- and I mean that -- by two “dancers,” Gypsy (Wait, isn’t that an ethnic slur? “Romany” might be preferred here.) and Vivian, PDN reporter April Adamson offers readers Simon’s recipe for Delilah’s Whole Roast Suckling Pig, a gastronomic delight, I’m sure, that will be served at “the gentlemen’s club,” Adamson’s words, not mine, on Super Bowl Sunday.

Although I’m not a cook, and I don’t play one on TV, I was surprised to see that the recipe for Delilah’s Whole Roast Suckling Pig includes, among other things, “10 cloves garlic, minced.”

Ten cloves of garlic? Now, I could be wrong, but isn’t a “clove” of garlic one of those little pieces? You know, just a part of, what is it called, a head or a bulb or what, of garlic?

Ten cloves to spice up an entire “Whole Roast Suckling Pig”? Even for Delilah’s that seems kind of skimpy to me. And what’s with the mincing? Seems a little unmanly.

Oops, did I say “skimpy”? There I go, lapsing unwittingly into the lingo of “stripper chic.”

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The Campaign for First President

Was George Washington the first president of the United States?

Some think not.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2004  

From Kucinich to Kerry

I am, as my more perceptive readers are aware, currently reading one of the greatest novels of all time, Don Quixote, in the recent and incomparable translation of Philadelphia native Edith Grossman, a book that was the generous donation to me of a favorite blogger’s wife.

I read Don Quixote, in a different translation, 20 years ago, in a book given to me by my beloved older sister J.

Reading the novel again is like reading it for the first time.

It’s better than I remember. And it’s much funnier than I remember. It is truly a masterpiece of literature. And Grossman’s translation, with her unrivaled intelligence and perceptive recognition of, well, just about everything, and her judicious use of informative footnotes, will rank forever among the greatest accomplishments of translation.

While reading Don Quixote I have been reminded of phrases, at least two, that through this great novel, have entered our vernacular.

First, “quixotic,” and second, “tilting at wildmills.” I’m inclined, whether genetically or environmentally, toward both, both the “quixotic” and the “tilting.”

And so, when the 2004 presidential campaign began, I, a quixotic man of tilting principle, or such as I like to think of myself, began by backing Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio).

I know -- I knew -- it was a long shot. But Kucinich too, I knew, was and is a man of principle. “They don’t get it,” my friends told me of the voters, the voters I knew would benefit more from no one in the White House but the very same Dennis Kucinich.

I’m never 100 percent satisfied with any candidate I support. Kucinich’s backtracking on the abortion issue alone was, to me, extraordinarily disappointing. Kucinich could have, I think, used his iconoclastic and unorthodox opinion to his advantage. He chose not to do so. A mistake, a big one, even, I think, but such is for him, and not me, to decide.

But tonight I am switching allegiances. And despite his otherwise unaccpetable views on abortion, I am shifting, changing, my support, my backing, from Kucinich to Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.).

We need to win in November, and I think Kerry is the man to do just that.

More to come.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Thank You, Thank You, and Thank You

Yep, lately I’ve been taking my licks, big time, but just a few moments ago I received from an older brother, via e-mail, probably the most touching, heartfelt, and loving message that I ever have received in my life.

I’m speechless. I truly am. And you, my readers, of all people, know that is saying an awful lot.

I hate my life right now, but were it not for this elder brother I have no idea where this mess that is my life would be headed.

God bless you.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


That’s All I Want

I live in the heart, the center, if you will, of one of the country’s largest cities, Philadelphia. It’s usually noisy here. But sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes, when it’s very cloudy and snowing, and my neighbors aren’t playing, at full blast, their intolerable dance music, and my ridiculously expensive heating units aren’t cycling, it’s strangely and peacefully, almost mysteriously, quiet. And I like it that way.

I have two dreams, both centering on vacations. No surprise that, since I haven’t had a vacation in three years. And even that last vacation, along with the preceding vacation one year earlier, combined “business” with “pleasure.” I haven’t had a vacation vacation in nearly five years.

So to what do I look forward? Two things, two things that, to me, sound like heaven.

First, a transatlantic cruise. I know, there normally are no stops on such cruises. And that is more than fine with me. I want to sit on a comfortable chair on a wooden deck with a stack of books, a notebook and pen, a bottle of white wine, and a couple of packs of cigarettes, and see nothing but ocean for days on end. I don’t even have to talk with anyone. The silence is, would be, the vacation in and of itself.

Queen Mary 2

Second, a few weeks on a porch. A porch with a rocking chair and the aforementioned stack of books, notebook, pen, bottle of wine, and cigarettes. A porch that looks out on to nothing whatsoever, as if beautiful rolling hills unmarred by housing developments, strip malls, and even the errant trailer could ever properly be described as “nothing whatsoever.”

You see, I’m a man of simple tastes and few demands. All I want, really, is for the whole world to just be quiet, if only for a moment. Imagine what that would that be like. Imagine what that would sound like.

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At Least When It Comes to Politics

Yeah, sure, this is really cute and all that, but exactly how many times am I supposed to look at such a photograph and say, “Awwwww”?

A hundred, a thousand, a million?

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Holy Friggin’ Freezin’ in Hell

I just received my latest electric bill from the local utility, Peco Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Exelon Corp., and a company formerly known by the less high-falutin’ name, Philadelphia Electric Co.


To (barely) heat and (barely) light 720 square feet for one month.

And this is after Peco’s adjustments based on my ongoing and persistent unemployment without benefits. An astounding $410.93 of billing for the same month has been deferred. I know it’s been cold here, but really, $786.63 of cold? What the hell?

