The Rittenhouse Review

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

Monday, June 30, 2003  

While the Horse is Away . . .

Blogger Roger Ailes -- insert obligatory, and well deserved, snark about that gruesome Fox News guy and Republican shill here -- has published a smart piece, “Reliable Hacks,” about Howard Kurtz, Susan “Steno” Schmidt, and a bunch of other kool kidz.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Commentary: Still Fighting the New Left

From a review of Eric Alterman’s latest book, What Liberal Media?, in the just-published July-August issue of Commentary:

“Bilious!” “Pallid!” “Contradictory!” “Glaring Inconsistency!” “Provides Evidence Against Himself!” “Lame!” “Slippery!” “Skewed Political Taxonomy!” “The Radicalized Version of Liberalism!” “Leftist!”

Congratulations, Eric.

[Note: The July-August issue of Commentary is not yet on the web.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


And a Very Gallant Physician

Remember the magazine Highlights for Children? Although every dentist I ever visited had Highlights in the waiting room, I don’t think I saw it anyplace else until about a month ago when I noticed several copies in the reception area of my doctor’s office.

I picked one up and saw they’re still publishing Goofus and Gallant®, a cartoon series comparing a good boy, Gallant, with a bad boy, Goofus. Not much has changed in the past 30 years, though I noticed people of color are now included in the drawings. The strip I saw, in the June 2003 issue, features a vaguely ethnic clerk working at a checkout counter. (G&G are still white, by the way.)

Then this morning I ran across a recent edition of “This Modern World,” Tom Tomorrow’s cartoon. The title? “Goofus and Gallant.” And the odd thing is that it’s dated June 3, the same date as my doctor’s appointment. Weird, huh?

It gets stranger. Or at least I think it does.

So backpedal to the doctor’s office. I’m flipping through Highlights and come across another regular feature, Hidden Pictures. Here the reader is challenged to find 12 common objects disguised within a large and graphically heavy drawing. I was unbearably frustrated by my inability to locate more than four or five of the hidden items and expressed that frustration to my doctor.

After wondering, aloud and in passing, whether my nephews and nieces ever read Highlights, my doctor joked, “Well, Jim, why don’t you take it home with you and spend some more time on it?” So I did. Take the magazine home, I mean. I didn’t get back to the puzzle.

And what arrives in today’s mail but a promotional package for Highlights magazine!

Come on, that’s just too weird. Do you think my doctor gets a cut if I subscribe? Did he send my name in or something? I know times are supposedly really tough right now for physicians -- the Philadelphia Inquirer threw them yet another pity party over the weekend -- but this is ridiculous.

[Post-publication addendum (July 3): More Goofus and Gallant: “Goofus Al and Gallant George,” by Eric Boehlert at, July 1.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Sen. Specter’s Contribution to the Era

The National Constitution Center opens in Philadelphia on July 4. Situated just south of Independence Hall, the Center took 17 years and $138 million to complete. Several days of special events are scheduled to coincide with the opening, including visits from President George W. Bush and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who, get this, will receive the Philadelphia Liberty Medal, which comes with a $100,000 honorarium.

To mark the occasion, the Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday published a 14-page supplement, “Building on the Words.” Included in that section was a feature bearing the title, “What would we change about the Constitution?” The question was posed to several local notables, including Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.). Here’s the core of Sen. Specter’s response:

States, cities[,] and municipalities are required to balance their budgets, and the same should apply to the federal government.

A balanced-budget amendment would compel Congress to make hard choices on spending and tax cuts so that, as a nation, we would live within our means, just as each of us must do.

Who is he kidding? This from the man who has supported virtually every one of the Bush administration’s budget-busting tax cuts? I thought the much-vaunted balanced-budget amendment was an idea that had long since been relegated to the back shelves of the bowels -- and I mean that -- of Congress. Ah, but Sen. Specter is facing a primary challenge from the right, so I suppose it’s time to dust it off again.

No, Sen. Specter’s not kidding. He’s just unserious.

[Post-publication update: I’ve been told President Bush will not be in Philadelphia on Friday. I’m so disappointed.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Times Critics Offer Diagnoses But Not Prescriptions

Eight orchestras have declared bankruptcy during the latest economic downturn and several others are struggling. How does the future look for American orchestras? Not very bright, according to two articles in yesterday’s New York Times.

Orchestral Survival: It's Not Simply the Economy, Stupid,” by James R. Oestreich, reporting from the annual conference of the American Symphony Orchestra League provides the painful summation of the problems facing orchestras today and their seeming inability to cope with what may or may not be the current “crisis.” Much wringing of hands and assigning of blame, but no solutions there.

Meanwhile, “How to Kill Orchestras,” by Bernard Holland, is at once angry, sad, and disarmingly pragmatic:

[T]he model on which American orchestras are built…no longer works. It survives in a few big cities, but even musical fortresses like the Pittsburgh Symphony and the Chicago Symphony are, by all reports, leaking blood by the quart....

Orchestras are not sick because they have bad management. They have bad management because they are sick. Failing industries do not attract top employees....

The incidence of musical illiteracy in symphony offices, staffed with music lovers and record collectors, is high. Symphony boards tend toward successful businesspeople admirably devoted to keeping orchestras fiscally afloat but who, with little knowledge of music or real interest in it, have no capacity to fix a purpose or a path.

As for disappearing audiences, no amount of managing will solve that one. Classical music has only itself to blame. It has indulged the creation of a narcissistic avant-garde speaking in languages that repel the average committed listener in even our most sophisticated American cities...

Rejecting the new, symphony managements and the patrons who keep them in business have fallen back on the tried and true, repeated endlessly. So have American opera houses. One is happy watching as they attract new listeners for old favorites. But our blind faith in immortal masterpieces is just that: blind. La Bohème is not a renewable resource. Use it too often, and it wears out.

Holland, though, offers no real answers. “Deal with it,” he essentially concludes, the glory days are over. Unfortunately, he’s probably right about that.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Saturday, June 28, 2003  

Nicotine Fits and Delayed Paydays

Remember this line from the appropriately named Wimpy on the cartoon series, “Popeye”?:

I would gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.

That’s exactly how I feel right now. Except not about hamburgers, but about cigarettes. My cigarettes. It’s been 60 hours now. A long 60 hours.

But Tuesday really is payday. (Unless they screw it up again.) It hardly matters. Tuesday sounds to me like eternity; between now and then someone could get hurt. Badly. Very badly, and very soon. We must prevent the violence before it occurs!

By the way, here’s a tip for urban smokers: If anyone on the street asks you for a cigarette, say “No.” Always. To anyone. Anytime. Anywhere.

Why? Well, because if the police see you on the street giving something -- anything -- to a person they know to be a questionable character but whom you don’t know from Adam, they’re going to assume the worst, and you could be paving the way for a very unpleasant afternoon for yourself. [Post-publication clarification: Okay, more like an unpleasant 15 minutes, but still.]

Don’t ask me how I know. Just let me say that, aside from the joyous solemnities (see below), it’s been a lousy week, folks.

[Post-publication addendum (June 30): Keith Berry of Berry’s World feels my pain. And G.S. is dropping off a pack on his way to work this morning. Does that make him an enabler?]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Score With Grandma

In case you missed it, this has been a big week for Solemnities.

If you’re not Catholic and you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re excused, of course. If you are Catholic and you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re in big trouble. You might not think so, but you are.

So, here’s a quick cheat sheet I drew up, in case your mother or grandmother asks, or if you just want to show off in front of your infidel brother-in-law:

Last Sunday was the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Tuesday was the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. Yesterday, Friday, was the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. And tomorrow, Sunday, will be the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.

Bonus: Today, Saturday, is set aside as an optional memorial to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. (Why this isn’t a Solemnity, I don’t really know. I’ll have to look in to that. Until then, you’re on your own.)

Now, if you want to score some really big points with grandma, tell her you: recited the Chaplet of the Precious Blood; performed the Sacred Heart Novena; consecrated yourself to the Immaculate Heart; and then joined the Militia of the Immaculata.

She’ll love you for it. But only if you really did it. And you wouldn’t lie to grandma, would you?

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Live! In Concert?

I can’t believe this! So, it’s, like, almost midnight, and I was just now flipping through the latest issue of the Philadelphia City Paper trying to plan the rest of my night, and I ran across an ad for the Trocadero Theatre, a performance “space” here in Philadelphia that’s, gee whiz, not more than seven or eight blocks from my house.

And who do I see is performing there tonight? Probably right now? At this very moment? Bruce Willis. Actually, “Bruce Willis and the Accelerators.” I can’t believe it. I know I miss a lot, what with not having cable TV and not subscribing to US, People, or Maxim, but this is ridiculous.

(You know, I’m going to admit a shameful secret here: I once was in a relationship with a guy who couldn’t finish the crossword puzzles in either People or TV Guide. Never in human history have three years been so thoroughly wasted as those I spent with that dunce. Well, except for that whole George Bush I as president thing, but that’s another story.)

But I digress. Look, I’m no Bruce-Willis hater. I never have been. Frankly, I’d take him over Demi Moore any day. But, seriously, readers, what is this? Is Willis in, like, a band or something? Is it for real? Is he, are they, any good? This is totally blowing me away. I need details.

Even better news: I see in the same ad that the Tom Tom Club is performing at The Trocadero on July 10.

I actually have two or three of their CDs. Isn’t that weird? There’s actually a person or band whose CDs I own that is continuing to perform, that is (are) still alive, in fact.

Maybe I should go.

No, I’d feel weird. I’d be, like, the oldest person there. Well, except for the band members, that is.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Friday, June 27, 2003  

Bad Restaurant Concepts and Other Freaky Memories

Hey, readers, it’s Friday. Time to head out for Fried Mozzarella Sticks and Ultimate Strawberry Banana Coladas at T.G.I. Friday’s! Woo hoo!

No, just kidding. Something better than that! Much better!

It’s time for another “Flashback Friday” at Wampum. Great stuff.

When you’re done there, try something in an entirely different, far less interesting, and completely useless vein: “The Weekly Dish,” a regular Friday feature in the Washington Times.

This week the Cliff Notes version of Andrew Sullivan’s blog is nicely juxtaposed against an editorial entitled “Privacy Amok.”

[Warning: The Times editorial includes the usual right-wing tittering about the apparently incipient outbreak of rampant and unrestrained bestiality that is ready to take hold of American society should we let our guard down even slightly. You know, that dirty stuff Sen. Dick Santorum (R-Pa.) likes to talk about so much. No, not me. I can’t. Aw, don’t make me say it. Please don’t. Okay. You know, “man-on-dog action.”]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Thursday, June 26, 2003  

Times Columnist Leaves Séance to Catch Up on E-mail

Yes, I know, this post really belongs on the letters page, if even there, but I got a kick out of the entire incident and decided to give it some added prominence.

Regular readers know that I’ve been a little tough on William Safire here. Several times, in fact, going back as far as, well, May 2002, a mere month after the launch of The Rittenhouse Review.

Over time I’ve sent Safire a few links and articles, some pertaining to him, others not, some written by me, others not. I never heard back from him -- frankly, I never expected to nor cared to.

No word, then, from Safire. Until today, that is. In this afternoon’s e-mail there was a message from Safire himself.

It was nothing to get too excited about. The e-mail appears to be an automatic, or at least semi-automatic, response to my June 20 missive to the New York Times columnist, a note that deployed in the subject line a phrase I recently coined in Safire’s honor, “Nattering Nabob of Necromancy.”

And so, the message is a form letter of sorts, as best I can tell, but receiving such from Safire is a first for me. Could it be that I missed Safire’s earlier automatic replies, or was there something about that catchy subject line that caught the old Nixonite’s eye?

Regardless, below is Safire’s e-mail to me, which he didn’t say I couldn’t share, and which, to be honest, really doesn’t say that much anyway.

To: The Rittenhouse Review
From: William Safire
Date: June 26, 2003

Dear Reader:

As you can imagine, I’ve been swamped with e-mails responding to my column in recent months. I read them all, most assuredly, including yours. But I cannot begin to answer them individually or I would have no time left to write a column that delights, illuminates, stimulates[,] or infuriates.

Ergo this automated response. (Curious how “automated” has replaced “automatic.” And why do I use “ergo” when “therefore” will do?)

Don’t take offense, and don’t stop writing. I’ll keep reading what you send me.

William Safire
New York

Curious, indeed. I wonder when and among whom the word “automated” replaced “automatic” as Safire asks, seemingly rhetorically and is if this abuse is running rampant among English speakers and writers generally. It certainly hasn’t occurred among my crowd.

Moreover, why the missing comma in the list of qualifiers Safire presumes to assign to his column? I know most newspapers have dropped the ultimate comma that helps to separate a series of three or more items -- usually to save space, but a convention also dating back to the era when type was set one character at a time -- but Safire really should know better when it comes to correspondence, personal or otherwise.

As for using “ergo” rather than “therefore,” see the American Heritage Dictionary® of the English language, under pretentious: pre·ten·tious adj.: 1. Claiming or demanding a position of distinction or merit, especially when unjustified. 2. Making or marked by an extravagant outward show; ostentatious. See Synonyms at showy. pre·ten·tious·ly adv. pre·ten·tious·ness n.

And who ends business correspondence with “sincerely”? Miss Manners would not be pleased.

Aww, don’t get mad at me, people. I’m just “giving him the business,” as Wally and the Beaver used to say.

I genuinely appreciated receiving Safire’s message. More so, I was pleased he was able to break away for a moment from his latest séance, this one an all-night marathon scaring up the ghosts of his old (and dead, let’s not forget dead) White House pals H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, and John Mitchell.

This was a big one, folks, a confab I understand was to include a wide assortment of old chums. You know, the really fun dead guys from the `70s, like Mao Zedong, Leonid Brezhnev, Nguyen Van Thieu, Nicolae Ceausesçu, Augusto Pinochet, and Henry Kissinger.

Those last two guys are still alive? And not in prison anywhere or anything? Huh. Really? Are you sure?

Sorry about that. I guess I misread the guest list. Oh, I see, now that I look at it again: Pinochet and Kissinger will be spending the evening sharing the Ouija board with Safire, not being pulled back from beyond the pale by everyone’s favorite nattering nabob of necromancy.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, June 25, 2003  

But I’m Soooo Happy For Her

Okay, so I’m in a funk. A major funk. I was up for a great ghostwriting job (Yes, another one; my specialty, apparently.), and I didn’t get it.

They went with an in-house candidate. I’m happy for her. Really, I am. Sure, it would have doubled my compensation, but, hey, I’m happy for her. Really. I am. Happy.

For anyone else who might be interested, I have plenty of free time on my hands. Just drop me a line.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Victoria Clarke: Garanimals Fashion Disaster

In a recent post I suggested apparel mogul (note, not “fashion designer”) Tommy Hilfiger should hire former Pentagon spokesperson and noted walking fashion disaster Victoria Clarke as his new, and badly needed, chief executive officer.

After viewing the photo to which I linked, devoted reader Professor Pinkerton wrote:

Isn’t there someone who takes care of that kind of thing before it happens?

Good question, Professor Pinkerton, but considering Ms. Clarke’s assignment at the Pentagon was “assistant secretary of defense for public affairs,” it was, well, sort of her job to clear such disasters before they appeared in public.

Yes, “the adults are in charge now,” as they say. Adults who can’t dress themselves without Garanimals tags.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Take Your Sandals Off and Put On a Pair of Shoes

It’s going to be a long summer. Hell, it might as well be, since, at least in Philadelphia, we had no spring to speak of. But the impending long hot summer, at least from my perspective, has little to do with the temperature outside -- though you might want to check back with me in August on that one -- and more to do with a seasonal fashion disaster in the making.

First off: I hate sandals.

There, I said it. I hate sandals of any and all types, when worn by virtually anyone, particularly men. Men should not wear sandals. Period. (Okay, at least men over the age of, say, 24.)

But even more than I hate sandals, I hate “flip-flops.” On anyone. Female or male. Young or old. And especially when flip-flops are worn as “street wear.”

Now, to my great dismay, I see that flip-flops, which, as my friends will tell you I have referred to unceasingly for the past 20 years as “always the wrong choice,” are making a big comeback in New York, at inflated prices and in ridiculous designs, of course. (They’re also already big in Philadelphia this summer, too, though I’m not sure it’s for the same reasons.)

I’m not going to like this. I’m not going to like it one bit. I’ll deal with it, of course, but if you have any interest at all in making my summer something less than a living hell, I’d ask those who choose to adopt this latest fad to take heed of Ji Baek’s admonition, noted in the Observer, namely, WASH YOUR FEET!:

There’s nothing as embarrassing or unelegant or unsexy or wretchedly ugly and unattractive as black heels when you see people walk. Like, to me, I cringe -- like, “Oh, gross!”…Rubber flip-flops are wretched for your feet. I hate those things.

I’m right there with you, sister.

[Note: This post was previously published, in slightly different form, at my other blog, TRR: The Ligher Side of Rittenhouse.]

[Post-publication addendum (June 28): Jane Finch of the Daily Rant agrees, while Gail Davis of My Blog disagrees. Who says great minds have to think alike?]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, June 24, 2003  

Don’t Forget Freaky Flashback Fridays!

M.B. Williams of Wampum is back up and blogging after some undeserved technical difficulties.

In case you missed it, be sure to catch the latest Flashback Friday, M.B.’s regular look into the past as present and future. Always essential reading.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Either That, Or Someone’s Numbers Need Updating

CBS MarketWatch late last week reported:

The United States had a May budget deficit of $90.5 billion compared to [sic] a[n] $80.6 billion shortfall in the same month last year, the Treasury Department said Thursday. The results were in line with forecasts.

Year to date, the United States is running a deficit of just over $292 billion compared to [sic] $145.4 billion through the same timespan [sic] last year. The Bush administration is predicting a record $304.2 billion shortfall for all of fiscal 2003 and a slightly larger deficit in the next fiscal year.

Hmm. If the federal deficit is running at $292 billion fiscal-year-to-date, i.e., through May 31, then for the Bush administration’s “projection” to hold, the Treasury can run a deficit of only $12.2 billion between now and the end of the fiscal year.

The problem with that, of course, is that the federal government’s fiscal year ends September 30, meaning we have only four months of receipts and disbursements to work with in order to meet the Bush administration’s target.

Any takers?

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Remaindered Again

You know, for a little guy who’s just one rung above posting to Blogspot like the rest of us, Mickey Kaus sure has a big chip on his shoulder.

Fortunately, TBogg has Mickey’s mark.

(For those not familiar, that “mark” usually takes the form of a short but deliberate black line across the edges of the top or bottom pages of a returned or otherwise unwanted book using a permanent-ink marker.)

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Blogging Reaches a New Low

It’s official. Blogging, at least as we know it, has jumped the shark. Or should I say, “jumped the snark”?

Prepare yourselves, bloggers, for new lows in dishonesty and nastiness, demented scribblings at depths to which even the most vermin-encrusted of Mesopotamian sewer rats can only aspire.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Friday, June 20, 2003  

Hey, Kids, Can You Say “Railroaded”?

I’ve written several pieces in the past (see addendum below) about Martha Stewart’s legal problems stemming from her sale of stock in ImClone Systems Inc. I’ve been following the latest developments with considerable interest and more than a little disdain.

Until I assemble my thoughts on the case, readers might be interested in a recent column about Stewart by Katha Pollitt in The Nation, “Blond Ambition.”

And by the way, Jeralyn Merritt of TalkLeft, who knows far more about law than I do, appears to be thinking like me on this matter, though her recent post about Stewart reveals that creepy necromancer William Safire is seemingly in my camp as well. I know “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” and all that, but this is going a little too far for me.

[Addendum: Previous Rittenhouse posts on the Stewart case: “We Believe Martha. Insider Trading Chatter Strains Logic,” June 24, 2002; “We Still Believe Martha. Today’s ‘News’ Adds Nothing to the ‘Story’,” June 25, 2002 (Bonus: Dreamboat photo of Stewart’s broker, Peter Bacanovic); “We (Want To) Believe Martha. Prosecutors Shift Focus From Waksal to Stewart, Bacanovic,” June 26, 2002. (Bonus: Photo of Stewart and Bacanovic.); “Cheney Breaks Out of the Pack. Stewart Lagging in Media Coverage,” July 18, 2002; “Going to Hell in a Hand Basket! The All-Too-Clueless Rep. Greenwood,” August 25, 2002; “Whither Rep. Jim Greenwood’s Credibility? To Hell in a Hand Basket, Perhaps?,” August 26, 2002; and “Is He or Isn’t He? Items From the Google Files,” October 3, 2002.)]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Thursday, June 19, 2003  

Sen. Specter and Rep. Hoeffel: In Harrisburg on the Very Same Day

I’m not saying I’m spilling any beans here, but this afternoon, while catching up on a stack of newspapers, I read a noteworthy column in Tuesday’s Philadelphia Daily News by John M. Baer (“Cheney Comes to Praise Arlen,” June 17).

Baer’s main topic was the goings-on at a fundraiser held Monday in Harrisburg, Pa., for Sen. Arlen Specter (R-D.C.Pa.). Among those attending the luncheon, which raised at least $200,000 for “moderate Republican” Specter’s reelection campaign, was prominent right-winger Vice President Richard L. Cheney, who emerged from seclusion to offer children everywhere a hint to the enduring question, “Where’s Dick?”

Near the end of his column Baer noted that U.S. Rep. Joseph Hoeffel (D-Pa.) also was in Harrisburg on Monday, meeting in a closed session with the state’s House Democratic Caucus.

Baer wrote:

Hoeffel tells me one of the topics (I assume THE topic) is a “potential Senate race I’m thinking about.”

I ask if, ideologically, he and Specter aren’t mostly the same.

“Yeah, when he’s got his moderate hat on, but that’s been slipping off lately,” says Joe.

He points to Arlen’s “wrong way” support of Bush’s tax cuts, says the ‘04 race will be about the economy[,] and he’s “trying to assess” whether he can raise the money for a credible challenge.

Hmm…A general-election challenge from an established Democrat to the supposedly invulnerable Sen. Specter. Could it be? Could we, as a state and a nation, be that lucky?

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Take It Away, Teresa Nielsen Hayden

One of the things I like best about blogging is that it enables a writer to hold forth on any subject he wishes. The limits, at least in my opinion, are determined only by ensuring that one’s blog displays at least some sense of coherency, some degree of logical connection among themes, and some element of intelligent discourse.

Better yet, though, is that when a blogger feels passionately about a particular subject but is hampered by a busy schedule, procrastination, or that perennial bugaboo, writer’s block (about which be sure to see “Breaking Through Writer’s Block,” by John Warner, at McSweeney’s, for which I thank Professor Pinkerton), more often than not there’s a blogger already filling the void with an essay far better than that working its way through your head on the check-out line.

Such is the case this week with the subject of the damage done to the Iraqi National Museum of Antiquities, a subject about which I am unabashedly passionate. I’ve written about the issue in the past, and what with new reports contradicting earlier news of rampant looting of the museum’s most treasured artifacts and the gleeful warmongers happily discounting the tally of priceless stolen vases, cuneiform tablets, and other items, I wanted to weigh in again.

But my blogs are not my life, and the post I started never really got anywhere. I’m grateful, then, as we all should be, to Teresa Nielsen Hayden of Making Light, who, as several other bloggers already have observed, has written what can only be described as the most authoritative and convincing summation of the controversy I have seen anywhere.

Though pleased the most dire of reports of damage at the museum were overstated, Nielsen Hayden persuasively argues that what occurred in Baghdad was nonetheless a cultural tragedy and that the philistines who would have us return blissfully to our Barcaloungers are not only misguided, but ignorant.

Properly, but to a lesser extent than I would have done, Nielsen Hayden alludes to the ethnocentrism of those who would downplay the seriousness of the damage. What does Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld care about ancient vases in pristine condition? Precious little, as his public comments have revealed. It’s a shame, a disgrace really, that he paid no mind to the archaeologists who before the war pleaded with the Pentagon to take such matters into even the slightest of consideration.

“Why do they hate us?” is a popular meme on the right these days. Well, I don’t hate us, but I certainly hate giving “them” so many reasons to do so.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


I Don’t Even Play One on TV

As a writer by profession, both off the web and on, I have a direct and vested interest in copyrights and copyright law. For a variety of reasons, though, I haven’t paid enough attention to the subject. With that in mind, several months ago I added “Brush up on copyright law” to my long-term “to do” list, and, as it happens, I started working on this very project, admittedly haphazardly, this week.

The internet is, of course, an amazing thing. Google, is, in some ways, even more remarkable. There’s almost no limit to the amount of useful and timely information one can find quickly to address one’s questions and concerns.

On the matter of copyrights, just today I found a very helpful article, “Copyright on the Internet,” excerpted below:

What is Copyright Infringement?

Copyright prevents the copying of all or a substantial part of a work. Whether a portion of a work is “substantial” is a subjective question, which includes a consideration of both the quality and quantity of the portion. There can be copyright infringement where only a small portion of the work is copied but the portion is of great qualitative importance in the original.

There are two main types of copyright infringement. The first is direct infringement, where the defendant has copied the whole or a substantial part of the work. The second is contributory infringement, where the defendant has authorized another to make infringing copies of the work. What amounts to “authorizing” another to make infringing copies will depend on the facts of each case. However, merely making a method of copying available to another person may not amount to contributory infringement.

Cases on Copyright Infringement on the Internet
Posting other people’s material on the Net

One cannot put or keep someone else’s copyright material on the Internet without that person’s permission. A handful of U.S. cases have considered the liability of parties who themselves have placed copyright material belonging to someone else on the Net or who have provided on-line services (or bulletin boards) which allowed others to post copyright material belonging to someone else.

There’s more to it than that, of course, and I recommend bloggers read the entire document. I say that because I’m constantly surprised to see bloggers, most of whom are otherwise very intelligent people, reproducing at their sites, in full and without expressed or implied permission, the complete text of articles from well established newspapers, magazines, and journals.

I’m less surprised, but no less appalled, to see bloggers reproducing the posts of other bloggers -- again, in full and without expressed or implied permission -- at their sites.

Republishing a New York Times article is one thing. I can see how a small mind would think, “Hell, they’ve already made their bucks off that.” That doesn’t excuse it, but that’s how certain people operate.

But republishing a post written by another blogger is an entirely different offense. Sure, it’s a transgression that is less likely to get the offender in trouble. More important, though, it represents not only blatant disregard for federal (and international) law but a brazen admission of the blogger’s own lack of creativity and originality.

This isn’t a lecture. It’s just a word to the wise, or would-be wise, from one who’s still a novice on the subject.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Except He’s Not Dead Yet

I’ll bet Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) won’t be happy to read this Associated Press report from India today:

A 9-year-old girl was married to a stray dog in a ceremony attended by more than 100 guests in a village in India’s eastern state of Bengal as part of a ritual intended to ward off a bad omen, newspapers reported Thursday.

The girl, Karnamoni Handsa, had to be married quickly to break an evil spell, according to the beliefs of her Santhal tribe in the remote village of Khanyan, the Hindustan Times said.

Karnamoni’s tooth had grown on her upper gum, which Santhals consider a bad omen.

The girl’s father, Baburam Handsa, a poor sharecropper, could not afford the expenses of marrying his daughter to a boy, so he saved money by making a street dog the groom....

[T]he ritual…does not interfere with the girl’s life. She suffers no stigma and is free to marry later. She doesn’t even need to divorce the dog.

No stigma? Is that moral degeneracy gone mad or what? And if she remarries without divorcing the dog, won’t she be committing adultery? And what about, you know, consummating the relationship? Will there be offspring? And if there can be no offspring is the marriage legitimate?

Make no mistake, people. Although this happened in India, it’s a vicious assault on the American family nonetheless. Sen. Santorum can’t be pleased. Or is he, what with this incident confirming his bizarre fixation on all that “man-on-dog” stuff?

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Missing the Shah of Iran

William Safire, that nattering nabob of necromancy, is scaring up the old ghosts again. Today Safire gets all misty-eyed and nostalgic recalling a pleasant visit to Iran and a personal meeting with the murderous Shah of Iran, Muhammad Reza Pahlevi (“Rumblings in Iran,” New York Times, June 19):

The Shah, greeting the White House staff individually, asked if I was enjoying my stay. I said I wished I could go antique shopping in Ferdowsi Square, but we had to leave early next morning.

The Shah said imperiously to an aide, “Keep the shops open.” And so, after the state dinner, a bunch of somewhat embarrassed Nixon aides found bleary-eyed Iranian shopkeepers awaiting us in downtown Tehran.

Then we heard shouting around the corner, and what seemed like shots. Our minders said the noise came from hooligans, so we shrugged it off. But before the decade was out, a tide of those demonstrators, conspiring with a network of mullahs, deposed the Shah and imposed a more malevolent dictatorship.

Ah, yes, “a more malevolent dictatorship.” They’re a scary gang of theocratic thugs without whom the world would be a better place, I agree.

And yet they’re also not the kind of dictators who are all that keen on enabling White House mouthpieces to shop for rugs, caviar, pistachio nuts, and brass elephants any time of night as they drop in to pay fawning tribute to so despicable a creature, and so unworthy an ally, as the late and normally unlamented Shah.

You know, Bill, in the good old days, things weren’t always all that great either.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, June 18, 2003  

Things I Learned While Mulling a Campaign

If nothing else, considering running for public office taught me a great deal about U.S. laws regarding financing campaigns.

For example, in the Federal Election Campaign Act, we read the following:

§ 441e. Contributions and donations by foreign nationals

(a) Prohibition. It shall be unlawful for—

(1) a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make—

(A) a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State, or local election;

(B) a contribution or donation to a committee of a political party; or

(C) an expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication (within the meaning of section 304(f)(3)) (2 U.S.C. § 434(f)(3)); or

(2) a person to solicit, accept, or receive a contribution or donation described in subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (1) from a foreign national.

(b) As used in this section, the term “foreign national” means—

(1) a foreign principal, as such term is defined by section 611(b) of title 22, except that the term “foreign national” shall not include any individual who is a citizen of the United States; or

(2) an individual who is not a citizen of the United States or a national of the United States (as defined in section 101(a)(22) of the Immigration and Nationality Act) and who is not lawfully admitted for permanent residence, as defined by section 1101(a)(20) of title 8.

I don’t know, I thought it was interesting.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Kids Today. Hell, Adults Today.

Kids today. They think they’re so grown up. So mature. So original.

Below are excerpts from the latest Philadelphia Inquirer report on a recent murder here (“Tale of Teen’s Betrayal: Music, Murder, Hugs,” by Jacqueline Soteropoulos, June 18):

Four teenagers planned the killing for weeks, listened repeatedly on the day to the song linked to mass murderer Charles Manson, and then came together for a “group hug” after they beat to death 16-year-old Jason Sweeney in a vacant Fishtown lot, according to alleged confessions from two of them.

[Tuesday], all four were ordered to stand trial for the killing that the judge described as “something out of the Dark Ages.”

Fifteen-year-old Justina Morley lured Sweeney to his death with the promise of sex, while the three boys donned latex gloves and lay in wait, according to the confessions.

“We just kept hitting and hitting him,” 18-year-old Dominic Coia told detectives. “We took Sweeney’s wallet and split up the money, and we partied beyond redemption.”

Coia and 16-year-old Edward Batzig Jr. told investigators that Sweeney was beaten with a hammer, a hatchet and a rock. The four then divided the $500 take among them -- $125 apiece -- and purchased marijuana, heroin[,] and the depressant Xanax….

Sweeney suffered multiple, powerful blows to the skull, testified Philadelphia Deputy Medical Examiner Ian Hood.

“The head was literally crushed. The only bone intact in his face was the left cheekbone,” Hood testified as Sweeney’s mother wept openly….

Detectives testified that Dominic Coia told investigators that in the hours before the slaying, the four teens “must have listened to ‘Helter Skelter’ about 42 times” -- referring to the Beatles song that Manson said inspired him during his followers’ 1969 California killing spree.

Morley was “the bait to get Sweeney there,” Dominic Coia told investigators…. [Ed.: Coia’s 16-year-old brother, Nicholas Coia, also has been ordered to stand trial.]

[After the killing,] “She [Morley] said she was happy she had a lot of money…she said it was a rush,” [a friend,] Joshua Staab, testified.

Batzig -- once Sweeney’s best friend -- told investigators: “We just walked up and started hitting him….Soon after that, Jason started begging for his life.”

Batzig told detectives he struck the first blow, and hit Sweeney with a hatchet “four or five times…as hard as I could.”

After Sweeney stopped breathing, Dominic Coia told detectives, the four teens engaged in “a group hug. It was like we were all happy with what we did.”

Was he high at the time?, detectives asked Dominic Coia.

“No. I was as sober as I am now. It is sick, isn’t it?” he responded.

Yes, sick. As sick as Manson himself.

And in the same edition of the same newspaper, we read this story out of South Jersey:

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty for a man accused of incinerating his infant son in the fireplace of the family’s Burlington City home after beating him to death last year.

Kevin Abrahams, 26, pleaded not guilty Monday to murdering Sage Tyler Morgan-Abrahams, who was about 8 months old when he died in April 2002.

Police received a call last June from the infant’s maternal grandmother, who said that she had not seen Sage in a while and that his parents had left town. Police went to the house and found the burned remains in a box in the bedroom closet. Abrahams and the baby’s mother, Jessica Morgan, were arrested in Florida.

Prosecutors have said Morgan was not involved in the beating or burning of her son. She told prosecutors that Abrahams had beaten Sage because he was mad at her for knocking over a container of marijuana.

It’s like you can’t even make this stuff up. I’m going to go hug my dog or something.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Together At Last

The New York Times last week reported that apparel-industry mogul Tommy Hilfiger is looking for a new CEO. (“Struggling Tommy Hilfiger Looks for a Perfect Fit,” by Tracie Rozhon.)

Shouldn’t be a problem.

I understand Victoria Clarke is passing her resumé around. And she seems to have a thing for Tommy's trademark goofy plaids.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


How Could You Do This To Me?

Okay, so I’m 40 now. I’m not thrilled about that, but there it is. And it was only five or ten years ago that certain relatives learned or assumed enough to stop asking me, “When are you going to get married?”

I just hope this news doesn’t mean the newly clued-in relatives will soon start asking again, because I’ll tell you right now, the answer is the same: Never.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


A Better Candidate This Time and The Fire Next Time

Some people spend a lifetime planning to run for public office. I thought about it, discussed it, and analyzed it, for about six months, much more seriously than I expected and far more earnestly than many Rittenhouse readers probably believed.

As you already know, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) is facing a challenge from the right in the Republican primary from Congressman Pat Toomey (R) of Allentown, Pa. But there is, as yet, no declared Democratic candidate.

It was this distressing fact that above all else prompted me to at least consider a campaign. The very idea that Pennsylvania Democrats would allow Sen. Specter to ride unchallenged into a fifth term -- assuming he wins the Republican primary, of course -- was to me unfathomable and indefensible. There had to be somebody else on the ballot, I thought, and if Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) can be a U.S. Senator, why couldn’t I?

Of course, one doesn’t just sign on the dotted line and join the race. Pennsylvania is a big state, it’s an important office, and Specter is a formidable candidate. Discussions with politicos here and in Washington focused on the enormity of the task, with fundraising, statewide organizing, and lack of name recognition and political experience clearly the major obstacles.

More personally, there was my own financial position to consider. I’m not wealthy and I don’t expect to be anytime soon. Unlike, for example, law-firm partners who continue to take their salaries and profit draws while campaigning for public office, it would just be me and my bank accounts. A scary prospect, that. And then there’s my health, which, as I’ve noted here in the past is, for the moment anyway, not so great. Could I endure a lengthy campaign, physically and mentally, and would my opponent ignorantly make an issue of the challenges I face on a daily basis?

And finally, there’s the matter of the general tenor of American politics today. Sen. Specter is not the most scrupulous gentleman around, nor do I have a reputation for being tender when it comes to sparring with my opponents. (See, for example, Jeanne d’Arc: “I’m really glad Jim Capozzola doesn’t feel the same way about me that he does about Camille Paglia, because once he takes you down, you don’t get up again.”) I was eager for the challenge. I’m pretty sure it would get ugly, but in an intelligent and entertaining way. I’d give anything to go one-on-one with Sen. Specter in a series of debates.

Taking all things into account, though, I’ve come to realize that it’s just not to be. The timing isn’t right and I’m ill-prepared. And so I’m abandoning any hope of or effort toward challenging Sen. Specter, bowing out, as it were.

There’s good news, though. I’ve learned recently that Sen. Specter will almost certainly face a strong and experienced Democratic opponent in the general election, one far more capable than me of the challenge at hand. All of you will learn the name soon enough, and I can’t wait to blog aggressively on this candidate’s behalf.

Beyond that, Sen. Santorum is up for reelection in 2006, and running against “man-on-dog” Santorum is a notion that already has the fire burning for next time.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Bloggers’ Terrier Attacked in Queen Village
Siberian Husky Owner Still at Large

I recently learned Philadelphia writers and bloggers Jennifer Weiner and Adam Bonin’s dog Wendell was attacked and seriously wounded by a poorly restrained and unattended Siberian husky in the city’s Queen Village neighborhood on Sunday.

As Weiner notes on her blog, SnarkSpot (Bonin’s blog is Throwing Things), the owner of the husky is something of a snake:

He shrugged [off Wendell’s obvious injuries]. “You’ve got a [expletive deleted] responsibility! When you see a dog tied up, you cross the [expletive deleted] street!”

Um, no, actually, sir, you’ve got a responsibility. If your dog goes after other dogs, you put a muzzle on it, or you don’t leave it out where it can get at other dogs.

My sympathies to Jennifer, Adam, and Wendell. An attack like this is traumatizing to a pet owner and when it’s compounded by the stupidity of the other party, it’s nothing less than enraging.

I’ve been through this before. Two years ago in New York a pit bull broke his muzzle, which I swear was no stronger than bailing twine, ran a good 10 feet, and attacked my bulldog, Mildred. All hell broke loose on the corner of 7th Ave. and 18th St., with people screaming and crying and berating the clueless owners of the pit bull. Hell, even the mailman -- and those guys usually hate all dogs -- was in their faces.

As with Wendell’s attack, the gruesome twosome blamed Mildred and me for the incident: “You see a pit bull, man, you stay back, fool.” Gee, I don’t know, I thought 10 feet was far enough, you numbskulls. (Fortunately, Mildred was unhurt. None of the bites broke through her skin. I guess all those folds really are good for something.)

Head over to SnarkSpot for a more thorough run down of this crime, including a description of the husky’s owner. If you live in the area and think you might know this creep, contact Jennifer. He needs to be identified and held responsible.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Astute Blogger Corrects My Error

Nichole Dulin of Passenger Pachyderms writes in to correct a mistake in a June 15 post here, “A Rank Obsession,” in which I noted that only five schools in Pennsylvania made MSNBC’s list of the nation’s best public high schools.

As Dulin notes, the list includes not five Pennsylvania schools, but 11.

Dulin assumed, correctly, that I searched the list for schools located in cities and towns in Pennsylvania with the state abbreviated, properly, as “Pa.” However, as Dulin observed and subsequently informed me, six more schools are included but in these cases, “Pennsylvania” is incorrectly and inconsistently abbreviated “Penn.”

So, in addition to the five schools previously cited, we add the following, with my apologies for the oversight: Fox Chapel, in Fox Chapel; Woodland Hills, in Woodland Hills; Wissahickon, in Ambler; Harriton, in Rosemont; Lower Merion, in Ardmore; and Upper St. Clair, in Upper St. Clair.

I guess things are better here than I thought. And that’s a good thing.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, June 17, 2003  

The Stefans Return to Dayton Empty-Handed

AT&T Corp. last week held its annual shareholders meeting in Savannah, Ga. Among the usual matters presented for a vote -- electing directors, ratifying the audit committee’s selection of PricewaterhouseCoopers L.L.P. as independent auditors -- were four proposals submitted by shareholders, including this one, listed as Item 4 on the proxy card attached to the annual proxy statement, and submitted by Steve J. and Marcia A. Stefan, 704 Grafton Avenue, Dayton, Ohio, 45406:

Whereas, some people are inclined to engage in sexual activity with members of the opposite sex, some people are inclined to engage in sexual activity with members of their own sex, some people are inclined to engage in sexual activity with members of both sexes.

Whereas, the terms “sexual orientation” or “sexual preference” are broad terms that could encompass the sexual interests described above.

Whereas, certain practices are legally proscribed in every state in the United States.

Resolved, The shareholders request the Board of Directors to amend AT&T’s Equal Opportunity Statement and eliminate the words “sexual preference or orientation.”

Supporting Statement: The sexual interest and activities of our employees are a private matter, not a corporate concern, Unless these interests and activities violate the law, they should remain private.

The board of directors of AT&T urged shareholders to reject the proposal:

Your directors recommend a vote against the above proposal. At AT&T’s 2002 Annual Meeting of Shareowners, this proposal was defeated by more than 88% of the votes cast. The Board believes that adoption of this proposal would inappropriately signal a departure from historic policy, wrongly suggest tolerance for discrimination based on sexual orientation, negatively impact our workplace environment, and would not be in the best interests of AT&T.

AT&T has a long-standing policy of non-discrimination in the workplace and abides by applicable federal, state, and local laws. Our corporate policy is, in part, “to prohibit unlawful discrimination or harassment because of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, citizenship, sex, marital status, age, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, or because of one’s status as a special disabled veteran or veteran of the Vietnam era, in any employment decision or in the administration of any personnel policy.” The primary purpose of this policy is to foster an inclusive workplace which does not subject any of our employees to abuse, harassment, or discrimination.

We strive to foster an atmosphere of respect for responsible opinions and views of all kinds, crossing the full spectrum of beliefs and issues. We also strive to create an environment that enhances creativity and innovation where our employees work well together to better serve our customers. This helps us to attract talented individuals to become employees and to contribute fully to meeting our business objectives. We believe this is in the best interests of AT&T, our employees, our customers, and our shareowners. Therefore, your directors again recommend that shareowners vote AGAINST this proposal. [Emphases in original.]

How did the measure fare?

According to AT&T’s preliminary count of shareholder votes, Item 4 received the votes of holders of 16.6 million shares.

Sound impressive?

Hardly. Remember, this is AT&T we’re talking about, and despite the hard times and shrinking capitalization the telecommunications giant has experienced in recent decades, it’s still a very large company.

Votes against Item 4 came from holders of 481.3 million shares. That puts the preliminary tally at 97 percent against Item 4 compared with a mere 3 percent in favor. That’s a substantially wider margin against employment discrimination than the comparable vote last year (88 percent to 12 percent).

As the Financial Times has observed, the lunatics are in control of the asylum in Washington, but in corporate America, more rational minds, more genuinely market-oriented minds, are increasingly, though imperfectly, minding the store.

Makes you wonder why the Republican Party continues to kneel before the demented agenda of the radical right on this and related issues. As far as I’m concerned, I hope the party continues to do so. They’ve signed on to a losing cause.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Monday, June 16, 2003  

But The Roads Are Dangerous As Hell
And I’m Betting the Mah Jongg is No Cakewalk Either

Pennsylvania may have only 11 high schools listed among the best public schools in the nation, but the city of Philadelphia itself has two entries in State Farm’s list of the ten most dangerous intersections in the country.

Actually, forget about the top ten, Philadelphia can claim two of the three most dangerous intersections, and, get this, they’re both on the same road.

Philadelphians will have no trouble guessing which road it is: None other than Roosevelt Blvd. in the city’s Northeast section, also known as the “Highway of Death,” where dangerous intersections abound for both drivers and pedestrians.

Specifically, State Farm ranks Roosevelt Blvd. and Red Lion Rd. as the second-most dangerous intersection in the U.S. and Roosevelt Blvd. and Grant Ave. as the third.

I would have thought Grant Ave. would be the more dangerous of the two, but I don’t spend much time in that part of the city.

I am, however, heading up there later this week to look into doing some volunteer work at the local Jewish Community Center. We’re examining the feasibility of creating a mid-day Mah Jongg group, with me running the project and teaching the seniors how to play. Now that could be truly dangerous.

[Post-publication addendum (June 18): The count of Pennsylvania schools in the first paragraph was upwardly revised to 11 from five after my initial error was brought to my attention.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Sunday, June 15, 2003  

Now They’re Ranking the High Schools

At someone’s blog, I forget whose now and I apologize for that, I see that it’s not enough that we rank colleges and universities, a franchise on which the insipid U.S. News & World Report has achieved a complete lock, we’re now ranking the nation’s public high schools.

The list of the country’s top public schools, which can be found at MSNBC’s site, was created using a ratio called the “Challenge Index,” based on what is in my opinion seriously flawed or at least poorly explained methodology, devised by one Jay Mathews:

[T]he number of Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests taken by all students at a school in 2002 divided by the number of graduating seniors. Schools that chose more than half of their students by grades or test scores were not considered because the index is designed to identify schools that challenge average students and does not work well with schools that have few or no average students. The schools ranked below have the strongest AP or IB programs in the country. Each of them is in the top four percent of all American high schools measured this way.

Great, this is just what we need. Now, similar to the way colleges “game” the U.S. News annual survey to enhance their position on the list, we can presume the top public high schools will begin gaming the “Challenge Index” to boost their ratings. Worse, perhaps, parents will obsess on the list, berating their local school board and faculty (and the teachers’ unions most of all, of course), and bemoaning their property tax bills, if their school’s precious and prized ranking slips a point or two. Oh, and the realtors? They’re going to love this.

How about focusing on the fundamentals of education instead? Nah, this is simpler, more fun, provides handy bragging rights, and, better yet, can be used by parents to beat up on college admissions officers who dare to place little Billy or Susie on the waiting list: “Our school is ranked 16th according to the ‘Challenge Index.’ How many kids were admitted from schools that ranked below 16?! We want to see the numbers. Is this some new form of affirmative action? We’ll sue!”

It will come as no surprise that the vast majority of schools on the list are located in mostly white suburban locales or predominantly white areas within city limits. A quick glance, no scientific survey on my part, I assure you, reveals a preponderance of high schools from Nassau and Westchester Counties, N.Y. (and probably a small number of California counties that my East-Coast ethnocentrism prevents me from identifying), proving, I suppose, if anything, that you get what you pay for.

I was surprised to see that only five Pennsylvania high schools made the list: Lower Moreland, in Huntingdon Valley (No. 135); Conestoga, in Berwyn (No. 270); Unionville, in Kennett Square (No. 580); Mount Lebanon, in Pittsburgh [Ed.: Actually, in Mount Lebanon, Pa.; see second post-publication addendum below.] (No. 628); and Central Bucks East in Doylestown (No. 763). Something for Pennsylvania lawmakers to think about -- or counterintuitively, to ignore -- as they revamp the state's tax system, including local property tax rates.

And no, my high school didn’t make the list. Technically, I didn’t even graduate from a “high school,” I graduated from what in New York State is called a “central school,” which means, among other things, that all grades, from kindergarten through 12th grade, are housed in the same building. Besides, the school was too small -- I graduated in a class of just 43 students -- to be considered for the “Challenge Index,” and the school offered no advanced placement courses when I was there (and I assume it still doesn’t). And yet, even without my school achieving a prized place on this completely unnecessary list, I turned out okay. Not great, just okay.

Relax, everybody, they’re just numbers, and gimmicky numbers at that.

[Post-publication addendum (June 16): Steve Smith of Smythe’s World writes to bring me up to speed on the California schools that made “the list”: “In fact, the California schools listed come disproportionately from Santa Clara, Orange, and San Diego Counties, which is consistent with your analysis. The Los Angeles County schools on the list are either from ultra-affluent neighborhoods (e.g., Beverly Hills, Malibu, Palisades, etc.) or are “magnet schools” established by the Los Angeles Unified School District that emphasize A.P. courses.”]

[Post-publication addendum (June 16): Reader J.R. of Pittsburgh writes to inform me that MSNBC was incorrect in listing Mount Lebanon High School as being located in Pittsburgh. It is actually in Mount Lebanon, Pa., which is several miles south of the city limits.]

[Post-publication addendum (June 18): Uggabugga has a fascinating and creative take on this list.]

[Post-publication addendum (June 19): Max Withers of Bad Things has some excellent commentary on this issue as well.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Saturday, June 14, 2003  

The Perpetually Self-Referential Capozzola Goes All,
Well, Self-Referential and Stuff

A couple of friendly bloggers, and there really are some, including, on this matter, Peevish and Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics, have asked, slightly petulantly, for an update on the status of my potential campaign against the so-far uncontested (at least from the Democrats) Sen. Arlen Specter (R-D.C.).

So, borrowing, but enhancing upon, a page from Slate, which has been profiling the assumed presidential candidates, I offer the following background information until the next update, which I promise will be published soon.

Name: James Martin Capozzola.

Place of Birth: Bergen County, N.J.

Current Residence: Philadelphia.

Vacation Homes: None.

Age: 40.

Education: B.A., magna cum laude, political science, State University of New York at Albany (1984); M.A., foreign affairs, University of Virginia (1989).

Political Experience: None.

Asserted Achievements: Too many to mention. (Or is it too few?)

Previous Jobs: Stock boy, cashier, typesetter, broadcast transcriptionist, chauffeur, data-entry clerk, salesman, research analyst, securities analyst, research director, editor, writer, blogger. (Note: This covers ages 13 to the present, 40.)

Spouse: None.

Previous Marriages: None.

Children: None.

Pets: One, Mildred, 6 years old [Today!], an English bulldog.

Parents: Robert and Connie. Both still living.

Siblings: Nine: five brothers and four sisters.

Other Family: Ten nephews, four nieces, and two more on the way. All still living.

Religion: Catholic.

Ethnic Heritage: Irish- and Italian-American.

Jewish Ancestry: None known. (Inquiry submitted by the Boston Globe.)

Condition of Brow: Furrowed. Deeply furrowed. Deeply and perpetually furrowed. (Inquiry submitted by right-wing pundit Mickey Kaus.)

Price of Haircuts: Currently cutting his own hair. Previously: Around $35. (Inquiry submitted by New Criterion Broadway musicals reviewer Mark Steyn.)

Hair, Generally: Light brown, never colored, kept short, no signs of alopecia, no gray yet, and almost "Kennedy-esque," as one blogger put it.

Military History: None. Federal regulations prohibit Capozzola from serving in the U.S. armed services. However, as required by law, Capozzola in 1980 registered with the U.S. Selective Service several weeks prior to his 18th birthday.

Medical History: Has been and is being treated for depression, social anxiety disorder, and two other conditions previously mentioned here but subsequently deleted on advice of counsel. (Uh-oh, I see images of former Sen. Thomas F. Eagleton (D-Mo.) lurking in the backs of your minds. We've all outgrown that, haven't we?)

Net Worth: Less than zero.

Campaign Song: "All Star" (Smash Mouth).

Web Sites: The Rittenhouse Review, TRR: The Lighter Side of Rittenhouse.

[Post-publication addendum (June 15): Some minor additional details added at the request of a reader.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Friday, June 13, 2003  

TBogg on the Kids in the Corner

You’ve got to love a blog post that begins, “Over at the Corner, which is kind of like the Algonquin Round Table for the socially stunted, it’s Hillary-palooza time.”

The post is at TBogg, entitled “What the Right Hand is Doing.”

Good, wholesome Friday fun.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Throwing Bad Money After Bad

You know, if I decided to squander five or six hundred dollars advertising a piece-of-crap weblog, I’d like to think I’d have garnered from that a bigger audience than the Canadian swamp monster apparently has assembled.

Check out the lively discussion going on over there these days. Below I have posted the number of comments readers have offered to the potty-mouthed know-nothing’s ever-so-brilliant posts:



9 Comments, last by Meryl Yourish [Ed.: What the hell is she doing slumming over there?]



2 Comments, last by jesse [Ed.: This one is worth reading. Catch it before dork-face deletes it.]

2 Comments, last by marduk [Ed.: “marduk,” by the way is the proprietor of the “blog” in question. He's a regular commentator there.]

1 Comments, last by fuzz

4 Comments, last by Marc


1 Comments, last by E


1 Comments, last by Bruce Rheinstein



1 Comments, last by tactitus

2 Comments, last by jeremy


1 Comments, last by The Philosophical Cowboy

3 Comments, last by Dr. Weevil


2 Comments, last by marduk


2 Comments, last by Laurence Simon

11 Comments, last by Eric

10 Comments, last by Eric



3 Comments, last by narciso

4 Comments, last by Meryl Yourish [Ed.: Note to Meryl: Call your rabbi.]

1 Comments, last by tactitus


3 Comments, last by Kevin


3 Comments, last by Kevin

5 Comments, last by Andrea Harris

5 Comments, last by Ricky



2 Comments, last by Feste

4 Comments, last by narciso

1 Comments, last by Feste



1 Comments, last by NY

1 Comments, last by tactitus



1 Comments, last by iggy


1 Comments, last by mikeski

Oh yeah, there’s some serious discussion going on at that most rank and dank concotion of the primordial soup that calls itself a blog. Don’t miss out, folks!

[Post-publication addendum (June 20): Actually, having spent some more time looking into Yourish’s scribblings, I realize she’s completely in her element at this particular swamp.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


The Best of the Best Women Bloggers

I’m continually surprised to hear and read people say words to the effect that, “Wow, I’m surprised there are so many women bloggers. And you know what? Some of them are pretty good, too.”

Huh? What? Where have you losers been?

Long-time readers of The Rittenhouse Review know of my great respect and admiration for the ever increasing number of liberal and left-wing women writers who have changed the face of blogging forever -- and for the better.

Yes, I have my favorites: Jeanne d’Arc of Body and Soul, Jeralyn Merritt of TalkLeft, Avedon Carol of The Sideshow, Madeleine Begun Kane of Mad Kane’s Notables and her other sites (be sure to visit ALL of them), Julia of Sisyphus Shrugged, Jane Finch of the Daily Rant, Susan Madrak of Suburban Guerrilla, Ann Salisbury of Two Tears in a Bucket, Devra of Blue Streak, Janet Petrik of Beyond Corporate, Susan of Easy Bake Coven, Kim Osterwalder of Free Pie, Teresa Nielsen Hayden of Making Light, Vanessa Gatsch of Plucky Punk’s Happy Land, Amy Carlton of RubberNun, the anonymous female writer of Doxagora, Elayne Riggs of Pen-Elayne, and Maru Suze of WTF Is It Now?, among others.

Sure, most readers know that, all things considered, I’m really not “into” women in "that way." Yes, some of my best friends are women, that being the standard disclaimer required at times like this. All in all, though, maybe this is a good thing, because I can appreciate these women for their intellects, their minds, their learned prose, their often brilliant insights, all without thinking about their bra sizes.

With all those thoughts in mind it was a pleasure to spend a few hours on the phone tonight and last night with two women bloggers not included in the previous list, Lisa English (of Ruminate This) and Mary Beth Williams (of Wampum), left out earlier not because they don’t warrant inclusion in such esteemed company but because these two women are particularly special to me. Intelligent, strong, fascinating, and thoroughly honorable women, both. My admiration for them knows no bounds.

I have learned much from both Lisa and M.B., not only from reading their incomparable weblogs, but from my personal interaction with them, that which has afforded me the opportunity to experience their generosity, warmth, sincerity, and genuine friendship, traits so sadly lacking among the dregs of the liberal-left’s most pathetic and self-aggrandizing blogs.

To Lisa and M.B., I have only one thing to say: I love you.

Okay, two things: I love you and keep up the good work.

[Post-publication addendum (June 13): Mad Kane, included above, today posted some interesting comments about this list and the making of such a list. Her remarks bring to mind, once again, a post I've been writing in my head for months now about men and women and blogging. Ah, some day.]

[Post-publication addendum (June 14): Gee whiz, how could I have forgotten Anne Zook of Peevish? My only, and lame, excuse is that Zook is new to my radar screen and as I once posted here that I thought she was blogging anonymously, and maybe I thought androgynously (I'd have to look that up). My apologies, to her, and to any other women bloggers on the ever-growing and probably in-need-of-tending blogroll on the right-hand sidebar, all of whom are included in the catch-all clause, "among others," used in the original post above.]

[Post-publication addendum (June 15): Edited to correct the misspelling of Avedon Carol's name, an error for which I apologize and which she noted at her site, The Sideshow, in a post in which, I feel compelled to note, though in the kindest spirit, that she has misspelled the name of Sen. Arlen Specter (R-D.C.), not that anyone should care.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Thursday, June 12, 2003  

Cut Your Massively Increasing Losses and Run

A very wise and astute blogger, one I admire very much who goes by the name of SullyWatch once wrote, in a piece about the ridiculous Norah Vincent entitled “Norah Vincent: The Implosion Continues…”:

Norah, when you were a little girl, didn’t someone take you aside and tell you that when you’re in a hole, you STOP DIGGING?

Good advice. Let’s see if the blogosphere’s Village Idiot takes it to heart.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


The Brilliant Mind and Powerful Influence of Dennis Miller

Listen to Jay Caruso, the rabidly right-wing half of the otherwise admirable duo that publishes the Daily Rant:

The gnashing of teeth will cause earthquakes very soon in the halls of the left wing:

Dennis Miller is heading back to television. The comic-actor, last on HBO's "Dennis Miller Live" and ABC's "Monday Night Football," is expected to join the Fox News Channel as a commentator for "Hannity and Colmes."

Yeah, Jay, all us liberal leftist commies are really worried about the powerful intellect that resides in the brain housed under Miller’s quasi-boufant, Hair-Club-For-Men-Special hairdo. Give me a break, the guy’s a joke -- though entirely unfunny -- and everybody knows it. (Miller, I mean, not Caruso.)

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Who is This Freak?

Last night I wrote a particularly snarky post, snarky even for me, about the blogosphere’s resident village idiot (hereafter, the V.I.), a self-proclaimed lawyer, journalist, novelist, short-story writer, and, more recently, one of the most traffic-and-ranking obsessed webloggers this side of Andrew Sullivan.

In the early-morning light today I reread the post and decided the tone was too intemperate and so I deleted it.

By then, however, the V.I. already had read the post. Not only read it, but copied it to post later in the day on her pasta blog, in its entirety but without my expressed or implied permission. (Strange behavior for an alleged attorney, don’t you think?)

After she read it, the V.I. sent me a nastygram, which I reprint below in full:

Date: Thu, 12 Jun 2003 05:53:22 -0700
Subject: RE: Mac Diva responds
From: "J.G."
To: The Rittenhouse Review

Such an 'objective' opinion, Jim. All of it based on lies. I have done absolutely nothing to either M.B. Williams or Natasha [Ed.: Natasha’s last name withheld by me.] other than be appointed their scapegoat for their sins. And, speaking of sin, Jim, it is wrong to libel [sic] someone without any basis in fact or even getting her perspective on the situation first. The God you claim to care so much about is not pleased by such behavior.

Most bloggers have not joined this racist and abusive assault because they know me well enough to know the allegations are not true. A few fools have not used their heads and reached that conclusion. I see I need to count you among them.

I have copied your despicable post and will publish it to [my blog] so people can see you in all your Christian glory.


(Mac Diva)

Shortly after receiving this note from “J.G.”/ “Mac Diva” -- Real names, anyone? -- I sent her the following message, reprinted in its entirety:

Date: Thu, 12 Jun 2003 07:44:56 -0700 (PDT)
From: The Rittenhouse Review
Subject: RE: Mac Diva responds
To: "J.G."

The "offending" post has been removed.

In the light of morning it struck me as intemperate.


I quickly followed up with the following message, again reprinted in its entirety:

Date: Thu, 12 Jun 2003 08:11:08 -0700 (PDT)
From: The Rittenhouse Review
Subject: Fwd: RE: Mac Diva responds

And I apologize.


That wasn’t enough for the V.I. Today “Mac Diva,” still hiding in her well deserved and completely justified anonymity, reposted my piece from last night. Since it’s up there, I’ll post it here again:

No Psychotics

No one, and I mean no one, takes greater interest in or has more sympathy for those dealing with mental illness than I do.

That said, I have a firm rule when it comes to my blogroll: No psychotics.

That’s why you won’t see on my blogroll Letter From New York or whatever the glitter-eyed, wing-nut, Lucianne-wannabe, West-Side blogger is calling herself these days.

And that’s why you will no longer see a link to Macaronies, the bile spewed forth on an all-too-frequent basis by a lunatic going by the name of “Mac Diva,” at The Rittenhouse Review.

Well, that off-hand remark certainly got “Mac Diva"’s already fried and depleted neurons going wild, and so she added this observation:

I consider it revealing -- about self-proclaimed white Christian liberal Jim Capazzola [sic]. And, he does include at least one person with a diagnosed mental illness, which Asperger’s Syndrome is, though it is thought to have a neurological basis, on his blogroll. Making fun of mental illness while defending a woman with a mental illness. Another 'interesting' leader of the Left blogosphere.

Now, I cannot recall ever having proclaimed myself a “white Christian liberal.” Frankly, I just don’t talk like that. Yes, I’m Caucasian, a fact about which I doubt I've ever made a point though it's certainly been implied in the few references I have made in the past to my Irish and Italian heritage. And, yes, it’s obvious that my political views lean liberal. But I never use the term “Christian” with respect to my faith, preferring the more specific term “Catholic,” nor I have ever used the V.I.’s fanciful collection of terms or anything remotely similar.

But catch the V.I.’s ignorant and hateful slur against someone -- I honestly don’t know to whom she’s referring -- on my blogroll who, horror of horrors, has “a diagnosed mental illness,” namely Asperger’s Syndrome, a condition that is a particular obsession of the thoroughly deranged V.I.

Perish the thought! Someone with Asperger's Syndrome is blogging! How dare s/he?

You know what? I couldn’t care less. And do you know why? Because this very blog, The Rittenhouse Review, is written and maintained by a man who also has “a diagnosed mental illness,” two of them, in fact (chronic massive refractory depression and social anxiety disorder).

I’ve not mentioned most of that before and I’m sure the V.I. will say I raised the subject in a plea for sympathy -- or because I have some sort of “sense of entitlement.” But if this bag of bad fate makes me less of a human being in the eyes of the V.I. and her eugenicist friends, well, that’s just too bad. Meanwhile, I’m happy to watch the V.I.’s self-induced and much-deserved implosion from a safe distance. Bye-bye!

Oh, and I love the way the V.I. pretends (i.e., lies) that I have claimed I am a "leader" in the liberal blogosphere. Far from it. I challenge her (?) to show anyone where I ever claimed that.

Of course, her obsequious e-mail begging me for a link when she launched her sorry-ass site probably included words to that effect. But, truth be told, based on the warnings of several other bloggers I avoided adding "Mac Diva" to my blogroll for weeks, months probably, and I only did so because she, among few others, had the guts to tear apart the complete and utter fraud who lately has been the other primary object of my recent ire, the blogger who spends money on advertising his "blog" the same way the ill-fated "" -- Remember them? I didn't think so. -- did at the very peak of the internet myth.

[Post-publication addendum (June 13): Jay Caruso of the Daily Rant is also talking about "Mac Diva," and not positively, I might add.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Lisa English is Not a Racist, Liberal or Otherwise

If you’re not reading Lisa English’s indispensable Ruminate This on a daily basis, you should be.

Do so in good conscience, paying no mind to the blogosphere’s resident village idiot, the woman who on Wednesday smeared English, in every sense of the term -- morally, ethically, and legally -- with the demented and wholly unwarranted tag, “racist liberal.”

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Grass-Roots Activist Promotes My Possible Senate Campaign

There’s a new “ad” out in the blogosphere promoting my possible, though increasingly unlikely, U.S. Senate campaign, designed and paid for by none other than the creepy, foul-mouthed, and thoroughly unoriginal and uninteresting blogger who for weeks now has been engaged in a futile effort to buy his way into prominence and respectability.

Actually, the “ad” is almost clever, albeit in a juvenile, grammar-school kind of way. The photo in the “ad” is, of course, not me. I don’t wear yellow. Ever. And the gentleman pictured is obviously considerably older than I.

If you happen to see it, be advised that I did not design, place, or pay for this unauthorized “ad.”

I’m flattered to have so captivated this little cretin’s mind. I have no explanation for it, but I really am touched. And I’ll bet that bugs the hell out of him.

But gee whiz, does this guy need a life, or what? Or a real hobby on which to drop his worthless Canadian dimes? How about taking your wife out to dinner or something, pal? Or is she just as happy to see you writing your swamp-pile from the darkest and dampest recesses of your basement, thereby offering her lengthy and much-needed breaks from your snarling stupidity?

[Post-publication addendum (June 12): My buddy Jesse Taylor of Pandagon has some valuable comments on this subject today.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Undeserving Voices

Recently a sibling said to me, "The reason I hate talk radio is that is gives a voice to people who don't deserve one." I agreed and quickly added, "But so does blogging."

With that in mind, I urge you to read Dwight Meredith's excellent essay, "A Poisoned Well," about the recent antics of the blogger known as "Mac Diva," an undeserving voice if ever there were one.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, June 11, 2003  

Read Wampum Or Die

Okay, so this is, like, a direct order: Go, now, to Wampum.

Read it. From top to bottom. And the archives, too.

She’s the only blogger smarter than me. So do it.

I said now!

UPDATE (June 12): M.B. Williams of Wampum today told me that the blog is not "out of business," she is just having some server problems. She'll be back. Even the lowliest pond scum will not silence this valuable and much-needed voice. [Note: Update revised after receiving new information from Maine.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Play Nice, Bloggers!

One of the biggest problems undermining the electoral prospects and legislative agenda of the Democratic Party in recent years (decades?) has been its proclivity toward destructive internecine warfare.

Clearly the same infection has taken hold of a soi-disant "rising star" of the liberal-left blogosphere this week, and the ignorance and stupidity on display makes me want to wretch.

Knock it off, you idiot. There are plenty of other enemies in need of your venom.

Let’s stop eating our young. And each other.

[Note: Edited slightly post-publication for clarity.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


My Thanks to Greg

It looks like my recent computer problems have been resolved, at least to the extent that I once again can blog with impunity and ferocity.

My thanks go entirely to a certain Greg, who, I understand, would be happy to provide similar PC trouble-shooting services to others in the greater Philadelphia area. For a reasonable fee, of course.

He’s brilliant, hyper tech savvy, a real pro, and a certified (legit) masseur as well.

If you’re interested in Greg's services, let met know and we'll arrange for a contract. (I get a 10 percent finder's fee, of course. I'm assuming Greg is aware of that already.)

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, June 10, 2003  

And Black Presidential Candidates, Too

Okay, so I open one of the last remaining issues of my soon-to-lapse subscription to the New Republic (June 9) and what do I see on the page that should be numbered 11? A "house ad" headlined, "THE TNR PRIMARY." (For those of you not familiar with the ins-and-outs of the magazine business, a "house ad" is an advertisement promoting the magazine itself or an affiliate thereof.)

It’s a teaser ad, to boot, alerting readers to an upcoming regular feature, described as "Eight Months, Six Candidates, One Winner," that directs readers to a page on TNR's web site for timely updates as the primary campaign progresses.

Six Democratic candidates? Just six?

Hmm…that's curious. So who are TNR's six candidates?

Well, let's see, in strict alphabetical order, the mode chosen by TNR, there's Howard Dean, John Edwards, Dick Gephardt, Bob Graham, John Kerry, and Joe Lieberman.

Just those six, huh?

No surprise, given the magazine's history and the current editor's parochial proclivities that there is no mention of any of the, uh, "colored" candidates, namely Carol Moseley-Braun and Al Sharpton. Even more surprising, I think, is the absence of Dennis Kucinich. I mean, I realize he's not Jewish, but he's a white guy, right?

You know, for a magazine that repeatedly has pissed and moaned in the past about how the media and the early caucuses and primaries have too much influence over the Democratic Party's nominating process, this is not only startling, it's disgraceful.

I guess it's just one more reason for me to let my subscription lapse. (As if Editor-in-Chief Martin Peretz's pathetic essay, "Honors," in the same issue weren't enough.)

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Sartorial Splendor

My good friend Susan Madrak of Suburban Guerrilla, in writing up our evening at Philadelphia’s incomparable White Dog Cafe, just happened to mention that I "looked spiffy as hell in a freshly starched DKNY white shirt."

What she failed to mention was that I also was wearing a classic four-button Calvin Klein sport coat, a Versace belt, Gucci shoes, a Breitling watch, and carrying a Prada wallet.

Not that it matters, but chew on that, asshole. You know you are. And all the paid advertising in the world won’t lift your sorry-ass perpetually self-referential blog (Who cares about your family?) -- or your dick -- higher than four or five hits on my referral log.

[Post-publication addendum (June 11): Several readers wrote to inquire about the pants I was wearing at White Dog Cafe's "Table Talk" with Eric Alterman. Truth be told, I wasn't wearing any pants. Hey, it's a look. No, just kidding, the pants are from Banana Republic, as were the socks. (Sorry, the guy just eats this stuff up.) And I will not now, nor ever in the future, answer the question, "Boxers or briefs?" Some women seem to get a real charge out of posing that juvenile inquiry. Here's a tip, guys: If you're asked "Boxers or briefs?" ask in return, "Do you wear big underwear or little underwear or no underwear at all?"]

[Post-publication addendum (June 12): For another take on all this, see the Pennsylvania Gazette.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |