The Rittenhouse Review

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

Monday, March 31, 2003  

Brought to You by the Patriot Act

Excerpts from "FBI, Joint Terrorism Agents Search Home in Hillsboro," by Mark Larabee and Les Zaitz, The Oregonian, March 21:

A software designer was being held Thursday as a material witness in a terrorism investigation after FBI agents searched his Hillsboro home and his office at Intel.

According to neighbors and co-workers, Maher Mofeid Hawash, 38, was the target of Thursday's searches by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Hawash was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center on Thursday afternoon and put on a "material witness hold" at the request of the U.S. Marshal's Service, a sheriff's department spokesman said. A material witness designation allows the government to hold someone in order to compel testimony.

The FBI issued a short statement Thursday morning saying that in an "ongoing investigation," the Joint Terrorism Task Force had executed four federal search warrants in the Hillsboro area and that the Hillsboro Police Department assisted in the searches.

Prosecutors and investigators refused to say who the target of their search was or what they were looking for. The federal search warrants filed in the case are sealed, meaning the information in them is secret. Asked whether anyone was taken into custody as a result of the searches, officials said they could not answer the question because of a court order.

"A software designer." "Agents searched…his office at Intel." Maher Mofeid Hawash.

It all sounds so…sinister, doesn't it?

The Oregonian seems to be happy to play along: "Hawash, who also goes by the name 'Mike'" was how Larabee and Zaitz framed that nugget. "Goes by the name"? You mean, like an alias? Or something more ordinary, like maybe a nickname? Or something akin to the way my grandfather was called Lou, even though his parents named him Lucido?

Oh, and The Oregonian's report left out one very important fact: Mr. Hawash is a citizen of the United States. He's as American as, well, even Michelle Malkin and her Filipino immigrant parents.

Details are sketchy -- what with the grotesquely misnamed Patriot Act and all -- but the trigger behind the FBI's raid, which included the obligatory assault rifles, apparently was contributions Hawash made to an organization called the Global Relief Foundation. Hawash says he believed he was donating to a humanitarian organization; the FBI says the group provided funds for terrorist activities.

Friends of Hawash, currently detained incommunicado at in the Sheridan (Ore.) Federal Prison, have launched a web site, "Free Mike Hawash," where you can find more information about the matter and a defense fund they have established.

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Michelle Malkin's Living the Easy Life

Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin is certainly living the easy life.

Her latest column, at least in the form I saw it in the Philadelphia Daily News, "They're Green With Hatred for U.S.," is vintage Malkin in its theme and tone. Like the rest of her recent columns, this one can be summarized in one sentence: The real war is here at home and it's being waged by "America-hating leftists."

The rest is just filler. And I mean that literally.

I ran today's column through the counter embedded within Microsoft Word. The tally: 627 words, the customary length of a PDN op-ed piece. But of those 627 words, 347, comprising more than half of her column, are taken up by Malkin's seven-point summary of a platform of action written by an anti-war and environmental activist, one she is convinced is "an anarchist menace" to the very foundations of our society but also one whose name I can't recall having heard before this morning.

Call it bad blogging, but in print.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Sunday, March 30, 2003  

And While He's Here, He's Blogging

Former senator Gary Hart (D-Colo.) is in the building. And while he's here, in the building, I mean, he's blogging.

Hart posted his first blog entry yesterday, Saturday, March 29, under the title, "Gary Hart: From the Road."

As I say, Welcome to the fray, Mr. Hart.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Senators of the 108th Congress

The U.S. Senate has been called, and rightly so, the most exclusive gentlemen's club in the world. It's purportedly a chummy place and members are loath to criticize each other publicly, even in the most polite terms. (Gee whiz, sounds like just the kind of place that wouldn't welcome me with open arms and one in which I might not fit well.)

Anyway, it will come as no surprise that I have spent considerable time over the past three months evaluating the current Senate membership. As I engaged in this project I fully expected that my home, Pennsylvania, would easily rank as the most poorly represented state in the upper chamber.

I was surprised, however, to find that no fewer than 17 states easily could compete for the same dishonor. The list, published below, obviously represents the view of a liberal Democrat -- there, I said it -- but make no mistake, there are plenty of Democrats in the Senate who continually disappointment me, Sens. John Breaux (La.), Hillary Clinton (N.Y.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Joseph Lieberman (Conn.), and Zell Miller (Ga.) coming most immediately to mind.

My nominations:

Sen. Jeff Session (R)
Sen. Richard Shelby (R)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R)
Sen. Ted Stevens (R)

Sen. Wayne Allard (R)
Sen. Ben Campbell (R)

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R)
Sen. Zell Miller (D)

Sen. Larry Craig (R)
Sen. Michael Crapo (R)

Sen. Sam Brownback (R)
Sen. Pat Roberts (R)

Sen. Jim Bunning (R)
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R)

Sen. Susan Collins (R)
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R)

Sen. Thad Cochran (R)
Sen. Trent Lott (R)

Sen. Christopher Bond (R)
Sen. James Talent (R)

Sen. Judd Gregg (R)
Sen. John Sununu (R)

Sen. James Inofe (R)
Sen. Don Nickles (R)

Sen. Rick Santorum (R)
Sen. Arlen Specter (R)

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R)
Sen. Bill Frist (R)

Sen. John Cornyn (R)
Sen. Kay Hutchison (R)

Sen. Robert Bennett (R)
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R)

Sen. George Allen (R)
Sen. John Warner (R)

Sen. Michael Enzi (R)
Sen. Craig Thomas (R)

Depressing, isn't it?

I would be interested in hearing my readers' reaction to this list. Please send your comments to the Review's new address and let me know if I may publish your comments at Letters to The Rittenhouse Review. (Names will be withheld on request but must be provided.)

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The Toll So Far: 27

Thomas Mullen Adams, 27, La Mesa, Calif.

Jamaal R. Addison, 22, Roswell, Ga.

Jay Thomas Aubin, 26, Waterville, Maine

Ryan Anthony Beaupre, 30, St. Anne, Ill.

Michael E. Bitz, 31, Ventura, Calif.

Brian Rory Buesing, 20, Cedar Key, Fla.

Therrel S. Childers, 30, Harrison County, Miss.

David K. Fribley, 26, Lee, Calif.

José A. Garibey, 21, Orange, Calif.

Jorge A. Gonzalez, 20, Los Angeles

Jose Gutierrez, 22, Los Angeles

Nicolas M. Hodson, 22, Smithville, Mo.

Evan James, 20, La Harpe, Ill.

Howard Johnson II, 21, Mobile, Ala.

Michael Vann Johnson Jr. , 25, Little Rock, Ark.

Phillip A. Jordan, 42, Brazoria, Texas

Brian Matthew Kennedy, 25, Houston

Bradley S. Korthaus, 28, Scott. Iowa

Eric J. Orlowski, 26, Buffalo, N.Y.

Frederick E. Pokorney, 31, Nye, Nev.

Randal Kent Rosacker, 21, San Diego

Gregory P. Sanders, 19, Hobart, Ind.

Christopher Scott Seifert, 27, Williams Township, Pa.

Thomas J. Slocum, 22, Adams, Colo.

Gregory Stone, 40, Boise, Ida.

Brandon S. Tobler, 19, N.A.

Kendall Damon Waters-Bey, 29, Baltimore

(Source: New York Times, March 30, 2003.)

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Saturday, April 12

As noted here at the Review last week, a group of Philadelphia-area bloggers are gathering for coffee and, subsequently, drinks, on Saturday, April 12, beginning at 8:00 p.m. at Xando, possibly now known as Così (I don't get over there very often), at 325 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, under the direction of Go Fish author and proprietor, Nicole.

Nicole tells me all Philly bloggers, their readers, and friends are welcome.

See you there.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Saturday, March 29, 2003  

Can You Help?

One of the most valuable voices of the blogosphere, that of Mary Beth Williams of the inestimable Wampum, has been silenced.

No, not by the evil people at Eli Lilly & Co., as first crossed my mind -- though I suppose it's at least possible -- nor by Attorney General Short Stick -- that's being saved for some time in the future -- but by Blogspot.

In private correspondence Ms. Williams briefly described the problems she has experienced while attempting to post to Wampum since at least Friday morning. As much as I wish I could help, I don't know enough about the technology involved to be of any assistance.

If you think you might be able to help, please send Ms. Williams an e-mail. It is important for all of us that she gets back on line.


