The Rittenhouse Review

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

Thursday, July 31, 2003  

Eagles President Joe Banner Still Cranky

It turns out hoagies aren’t such a threat to security after all. At least in Philadephia.

Responding to a public outcry, led by the justifiably outraged and appropriately skeptical Philadelphia Daily News, the Philadelphia Eagles today reversed their previously announced ban on outside food at the team’s new, publicly financed stadium, Lincoln Financial Field.

The Associated Press reports (as picked up by the Allentown Morning Call):

The team said Thursday it would allow fans to bring small quantities of food in clear plastic bags into the football team’s new stadium, reversing a ban on outside food that had fueled fan outrage and generated a raft of negative publicity.

The Eagles had claimed the ban was for security reasons; fans accused the team of greed, saying they would be forced to buy expensive concession food. At the new stadium, cheesesteaks[,] and hoagies will cost $6.50, a pork sandwich $6.25, and beer $6. […]

“We were able to come up with something that's a little more sensitive to fan desires and maintain security,” Eagles president Joe Banner said. “I totally respect anyone who thinks we made a decision that was overly conservative on security, but I’m disappointed in anyone who thinks there were other motivations.”

That’s Joe’s story and he’s stickin’ to it.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2003  

He’s Raising Money the New-Fashioned Way

Hey, this is kind of cool. That wacky Dr. Dean -- a/k/a former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean -- continues to make headlines for his trailblazing and astute use of the web as a fundraising vehicle.

The latest outlet to take notice? The Christian Science Monitor, a/k/a the USA Yesterday, in an article in tomorrow’s edition, “Web May Revolutionize Fundraising,” by Liz Marlantes.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


My Thoughts

Herewith, my thoughts about gay marriage: ___________ .

That’s right. Nothing.

Okay, yes, I’ll admit I have some thoughts, but they’re so friggin’ contradictory and, for the most part, uninteresting, that, despite inquiries I’ve received on this issue, I have nothing to say.

Yes, believe it or not, on this topic at least, I’m speechless. (Who’d’uh thunk it?)

This is a weird issue for me. I know I’m “supposed to” have strong feelings on the subject, but I don’t.

It’s like the death penalty. Sort of. I’m opposed, but I don’t really care, which, when you think about it, is kind of strange, because most people go all psychotic when the subject comes up.

And it’s kind of like abortion, too. There’s an office of Planned Parenthood not far from my building and when I have occasion to walk by there I can’t decide which group out front is winning the self-righteous-smugness contest, those praying for an end to abortion or those who are there to escort women inside. All of them, regardless of their views of abortion, sport that same condescending smirk. (Especially that 70-year-old, gray-haired, male “escort,” out there every Thursday, I think, who just really gives me the creeps. He looks like one of those guys who’s only into it for the phone numbers he collects.)

Now, let me be clear. There are plenty of pundits out there whose views on gay marriage are similarly contradictory and equally uninteresting. But I see, once again today, that’s not stopping him.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Time to Call the Therapist Again

Speaking of the New Hebrides, and we were -- though this post really has nothing to do with the New Hebrides, I just like saying that name -- my as-yet unsainted mother, God bless her, had a habit during my childhood and adolescence, a habit I understand she picked up from her own mother, i.e., my sainted Irish grandmother, of telling my siblings and me, on mornings when we weren’t exactly looking our absolute best, “You look like the wreck of the Hesperus!”

I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but it didn’t sound good. And now that I understand the reference incorporated in that tasty little aside, I’m really quite sure it wasn’t good. But it is funny.

She also had a penchant for saying, “You look like who did it and ran!” and “You look like Ish Kabibble!” and “You look like Denny Dimwit!”

And the odd thing is that when Ish Kabibble -- who, it turns out, was a real person -- died, the New York Times published a photograph along with his obituary, and my brother P.M.C. (as opposed to my brother P.R.C.) really did resemble Ish Kabibble.

Oh, that reminds me. Time to make another therapy appointment.

[Post-publication addendum (July 31): The spelling of Mr. Kabibble’s name was corrected, thanks to alert reader K.R.]

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I’ll Bet He Wears Knickers, Too

Neoconservative literary critic and all-around smarty pants Joseph Epstein, author of, among other weighty tomes, Snobbery, has an op-ed piece in today’s Wall Street Journal, “A Horse, Of Course,” in which he manages, with no apparent embarrassment, to use the word “cognoscenti” and the term “mis en scene” in the same paragraph!

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Courtesy of TBogg

The chuckle of the day -- actually, it’s more like a rousing, noisy, uncontrollable, snorting stream of guffaws -- comes from TBogg (See: “I'm just a rambling gambling man”). And it comes at William Bennett’s expense, so you don’t have to feel bad about laughing.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |



I know Ann Coulter hates feminists -- Who doesn’t she hate? -- but even she’s got to cringe at being called an “archconservative cutie.”

Oh well, the profile, “Coulter, Sweetly Disemboweling the Left Wing,” by Beth Gillin, in the Philadelphia Inquirer, is so nauseatingly fawning, Coulter has to be pleased.

And speaking of Coulter, don’t miss “What Would Ann Coulter Eat?” by Jennifer Nicholson Graham, in today’s Philadelphia Daily News.

The answer to the question is, I think, obvious.

[Note: The phrase “archconservative cutie” is used in the headline of the article’s jump to page C2, so you won’t see it if you click on the first link provided above. You’ll just have to trust me. (It reads, in full: “Archconservative cutie Coulter says she’s thrilled to be panned.” Yeah, right. Every writer likes it when his work is universally eviscerated.)]

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It’s About Time

How strange. The lead article in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer is about a soldier killed in Iraq Monday, the 50th American casualty since May 1. And the Inquirer not only provides readers with the name of the soldier (William J. Maher III), the paper also reports a bit about who he was, where he grew up, and how his family is grieving.

Yes, he’s a local, but still, it’s been a long time since the death of a U.S. serviceman in Iraq was considered front-page news, hasn’t it?

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Tuesday, July 29, 2003  

And The Blessing Thereof

Okay, so I’m on the phone this afternoon speaking with my cousin’s mother’s sister’s daughter -- who happens, circuitously, to be my sister -- about my father’s niece’s husband’s mother-in-law -- who is, well, my aunt -- about said aunt and her recent problems with her throat.

I mentioned to my cousin’s mother’s sister’s daughter, i.e., my sister, that I had told my father’s niece’s husband’s mother-in-law, i.e., my aunt, that she, my father’s niece’s husband’s mother-in-law, i.e., my aunt, should seek the intercession of the patron saint of throats.

Unfortunately, while speaking with my father’s niece’s husband’s mother-in-law, i.e., my aunt, I could not recall which saint was the patron of healthy throats.

In relaying this to my cousin’s mother’s sister’s daughter, i.e., my sister, she, my cousin’s mother’s sister’s daughter, i.e., my sister, interrupted me. “St. Blaise,” she said, matter-of-factly.

“Oh my God, you’re right,” I responded. “How in the world did you know that?” I asked.

To which my cousin’s mother’s sister’s daughter, i.e., my sister, responded: “Don’t you remember the annual ‘blessing of the throats’ when we were in school?”

Uh . . . no. I think I missed that. We switched out of parochial schools after I finished first grade.

God, what a great culture.

[Post-publication addendum: By the way, fellow Philly blogger, Susan Madrak, of Suburban Guerrilla, having read this post, and having experienced a thoroughly Catholic education, is now staring at me as if I had a hole in my head. Susie knows, and remembers, much about the blessing of the throats. February 3, for those otherwise not clued in.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


The Recession is Not Over

You know, I can’t find it now, but recently I read somewhere that Qualcomm Inc. is hiring again.

Don’t get too excited. As one can infer from TBogg’s post today about “Shut-in von Clausewitz,” the fact that Qualcomm is recruiting doesn’t mean the recession is over, and by no means does it indicate the tech-telecom boom is reemerging.

They, Qualcomm, still aren’t not taking everyone back.

Even Qualcomm has standards.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


This is a Real News Story
(The Age of Unseriousness Continued)

This just in from the Associated Press, with additional reporting from the New York Times:

The Pentagon views it as a potentially innovative way to get clues about terrorists’ plans: a public, stock market-style exchange where traders can profit by correctly predicting terror attacks or assassinations in the Middle East.

Two Democratic senators say the program is useless, offensive and immoral. They are demanding that the program be stopped before investors start signing up Friday.

“The idea of a federal betting parlor on atrocities and terrorism is ridiculous and it’s grotesque,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Monday.

The program is called the Policy Analysis Market. The Pentagon office overseeing it, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, said it was part of a research effort “to investigate the broadest possible set of new ways to prevent terrorist attacks.”

Traders would buy and sell futures contracts -- just like energy traders do now in betting on the future price of oil. But the contracts in this case would be based on what might happen in the Middle East in terms of economics, civil and military affairs or specific events, such as terrorist attacks.[…]

A graphic on the market’s Web page Monday showed hypothetical futures contracts in which investors could trade on the likelihood that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat would be assassinated or Jordanian King Abdullah II would be overthrown. Although the Web site described the Policy Analysis Market as Middle East market, the graphic also included the possibility of a North Korea missile attack.[…]

Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota [D.] criticized the market [as] “unbelievably stupid.”

Welcome again, readers, to the age of unseriousness.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Monday, July 28, 2003  

Consider the Source

Not out of affection or sympathy, but rather as part of a longstanding interest in political extremism, I recently borrowed Hate: George Lincoln Rockwell & The American Nazi Party, by William H. Schmaltz, from the local library, better known here as the Free Library of Philadelphia.

While reading the book earlier today I was struck by an aside in Chapter 8 in which Schmaltz was discussing the American Nazi Party’s demonstration against the 1963 March on Washington. The Nazis, expressing their opposition to “race-mixing” and their support of segregation, carried, among other placards, one that read:

They Don’t Want Civil Rights; They Want Special Rights

Now, far be it from me, as a former editor, to express shock, let alone appreciation, for the American Nazis’ surprisingly appropriate and correct deployment of the semicolon in this particular sign, but . . . Doesn’t that placard have a certain, well, “ring of familiarity” to it? You know, like in the present day, what will all “the homos” allegedly demanding “special rights” and all?

[Ed.: I was going to phrase that differently, but in its current construction, including the word “homos,” that particular sentence is guaranteed to draw a rash of knuckle-dragging traffic.]

Gee whiz, this was 40 years ago!

I guess the lesson to be learned is that if anyone tries to feed you that “special rights” garbage about gays and lesbians, just ask `em if they’re Nazis. American Nazis.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Gibson According to Peretz

As a soi-disant traditional Catholic, one who is such, admittedly, in his own way and according to the terms of what may be his own idiosyncratic definition of the term, I find myself at the present moment all too eager to differentiate myself from fringey, excommunicated, or deserving of excommunication, “traditionalist Catholics,” including, possibly, it may soon become painfully apparent, the latest “man in the news” on this topic, the actor and director Mel Gibson.

Gibson’s upcoming film, “The Passion of Christ,” apparently due out in the first half of next year, already has sparked a firestorm of criticism and debate within and without the Catholic Church, and even more so, among Jews.

During the past week, the barely simmering controversy rose to yet another new level as The Wall Street Journal and the New Republic, normally opposite sides of the same coin, once again went head-to-head over the “PofC,” albeit, we might conclude, simultaneously unawares.

The Journal editors, freethinking sorts that they are, urged everyone, scholars, critics, and readers alike, to withhold judgment until the film is released in its final form.

At the New Republic, it was a different story. TNR handed the controversy over to Paula Fredriksen of Brown University, a member of the joint Christian-Jewish committee that, under a cloud of differing chronologies and recrimination, reviewed, depending upon with whom one speaks, a working draft of the script of “The Passion of Christ” or, according to them, its likely final version.

Taking up more than 4,500 words Fredriksen wrote for TNR a very angry, hostile, alarmist, and Goldhagenesque piece -- “Mad Mel” -- one that, I’ll be the first to admit, has me very concerned about the film, but an article that, for now, I’m far from signing on to, particularly the final comments, no doubt approved by the perpetually paranoid Martin Peretz:

I shudder to think how “The Passion” will play once its subtitles shift from English to Polish, or Spanish, or French, or Russian. When violence breaks out, Mel Gibson will have a much higher authority than professors and bishops to answer to. [Emphasis added.]

Sounds a tad overwrought to me. Actually, it sounds unnecessarily incendiary -- “Goldhagenesque,” again, if you will. Particularly since Fredriksen herself is iron-clad certain the script she read last spring is the absolute final form of the film, one she herself concedes is unlikely to reach local theaters for another nine months. I’m just an amateur in this area, but I feel confident in saying that, pace Fredriksen, there’s an awful lot of film on the cutting room floor and that much can happen between now and then. Her insistence that the version of the screenplay she read was, and forever will be, the one and only, and only possible, form, warrants skepticism.

Hence the private screenings of “The Passion of Christ,” viewings to which neither Fredriksen nor I have been invited. That’s a privilege that, so far at least, has been reserved by Gibson for other “traditionalist” Catholics, along with some of the most conservative of American bishops, a few carefully screened members of the cultish sect Opus Dei, and neoconservative columnists virtually guaranteed to be favorably predisposed.

(Nor is it a surprise given the hidebound and ignorant words über-hetero Gibson has had to say about gay men in the past. [Trust me, Mel. We’re not interested. We’re really not interested.] Oh, and besides, I’m nobody. There’s always that, isn’t there?)

Believe me, I share the concerns of Fredriksen, her colleagues, and even TNR, that this film could emerge as an inaccurate, unscholarly, and, yes, dangerous, depiction of the death of Jesus Christ. I am thoroughly prepared to be unhappy with the film, both spiritually and intellectually. (Fredriksen’s comments on Gibson’s inspiration from the visions of a pair of post-medieval mystics are particularly alarming, even to this traditional, albeit “cafeteria,” Catholic.)

But rather than trying to one-up each other, instead of rushing headlong toward peacock-like displays of this or that ones presumed scholarly expertise, and in place of obvious attempts to boost the circulation of little magazines while simultaneously seeking to generating that god-awful crap known as “buzz,” can we try, at least, to wait for the final product?

If the “PofC” is junk, I hope I’ll be among the first to say so. And I will be all too pleased to wave Mr. Gibson off into the setting sun. But if it’s not, there are a growing number of “intellectuals” whose eagerness to crack the whip of orthodoxy on this subject will be deservedly embarrassed.

[Post-publication addendum ( July 30): On this issue, check out “See It First,” by Jay Caruso at the Daily Rant.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


And Maybe Never Will Be

When I woke this morning and got down to work -- actually, after I did some of my “real” work and then starting thinking about Rittenhouse -- I thought I would write and post a piece summarizing the day’s editorials and op-ed pieces about such pressing topics as the Bush administration’s blatant display of deceit and deception, the recent string of lies coming from White House National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and the still newly released report on the largely ignored intelligence and warnings immediately predating the terrorist attacks of September 11.

I apologize, but through no fault of my own, this particular post is not to be. I had plenty of time to work on it. And I checked dozens of newspapers -- the major national dailies, the super-regionals, the second-tier papers, numerous locals, and others. My thoughts were assembled. But frankly, I came up dry. There just weren’t any “texts” with which to work.

Odd, though, and yet gratifying, halfway through the exercise, to notice that letter-writers around the country are far more concerned about these issues than the editors of the newspapers themselves.

So, call it the blog post that never was.

Maybe someday soon. I’ll keep checking. I promise.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Moving on to the Big Leagues

My, how our little Lloyd has grown!

Lloyd Grove, gossipeur extraordinaire at the Washington Post, has left that paper’s “Style” section for more fertile pastures: the New York Daily News.

Grove last week issued his swan song to his faithful readers, among whom, there is no doubt, there has been much gnashing of teeth and renting of garments:

After 23 years at The Washington Post, the past four presiding over this always[-]absorbing (and sometimes terrifying) daily franchise, I’m leaving. I will barely have time to catch my breath before uprooting from D.C. and replanting in Manhattan to launch a gossip column in the fall for the New York Daily News.

Hardly time to catch you breath? “The fall” is, by the calendar, what, eight weeks away? Must be a harder job than it looks.

Anyway, I’m very happy for Lloyd. He’s moving on to the “big leagues.” I wonder, though, will the editors of the Daily News put up with his insistence that he’s part of the “big Bush leagues”?

Best of luck, Lloyd. And remind me to send you that tie I promised!

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Time for a Special Investigation

Remember the weapons of mass destruction that Iraq, we were told, at least by the British, Saddam Hussein was capable of launching within 45 minutes? Remember National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice’s alarmist “mushroom cloud”? Remember the yellowcake that was left out in the rain or that nobody of any expertise believed in or whatever?

Well, last I checked, the “Coalition of the Duped,” despite months of searching, hadn’t found anything of the sort in Iraq, proving themselves at least as incapable of the U.N. inspection team they so scornfully ridiculed.

(By the way, when will the excuse for not finding WMDs turn into the altogether too convenient, “We haven’t been looking very diligently, what with other priorities and all. You know, this whole guerrilla war thing about which nobody in the White House or Pentagon gave any thought.”?)

The Bush administration, together with Prime Ministers Tony “The Poodle” Blair and John “The Miniature Poodle” Howard and wide swaths of the punditocracy, would like very much for you to forget about them.

In hopes that you don’t, and more important, that lawmakers don’t drop the ball on this as gladly as the media have, there will be a news conference in Philadelphia tomorrow calling for passage of a congressional resolution to launch a special investigation into the causes -- both real and imagined, I presume -- of the ongoing war in Iraq.

The news conference is being sponsored by Win Without War, True Majority, and Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities (B.L.S.P.), among others, and will be held on the front steps of the Friends Center, 15th and Cherry Streets, Philadelphia, beginning at 12:15 p.m.

Speakers include Mary Ellen McNish, executive director of the American Friends Service Committee, Michael McCally, president-elect of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Phyllis Gilbert of Peace Action of Pennsylvania, and Mark Lichty of B.L.S.P.

Everyone is invited -- you don’t have to be a let-me-roll-over-while-you-feed-me-a-sound-bite “journalist” to attend.

And bring the kids! The event includes a brief satirical skit, “Alice in DubyaLand,” featuring Alice, Mad “W” Hatter, Rum Queen, Cheney-Cheshire Cat, and the White Rabbit.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Sunday, July 27, 2003  

Tough Questions for Condoleezza Rice

It’s good to see the Washington Post is still working on the Yellowcake-gate story, turf on which the new and supposedly improved editors of the New York Times obviously fear to tread.

Today Post reporters Dana Milbank and Mike Allen raise difficult questions for the Bush administration official I think has been given an altogether too easy ride: White House National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (“Iraq Flap Shakes Rice’s Image,” July 27, p. A1).

Milbank and Allen write:

Just weeks ago, Condoleezza Rice, President Bush’s national security adviser, made a trip to the Middle East that was widely seen as advancing the peace process. There was speculation that she would be a likely choice for secretary of state, and hopes among Republicans that she could become governor of California and even, someday, president.

But she has since become enmeshed in the controversy over the administration’s use of intelligence about Iraq’s weapons in the run-up to war. She has been made to appear out of the loop by colleagues’ claims that she did not read or recall vital pieces of intelligence. And she has made statements about U.S. intelligence on Iraq that have been contradicted by facts that later emerged.

The remarks by Rice and her associates raise two uncomfortable possibilities for the national security adviser. Either she missed or overlooked numerous warnings from intelligence agencies seeking to put caveats on claims about Iraq’s nuclear weapons program, or she made public claims that she knew to be false. [Emphasis added.]

So is she incompetent or a liar?

Brookings Institution scholar Michael E. O’Hanlon, quoted in the article, doesn’t use either term, but he makes a valid point that at least hints toward incompetence: “If Condi didn’t know the exact state of [intelligence] on Saddam’s nuclear programs . . . she wasn’t doing her job. This was foreign policy priority number one for the administration last summer, so the claim that someone else should have done her homework for her is unconvincing.”

Worse, it appears that, contrary to earlier reports of Rice reading, but not completing, the infamous National Intelligence Act -- Rice, we were told, has people who read footnotes for her -- she may not have read it at all. Milbank and Allen report:

In the White House briefing room on July 18, a senior administration official, speaking to reporters on the condition of anonymity, said Rice did not read October’s National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq, the definitive prewar assessment of Iraq’s weapons programs by U.S. intelligence agencies. “We have experts who work for the national security adviser who would know this information,” the official said when asked if Rice had read the NIE.

On the apparently spotty thoroughness of Rice’s work, the reporters also quote Rice’s deputy, and up to now at least, designated fall guy, Stephen Hadley: “I can’t tell you she read it. I can’t tell you she received it.” But, they add, catching yet another deception, “Rice herself used the allegation in a January op-ed article,” so she must have seen something about it somewhere. Or perhaps she has people who write op-eds for her, probably the more plausible explanation and one we could hear any moment now.

Rep Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), who has performed a valuable role in raising the questions the Bush administration doesn’t want to hear, is going with incompetent: “If the national security adviser didn’t understand the repeated State Department and CIA warnings about the uranium allegation, that’s a frightening level of incompetence. . . . It’s even more serious if she knew and ignored the intelligence warnings and has deliberately misled our nation. . . . In any case it’s hard to see why the president or the public will have confidence in her office.”

Meanwhile, the blame game continues. Milbank and Allen write:

When the controversy intensified earlier this month with a White House admission of error, Rice was the first administration official to place responsibility on CIA Director Tenet for the inclusion in Bush’s State of the Union address of the Africa uranium charge. The White House now concedes that pinning responsibility on Tenet was a costly mistake.

A costly mistake and a dishonest one. After all, George Tenet is starting to look like the only honest person in this whole mess.

The Post also makes clear Rice was either lying or completely clueless when she claimed the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) did not object to competing assessments of Iraq’s nuclear weapons program. The NIE, the one she may or may not have read in its entirety, or at all, spelled that out in no uncertain terms.

And the reporters catch her in a lie, or at the very least in a mistake, offered while trying to cover herself after the fact: Rice at one point confusing, or trying to obfuscate, or just plain ignoring, a crucial difference between the State of the Union address and the President’s October speech in Cincinnati.

There’s a least a hint in the Post that Rice’s standing in the eyes of President George W. Bush has diminished: “[A] person close to Rice said that she has been dismayed by the effect on Bush. ‘She knows she did badly by him, and he knows that she knows it,’ this person said.” (Translation: His revenge is in watching her squirm.)

But the Post article adds cover on this point: “Bush aides have made clear that Rice’s stature is undiminished in the president’s eyes. The fault is one of a process in which speech vetting was not systematic enough, they said.”

So the White House is going with the “collective incompetence” route. That sounds about right.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


“The Most Egregious Example of a Clear Pattern”

The editors of the New Republic recently had some wise things to say about those “16 Words,” the purported throw-away phrase that has caused such a ruckus, the phrase that many in and out of government desperately wish would just go away, while others inexplicably refuse to see the evidence right before their eyes.

(Apologies for this not exactly up-to-the-minute blogging -- the editorial was published on the web on July 17 -- but this is a critically important matter, one that should die on the vine -- John Dean correctly characterized it as “bigger than Watergate” -- so I’m going to keep talking about it.)

TNR’s editorial is masterful, meticulous, and impossible to refute. It’s replete with evidence of an unconscionable, cynical, remorseless, and Nixonian trail of lies, deception, and prevarication by nearly everyone involved, including, but by no means limited to, President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, her deputies Stephen Hadley and Robert Joseph, and former White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer.

Mincing no words, the editors use such phrases as “abundant evidence,” “this is not true,” “the White House . . . strains credulity,” “the idea . . . is implausible,” “was not accurate,” “there are no grounds for believing this broader statement,” “this is simply not the case,” “the claim . . . has since been debunked,” and “dismissed by weapons inspectors on the ground.”

In conclusion, the editors write:

The Niger allegation, then, was the most compelling evidence in the administration’s most compelling national security case for war with Iraq. But its significance goes still deeper. Those 16 words were merely the most egregious example of a clear pattern: Convinced of the rightness of its Iraq policy, the Bush administration repeatedly -- and deliberately -- misrepresented intelligence to paint Saddam as a greater threat to the United States than he actually was. That is the reality the administration is trying to conceal with its welter of contradictory explanations.

And they’re getting away with it.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


NYT Best Sellers List Watch

On the New York Times best sellers list, hardcover non-fiction, this week, A. Scott Berg’s Kate Remembered moves into the number-one slot, displacing Living History, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, which held the top position for five weeks.

Living History is followed by Walter Isaacson’s Benjamin Franklin, the debut of Under the Banner of Heaven, by Jon Krakauer, at number four, and Edward Klein’s The Kennedy Curse at number five.

Dropping to the number-six slot and coming soon to a remainder table near you, Treason, by Ann Coulter.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Saturday, July 26, 2003  

Great Bloggers, Great Causes

Some of my best blogger friends are, as we speak, engaged in marathon blogging for worthy charities. Among them: Wampum, Pandagon, and Not Geniuses.

Please take a moment to visit these great blogs during the charity blogathon and, better yet, to drop even a few bucks on their worthy causes.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Not in the Great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

His is a career supremely and disgracefully laden with bad decisions, with kooky theories, and with questionable votes.

On that latter point could there be a vote by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) that is stranger, less justified, and more inexplicable than his vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of the nomination of Alabama Attorney General William Pryor to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals?

This man -- Sen. Specter I mean, don’t even get me started on Pryor -- has no standards, no scruples, no principles, no guiding philosophy, no nothing. Nothing, that is, that doesn’t serve the interests of Sen. Specter himself.

Lord God, this is Pennsylvania for crying out loud. One of the original 13 colonies. Home to the “Cradle of Liberty.” The “Keystone State.”

And we’re represented in the U.S. Senate, the world’s highest, most prestigious deliberative democratic body, by Sen. Specter and by Sen. Rick Santorum (R).

I’m so ashamed.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Get Out Your Checkbooks

Rep. Joseph M. Hoeffel (D-Pa.) the congressman from suburban Philadelphia who, barring an unexpected primary challenge, will face incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) in next year’s Senate race, has established a campaign committee and is accepting donations.

You know what that means: Get out your checkbooks!

There doesn’t yet appear to be a web site at which you can make online donations, so for now, jot down this address:

Hoeffel for Senate Committee
610 Harper Ave.
Jenkintown, Pa. 19046
(215) 884-2100

As long as you’re not a foreign national, give early and often. Give until it hurts. But only up to the legal limit, of course.

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Have You Filed the Required Reports?

By the way, if you’re reading this, and you made any independent expenditures during the second calendar quarter of 2003 in support of or in opposition to any presumed or intended candidate for public office in the U.S., and you haven’t yet filed the required forms with the Federal Election Commission, well, you’re late.

And if you’re a “foreign national” who made such expenditures, on things like, oh, advertising, for example, you’re in big trouble. Because, well, that’s illegal in this country. And, sorry, on this issue it doesn’t matter that Canada is “attached.”

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Why You Won’t Find Comments Here

And people ask why I don’t offer a “comments” section.

Here’s a little gem, about me, posted today at Eschaton, the commenter missing my point entirely:

I suggest that before you give Mr.Cappozzola [sic] a clean bill of health take a good look at a recent post of his in which he stated that back office service by people from India was inferior even though this high and mighty blogger was willing to concede that Indian computer people were very smart.To add to his arrogant dismissal of nearly a billion people, he further insulted everybody by saying he would not entertain any responses to this post of his.

When you scratch a liberal, a racist will not be too hard to find lurking underneath.

Hmmm . . . That’s not at all what I said, but who cares?

The tone sure sounds familiar. Could it be the blogosphere’s village idiot?

Maybe not. Sure sounds like her, though.

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Friday, July 25, 2003  

Who Needs a Doctor When Mom’s a Phone Call Away?

My mother is amazing. She really is. She knows everything.

To hell with doctors -- And I mean that! [See no. 84.] -- who needs `em when Mom is just a phone call away?

This is a woman who correctly diagnosed -- over the phone, at a distance of 300-something miles -- an outbreak, on me, at age 25, of Chicken Pox, a diagnosis for which the doctor I visited, in person, demanded three separate tests to confirm.

She, the doctor, kept saying, “Maybe it’s syphilis,” a prospect that had me reeling, what with my mom expecting a post-appointment update.

So, like what? I’m supposed to call my mother tonight and tell her I have . . . syphilis?

I don’t think so. (Think of a lie . . . think of a lie . . . think of a lie . . . )

This is a woman, my mom I mean, who, when I called about a particularly nasty cough, told me, “Oh, you have bronchitis. It’s in your trachea. You need to go to a doctor and get a prescription for a cough suppressant. Something with codeine. That will stop the urge to cough. And you need a strong expectorant. That will get all the junk out of your lungs and throat.”

She was right.

I went to the doctor and these were his (almost) exact words: “Well, Mr. Capozzola [I insist doctors who expect me to call them “Dr. Smith” or “Dr. Jones” use the honorific.], you have bronchitis. Trachaeobronchitis, actually. I’m going to prescribe a codeine-based suppressant that will stop the urge to cough. And I’m also going to prescribe Guiafenisen. It’s a very strong expectorant that will help clear all the junk out of your lungs and throat.”

I mean, is this woman amazing or what?

So I was not surprised when Mom came through with some advice about Lucy’s neck.

Mom, being the consummate, well, mom, suggested Lucy’s mother, Jennifer Weiner, was having a maternal moment. Mom was quite certain Jennifer was being facetious in what she wrote about what she saw in Lucy’s neck. Mom was sure the words were just an expression of Weiner’s discovery of yet another beautiful aspect of her child.

Still, Mom offered her words of wisdom.

That gunk, according to my mother, is most likely lint wetted down by perspiration. Mom adds that it can be easily cleaned with a damp washcloth, and that -- as she tells my siblings all the time -- there’s nothing to worry about.

Jennifer is doing just fine, she says.

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Thursday, July 24, 2003  

The Choices Not Made

We know who she is. We just don’t know what she is.

Pfc. Jessica Lynch yesterday returned home to Palestine, W.Va., to a “hero’s welcome” that may or may not have been deserved, “hero” being a word that is much abused in our current culture.

That’s not meant to be disrespectful. Pfc. Lynch, by nearly all accounts, performed admirably under trying circumstances. She deserves -- she has earned -- our best wishes, our gratitude, and our appreciation.

But more important, let’s not forget that Pfc. Lynch didn’t choose her fate. Yes, she chose to join the Army, but she didn’t choose to be sent to Iraq, and she sure as hell didn’t choose to be badly injured in an accident that apparently stemmed, at least in part, from her not having chosen to work amid Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s poorly equipped supply lines in the dark of a desert night.

Above all, Pfc. Lynch didn’t choose to be used in a publicity stunt. She didn’t choose to star in the Media/Pentagon’s feature film -- a film that, to this day, has not been shown publicly in its entirety -- designed to blunt the then-growing, and increasingly scathing, criticism of the Bush administration and cynically to reverse the President’s sagging standing in public opinion polls during the early days of the war on Iraq.

So, we know she’s a soldier, but is she a hero? Is she a pawn? Is she a convenience quickly to be forgotten, her utility to the cause completely spent?

And as Ron Shapella, an astute reader of Media Whores Online, observed there yesterday, is it possible Pfc. Lynch is . . . a Democrat?

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What Have I Done?

Uh-oh. I feel like I’ve spawned the demon seed, or whatever that phrase is.

A friend is hard at work creating a new blog. As he puts it, “the baby is still in its crib, so don’t strangle it yet,” meaning, I suppose, that he’s not quite prepared for the torrent of abuse and invective associated with the project.

As such, I’ll have to restrain myself from sending you in that direction. At least for now. Suffice it to say, the blogosphere may soon enjoy the snarkiness of yet another seething liberal-left Philadelphian.

Now if I could only get B.P. to start her blog. (Okay, so B.P. doesn’t live in Philadelphia. And I’m not even sure she’s “liberal left.” But I do know that once she starts talking, you can’t make her -- Oops! -- she makes a lot of sense.) Oh, and then there’s C.M.K., another woman I’m trying to get blogging. That will be a Philadelphia blog. She’s “liberal left,” but I’m guessing her blog, should it emerge, won’t be overly political.

[Post-publication addendum (Warning: Self-referential -- Is there really any other kind? -- and misanthropic blogging ahead.): I can empathize with TBogg’s plight as expressed in the post to which I linked above. It’s like when friends urge me to attend this or that event, party, or gathering: “You should go. It’ll be fun. You’ll meet some new people.” Sounds like hell on earth, actually. Look, face it: I already know more people than I want to know.]

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What a Town! What a Dump!

Yep, that’s New York, the “greatest city in America.”

The latest news: Two policemen and a City Council member shot in, i.e., inside, City Hall.

Hey, nice job, Mikey B. Keep up the good work. It’s looking more like the Lindsay era every day. Best of luck with all that.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, July 23, 2003  

And Gone Forever

We learn today that Saddam Hussein’s two eldest sons, Husay and Qusay, have been killed.

They’re dead. Gone forever.

And much as I hate death in all its forms, that’s good news. Very good news. I am not ashamed to say that.

Yes, it’s good news for the Bush administration’s heretofore thoroughly bumbling post-“Mission Accomplished” military campaign. But it’s also good news for both the Iraqi populace and for American soldiers charged with the almost hopeless task of preserving “the peace” in Iraq.

And it’s good news for everyone, including me and everyone else who opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq and who continue to raise questions about our actions in that country.

I know the well paid dregs of our punditcracy, among them the likes of Charles Krauthammer, a psychiatrist by trade, Mark Steyn, the theater critic, and William “The Wacky Necromancer” Safire, the Nixonian ass-kisser, among many others, together with the mindless Sharon-echoing segment of the blogosphere, think “leftists,” a group that I’m told, by way of the more psychotic of messages that land in my e-mail box each morning -- many induced by the ignorance of right-wing, rabidly bigoted “anti-Islamists,” Likudniks, and self-styled über-bloggers on the same subject, those whose priorities are sickeningly skewed away from our own national interest -- includes me, are allegedly saddened by this development.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Let me ungraciously interrupt the collective wet dreams of the demented right wing to say, without equivocation, that I’m pleased to learn these little cretins are dead, gone forever, and that I hope our otherwise admirable military forces will prove similarly successful with respect to Saddam and the altogether thoroughly forgotten, yet truth be told, more threatening menace to the U.S., Osama bin Laden.

That does not mean, however, that I’m signing on to the Bush administration’s unconscionably dangerous policy in Iraq, a “policy” that continues to result in the needless deaths of at least one American soldier a day, a “policy” that, based on the Bush administration’s own forward projections, will keep our supposedly supremely mobile military forces bogged down for years to come, a “policy” that, I have no doubt, serves primarily the interests not of the American people but of a small coterie of Americans who are all too eager to move on, without any provocation or justification whatsoever, to waging war upon such “threatening” -- to the U.S. -- states as Iran, Syria, Yemen, and Libya.

What a mess.

God help us, every one.

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Seeking “Context” Where None is Needed

Today I ran across a recent Tom Shales column in the Washington Post, “Bravo’s ‘Queer Eye’ Heads Straight for the Stereotypes” (July 15), a whiney little diatribe about the Bravo cable network’s new summer series, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”

Now, if ever there were a man -- I don’t know if Shales is straight or gay, and, frankly, I really couldn’t care less -- who needed some fixing up, it’s Shales. And I say that based only upon my observations of his public persona; I hate to think what Shales’s home looks like.

But with beads of sweat forming on his ample upper lip, Shales scribbles, among far too much else:

Forced to choose between scorn and condescension, gay people could hardly be blamed for preferring the latter -- and thus might not object to the stereotypes on parade in the series, which each week dispatches five New York gay men to rescue some poor, style-starved straight person at a crossroads in his life. One can hope the series . . . will prove to be as harmless as it is frivolous.[…]

Obviously TV has come a long way from times when gays were either being invisible or portrayed in cliched and melodramatic terms; then there was a period of discovery, or whatever, when it seemed that the only well-adjusted adults in dramas or sitcoms were gay, because seemingly every show was careful to include a positive gay role model among its dramatis personae. The word “queer” itself has gone from detested epithet to a slang term embraced by homosexual [sic] groups themselves, thus essentially taking away its sting.

One feels an obligation to provide some sort of context when talking about a show called “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” but the fact is, the program has no particular claim on words like “milestone” or “turning point.” And to that charge, the producers may justifiably respond with “So what?” All they’re doing is having a little fun, they might say, and passing along some lifestyle-improvement tips generously seasoned with outright commercial plugs.

Exactly. So what?

Shales obviously has been plying his “craft” far too long. Only a “TV critic” -- the Post misguidedly calls him a “Style Critic” -- would think we need “some sort of context” to guide us through an episode of a program like “Queer Eye.”

At one point in this ridiculous send-up the clueless Shales, proving the moniker “Style Critic” to be uniquely undeserved, writes, “Here we learn another valuable lesson: When wearing a denim jacket with jeans, make sure the two denims are contrasting, not the same, because otherwise you run the hellacious risk of appearing tacky.”

Shales didn’t know this? I thought everyone knew that. And here’s an added tip, for everyone, but particularly for those like Shales who -- and I offer this only as an observation, not a criticism -- are dealing with those pesky ten extra pounds: You will flatter your silhouette if you choose a denim jacket that is darker than your jeans.

Take that as good advice from a skinny lean guy. (On a related note, see “Things Straight Men Don’t Get #379,” about black shoes.)

In a sub-cultural reference we can be thankful few Shales readers will fully understand, the “Style Critic” signs off with this observation:

In Mart Crowley’s breakthrough play “The Boys in the Band,” a particularly effeminate character remarks, “Oh, Mary. It takes a fairy to make something pretty.” In some circles, that play is now considered hopelessly reactionary. And yet that line sounds as if it might have come from “Queer Eye for a Straight Guy” -- except that “fairy” is no longer an acceptable term. Things change -- or do they?

Thanks, Tom, but let me clue you in: It’s all about “context.” This is, after all, 2003 not 1970.

And besides, we can take the joke. Take it? Hell, we’ve been making that joke every day since time immemorial. So now a few more people are in on it. So what?

Don’t worry about us, Tom. We’ll be just fine.

[Post-publication addendum (July 27): Meanwhile, over at the New York Times, Alessandra Stanley gets it. Go read the article, Tom, and see what all the fuss isn’t about.]

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Top Aide Takes Fall in White House

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice lucked out yesterday when her top aide, Stephen Hadley, deputy national security adviser, took the fall for the White House staff in Yellowcake-gate.

The Associated Press reports:

Hadley, in a rare on-the-record session with reporters, said he had received two memos from the CIA and a phone call from agency Director George Tenet in October raising objections to an allegation that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium ore from Africa to use in building nuclear weapons.

As a result, Hadley said the offending passage was excised from a speech on Iraq the President gave in Cincinnati on Oct. 7. But Hadley suggested that details from the memos and phone call had slipped his attention as the State of the Union was being put together.

“The high standards the President set were not met,” Hadley said. He said he had apologized to the President on Monday. Aides said he had also effectively offered his resignation, which Bush did not accept.

In the Bush administration the buck stops anywhere but the President’s desk. We are now supposed to view President George W. Bush as unscathed by this controversy, this scandal. His administration, we are to believe, is filled with competent, well intended, but overworked officials who are really, really sorry, and who, it seems, can be faulted only for not speaking with each other often enough.

But as former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, put it, quoted in the same A.P. article, “I call on all who misled the President to resign immediately. . . . The story line continues to change from day to day on this matter.”

And it’s likely to continue to do so.

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Another Ally Joins the Ranks of “Old Europe”

Here’s a true story: I recently met a man in his late 20s who had never heard of Iceland. The subject came up when I was complaining about the heat. “It’s time to move to Iceland or something,” I said. “Iceland? What’s that?” he asked, in all seriousness. “It’s, um, a country,” I responded. “Oh. So ‘Iceland.’ Does the name describe what it’s like there?” he inquired, at which point the conversation ended.

But I digress.

Listen, now that we’re all tired of beating up on France, Germany, and Belgium, and after we’ve come to realize there really aren’t any more yucks to be derived from replacing “French Fries” with “Freedom Fries” on cafeteria and restaurant menus [Ed.: See fifth script.], and having grown weary of chortling over “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” -- yeah, that was a good one -- let’s go beat up on Iceland.

Why not? That’s what the kool kidz -- oh, sorry, grownups -- in the White House and at the Pentagon are up to these days.

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Monday, July 21, 2003  

And Revealing My Ignorance

Tomorrow, July 22, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast, or memorial, of St. Mary Magdalene, a fact mentioned in yesterday’s timely and fascinating Washington Post article, “The Mysteries of Mary Magdalene,” by Roxanne Roberts.

Roberts writes:

Mary Magdalene is back.

Not that she ever really went away, but every now and then she’s thrust into the spotlight, the canon’s cover girl for a lively debate about women, sex, feminism[,] and the church.

In the article Roberts engages in a stimulating and freewheeling discussion of the theological and literary interpretations of the Magdelene during the past two millennia, including the differing views of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, and brings to my attention the contention in the recent bestseller, The DaVinci Code, by Dan Brown (which I haven’t read), that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were husband and wife, an apparently raging debate.

Jesus and the Magdalene, husband and wife? And this is a controversy dating back to the early days of the Church? Gee whiz, that’s news to me. I guess I had better widen my reading on the subject.

Further, Roberts declares, “Nothing in the Bible says she [i.e., Mary Magdalene] was a prostitute,” something many Christians will find surprising, including me. (No, I don’t do “chapter and verse,” but I know my way around the New Testament, thank you very much.)

I wonder why that is; why I didn’t know the Magdalene is not specifically identified as a prostitute. Upon reflection, I suppose I both was taught that and arrived at that interpretation on my own because of the physical depiction of her presented in the seventh chapter of the Gospel of Luke. I understood, perhaps incorrectly, that this description, from an anthropological perspective, sealed the matter. In the eyes of many scholars, apparently not.

According to Roberts, “Defenders of a Magdalene-Jesus union say that Jewish tradition would have accepted Jesus as a sexual being within a lawful marriage, but it was problematic when apostles tried to expand Christianity into the Greek world, where spiritual purity demanded a chaste Jesus. They say the church fathers effectively wrote Magdalene out of the official record, but her story was kept alive through myths, legends[,] and secret signs.”

I’m missing something here. (Time to bone up on Greek history as well, I suppose.) Wasn’t Zeus, the king of the Greek gods, sort of, well, boning everybody back in the day? Why and when did the Greeks have this change of heart?

Roberts goes on to reveal yet another gaping hole in my knowledge. She writes, “A flurry of biblical studies in the last 20 years has reexamined the role of women in the first days of Christianity. An increasing number of mainstream scholars now believe that women held positions of leadership -- deacons, teachers, preachers -- and that Magdalene was one of the most important.”

Okay, I’m with her so far. (There’s that unheralded woman in Acts who was a noted preacher and proselytizer. Sorry, I forget her name just now.)

But then Roberts adds, “Some of this is based on a rereading of the Bible. Some comes from non-biblical, ancient texts. The Gospel of Mary was discovered in 1896. The Nag Hammadi texts were discovered in 1945 and date back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries; they include the Gospels of Philip and Thomas.”

Ignorance strikes again. I have not only heard of the Gnostic Gospels of Philip and Thomas, I’ve read them, but until yesterday I knew not a whit about the Gospel of Mary. I wonder why that is.

Based on Roberts’s essay, Mary’s gospel is worth examining:

The Gospel of Mary stresses Magdalene’s spiritual wisdom and closeness to Jesus. At one point, Peter challenges Magdalene to share a vision from Jesus, and then rejects it. “Are we to turn around and listen to her?” he asks the other men. “Did He choose her over us?” Levi jumps in to defend Magdalene, telling Peter that he is hot-tempered and that she is worthy to teach the male disciples.

Add it to the reading list.

So, no conclusion here, just an article worth your time and, as the great blog says, a lot more questions than answers.

(Note: The reading for mass tomorrow is to be chosen from among three selections: Song of Songs, 3:1-4b; the Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, 5:14-17; and Exodus, 14:21-15:1. The gospel reading is John 20:1-2, 11-18.)

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Pryor Nomination Rests in the Hands of Sen. Specter

Could we, as a nation, at this moment be in more slippery, less predictable hands?

Okay, that’s overstating the threat a little bit, but it’s true the fate of the Bush administration’s nomination of ethically challenged and constitutionally impaired William Pryor to the U.S. Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit, rests on the decision of the wildly erratic and thoroughly unprincipled Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports (“Foes on Right, Left Await Specter’s Vote on Federal Judge,” by Chris Mondics, July 21, p. A3):

Specter, 73, has long had a reputation as a moderate to liberal lawmaker. So his support for so-far-stalled conservative judicial nominees such as Priscilla Owen and Miguel Estrada to federal appeals courts has led to speculation that he is seeking to protect his flanks ahead of a Republican primary challenge from Rep. Patrick Toomey of Allentown.[…]

Specter has been under scrutiny from the right and the left not only for his votes on judicial nominations but also for positions he has taken on tax cuts and environmental issues. Some observers sense a shift to the right in response to Toomey’s challenge.

But Specter’s career is difficult to characterize ideologically, seeming at times to careen all over the political spectrum. He won the seemingly permanent enmity of some conservatives in 1987 by opposing the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork, then a darling of the right.

But in 1991, he carried heavy water for the conservative cause when he took on the role of lead inquisitor of Anita Hill, chief witness against conservative Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Specter’s aggressive questioning of Hill triggered a feminist backlash and fueled the campaign of Democrat Lynn Yeakel, who almost toppled him the following year.

No matter what one thinks of Judge Bork, Pryor isn’t worthy of sharpening his pencils. Rep. Toomey’s primary challenge from the right can be the only explanation of Sen. Specter’s wavering on the Pryor nomination. Unless, of course, Sen. Specter doesn’t deserve the “moderate to liberal” moniker he has so carefully cultivated -- on an “as-needed” basis, anyway.

The Inquirer article offers no new insight into Sen. Specter’s position, about which the lawmaker says he remains undecided. But the paper reiterates his by now very familiar stance: “For his part, Specter says he believes that the President should be able to choose nominees who match his own ideology and that only in unusual cases should the Senate overrule him.”

It’s up to you, Sen. Specter. We’ll be watching.

[Post-publication addendum (July 23): With help from Suburban Guerrilla, Rittenhouse offers readers the following phone numbers for contacting Sen. Specter in Washington and at any of his six district offices: Washington: (202) 224-4254; Philadelphia: (215) 597-7200; Pittsburgh: (412) 644-3400; Allentown: (610) 434-1444; Erie: (814) 453-3010; Harrisburg: (717) 782-3951; and Scranton: (570) 346-2006. Call today!]

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It’s All in His Head

Oh, we get it now, thanks to William Safire. This, the “guerrilla war” we’re just now acknowledging as a reality, was Saddam Hussein’s plan all along: Forget fighting a conventional war and instead defeat the U.S. through “a war of attrition.” How odd no one in the White House or Pentagon gave that any thought whatsoever.

“How best to deny Saddam’s putative return from his Elba, and to put this summer of discontent behind us?” Safire asks.

First and foremost, and providing the quote of the day, he says, “Drop the premature conclusion that if we can’t yet find proof of the destructive weapons, they never existed. That’s like saying because we haven’t found Osama or Saddam, those killers never existed.”

How convenient that we should forget about all that -- and how absurd a comparison. Not to let the Bush administration off the hook for failing to nab either Public Enemy No. 1 or Public Enemy No. 2, but finding one man, and, presumably, his ragtag companions, is hardly on a par with uncovering irrefutable evidence of a vast program of developing and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, supposedly ready for use within a 45-minute window.

Poor Safire, he’s so used to working for, with, and on behalf of liars -- Nixon, Agnew, Bush, Starr, Sharon, and Bush -- he can no longer do anything else.

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Sunday, July 20, 2003  

Still Black and White But Not “Read All Over” So Much Anymore

Deirdre Griffin, 32, a lawyer from Medford, Mass., is considering joining the Sisters of St. Joseph, i.e., becoming a nun. That warrants a 5,000-word feature in today’s Boston Globe Magazine (“The New Nun,” by Neil Swidey).

It really does. I’m not being facetious. Griffin’s decision, after all, is a rare one these days among American women, and particularly among professional women, just as it is with American men and the priesthood and religious orders. It’s an interesting piece, with Swidey effectively and fairly allowing Griffin to demonstrate the logic of her intended transition.

But what warrants a similar article is the work of Griffin’s colleague, Sister Nancy Braceland, mentioned in passing, but at a critical juncture, in the same feature. Sister Nancy runs the adult education program at Casserly House, located in “a neat but unremarkable brown triple-decker on a side street in a dicey neighborhood of Roslindale.” (Griffin tutors schoolchildren at Casserly.) Swidey writes:

Braceland . . . has short gray hair and crystal-blue eyes. She lived for a while in Peru and speaks choppy Spanish with an intense Boston accent. She’s slender, and she walks fast. She is 67.

Standing on the front porch of the house, which the congregation bought three years ago, Sister Nancy points to every triple-decker up and down the street, identifying all the occupants and their countries of origin. More impressive, for a street with high turnover and where usually the Puerto Ricans speak only to the Puerto Ricans and the Albanians speak only to the Albanians, everyone speaks directly to Sister Nancy. […]

As we walk toward the Florence Apartments, a woman yells from her stoop, “Sister Nancy. How are you, baby?”

Sister Nancy waves and then continues on toward the Archdale project, Deirdre and me in tow. The path connecting the two apartment complexes was impassable with garbage until recently. Sister Nancy helped get the city to clean it up. Once at Archdale, a tight collection of six flat-roofed, three-story brick buildings, she points to the spot where a grisly domestic-violence death happened in broad daylight last year. Not long afterward, she helped organize a candlelight vigil.

Sister Nancy compliments the grounds crew planting perennials in a circular garden. She knows the workers by name. Then she calls over to a woman standing outside the Archdale Community Center, grabbing a smoke. “We missed you at the cleanup,” she yells.

“My spirit was there,” the woman shouts back with a deep laugh. “You’re a nun. You should know about spirit!”

We walk over to talk to the woman, who turns out to be Cynthia Johnson, the center’s director. “I want to introduce you to Deirdre,” Sister Nancy says. “She’s going to be a sister.”

Johnson, whose golden jeans match the highlights in her hair, breaks out into song. “We are fam-i-ly. I got all my sisters with me!” Then she puts out her cigarette and gets serious. “The sisters have been wonderful for this neighborhood. They help a lot of people -- a lot more than all those other people who tell you how much they’re helping you but just want to see their names in the paper.”

All the same, it’s nice to see Sister Nancy in the paper.

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Yankee Poodle’s Standing Curls in Latest Poll

The Telegraph today reports all is not well for Prime Minister Tony Blair (“Voters Pile Blame on Blair,” by Toby Helm; registration required):

Tony Blair has suffered huge damage to his reputation among voters as a direct result of the death of Dr David Kelly, the weapons expert, and the Government’s bitter and protracted dispute with the BBC, according to a poll.

The row has also inflicted damage on the BBC after it admitted yesterday that the scientist had been the main source for its story claiming that the Government had “sexed up” a dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction [sic]. […]

The YouGov survey for The Telegraph, conducted after Dr Kelly’s death had been confirmed, found that almost as many voters believe Mr Blair should resign (39 per cent) as think he should stay on as Prime Minister (41 per cent).

Equally damaging for Mr Blair is that 59 per cent of voters said their opinion of him had gone down since the Dr Kelly affair.

I guess that’s the risk you take when you pin your reputation, your career even, on to the tail of the dimmest star in the political universe.

I wonder, though, where the buck stops in London: At Prime Minister Blair’s desk, or will it, not unlike here in the U.S., meander over to that of Alastair Campbell, his director of communications? Of those surveyed, 65 percent believe Campbell should resign, an action another London daily, The Independent, reports Campbell already is planning.

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NYT Best Sellers List Watch

On the New York Times best sellers list, hardcover non-fiction, this week: Living History, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, holds on to the number-one slot, followed by Walter Isaacson’s Benjamin Franklin and the debut of A. Scott Berg’s Kate Remembered.

Treason, by Ann Coulter, predictably drops from number two to number four. And Edward Klein’s The Kennedy Curse appears for the first time, in the number-five spot.

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Friday, July 18, 2003  

Now Running the Show on Capitol Hill

I see the grownups are in charge on Capitol Hill today.

CBS reports:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called for [the] House of Representatives to annul the approval in the House Ways and Means Committee of a bill that would change pension laws. Earlier in the day, House Republicans called the police after Democrats walked out of a House committee vote on pension reforms. Pelosi called it an “indignity” to call the police on the Democrats. The Democrats had objected to a procedural move by committee Chairman Bill Thomas, R-Calif., and tried to delay the vote. While Democrats were out of the room, Thomas pushed the bill through unanimously on a voice vote. A Republican staffer asked Capitol Police to remove the Democrats from the room where they had taken refuge. The Democrats left on their own.


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Who is “Walter Cronkite”? Enlightened bloggers with comments sections -- Sorry, no. I said no. No. Just forget about it, would you? -- are all too familiar with “Cronkite” and the small-minded nastygrams and little green snotballs he’s left all over the blogosphere.

Well, it turns out “Cronkite” is right-wing-nut blogger and aspiring photographer Mark Harden of something called “Insane Photography,” i.e., nobody. I mean, he’s not the real Cronkite if that’s what you were thinking.

Man, I’ll bet that guy’s a blast at San Antonio gallery openings.

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Thursday, July 17, 2003  

Hell, She’s Just Pathetic

I used to consider Norah Vincent, the libeling Los Angeles Times columnist, my adversary. (See “Norah Vincent Cannot Have It Both Ways,” December 19.)

That’s changed. Now I just think she’s pathetic.

Imagine having a weekly column in the L.A. Times, what with its massive circulation and readership, and not being able to do a damned thing with it? That’s Vincent’s conundrum.

Week after week, each Thursday, in fact, readers of the Los Angeles Times are subject to the random musings of the Yardley, Pa.-based “pro-life libertarian lesbian.” Except, of course, for those Thursdays when Vincent’s column is so bad the Times just won’t put up with the shame of publishing her tripe, and Vincent’s incompetent and slothful editor, Mary Arno, stops for a moment to think, “What the hell is this crap?” and then, with no remorse whatsoever, drops Vincent’s purple prose to the floor.

You know what, though? It doesn’t matter. I finally realized it doesn’t matter.

Vincent is so terrible a writer and so laughable a columnist that I need not bother dissecting her school-girlish prose, her entirely unoriginal and insipid observations on the popular culture, to say nothing of our national security.

Better yet, the best revenge is not mine: It comes from Vincent’s readers. It’s clear that nobody is paying any attention to Vincent. In the immortal words of Tina Brown, a former friend of Vincent’s most vociferous ally, amateur blogger Andrew Sullivan, there’s just “no buzz” there.

The question remains, though. How long will readers of the Los Angeles Times suffer the almost-weekly assault of Vincent’s platitudes? They deserve much better. Will they demand it?

If I were a betting man, and I’m really not, I would give Vincent’s column another six months, tops.

(Note to self: If history is any guide, prepare for a hate-filled, thoroughly juvenile, and completely unprofessional e-mail from Vincent’s girlfriend and devoted Rittenhouse reader, Lisa McNulty. Hmmm . . . I wonder if she calls her “Ms. Vincent” at home. You know, like: “Ms. Vincent, I must disagree with ‘your work’ here. I realize you are an ‘accomplished’ and ‘visible’ writer, Ms. Vincent, but I must disagree. Again. You know how we do that. So often. Oh, listen, Ms. Vincent, are we out of toilet paper again?”)

[Post-publication addendum (July 18): See also Uggabugga. So much for the much-vaunted fact-checkers at the Los Angeles Times.]

[Post-publication addendum (July 25): In case you’re keeping score at home . . . Yet again this week Vincent’s doodlings didn’t make it into the Times. Strange, because the Times published, on the same page and on the same day where we normally are treated to Vincent’s droppings, two pieces by those wacky Cockburn brothers. I mean, having your column squashed to make room for the Cockburns? How embarrassing is that? That’s like ceding your space to Mark Steyn or something.]

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Saving the Queen of the Kvetchers, Of Course

In the latest issue of the New York Observer there’s a piece about Bill Keller taking over the day-to-day management of the New York Times. The article, by Sridhar Pappu, is entitled, “King Calm Keller Takes Over Times, Quiets Kvetchers.”

“Quiets kvetchers.”

Hmm . . . Seems Andrew Sullivan didn’t get the memo. Oh, that’s right. I remember now. Sullivan never worked for Howell Raines, or at least that’s the latest line the PofP is peddling.

Of course, Sullivan has never worked a day in his life as a journalist, but we’re all supposed to forget that.

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Saddam Speaks . . . Again

Yeah, I know, “Mission Accomplished!” and all that crap, but there’s no longer any denying Saddam Hussein is still alive and helping to create hell on earth for American troops sent to and remaining stationed in Iraq for no apparent reason than allowing America’s neoconservatives, Israel’s Likud Party, and Halliburton & Co. to cheer the “powerful projection of U.S. military force.”

Reuters reports today (I pulled this off AOL and I’m looking for a direct link.):

Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, not seen since he was toppled in April, appeared to call on Iraqis to mount a jihad, or holy struggle, to oust occupying U.S. troops in an audiotape aired on Thursday.

A massive manhunt by U.S. troops has failed to find Saddam, but U.S. officials generally believe he is alive.

“The enemy wants to weaken Iraq and the only genuine solution is to resist the occupation through Jihad (holy struggle) so to inflict losses and evict the enemy from Iraq,” said the speaker on the tape broadcast by two Arabic language stations.

Listeners familiar with Saddam’s speeches said the voice and style of address sounded very like the former Iraqi leader. […]

The tape referred to recent events in Iraq, suggesting if the voice is indeed Saddam’s then he is still alive.

The speaker described as “baseless” U.S. and British allegations that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, the main justification for the war which [sic] overthrew Saddam.

And he attacked the formation of Iraq’s new U.S.-backed Governing Council, saying it could not serve the Iraqi people. […]

The speaker on the tape vowed that resistance against U.S. occupation would intensify.

“The foreign occupier occupied Iraq to weaken it and destroy its resources, that is why the only to resist the occupation to make the enemy fail.”

“I am confident that our people who rejected the occupation will resist them,” the voice said.

No, I’m not cheering on Saddam -- only someone like Frank Gaffney Jr. would think something like that -- I’m just wondering what the hell we’ve gotten ourselves into and how the hell, to say nothing of when, we’re going to get out of it.

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It’s a Strange City, But There are Those Who Love It

I haven’t read Jennifer Weiner’s books. To begin with, I read very little contemporary fiction, and “chick lit,” which in my opinion is not necessarily a disparaging term, isn’t really my thing.

But I have every reason to believe that Weiner’s work is excellent, as I’ve been given that message from several normally reliable sources. (No, not the sorely misguided friend who recommended The Bridges of Madison County: “I love this book! I love this book!” So I bought it. And it was and remains to this day the only book I ever have thrown away. Yes, it’s true. I did that. And I think throwing a book away is like some kind of mortal sin. But the notion that someone might see it on my bookshelves was too embarrassing to bear, so in the dark of night, into the trash it went.)

Parsing through Weiner’s blog, SnarkSpot (Damn good name, by the way. Wish I had thought of it. Maybe that’s why she’s received a two-book deal valued “well into the seven figures” and I haven’t.) and her other web site, as well as various links from there, and by the way, don’t miss Weiner’s entertaining and informative essay, “For Writers,” I came across this comment in Philadelphia Weekly (June 26, 2002):

“I got a lot of email thanking me for setting the book somewhere other than New York or Los Angeles,” says Weiner. “In a way the city became another character in the story.”

See, now that’s cool. Refreshing. Different. Strong. Self-confident.

I love this town. And it’s great when a woman who could live anywhere -- and, of course, set her novels anywhere -- stays close to home, to Philadelphia, the strangest city you’ll ever love.

On a final note, Weiner reports at SnarkSpot that her dog Wendell is recovering from the vicious and unprovoked attack he received earlier this summer in Philadelphia’s Queen Village neighborhood, as detailed at SnarkSpot and here at Rittenhouse. Oh, and Wendell’s going to be in the movie!

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Veteran Australian Intelligence Analyst Heads to Washington

Don’t miss this article from The Age, Melbourne’s best newspaper, sent along by Helga Fremlin (“Democrats Recruit Canberra Analyst,” by Caroline Overington, July 17).

It seems unlikely, to say the least, that Andrew Wilkie will be as quickly cowed by the powers that be in Washington than all of the usual suspects have proved themselves to be. He seems ready -- and more than capable -- of exposing the rash of lies recently coming from the mouths of President George W. Bush, United Kingdomish Prime Minister Tony “The Poodle” Blair, and Australian Prime Minister John “The Miniature Poodle” Howard.

A quick excerpt:

Former Australian intelligence analyst Andrew Wilkie has been enlisted by United States Democrats to help campaign for an inquiry into whether the Bush Administration -- and, by association, the Howard Government -- manipulated or ignored intelligence to justify an attack on Iraq.

Mr. Wilkie, who was invited to Washington by one of the nine Democrats seeking their party’s nomination for the presidential candidacy, said there was “no doubt that Bush, Howard[,] and . . . Blair exaggerated the threat from Iraq to justify a war.” He said the truth was being kept from the public because inquiries into the matter were being held in secret or, in the case of last month’s British parliamentary inquiry, “are just a whitewash.”

This is starting to get really interesting.

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The Nation Reports, You Decide

I can’t help wondering whether White House National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice is a brilliant liar or just plain stupid.

Here’s Robert Scheer writing in The Nation (“A Firm Basis for Impeachment,” posted July 15):

On national security, the buck doesn’t stop with [CIA Director George] Tenet, the current fall guy. The buck stops with Bush and his national security advisor, who is charged with funneling intelligence data to the President. That included cluing in the President that the CIA’s concerns were backed by the State Department’s conclusion that “the claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are highly dubious.”

For her part, Rice has tried to fend off controversy by claiming ignorance. On Meet the Press in June, Rice claimed, “We did not know at the time -- no one knew at the time, in our circles -- maybe someone knew down in the bowels of the agency, but no one in our circles knew that there were doubts and suspicions that this might be a forgery.”

On Friday, Rice admitted that she had known the State Department intelligence unit “was the one that within the overall intelligence estimate had objected to that sentence” and that Secretary of State Colin Powell had refused to use the Niger document in his presentation to the UN because of what she described as long-standing concerns about its credibility.

Sounds to me like someone is lying. And the more I think about it, the more I think she’s doing so clumsily and not so brilliantly after all.

[Post-publication addendum: For more on Yellowcake-Gate, or, alternatively, Niger-Gate, see Arianna Huffington (“Condoleezza Rice has been the worst offender. Now that we know that Tenet personally warned Rice’s deputy, Steve Hadley, not to use the yellowcake claim back in October, and the role NSC staffers played in manipulating the State of the Union, Rice’s widely publicized claim, made little over a month ago, that at the time of the State of the Union, ‘maybe someone knew down in the bowels of the agency, but no one in our circles knew that there were doubts and suspicions that this might be a forgery’ has been revealed for what it is: A bald-face lie.”) and Joe Conason at]

[Post-publication addendum: And at Media Whores Online today the headline says it all: “So...Who Is She?”]

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This Time It’s Syria

They’re still at it. The Bush administration’s war hawks nearly brought more distorted intelligence to Congress this week, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports (“Intelligence Data on Syria Now Disputed,” by Warren P. Strobel and Jonathan S. Landay, p. A10). This time the subject is Syria’s suspected weapons program, and the hawk pressing for the release of disputed intelligence reports is Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton:

In a new dispute over interpreting intelligence data, the CIA and other agencies vigorously objected to a Bush administration assessment of the threat of Syria’s weapons of mass destruction that was to have been presented this week on Capitol Hill.

After the objections, the planned testimony by . . . Bolton, a leading administration hawk, was delayed until September.

U.S. officials said in interviews that Bolton was prepared to tell members of a House subcommittee on international relations that Syria’s development of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons had progressed to a point that it posed a threat to stability in the region.

The CIA and other intelligence agencies said that assessment was exaggerated.[…]

Bolton’s planned remarks caused a “revolt” among intelligence experts who thought they inflated the progress Syria has made in its weapons programs, said a U.S. official who is not with the CIA but was involved in the dispute.[…]

The CIA’s objections and comments alone ran 35 to 40 pages, the official said.

Why these people have any shred of credibility is a mystery.

Meanwhile, CIA Director George Tenet apparently was all but laughed out of the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing room yesterday, and presidential hopefuls Howard Dean and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) are calling for Tenet’s resignation.

Before that comes to pass, I’m interested in learning more about the role played in Yellowcake-Gate by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. She has a lot more explaining to do.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2003  

“I Did Jolly Well Good, Didn’t I, George?”

United Kingdomish Prime Minister Tony Blair -- a/k/a “The Poodle,” and could there be anything more emasculating than being referred to as President George W. Bush’s “poodle”? -- will be in Washington tomorrow, his visit to include a speech to a joint session of Congress as he receives, inexplicably, the Congressional Gold Medal, and otherwise grovels at the feet of the ne’er do well currently occupying the Oval Office.

On everyone’s mind as Blair heads for the U.S.: the Bush administration’s lies about Iraq and yellowcake from Africa.

The Christian Science Monitor reports in tomorrow’s edition (“Test for Blair’s ‘Loyalty’ Strategy,” by Howard LaFranchi and Mark Rice-Oxley):

Bush can hardly relish the focus Blair’s visit places on the intelligence controversy. Blair, meanwhile -- already under attack at home -- will be looking for help from his friend George while seeking to show constituents there is daylight between the two countries.

Yeah, about as much daylight as can be seen between two hairy butts kissing each other over a thick strip of latex.

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Really? Then Shut the Hell Up About Him, Would You?

By way of the inestimable and altogether too necessary SullyWatch, I see that Andrew Sullivan had the audacity, or better yet, the temerity, to post this sentence at his vanity site: “I guess I’m lucky I didn’t work for Raines.”

I grant you, Sullivan never worked for former New York Times executive editor Howell Raines in the sense that he, Sullivan, never reported for work at the Times Building on a daily basis -- that’s a privilege reserved for real journalists, of which Sullivan is surely not one.

But wait just a minute. If Sullivan never worked for Raines, then who, exactly, fired his lazy, self-important, non-journalist ass? As SullyWatch asks, are we now to believe it was Sullivan’s friend Adam Moss, the editor of the New York Times Magazine and a man known to have defended the bitter Brit in contretemps with upper management at the paper? (Strange, I think, to watch a soi-disant disciple of George Orwell engaged in such a blatantly Stalinist rewriting of his own resume.)

And if Sullivan never worked for Raines, why are we supposed to treat his obsessive and incessant -- and, incredibly, ongoing -- fulminations against the former executive editor as having any credibility whatsoever?

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More on Sagging Morale Overseas

This just in from ABC News reporter Jeffrey Kofman:

The sergeant at the 2nd Battle Combat Team Headquarters pulled me aside in the corridor. “I’ve got my own ‘Most Wanted’ list,” he told me. He was referring to the deck of cards the U.S. government published, featuring Saddam Hussein, his sons[,] and other wanted members of the former Iraqi regime. “The aces in my deck are Paul Bremer, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush[,] and Paul Wolfowitz,” he said.

I knew that stupid deck of cards would come around and bite the Bush administration in the butt. Can you spell hubris? Good, because I doubt President Bush can.

Meanwhile, CNN’s village idiot, Wolf Blitzer, today asks, “Do you have confidence in the way President Bush is handling the situation in Iraq?” At last check the vote was running 94 percent “No” to 6 percent “Yes.”

I’ll bet Wolfie is “astonished.”

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