Just kill me now.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


What is Fair Play Here?

I’m not a lawyer. I don’t even play one on TV. I thought about becoming one, but while I was in college my “pre-law” colleagues were, collectively, if not individually, the most insufferable group of people on campus, and the thought of spending three years with that crowd sent me in another direction.

Okay, now that I’ve slammed lawyers writ large, I’d like to ask the very same group, good sports and self-effacing types that they are, to help me with something.

How is it fair to Martha Stewart that Judge Miriam Cedarbaum ruled defense attorneys may not raise questions regarding the government’s failure to bring “insider trading” charges against Stewart, but the prosecution, beginning with its very opening statement, may suggest, at least it seems to me, that Stewart engaged in exactly that?

According to the Associated Press, lead prosecutor Karen Seymour in court today used the phrase “a secret tip” and added, “She was told a secret that no other investor had.”

There’s something I’m not getting here and I would like to know what it is. If you can explain it to me, please do so. (And let me know if I can publish your response, with or without your name and affiliation, or merely quote from it off the record, or not at all, thus using the material only “on background.”) Thanks.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Things I Could Miss and Still Die a Happy Man

Page Six of the New York Post today reports, under the heading, “Sightings”:

Denise Rich celebrating her birthday by pole-dancing with 16 girlfriends, including Star Jones, at the Penthouse Executive Club...

“Stripper chic,” taken to a new low.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Economics: Like Catholicism, Not His Best Subject

From Andrew Sullivan, someone we’ve long known cannot be trusted with simple mathematics let alone the complexities of microeconomics (And please, will someone finally steer this ignoramus away from Catholicism and theology? Just because the average newspaper editor knows nothing of either doesn’t mean there’s no one else out there who doesn’t know a great deal about both.), today we read, under the heading “Krugman Blames Tax Cuts,” the following: “That’s the entire reason for the deficit. Yeah, right. But how can he ignore the obvious place of exploding domestic discretionary spending under Bush? Well, we have long learned about the fragility of his intellectual honesty.”

Pot, kettle, black. Teakettle, doily, lavender.


Really, Andy, “his”?

Do you mean “his” as in New York Times columnist and Princeton University economics professor Paul Krugman? Or do you mean “the fragility of his intellectual honesty” in reference to President George W. Bush?

Unbelievably, and unbearably, it goes on.

Sullivan: “The lesson for Republican presidents: you will never get credit for spending, so don’t do it. Cut taxes; reduce spending. It’s the only governing philosophy that conservatives ever have a chance of winning with. But they never learn, do they?” [Ed.: Tortured syntax in original.]


Really, Andy, “they”?

Do you mean “they” as in “liberals” or “the left” or “the fifth column” or “the traitors”? Or do you mean “they never learn,” referring to Republicans, who for the past 25 years, and who by virtue of the idiots in the punditocracy, of which you were plainly in the vanguard, earned an entirely unwarranted reputation for fiscal restraint? I mean, where the hell were you?

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Why Not? Because They Say So.

Andrew Sullivan, in a January 26 post, “Sex Slaves Epidemic?”, is all too happy to imply, to conclude, based on no commentary added to two random posts on the web, that sexual slavery is not and should not be a concern to anyone, this against the 8,500-word, meticulously researched, and impeccably documented article by Peter Landesman (“The Girls Next Door,” January 25) in the New York Times Magazine, the very same newspaper in which pages Sullivan, on Minnesota Public Radio, on Sunday, January 25, bragged about his recent appearance, though merely as a book reviewer, a fact that was left unmentioned by the Princess of Provincetown.

Schizophrenia, anyone?

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It Doesn’t Get Any More Disgusting Than This

What the hell is any reasonable person, straight or gay, to make of the following drool from the slimy lips of Andrew Sullivan:

EMAIL OF THE DAY: “I go to when I want to feel like I belong. I go to Andrew Sullivan when I want the painful truth. Thank you. Never stop.”

Never stop what? Seeking a herpes sore from the same infected channel that brought us the unbearable discharge known as Jonathan Goldberg, flatulent friend of Andy?

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Peter Bacanovic, I Mean

Overshadowed in the federal government’s latest, and most misguided, Wall Street prosecution, that against Martha Stewart, chairman and chief executive officer of Martha Stewart Omnimedia Ltd., has been her co-defendant, her stockbroker/financial planner at Merrill Lynch & Co., Peter Bacanovic.

Bacanovic in the past has been mentioned in passing at Rittenhouse, mostly, I concede, with superfluous, and, as is my wont, entirely superficial, reference to his extraordinary good looks.

By such references I did not intend to imply in any way whatsoever that Bacanovic is one kind or another of a “lightweight.” In fact, and if anything, the more I have learned of his background, education, and professional accomplishments, the more impressed I have become with Stewart’s unfairly charged, possibly railroaded, co-defendant.

For the latest reliable and altogether entirely fair profile of Bacanovic, see “The Stewart Trial’s Other Star,” by Landon Thomas Jr. (New York Times, January 25.)

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Monday, January 26, 2004  

She’s Coming to America

Within just the last three months I have been blessed, by proxy of course, by the arrival of two nieces: an almost unbearably beautiful baby brought by the stork in the customary manner and another who will soon arrive in America under less traditional circumstances. As I’ve already welcomed the former, allow me today to greet the latter.

Hi. It’s me. Uncle Jim. I know, you don’t know me yet. But you will soon. And just so you know, at least for the short term, I’m not really comfortable around babies. Ask anyone. There are pictures proving it. I rarely even hold them, even if invited to do so. My hands shake a lot, and so I break things, and I drop things a lot, and I don’t want to break or drop a little girl like you. And then there’s that whole head thing. I understand you’ve grown beyond most of that, but I might still be reluctant to hold you in my arms. I’ll explain it all to you later. It doesn’t matter; just keep in mind, I’m known for giving really great gifts, at least when I can. And nobody wraps a gift like I do.

Anyway, you’re beautiful. Breathtaking. You truly are. But I’ve known that for a long time, ever since the agency in South Asia started providing photographs of your incomparable face and tiny little body.

They tell me you’re healthy, too. That’s great news, and also a relief, because I know that many of your friends in the orphanage are afflicted with conjunctivitis, scabies or lice or both, cleft palates, clubfeet, and other, more serious, afflictions.

Don’t worry, that’s over now. The orphanage and all that, I mean. And I think you’re going to like it here. I really do.

Your parents are warm, loving, kind, thoughtful, and generous to a fault. I haven’t visited their home -- your new home -- recently, so I haven’t seen your nursery, but knowing your parents as I do, I can only imagine. Prepare to be dazzled, even in your own little way.

Know that you will be well provided for, now and always. In fact, due to the delay in your adoption, your parents already have started the hand-me-down process, giving away clothes you can no longer fit, a process that, as I understand it, still leaves you with more clothes than the two of them, and possibly the two of them plus me, combined, and that -- the “plus me” part -- is saying a lot.

Your grandmother, my mother I mean, who I suspect has been knitting for you furiously since she first learned this day might come, will drown you in more affection in a day than you heretofore have known your entire life. (At one point, when things looked iffy, I swear I thought Grandma was going to hop on a plane to Asia to get you herself, paperwork and bureaucracy be damned. Trust me, she would have pulled it off too.) And if Grandma won’t let you out of her hands, just start crying. But really hard, I mean, because she doesn’t give up easily.

Your extended family? Well, based on numbers alone, I could go on and on. And here I’m speaking merely, if that’s the right word, of my side of the family, because the other side, for which I do not at the moment have exact figures, is almost as large.

Brace yourself, little girl, for on my side of the family only, you suddenly have nine uncles, seven aunts, and 14 cousins. Many of them have the same names or middle names or what have you -- my siblings have a propensity for naming their offspring after each other -- but don’t worry, you’ll sort it out eventually. I did. Multiply these numbers by 1.7 to take the other side of the family into account and you’ll get a basic grasp of what you’re in for. Not ready for that kind of math? I’ll teach you. For now, just know you will not want for companionship.

What will your life be like here, little girl?

I can’t answer that question. It’s all up to you; not now of course, but eventually, and sooner than any of us can imagine, sooner than any of us would wish.

Maybe, without the adoption, and after having spent your childhood and adolescence in remote and bleak orphanages, you could have gone to college and then to medical school. Somehow, though, I doubt it. But now the world is your oyster, if you will forgive the trite metaphor, and, trust me, you don’t have to be a doctor if you don’t want to. (Personally, I’m not really wild about doctors.) You can be anything and everything you want. So much opportunity. So many challenges. So much to learn and see and do.

Best of all, you’re in good hands. The best of all possible hands.

Still, I worry. The world, or at least this country, has changed much since I was growing up, and yet you will encounter some people who will want to make your life difficult.

Why? Because your skin is darker than theirs. And because you are adopted. But mostly, I fear, because of who your parents are.

Don’t listen to those who would mock you or your family. Be proud of yourself. Be proud of your wonderful parents. Be proud of your precious family. Be the best girl and woman you can be. I know you can do it. I know that just by looking at you, even now. And I know that because, even in small part, you are now one of us.

Welcome to America. Welcome to the family. Welcome home.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


My $1.58 Gummi Bears

I suspect most Rittenhouse readers are too young or too removed from New York to remember “The Bess Mess,” the gripping 1980s contretemps involving former Miss America Bess Myerson; her assistant, Sukhreet Gabel; her boyfriend, Andy Capasso; her boyfriend’s wife, Nancy Capasso; her friend, former New York Mayor Ed Koch; and the judge overseeing the Capassos’ divorce, Hortense Gabel.

That’s a shame. Really, it is.

There’s a terrific book about all of this, When She Was Bad: The Story of Bess, Hortense, Sukhreet & Nancy, by Shana Alexander -- you know, of “Point/Counterpoint” fame, “Shana, you ignorant slut,” and all that, except she’s a fantastic writer and James J. Kilpatrick was nothing more than a predictable irritant -- and while the book is out of print, and while I used to have a copy I cannot now locate, and one I promised to lend to a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, it is worth finding, by you and by me, and not only because I once referred to the book, at TRR, as “the best beach read ever.”

Anyway, in the book Alexander several times makes mention of Myerson’s legendary, well, let’s call it, thriftiness.

While shopping in New York, whether at a fashionable boutique or at a knock-off shop on Canal Street, Myerson had the propensity, while she and her face were still well known in that city, having heard the quoted price, to respond, “Yes, but how much for Bess Myerson?”

I don’t know what took over me, but tonight I decided to try the same strategy. After trying to buy juice at the corner bodega (my choice was out of stock), I opted to treat myself to a bag of Gummi Bears.

“A dollar fifty-nine,” the cashier said.

Now, they know me there. They know me there very well. So I thought, what the heck, I’ll ask.

“Yes, but how much for Jim Capozzola?”

The cashier smiled and said, “A dollar fifty-eight.”

Do you know what? I pulled a dollar bill from one pocket and then reached into another and counted out my available change, and that spare change, remarkably, totaled exactly fifty-eight cents.

And so I procured my bag of Gummi Bears for not one cent more than a dollar fifty-eight.

Take that, Bess!

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


No, Not the Dork from Math Class, That was Howard Temmill

Listen, readers, far and near, do you know HTML?

As best I can tell, I cannot, using Blogger software, easily create a command by which a reader may readily print just one post from The Rittenhouse Review.

Does anyone know enough about HTML to write such code?

If so, let me know, because you would be doing my readers, me, and my career, such as it is at the moment (shambles, anyone?), a very big favor.

I cannot pay you, at least not today, though I might on Tuesday, if only with a hamburger. (And if you don’t get that, you’re just too damned young, and, may I say, just head for Google, and I wish you well?)

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Raking It In (Or Just Cashing In)

I wish I were Sam Waterston.


Because if I were Sam Waterston I’d be making a lot of money starring on “Law & Order,” a show from which, based on the series’s past treatment of major characters, he would have been given the ol’ heave-ho a long time ago (along with Jerry Orbach, of whom I grew tired years ago).

But if I were Sam Waterston, I’d also be picking up more than a little cash on the side doing advertisements for so wide a range of vendors as to include The Nation and TD Waterhouse.

Nice work(s) if you can get it.

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And You Thought Those Guys at CNN Were Dumb?

Okay, here’s another dopey AOL poll, this one on “national security” concerns.

The questions: “Who would do a better job on national security?” and “How important is national security to you as a voting issue?”

Go ahead, creepit.

“Creepit,” “creeping,” those are my new words for the “freeping” of online polls published by the ignorant and the right wing, which, believe it or not, are sometimes, though in the case of CNN by no means always, two different things.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


About the New York Times

Okay, readers, especially the fringistas among you, you have said your piece about the New York Times and my recent comments about the newspaper.

And I have responded with an addendum to yesterday’s post.

Enjoy. Or not.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


She’s Coming Home

Rest assured, all is well in South Asia. My newest, my impending, my incipient niece is healthy and happy, and soon will be on her way home.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Setting Up the Fall Guy
And Keeping Silent

Can you see what's happening? Do you see what they're doing? Can you discern the strategy of deception the Bush administration plans to ride into four more years of havoc and destruction at home and abroad?

The outlines are becoming more clear. What is shaping up before our eyes is the following: President George W. Bush, of all people, will take the "high road," standing as the man of principle, the lonely warrior, the protector of all that is good and true, the divinely chosen one leading the heathen east and west (coasts) to the promised land.

I know, the thought is, in and of itself, nauseating. Remember this, though: People buy this stuff. They buy it by the proverbial crockful.

Meanwhile, another role has been assigned to Vice President Dick Cheney, one for which he is uniquely suited.

When assessing Vice President Cheney's public statements about the war and about terrorism, don't think for a moment that he's become delusional or that he's a loose cannon, running around spouting discredited theories, unbelievable fables, and easily refutable "facts" about Saddam Hussein, weapons of mass destruction, and links between Iraq and Al-Qaeda.

Yes, he's doing that, but no, Cheney is very much on script with all of this. He's the administration's public liar, the point man of prevarication, trotted out now and again to repeat untruths that fire up the ignorant and the conspiracy-minded alike, keeping the stupid and the crazy in line and behind their natural candidate: President Bush.

Meanwhile, how convenient will it be for the Bush administration to have replaced David Kay with Charles Duelfer as the CIA's chief weapons inspector in Iraq? The appointment was made despite the fact Duelfer publicly has raised personal doubts about the likelihood that any evidence of WMDs will be found in Iraq.

Is this the Bush administration being open-minded, tolerant of dissent? I don't think so.

Fast forward, what, four, six months? Duelfer hands in his report demonstrating -- proving, even -- that Saddam Hussein's regime didn't have the capacity to produce, let alone deliver, let alone deliver to the U.S. (or London), biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons, and what will we hear from the White House, the Pentagon, and their parrots in the media?

I'll tell you: "Well, we all know Duelfer went into this job operating under the assumption that WMDs (and WMD programs and WMD program-related activities, whatever they are) couldn't be found. He wasn't credible from the start, why should we believe him now? The appointment was a terrible mistake by CIA Director George Tenet and White House sources now say they regret they didn't block the appointment. We've also learned Duelfer's wife once . . . "

Mark my words.

Finally, why has National Security Adviser Condoleezza "Mushroom Cloud" Rice suddenly been muzzled? She used to be everywhere, all the time -- sometimes it seemed she was demonstrating what the Catholic Church, in reference to certain saints, calls "bilocation" -- all the while telling lies, feeding misperceptions, fueling misconceptions, and, most important, covering her ass. Now, she's disappeared.

Not that I miss her or anything.

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Sullivan as Dishonest as Ever
The Blogosphere’s New Village Idiot?

Atrios today takes Andrew Sullivan to the woodshed for a good old-fashioned, and well deserved, spanking.

If I might borrow a phrase from Sullivan, here are the “money quotes”:

[Sullivan]’s already shifting the goal post, requiring that I also demonstrate that I ever praise [President] Bush and also wants recent examples.

The thing is, of course, is that no matter what I write in “defense” of the challenge, debate team gold star winner Andy will declare victory. You see, it all depends on how we define “the left” and what it means to criticize them.

Wait, you mean Sullivan’s the type of person to smugly claim victory in a debate, brooking no discussion all the while? Oh, yeah, there was that June 2002 debate at the New School when he was paired with the lamentable Norah Vincent against Richard Goldstein of the Village Voice and Carmen Vasquez of the New York gay community center. Sullivan (and possibly even Vincent) rode a testosterone high for weeks after that one.

[Post-publication addendum: As for “Atrios Punts,” the brief post Sullivan added to his site this afternoon, it is the most supremely ignorant, dishonest, and lazy collection of sentences ever uttered in the blogosphere. Sullivan wants “three specific instances in which Atrios has criticized the left.” Atrios already gave him 11, but Sullivan, who obviously hasn’t read Eschaton except while on a desperate search for what makes for a truly interesting blog, can’t be bothered. Looks like the blogosphere has a new Village Idiot.]

[Post-publication addendum: Out of bounds, or par for the course? Consider what you’re dealing with.]

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And About That Other Tape

I finally broke down and decided to take a look at the tape of Howard Dean’s post-Iowa caucus campaign rally, something I told myself I wouldn’t do. In fact, I looked at and listened to a few different versions, some longer than others.

For what it’s worth, and that’s precious little, count me among those who think this is all much ado about nothing. Viewed in the context of the day’s events, the rigors of the months leading up to that moment, and the rampant energy and excitement of his supporters, Dean’s scream, while unorthodox, does not fall into the category of character flaw or whatever it is the punditocracy is trying to slime on him.

Meanwhile, the pig pile continues, with Weird Michelle Malkin, in today’s Philadelphia Daily News, referring to the incident as “Howard Dean going ape-wild.”

The far more interesting video clip on the web right now is at The Smoking Gun. It shows President George W. Bush at a 1992 wedding reception -- six years after he allegedly stopped drinking -- in what appears to be an inebriated state and throwing back what looks like a glass of whiskey. Not to be missed.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Sunday, January 25, 2004  

Twice this Sunday

How can anyone think, let alone say, the New York Times is anything other than the greatest newspaper in the world?

Two knock-your-socks off articles in just today’s edition:

One to make your blood boil: “The Girls Next Door,” by Peter Landesman.

And one to make your heart melt: “In Death Watch for Stranger, Becoming a Friend to the End,” by N.R. Kleinfield.

[Post-publication addendum (January 26): Oh, for crying out loud. Some readers are congenitally incapable of accepting a definitive statement about anything, unable to read without histrionics even a single sentence as being simply the viewpoint of someone other than themselves, and warped by the notion that their nit-picking reveals some sort of divinely inspired intelligence. How sad. So for these, and for these alone, allow me to qualify the first sentence of this post. I rephrase as follows: “How can anyone think, let alone say, the New York Times is anything other than the greatest newspaper in the world? For no other newspaper in the world provides such a wealth, and such depth, of coverage on so wide a range of issues; no other newspaper deploys such great resources toward that end; no newspaper, while being, like all newspapers and, like all institutions, managed and staffed by multitudes of fallible human beings, so consistently achieves greatness and near-greatness, despite what, in context, can be considered but a handful of mistakes; no newspaper publishes so much first-class, top-notch, award-worthy prose about issues both pressing and otherwise; and no newspaper so consistently provokes the reader to think in a new way about an issue, topic, or subject about which he previously had given no thought whatsoever.” Now, is that okay?]

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Tough Jersey girls have been a topic at TRR in the past. And while I have nothing against tough Jersey girls per se, in no small part because all of my sisters could, for at least part of their lives, have been labeled as such, I find the entire phenomenon humorous, especially when I read something like the following, pulled from Saturday’s Philadelphia Daily News [Ed.: Second item.]:

A disgruntled South Jersey McDonald’s customer was arrested after throwing a fit -- and two milkshakes -- because her order took too long.

Michelle Molina, 29, was charged with simple assault and criminal mischief Thursday after the incident, police said.

The incident began when Molina and a man ordered five Happy Meals and three Value Meals at the drive-thru window of Store No. 18581 in Pleasantville, N.J.

The two had received part of their order and manager Ron Gaskill was bringing the rest when they pulled away, parked and walked inside to get the rest of the food. […]

Molina and the man then berated Gaskill with obscenities before Molina threw a soda, a chocolate shake and then a second chocolate shake at him.

The first shake hit him in the chest; the other drinks sprayed the kitchen, spoiling some food.

God love the wayward Jersey girl. After all, she’s just being herself.

[Note: This post originally was published at TRR: The Lighter Side of Rittenhouse.]

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Saturday, January 24, 2004  

The Hour Has Come and Now Is

I want to take a moment to thank everyone who responded to my latest appeal for donations to The Rittenhouse Review.

I can’t say I pulled in 80 thousand dollars or anything approaching that amount, but your gifts have been very helpful. In times like this, every dollar truly counts. The debt of my gratitude knows no bounds.

You know, blogging isn’t, or at least doesn’t have to be, an expensive endeavor. Yet I have learned, and not for the first time, that the demands of day-to-day life, of real life, are costly. I’ve become more attuned lately to the cost of everything, a term that right now means the basic essentials: rent, utilities, and food. (Overdue appointments with doctors, my optometrist, and Mildred’s veterinarian long since have fallen by the wayside.) And those utilities, which include electricity and telephone service, are essential for keeping the blog going. So, know that your contributions are going not to my amusement or social life, for I have nothing of either, but to sustaining The Rittenhouse Review and TRR as we know them.

And much as I appreciate your financial generosity, your compliments and expressions of support and encouragement mean more to me. One of the best things about running a blog is that I have an immediate public outlet for some of my writing, an audience for the many thoughts running through my head each day. And the audience, mixed as it is among “general” readers (a group that includes concerned citizens, activists, journalists, lawmakers, educators, students, and even the occasional family member) and bloggers, is quick to let me know when I’m misguided, misinformed, or misspeaking. More important, during the nearly two years I have been producing my blogs I have learned what readers (in both categories) like and what they don’t, and, more specifically, what they like and don’t like to read from me. This will be of extraordinary value to me going forward.

That said, sadly I must inform you that it is now apparent that I cannot stay in Philadelphia. The job search has been nothing less than frustratingly futile. I cannot afford my apartment and, without a job, I cannot find another one. Support from the usual sources has been almost nonexistent. And so, within a matter of weeks, I will be leaving this city I love so much. I’m not happy about this, of course, but I am grateful I have the one option that has been offered me. I know many others in America are far less fortunate, and there but for the grace of God . . . well, you know the rest.

Misfortune, in the shape of a second lost job in as many years, aside, this is my own fault. I did this. I caused this. For too long I have been living on the edge, financially speaking. And while my lifestyle over the past several years has been a model of modesty -- I can count on one hand, with two fingers left over, the number of fine restaurants in which I have dined here, and I can’t remember the last time I bought clothes -- I could have done better. I could have selected a cheaper apartment. I would have stopped smoking. I should have tried to save some money. But, as they say, “Coulda, woulda, shoulda.”

There’s no going back. There’s only going forward, scary as the prospects might be. And it’s better to leave of one’s own free will, that is, before one is asked to do so, in my case by my landlord, whose nasty agent is champing at the bit to hand me another eviction notice. And yet the expenses continue to mount, and the cupboards grow increasingly bare. Never in my life have I felt so alone.

But today I decided I was done with the whining and the complaining. I remind myself that things are never as bad as they seem. I’ve been in dire straits before, but eventually, and that “eventually” can be a long time coming, things work out in the end. The quixotic adventure that has been and is my life -- one that has included far too much tilting at windmills -- will continue. Only it will continue elsewhere.

I cannot help but add an extra note of thanks here a couple of my fellow Philadelphia bloggers. First, Atrios of Eschaton. Yes, to most he is a man of mystery. To me, I feel fortunate in saying, he is a friend, as is his wife, the even more mysterious Mrs. Atrios. They are among the best friends a man could have. Two more kind and generous people I never have met in my life. When you read Atrios know that the voice you’re hearing is that of a man of principle, a compassionate soul, and a paragon of decency and humanity.

Equally kind and generous is Susan Madrak of Suburban Guerrilla, a woman who not only has helped me in the material sense, and that despite the extraordinary challenges she herself now faces, but also spiritually and emotionally. Although she is an accomplished talker, Susie is also the consummate listener. Susie knows enough to let me rant and whine, but she also knows when to say, “Enough!”, and to steer our conversations to more constructive ends.

By such as these, among a very small handful of other supportive friends, I have been blessed.

Regardless of where I end up, know that The Rittenhouse Review and TRR will continue. The local flavor, however, will no longer be part of the blogs. I would prefer that my domicile not be public knowledge. And, as you might expect, just prior to, during, and after the move, I will be blogging on a limited basis, if at all. Please bear with me during that period and remember to check back periodically.

So, to conclude, thanks, once again, to everyone -- the regular reader, the occasional visitor, and the accidental tourist -- for your continued support, material, moral, and spiritual, of The Rittenhouse Review.

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It’s Time to Vote

Mary Beth Williams and Dwight Meredith of Wampum today posted the finalists for the 2003 Koufax awards.

The Rittenhouse Review, which was nominated for three awards, has been named a finalist in the Best Writing category.

Please take a few moments to visit Wampum and cast your votes in all 15 categories.

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Friday, January 23, 2004  

Don’t Look for a Link

What a shame. Really.

I see my next-door neighbor, the one who refers to me as “that uptight straight guy next door,” has placed on his front door a promotional poster for the “Blue Ball,” the next spot on the gay party circuit for 2004, the main event of which will be held next weekend at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

Have fun, my fabulous non-friend.

Much as I dislike this incredibly insecure and unbearably steroidal guy, and based on his bizarre assessment of me I assume the feeling is, for other reasons, mutual, I feel sorry for him.

I fell into the same alluring trap a decade ago, and I am still dealing with the consequences of my stupidity. And I am far from alone in that. This nonsense, fun as it seems at the time, is destructive, wasteful, and dangerous. If you haven’t already been caught up in the cult -- and there truly is no other word for it -- get out of it, and get off of it, while you still can.

I know, I’m being uncharacteristically vague here. Please allow me this, for I believe those to whom this message is truly directed will know of what I speak.

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I Suspect I Have Let You Down

Just a few hours ago I led you to believe that the appearance at “Opinion Journal,” the “sister site” of the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal (or what my friend J.C. would likely describe, as he once did in an entirely unrelated Dow Jones & Co. context, “the little brother site, the one with the dirty fingernails and runny nose”), of an essay by Meghan Cox Gurdon on the subject of Martha Stewart, chairman and chief executive officer of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Ltd., would result in a not-to-be-missed take from The Rittenhouse Review.

I regret that such a post from Rittenhouse is not in the offing.

It’s not like I don’t have the time. This is, after all, merely a Friday night. What the hell else might I be doing?

Instead, the fault lies solely with Cox Gurdon. Her piece is an incoherent mess. Uncreative, unoriginal, and uninteresting, it’s just not worth my time.


And I mean that.

Now what am I going to do for the rest of the night?

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Is This What Andy Meant?

I apologize for readers’ inability to see the various photographs posted at The Rittenhouse Review.

Between a healthy traffic flow and more than the usual number of graphics, I’ve exceeded the bandwidth available under the otherwise ample subscription I have with the photo-hosting service. (There was a time when I would have ponied up funds to enhance the subscription. Sadly, with my landlord and its nasty agent, my building manager, breathing down my neck, those days are over.)

If you would like to see the photos, including that of my impending, my incipient niece, keep in mind that traffic drops on weekends. So stop by on Saturday or Sunday.

Maybe this is what Andrew Sullivan means when he blathers about “explosive bandwidth costs.” Oh, wait, Andy doesn’t post photographs. Never mind.

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I Feel Like Superman

By way of World O’ Crap I just learned that Meghan Cox Gurdon, the World’s Worst Mother (TM), has a piece in today’s “Opinion Journal,” a service of the wackos at The Wall Street Journal editorial page, about . . . Martha Stewart.

Oh, man, does this have my name written all over it or what?

I wish I had noticed the piece earlier today, but it’s Friday night and my overwhelming social calendar, which includes a dinner party that will be attended by Tina Brown, distracts me.

Like hell! (And on so many levels, like hell.) I can’t wait to get started. Stay tuned. I will not let you down. Time to put on The Mamas and The Papas CDs and enter the zone . . .

Meanwhile, occupy yourself with “‘Mummy? Are we pretentious or just banal?’,” from TBogg, a post that includes, at its very start, what is probably the most hilarious paragraph in the history of blogging.

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Rush Limbaugh and William Janklow

Rush Limbaugh is facing the music, and, as one would expect, it’s not pretty. But it could be, and probably should be, even uglier.

Get this, Limbaugh’s attorney have proposed a plea agreement that would have the radio nut enter a court-sponsored drug intervention program rather than face charges in court or plead guilty to any charges whatsoever.

Prosecutors in Palm Beach County, Fla., are offering Limbaugh a deal to plead guilty to the third-degree felony of “doctor shopping,” three years of probation, participation in a drug treatment program, and random drug testing.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Limbaugh already put himself through rehab?

Does he need it again already?

What the hell is going on down there?

Meanwhile, William J. Janklow, former Republican congressman from South Dakota, inveterate speeder, and now, convicted criminal, was sentenced to 100 days in jail for a second-degree manslaughter conviction stemming from running a stop sign and killing Randy Scott, a 55-year-old motorcyclist at the intersection.

According to the Associated Press, Janklow is expected to serve 30 days, after which he will be on probation for three years. “South Dakota does not require minimum sentences,” the A.P. reports, “so [Judge] Rodney Steele was free to impose anything from no jail time and no fines to more than 11 years behind bars and $11,400 in fines.” The victim’s daughter “said she was satisfied with the sentence.”

The sentence seems a little light, but sentences often do, particularly those related to drunk driving, rape, sexual assault, and, come to think of it, most manslaughter convictions. But what do I know?

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I Know, Copyrights and All, But Still

I only address this issue because a reader raised the subject in an e-mail to me yesterday.

By all means -- by any means, actually -- if a post at The Rittenhouse Review leads you, a Rittenhouse reader, to write a letter to your congressman or congresswoman, about any issue whatsoever, please know that you are free not only to include a link to the Rittenhouse post, but that, if you are writing to your own congressman or congresswoman, the lawmaker who represents the district in which you already have established your domicile, and in which you already have registered to vote in the next election, primary or general, you may assume to have secured my express permission, copyright considerations aside, to quote from the pertinent post at will and in full.

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Thursday, January 22, 2004  

Andy and the Republicans

This is just too precious. The inimitable -- and I mean that -- Andrew Sullivan hits the blog with praises for the fringistas who comprise the Log Cabin Republicans for opting not to endorse Sullivan’s beloved President George W. Bush “after his pandering to the far right in his State of the Union,” the same “pandering,” you may recall, that Sullivan went out of his way to emphasize did not include backing the federal marriage amendment.

“Good for LCR,” wrote the Princess of Provincetown. “Their new leader, Patrick Guerrerio,” he continued, “is one of the most decent and skilled political leaders I know. He will take some flak for this, but it matters. The president must know that dressing up discrimination in ‘tolerant’ language is still discrimination.”

Does that mean the Log Cabin Republicans have ditched Rich Tafel, easily the most socially encumbered man with the worst table manners I have met in my life? (Invitation to dinner with Tafel? All I can say is, bring an umbrella.)

Regardless, despite his own eagerness to jump the gun, Sullivan later is all too happy to report that the New York Times, the newspaper that fired him a while back -- and may I just say, “Get over it, pal!”? -- and the very same paper he decided was worthy enough to warrant his blog post without an independent confirmation, “got it wrong.”

According to Sullivan, the right-wing gay Republicans haven’t yet decided whether or nor to endorse the President’s reelection campaign.

Oh, so that’s, what? Really wise of them? Rather sudden change of heart, wouldn’t you say, old chap?

What are we supposed to think? For a chance to try to slime a former employer Andy casts aside a brief moment of principle?

And where are we now with all of this?

I know, I know! While the fringistas are led, in Andy’s own words, by one of the “most . . . skilled political leaders” he knows, the group still cannot come up with the gumption, the intelligence, the rationality, to say to President Bush: “The hell with you, man!”

How brave. How daring. How admirable.

How pathetic.

[Post-publication addendum (January 23): Wait, I just figured it out. For a couple of years friends, former colleagues, and correspondents have suggested that Sullivan’s bizarre political postures resulted from his unfulfilled desire to win an appointment in the Bush administration, preferably, I was told, as a speechwriter. Well, as you know, no such luck, background checks being what they are. But just lately I’ve been thinking, what would Andy want more? Something better than being a speechwriter for a monkey with sub-species intelligence? I know, I know! An op-ed columnist for the New York Times! Why didn’t I think of this before? No wonder he’s so angry that Howell Raines sent his beary ass packing.]

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Reposting an Addendum

Never before have I separately reposted an addendum to an existing post, but in this case I’m willing to, I want to, make an exception.

I posted these remarks on January 20 as an addendum to a well received post, “Working in America Today,” from the previous day.

Several readers were so taken aback by the comments, posted in the addendum, of Carly Fiorina, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president of Hewlett Packard Co., that they urged wider recognition. I am all too happy to honor their requests. Enjoy. Enrage.

By the way, could there be a worse spokesperson defending offshoring than Hewlett Packard Co.’s Carly Fiorina?

Earlier this month Fiorina, defending the practice and appealing to the Bush administration for support, said: “There is no job that is America’s God-given right anymore. We have to compete for jobs.”

That’s true, at least theoretically. Even Fiorina’s job isn’t a God-given right, it’s one that comes courtesy of HP’s board of directors -- a board she conveniently happens to chair -- and shareholders. (You know HP, don’t you? Really “high-tech” operation. Nearly 40 percent of profits come from producing those sleek and futuristic gadgets known as toner cartridges.)

Fiorina has been running the show at HP for nearly five years now. During that time the company’s stock has underperformed both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite. Actually, an investor would have done better with a passbook savings account.

I wonder if there’s anyone in China or India looking for a cushy CEO slot. Hey, the new chief wouldn’t even have to move.

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How Does She Do It?
Tina Brown Thursday

This week we find intrepid Washington Post political columnist Tina Brown doing what she does best: eating. Or eating and talking, and then talking about eating and talking.

In today’s column, “Not Putting Their Money Where His Mouth Is,” Brown manages to squeeze in comments about not one, not two, but three dinner parties, including a Tuesday-night confab at which was watched the State of the Union address.

There Brown learned from the smarty-pants baby lamb and duck confit set -- her natural milieu -- that the President’s challenger in November will be Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.). She writes:

Since media predictions hardly came true in Iowa, I take refuge in the electronically recorded verdicts Tuesday night at an Atlantic magazine State of the Union TV dinner for a motley cross-section of New York movers and shakers. Clark, they voted, could learn to dance fast enough to beat Bush -- but Kerry would get the nomination.

Ever wonder what wise chatter occurs at the gatherings that so captivate Tina Brown, at the unending stream of edifying dinner parties she just can’t miss? What kind of chatter Brown can proclaim is so vastly superior to anything mere mortals might hear or read on their own?

Fortunately, a New York Times reporter, Anthony Ramirez, was at the same Atlantic party as Brown, and fortunately for us, he took a few notes. Let’s listen in:

Georgette Mosbacher, a prominent Republican fund-raiser, leapt to President Bush’s defense.

Social Security, education and other domestic issues weren’t addressed by Bill Clinton and the Democrats when they were in office, she said, despite the simultaneous advantages of low interest rates, low inflation and a budget surplus.

Indignant, Lauren Hutton cited the quadrupling of the national debt and Mr. Clinton’s attempts to reduce it. “But I guess you can’t read or something,” said Ms. Hutton, glaring at Ms. Mosbacher. “Because I can, and I’m a model!”

Like a Christian surrounded by lions, Ms. Mosbacher seemed to radiate defiance. “You don’t have to personally insult me to make a point,” Ms. Mosbacher said. “I didn’t insult you.”

Ms. Hutton, taken aback, replied, “How did I personally insult you by saying I’m a model?”

Ms. Mosbacher, accepting some sort of Warner Brothers cartoon logic, said, “That’s an insult to you!”

Then Ms. Mosbacher gathered her purse and a copy of The Atlantic Monthly, as if about to leave. But she stayed awhile longer, before leaving, untheatrically.

Typically Tina. Leaving out the really good parts.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2004  

Tearing a Page from the Right Wing’s Playbook

Why is there no Richard Mellon Scaife for liberals?

Or is there?

And if there is, do you have his or her name and address?

[Post-publication addendum: Reader A.E., in an interesting, and to me awakening, suggestion, offers George Soros. I wonder if Soros funds blogs. Or whether he would if asked. And didn’t Michael Steinhardt and Roger Hertog invest a bunch of money in a political magazine a couple of years ago? Oh, right, the New Republic. Never mind.]

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Rules About Smoking

This is a rather random post, but speaking of vulgarity -- and we were -- please know that if you visit my apartment you are welcome to smoke, provided no other guests, if any are present, object.

You may not, however, smoke in either the bathroom or the kitchen.

I repeated this household edict not long ago, and the recipient of my admonition, who at the time was smoking in the bathroom, was strangely mystified.

“Why not?” he asked.

“Because it’s vulgar,” I responded.

“Vulgar? How is that vulgar?” he asked, while opening the bathroom door and, of all things, and as if at a service station, dropping his cigarette into the flushing toilet.

Need I say more?

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