[Post-publication addendum (March 30): Wampum is up and running again, and for this the world is a better place.]

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Loose Cannon. Loose Screws.

The loose cannon with the loose screws who currently runs the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, was running off all half-cocked again yesterday, apparently threatening, or coming pretty damned close, military action against Iran and Syria. (See, for example, "Rumsfeld Cautions Iran and Syria on Aid to Iraq," by Eric Schmitt and David E. Sanger, New York Times, March 29.)

Rumsfeld accused Syria and Iran today of interfering with the American war effort in Iraq.

He said he [sic] would hold the Syrian government accountable, the first time anyone in the administration has suggested that the confrontation could be broadened to include states that could be aiding the Iraqi forces....

Mr. Rumsfeld's comments, at a Pentagon briefing, seemed to take White House officials by surprise, but more for their timing than their content.

Several senior administration officials said they were pleased that Mr. Rumsfeld had challenged the two countries so directly....

"I don't think you'll hear the president upbraiding Rumsfeld for what he said," one senior administration official said tonight. "He gave public voice to something that has been talked about around here for a week."

Ah, but, and there's always a but:

Mr. Rumsfeld's statements not only took Syria by surprise but seemed to stun some at the Pentagon, who have never seemed to become accustomed to the fact that the defense secretary knows how to make headlines.

"I was surprised," said one senior military official.

So was the White House. "It's fair to say he didn't tell us this was coming," said one official. "Then again, he rarely does."

Notwithstanding today's party line, which the media are only to happy to feed viewers and readers, holding that the swift advance toward and upon Baghdad all along had incorporated a break ranging from one to three weeks, should the war on Iraq continue to fare as poorly as it has so far, mark my words that great Washington tradition -- "Heads will roll!" -- shall reemerge.

If that happens, cocky braggart Rumsfeld's head is sure to be among the first to drop from the blade to the bucket, and deservedly so.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Thursday, March 27, 2003  

Or, Why Hearing the Curtis Institute Symphony Can Be Painful

We all have our roads not taken, the paths of life we chose not to follow or were hindered or prevented from pursuing. I have many, one of which came to mind again last night while I was listening to a performance by the Symphony Orchestra of the Curtis Institute of Music.

You know, I was pretty good way back when. At music, I mean. I learned -- or just as often, taught myself -- to play the piano, the organ, the oboe, the French horn, the clarinets, the saxophones, and the flute. (I went to a very small school: Each year I was assigned the instrument that was needed to fill the band's most glaring hole.)

Okay, so maybe I was just "pretty good" for a kid growing up in a small village in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York, but a pair of talented and well educated instructors from my elementary and junior high school days seemed to think I had the right stuff.

But I gave it all up. Gradually, at first, as the end of high school approached, and then more rapidly, and finally entirely, during college. (I did try to learn the violin about ten years ago, but that was kind of a disaster I would just as soon forget.)

My departure from this road ultimately not taken was caused, motivated, or sparked by separate impulses and influences during high school and college.

While in college I didn't have the time to practice even on my first instrument, the piano, let alone any of the others. Over time I became frustrated by my inability to sight read pieces I once could have played by ear after having heard them just one or two times. Sonatas I previously knew by heart became laborious to play, even with the sheet music before my face. Eventually, I simply lost interest.

High school, a more critical period in the larger scheme of things, was a different story. I pulled away from music -- practicing, playing, performing, and writing music -- because of peer pressure of the ugliest sort. After years of unrelenting and vicious mockery at the hands and mouths of classmates and even my siblings, I decided studying music -- and learning it and loving it -- was simply not worth the pain. I kept playing, but I was no longer trying very hard.

Why playing the piano made me "a faggot" remains for me an unanswered question. (Oddly enough, my classmates and siblings were right, though I became -- or, more accurately, was then already -- "a faggot" for other, still unknown, reasons.)

I admit to being envious of the Curtis students in the conservatory's orchestra. "That could have been me," I kept thinking. Or not. I really have no idea whether I was or could have been as good as the Curtis's players are. But a small part of me will always wonder. And a larger part of me will always resent that I let the ignorance of others keep me from finding out.

[Post-publication addendum (March 28): The Curtis Institute's Symphony won a solidly favorable review from Philadelphia Inquirer music critic David Patrick Stearns, published in today's paper as "Curtis'[s] Unleashed Mahler is Genuine." I generally agree with Stearns's points, but was disappointed he offered no comments on the orchestra's strings, particularly the violins. They're a very talented group, but I was struck by the violinists' lack of depth, as a group that is. The better players are, or at least soon will be, world class, but once you get to the third or fourth row of both the first and second violins, there is a noticeable decline in musicality. Overall, though, the Curtis's performance of a very difficult piece, Gustave Mahler's Symphony No. 5, was impressive, with the woodwinds and brass given an opportunity to shine they grabbed with appropriate gusto. (Note: The orchestra also performed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Flute Concerto No. 2 in D Major with Jeffrey Khaner, principal flutist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, both pieces under the direction of conductor David Zinman.)]

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Richard Perle Resigns from Defense Policy Advisory Board

This just arrived in my e-mail in-box:

CNN Breaking News

Richard Perle, head of board that advises U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, resigns.

There's nothing up at CNN's web site yet, so a few quick guesses:

1. A presidential appointment pending.
2. A scandal about to break.
3. A job at Halliburton "rebuilding" Iraq.
4. "Personal reasons."
5. "Family reasons."

Anything else, anyone?

ADDENDUM: Well, ladies and gentlemen, it already appears that choice number two, "a scandal about to break," is the correct answer. So far CNN has only an uninformative blurb, but NPR-listener and world-renowned film director Brian Linse of AintNoBadDude (That's a blog, not a film, by the way.) tells us public radio reports are tying the resignation to Perle's lobbying on behalf of the quasi-criminal enterprise that goes by the name of Global Crossing Ltd.

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Is He Serious, Or What?

It began on March 6 with a venting complaint by Hesiod, proprietor and author of the blog Counterspin Central, written after he found himself justifiably displeased to learn Pennsylvania Democrats appear unwilling or uninterested, at least so far, in promoting a serious challenge to the state's senior U.S. senator, Arlen Specter (R).

Hesiod's lament was followed quickly by a brief word of encouragement from Atrios of Eschaton and a "seconding nomination" from Jeralyn Merritt of TalkLeft. From there, it took on a life of its own, with more than three dozen bloggers expressing support within days of Hesiod's initial post.

Needless to say, the words of support from my fellow bloggers, and just as important, the same sentiments as noted in letters from readers, regarding the possibility of my challenging Specter's upcoming reelection bid -- his fourth, if you can believe it -- to the extent they took the matter seriously, have been flattering, even overwhelming.

In addition to these many expressions and messages of support, others have sent e-mail inquiring, basically, "Are you serious?", the subject at hand today.

Admittedly, this all started in a humorous vein, as something of a stunt. But things happen quickly on the internet, or in cyberspace, if you will. And I assure you events proceed still more swiftly in the blogosphere. Express an interest in challenging someone like Specter and one is almost immediately inundated with encouragement, offers of financial support, suggestions, and advice, along with more than a few of warnings about the senator's longstanding penchant for dirty politics and his election-season proclivity for closely monitoring the latest political winds.

Although I am not yet prepared to declare my candidacy, I would like to assure my fellow bloggers, my readers, and other supporters that I am taking this matter seriously. Very seriously.

During the past three weeks I have had numerous mostly informal but always intense discussions with friends and other contacts -- experienced political professionals who have managed or participated in major Senate, House, and gubernatorial campaigns -- regarding a possible candidacy. (It was not for nothing that I lived in Washington, D.C., for 11 years -- less than half the time, incidentally, Specter has made that city his home.) If nothing else, the process thus far for me has been an invaluable civics lesson. I have learned much about the political process and the nature of contemporary campaigns that I likely would not have discerned on my own.

It has been an exciting month, but one during which my most optimistic hopes quickly have become dashed by the daunting realities ahead. The obstacles facing a potential challenger to Specter are enormous. Foremost among these, of course, is money. At last report Specter had built up a war chest of more than $6 million. He'll need it. Pennsylvania campaigns are expensive: The state's media markets include Philadelphia (Nielsen Ranking: 4), Pittsburgh (21), Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York (47), Scranton-Wilkes-Barre (53), Johnstown-Altoona (96), and Erie (143). (And TV and radio spending in Philadelphia, the state's largest and most expensive market, is inefficient, with much of the candidate's advertising dollar "wasted" on residents of neighboring New Jersey and Delaware.)

It appears Specter, 72, will face an opponent in the Republican Party primary even more conservative than he -- Rep. Pat Toomey -- but few give the congressman much hope, in part because Specter enjoys the always opportunistic support of Pennsylvania's junior senator, Sen. Rick Santorum (R), and also because Specter, by virtue of his seniority, I suppose, for I can think of no other logical reason, has the backing of most of the state's Republican establishment.

Specter no doubt will avail himself of the chummy backing of his conservative Republican colleagues in the clubby halls of Congress and within a Bush administration that appreciates his recent votes supporting the launch of the 21st Century Crusades, curtailing environmental standards, cutting taxes by a mind-boggling $750 billion, and eliminating the estate tax, to name just a few. Specter can also count on continued support from the usual right-wing special interest groups whose favor he has curried for decades, including the National Rifle Association.

I have limitations of my own, of course. I have never held elective or public office of any kind. I have lived in Pennsylvania for fewer than 18 months. I lack what is called in the business -- and it is a business -- a local base. And my name recognition in Pennsylvania -- anywhere, actually -- is virtually zero. Then again, I always can hold my head high, for I have not built a spurious fame through such embarrassing acts as devising fanciful "magic bullet" theories, providing legal services for bail-jumper and convicted killer Ira Einhorn, or recklessly accusing Anita Hill of "perjury."

Surely you're joking, I suspect some readers are thinking. I assure you I am not. Specter -- and the future of Pennsylvania and the rest of this nation -- are not joking matters. And why shouldn't I be Pennsylvania's next U.S. senator? Someone has to, and if Specter -- or, even more curiously, Santorum -- can represent so great a community as the citizens of Pennsylvania, why couldn't I? Stranger things have happened.

I regret to say there is no additional statement at this time.

Thank you again for your support. And please stay tuned.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


(That Title . . . "Obvious Homage," A Tip of the Hat,
As it Were, to Tracey Ullman)

Tbogg is on some kind of roll this week.

Stop by and see Tbogg take on . . .

Washington Post columnist, soldier lover, and life-long non-combatant Michael Kelly.

Pentagon spokesperson and avid mid-day skier Victoria Clarke.

The "Coalition of the Willing," also known as the "Coalition of the Willing, But Not Particularly Able, and Some Other Countries Offering Anonymous Support, We Swear."

Stephen Den Beste.

Ben Shapiro.


Andrew Sullivan. And again.

Sean Hannity and Henry Kissinger.

Tiresome shtick wielder Professor InstaLinker.

And, of course, Peggy Noonan.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Writing from the Unconscious Subconscious

Norah Vincent is projecting again, drawing her latest scribblings -- as tendered to the credulous editors of the Los Angeles Times and that paper's beleaguered op-ed readers -- from her unconscious subconscious, all the while writing between the lines about nothing and no one but herself.

Today, ostensibly discussing MSNBC's new hit man, Michael Savage, Vincent writes: "Savage committed the grave sin of exercising his right to speak his twisted and mediocre mind." [Emphasis added.]

She then offers this: "In a concerted effort to silence [Savage], GLAAD [the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation] has launched a 'public education campaign,' the same Robespierrian enterprise it used to torpedo Dr. [sic] Laura Schlessinger's short-lived television show in 2000."

Robespierrian enterprise. So clever. So wise. So . . . familiar.

Later on, Vincent employs such phrases as "self-righteously opportunistic," "endemic schizophrenia," "myopic selfishness," "decrepitude," and "fatuous posse."

I swear, this woman writes while looking into a mirror.

[Post-publication addendum (March 28): Vincent, by the way, as she pulled together this trite assemblage of her typically schoolgirl prose -- the final moments of the deadline fast approaching, it's plainly clear -- appears in some respects to have been channeling the White House press corps' resident nut case, Lester Kinsolving. (See Kinsolving's "Sodomy Lobby Censorship Aimed at Michael Savage.") Vincent -- a self-styled (and I'm being very generous with the word "styled" here) "pro-life libertarian" -- and Kinsolving are, no doubt, cut of disparate bolts of cloth, but how different are they really?]

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Wednesday, March 26, 2003  

With Rittenhouse Reader Susan Madrak

For several weeks now, months perhaps, the Philadelphia Inquirer has been running a series entitled, "Conversations on War," man/woman on the street-type interviews with everyday Philadelphians. The series has been uneven, sometimes interesting and thoughtful, sometimes not.

Today's interview, by the Inquirer's Murray Dubin, is with a woman named Susan Madrak of nearby Bensalem, Pa.

I point this out not only because Madrak is so obviously one of the most thoughtful of those interviewed by the Inquirer so far, but because she also is a reader of, and correspondent to, The Rittenhouse Review and TRR: The Lighter Side of Rittenhouse. And I learned from the interview that she has launched her own weblog, Suburban Guerilla.

Madrak is intelligent, articulate, outspoken, and opinionated.

She's the typical Rittenhouse reader. Enjoy.

[Post-publication addendum (April 1): See "Murray Dubin Writes," Letters to The Rittenhouse Review, April 1, 2003.]

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Vengeance is Mine, Sayeth Zeus

I learned something today.

I learned that the words "first do no harm" are not included in the Hippocratic Oath and apparently never were, though at a web site called Time and the River I found this:

It is the opinion of many scholars that Hippocrates did, in fact, originate the phrase, but in another of his writings, Epidemics, Bk. I, Sect. XI. One translation reads: "Declare the past, diagnose the present, foretell the future; practice these acts. As to diseases, make a habit of two things -- to help, or at least to do no harm."

The same site provides a translation of the original Hippocratic Oath along with two modern versions. The first of the modern versions reads, in part:

I swear in the presence of the Almighty and before my family, my teachers[,] and my peers that according to my ability and judgment I will keep this Oath and Stipulation.

To reckon all who have taught me this art equally dear to me as my parents and in the same spirit and dedication to impart a knowledge of the art of medicine to others. I will continue with diligence to keep abreast of advances in medicine. I will treat without exception all who seek my ministrations, so long as the treatment of others is not compromised thereby, and I will seek the counsel of particularly skilled physicians where indicated for the benefit of my patient.

I will follow that method of treatment which according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patient and abstain from whatever is harmful or mischievous. I will neither prescribe nor administer a lethal dose of medicine to any patient even if asked nor counsel any such thing nor perform the utmost respect for every human life from fertilization to natural death and reject abortion that deliberately takes a unique human life.

With purity, holiness and beneficence I will pass my life and practice my art. Except for the prudent correction of an imminent danger, I will neither treat any patient nor carry out any research on any human being without the valid informed consent of the subject or the appropriate legal protector thereof, understanding that research must have as its purpose the furtherance of the health of that individual. Into whatever patient setting I enter, I will go for the benefit of the sick and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief or corruption and further from the seduction of any patient….

While I continue to keep this Oath unviolated may it be granted to me to enjoy life and the practice of the art and science of medicine with the blessing of the Almighty and respected by my peers and society, but should I trespass and violate this Oath, may the reverse [be] my lot.

A second modern version of the oath, approved for use by the American Medical Association, reads as follows:

You do solemnly swear, each by whatever he or she holds most sacred: That you will be loyal to the Profession of Medicine and just and generous to its members. That you will lead your lives and practice your art in uprightness and honor.

That into whatsoever house you shall enter, it shall be for the good of the sick to the utmost of your power, your holding yourselves far aloof from wrong, from corruption, from the tempting of others to vice.

That you will exercise your art solely for the cure of your patients, and will give no drug, perform no operation, for a criminal purpose, even if solicited, far less suggest it.

That whatsoever you shall see or hear of the lives of men or women which is not fitting to be spoken, you will keep inviolably secret.

These things do you swear. Let each bow the head in sign of acquiescence. And now, if you will be true to this, your oath, may prosperity and good repute be ever yours; the opposite, if you shall prove yourselves forsworn.

The same site informs me, "It should be noted that not all physicians take the Hippocratic Oath when they enter practice. Depending on where they earn their medical degrees, they may take an oath or pledge other than one of the several forms of the Hippocratic Oath."

Now, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) reminds each and all of us at every available opportunity that he is a physician. Sen. Frist is a graduate of the Harvard Medical School. I do not know, and at this late hour I cannot confirm, which version of the Hippocratic Oath Sen. Frist took upon entering medical practice.

It is clear, however, that Sen. Frist, at least as a U.S. senator, has violated several provisions of the Oath, that by, uh, virtue of his craven loyalty to the pharmaceutical, medical, and hospital industries -- the latter from which he and his family continue to profit greatly -- and particularly to Eli Lilly & Co., one of the Republican party's most reliable contributors, as well as his shamelessly cavalier disregard for the health of America's children.

Hyperbole? Overstatement? Exaggeration?

I don't think so.

I'll leave the final vengeance in the hands of Zeus or our own almighty God, but in the meantime I suspect the wrath of Wampum's Mary Beth Williams may prove sufficient, at least as a starting point.

And so, for further details about Sen. Frist's aiding and abetting of the cruel, selfish, and greedy agenda of Eli Lilly, the manufacturer of the adulterant Thimerosal, an untested derivative of mercury that many scientists believe may have caused autism in thousands of American children who received any or all of several vaccines adulterated by this compound, see, among much else at Wampum, "Cut to the Chase" and "A Plea for Action."

A final note to my fellow bloggers: The blogosphere made a difference, a real difference, exposing the not-so-latent racism of Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) when he not so long ago was wishin' he and the darkies was back in the land of cotton.

It's time to join together again, for this is an issue the traditional print and broadcast media largely have ignored and are continuing to ignore. Too complicated, I guess. The parents are too "emotional," they're probably saying, echoing the party line out of Lilly and the Republican National Committee.

Please, bloggers, take some time to read the heartbreaking and, unfortunately, sickening posts about autism, Thimerosal, Lilly, and Sen. Frist, White House Budget Director Mitch Daniels, Rep. Dick Armey (R-Texas), and Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) at Wampum and P.L.A. - A Journal of Politics, Law & Autism.

This is an issue, a cause, and a goal that deserves to be made our own. Get with the program, people. And I mean that in the nicest, and yet most dejected, way.

[Post-publication addendum (March 26): I see that Tapped, the blog of the American Prospect magazine, wrote briefly about this issue yesterday, quite rightly directing readers to Wampum. Please alert me to other bloggers writing about the Thimerosal scandal -- also known as "Lillygate" -- so that I may post links here.]

[Post-publication addendum (March 27): Mother Jones today wrote about Lilly, Thimerosal, and the spineless sycophants that comprise the Republican Party's leadership in Congress (see "Under Cover of War"), giving a well deserved nod (and link) to Wampum.]

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Tuesday, March 25, 2003  

On The Nature of "Victory"

Earlier today I happened to pass a church, First Church of Christ, Scientist, Philadelphia, to be specific, and saw this biblical passage posted out front:

Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world. [KJV: 1 John 5:4.]

Something to thing about. Or not.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


The 19th, 20th, or 21st: Take Your Pick

I see in the paper today that the English are finally allowing Scotland to enter the 20th century, finally abolishing the feudal "crofting" laws in place there since 1707. ("Scotland Turns Tables on the Rich," by Thomas Wagner, Associated Press.)

Make no mistake, many Scottish and other landowners are coming along kicking and screaming:

The Land Reform Bill is one of the most important steps taken by their legislature since [Prime Minister] Tony Blair's government gave Scotland and Wales limited autonomy. Supporters say the new law will boost the economy, empower rural communities and the 30,000 crofting families, and rectify a situation in which half of Scotland's private land is owned by just 343 people.

But Peter de Savary argues that investors are just as important to the economy. De Savary transformed Skibo Castle in the Highlands from a private home into the Carnegie Club in 1995. It is now a resort where the rich can golf, ride horses, hike, and dine lavishly.

"The Madonnas and Michael Douglases of the world won't come here anymore," de Savary said. "Security is important to these people." [Ed.: The article informs readers the horrible excuse for an actress and technologically enhanced singer known simply and pretentiously as "Madonna" was married at Skibo Castle two years ago.]

Another opponent is Mohamed Al Fayed, owner of Harrods department store and the father of Dodi Fayed, who died with Princess Diana [Ed.: Diana F. Spencer] in a 1997 car crash. He owns the 65,000-acre Balnagown Estates, 10,000 acres of which is croft land.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Air Force Academy is still mired somewhere in the 19th century, when men were animals and women were their slaves, as we learn from "E-mail Gave Hint of Climate at Academy," by Angela Couloumbis of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Interviews with current and former cadets and military experts suggest that despite having admitted women for more than 20 years, the academy remains a male-dominated institution, particularly in the higher echelons, with a culture that unabashedly favors men over women....

"There's a climate at the academy that makes it difficult for a victim of sexual assault to come forward, and that is retaliation," said Rep. Heather Wilson [(R-N.M.)], a 1982 graduate [of the Air Force Academy] who served several years in the Air Force.

"At the academy," she said, "if a guy's buddies decide to protect him, they control whether the victim eats, sleeps, uses the telephone, leaves the campus, even how many push-ups she does....So the opportunity to retaliate and to force somebody out is greater."

Academy officials, while acknowledging that their institution has a problem, have said the school does take rape allegations seriously, and has in the last decade established a number of sexual-assault awareness programs, as well as a 24-hour hotline.

Academy critics counter that the hotline is staffed by cadets, who while well-meaning might not have the proper experience to counsel rape victims. Complicating matters is that victims have difficulty accessing necessary services -- such as nurses specially trained in processing rape kits -- given the campus' isolated location and the academy's strict rules governing when cadets can come and go.

Does not one of the men in charge of the USAFA have a wife or daughter? Good God, why is rape treated so cavalierly in our society?

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Monday, March 24, 2003  

The Civil War in the First Century B.C.

During the first semester of my senior year of college I took a course called "History of Rome." I took it for two reasons: first, because the subject was of considerable interest and therefore I thought it promised to be edifying in and of itself; and second, because I figured, as a senior, this freshman-level course would be an "easy A."

I was correct on both counts, with the course offering the added bonus of the co-enrollment of a student I will refer to here only as W.A.B., III, easily the most handsome freshman on campus that year, and a man who sat one row to my right and just one place behind me -- believe me, I checked three times a week -- a young man of considerable promise who, I'm very sad to say, has been most undeservedly deceased for more than 15 years.

Putting aside my schoolboy crushes of yesteryear, last week I returned to my interest in ancient Rome through an auto-didactical course of study offered by a collection of CDs I have been playing while -- and while not -- blogging.

I was struck last night by the discussion on these CDs of a civil war fought in Rome in the first century B.C.

I probably shouldn't be blogging about this without a more solid background, but I was struck by the obvious similarities between that Roman era and current American history, with all of its imperialist and anti-democratic trappings.

I hope another blogger can comment upon this particular period of Roman history more astutely than I. If not, I will proceed upon my own investigation of that era and report my findings at this site.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Saturday, April 12

Nicole -- Philly blogger, Henry Rollins nut, Sassy cat-owner, and the author of Go Fish -- writes to inform me that Philadelphia-area bloggers will be gathering for coffee and then, it's fair to assume, drinks, all this on Saturday, April 12, beginning at 8:00 p.m. at Xando, 325 Chestnut St., Philadelphia.

See you there.

(Oh, and a shamelessly gratuitious link on the blogroll to anyone who buys me a drink. Unless, of course, the blogger already links to well, you know who.)

[Post-publication addendum (March 26): For more on "you know who," be sure to visit SoundBitten for a good laugh at "you know who's expense.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Generating Traffic the Old-Fashioned Way: By Earning It

Congratulations are in order for Sean-Paul Kelley, author of The Agonist, not only for his inestimable coverage of the U.S. war upon Iraq, but for easily outpacing Eschaton on each of the past three days in generating traffic sent here from there, an honor previously earned only by the Washington Post, Altercation, Media Whores Online, Cursor, and Antiwar.

Kelley has no specific link to Rittenhouse outside the blogroll, so the traffic coming this way can only be a function of a massive increase in visitors to The Agonist.

Congratulations, Mr. Kelley.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


They Just Won't Go Away

Does it bother any other bloggers that when the Blogspot advertisement that appears on one's home page is bought out by you, a kind reader, or a fellow blogger, Blogspot and Blogger continue to place their obnoxious ads on the pages readers access through the archives or via web searches?

It bugs the hell out of me.

If you agree, send Blogger and Blogspot an e-mail at, well, I don't know where because I can't find the still-unanswered e-mail I sent them about this, and like many web sites (see my comments about the irresponsible, careless, and reckless site doing business as "eBay," below), Blogger and Blogspot actively discourage outside contact and seem to think their little "FAQs" pages cover everything their users might wish to know.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Eric Alterman on the Weekly Standard

Most readers by now know that Eric Alterman is the author of the most provocative and stimulating book on politics and the media to appear so far this year, What Liberal Media?. (And I'm not just saying that because I make a fleeting appearance in its pages.)

Today at his weblog, Altercation, Alterman asks the question, "How lame is the Weekly Standard?" [Note: Sixth item.]

Judging from Alterman's observations, I would say the Weekly Standard is pretty damned lame. But isn't that par for the course for any project in which William Kristol is involved?

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Is Michelle Packing Heat?

Amazing, isn't it, to watch a fit of hysteria in print?

You've never seen one? Check out Michelle Malkin's latest column. For rank paranoid lunacy, this one can't be beat.

Malkin is afraid, very afraid, and she wants you to be too. The government, she tells us, isn't doing -- can't do -- enough. She's getting her war on -- not in Iraq, here in the U.S. -- and she wants your help.

Poor Michelle. One can tell she desperately wants to praise the latest collection of doodlings and scribblings of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge -- that which has been dubbed "Operation Liberty Shield" -- but she can't. ("Operation Liberty Shield"? Do these guys need writers, or what?) Malkin writes, "Instead of calling on Americans to 'prepare for the inevitability' of suicide attacks, the homeland security chief should be issuing a citizens' call to arms."

She really is a "gun nut," isn't she?

Malkin's column is a collection of oh-so-helpful and constructive advice to respond to the threat she believes surrounds her -- us, even -- at every moment. "Be sure to check out the FBI's photo gallery of most wanted terrorists on the Internet," she writes, incoherently. (It's not clear whether Malkin is referring to the terrorists most wanted by FBI or only to those the agency most wants to find surfing the web or whether there are indeed two such lists at all.)

And while the FBI may be devoting its best efforts (may being the operative word here) toward capturing suspected terrorists, for Malkin, that's not enough:

[T]he bureau needs all the help it can get....Law enforcement officials rely on civilians to look out for criminal suspects all the time. More than ever, they could use the services of citizen sentinels on guard against fugitive terrorists and sleeper suicide bombers.

Block committees of the world, unite!

And here's a gem of typical Malkin advice: "Report illegal aliens."

What a surprise. The daughter of Filipino immigrants, who can't abide the notion that anyone entered this country, legally or illegally, after her beloved parents, writes: "If you know or suspect an illegal alien, fugitive deportee or other criminal alien, call the feds."

College students, professors, administrators, and even the cafeteria ladies, have a special role to play in Malkin's hysteria: "Watch the campuses. If you study or work at a college or university, be alert....Be especially on guard against suspicious behavior if you are in the computer or engineering fields. Don't let political correctness paralyze you from reporting unusual activity."

As Malkin reaches her crescendo, the level of her psychosis becomes readily apparent:

Be always prepared. Take nothing for granted in your daily life: your trips to the mall, your commute across the bridge, your stop at the library or Home Depot.

And do what, Michelle, as we head to the mall, cross the bridge, visit the library, or buy our plastic sheets and duct tape? What, pray tell? Ah, but she has the answer:

Sharpen your powers of observation. Take note that the Islamists abroad are recruiting women suicide bombers. If you are trained and licensed to carry a concealed weapon, don't leave home without it. [Ed.: Emphasis added.]

That last statement leads me to wonder whether Malkin is herself packing heat. If so, we need far stricter gun control measures than we have in place now.

Malkin concludes: "War is here. The choice is ours: Shields or sheep? Let's roll."

Lisa Beamer, please call your office.

(Keep in mind, bloggers of all political persuasions, those dozens, hundreds even, of you far smarter and more thoughtful than Malkin could ever hope to be: She gets paid to write this tripe. Then again, Norah Vincent, she of the late and unlamented Norah's BlogJam, is continuing to scam the otherwise intelligent editors of the Los Angeles Times.)

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


A Clueless Pentagon; An Irresponsible eBay

In today's Philadelphia Inquirer there is a fascinating article about the risks the U.S. war on Iraq holds for that country's treasure trove of antiquities. In "Treasures in Peril," reporter Faye Flam outlines the country's long and rich history, and provides the reader with a clear and alarming delineation of just what is at risk, going deep underground beyond the obvious at-risk sites such as museums and mosques.

She writes:

Archaeologists fear that war and its aftermath could obliterate much of humanity's earliest heritage…."What's really at stake here is our past," said John Russell [of the Massachusetts College of Art]. "What happened here was the establishment of civilization as we know it -- codified religion, bureaucracy, cities, writing," he said.

"What developed there was modern life -- urban existence," said Richard Zettler, an archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology….

But here's the real kicker: Until they agreed to meet with concerned archaeologists, the Pentagon was clueless about the historical and cultural implications of its impending war. Flam writes:

McGuire Gibson [of the University of Chicago] and other archaeologists petitioned the Pentagon earlier this year to try to spare the country's temples, mosques, and archaeological sites. "They were very receptive," said Gibson. He said he pointed out that the hills in southern Iraq are actually rich archaeological mounds, where people may have built houses for 7,000 years.

The military was watching 150 sites, said Gibson, so he pointed out 4,000 more. "And that's a tiny percentage," he said. [Ed.: Emphasis added.]

(To this I would just quickly note that the entirety of southern Iraq has been classified as a "no fly zone" that the U.S. and British air forces have been pounding for a decade.)

And to this day, Flam reports, the Pentagon is unable or unwilling to say how many of those 4,000 sites -- the tiny percentage sites rich in human history cited by Gibson -- have been added to the Defense Department's maps:

Pentagon spokeswoman Diane Perry said it was "imperative" for U.S. forces to try to protect Iraq's cultural sites. Many such sites are on a "no-strike" list, she said, though she wasn't sure if all 4,000 recommended by the archaeologists were included.

Meanwhile, Flam reports there apparently is a bustling trade in looted Iraqi artifacts on eBay, still more evidence Meg Whitman's eBay is among the world's most carelessly and recklessly operated businesses.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Saturday, March 22, 2003  

Look Who's Linking To TRR: The Lighter Side of Rittenhouse

All too many of my colleagues within the blogosphere have demonstrated a strange, inexplicable even, disinclination to link to my secondary blog, or annex, TRR: The Lighter Side of Rittenhouse.

I have no idea why this is, or whether I should offended. I work pretty hard at the site and I think it's quite a good blog, and yet it's overlooked, ignored, and disregarded.

With the slight of my fellow bloggers in mind, I direct you to the weblogs of those writers wise and prescient enough to have linked to TRR. I hope you will visit them now and often:


Exposing the Right

Go Fish

Long Story; Short Pier

Mad Kane's Notables



Paradox 1x: Philly Blogs

Pennsylvania Gazette

Plucky Punk's Happy Land

Roger Ailes

Ruminate This

Scoobie Davis Online

Sisyphus Shrugged

Skippy the Bush Kangaroo

Sugar, Mr. Poon?


VanitySite (Zizka)

WTF Is It Now?

You know, I just might start taking this personally. I might even have to start keeping track.

[Note: The post was published earlier today in a slightly different form at TRR: The Lighter Side of Rittenhouse.]

[Post-publication addendum (March 24): Additional links added as new links to TRR are created or existing links are brought to my attention.]

[Post-publication addendum (March 24): Wait, I know! If I don't raise 80 thousand dollars, like, right now, I'm just going to stomp my little steroid-shrunken feet, throw myself a little Briton-oid tantrum, and shut the whole thing down. So there! You'll be sorry! And so much for the improvements to my Cape Cod condo, eh? And you know what that means, don't you? It means...Well, it means...I might HAVE TO GET A REAL JOB!]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Thursday, March 20, 2003  

Students, Twentysomethings, and I

It has been a long, hard, and unrelenting winter in Philadelphia, almost unbearable in its intensity even for one, such as I, with a high tolerance for the cold. Worse, the recent brief respite from the harsh temperatures quickly reversed course this week, leaving this another cold night in Philadelphia -- about 45 degrees, last I checked -- during which it is also raining, raining hard.

Tonight, then, was not the most auspicious of nights to participate in an anti-war demonstration. And as one who abhors the rain generally, I spent much of today expecting to opt out of an event -- a demonstration at Philadelphia City Hall -- that I had heard first heard of just this morning.

But I live nearby and, all things considered, How much of a sacrifice would it be?, I thought. I could always drop off at a point convenient to a quick jaunt home. And if the inclement weather was pulling others away, why shouldn't I, living just four or five blocks away, take their place? And so I went.

I headed out with some reluctance and more than a little trepidation. I have only participated in two events even remotely similar to this one in the past, and neither had anything to do with U.S. foreign policy or the military. Protest marches generally are "not my thing," in part because the coverage of such events by the media often left me convinced I would feel out of place.

But this is an issue -- a war, actually -- about which I feel strongly. And with the media's characteristically skewed coverage of such events in mind, I believe it is important that someone like me -- a 40-year-old, pretty-damned "normal" looking, and generally thoughtful guy -- ought to participate and be seen.

When I arrived I felt, more than anything, old. I now know who marches against senseless and morally reprensible wars on cold late-winter evenings amid driving rains: high school and college students, twentysomethings, bicycle messengers and other anti-establishment types, and the true believers. I use none of these terms with the intent of disparaging the participants; I deploy them out of respect for their obvious conviction and the hope that I might at this point be considered a "true believer."

But I felt old and out of place, yet happy to be there with them, buoyed by their energy, pleased by their lawful decorum. They chanted loudly. I prayed and pondered silently. They played to the cameras. I turned shy when the photographers were about. They were angry. I was sad. They shouted, beat drums, and sang. I tried not to cry.

And now I'm home, drying off and warming up, and I think, We have much to learn from each other.

Do I now feel morally superior? No. Am I now bathed with a sense of self-righteousness? No. Do I believe I made a difference? No, not really. But I'm glad I went.

[See also: You March, I'll Vote (For You), Letters to The Rittenhouse Review, March 21, 2003.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Sen. Specter and ANWR Drilling

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who continues to enjoy a wholly undeserved reputation as a "moderate Republican," even as a "liberal Republican," yesterday joined with his right-wing colleagues, as comfortably as ever voting to support opening a portion of the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling, an extremist position opposed by even the most moderate of environmentalists.

Yesterday's vote was largely along party lines, though, according to the New York Times, eight Republicans voted against opening this pristine stretch of the Alaskan wilderness to the rampant degradation so eagerly sought by and for the oil industry: Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R.I.), Sen. Norm Coleman (Minn.), Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), Sen. Mike DeWine (Ohio), Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (Ill.), Sen. John S. McCain (Ariz.), Sen. Gordon Smith (Ore.), and Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine).

Sen. James Jeffords (I-Vt.) also voted against ANWR drilling.

Five Democrats -- Sen. Daniel Akaka (Hawaii), Sen. John Breaux (La.), Sen. Daniel Inouye (Hawaii), Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.), and, of course, Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) -- broke ranks and voted in support of the oil industry.

Now, perhaps, with this measure set aside once again, we can have a serious discussion about energy policy in this country. Or is that just expecting too much?

The specter of Specterism: It's haunting Pennsylvania -- and the rest of the nation as well.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Orozco: Revolutionary Painter

There's a fascinating article about José Clemente Orozco, the Mexican revolutionary painter, in the March 3 issue of In These Times that I highly recommend to all Rittenhouse readers.

The article, entitled "The Fires This Time," was posted only recently to the web, broadening its potential audience.

The author?

Christopher Capozzola, assistant professor of history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a rising star of academia with whom, in the spirit of full disclosure, I will say I haved enjoyed something more than a casual acquaintance for the past 30 years.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Too Much of a Good Thing?

I'll bet most readers have "Googled" themselves, or friends and family, at least once in the past, entering names into the extraordinary search engine known as Google.

I wonder, though, how many readers have "Googled" their phone numbers and how many would be surprised at what they find.

Ed Weiner of the Philadelphia Daily News provides advice and instructions on removing your number from Google's database in today's "Cyberia" column, "Google's Got Your Number."

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Our Camera-Shy Supreme Court Justice

I see from this morning's paper that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is still having difficulty accepting the basic premise underlying our notions of free speech and a free press.

The Associated Press reports ("Scalia Bars Taping of Free-Speech Award," by Paul Singer):

Scalia banned broadcast media from taping a speech he made [in Cleveland] yesterday upon receiving an award for supporting free speech.

Scalia did not mention the ban, which he had insisted upon, and television reporters were allowed to see him accept the City Club's Citadel of Free Speech Award before his remarks. The justice did not take any questions from reporters.

The ban on broadcast media "begs disbelief and seems to be in conflict with the award itself," Terry Murphy, C-SPAN vice president and executive producer, wrote last week to the City Club. "How free is speech if there are limits to its distribution?"…

Barbara Cochran, president of the Radio-Television News Directors Association in Washington, criticized the ban…."The irony of excluding journalists from an event designed to celebrate the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech is obvious to all," she wrote yesterday.

Award committee chairman Richard Pogue said Scalia earned the award because he is a staunch defender of First Amendment rights, citing Texas v. Johnson in which the court overturned the Texas conviction of a man who burned a flag during a 1984 demonstration.

During his speech in Cleveland yesterday, Scalia expressed his purportedly enthusiastic support for free speech with these words:

"Trust me, I did not like to not put Mr. Johnson in jail -- bearded, scruffy, sandal-wearing guy burning the American flag, you know, it made me furious. But I was handcuffed, I couldn't help it; that's my understanding of the First Amendment. I can't do the nasty things I'd like to do."

Damn Bill of Rights, gets in the way of all the really big right-wing fun, doesn't it?

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


The White House as Frat House

From today's Philadelphia Inquirer:

Minutes before the speech, an internal television monitor at the White House showed the President pumping his fist.

"Feels good," he said.

What, no high fives and tequila shots?

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, March 19, 2003  

And So Begins the First of Many

We have our war on now, as of just an hour ago.

I can almost hear the champagne glasses tinkling at the White House, the Pentagon, the American Enterprise Institute, the New Republic, Commentary, and the Washington Post.

Make no mistake. This is just the first of many wars planned by the insatiable warmongers of the present administration, its allies in the so-called think tanks, and among the hawkish and slavish elements of the American media.

Just today I had the misfortune of reading a brief piece by the columnist and public menace that goes by the name of Michelle Malkin. Granted, Malkin is not the most influential of pundits, but she is popular, and her simple-minded view of the world, one that would have her laughed out of any graduate seminar, is typical of her peers.

As published in the Philadelphia Daily News under the title, "First Baghdad, Then Riyadh," Malkin throws around the usual right-wing-applause-meter-ringing phrases including "half-clad, anti-America moaners," "snarling 9/11 memorial trashers," "pacifiers," and "'Kumbaya' warblers." The oh-so-pious Malkin next prays for American soldiers -- only the men, one might fairly presume -- and then expresses two reservations as the war proceeds:

1. Our nation's still faint-hearted approach to immigration enforcement on the homefront[;] and 2. Washington's unwillingness to launch a frontal assault on the deep-pocketed, hate-filled terror-backers in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Looking at her latter reservation we find that for Malkin a preemptive, unjustifiable, and immoral war upon the nation and people of Iraq is not enough: "We may wipe out Baghdad, but the war on terror cannot ultimately be won without setting our sights on Riyadh and its butchers in duplicitous diplomats' clothing," she says.

So after Iraq, it's war upon Saudi Arabia, and, if I might take a cue from the rantings and ravings of those associated with the aforementioned "think tanks" and "little magazines," then it's on to Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Lebanon, and the narrow poverty-stricken patches of parched land inhabited by Palestinians that Israel continues to occupy with brazen brutality and in defiance on international law.

As for Malkin's first reservation, what she calls "our…faint-hearted approach to immigration enforcement," its relevance at this particular moment is unclear to me. But immigration is to Malkin what welfare reform is to her equally dim-witted right-wing colleague Mickey Kaus, the stock-in-trade that must be propounded at each and any opportunity lest the issue lose its cachet. (Bookings, dontcha know?)

Why Malkin, of all people, has chosen to latch on to the issue of immigration like an angry and rabid bitch with a bone continues to escape me: In her autobiographical sketch Malkin describes herself as "the daughter of Filipino immigrants."

And so for Malkin it's "thus far and no further." Malkin and her parents are worthy of the many blessing and advantages they have won in this country she professes to love so much, but such cannot be conferred upon even one person more. Malkin's is a shockingly sad expression of deep-seated self-loathing, a fuller analysis of which I will leave to the psychologists.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, March 18, 2003  

TV Critic Sees "Furrowed Brow" on President Bush

Unbeknownst to most Americans, there is a major crisis in Washington: President George W. Bush displayed a furrowed brow during his televised address to the nation last night!

No big deal? No big deal?!?! What are you, nuts?!?!

You obviously haven't been keeping up with the likes of Mickey Kaus and Mark Steyn.

Mickey and Mark recently threw themselves into great lathers of righteous indignation over the subject and significance of brows, together -- actually, one after the other: Kaus, then Steyn -- rending Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) by writ of fiat simply and undeniably unfit for the presidency because of his deeply and perpetually furrowed brow. (For Kaus's ridiculous remarks, click here. For commentary on Steyn's even more absurd, and echoing, comments, click here.)

With the shallow observations of Mickey and Mark in mind, today's column by Philadelphia Inquirer television critic Jonathan Storm, reviewing the president's address, ought to have sparked a full-fledged constitutional crisis. Storm writes:

The President's speech was competent and measured. After the camera moved away from Bush's hands turning obviously phony pages of his speech as he stared relentlessly into the TelePrompTer, and after you got used to the strange and constant furrow of his brow, it was hard to fault the performance. Sure, it was generally monotonous, but that underscored the seriousness of the topic, and the President was far removed from the near catatonia of his March 6 news conference. [Ed.: Emphasis added.]

Why are the people not up in arms? Where is the outrage? Where is the revolution? Is this not intolerable? WE HAVE A PRESIDENT WITH A FURROWED BROW!

Why have Mickey and Mark not expressed their contempt for this massive personal failing and failure of President Bush? Are we truly, in the words of Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) "sleepwalking through history," our laughable punditocracy unable and unwilling to hold elected officials to the standards they themselves have set?

Or is it just that most other Americans and Canadians believe, as I do, that Mickey and Mark are stupid little jokesters, smart-assing their way to the bank at the expense of honesty and accountability?

(For the record, the record for its own sake and the record in the event I decide to challenge Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) in his upcoming reelection bid, I repeat: I have a furrowed brow. It is a deeply furrowed brow. It is a deeply and perpetually furrowed brow. My brow has been deeply and perpetually furrowed for nearly 20 years. I believe I inherited my deeply and perpetually furrowed brow from my father, as his brow also has been furrowed, both deeply and perpetually, for as long as I can remember.)

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Okay, But Are They Able?

The State Department today released a list of countries that constitute the "Coalition for the Immediate Disarmament of Iraq."

They are:

Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and Uzbekistan.

How many are committing troops?

I count two definites: The U.K. and Australia.

Call me unimpressed.

Why does this whole thing have the ring of an "Open Letter" to it?

You know, the kind of "present danger" correspondence the neoconservatives pass around and then publish in the New York Times, the kind of crank mail that Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter always sign that would be more at home on the "Voice of the People" page of the New York Daily News?

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Monday, March 17, 2003  

But I'm Not. At Least Not the Way Most Americans Are.

I should be celebrating today. It's St. Patrick's Day, after all. And, notwithstanding my surname, which is of Italian origin, I am Irish-American, my mother a descendent of the Frains of Kilmovee and the Caseys of Ballaghadereen. But I'm not celebrating St. Patrick's Day. At least not the way most Americans will observe this day.

Like many other Irish-Americans, I cringe at the tacky cardboard shamrocks, the precious little lepracháns, the silly lapel buttons, and the green beer. These are not the day's most offensive absurdities, though the last at least broaches the subject, for when it comes to the most offensive absurdity, the subject is drink.

For all too many Americans, of Irish descent or otherwise, St. Patrick's Day is simply an excuse to drink, and not only to drink, but to drink heavily, to get drunk. Packed "Irish bars," seedy roadhouses offering two-for-one specials on Guinness, and hotel bars filling the pretzel baskets with soda bread. College students, twentysomethings, and full-fledged adults drinking to a wretched and embarrassing excess. At such sights as these I not only cringe, I reel with disgust.

The image of the Irish and Irish-Americans as besotted drunkards is not only popular and pervasive, it is pernicious -- and it is a lie. As in any culture, there are and have been Irish who drank too much, but as a people, a nation, they are far from being the world's heaviest drinkers. In fact, according to the most recent statistics I could find this morning, Ireland isn't even among the top ten European countries ranked by annual alcohol consumption.

The standard, stock-image portrayals of the lazy or just down-on-his-luck Irishman drinking the dole while his children go hungry and of the miserable wife sipping sherry by the bottleful as she labors in the care of her brood have helped sell more than a few memoirs, historical novels, and films. It all makes for very moving and picturesque tales, but these are not the Irish I have known.

My grandfather has been dead for more than 30 years, my grandmother for more than 20. They aren't here for me to ask, but I'm quite certain they would be displeased to hear their grandson intended to celebrate his Irish heritage by consuming vast quantities of liquor or beer. And I'll be damned if I'm going to dishonor their memory by joining in this pre-programmed display of frat-house-quality revelry, this "harmless fun" that is nothing more than an undisguised ethnic slur.

Instead, I think I'll end the day by listening to my favorite rendition of "Danny Boy" (Carly Simon, on "My Romance"). Or perhaps spend some time with a volume of William Butler Yeats or Seamus Heany, or more challengingly, of Daithi O Brudair or Aodhagán O Rathaille. Or maybe I'll recite the Chaplet of St. Patrick, or pray the rosary using not a full set of beads but a rosary ring or bracelet, devices surreptitiously used by pious Irish Catholics when the British outlawed the practice of their faith.

Before then, however, I'm having a quiet dinner out this evening. At dinner I will lift a single glass of wine in honor of Martin and Katherine, and all those coming before and after them. Mine just a simple gesture that speaks to the quiet dignity of my grandparents and to the greatness of the Irish people.

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And We're the George Mason Law School!
We'll Hire Anyone!

Out to prove yet again that its editorial-page editors will print anything, absolutely anything, provided it serves the interests of the paper's most doctrinaire and/or affluent readers, today's edition of The Wall Street Journal features "The Case for Insider Trading," by Henry G. Manne, dean and professor emeritus at the George Mason University School of Law.

Insider trading refers generally, and reductively, to the purchase or sale of securities while knowingly in possession of material, non-public information. Current law on the subject is based on the premise that officers of publicly traded corporations, together with those acquainted or doing business with such individuals, should not be permitted to profit from their direct and specific knowledge of information about their companies' prospects that is not available to the trading public.

As reasonable as that premise sounds, there is a fringe element in the fields of economics and law that finds the legal basis of insider trading laws to be a horrific assault on the free market and free enterprise. Manne is quite at home among the extremists who hold this view. He writes today:

Insider-trading regulation had its primordial introduction in the muck of New Deal securities regulation, which was itself justified on the trumped-up theory that full disclosure was the best way to deal with corporate fraud and deception….

Prior to 1968, insider trading was very common, well-known, and generally accepted when it was thought about at all. When the time came, the corporate world was neither able nor inclined to mount a defense of the practice, while those who demanded its regulation were strident and successful in its demonization. The business community was as hoodwinked by these frightening arguments as was the public generally.

To present his case, Manne adds, in a clever twist of the tongue, "Since [1968], however, insider trading has been strongly, if by no means universally, defended in scholarly journals." [Ed.: Emphasis added.] Well, of course, Dean Manne. After all, many things have been strongly defended -- and wrongly defended -- in scholarly journals over the past several centuries. It is the nature of the beast. It is one of the reasons scholarly journals exist.

Manne argues, first, "that insider trading does little or no direct harm to any individual trading in the market, even when an insider is on the other side of the trades"[;] second, "that it always (fraud aside) [Ed.: That's quite a parenthetical!] helps move the price of a corporation's shares to its 'correct' level; and third, "that it is an efficient and highly desirable form of incentive compensation, especially for corporations dependent on innovation and new developments."

Giving short shrift to those he calls "critics of insider trading," Manne characterizes arguments in favor of current and possibly more restrictive insider trading laws as relying on two aggregate-harm theories. The first, he says, is the "market confidence" argument: "If investors in the stock market know that insider trading is common, they will refuse to invest in such an 'unfair' market. Thus investment and liquidity will be seriously diminished[.]" The second, according to Manne, is the "adverse selection" theory, which holds that specialists and market makers will broaden the bid-ask spreads in their books to cover for losses that stem from dealing with insiders.

Although it is clear at this point in the essay that Manne already has gone haywire, he then trots out a new, even more bizarre, "justification" [Ed.: Manne's word.] for insider trading:

Management and the shareholders of large, publicly-held corporations have a strong common interest in the accurate pricing of the company's shares. If pricing is not reliable, investors will demand a higher return in order to be compensated for assuming this added risk. Thus, all other things being equal, the shares of a company with reliable pricing of its shares will sell for more than otherwise identical shares.

Lack of confidence in the reliability of a share's price, reflected in a higher risk premium, will have several negative effects. The company will have to pay more for new capital, boards of directors and the managers themselves will have less reliable feedback on managerial performance, managers' professional reputations will suffer, and the managers will be at greater risk of displacement either through a takeover or action of their own board of directors….

No other device can approach knowledgeable trading by insiders for efficiently and accurately pricing endogenous developments in a company. Insiders, driven by self-interest and competition among themselves will trade until the correct price is reached. This will be true even when the new information involves trading on bad news. You do not need whistleblowers if you have insider trading.

And what a glorious day it would be if insider trading ran untrammeled through world financial markets:

If such trading is allowed, there are no delays or uncertainties about what has to be disclosed. There are no issues about when information must be published, or in what form. There is no need to regulate investment bankers, auditors, or stock analysts. The evaluation of new information will be done efficiently through a pure market process. Investors receive "virtual" full disclosure in the form of immediate and correct price adjustments.

Meanwhile, back here on Earth, I'm nearly speechless. I can only ask why such as Manne are called "conservatives." They are radical anarchists of a most dangerous sort. We should be glad the Journal is one of few mainstream publications that willingly and eagerly plays host to such absurdities.

[Post-publication addendum: See also Manne is Still Singing the Same Tune, at Letters to the Rittenhouse Review, March 17, 2003; and Anything Goes!, at Letters to the Rittenhouse Review, March 22, 2003.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Peter, Paul, and Mary? They're, Like, So Over!

"Ain't nobody over there at that anti-war protest except the usual old geezer peaceniks!"

That's the message from today's Washington Post, the mouthpiece of the Bush administration, as found in "On the Mall, Songs of Old Carry Current Plea for Peace: Familiar Faces Protest Potential Action in Iraq," by Ian Shapira:

Surrounded by about 400 peace activists who carried lighted candles and posters urging "Mr. President, Please Change Your Mind," guitarist Noel Paul Stookey of the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary mused that folk songs are always apt for political demonstrations….

Stookey and fellow trio members Peter Yarrow and Mary Travers serenaded fans old and new at the vigil below the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Organized by Win Without War, a District-based nonprofit group led by former Maine congressman Tom Andrews (D), the vigil was one of 6,000 that were scheduled in 136 countries at 7 p.m. in their respective time zones.

I see. Around the world thousands of people -- ordinary citizens: your family, friends, and neighbors -- gather to express their opposition to a war on Iraq, but what does the Washington Post find in its own backyard?

"Peace activists" and Peter, Paul, and Mary.

Hardy-har-har. Get it? Oh, please, Peter, Paul, and Mary? They are, like, so over! This motley trio has been protesting everything that's come out of Washington since the Vietnam War. There's just no pleasing them! What do you expect? They're the heart and soul of the hard anti-American left! They hate their own country! Liberals have no new ideas!

I would expect to read a piece like this in a little right-wing flyer like Human Events or the Weekly Standard, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the group's appearance mentioned at National Review's "The Corner" today, made the centerpiece of some snide and sneering missive from the likes of Jonah Goldberg.

But the Post? How sad. How pathetic. And how utterly typical.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Establishing a Democratic Iraq in One Year or Less
"Never Have So Few Thought So Little About So Much"

Still more evidence we are living in the age of unseriousness can be found in the weekend's reports about Iraq. To cite just one, "U.S. Plans Rapid Transfer of Power," by Maura Reynolds, Los Angeles Times (March 15, 2003):

The Bush administration has agreed on a strategy for administering postwar Iraq that borrows key elements from its experience in Afghanistan and emphasizes a rapid transfer of authority to Iraqi leaders, a senior administration official said Friday.

The official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said the decision had been made to limit U.S. military governance to as short a time as possible and avoid the kind of occupation that Gen. Douglas MacArthur presided over in Japan following World War II.

"We don't want to have a MacArthur-run country for a four- or five-year period," the official said. "We want to get the administration turned over to an Iraqi administration as soon as possible."

After entering Iraq, perhaps even before the fighting is over, the United States would sponsor a conference of Iraqis from all the country's ethnic groups and regions who would choose an interim government -- much as Afghans met in Bonn, Germany, in late 2001 and chose Hamid Karzai to serve as interim leader. Karzai was elected Afghan president last summer.

National security advisor Condoleezza Rice, in an interview with Arab journalists earlier in the day, described the new strategy in general terms.

"Just as we did in Afghanistan, the United States and the coalition will stay as long as we're needed," she said. "But we have no desire to stay very long at all."…

The interim administration would draw up a constitution and develop a plan for choosing a permanent government. The officials said they would recommend that the new authority build democracy "from the ground up" by organizing local elections first and choosing a permanent leadership later.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Gen. MacArthur's lengthy occupation of Japan, flawed though it may have been in many respects, both from the perspective of Japan and the U.S., ultimately prove successful? Highly successful, in fact? Japan, once a greater threat to the U.S. and the rest of the world than Saddam Hussein's Iraq is now or could ever have hoped to become, today is a loyal, democratic, capitalist ally.

And hasn't the recent history of Afghanistan, that which has played out since the U.S. withdrew following its not entirely successful war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, proved eminently unsuccessful?

Why, then, is the Bush administration eager to replicate a policy that hasn't achieved even the most basic of its stated goals?

Stranger still, for years the administration and its allies in the punditocracy and among policy intellectuals repeatedly have asserted that Arabs specifically, and Muslims generally, have demonstrated a complete inability to form democratic governments, often going so far as to suggest Arabs and Muslims are inherently incapable of such governance or that their religion and culture are antithetical to democracy.

Such talk is insouciant nonsense, we are now to believe, for the war on Iraq, we have been told, will be a quick and easy precursor to the dawning a new democratic age throughout the Middle East: the Democracy Domino Effect, it has been called, a theory the Los Angeles Times on Friday reported even the State Department's best experts consider preposterous (or at the very least, "non credible").

The Bush administration is conducting U.S. foreign policy on a wing and a prayer: We'll get in, get out, democracy will bloom, then it's on to Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, et al., and all will be well and good in the world. Just trust us.

Welcome to the Age of Unseriousness. Never have so few thought so little about so much.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Saturday, March 15, 2003  

Not Another Color, Another Level

Well, this is just getting too confusing. today reports:

U.S. government officials are discussing the current five-color terror threat alert system to determine whether a higher level of risk should be added before a possible war with Iraq, government sources tell CNN.

The debate is not over whether to add a new color, sources said. Instead, a slightly higher warning level may be added within orange.

Currently the highest level of alert is for a "severe" risk of terrorist attack, indicated by the color red. Below red is orange, meaning a "high" risk of attack exists.

For now, each level of risk has its own color. Yellow, blue and green follow orange and stand for "elevated," "guarded" and "low" risks of attack, respectively.

Sources said the current discussion was prompted by the belief of some in the government that if the U.S. takes military action against Iraq the threat level should be raised above orange to indicate an even greater risk of retaliation against Americans and U.S. targets overseas. But there is fear that raising the risk to the ultimate warning level would do serious harm to an already-shaky economy, the sources said.

Not dark orange, I guess. A higher level "within orange."

Too confusing and too stupid.

And unserious.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Recent Additions to the Blogroll

Please welcome these blogs, all recent additions to the blogroll -- published in the sidebar at right under the heading, Better Blogs & Such -- and visit them early and often.

A Brooklyn Bridge

A Moveable Beast

CenterPoint (Paul Helgesen)

Disgusted Liberal

Ezra Klein

Hegemoney (Chris Woolery)

Mad Prophet (C. Brian Lavigne)

Marstonalia (Brett Marston)

MediaWhoresOnline Watch Watch Watch Watch

ReachM High Cowboy Network Noose

Russian Beauty (Tatiana Kelley)

Silentio (Brad Johnson)

Ted Rall

To The Barricades!

Very Very Happy

Vote Quimby (John Wooden)

You Live Your Life As If It's Real

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |