The Rittenhouse Review

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

Saturday, November 30, 2002  

Something to do With the Showers Again, No Doubt

From a piece by Kevin Drum at his weblog CalPundit, picked up from Charles Kuffner of Off the Kuff, I learn that Rice University football coach Ken Hatfield recently has been feeling a little insecure in his masculinity, or quite full of the Holy Spirit, or both.

Hatfield, a purported and self-professed “devout Christian,” said recently that he would consider removing from the team any player who publicly (which I think it’s fair to interpret to mean, “vocally” or “verbally”) revealed a gay sexual orientation.

In a subsequent op-ed piece in the November 28 issue of the Houston Chronicle, there rises to Hatfield’s defense -- this despite an earlier private and public reprimand of the coach by Rice University President Malcolm Gillis -- junior-college history teacher Tom Lovell, of Tomball College.

The Chronicle, seemingly ignorant of Rice University’s policy on the matter and not realizing this really is a “case closed,” published Lovell’s pointless little jottings. In them, Lovell characterized the criticism to which Hatfield has been subjected for what he called the coach’s “squeamishness over coaching out-of-the-closet gays,” as the height (or depth) of “political correctness.”

Then, taking a giant leap into the realm of fantasy, Lovell said the controversy proved that everyone at Rice -- a school that with its emphasis on science and engineering heretofore had not been known as a hotbed of incipient revolution -- must adhere to “the leftist party line,” lest they be “targeted for abusive public pillory.”

Well, what was it that Coach Hatfield said that stirred up such a ruckus? In an article in the November 1 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, “The Loneliest Athletes” [Note: Referred to in the link provided above.], Hatfield, a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, indicated that homosexuality is contrary to the FCA’s “sexual purity” policy, which, according to the CHE, states:

God desires His children to lead pure lives of holiness. The Bible is clear in teaching of sexual sin, including sex outside of marriage and homosexual acts. Neither heterosexual acts outside of marriage nor any homosexual act constitute an alternative lifestyle acceptable to God.

According to the CHE reporter, Jennifer Jacobson, Hatfield said that while not a single player has come out to him in his 36 years of collegiate coaching -- Big surprise! -- he “would be concerned both about the effect on the team and about what the parents of other athletes would think, he says. He would ask the player, ‘What happened? What changed since we recruited you? When did this come about?’”

Implying, as this statement does, that the pious Christian Coach Hatfield has better gaydar than I do, it is a challenge to respond to such laughable ignorance. Many have tried, with noble effort and greater intellectual resources than I can command, to respond to such lunacy, but few have succeeded, at least when it comes to convincing those persons who make such statements.

I’ll save this challenge for another day, but suffice it to say that I do not know even one gay man who, just like his heterosexual friends, was not aware, on at least some level, of his sexual orientation before the age of 14. Not one. Some adjust to and accept this realization quickly; for others, depending on a variety of psychological and social factors, it takes more time. Often quite a bit more time is required, even today.

And if it so happens that this acceptance occurs to a member of the Rice football team between the ages of 18 and 22, or 24, or 26, or whatever ages Hatfield’s players are (and coincidentally, the ages at which most men I know finally accepted their sexual orientation), well, that’s just too bad for him. Rice’s anti-discrimination policy, as Hatfield learned, but Lowry apparently did not, applies to everyone at the university, including the school’s revered and reverential football coach.

One might also ask how concerned Coach Hatfield is that the heterosexual players on his team might be engaging sexual activity outside of marriage. There’s nothing in the FCA statement on “sexual purity” that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that fornication of this sort is not at least as abhorrent to the organization.

Until Coach Hatfield and Professor Lovell start chastising the Rice football team’s heterosexual players for sleeping with their girlfriends and groupies, and that (the chastisement, I mean) with a fervor even approaching that which these two have reserved for the team’s gay players -- out or not -- neither man has any moral ground upon which to stand and neither deserves even the slightest bit of our attention on matters moral or political, let alone the ink needed to splatter a handful of incoherent mutterings on Chronicle newsprint.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, November 27, 2002  

The Pathetic Case of Rush Limbaugh

If there is even one person reading this piece who believes the right wing is committed to the free exchange of ideas and information, and that Rush Limbaugh is the embodiment of this noble stance, I suggest he visit Scoobie Davis Online and then get back to me.

Davis reports that Limbaugh -- the object of Howard Kurtz’s latest crush and everyone’s favorite Ditto Butt -- while “talking policy” on his nationally syndicated radio program, today once again had his cyst-covered ass pressed on the mute button, though, as always, only when doing so served to advance his agenda or when the pressure relieved that painful itching and dryness.

By the way, if it’s not too much trouble, should you decide to respond, please do your best to write in complete sentences, spell correctly those words in your message that are typical of the vocabulary of the average fourth grader, and try to refrain from onanistic vulgarities.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


A Pre-Holiday Trio

“THE LOONS! THE LOONS!”: I know many people associate Peggy Noonan first and foremost with her dolphins, but for me, it’s loons. Whenever I read Noonan’s columns I hear Katharine Hepburn [Still living!] as Ethel Thayer in “On Golden Pond”: “The loons! The loons!”

Paul Musgrave, with his essay “Get Your Noonan On,” has helped me understand why.

[Post-publication addendum: Prompted by something a colleague said about it, I just reread Musgrave’s piece on Noonan. Let me add here that this guy is some kind of genius or something, I don’t know what.]


WEIGHTY MATTERS: The fun folks at PETA sure don’t care for anyone, any human beings at least, who are carrying a few extra pounds. Their latest target: John Madden.


WHAT’S A SYCOPHANT TO DO?: Atrios at Eschaton ponders the odd contortions we soon may see displayed by the newly minted right winger and former Trotskyite Christopher Hitchens.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Monday, November 25, 2002  

Bloggers and Others Who Make Me Laugh

There are several webloggers who make me laugh out loud, not all of them with every post, but when they do, it is a welcome respite from the day’s drudgery.

Among those offering this relief:

TBogg, of course -- And how exactly did I get through a rough day before he appeared on the scene?; Über-Beagle Neal Pollack of Neal Pollack’s Maelstrom (and let’s not forget his sidekick, the revered, at least around here, Lizz Westman -- Um, Lizz, everything required for me to carry your child has been obtained.); Mad Kane of Mad Kane’s Notables; David Ehrenstein of David E.’s Fablog; Tom Tomorrow of This Modern World; Atrios of Eschaton; SullyWatch; Slacktivist; Uggabugga; and Smarter Andrew Sullivan.

And, in an entirely different league of mirth generators:

Andrew Sullivan of the “Daily Dish” and his similarly named Washington Times column, the “Weekly Dish”; the sporadic and erratic Norah Vincent of Punching Out Liberals I Hate or something like that; and Mickey Kaus of Kaus Files. (And, though she doesn’t maintain a weblog but is offered life support -- and, presumably, insurance coverage for rehab -- from a site that purports to be one, Peggy Noonan.)

And in the remaining group -- I don’t think “weblog” is the right term for his site -- there is the essential Bob Somerby of the Daily Howler.

It’s not often Somerby makes me laugh -- usually when I read the Howler I find myself becoming so agitated I reach for the nearest benzodiazepine -- but he made me laugh out loud today with his latest piece, “That’s Rich!”, from which this quote was taken:

“By the way: Mort [Kondracke] is on the Beltway Boys to ‘balance off’ Fred [Barnes], the conservative.”

If you’re not RAOTFLYAO, as they say, you need to start watching more of the dreck that is regularly featured on the cable “news” channels.

Thanks for everything, Mr. Somerby.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


The Enduring Power of Cliques in a Post-High-School World

First names only: Pam, Mary, Cheri, Debby, and Angel.

The five most powerful girls in my senior class. In that order. The five most powerful people in my high school during my senior year. Period.

And before them: Diane, Christine, Debby, Debbie, Carol, Jeanne, Ardith, Debbie, Sandy, and Fay. And after them: Denise, Shannon, and Jodi, and beyond those, the many girls I have forgotten and those much younger than me who I never knew, a chain that no doubt runs up to and including the present day.

All of these girls, during their final years of high school, were members in good, albeit fragile, standing of the most powerful female clique at W.C.S.

These girls could make you or break you: male or female; student, teacher, or administrator; even parent. Your “making” wasn’t always clear-cut. It took a considerable amount of self-confidence to conclude that you had been made and to act accordingly. And even after having been made, your position was perpetually and permanently precarious, and you knew it. They made certain you knew it. And the onus of maintaining one’s made status was on you, not the clique. Oh, but the breaking . . . that’s another story entirely. When they broke you, there was no doubt. Your day-to-day existence was rendered miserable, those you counted as friends abandoned you, humiliation and isolation defined your existence, and your ability to face each new day was shattered.

I was luckier than most of my classmates, female or male. I understood what was happening and I knew Pam, Mary, Cheri, Debby, and Angel had made me, and, even better, they made me during our junior high school years, if not earlier. And only once in four years of high school, and that for just a few months, did I slip.

They made me because I was good-looking, a jock, and a stud. No, not really. I became a jock and a stud later in life. Actually, Pam, Mary, Cheri, Debby, and Angel liked me because I was smart and because I was funny, but mostly because I was funny. And I was funny in a cutting, caustic, and nasty way that served their agenda and sustained their power. It is not without shame that I recall having fed them some of their meanest and most hurtful putdowns.

I loved these girls then, and I love them now, confident they have matured as least as much as I have. (I say at least as much because women are like that: the discussion here notwithstanding, pertaining as it does to the behavior of young girls, women, as a group, are and always will be more mature than men of similar age.) I’m disappointed that my last contact with any member of the group was dinner nearly ten years ago with Pam, who was as pretty, smart, and funny as ever, and probably more so. Oddly, I loved them even when I temporarily fell from grace during sophomore year.

What brought on this wave of nostalgia? A trip through the yearbooks? The yearbooks that we made and that only we could make -- that “we” being comprised of the girls’ top clique and the boys they endorsed. No. In fact, truth be told, I had to dig out my old yearbooks to remember the names of some of the school’s top dogs -- a misnomer if ever I saw one, given their uniformly above-average to well-above-average looks -- who preceded and anteceded my senior year.

What sparked these memories was, of all things, the recent treatment by the media, and in particular by the conservative punditburo, of former Vice President Al Gore.

“Girls Just Want to be Mean”

Watching the media’s unrelenting pig pile on Al Gore in recent weeks revived these teenage memories, many of them unpleasant, even painful. And as I thought about the matter and observed purportedly mature men -- mostly men anyway -- attack Gore with a ferocity I had not witnessed since I said good-bye to the Class of 1980, I thought also of “Girls Just Want to be Mean,” an article by Margaret Talbot in the February 24 issue of the New York Times Magazine.

I found Talbot’s essay spellbinding, fascinating, and extraordinarily accurate, at least with respect to my own high school years and much of what I had heard about kids today from friends and colleagues. I was surprised to see Talbot’s piece greeted in many quarters, the predictable and otherwise, with venomous hostility and transparent denial. In the article, which was based upon visits to several schools and extensive interviews with students and teachers, Talbot identifies the characteristic traits and behavioral patterns of the most selective girls’ cliques, the members of which she refers to as “Alpha Girls” and “Queen Bees.”

Alpha Girls, Talbot wrote, armed with intelligence and cunning, devote considerable time and energy to waging complicated, intricate, and highly personalized battles with other girls of similar age, the intent of which is to damage the other girls’ friendships, relationships, and reputations, all in an effort to enhance and sustain their popularity and status.

The Alphas accomplish their goals through a wide variety of means, including spreading rumors -- some true or at least based on truth, others wildly false -- using the power of information and the means of its distribution to assault their prey. With an uncanny ability to identify and exploit their victims’ weaknesses, their opponents’ most vulnerable Achilles’ heels, the Alphas mercilessly exclude from membership -- or “merely” reduce the social standing of -- those who don’t make the cut.

Membership in the group is uncompromisingly exclusive -- like the all-male Augusta National Club, obvious eagerness to join is certain to result in rejection -- and unquestioning loyalty to the group’s mores and agenda is required for a girl to maintain membership in good standing. Even the most petty offense -- wearing the wrong clothes on the wrong day, eating the wrong food in the cafeteria or even eating in the cafeteria at all, or joining the wrong extracurricular activity, to say nothing of speaking with, or worse, dating, the wrong boy -- is grounds for immediate expulsion.

Alliances, many of them temporary and fleeting, are a critical element of the Alphas’ strategy. When it suits them, Alphas will befriend a girl with whom they would not ordinarily be associated with the sole intent -- not always apparent to the newly befriended girl -- of inflicting revenge and retribution on their latest victim. Although Alphas can be mean and cruel, they aren’t physical; catfights aren’t their thing. Rather than engaging in physical altercations, they rely on words, insults, rumor, gossip, innuendo, and manipulation. And the Alphas use others who are not members of the clique, including girls aspiring to this lofty status, and boys, naturally the most popular boys whenever possible, in their campaigns to ruin the reputations of others they find threatening or morally, intellectually, socially, or physically superior.

(Allow me to interject here that my friends, Pam, Mary, Cheri, Debby, and Angel, weren’t nearly as vicious as the girls portrayed by Talbot. I’m sure it’s because they’re much better human beings, but the school was also too small for them to be that aggressive. After all, a clique with just two members cannot wield much power.)

The Betas and the Gammas

In her Times essay, Talbot identified two other groups in the social hierarchy of high school girls: the Betas and the Gammas.

The “Beta Girls,” or “Alpha Wannabees,” rank just below the Alpha Girls. Although the Betas generally earn better grades than the Alphas, demonstrate greater achievement in extra-curricular activities, and typically enjoy the favor of teachers and parents, most wish desperately to become Alphas. Their self-directed, usually independent, Alpha-directed membership drives can border on the obsessive and even the pathetic. Beyond their quest for membership in the school’s highest-ranking clique, the Betas’ most clearly identifiable motivation is fear of offending the Alphas, this out of a justifiable reluctance to become the group’s latest target.

Finally, according to Talbot, there are the “Gamma Girls,” girls who generally fit the standard characteristics of the familiar label, “Most Likely to Succeed.” These girls, while not the most popular or most successful girls in school, also happen to be among the most well adjusted. They view themselves and evaluate their peers on the basis of their accomplishments and personal qualities rather than their appearance or social standing; they are often the most consistently congenial girls in school, this despite their often depressed self-esteem; they form new friendships easily and end them without conflict or animosity; and their relationships are more circular than hierarchical in nature, a testament to their more advanced mental and emotional development. The Gammas differ from the Betas, however, in that the Gammas profess a complete lack of interest in becoming Alphas, and this lack of interest, sometimes affected by a few Betas, is genuine.

(My own observation, one not developed by Talbot, is that the Alphas, knowingly or not, tend to define themselves in opposition to the Gammas, those who are, in truth but in secret, the Alphas’ most dreaded adversaries. The Gammas, though, are not cognizant of this latent power and therefore are consigned to operating at an unwarranted disadvantage.)

The Mean Girls and the Media

Talbot did not examine or expound upon the social stratification typical of high school boys, this out of a belief that the mechanics of friendship and popularity among boys are far less complex and far less worthy of an anthropological investigation than those of girls. Although high school boys are not blameless in this regard, something of which I’m certain Talbot is aware, I believe her differentiation among the genders is valid. This certainly has been my experience, and, based upon what I have learned from family and friends with children of teen age, I have no reason to believe things have changed much in the last 20 years.

And yet our punditburo, dominated, and heavily so, by men -- I guess because we talk louder, are more interruptive, and are less likely to hear the words coming out of others’ mouths, thus making us more “opinionated” and “provocative” -- shares many of the attributes, features, and pathologies of girls’ high school cliques we learned from Talbot. The media has its Alphas, its Betas, and its Gammas, but the members of those castes are neither uniformly nor even predominantly female. There are in the American media female and male Alphas, female and male Betas, and female and male Gammas, and the hierarchical relationships among them are remarkably similar to the society Talbot described.

Starting from “the bottom” and working upward, it’s sadly obvious that despite the “Most Likely to Succeed” label, Gammas, male or female, do not fare well in the media’s highest echelons. To obtain one’s own column in a major or even mid-level American newspaper, or to win one’s own program on a major broadcast network or somewhere in the upper reaches of cable television’s double-digit land, requires something more than the affable, consensus-oriented, respected-but-not-feared personality that typifies the Gamma. I suspect this will never change.

In the American media, the Betas are legion. It is not without reason that Andrew Sullivan, himself one of the media’s most brazen self-propelled climbers and perhaps the industry’s most desperately scheming and self-promoting parvenu, maintains a “suck-up watch” for his would-be colleagues. Nor is it a coincidence that Sullivan in his insecurity casts “suck-up” aspersions on journalists far more talented than he.

Moreover, the prevalence of Betas, shackled by their Alpha aspirations and their fear of alienating their would be peers, has done considerable damage to the media and its transmission of timely, reliable, and accurate information to its readers and viewers.

Not long ago a newly found colleague, if I may call him that, lamented the harsh tone adopted by many webloggers. (He did not put this comment directly to me, but we both knew he well could have.) My response was that webloggers, some of whom I find smarter, more eloquent, and more perceptive than a sizable portion of their professional counterparts, do not share the punditburo’s status anxiety and do not join with the punditboro in enthusiastically casting aside whatever principles they might have in a craven effort to curry favor with their colleagues.

The media’s Betas, in their quest for higher professional status and a more public personal profile, fear nothing more than alienating the industry’s powerful Alphas. And for this reason, Betas hold back, mute their voices, temper their criticisms. Regularly. Consistently. Shamelessly. The Betas know who the gatekeepers are. They know that arguing too strongly against eliminating the estate tax would hurt their chances of appearing in The Wall Street Journal. They know that any hint of recognition that the Palestinians are human beings and not animals will result in their being permanently blackballed by the New Republic. And they know that expressing opposition to school vouchers or the privatization of Social Security will keep them from securing a plumb appointment in the Bush administration. The media consumer is poorly served by this rampant but well hidden journalistic deceit.

The Blogging of Sally Smith

To explore this further, let’s look at the case of Sally Smith, a hypothetical blogger. Smith, although a conservative Republican since college, nonetheless recently has become a vocal critic of at least two well-known conservatives, one a high-ranking member of the Bush administration, the other a prominent pundit.

The targets of Smith’s ire are Mitch Daniels, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, whom she has described several times as a “a prominent player in the recent Lillygate scandal,” and William Kristol, an occasional contributor to the Washington Post’s op-ed page who is best known as the editor of a still comparatively new Washington-based right-wing magazine called the Weekly Standard.

Smith’s fellow conservative bloggers have chastised her for deviating from the party line. They have called her “shrill” and “emotional,” as well as “unpatriotic” and “an apologist for Saddam Hussein,” the latter two labels coming despite the fact she hasn’t written about the situation in the Middle East since Election Day. Right-wing bloggers are shocked to see Daniels and Kristol, men who normally are treated by other conservatives with kid gloves if they are publicly criticized at all, subject to such scrutiny. Her professional counterparts in the media, a few of whom have considered asking her for a submission or two, are even more mystified. Why is Smith acting like this?, they ask. Why has she strayed from the fold? Is she addled with amateurism? Is she insane? Is she stupid? Or is she just a bitch?

All of these questions are misguided. The hypothetical Smith has a good job, separate and apart from, and wholly unrelated to, her politically oriented blogging project. And she has a full and happy life. It is actually because of this -- not despite this -- that Smith writes with incomparable fervor about Daniels and Kristol, along with a few other conservatives she finds woefully lacking in intelligence and perspicacity, because she believes passionately in the issues she addresses at her site. More important, because Smith has a good job and a full and happy life, one in which her comments on pundits, commentators, and journalists of varying authenticity have no bearing, she has no reason to fear offending Daniels or Kristol or any person, institution, business, or enterprise with which they are associated, affiliated, or related.

Although Smith is a brilliant thinker and an outstanding writer, she cares not one whit about ever being published in conservative magazines like the Weekly Standard (Kristol’s home base, though one it is obvious is the subject of little of his purportedly brilliant mind’s attention), Commentary, the Public Interest, or City Journal (to name just a few of the little magazines where Daniels, Kristol, Kristol’s father, Irving Kristol, and their friends have influence). Nor does Smith expect or wish ever to appear on the op-ed pages of the New York Post, the Washington Times, or the Washington Post. However, as a conservative, Smith appreciates the Post’s increasingly evident enthusiasm for right-wing writers, both in the editorial section and even more obviously in the “Style” section -- that portion of the paper that used to be called “the Lady’s Page,” now home to gossip columnist Lloyd Grove and consummate television-watcher Howard Kurtz.

Smith is not bothered that Pat Buchanan might think she’s too much of an internationalist to warrant calling herself a conservative. Or that William F. Buckley Jr. objects to her criticism of Pope Pius XII. Or that Martin Peretz and William Safire are irritated by her favorable remarks about Israeli Labor Party candidate Amram Mitzna.

Smith doesn’t care that the Heritage Foundation will never come calling. Or that as a judge in southern Vermont she effected a dozen lawful gay unions last year, acts that forever have rendered her persona non grata to the self-appointed high priests and Pharisees of First Things and National Review.

Smith has no desire to appear on the radio with the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Laura Schlessinger, or the incredible-shrinking Laura Ingraham. Nor does Smith worry that because she has a career and only one child that Ann Coulter, who has a career and no children, will question her femininity, disparage her devotion to her child’s well being because she works outside the home, and insinuate that Smith has mothered only one child because she killed the rest of her babies.

And that’s all because unlike her Alpha and Beta counterparts in the media, Smith doesn’t suck up to anyone. She never has and she never will. Her weblog’s readers know this, appreciate this, and respect her for it. On the other hand, the subjects of her recurring critiques, particularly Kristol, will kiss anyone’s ass, at least anyone, in the case of politicians, after whose name the notation “(R)” appears, and regarding Kristol’s friends in the media and at Washington “think tanks,” after whose names it can be assumed the notation would comfortably appear.

Some of Kristol’s readers know this, but many do not. And those who do not apparently are happy to wallow in their ignorance, pleased to view one of the Republican National Committee’s most reliable media mouthpieces as a brave and lonely voice against the alleged power, corruption, and nefarious influence of that straw man to end all straw men, the “liberal media.”

“We are the Alpha Girls!”

In stark contrast lie the Alpha Girls of the media, a clique dominated by preening and presumptuous conservatives. We are all familiar with their names, their visages, their biases, and their enlarged personas. About those that have become veritable celebrities -- all too many, all of them unworthy, I might add -- we know from various reports a great deal more: That Limbaugh, who lives like a fatted calf in Palm Beach, avoided military service during the Vietnam War because of a few troublesome boils on his butt; that the traditional-family-values-defining-and-mandating Schlessinger is divorced, cannot maintain civil relations with her mother or sister, was an unfaithful wife, and gleefully posed for nude photographs; and that Ingraham once shoved a running garden hose through the mail slot of the Georgetown home of a lover who spurned her unwanted attention, pulled a gun on yet another boyfriend who grew tired of her demented obsessions, and refused to let her claimed love for her openly gay brother stop her from engaging in some of the most homophobic and unethical activities of any journalist, real or imagined, of her generation.

The Alphas of the media are the big guys and gals, the heavy hitters, the swinging dicks of popular political commentary, the fever-pitched voices that have developed a supernatural ability to reduce complicated political issues to the distorted and misleading five-word sound bites they use in both their written work and in their seemingly endless television and radio appearances.

As with teenage Alphas, this is a self-perpetuating elite, one that selects and grooms its latest recruits, thus remaking themselves in their own image and likeness, aided by the largesse of cooperative foundations and ideological training camps. Worse, within this clique, nepotism is rampant and the evidence for this is abundant: Witness the otherwise inexplicable status of the unbearably mediocre Tucker Carlson, John Podhoretz, Lally Weymouth, and, of course, the aforementioned Kristol, among many others.

As for apostates, forget it. The few that have dared to break away from the Alphas -- David Brock comes immediately to mind -- are at best given the silent treatment, shunned in an almost officially sanctioned manner just a step shy of that accorded to Jehovah’s Witnesses who leave the fold. Beyond that, the media’s Alpha Girls, adopting the modes of action typical of snotty 16-year-old cheerleaders, subject their heretics to character assassination, scurrilous rumors, and campaigns of disinformatzia that would make the old K.G.B. blush. And, of course, the access of the disloyal to such lifelines -- or gravy trains or pig troughs, if you will -- as the Scaife Trusts and the Smith Richardson, Olin, Coors, Lilly, Murdoch, DeVos, and Bradley Foundations, is terminated post-haste. Only the cool kids get to party with that money!

Membership in the media’s Alpha-Girl clique varies depending upon the subject at hand and the intensity of the public’s interest in the issue, though some Alphas have achieved so much clout that their status is permanent and unquestionable: These are the Über Alphas, if you will. However, based upon the criteria established by Talbot, it’s evident that on the subject of Al Gore, these are the punditburo’s Alpha Girls:

Fred Barnes, Robert Bartley, Tucker Carlson, Ann Coulter, Maureen Dowd, Paul Gigot, Jonah Goldberg, Sean Hannity, Mickey Kaus, Michael Kelly, Morton Kondracke, Howard Kurtz, Charles Krauthammer, Rush Limbaugh, Peggy Noonan, Robert Novak, Frank Rich, William Safire, Andrew Sullivan, and George Will.

Not all of the Alpha Girls are conservatives and not all conservatives are anti-Gore Alpha Girls. Some right-wing pundits have managed somehow to avoid becoming mired in the Gore Obsession. Others, while critical of Gore in the specious and sniveling form preferred by the Alpha Girls, are merely Betas, still aspiring for acceptance by the nastiest, most vicious, and most self-absorbed coterie of scoundrels the American media has ever seen.

When the subject is Al Gore, each of the pundits named here, each member of this gaggle of giggling geese can be counted upon to reveal him- or herself to be the quintessential 17-year-old Alpha Girl: immature, insecure, dishonest, manipulative, selfish, developmentally stunted, and desperate for the approval and affection of others.

These are the players. These are the purveyors and shapers of opinion today. Enjoy, America, this is your media.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Slandering Democrats

The Rittenhouse Review on Friday posted a recently published quote in which the cited writer accused Democrats of, in my words, “waft[ing] through life blissfully unaffected by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001[,]” and of suggesting that Democrats are “degenerate pacifists, trapped in a 1970s mindset, hostile to their own country, and indifferent to its fate.”

Readers were asked to try to identify the author and the source of publication.

The correct answers:

The quote is from an article, “Hurry Up,” in the November 25 issue of the New Republic. It was written by Ray Lizza, an associate editor at the magazine.

This particular issue of TNR is chock full of lame attempts to smear the Democratic Party’s leadership. It’s obvious the well married Martin Peretz and the rest of the gang are going to be pretty cranky for the foreseeable future.

If you’re interested in gleaning the tone of future issues of TNR, don’t miss the November 25 issue’s cover story, “Follow the Leader” by Michael Crowley, an article that while intermittently aiming for fairness is nothing more than a thinly disguised hatchet job on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Friday, November 22, 2002  

Organizing a Stream of Consciousness

DUELING MUSCLES: My copies of Men’s Health and Men’s Journal invariably arrive in the mailbox on the same day. This is a fortunate coincidence of events since were it not for the typically far more aesthetically pleasing covers of Men’s Health, I wouldn’t be able to tell the two books apart.

And by the way, while we’re on the subject of men’s magazines: Exactly how many articles about getting a really close shave am I supposed to read?


WEIRDO WATCH: I was thinking today that my use of the phrase “international Zionist conspiracy” on Thursday is likely to bring a whole new batch of nuts to the site.


“SPREEK JE NEDERLANDS?”: You know, a person who can read both English and German is apt to find learning Dutch to be sort of a breeze. And then from there it’s a quick jaunt over to Afrikaans, which, as a wise man once said, is really just Dutch dumbed-down so the Boers would be able to write complete sentences.

[Noted: Edited, or corrected, rather, post-publication, and twice no less, under the guidance of Martin Wisse of Progressive Gold Beta, where he made note of my mistake, and a helpful reader. Hey, I said it was fairly easy to learn to read Dutch. Writing it, obviously, is another story. At least for me, apparently. Oh, and Professor Wisse, I actually like the way Dutch sounds, though it might seem less harsh to some ears if the Netherlanders hadn’t put so many g’s in their words.]


THE BONE CRUSHER’S RED PEN: One of these days I’m going to go through my files to see whether I can find the memo I wrote, maybe six or seven years ago, explaining the proper use of the words “that” and “which.” And when I find it I’m going to send it to every American who ever has had a byline or appeared on a masthead.

The memo was one of a series I periodically distributed around the newsroom in an effort, fairly successful I’m pleased to say, to improve the editors’ and reporters’ writing. I think the infamous “That and Which” memo went out about every six weeks, as I have a real “thing” about this one.

If any of my former colleagues are reading this and still have a copy of “That and Which,” please let me know. You will have made a cranky old man very happy.


SEARCHING FOR BED LINENS: Does anyone know where I can buy Marimekko sheets on line? (Hey, I said they were very random thoughts and observations.)

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


She Called `Em As She Saw `Em

I always knew the late Eppie Lederer, a/k/a Ann Landers, was one cool lady.

Here’s Miss Landers sharing a few pre-election thoughts about President Bush with her twin sister, Pauline Phillips, a/k/a Dear Abby:

I’m nervous about the upcoming election. I can’t bear the thought of looking at George Bush’s smirk for the next four years -- maybe eight.

The guy is extremely [sic] good[-]looking [sic], but when he opens his mouth, you know that he is not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree.

That was Ann Landers, I guess. Quick with a quip, but a master of the understatement.

But dare I ask? Is it possible President Bush is responsible for Miss Landers’s death? Perhaps she just couldn’t take it any longer. (Who can?) And if so, is it fair to assume she died prematurely because the Supreme Court decided Bush and not former Vice President Al Gore should be president?

Not to worry. I’m sure Robert Bartley and Paul Gigot are all over this one.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


They’re Slandering Democrats Again

A little puzzle as we head into the weekend . . .

Read the following remarks and then try to guess the publication in which they appeared (very well known) and who wrote them (not very well known):

“One of the most widespread criticisms of Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) is that he is talking about bold new ideas without offering any. But, on two of the most pressing issues of the day, Iraq and the tax cut, he has put forward views that will take the Democrats further than anything Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has offered. Ford voted for the use-of-force resolution but, in explaining that decision last week, said something simple and profound: ‘September eleventh changed things for me.’ In other words, he recognized -- as few other Democrats seemed to -- that catastrophic terrorism requires a rethinking of how Democrats approach foreign policy.”

It’s amazing what passes for “profound” these days, isn’t it? Oh, and what the hell, while we’re ascribing profundity to the merely banal, why not throw in a lie about how our craven Democratic lawmakers waft through life blissfully unaffected by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001? Let’s see what we can do to get everyone to believe Democrats are degenerate pacifists, trapped in a 1970s mindset, hostile to their own country, and indifferent to its fate. Nope, ain’t nobody doin’ any thinkin’ on this side of the aisle . . . You boys just go about your business.

I’ll share the correct answers with you on Monday.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


It’s Time to Take a Stand

I began writing this post two months ago and it has been sitting on my hard drive since then, mostly gathering dust, though every now and again I have retrieved it, reread it, made some minor edits, and then returned it to storage, uncertain whether it should be published.

Now, however, I have decided it’s time to take a stand.

I can no longer in good conscience include on the Rittenhouse Review’s blogroll any weblog that has provided a permanent blogroll link of its own to the site known as “Little Green Footballs” or “LGF.”

It is with great regret and considerable lament that I have adopted this position -- or been forced to adopt this position -- as I am normally a passionate advocate of an author’s right to choose his associates and to establish and maintain her own chosen associations.

However, it has become painfully clear, to the extent it wasn’t already, that the hosts of LGF, while preciously coy about their own political persuasions, all too willingly and not without satisfaction have allowed their site to become a vile cesspool of racism, bigotry, prejudice, ignorance, and hate.

Little Green Footballs, its readers, and what can in fairness only be described as its many contributors, have long since moved beyond the realm of civilized discourse.

Worse, the site’s unwillingness to tolerate comments that deviate from the house line and its active and aggressive deletion of comments from readers that it deems objectionable -- and the “bright line” test involved is almost totalitarian in nature and scope -- is nothing less than a disgrace. (I know because I have tested it several times.)

And so I am determined to distance myself in every possible way from their endeavor and those who support it.

I fully expect to be raked over the coals for this decision, to be called all sorts of names, and to be disparaged with merciless unfairness and obloquy.

Too bad. There are times when enough is enough, and this is one such time.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Thursday, November 21, 2002  

I Guess I Just Hate Feeling Left Out

Yes, the rumors are true. The buzz is on point. (Tina Brown fed me that line.) I’m back. I have returned.

And, as you have surely noticed -- in my posts about the Lillygate scandal (Note to progbloggers: Please make, uh, liberal use of that phrase. If nothing else, “Lillygate” beats the hell out of “eagles.”) and the mind of Father Richard John Neuhaus -- that I’m mad as hell and . . . I just might . . . I’m going to . . . Fool me once . . . Oh, I don’t know, I didn’t even see the friggin’ movie, okay?

On the bright side, my sources tell me that because of my return Ann Coulter has started eating again, Andrew Sullivan is fact-checking his own ass, Professor InstaLinker swears he’ll read the articles about which he posts, Matt Drudge is burning that dopey hat, John Fund isn’t going to hit anybody, Daniel Pipes is lunching with Yasir Arafat, Norah Vincent is letting her hair grow (And has moved frighteningly close to Philadelphia!), Lloyd Grove is buying some new ties, Michelle Malkin is researching her immigrant-stock-laden family tree, Tammy Bruce is selling her guns, Howard Kurtz is looking for meaningful employment, Martin Peretz has forsaken Anne’s dowry and really, truly is going to make it on his own this time, Michael Kelly is planning to rejoin the human race, Rush Limbaugh is having those pesky anal cysts removed, Amy Reiter has pledged never again to mention Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Diane E. has stopped blogging in order to devote her full energy to avoiding colored people on the subway, Peter Bacanovic is going to ask me out, and Peggy Noonan is swearing off acid, for real this time.

By the way, my break was far shorter than I anticipated -- Thank you very much, Eli Lilly! -- but it’s good to be back.

I didn’t accomplish anything I hoped to. For one thing, the stack of magazines and journals on my desk is larger than ever. And while I was gone I noticed there’s another stack in the living room and another on one of my nightstands -- the place where, in days gone by, my copies of the New Yorker went to die but not before mocking me with unrelenting viciousness: “There’s a 90,000-word article about Peruvian anchovy fishermen inside me. And it’s only the first of three parts. I know you want it! Open me! Come to me, baby! Make Uncle William happy!”

I didn’t read any books -- hell, I didn’t even start any books. I haven’t finished unpacking, my exploration of this great city was limited to finding the nearest shoe-repair shop, I didn’t do any non-blog writing (unless signing checks counts), and Mildred still isn’t in daycare.

I want to thank everyone -- and there truly were many -- who sent thoughtful messages, flowers, and small tasteful gifts encouraging a productive break while also revealing their intention to get a new Valium prescription for the interim. My thanks go out as well as to those who sent kind words, flowers, and small tasteful gifts welcoming my return.

For those of you who didn’t send a nice note, flowers, or a small tasteful gift -- Not even a Bundt cake, huh? -- well, just remember I can make adjustments to that blogroll at any time! Only kidding. (A little.)

Well, back to work, people! There’s a war getting on. Three, actually. The war on terror, which during my absence suddenly excluded Osama bin Laden and will someone please explain that to me? The war on Iraq. And the war on the irredeemable sociopaths who make up the Republican Party.

[Note: I stole that line, “Not even a Bundt cake, huh?” from “The Golden Girls.” Sophia said it when the other girls came to visit her, empty-handed, in the convent. I still laugh when I hear that line. And when I say it to myself. Don’t mind me.]

[POST-PUBLICATION NOTE: Skimble sends a Bundt cake. Thanks, pal.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Special Interests or Irredeemable Sociopaths?

If you haven’t been reading P.L.A. - A Journal of Politics, Law & Autism, WampumBlog, or A Skeptical Blog this week, you no doubt have had a more relaxing week than I -- and my week pales in comparison to what the parents of autistic children were put through as a direct result of the despicable, dishonorable, and deceitful actions of Rep. Dick Armey (R-Texas), his fellow Republicans -- including President Bush, Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels, and House Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) -- and Eli Lilly & Co.

What I learned was shocking and sickening. The sordid tale of Lilly’s moral bankruptcy and the willingness of congressional Republicans and the Bush administration to advance the company’s depraved agenda left me on the verge of either a full-on psychotic break or a massive stroke, the anger dulling my ability to distinguish between the two. (In the end, I decided that if I had to choose, I would go with the stroke, if only because Lilly manufactures a drug called Zyprexa that, in addition to treating schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, is also sometimes used to treat psychosis.) It is, in fact, this issue that sparked my earlier-than-anticipated return to writing for the site.

The weblogs to which I referred earlier relay the specifics of this matter, particularly the science and the history, far better than I could. I’ll just say, in hopes of spurring you to learn more, that Lilly formerly manufactured a mercury-based compound called Thimerosal that was used as a stabilizing agent in vaccines for infants and children. There is some evidence, an incrementally growing body of evidence, that Thimerosal from vaccinations may be linked to the development of autism, the prevalence of this disorder having increased markedly in the years following the introduction of the compound into the ever-growing number of vaccines given to infants and toddlers.

Unfortunately precious little research has been done on the possible link between Thimerosal and autism, and even less research was performed -- in fact, virtually none as I understand it -- before the pharmaceutical and medical industries started injecting a mercury-based compound into the arms or butts, or wherever these things go these days, of delicate and not yet fully formed six-month-old infants.

Although the verdict is not yet in, it appears at least possible that Lilly made and sold and distributed and encouraged the use of a dangerous and unstudied and untested compound. Science may be catching up with Lilly. The public relations are disastrous. The drumbeat of possible liability lawsuits can be heard off in the distance.

In a situation like this, what’s a company like Lilly to do? The same damned thing every other red blooded, Fortune-500, American corporation does: It faces the sometimes brutal consequences of free-market capitalism, taking up the challenge with steely determination and unrestrained vigor.

No, actually corporations in such straits most often run to Washington for protection, and that’s exactly what Lilly did.

Lilly, hardly an inexperienced slouch in this regard, correctly assumed its $1.6 million of congressional campaign contributions this cycle alone, 80 percent of which went to Republicans, would ensure a welcome audience. (That OMB Director Daniels is a former Lilly lobbyist didn’t hurt either.) In fact, Lilly, armed with its hard-won and pricey arrogance, went right to the top: asking and gaining the direct and eager assistance of Rep. Armey who, following marching orders, inserted an amendment shielding Lilly, before the necessary research has been performed, from liability associated with the use of Thimerosal in vaccines into a major health care reform bill. No, that’s not it. Into a landmark tort reform act. No, that’s not it either. Into a bill providing affordable prescription drug coverage for senior citizens. No. Into a proposed law to ensure that every child in this country gets the health care he needs for a fair start in life. No, not that either.

It was slipped into the bill creating a Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security.

Not long ago President Bush made the slanderous and McCarthy-esque charge that Democrats were delaying enactment of legislation to create a Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security -- legislation that in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, he vigorously opposed -- because, he said, they cared more about “special interests” than the security of the American people. It was the Democrats, he claimed, who once again were being held captive to “special interests,” in this case that great bogeyman that just scares the bejeezus out of Republicans, and strangely, scares the hell out of millions of Americans who would benefit from joining one: labor unions.

One of the highest-ranking Republicans in the House of Representatives inserts a blatantly protectionist, narrowly written, special-interest measure into an entirely unrelated piece of legislation at the behest of the great Eli Lilly (2001 revenues: $11.54 billion. 2001 net income: $2.81 billion. 2001 net profit margin: 24.4 percent.) and the Democrats are called “captives of special interests”?

If we’re to accept this formulation, what does that make Republicans who so eagerly put Lilly’s interests ahead of those of defenseless American children?

Criminally negligent?

Pathologically disturbed?

Irredeemable sociopaths?

(I have to say the most enraging image that comes to mind at the moment is of Lilly’s lobbyists gathering at the Capital Grille to celebrate their “victory” over clinking glasses of champagne.)

After reading up on Lilly and Armey’s shenanigans, and being the curious type -- or, more accurately, the type that likes to make the scurrilous squirm -- I called Lilly’s public relations office to see what they had to say about the matter. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that both of the women with whom I spoke claimed to have no idea whatsoever what I was talking about.

Both women professed to never having heard of Thimerosal before the word came from my mouth. Both said Thimerosal was not mentioned in the briefing books through which they thumbed. And both said no information about Thimerosal was available in the database they accessed during my call.

Have you ever felt certain -- but could not prove -- another person was lying to you? That’s how I felt when I spoke with Lilly. Why do I have this nagging suspicion that when someone from Lilly’s p.r. department enters the word Thimerosal into her computer a warning symbol flashes on the screen, alerting the user, “Do not respond to any inquiries regarding Thimerosal!” I know, I can’t prove it, and it may not actually happen, but is it really that great a leap?

The first woman with whom I spoke chided me gently, saying words to the effect, “Well, if it’s not in the computer then we don’t make it anymore so I don’t see why there would be a problem.”

The second woman, introduced to me by the first as “a highly trained nurse,” was either equally disingenuous or equally ill informed, but she helpfully offered this assurance: “I’m really not being coy with you. It’s just that I’ve never heard of Thimerosal before.” (She did, however, pronounce the word flawlessly, and knew how to spell it, that tricky “a” in the final syllable notwithstanding.)

In return, I assured her that given Lilly’s potential legal liability and the active -- and very current -- interest of the company’s government relations department in the issue, Lilly’s general counsel would know full well what I was talking about. I insisted she check with her legal department and call me back to let me know what they had to say.

That was Tuesday. It’s now Thursday night, and as yet no word from the highly trained nurse.

Ma’am, if you’re reading this, and I doubt you are -- though I sure as hell hope you stopped by the web sites to which I directed you -- I’m still waiting. And I’m going to call again.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


More Notes from the Conservative Media

A DIRTY MIND: One has to wonder how the mind of someone like Father Richard John Neuhaus works. Father Neuhaus, editor of First Things, a conservative monthly magazine about religion and public life, rarely misses a chance to gripe and fret and moan about “the homosexuals” and their imminent takeover of American society.

Father Neuhaus’s latest homophobic spleen venting was sparked by the decision of the New York Times to include gay unions in what used to be known as the paper’s “Weddings” pages.

In his interminable monthly column, “The Public Square,” in the November issue of First Things, Father Neuhaus comments on the September 8 edition of the Times, which included this notice:

Thomas William Leonard and Ralph Christopher Lione will declare their commitment today in a ceremony aboard the Yankee Ferry, a floating museum, docked at Pier 25 in Lower Manhattan.

“We are told they ‘will declare their commitment,’” Father Neuhaus writes with an unconcealed sneer, “which . . . presumably means their desire to be known not just as a couple of guys but as guys who are a couple.”

To Father Neuhaus, this notice stands in stark contrast to the other commitments announced in the Times. “The other announcements are about two people entering the institution of marriage defined by centuries of public custom and law entailing promises, obligations, property rights, and, at least implicitly, the next generation of families,” the good father instructs us.

Then Father Neuhaus, whose respect for his own family’s rich history, traditions, and customs did not prevent him from leaving their faith, continues:

Mr. Leonard and Mr. Lione, on the other hand, “declare their commitment.” Presumably they are friends who really love one another, are homosexual, are living together, and want everybody to know about it. Well, good for them. No, I don’t mean good as in good. I mean that, since I don’t know them and have no direct responsibility for their spiritual welfare, I don’t think their feelings or living arrangements or sexual practices are any of my business. [Emphasis added.]

Excuse me? None of this, Father Neuhaus tells us, is “any of my business,” a statement he feels comfortable making after already having devoted nearly 450 words toward making it not only his business but that of his readers as well. Alas, plunging further into the well of lunacy, the former Lutheran minister writes:

Not very long ago, such publicity would have been condemned as an invasion of privacy. People who publicize the private details of their lives used to be called exhibitionists.

And with these last remarks -- breathtaking in the psychological insights they provide -- we have Father Neuhaus taking his naked insanity into the public square for one and all to see.

Reading about the union of Leonard and Lione is “an invasion of privacy.” Leonard and Lione are “publiciz[ing] the private details of their lives.” In another place and time Leonard and Lione would have been called “exhibitionists.”

If so, then what about Sara Falkenberry and Eric Ridder III? Or Rachel Zimmerman and Seth Teller? Or Anne Carey and Michael Kelly? Or Julie Bauman and George du Pont?

The unions of these four couples were among the many others announced on the “Weddings/Celebrations” pages of the Times of September 8.

Have we not also invaded their privacy? Are they not also publicizing the private details of their lives? Are they not also exhibitionists?

After all, Father Neuhaus himself wrote that these eight people entered an institution “entailing . . . at least implicitly, the next generation of families,” a delicate but unambiguous way of telling his readers that Sara and Eric and Rachel and Seth and Anne and Michael and Julie and George will soon begin -- if they haven’t already -- having sexual relations with each other, or with their respective spouses at least, in an effort to have children.

Indeed, Father Neuhaus told me more -- and more than I really needed to know -- about the private lives and sexual practices of Sara and Eric and Rachel and Seth and Anne and Michael and Julie and George than he did about Thomas and Ralph.

It’s quite clear, to me at least, that Father Neuhaus cannot read a simple notice about a union of two gay men without imaging them in bed together, and that these mental images, which he cannot control, cause him considerable discomfort and perhaps even anxiety, in the clinical sense of that term.

Not long ago I wrote briefly here about the October wedding of Ayala Cohen and John Podhoretz, whose marriage was announced in the Times. In reading about their wedding and later in writing about it, it never occurred to me that Mr. and Mrs. Podhoretz were publicizing private details of their lives. Nor did I think I had invaded their privacy. Nor did I consider them exhibitionists. Nor did I conjure up mental images of the consummation of their relationship. I simply wished them well.

I guess some people are just different that way.


TEMPER, TEMPER: There were no fisticuffs (I really like that word, “fisticuffs,” by the way.), but tempers flared during self-styled free speech advocate David Horowitz’s visit to the University of Illinois-Chicago earlier this month.

Horowitz was so incensed by an opponent’s sign reading “Racist, Sexist, Anti-Gay. Don't let him go unchallenged,” and by the school’s unwillingness to have the offending poster removed (i.e., suppressed), that he literally took matters into his own hands: Horowitz grabbed the sign and tore it up. [Link requires registration.]

From a public relations perspective this wasn’t the smartest thing for Horowitz to do, particularly since the episode occurred before he made his speech. However, I empathize with Horowitz’s frustration as the event proceeded. There really is no justification -- anywhere or anytime, but particularly in an academic setting -- to heckle a speaker. Please, my fellow “Bolsheviks” (see article), we are better than that.


DUNCE CAP: Smarter Andrew Sullivan has been knocking Sully around quite a bit lately, taking on the bitter Brit’s recent nonsense about the Bradley Lecture (conveniently delivered on his dissertation subject, Michael Oakeshott: zzzzzzzzzz); the military’s big and brawny, as well as its “small and skinny and young and pimply”; the still-living Osama bin Laden; and Sullivan’s mysterious relationship with the Washington Times.

Smarter Andrew Sullivan also has a few words to say about Sullivan’s usual Howell Raines stuff, in a piece that begins: “Today Andrew Sullivan (R) put on his media critic hat--the tall, pointed, cone-shaped one--for yet another lame rush at New York Times Executive Editor Howell Raines.”


THOSE GUYS AT THE STANDARD ARE HILARIOUS: I caught this little nugget in the November 18 issue of the Weekly Standard: “HELP WANTED: The Weekly Standard is looking to hire an assistant art director. Expertise in QuarkXPress and Photoshop is required. Our ideal candidate is someone with strong production skills….” (“Looking to hire”? Let me get out my old “Bone Crusher the Feared Editor” red pen for this one. “Looking to hire”? Come on, Bill, are you hiring an assistant art director or not? You are? Then say so, damn it!)

Anyway . . . “Expertise . . . is required”? Ho! Have you seen the magazine? A monkey with a Quark manual could put it together. Without using the manual.


COINCIDENCE OR INTERNATIONAL ZIONIST CONSPIRACY? How odd, really, that five of the most detestable members of the right-wing punditburo have surnames beginning with the letter “k”: Kaus, Kelly, Keyes, Krauthammer, and Kurtz, belonging, respectively, to Mick, Mike, Al, Chuck, and Howie.

There’s something to this, I just know there is.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, November 20, 2002  

There is Much Good Here

It is with great sadness that I read, with depressing regularity, so much irrational and misinformed hate and invective directed toward the Catholic Church from liberal and left publications.

This lament is even more deeply felt when I read the posts of webloggers I consider allies and friends who have moved well beyond skepticism -- humanistic or otherwise -- to outright hostility toward Catholicism, the Catholic Church, and Catholics, much of it seemingly motivated by little more than a wholly misguided attempt to assert the writer’s demonstrably deficient moral and intellectual superiority.

And so, while I have not yet returned to publishing regularly, I could not leave unnoticed this article from today’s New York Times -- “Nuns Bring Hope to Mississippi Delta Towns,” by Peter T. Kilborn.

One need not agree with every tenet, nor even a single tenet, of the Catholic faith, nor admire nor respect the Church itself, nor ignore its many faults, to appreciate the enormous contributions the Church, including in particular its selfless religious, has made, and continues to make, for the betterment of the lives of our less fortunate.

How sad, how pathetic and depraved, that this good work so often goes unnoticed.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Thursday, November 14, 2002  

Please Come Back Soon

Friends, it’s time for a break.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new perspective will do you a world of good.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Monday, November 11, 2002  

The Results Are In

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, to the results . . .

Frankly, it wasn’t even close.

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

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

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

Thanks to everyone for participating.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Who Are These People?

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Notes From the Conservative Media

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

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

Gosh, I wonder whom Safire will choose?


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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Thursday, November 07, 2002  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have fun!

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Heads Must Roll

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

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

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


But I’m a Little Rusty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Damned if I Know. But the Italians Do.

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

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

La Crudelia del Duemila Trova un Posto da Deputato

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

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

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

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

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

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, November 06, 2002  

Perspectives on the Election

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



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


A LEVEL GAZE - David Yaseen:

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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


CAL-PUNDIT - Kevin Drum:

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


COOPED-UP - Jeff Cooper:

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



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

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

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



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

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


ESCHATON - Atrios:

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


FREE PIE - Kim Osterwalder:

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


GROUPTHINK CENTRAL - Yuval Rubinstein:

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


MAD KANE’S NOTABLES - Madeleine Begun Kane:

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


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

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

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

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


THE POOR MAN - Andrew Northrup:

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


READING & WRITING - Joseph Duemer:

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



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

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

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


THE SIDESHOW - Avedon Carol:

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



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


TWO TEARS IN A BUCKET - Ann Salisbury:

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

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |