The Rittenhouse Review

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

Tuesday, July 30, 2002  

Another Look at a Letter to William Safire

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

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

Dear Mr. Safire:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours truly,

James M. Capozzola

And this was seven months ago!

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

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

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

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Bush-Ashcroft TIPS Program Draws Ire of Another Conservative

Look who is opposed -- vociferously opposed -- to the Bush administration’s proposed TIPS program.

You go, girl!

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Whose Values?

To: The Rittenhouse Review

Michael Novak says the men and women who rescued the trapped coal miners were “people who understand instinctively what it is to sacrifice one’s own self-assertion to the urgent needs of the group, and to work as a high-spirited, attentive, docile, alert, and creative team.”

Fair enough. But he goes on to say this is “a remarkable display of classic conservative virtues.”

Really? This must be a definition of conservatism that I missed. It sounds a lot more like altruism.

The Rittenhouse Review notes the comic aspect of a scholar from the American Enterprise Institute waxing poetic about union coal miners. But the not-so-comic possibility is that this accident may have been the result of -- surprise! -- corporate greed, and as such reveals the philosophical barrenness of Novak’s position.

All of us were thrilled and emotional at the rescue of the miners. But only a conservative like Novak would suck on to it as if all heart-warming, down-home stories were naturally the property of the “family values” crowd.

I wonder if he noticed, as I did, the contrast between the heroic actions of the average men and women of the police and fire departments of New York City, and the managerial malfeasance, cover-ups, and buck passing that went on (and is still going on) in the executive suites of the Bush Administration, the FBI, the CIA, and the Justice Department. Sound familiar?

Conservatives love tradition; well, there’s a tradition for you: union members working to save their brothers from the actions of corporate malefactors and religious and social fundamentalists. It’s a classic virtue, all right, but not a conservative one.

Michael Barry
Boston, Mass.

[Ed.: The writer is a singer and songwriter. His web site can be found at]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


The Best Newspaper You’re (Probably) Not Reading

We are (fairly) regular readers of Ha’aretz Daily and highly recommend the newspaper to anyone searching for insight into, and a better understanding of, the government and politics of Israel. We also are (fairly) regular readers of the Jerusalem Post, which we also recommend, but the Post, which is better known and more widely read outside of Israel, sometimes seems to be trying just a bit too hard to put the country’s best face forward.

In recent weeks we have offered comments on a number of articles from Ha’aretz, but in the last two days the paper has published so many interesting and provocative articles that we simply can’t keep up. We prefer to draw readers’ attention to these articles rather than simply letting them lie by the wayside.

Minister’s Aide Calls Hebron Riots a ‘Pogrom’
By Amos Harel and Jonathan Lis
July 31, 2002

“Col. (res.) Moshe Givati, an adviser on settlement security for Public Security Minister Uzi Landau, yesterday termed the rioting that took place during the funeral of Elazar Leibowitz, ‘a pogrom against the Arabs of Hebron, with no provocation on the Palestinian side.’”

In a Fit of Rage
By Ze’ev Schiff
July 31, 2002

“Anyone who decides to drop a one-ton bomb in the heart of a densely-populated area in order to kill one murderer is undoubtedly very angry at the attacks carried out on Israeli civilians and very frustrated because of the way in which the war is being conducted. And, indeed, the Israel Defense Forces is angry in a way that it has never been angry before -- in any previous war. The result is that when the location of the head of the military wing of Hamas becomes known, the decision not to let him slip away is made, whatever the consequences.”

Fear and Violence in Hebron
By the Editors
July 31, 2001

“Four Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists last Friday in the Hebron area, including three members of a single family. During the Sunday funeral of one of the victims, First Sergeant Elazar Leibovitz, Israelis, including Hebron settlers and their guests, ran riot, shooting, stabbing, stoning and destroying property. They killed a 14-year-old Palestinian girl, Nibin Jamjum, and wounded dozens, including Israeli police officers. Suspects were arrested but released by the court, which said they did not need to be held for the investigation.” [Ed.: Emphasis added.]

The Two-Thirds Solution
By Hannah Kim
July 31, 2002

“The treasury’s new budget proposal is a profound revolution that more than anything else is reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher’s revolution in the United Kingdom in the 1980s, which was dubbed the ‘the two-thirds policy.’ Like the Thatcherite model, Israel’s two-thirds policy first of all declares that one-third of the population is expendable. All the unemployed, the ‘social cases’ and the recipients of guaranteed income allowances are economically inefficient, so the state’s help should be reduced to the absolute minimum to relieve the more productive segments of society of the burden of supporting the weak. Until now, there has been an assumption in Israel that society in general has a responsibility for the weak among it. But now, every citizen will be judged by one simple economic test: either they belong to the parasitical third or to the productive two-thirds. Are you ‘efficient’ or ‘a burden’?”

If There’s Smoke, There’s No Cease-Fire
By Akiva Eldar
July 31, 2002

“Israel’s propaganda machine worked overtime this week and proved its efficacy. The prime minister, the foreign minister, intelligence officers, officials and spokesmen changed overnight from a fight for a cease-fire to a fight against a cease-fire initiative. For many months, they told the entire world that it’s a waste of paper to reach a cease-fire with the Palestinian Authority, explaining that Tanzim and Fatah leaders are in control of the street, along with Hamas. They claimed that with one hand, PA Chairman Yasser Arafat signs condemnations of terror and with the other signs fat checks that he shoves into the pockets of the terrorists. . . . But when a unilateral declaration for a cease-fire, an initiative that rose from the deepest of the grassroots of the Tanzim and Fatah, was presented to them, everyone made a mockery of it.”

Backlash of a Boycott
By Joseph Algazy
[Note: As previously stated, The Rittenhouse Review strongly opposes this boycott.]

“For more than a month, universities, lecturers and students worldwide have been enjoying their summer break, but the dismissals of Prof. Gideon Toury and Dr. Miriam Shlesinger from the editorial staffs of the journals The Translator and Translation Studies Abstracts, respectively, continue to send waves throughout the European and American academic world.

“The two were fired by the publisher of the two journals, Mona Baker, as part of her personal contribution to the academic boycott previously declared by European and American members of academe following recent IDF operations in Palestinian Authority areas. The boycott, and particularly the dismissals of the two Israeli researchers in the field of the science of translation, has kicked up a storm that shows no signs of abating. . . .

“The declaration of the academic boycott against Israel was greeted with much opposition in Israel, although it created a far greater wave of protest abroad. Only a handful of Israeli academics supported the boycott. . . .

“Academics in Israel, many of whom are known for their opposition to the government’s policy on the Palestinian issue, determined that the boycott was too sweeping, since it was not directed at research programs that serve government policy and would primarily affect the weaker elements in the academic establishment, such as doctoral students who need references and opinions from abroad, or students requiring scholarships and grants.”

Israel Discounts Hamas-Tanzim Cease-Fire; Insists on ‘One Force’
By Aluf Benn and Daniel Sobelman
July 31, 2002

“Amid conflicting reports of ongoing internal Palestinian efforts to reach a sweeping cease-fire announcement, high-ranking Israeli sources are saying that Israel rejects the contacts between the Palestinian Authority and various Palestinian groups. They insist that the Palestinians undertake broad security reforms and cease incitement before any dialogue with the other side can take place.”

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Raising Campaign Funds from Fellow Board Members

It seems Massachusetts Republican gubernatorial candidate Mitt Romney has a few skeletons in his safety deposit box.

“‘We have watched, in horror’ the news of scandals and mismanagement, Romney said in a hastily-planned speech at the Boston Stock Exchange, where he called for the state pension fund to invest only in companies that meet strict ethical standards,” according to a report in today’s Boston Globe. “‘We, as beneficiaries and owners of stocks, have been suffering,’ he said. ‘I am appalled by the financial accounting irregularities and abuses of power which we’ve seen.’”

He should know. He saw it all up close as a member of the boards of directors at Marriott International Inc. and Staples Inc.

“[R]ecords show that as a member of corporate boards, Romney took part in some of the very practices he is now criticizing,” the Globe reports.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Big Surprise: It’s Only For Show

Counterspin offers a smart and brief look at how conservatives’ really feel about coal miners. It would appear that once the photo opportunities, or column opportunities, have passed, it’s back to business as usual: cutting funds to support mine safety programs.

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Monday, July 29, 2002  

The Right-Wing Comic Book Set

Why am I not surprised to learn Jonah Goldberg has a frequent-buyer card at the Android’s Dungeon?

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

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


What Happens When Worlds Collide?

Whenever an event or crisis occurs that involves danger, fear, manual labor, faith, and family, it’s time to duck for cover, preferably before the punditocracy -- left, right, and center -- gets its hands on the incident, overanalyzes its significance, and ruins the (preferably) happy conclusion for everyone.

Such is the case already with the dangerous and nerve-wracking rescue of nine Pennsylvania coal miners trapped underground for nearly four days. As best we can tell, the accident at the mine and the ultimate recovery of the miners drew the interest, sympathies, and prayers of a wide range of Americans. The success of the rescue effort, which required overcoming several heartbreaking set backs, was applauded by millions of Americans across the political and ideological spectrum.

It is an event that we all shared, not unlike the attacks on New York and Washington last September. But, as expected, there are some who feel compelled to call the event their own, evidence of their special virtue, and worse, to use a tragedy (or potential tragedy) to support their own political agenda.

Michael Novak discovers the working class

Michael Novak, who we thought was a bit better than this, today has an essay on National Review Online, brazenly entitled “The Conservative Capital of the World.” No, Novak isn’t talking about Lynchburg, Virginia Beach, or Vienna, Virginia, he’s talking about Somerset, Pa., the scene of the mine accident under discussion here, conveniently, for Novak at least, located not altogether far from the spot where United Airlines Flight 93 either crashed or was shot down on Sept. 11, 2001.

“[T]he four days from Wednesday, July 24, until the wee hours of Sunday morning, July 28, brought a new birth of respect for the phrases ‘middle America’ and ‘blue-collar workers,’” according to Novak. “They showed all of us the heroism, toughness, and mental inventiveness of the humble people of America who at work get dirt on their faces and calluses on their hands. What a people!”

Novak must have struggled greatly to craft that paragraph, searching for the words that would enable him to sound awed and respectful but not condescending. He failed. But we applaud the effort.

Indeed, we suspect Novak sees precious few working-class or blue-collar Americans as he goes about his daily business. As a senior scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Novak thinks his deep thoughts -- and apparently his banal sentimentalities as well -- while ensconced in a nice office in a respectable yet undistinguished building at the corner of 17th and M Streets, N.W., in Washington, D.C., the most white-collar large city in America.

“From the cops and firemen at the World Trade Center to the miners and rescuers and families at Somerset this July, we have seen a beauty of the American soul that we of the highly educated elites know too little of, and from day to day too little admire,” Novak continues, rhapsodically, sounding a bit too much like American Stalinists of old who found delirium in their wholly misguided romantic fantasies about the working class.

To be fair, laboring amid the toiling masses of nearby Connecticut Avenue -- lawyers, lobbyists, accountants, lawyers, bankers, lobbyists, lawyers -- doesn’t bring Novak into contact with people engaged in manufacturing, mining, or construction, or to longshoremen, steelworkers, day laborers, and farm workers. And we’re quite sure such people aren’t regulars at the free lunches, cocktail hours, and dinners enjoyed by those of Novak’s standing in the think-tank community. As such, we concede that the daily rhythms of the lives of Somerset’s miners, their families, and friends -- together with their response to what appeared to be a near-certain tragedy -- were something quite new to this very privileged conservative.

Novak adopts a political agenda

Strangely, however, Novak goes a step farther, finding a political message in the events surrounding the Somerset mine crisis.

“The sense of community . . . was so powerful it could not be missed,” writes Novak. “These were people who understand instinctively what it is to sacrifice one’s own self-assertion to the urgent needs of the group, and to work as a high-spirited, attentive, docile, alert, and creative team. To hell with what liberals might say or do. They knew what they were doing, and they did things their way.” [Ed.: Emphasis added.]

What on earth is this supposed to mean? What would liberals have said or done differently? How does Novak know that the working-class -- and poor -- people about whom he is writing do not adhere to the basic tenets of American liberalism today? We don’t know, because Novak merely makes an assertion -- all well and good when preaching to the National Review choir, but not good enough when he must confront a skeptic.

Novak surprises us by descending into absurdity. “This operation was not politically correct. Not infrequently, it was not even grammatically correct. But in the universal language of the human spirit, it was not only correct but elegant,” Novak writes. [Ed.: Emphasis added.] What would have made the operation “politically correct”? And not grammatically correct! Who cares? Though, Mr. Safire, please call your office.

“Meanwhile, the cooperation and efficient teamwork of the rescuers up above was amazing to watch. Everybody seemed at attention, alert and quick to react,” writes the theologian. “Muscles must have ached with painful weariness as hour after hour passed, and one whole day of work faded into two -- some went forty-eight hours with barely two hours for sleep.”

Yes, manual labor is hard work and it is work that is too often neither respected nor appropriately compensated. Somehow we doubt the latter fact is of any concern to Novak and his colleagues at A.E.I.

“Competence, excellence, teamwork, the spirit of community, discipline, the willing acceptance of every nuance of command set forth by an intelligent, directing authority, compassion for one another, prayer, faith, trust, and pride in one another -- these precious dispositions were deployed hour after hour in a remarkable display of classic conservative virtues.” [Ed.: Emphasis added.]

So are we to believe that moderates and liberals do not value “competence, excellence, teamwork, the spirit of community, discipline, the willing acceptance of every nuance of command set forth by an intelligent, directing authority, compassion for one another, prayer, faith, trust, and pride in one another”?

This is a collection of lies, plain and simple. A familiar refrain of lies, to be sure, but lies all the same.

“For me, this event has been an especially emotional experience. But its validity reaches far beyond the small circle of my own humble family’s memories. It belongs to the ages,” concludes Novak.

Indeed it does, sir, to the ages, not to self-styled conservatives who ascribe inhuman and inhumane motives to the political enemies they so viciously and dishonestly attack, all the while comically and disingenuously portraying themselves as defenseless victims. It’s time to say, “Enough.”

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Wannabe Journalist and Wannabe Professor Team Up

Coming soon to a web site near you . . . “Two Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

The slightly altered revival of the 1975 film stars former magazine editor turned amateur weblogger (and poorly reviewed community theater performer) Andrew Sullivan as Billy Bibbitt, characterized by one fan of the film as “[a] thirty-one year old man, still psychologically an adolescent, [and] still under the control of his mother. McMurphy finds a way to bring out his manhood. Later is driven to suicide by Nurse Ratched.”

Part-time art-school instructor Camille Paglia stars as Nurse Ratched, widely known as “Big Nurse, described as ‘enormous, capable of swelling up bigger and bigger to monstrous proportions.’ She is the ward superintendent, the ultimate authority demanding obedience and perfect order from everyone.”

There’s already a buzz about the film in an isolated corner of the web:

“CAMILLE, ME, AND YOU: The dialogue is continuing offline. It took [sic] a little longer than a week. I hope to post the interview starting next Monday. Thanks for your patience.”

(“Longer than a week”? Help us, O merciful God, please spare us your vengeance.)

Sullivan, a vocal proponent of Androgel, saw his latest column published in the New York Sun, a newspaper with a circulation not much larger than the readership of the page in front of you. Sullivan’s most recent original book, Virtually Normal, was published in 1996.

Paglia is a part-time instructor in the communications department of the University of the Arts. Her most recent original book, Sexual Personae, was published 12 years ago. The promised second volume, presumably equally unreadable, has yet to emerge, to no one’s particular dismay.

[Note: Edited post-publication to include photographs and character descriptions.]

[Note: A reader has informed us that while Paglia is a part-time instructor in the department of communication at the University of the Arts she also is university professor of humanities and media studies at the same institution. In our defense, a search of the school’s web site does not make this clear at all. Indeed, at said site Paglia continues to be referred to as a regular contributor to Salon, a gig that ended several years ago. We look forward to confirming Paglia’s status with the art school tomorrow during regular business hours.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Who is in control? Who will be held accountable?

Prairie-style justice -- crowds running amok, seeking vigilante-style vengeance and apparently with no fear of accountability -- continues unabated on the West Bank this week.

In the latest incident a 14-year-old Palestinian girl was killed and an eight-year-old boy stabbed as an estimated 4,000 Hebron settlers attending the funeral of 21-year-old Elazar Leibovitz (killed during yet another ambush targeting Israelis last week) went on a rampage through the town, throwing rocks, shooting at and burning Palestinian buildings, and breaking into homes, according to a report by Amos Harel in today’s Ha’aretz Daily (“Hebron Settlers Riot, Kill Palestinian Girl, 14”).

“According to settlers, they were only protecting themselves against rock-throwing by Palestinians, who were placed under curfew by the authorities before the funeral to prevent friction,” according to Ha’aretz.

Others on the scene offered a far different account.

“Eyewitnesses, including foreign press photographers on the scene, reported that the incitement during the funeral march had quickly turned into rock-throwing and a rampage through the open market, where settlers overturned stalls and burned a house,” the report continues. “In the chaos, extensive shooting took place, with Israel Defense Forces troops, deployed in large numbers, firing into the air and settlers shooting at buildings. The IDF said no Palestinians had been shooting.”

Fatally shot in the head was Nizin Jamjoum, 14, who was on the balcony of her home. Her brother, Marwan Jamjoun, 26, was injured along with at least six other Palestinians, including eight-year-old Ahmed Natcha, “who was stabbed when a group of settlers broke into his home and smashed furniture.”

Israeli Settlers Throwing Stones and Shooting
at Palestinian Homes in Hebron Yesterday

“The Jewish Community Council in Hebron expressed regret over any injury to police,” Harel reports, the council apparently unfazed by the death and injuries to the local Palestinian population.

Michael Kleiner, a member of the Knesset from the Herut Party told the paper: “[I]f the government doesn’t achieve a quick military victory, more and more frustrated Jews will take matters into their own hands.”

Although the police have ordered an inquiry into why the rioting was not prevented and the IDF “is also investigating,” according to Harel, no mention was made of whether authorities are seeking the settlers responsible for killing Jamjoum or stabbing Natcha. And so far at least, no outrage over whether the Israeli government can control its people and prevent such attacks in the future.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Ha’aretz Points to Flattened Flats

“Nearly all the Palestinian civilians killed and wounded by the one-ton air force bomb used to assassinate Salah Shehadeh, head of Hamas’s military wing in the Gaza Strip, were killed in their apartments in two and three-story buildings,” writes Gideon Levy in today’s edition of Ha’aretz Daily (“Gaza Victims Lived in Flats, Not in Shacks”).

“Despite army claims the day after the bombing that most of those killed had resided in shacks built in the surroundings of the Shehadeh building, a visit to the site shows that all those killed lived in sturdy buildings and not in shacks,” Levy continues. “The only shack-like structure in the compound was a chicken coop.”

Can we put this official lie to rest now or will we have to debate its validity ad nauseum?

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Sunday, July 28, 2002  


I’m not an attorney but Ron Borges of the Boston Globe and NBC Sports seems to be veering pretty damn close to libel when he says Lance Armstrong isn’t an athlete.

Lance Armstrong

“Someone postulated on National Public Radio a week or so ago that Lance Armstrong was the greatest athlete in the world. Greatest athlete in the world? I wonder if he’s an athlete at all,” writes Borges.

Is this some kind of joke? A desperate ploy for attention?

Here’s just a small taste of Borges’s idiotic observations: "Athletes, for my money, must do more with their bodies than pump their legs up and down. If that’s all it took, the Radio City Rockettes would have to be considered the greatest athletes of all time."

Stop by the excellent weblog Cooped-Up for a devastating critique of Borges and his spiteful and bilious views. And then follow the link to Borges if you think you can stand it.

[Republished from today’s edition of |||trr|||.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |



I’m not an attorney but Ron Borges of the Boston Globe and NBC Sports seems to be veering pretty damn close to libel when he says Lance Armstrong isn’t an athlete.

Lance Armstrong

“Someone postulated on National Public Radio a week or so ago that Lance Armstrong was the greatest athlete in the world. Greatest athlete in the world? I wonder if he’s an athlete at all,” writes Borges.

Is this some kind of joke? A desperate ploy for attention?

Here’s just a small taste of Borges’s idiotic observations: "Athletes, for my money, must do more with their bodies than pump their legs up and down. If that’s all it took, the Radio City Rockettes would have to be considered the greatest athletes of all time."

Stop by the excellent weblog, Cooped-Up for a devastating critique of Borges and his spiteful and bilious views. And then follow the link to Borges if you think you can stand it.

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

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


And That’s Good News

Who wouldn’t love Todd Oldham? He’s talented, smart, fun, funny, sweet, and cute, and he’s been missed . . . badly.

Todd Oldham

Although he has been working steadily on various projects over the years, Oldham’s profile, for a variety of reasons, has waned in recent years.

But now, it looks like Todd Oldham is back in a big way, with his own line of household designs at Target stores and at Target online.

The current collection is geared toward the “back-to-school” shopper. Much of it is bolder and brighter than that toward which I gravitate -- being a black-white-gray-navy-beige solids kind of guy -- but it’s original, inspired, and very cool. Take a look.

And by the way, my mother is still crazy about Oldham’s signature perfume.

Todd Oldham Fragrance

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

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


It’s Time for a Few Adjustments

Today we made some changes to the home page of The Rittenhouse Review and to our sibling site, |||trr|||, that we would like to explain to our readers.

We have been publishing the Review for more than three months, a period that while brief has been sufficient to generate numerous comments, both positive and negative, from regular readers and occasional visitors alike. These comments formed the basis of the changes implemented today, as well as several additional modifications that readers will notice over the next several weeks.

Fewer links . . .

Most noticeably, we have significantly scaled back the number of links to other sites, both in the sidebar and in the pages of the Review. This is the third time we have done so since launching the site.

From the beginning, the Review has provided links to sites that express views we share as well as those that diverge, often quite considerably, from our own. However, the large number of links has made the page “heavy” and some readers have complained of the time it takes to load the home page.

As a result, we have decided to be more selective in our links, thereby deleting several dozens, including the regional links for the Boston, New York, and Philadelphia areas, our geographic environs, the display of which was suspended approximately three weeks ago.

We expect to repeat the process of culling links two more times within the next four weeks. The links most likely to be deleted are those to sites of lower-than-average quality, minimal traffic or reader interest, and those that are veering toward or have adopted extremist or exceedingly intolerant viewpoints, or that have been discovered to be harboring, hosting, or promoting same.

. . . But Wide Variety Maintained

We believe our links continue to represent our desire to engage in debate, conversation, discussion, and argument with persons, publications, and organizations representing a wide variety of opinions. Thus, we emphasize that we are not engaging in an ideological crackdown. Yes, we have removed the links to such lightweights as Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Debbie Schlussel, and Cal Thomas, along with several personalities we cannot take seriously, including Matt Drudge, Lucianne Goldberg, Alan Keyes, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Schlessinger, and Linda Tripp.

And yet, the links continue to include numerous conservative publications and columnists, the latter group including, among others, Pat Buchanan, Linda Chavez, Jonah Goldberg, Charles Krauthammer, Michelle Malkin, William Safire (though hanging by a thread), and George Will.

Perhaps violating the guidelines we have established, we have maintained links both to David Horowitz’s weblog and FrontPage Magazine, edited by Horowitz, because of our affiliation with Horowitz Watch, of course, but also out of our hope that Horowitz might someday return to the realm of civilized discourse.

We add that the absence of a particular individual, weblog, publication, or organization is not intended as a slight, but may instead simply reflect an oversight. We expect to continue to add and delete names as space permits, and as always, your opinions and suggestions are welcome. Please send them to us at

Meanwhile, record traffic

The Review enjoyed two consecutive days of record traffic on Thursday and Friday, July 25 and 26. The response to this site has been greater than we ever could have expected. Thanks to everyone for your support.

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Saturday, July 27, 2002  

Pedophiles Taking Over Our Schools!

A former math teacher at Cherokee High School in Evesham, N.J., was sentenced Friday to two years of probation and fined $2,500 for having sex with a 17-year-old student who attends the school, according to a report in Saturday’s Philadelphia Inquirer, “Teacher Gets Probation for Sex With Student.”

John M. Evans, 33, who had taught at the Evesham school since 1995, pleaded guilty in April to fourth-degree child abuse and has forfeited his teacher’s license. . . . Evans’[s] probation also mandates that he have no contact with the 17-year-old, or anyone else from the Lenape Regional School District, of which Cherokee is a member. He also cannot attend any event at any district school. In addition, he must undergo a psychological evaluation.”

How many such incidents have to occur before we as a country return to our traditional values and get the homosexuals out of our schools before they take one more step toward advancing their radical agenda to molest, corrupt, and convert America’s youth, undermine the American family, destroy marriage, spread atheism, and steal our husbands?! Why isn't this pervert going to jail?! The liberal homosexuals with all their money have silenced their critics and infiltrated our schools and our courts! God will punish us for this!

Oh, wait a minute . . . We didn’t finish the article.

Hold on . . . Give us a minute . . . Just another second . . .

Huh. It turns out this case has nothing to do with the homosexuals at all.

The pervert in this case, which has attracted little, if any, attention outside the immediate area, was a married man, his wife expecting twins at the time he had intercourse with the underage girl.

Whatever happened to statutory rape?

“Evans, who is married, arranged to meet the girl at a Medford Wawa and took her to his home during the weekend of Feb. 23 and 24,” the Inquirer reports. [Ed.: A Wawa is a convenience store much like a 7-Eleven.]

At the time of sentencing, the judge observed that Evans was what many would call “a family man,” a defender of “traditional values” -- Evans’s wife is expecting twins in October. Superior Court Judge Thomas S. Smith Jr. told the convicted molester that if one of the babies is a girl, “I want you to think how you would feel if one of your daughters was a victim.”

So . . . um . . . never mind. Go on about your business.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Friday, July 26, 2002  

President Bush Backs Insurers, Hospitals, Physicians

Here’s a surprise: President George W. Bush has sided with insurers, hospitals, and physicians in the latest eruption of the “malpractice crisis,” an episodic calamity running back some 25 years during which we are gravely warned that without reform, “our nation’s healthcare system will shut down” (or words to that effect), but never does.

“With doctors complaining about rising malpractice insurance premiums, President Bush called today for a major overhaul of the nation’s medical liability system, including legislation to cap compensation for pain and suffering at $250,000 in successful malpractice suits,” reports Sheryl Gay Stolberg in today’s New York Times (“Bush Urges a Cap on Medical Liability”).

In a groundbreaking analysis of the U.S. legal and healthcare systems, one befitting so distinguished a graduate of the Harvard Business School, President Bush said, “Health care costs are up because docs [sic] are worried about getting sued.”

The president added that the liability framework underlying healthcare delivery is “broken and riddled with bad, bad law.” [Emphasis added.]

The administration claims to have the numbers to back up the president’s remarks. “Anticipating the president’s speech, the Department of Health and Human Services released a report . . . that said the cost of malpractice insurance for specialists had risen more than 10 percent in recent years,” according to Stolberg. We’ll need to look closely at the report given that “10 percent in recent years” is a rather unspecific characterization of an arguable trend.

We agree with Ron Pollack, president of Families USA, who criticized the Bush administration for using the issue of malpractice reform as an “unfortunate diversion from the most important health issues facing our country -- expanded health coverage for the uninsured and recently unemployed, prescription drug coverage for seniors and patients’ rights legislation.”

We also wonder why physicians and their professional society, the American Medical Association, so reliably escape genuine scrutiny when the issue of malpractice reform gains momentum. The sorry record of the medical profession, aided and abetted by insurers, in putting incompetent physicians on the sidelines is well documented. That’s an issue we would like to hear more about.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |



How did I miss out on this guy over the years?

As you all know by now, Rep. James A. “Jim” Traficant (D-Ohio) was expelled from the U.S. House of Representatives this week for ethics violations after he was convicted in April on charges of bribery, tax evasion, and racketeering.

James A. Traficant

The Washington Post has a collection of quotes from the former congressman the paper describes as “colorful.”

Colorful? That’s an understatement.

Here’s a lovely quote:

“If you don’t get those cameras out of my face, I’m gonna go 8.6 on the Richter scale with gastric emissions that’ll clear this room!”

That was Traficant berating photographers covering the ethics subcommittee hearing regarding his criminal record. Share that with your mother tonight.

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

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Imitation & Impersonation
Flattered & Furious

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If so, I wonder what that makes impersonation. The most outrageous form of flattery?

Pretending to be someone you are not, when that other someone is a real person, is not only juvenile, dishonest, and unethical, it is illegal, even on the web.

I suppose I should be flattered to be considered so important that my name and reputation are thought to warrant being trashed by a total stranger with some unknown agenda. But I'm also furious, and I will not stand for it again.

Be advised that your game can get you caught. You can be traced. You know who you are.

-- J.M.C.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Alfred Taubman Heads to Minnesota Prison

Well, the good news coming out of all of the latest cases of corporate malfeasance is that at least some law-breaking executives are finally going to prison.

The latest: A. Alfred Taubman, the 78-year-old former chairman of Sotheby’s Holdings Inc., a man who made the bulk of his wealth through the development of shopping malls across the U.S.

The Wall Street Journal reports today [Ed.: Link requires registration and/or subscription.] that Taubman will begin his “one year and one day” sentence for auction price-fixing on August 1 at the Federal Medical Facility in Rochester, Minn., the facility having been selected with Taubman’s purportedly failing health taken into consideration. (Taubman was also slapped with a $7.5 million fine.)

Taubman’s plea before the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit failed to gain the real-estate mogul a new trial. “The appeals court ruled that Mr. Taubman’s ‘knowledge of and participation in the conspiracy to fix prices was not established by circumstantial evidence; it was established by direct evidence,’” the Journal reports.

You know . . . it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving fellow.

By the way, Taubman’s second-in-command, former Sotheby’s chief executive officer, Diana D. “DeDe” Brooks, in April was sentenced to six months of home detention, along with a $350,000 fine and 1,000 hours of community service.

We can’t wait to see the next all-too-deserving crook move into his new quarters.

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Pick the Right Punishment for the Self-Confessed Traitor

Be sure to stop by HorowitzWatch and enter the “Name That Punishment Contest.”

The contest offers four great prizes for readers who submit the best hypothetical, yet appropriate, punishments for the treason committed by hypersensitive current (right-wing) and former (left-wing) radical and self-confessed traitor David Horowitz in 1972.

Come join the fun.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


What Time Does Larry King Want Me?

The funeral for Samantha Runnion, the five-year-old Orange County, Calif., girl who was kidnapped on July 16 and sexually assaulted and killed within 24 hours of her disappearance, was held on the night of Wednesday, July 24.

The very next day, Thursday, July 25, Miss Runnion’s mother, Erin Runnion, appeared on “Larry King Live,” the CNN program hosted by the persistently annoying and repeatedly divorced Larry King.

Here’s how the show was promoted by CNN: “9:00 p.m. Larry King Live: An emotional hour with Samantha Runnion’s mother Erin, speaking out on the kidnapping and murder of her only daughter.”

Okay, so it’s been more than a week since Mrs. Runnion learned of her daughter’s death, but she’s already going on national television to talk about it?

I don’t have children, so maybe my expectations are distorted, but I truly believe that if something like this happened to my child I would still be in bed, all but lifeless, staring at the ceiling, unable to speak, to eat, or to face another human being.

An interview with the goonish and ghoulish Larry King would be the farthest thing from my mind.

Is this how Americans grieve today? Have we no sense of privacy or personal space? Can no one resist the lure of the camera?

-- J.M.C.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Everybody’s a Comedian

Madeleine Begun Kane, a/k/a Mad Kane, has posted the results of her “TIPS Acronym Contest,” a challenge to her readers to more accurately rename the Bush administration’s proposed “Terrorism Information and Prevention System,” or “TIPS” program.

Modest though I am, I’m proud to say my entry -- “Totalitarian Incentives for Prying and Spying” -- was included among the top five entries as judged by the consistently witty and wise Kane.

However, I’m quick to add that most of the entries that earned Honorable Mentions are, in my humble opinion, at least as amusing, albeit frightening, as mine.

So many funny people out there . . . I’ve got to start working on my act again.

-- J.M.C.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Thursday, July 25, 2002  

Lloyd Grove’s Phone Isn’t Ringing

Today’s column from Lloyd Grove, the Washington Post gossip, is -- not all that surprisingly -- thoroughly political.

Grove, a.k.a. “Grovel” (e-mail:, apparently isn’t getting many party invitations these days, and so instead fills today’s column with such captivating glitterati as feminist-activist Eleanor Smeal, Second Lady Lynne Cheney, former Moonie-paper columnist John Lofton, and Robert Kuttner, editor of the liberal magazine, the American Prospect.

“Our call to Prospect Editor Bob Kuttner was not returned,” is how Grove concludes today’s column.

We know the feeling. Grove still has four telephone messages from us that he has yet to return.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


We’re Not Sure, But It’s Obviously Nothing New

Andrew Sullivan, the once prominent editor, columnist, talking head, and pundit who now is part of an ever-growing community of amateur “webloggers,” has had some rough weeks of late, what with trying to defend the most egregious behavior of various greedy and deceptive Bush administration officials, while at the same time trying to pass all the blame for these presumably alleged acts onto any Democrat who has raised his ire over the past 10 or 15 years.

With this particularly partisan stance in mind -- Andrew Sullivan, Model Republican -- we were fascinated to read a not-so-old piece from the Washington Post by none other than Sullivan’s good friend Howard, or “Howie,” as “Andy” calls him, Kurtz.

Kurtz’s article, dated April 19, 2001, and written, as best we can tell, on his knees, is so flagrantly fawning as to make a mockery of the very notion of a free and critical press.

And yet, here and there, we find a revealing quote or remark, an insight into Sullivan’s bizarre psyche that makes all of our hypotheses and, well, suspicions, fall into place.

To cite just one example:

“He’s a tremendous hater,” says Oxford [University] professor Niall Ferguson, one of Sullivan’s oldest friends. “He is quite strongly motivated by hatred of an extraordinarily wide range of people. He really cannot stand them. He’s really a misanthropic person in some ways.”

Yeah. Either that, or he’s just a bitter old queen whose job prospects dissipate day by day.

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The Politics of Economics and the Economics of Politics

There are times -- many times -- when I wish I were this good.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2002  

Ten Points on the Way to Recovery

Hmm . . . The headline and deck here sound all too much like a story in Vogue magazine, but this is a serious matter.

It’s not necessary for non-Muslim Americans to embrace Islam as a religion or a cultural identity to at least express some empathy with Muslims as human beings, but given our collective lack of understanding of Islam, as well as the culture of Muslims, Arabs, and Palestinians, it’s not too much to ask that we at least try to learn a little more than we know now.

A good start . . . “Challenging Ignorance on Islam: A Ten-Point Primer for Americans,” by Gary Leupp, associate professor of history and coordinator of the Asian studies program at Tufts University.

Leupp’s article makes innumerable valid points, including its last:

“Muslims and Jews in Palestine/Israel have not always hated one another, and the current Middle East conflict does not go back many centuries. Rather, it began with the influx of foreign Jews into the region after World War I, which became a flood as a result of the Holocaust, and with international support resulted in the formation of Israel as a specifically Jewish state in 1948. Jewish settlement and terrorism . . . resulted in the displacement of 750,000 Palestinian Arabs (including both Christians and Muslims). The Arab-Israeli conflict is not, fundamentally, about Islam, or a clash between Islam and other faiths, but about this -- worldly land grabbing, settlement, dispossession and oppression that has enraged the Muslim world, as it should enrage any thinking, moral human being.”

That’s about as contentious as Leupp’s article gets. If you can handle that, you’ll learn a great deal from the rest of the professor’s essay.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Apparently Precious Little

Counterspin Central nails, and we mean nails, Andrew Sullivan for an uninformed and sloppy -- even for him -- post about the alleged shortcomings of the heretofore conservative-adored former Treasury secretary, Robert Rubin.

Sullivan: Once an independent voice, now merely a mouthpiece. Sad, really.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Who Was Minding the Store:
The Board of Directors of Adelphia Communications

The handcuffs are out and they’re being slapped on an increasing number of people whom we suspect never anticipated getting caught in their misdeeds, and if by chance they did, expected to walk away with a fine or possibly a year at a low-security detention facility, i.e., tennis camp.

The latest corporate executives to be arrested and indicted: John Rigas, the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Adelphia Communications Inc., the Coudersport, Pa.-based publicly traded cable television company, along with two of his sons, Timothy Rigas, former chief financial officer, and Michael Rigas, former executive vice president of operations.

All three were arrested early this morning and appeared in Manhattan federal court later in the day.

The U.S. attorney’s complaint accuses John Rigas and his family of “using the company as the Rigas family’s personal piggy bank at the expense of public investors and creditors.”

“The scheme charged in the complaint is one of the largest and most egregious frauds ever perpetrated on investors and creditors,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney James Comey, quoted in a story moved by Reuters at around 4:30 p.m. this afternoon.

“The government alleges the former executives improperly used company funds for everything from personal loans, to constructing a $13 million golf course on the senior Rigas’[s] property, to shuttling family members back and forth from a safari vacation in Africa,” according to Reuters.

Also arrested in Coudersport today, two former Adelphia executives: James Brown, former vice president of finance, and Michael Mulcahey, former director of internal reporting of treasury functions

In addition to the federal criminal charges, the Securities & Exchange Commission filed a civil suit against Adelphia, the five named executives, as well as James Rigas, former executive vice president of strategic planning, on fraud charges.

As reported, Rigas and the other Adelphia executives resigned from the firm, which filed for bankruptcy protection in June following the disclosure of $2.3 billion of off-balance-sheet loans to the Rigas family guaranteed by Adelphia, allegations of overstated earnings, and questions about the company's accounting methods, according to Reuters.

For the record

Continuing our series “For the Record,” we present for your consideration the oh-so-vigilant board of directors of Adelphia, including the biographical information presented in the copy’s most recent proxy statement, a filing mandated annually that Adelphia has not filed since July 6, 2001.

Thus, this is the board of directors that was in place as the Rivas family’s alleged misdeeds were reaching their peak. Not surprisingly, it’s a very cozy little group.

John J. Rigas, 76, founder, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Adelphia, and president of its subsidiaries. John Rigas is the father of Michael Rigas, Timothy Rigas, and James Rigas, each a director and executive officer of Adelphia, and the father-in-law of Peter L. Venetis, another director of Adelphia.

Michael J. Rigas, 47, executive vice president, operations and secretary of Adelphia, as well as a vice president of its subsidiaries. From 1979 to 1981, Michael Rigas worked for Webster, Chamberlain & Bean, a Washington, D.C. law firm.

Timothy J. Rigas, 45, executive vice president, chief financial officer, chief accounting officer, and treasurer of Adelphia and its subsidiaries.

James P. Rigas, 43, executive vice president for strategic planning of Adelphia and a vice president of its subsidiaries. Jame Rigas is a member of the board of directors of Cable Labs. In the 1980s, he worked as a consultant for two years at Bain & Co., a management consulting firm.

Pete J. Metros, 61, director since 1986. President, managing director, and a member of the board of directors of Siemenes Dematic AG. Metros previously was employed by subsidiaries of Lear Siegler Holding Corp. and Dresser-Rand Co. [Ed.: Now owned by Halliburton Co.], and in the Large Gas Turbine Division of General Electric Co.

Dennis P. Coyle, 62, general counsel and secretary of FPL Group Inc. and Florida Power & Light Co.

Leslie J. Gelber, 44, president and chief operating officer of Caithness Corp. Previously he was president of Cogen Technologies Inc. and before that president of ESI Energy Inc., a subsidiary of FPL Group, and before that director of corporate development for FPL Group and chairman of FPL Group’s cable subsidiary and president of its information services subsidiary.

Peter L. Venetis, 43, managing partner of Praxis Capital Ventures L.P., a private equity investment firm that is a subsidiary of Adelphia. Previously, Venetis was president and CEO of the Atlantic Bank of New York, a director in the leveraged finance group at Salomon Brothers Inc. Venetis is also a director of the Atlantic Bank of New York.

Erland E. Kailbourne, 59, retired chairman and CEO (for the New York Region) of Fleet National Bank, currently chairman and president of the John R. Oishei Foundation, a director of the New York ISO Utilities Board, a director of Albany International Corp., Bush Industries Inc., Rand Capital Corp., Statewide Zone Capital Corp., Allegany Co-op Insurance Co., and USA Niagara Development Corp. Kailbourne is also a member of the Advisory Council of the New York State Office of Science, Technology, and Academic Research; the New York State Banking Board; and the Trooper Foundation.

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Now on Paper for Eternity

Add this to your reading list . . . And The World Came His Way, described by at least one observer (its publisher) as “a thoroughly-documented study of Sen[.] Jesse Helms’[s] important personal contributions to freedom during his thirty-year career in the U.S. Senate.”

The book was written by John Dodd, president of the Jesse Helms Center Foundation, and David Tyson, and published by Regnery, the Free Press, the Jesse Helms Center.

Chapter titles include “Helms Leadership Helps Derail Terrorist State in Nicaragua;” “Rebuilding Americas Defenses;” “Chairing Foreign Relations;” “Driving the Flat Tax Bandwagon;” “Seeking a Solution To Social Security;” “Balancing the Budget” [Ed.: Huh?]; “Five Elections, Five Victories;” and “Mexico Sí, Corruption No!”

Visit the Jesse Helms Center online to obtain information about ordering And The World Came His Way.

Hey, $8.95 isn’t bad for a couple of yucks.

[Note: The Jesse Helms Center Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-political organization supported by private tax-deductible donations and exists in order to preserve and promote the principles of free enterprise, representative democracy, and traditional values. (Source: The Jesse Helms Center Foundation.)]

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Overkill in Gaza

Whatever happened to the much-vaunted Israeli intelligence agency, the Mossad?

In its -- overly successful -- effort to assassinate Salah Shehadeh, said to be a military leader of the Islamic group Hamas, the Israeli government turned not to the Mossad but to the army.

“Our mission was to target the most influential military leader of the Hamas organization, a mass murderer responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Israelis,” said Maj. Gen. Dan Harel, in an account published in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer.

“Unfortunately, along with him died several civilians, apparently innocent,” he added. “We are very sorry. We didn’t hope for such results.” [Emphasis added.]

By Maj. Gen. Harel’s account, then, the goal of the mission was to kill just one person. If so, rather than sending an Israeli pilot flying an American-made F-16 and “a one-ton laser-guided bomb into Al Daraj, a densely packed neighborhood, just after midnight,” couldn’t the Mossad have taken Shehadeh out with a single bullet at close range? This would have reduced the risk of collateral damage to roughly zero.

Israeli officials suggested the military underestimated the damage the bomb would cause in the surrounding area, which may well be true though the army’s extensive experience with this type of weapon could suggest otherwise.

So instead of one dead militia leader, at least 15 people were killed, including nine children, and 145 people were injured. We suppose authorities are now at work determining whether the two-month-old child killed in the assault was “apparently innocent” or had extensive ties to Hamas.

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Encouraging Dissent and New Ideas

John Hughes, writing in today’s edition of the Christian Science Monitor (“Who Will Lead an Arab Renaissance?”), has some words that will no doubt surprise a large proportion of the punditocracy:

“Nor should we assume that the Arab lands living in economic backwardness and democratic darkness are without their own internal mutterings for reform. There is intellectual pondering in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The [U.N. Development Program’s] report found that 51 percent of older Arab adolescents, and 45 percent of younger ones, in the 22 countries surveyed, expressed a desire to emigrate, ‘clearly indicating dissatisfaction with current conditions and future prospects in their home countries.’” [Emphasis added.]

Now, how about some proactive diplomacy to encourage those “internal mutterings” and “intellectual pondering”? We understand the Bush administration has expressed an interest in this strategy, but what is being done? How aggressively can we expect this policy to be pursued?

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


TRR’s Proprietary Measure
Of Gratuitous Punditocratic Familiarity

Herewith we introduce the Chum-o-Meter (trademark pending), our proprietary measure of gratuitous punditocratic familiarity as practiced by Andrew Sullivan of “The Daily Dish.”

The Chum-o-Meter rings every time Sullivan refers to another pundit, journalist, writer, columnist, editor, scholar, intellectual, or public official using a nickname or some other unwarranted familiarity, or mentions that this or that person is a “chum,” “friend,” “pal,” or some other intimate.

The latest examples (And it’s only Tuesday!):

“Here’s a great new test for the new editor at Slate, Jake Weisberg. Jake has a fat-cat book deal with [Robert] Rubin detailing Rubin’s allegedly glorious record as Treasury secretary. Let’s see if Slate will take on the architect of the bubble. Why doesn’t Jake commission a story pronto? I’m sure he can pass along the relevant phone numbers to an enterprising muck-raker [sic].” (Edited post-publication by Sullivan.) [Emphasis added.]

Don’t miss my friend Ian Buruma’s typically astute piece dissecting the British Left’s new litmus test of being anti-Israel. [Emphasis added.]

The Mickster [Conservative writer and Slate blogger, Mickey Kaus.] sees that front page double-barrelled [sic] piece on AOL-Time-Warner [sic] on Saturday as more [Howell] Raines willy-waving [sic].” [Emphasis added.]

“Very interesting post on Josh Marshall’s site from Josh Green.” [Emphases added.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, July 23, 2002  

Sullivan’s No Sloganeer

Andrew Sullivan of “The Daily Dish” today begins shifting his pathological obsession from New York Times Executive Editor Howell Raines (just one piece today) to former Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin (who garners two separate pieces today).

To wit: “But 43† also inherited what I think we should start calling the Rubin Bubble,” asserts Sullivan.

Yeah, that’s going to catch on.

Just like the racist and xenophobic term “Islamikazes” did when he launched it on June 20.

†: “43” is AS’s shorthand for President George W. Bush.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Paul Krugman Wins a Twofer

“It looks as if the authors of Dow 36,000 -- remember that? -- may have had one digit too many in their title. Let’s just hope it was an extra 3, not an extra 0.”

“So what should the responsible officials -- Mr. Greenspan, George W. Bush and whatshisname, the Treasury secretary -- be doing?”

Paul Krugman, the New York Times, “Living With Bears,” July 23, 2002.

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Monday, July 22, 2002  

Employee Stock-Option Accounting 101

Andrew Sullivan, writing in “The Daily Dish” on July 18, thinks he has found a devastating “gotcha” on his arch nemesis and current pathological obsession, Howell Raines of the New York Times, a “gotcha” Sullivan picked up by way of a piece about stock options and the media written by his hero, Howard “Howie” Kurtz of the Washington Post.

Here’s the bitter Brit’s take:

“[Kurtz] also reveals that -- oh joy! -- the Times has practised [sic] exactly the same stock options maneuver that it has so piously attacked others for. Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the mega-rich kid who finances Howell Raines’ [sic] diatribes against corporate executives, has almost $2 million worth of stock options that are not counted as expenses and Times president Russell Lewis says the Times has no plans to alter its policies. Don’t you think the Times should practise [sic] what it preaches in this respect?”

Sounds sharp. Wounding. A possible high-fiver.

Too bad he has it all wrong.

Let’s walk through this slowly.

The New York Times is a newspaper.

The New York Times has an editorial board and a group of editorial writers that draft the paper’s editorials, which appear on the penultimate verso of the first section of the paper. The editorialists are free to write about whatever they would like.

The New York Times has columnists whose essays appear on the page opposite the editorial page (on the last recto of the first section). The columnists are free to write about whatever they would like.

The New York Times Co., however, is a publicly traded corporation.

The assets of the New York Times Co. (hereafter NYT) include: the New York Times; the Boston Globe; the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram & Gazette; a one-half interest in the International Herald Tribune; 15 other newspapers in Alabama, California, Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina; eight TV stations and two radio stations; newspaper distributors in the New York and Boston metropolitan areas; and minority interests in a Canadian newsprint company.

So, you see there’s more to NYT than just the New York Times and certainly much more than the dreaded Howell Raines.

Compensation of executives

The compensation of NYT executives, including Sulzberger, is established by the compensation committee of the corporation’s board of directors. The compensation committee is comprised of five non-employee (or “outside”) members of the board. It is currently chaired by Brenda C. Barnes, and also includes John F. Akers, David E. Liddle, Henry B. Schacht, and Donald M. Stewart.

This committee, not the editorial board nor the editors of the New York Times, establishes the compensation of both Sulzberger and Lewis, and that compensation includes a base salary, annual at-risk bonuses, and stock option grants based on the performance of NYT.

Accounting for stock options

Not even the compensation committee decides the accounting treatment of stock options, nor does the editorial board of the New York Times, nor the paper’s editors.

The accounting treatment of stock options is determined as part of a larger endeavor called corporate finance that encompasses the corporation’s accounting procedures and practices, financial reporting policies, budgeting, forecasting, tax strategies, and so forth.

These policies are established by the corporation’s top executives, including Sulzberger (chairman of the board), Lewis (chief executive officer and president), Leonard Forman (chief financial officer), James Lessersohn (vice president of finance and corporate development), Stuart Stoller (vice president and corporate controller), and R. Anthony Benton (treasurer).

Normally this is done with at least some consultation with the firm’s auditor, in this case Deloitte & Touche L.L.P., and the board of directors, most notably with the audit committee. At NYT, the audit committee is chaired by Ellen R. Marram and includes Raul E. Cesan, Charles H. Price II, and the aforementioned Liddle.

The separation of powers

So, you see, there is the New York Times, the newspaper, and there is the New York Times, the corporation. As has become customary in the American publishing business, albeit gradually, over the past century, the editorial and business operations of newspapers and magazines have become separated, and such is the case here. (This is why one rarely finds an individual holding the titles of both editor and publisher at a single publication. Martin Peretz, while allowing for a publisher on the masthead, may have misled Sullivan on this point.)

The editors and editorial writers and columnists at the Times can hold and express whatever opinions they would like with respect to the various methods of corporate accounting for employee stock options or any other matter whatsoever.

Ultimately, decisions regarding accounting policies and the preparation of financial statements reside in the business or corporate side of the operation. And their decisions are made, appropriately, in the interest of the corporation and its shareholders, i.e., the owners, and to a lesser degree the employees, and to a de minimus extent, outside “critics.”

As a result, the New York Times, the newspaper, the collection of editors and reporters, cannot “practice what it preaches” because the task of practicing is not in its hands.

[Republished from Saturday, July 20, 2002.]

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Sunday, July 21, 2002  

Misdirected Google Searchers

The Site Meter service we use to monitor visitor traffic sometimes reveals the web site from which the visitor jumped to arrive at The Rittenhouse Review

Most often visitors arrive on their own (in which case we don’t know where they last stopped), while others come from weblogs that either have written something about the Review or have a permalink to our site on theirs.

The more interesting visitors are those who arrive here after performing a Google search.

Usually the Google searchers are on the right course, but occasionally we find a lost soul horribly misdirected by even the world’s best search engine.

Such was the case late yesterday when someone went to Google and entered:

women in Oregon who want to date and have sex in Albany

We admire the specificity, but there’s nothing like that here. Thanks for stopping by, fella’.

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Saturday, July 20, 2002  

Cartoonist Kicks Butt

Jeff Danziger nails rhymes-with-witch Ann Coulter for kicking a rhymes-with-witch.

Thanks to conservative Republican Barbara Bush for the euphemism.

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And Sell It, Too!

As we’ve noted before, one of Ann Coulter’s favorite strategies for deflecting criticism during her media appearances is to whine that she isn’t being given the opportunity to talk about her new book, the autobiographically entitled Slander.

She pulled the same stunt during her July 18 appearance on “Donahue,” the new MSNBC program hosted by Phil Donahue.

The preliminary transcript reveals Coulter employed various forms of the dodge eight times in twenty minutes.

COULTER: No, I didn’t, but that’s the last book. Can we talk about this book?

COULTER: No, that is utterly preposterous. But I love that there are so many rumors about me out there, and that people want to talk about crazy things like this, rather than discuss my book.

COULTER: Are we really going to keep talking about the last book?

COULTER: And, as I wrote in my last book -- we will get to this book in a moment, right?

COULTER: I thought we were going to talk about my book.

COULTER: I’m just trying to talk about my book.

COULTER: Actually, you’re the one who wants to keep talking about Clinton. I’m the one who wants to talk about my book.

COULTER: I don’t mind Enron as much as I mind you losing the entire viewing audience when I’m trying to sell a book, by going through these tedious charges. [Emphasis added.]

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Thursday, July 18, 2002  

Businessmen or Hacks?

Michelle Cottle is a welcome addition to the Washington weeklies, though it’s a shame her talents are being wasted at the New Republic, a magazine that, in our opinion, hasn’t been all that interesting since Michael Kinsley left some 15 years ago.

Cottle’s latest piece, “Funny Business,” about the purported business acumen of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, is without question worth your time. The fundamental premise of the essay is sound and wisely argued, and Cottle throws in some great lines like these:

“In reality, both Bush and Cheney were lousy businessmen. Their rise through the corporate ranks had nothing to do with financial or management acumen -- and everything to do with cronyism and a gift for exploiting their insider status.”

“[I]n recent years, with the New Economy making millionaires of us all, corporate executives have been regarded with an awe once reserved for gods and rock stars. (All hail Jack Welch!) Anyone with even weak ties to the business world could convince us of their inherent genius. Even now, we keep hearing about how Bush is ‘our first MBA president.’ Oooo, really? An MBA! How special for all of us.”

We’re tempted to republish the final paragraph of Cottle’s article, but we won’t. Fix yourself a drink, put up your feet, and read the essay at your leisure in its entirety.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


At |||trr|||

It’s probably time for readers to pay another visit to |||trr|||, our sibling web site featuring the lighter side of The Rittenhouse Review.

Now playing . . .

Mad Kane: Funny Woman”

“Six Feet Out of It”

“Winnie ille Pu”

“Pretty Woman”

“Graydon Carter: Hot Under the Collar”

“Someone Must Be Held Accountable”

“Dutch Boy Paints”

“J.P. Morgan: Not Particularly Fond of Coins”

“Awesome Ann Coulter Anagrams”

And much more!

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Stewart Lagging in Media Coverage

It wasn’t too long ago that wide swathes of the media were treating Martha Stewart’s sale of a few thousand shares of ImClone Systems Inc. almost as if it were the greatest threat to the entire world financial system.

Well, we’ve heard next to nothing about the Stewart matter in the past two weeks. And what we have heard has little, if anything, to do with Stewart herself. We’ve learned that six ImClone officials have been charged with insider trading and that Stewart’s broker, Peter Bacanovic, has given his telephone records to Congressional investigators.

The lack of attention devoted to Stewart is due in part to the greater and clearly more politically significant questions that surround the financial investments and business deals of President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney.

We’ve had much to say about the Stewart “controversy,” and eagerly await relevant new developments. Until then, we are content to enjoy the latest column by Michelangelo Signorile, “Buy Martha, Sell Cheney,” which provides an excellent take on the whole matter.

The article begins with this enticing paragraph:

“Okay, are we done frying Martha Stewart yet? If these fantastic financial scandals are indeed a sizzling summer media barbecue in the making . . . then isn’t Stewart a measly marshmallow while Vice President Dick Cheney is the fat side of beef we should now be hauling into the flaming pit?”


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Brother Jeb Campaigning, Too. But For a Different Job.

In the New Republic, associate editor Ryan Lizza offers up an extensive account of the lengths to which President George W. Bush is going to assist the re-election effort of his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.).

The article, “How You Can Help the President Help His Brother,” would be considered devastating if it had anything to do with President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), but the Bush family’s remarkable ability to dodge even the slightest scrutiny likely means Lizza’s findings, which are thoroughly documented, will be ignored.

A few quick takes from this must-read:

“It is difficult to overestimate the importance the Bush administration places on Florida. It is the largest swing state in the country, the ground on which Bush won his contested victory in 2000, and a cornerstone of the White House’s reelection strategy in 2004. . . .

“No matter what else happens at the ballot box this fall, if Jeb loses to the eventual Democratic nominee -- either Janet Reno or Bill McBride -- it will be seen as a humiliating defeat for the president and a vote of no confidence for his administration.

“As a result, it seems that no federal grant, no business loan, no tinkering with federal policy that might give Jeb a political leg up is too small to merit White House attention. . . .

“Almost every week brings another example of federal policy being altered to Florida’s -- and specifically Jeb’s -- benefit. . . .

“One might imagine Jeb Bush would downplay the extent to which federal policy and taxpayer dollars are being driven by his electoral needs. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.”

This is how journalism is supposed to work. Where did it go? And will it ever come back?

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Missive Sent to the Times Offers Few Clues

Look who has an op-ed piece in the New York Times today.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, July 17, 2002  

TRR Editor Won’t Sleep Tonight

If you love dogs as much as I do, and if you have a strong stomach and do not cry easily, stop by reading & writing for a story, two links, and a photograph that have left me clenching my teeth and wiping my eyes for the last 20 minutes. (R&W credits the bitter shack of resentment for raising the subject.)

R&W alerted me to Daisy, a Sharpei-mix puppy who was burned -- set on fire, actually -- by some low-life piece of crap in Texas who, fortunately, has been apprehended by local authorities.

Some thoughts:

If you can’t properly take care of your pet, take it to someone or someplace that can.

Spay or neuter your pet, particularly strays and mixed breeds.

Do not breed your pet unless you are willing to agree, in writing, to take back any progeny you have sold, no questions asked.

If you see or suspect animal abuse or neglect, contact the proper authorities.

Send a donation to the Humane Society or the ASPCA, now and regularly, or with Daisy in mind, to the North Texas Humane Society, the organization that is nursing Daisy back to health at considerable expense.

Pray for Daisy. And pray for a better world.

And if you own a pet, give him or her some extra love and attention (and snacks) tonight. I think Daisy would like that. I know Mildred will.

-- J.M.C.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


In His Odd Way, Sullivan Gets This One Right

Andrew Sullivan of “The Daily Dish” today directed readers to this site with a cryptic notation, “Spectacular propaganda for the Palestinians here.”

We presume Sullivan was being snide, given his longstanding disdain for anything Arab or Islamic.

And yet, in his own weird way, Sullivan actually got this one right.

Reading through the responses to the original post on the Sullivan-approved site, a post intended to mock the Palestinians, we were sickened, literally, by the visceral hatred of Palestinians and Arabs expressed by Israel’s supporters. The page drips with their demented venom.

We wonder how many Americans are aware of the deep-seated prejudices of so many of our relentless warmongers -- inside and outside the government -- a thuggish gang that has virtually no respect whatsoever for Arab culture and is completely unable to view Arabs as fellow human beings.

And we can’t help thinking that the more people read this disgusting bile, or otherwise become aware of the real sentiments and motives of these hooligans, the more they will question our dangerously unbalanced foreign policy in the Middle East.

So, that sounds to us like good news for the Palestinians after all.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


“Fine Businessman” or Total Failure?

President George W. Bush today expressed confidence in Vice President Richard B. Cheney, telling reporters, “I’ve got great confidence in the vice president. He’s doing a heck of a good job. When I picked him, I knew he was a fine business leader and a fine, experienced man, and he’s doing a great job.” (“Bush Says SEC Probe Will Clear Cheney,” by Tom Raum, Associated Press.) [Ed.: Emphasis added.]

A fine business leader? That’s certainly debatable. Vice President Cheney’s record at Halliburton Co., where he was chief executive officer from 1998 to August 2000, can best be characterized as mediocre, and the more we learn the more he appears to have been on a par with founders Todd Krizelman and Stephan Paternot.

In a remarkable piece in yesterday’s Washington Post by Dana Milbank, “For Cheney, Tarnish From Halliburton,” the general outlines of Cheney’s unimpressive tenure are laid bare.

“When Cheney left Halliburton in August 2000 to be Bush’s running mate, the oil services firm was swelling with profits and approaching a two-year high in its stock price. Investors and the public (and possibly Cheney himself) did not know how sick the company really was, as became evident in the months after Cheney left.

“Whether through serendipity or shrewdness, Cheney made an $18.5 million profit selling his shares for more than $52 each in August 2000; 60 days later, the company surprised investors with a warning that its engineering and construction business was doing much worse than expected, driving shares down 11 percent in a day. About the same time, it announced it was under a grand jury investigation for overbilling the government.

“In the months that followed, it became clear that Halliburton’s liability for asbestos claims, stemming from a company Cheney acquired in 1998 [Ed.: Dresser Industries Inc.], were far greater than Halliburton realized. Then, in May of this year, the company announced it was under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for controversial accounting under Cheney’s leadership that inflated profits. . . .

“There has been no serious allegation of wrongdoing by the vice president himself in all of this. But the highflying company Cheney hailed as a ‘great success story’ during the 2000 campaign is now a troubled behemoth fighting for its life. The humbling of Halliburton raises doubts about Cheney’s stewardship there and, by extension, his reputation as a smart executive bringing a businessman’s acumen to the White House.

“The developments at Halliburton since Cheney’s departure leave two possibilities: Either the vice president did not know of the magnitude of problems at the oilfield services company he ran for five years, or he sold his shares in August 2000 knowing the company was likely headed for a fall.” [Ed.: Emphasis added.]

Readers are free to take their pick from among the two scenarios Millbank offers: Either Cheney was a clueless CEO or Cheney was a crooked CEO. Neither is particularly comforting.

And what did Wall Street think of Cheney, the vaunted businessman who was said to counterbalance the utter failure at the top of the Republicans’ 2000 ticket? “Overall, financial analysts say Cheney was an unremarkable executive. ‘He came in at a time when any okay manager could ride the cyclical wave,’ said James Wicklund, an analyst with Banc of America Securities who has followed Halliburton for years,” reports Milbank. “‘He did okay. He did not blow anybody’s doors off.’”

The asbestos disaster

Halliburton faces potential disaster as a result of its $8 billion acquisition of Dresser Industries in 1998, a deal that Wall Street analysts and others tie directly to Cheney. The culprit: asbestos injuries by former employees of a Dresser subsidiary.

In the last quarterly report filed with the SEC before Cheney left Halliburton in August 2000, the firm said it had set aside $24 million of reserves to deal with asbestos-related legal claims, saying “we believe that the pending asbestos claims will be resolved without material effect on our financial position.”

Halliburton maintained an optimistic outlook for another 10 months when the company revealed Harbison-Walker Refractories, a 1992 Dresser spin-off, would be unable to pay asbestos-related claims filed against the firm, and that as a result, the claimants would turn to Halliburton for restitution. Only then (June 2001) did Halliburton increase its asbestos claims reserves to $125 million and it wasn’t until earlier this year that the company conceded “it has no idea what its asbestos liabilities may be and that its reserves ‘may not be sufficient,’” according to Milbank. “Investors . . . are betting the liability is $8 billion to $9 billion.”

Granted, legal liabilities can be very difficult to estimate, but asbestos claims have been discussed, argued, litigated, negotiated, and legislated this way and that, east coast to west, for at least 20 years now. As such, we find it very difficult to believe that Halliburton would so drastically underestimate its potential obligations by sheer accident.

This is a mess that cannot be ignored, that cannot be swept under the rug, and that cannot be dismissed with a flick of the wrist. The Cheney/Hallibuton issue will not go away quickly and we believe the odds favor more bad news and more embarrassing details emerging in the days ahead.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Seems They Just Want to Deliver the Mail

This just in . . .

The Associated Press reports the U.S. Postal Service is taking a pass on the Bush administration's planned Operation TIPS. (Why does everything have to be an "operation"?)

TIPS, by the way, stands for Terrorism Information and Prevention System, and would be managed primarily by the Justice Department.

"'The Postal Service had been approached by homeland security regarding Operation TIPS; however, it was decided that the Postal Service and its letter carriers would not be participating in the program at this time,' the agency said in a statement issued Wednesday," according to A.P.'s report.

Can they get away with that? Isn't it, um, disloyal? Will this be the ultimate argument in favor of privatizing the Postal Service?

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Neoconservative Puppy Says “Wag the Dog”

We really have to start reading the New York Post more often than we already do, at least on the days the paper publishes John Podhoretz.

As if the “Destroy Iraq” chorus weren’t already singing loudly enough, Podhoretz the Lesser, writing in yesterday’s Post, calls for an “October Surprise,” that being, of course, the eagerly anticipated war against Saddam Hussein that President Bush now needs so badly to divert attention from financial scandals and an invisible domestic agenda.

“Go on, Mr. President: Wag the dog,” Podhoretz urges. “It would be good for the world, it would be good for America and it would be good politics as well.”

“You’re in some domestic political trouble, Mr. President,” he continues. “You need to change the subject. You have the biggest subject-changer of all at your disposal. Use it.”

We’re not making this up. And it gets worse: “There’s a luscious double trap in starting the war as soon as possible, Mr. President. Your enemies are delirious with excitement about the corporate-greed scandals and the effect they might have on your popularity and the GOP’s standing in November. . . . Your enemies will hurl ugly accusations at you, Mr. President. And at least one of them will be true -- the accusation that you began the war when you did for political reasons.”

And Podhoretz, who is neither an experienced military strategist nor a war veteran, is absolutely certain this war will be fought and won flawlessly. “[The accusation] won’t matter. It won’t matter to the American people, and it won’t matter as far as history is concerned. History will record that you and the U.S. military brought an end to a barbaric regime on its way to threatening the world.”

Would the world be better off without Saddam Hussein? Absolutely. But is going to war with Iraq really a good idea? We’re far from convinced. Could such a conflict grow dangerously out of control? Possibly. Would we face years of dangerous and deadly after-effects such as escalated terrorism here and abroad? We think so.

Presumably the right people in the administration are analyzing the matter far more thoroughly than we -- or Podhoretz -- could ever hope to. On its face, that’s a good thing. But this administration is populated with far too many people that share the Podhoretz mindset (he calls the prospect of war “delicious”) that we are inclined to believe the internal debate about this impending conflict is dangerously one-sided.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Joe Kernen on The Guys

“Yeah, Ayn Rand and Evelyn Waugh. They were a coupla’ great guys.”

Joe Kernen, CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” July 17, 2002.

Maybe you had to be there. To explain the context of this quote would take too long, but it really was pretty funny.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, July 16, 2002  

Government by the Constitution

As President George W. Bush quietly and secretly prepares for what appears to be an inevitable war on Iraq, we thought we would dust off a copy of the Constitution, just for a “refresher course” in which branch of the government has the power to do what when it comes to conflicts with other nations.

Here is the relevant text:

The Constitution of the United States

Article I
Section 8

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; . . . To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water; To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years; To provide and maintain a navy; To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces; To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions; . . . To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.

Article II
Section 2

The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States; he may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices, and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.

Yes, we know there are conflicting interpretations of this language and we’re fully aware of the War Powers Act as well. But can we at least express our hope that before Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, uh, we mean the Bush administration, approve an invasion of Iraq, the relevant officials at least consult Congress?

Oh, and in case there were any confusion, U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair is not the U.S. Congress. Nor is Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

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