The Rittenhouse Review

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

Tuesday, December 30, 2003  

To Rittenhouse of All Places

Okay, maybe he’s not a “rock star,” but he’s way, way cool in my book.

It never fails to amaze me how that song came out of me. [Ed.: See “Christmas Scrapping,” about, among other things, “Christmas Wrapping,” by The Waitresses, an `80s group led by Chris Butler.]

I’m the person who yells, “Jump, George Bailey, jump!”, at the TV every time “It’s a Wonderful Life” comes on.

Thanks for digging my tune.

Chris Butler

Thanks, Chris, for reading Rittenhouse!

And thanks to Allen Bukoff for facilitating the introduction.

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Bold-Faced Names

On “Page Six” of today’s New York Post we find:

SIGHTINGS . . . Dominick Dunne, Lee Radziwill, Bobby Short[,] and Nan Kempner sharing a table at La Grenouille.

Good Lord, talking about what?

Now this, from the same column, is more like it:

Chelsea Clinton bumping and grinding with Mark Wahlberg on top of a table at the Shore Club in Miami while her hapless boyfriend, Ian Klaus, looked on.

I never liked her.

(He said, as jealousy reared its ugly head.)

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


About Unemployment and, Hopefully, Employment

Two questions for which I haven’t the answers are preoccupying me at the moment. I’m hoping readers might be able to help me.

First, why do so many employers ask the applicant to specify his salary requirement in his first contact with the company?

Based on my past experience as a manager, I assume every employer has a budget line for each new hire, one outside of which it would prove difficult to move. If so, why not share that information with applicants, thereby saving everyone much time and effort?

Second, how does an applicant convince potential employers that he has “traded down” with respect to his next position?

For me this intention wasn’t so difficult last time around, even though I took a 66 percent reduction in compensation, largely because there was a physical move from New York to Philadelphia -- by which I do not mean to imply that the cost of living here is that much less than in New York, because it’s not -- and the assignment required only several hours a day to complete.

But now, with yet another reduction in my sights, this one of 40 to 50 percent from my latest job, it’s getting a little difficult to convince hiring officials I won’t run at the next opportunity. I would be embarrassed to share with you the names of companies that already have turned me down.

Your comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated.

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Not Even a Mug or a Tote Bag?

What with the testosterone abuse and the vapors and all, it’s hard for me to describe Andrew Sullivan as a man who has balls, so instead I’ll just say the guy has one helluva nerve.

Amid yet another pledge drive, Sullivan is . . . Where? Who knows? He’s not writing the “Daily Dish.” Someone named Daniel Drezner is handling that right now, this despite the fact the first thing a visitor to the “Dirty Dish” sees is a plea for contributions -- to Sullivan. For what? Well, you know, interns, e-mail readers and writers, explosive bandwidth expenses, a possible salary for Andy, renovations in Provincetown, and the like.

Gee whiz, even your local PBS station knows enough to broadcast their best programming while the hand is outstretched. And you even get a mug or a tote bag or a CD or something.

What do you get from Sullivan?

Something akin to a substitute teacher, one all too eager to promote himself and his book and a tad bit too concerned about forcing his heretofore undistinguished heterosexuality in the faces of the site’s readers.

[Post-publication addendum: See also, TBogg, “Blowing the Pledge Money on Frappachinos and a Bikini Wax.” Gee whiz, this guy could make a fortune writing cover lines for Bonnie Fuller.]

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Or, Memories of Knitting

One of The Rittenhouse Review’s most loyal readers, my mother, passed along some memories of knitting from her younger days growing up in New York.


I enjoyed the New York Times article about kids knitting. I saved it for my knitting guild. [Ed.: See “Kids Today . . . Are Knitting,” The Rittenhouse Review, December 26.]

You probably have heard of the Waldorf School, a private school for elementary students, maybe even high school students. It has been in existence for a long time. They still have knitting as a requirement for each student.

I learned to knit in grammar school. They held classes in the afternoons to teach anyone who wanted to learn such handiwork as knitting, sewing, embroidery, and such. I was very young, maybe seven or eight. Everyone thought it was so cute that I wanted to learn to knit but I was dead serious.

I started a sweater but gave up after a while and never finished it. It started out well but somehow got wider and wider. I moved on to knitting sweaters, hats, and blankets for my dolls.

In high school the fad was to knit argyle socks for our boyfriends. These were quite complicated but we were quite good at it. Some of the more daring girls would knit during class holding the knitting behind a book. I am sure the nuns couldn’t have missed this, but they never said anything.

What actually spurred me on to knitting seriously was all the needle-clacking during World War II. It seemed every woman and girl was knitting socks, hats, and gloves for the servicemen.

(All the time, of course, I was growing up in an Italian neighborhood. I admired the talent of the women I knew, many of whom were born in Italy.) [Ed.: My mother is not Italian-American.]

During the war there were no men around, as they all had been drafted. Dad was in public school at that time and all the shop teachers were away, so the boys took home economics. Dad was taught to knit in the class and never forgot how to do it.


She should write more, don’t you think?

[See also, “The Joy of Stitch,” by Teresa Nielsen Hayden of Making Light. And “Yarns,” by Avedon Carol of The Sideshow.]

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They’re Taking Votes. But Not Names.
At Least I Don’t Think So.

Madeleine Begun Kane, everyone’s favorite oboist-attorney-singer-songwriter-comic-humorist-blogger, is up for two awards in’s year-end political humor awards.

Mad received two nominations among some stiff competition: a nomination for Best Parody (Ongoing) for, and another for Best Bush Humor for Dubya's Dayly Diary.

Other nominees, some in direct competition, include such notables (Get it?) as Betty Bowers, Tom Tomorrow, Get Your War On,, Too Stupid To Be President, BartCop, Aaron McGruder, Jon Stewart, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Bill Maher, The Onion (The Onion is funny?), and Matt Drudge (Drudge is funny? Oh, I see, “entertaining.” But what’s up with the “news and commentary” bit?)

Take a quick jaunt over to’s polling place and cast your vote. And don’t let the fact Mad is an FOJ affect your decision in any way. At least don’t use that as a reason to vote against her!

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Monday, December 29, 2003  

These People Will Lie About Anything

This comes as a surprise, even though it really shouldn’t (“Laura Bush Has Words of Advice for Americans and Her Husband,” New York Times):

The first lady also said that the “Roses are red, violets are blue” poem she read at a National Book Festival gala in October was not actually written by her husband even though it has been attributed to him. She did not say who wrote the poem.

“But a lot of people really believed that he did,” she said. “Some woman from across the table said, ‘You just don’t know how great it is to have a husband who would write a poem for you.’”

No, she’s doesn’t, it turns out.

(Link via World O’ Crap.)

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Sunday, December 28, 2003  

Or Just a Garden Variety Conservative?

Are you a neoconservative? If you’re reading The Rittenhouse Review for some purpose other than sending the editor/publisher hate mail, I’m guessing you’re not.

But are you sure? Is it possible you are a closet neoconservative, like “Tiffany Midgeson” or “Mary Rosh”?

After all, I once considered myself a neoconservative, or at least I was aligned with their views on U.S. foreign and defense policy. But that was when I was young and foolish. And besides, in case no one on 17th Street noticed, the Cold War is over.

In the event you have doubts, fears, or just the creeps, I suggest you take the quiz prepared by The Christian Science Monitor, “Are you a neonconservative?”

The 10-question quiz features a graphic with the faces of prominent neocons Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and William Kristol, with Wolfowitz and Kristol looking suitably grim and Perle looking appropriately guilty for his repeatedly exposed wanton grabs at power, influence, and money.

Taking the quiz is like slogging through one of Commentary’s overly longwinded symposia. And the differences between the available responses are sometimes nuanced to a degree that can only be called frustrating. It’s helpful nonetheless.

In the end, I failed miserably, if “failure” were to be defined as not being a neoconservative. The quiz pegged me as an “isolationist,” which is far from true. Regardless, I’m happy to have shaken off a bad habit from years gone by.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |



Bulldogs are the best of all breeds, aren’t they?

If you doubt that, take a jaunt over to the New York Times web site and catch the photograph accompanying “It’s a Long New Year’s Eve That Starts at Thanksgiving.”

A beautiful specimen.

And Mildred, who has been known to partake of a drop of white wine or beer now and then, agrees.

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

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Saturday, December 27, 2003  

I’m Mad at the Words

Yesterday while writing about a group of New Jersey schoolchildren who have taken to knitting in an elementary-school program that not only fills their recess hours but apparently instills in them a wide variety of academic and social skills, I quoted a young student participant, quoted by the New York Times: “[I]f I’m mad, instead of taking it out on someone, I take it out on the knitting.”

That quote took me back to a job I had years ago, one at which the editor, a man I truly respect but who offered the rest of us all too many unintentional moments of hilarity, once was overheard, by me, berating a subordinate in a manner that for me recalled a favorite trashy movie, “Mommie Dearest.”

At one point in the film Joan Crawford -- overplayed by Faye Dunaway, as that is the actress’s wont -- noticed her maid and her adopted daughter, Christina Crawford, cleaning the front entrance hall.

By all appearances the maid and Christina were doing a fine job, but Crawford was unconvinced. She hurled a large potted plant to the side, thereby revealing an accumulation of soil underneath, the appearance of which led her to scold both her servant and child for their neglect and malfeasance.

“I’m not mad at you,” Crawford (Dunaway) said, “I’m mad at the dirt!”

Well, upon hearing the editor knock a colleague down a peg or two in an exasperated tone that, despite my accomplished mimicking skills I still to this day I cannot quite replicate, and with a spate of words and commentary altogether beyond that required under the circumstances, all I could think of was Crawford (Dunaway).

Emphasizing the criticism wasn’t personal, the editor expressed frustration with sentence structure, transitions, diction, and the like. “You see, here . . .,” he said. “And now this, . . .” he added. On and on and on.

It was as if the editor were saying, “I’m not mad at you. I’m mad at the words!”

The line repeated itself over and over in my head until I shared it with my colleague, L.C. Unfortunately he had never seen the film, and so my quip relaying this simile, smart and appropriate as it was, went largely wasted.

So, for you, now, if you get it: Enjoy.

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Harmless Fun? Hardly.

Have you ever encountered a sub-culture of sorts, the traditions of which are nothing less than baffling? If not, here’s one for you: the annual practice of something called “celebratory gunfire,” or shooting one’s handgun into the sky on New Year’s Eve.

Somewhere along the way I missed this despicable practice, reportedly popular in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Detroit -- today, not 50 or 100 years ago.

What I missed Joe Jaskolka of Philadelphia five years ago took in the head, literally: a bullet in the brain.

In a heart-wrenching story by Steve Volk (“Shooting Pains”) in the latest issue of Philadelphia Weekly, I learned of Jaskolka’s terrible fate.

Just 11 years old then, Jaskolka was hit by a wayward “celebratory” bullet shot off by some cretin on New Year’s Eve.

Volk writes:

Five years on, he’s grown into a good-looking kid with curly brown hair and a bookish pair of glasses that makes him look like the smartest kid in class. But he still can’t walk more than a block without assistance, and climbing stairs takes both time and massive effort. He still needs a wheelchair for trips outside the home. When he dresses himself, his parents get him started 30 minutes before he needs to leave. He suffers from double vision, which he can overcome by concentrating, but reading or rapid movement of his head can trigger migraines.

With the right side of his mouth still partially paralyzed, Joe’s speaking voice is weak and halting. Thoughts come quickly, but they take their time coming out. [. . .]

For a time he simply sat in his room and cried for hours on end, but his tears laid tracks that carried him to a better place. “I’m over it,” he says, more than once. “Let’s move on.”

We should all be so strong as the teenaged Jaskolka, whose shooter hasn’t been identified.

His parents are the stuff of dreams:

After a few weeks of being told his son would die, Greg was called into the doctor’s office for a meeting.

“It looks like your son is going to live,” she told him, “but there will be days when you wish he hadn’t.”

“[Expletive deleted], doctor,” Greg replied.

Remembering that conversation, Greg raises his voice to the level of a factory foreman trying to be heard over machines and through earplugs. “He could be in a coma and it would be better than having to bury him!” he says. “And let me tell you something else! There is not a day that goes by when that kid doesn’t do something or say something, sometimes subtle, sometimes not subtle, that tells me he is still the same kid.

“My God,” he says. “I love him.”

Enough with the 18th-century stupidity. If you nuts want to aim for the sky to welcome the new year, try spitting instead.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


. . . Continued

He doesn’t use the phrase I coined -- “The Age of Unseriousness” -- but he might as well have.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, an economist by profession but a man whose work in the paper of record easily tops the best of our lame punditocracy, writes, in Friday’s Times, about the absurdities of the media’s coverage of the still ongoing (no matter what the “leading lights” of the networks and cable outlets would have you believe) presidential campaign.

It’s so simple it’s amazing it takes a Princeton professor to point out the obvious, including: “[d]on’t talk about clothes”; “look at the candidates’ policy proposals”; “[b]eware of personal anecdotes”; “[l]ook at the candidates’ records”; “[d]on’t fall for political histrionics”; and “[i]t’s not about you.”

More tomorrow from your national and local newspapers about the Democrats’ wardrobes, facial features, hairstyles, family histories, genealogy, and eating habits, along with their stubborn unwillingness to ask Margaret Carlson why she wears eyeglasses and not contact lenses.

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Friday, December 26, 2003  

Here’s to the Good and the Generous

This was for me a quiet and uneventful Christmas. Pretty much what I expected and wanted.

I attended a beautiful midnight mass, awed once again by the beauty and power of singing voices that are thousands of times better than my own, inspired by the faith that years ago led to the building in Philadelphia of such amazing church edifices, and touched by the splendor of the Catholic mass. (I will add I was dismayed , though only slightly, to see that yet another parish has allowed applause and inappropriate contact with the wine chalice -- i.e., unpriestly, before distribution -- to interfere with the mandated course of the mass.)

I was invited to a Christmas dinner, but chose not to attend, a decision I will probably regret eventually. My sleep schedule is so completely whacked right now that I felt barely awake, and I strongly doubted whether I could be as sociable as the occasion demanded. It’s hard for me to meet and be with strangers right now.

I received just a handful of Christmas cards -- you gotta’ send `em to get `em, I guess -- but several well-chosen gifts from my friend M.D., including a book, Fortune is a River, into which I am far enough now to recommend it to you without hesitation. (Who knew Niccolò Macchiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci were friends? And that they together planned to reconfigure the course of the Arno River in the early 16th century? Not me.)

And from B., who sent not only two batches of the much-coveted butter cookies (made through the press), I received other gifts, including a package for Mildred -- treats appreciated more by Mildred than me, since after she eats them her breath recalls something from a creature in one of Hieronymus Bosch’s most horrific fantasies.

The biggest surprise was a package sent from a reader, the incredible L.H., a few items from my wish list given out of what I can only assume is the utmost and most heartfelt generosity, which I greatly appreciate. I promise that if I ultimately win an Oscar® for the screenplay that continues to whirl through my mind and that completely has taken over my latest jottings notebook, L.H. will be the first person mentioned in my acceptance speech. Hell, given my social life, she might even be my date.

This is not a happy time for me. I’ve been unemployed for nearly three months now, and time is running out. For reasons that are both my own fault and the result of the whimsy of fate, most of it bad, I very soon may be forced to leave Philadelphia.

My options are few. Actually, my options are one.

Barring a miracle or some new lease on a few more weeks in this city, I will be moving to a town that, lovely as it may be, is, in my view of the world, in the middle of nowhere, there to . . . I don’t know what. Hardly a mecca for the publishing industry, I suspect my most likely plight in this town will be to secure a position at a bookstore, one that would have to be within walking distance of my next hovel since I don’t own a car.

Things could be worse. Believe me, I know. I read not one, but two, Philadelphia daily newspapers, each regularly portraying the lives of people clinging to less of a life than mine. I am grateful for what I have and for what I know I someday will have again.

But when the friend who drives you to midnight mass sends you off for the night with three bags of groceries from her already no-doubt depleted pantry, and when you stock those gifts -- pasta, rice, soup, vegetables, and fruit -- in your empty cupboards and wonder how you thought you would survive another four or five weeks without them, you know you’re in trouble. And you know you have reason to be grateful.

Thank you, my friend.

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. . . Are Knitting

Violence, guns, juvenile delinquency, truancy, premature sexual activity, unwanted and unplanned pregnancies, abortion, drugs, alcohol, and the like have parents -- And their single friends and family members: we pay taxes too, remember? More than you do, most likely. -- wondering how to keep their kids (and, more often, their neighbors’ kids) out of trouble, particularly during the crucial preteen years when future patterns of behavior often are established.

Perhaps the answer to social deviancy is something as simple as knitting.

In “Half the Pupils in a New Jersey School Are Learning Knitting,” New York Times reporter Maria Newman tells the story of a unique middle-school program that should have educational administrators everywhere making notes -- or at least scratching their heads.

The kids are knitting. During recess, after school, and at home. And they’re loving it.

What do the kids -- both girls and boys -- have to say?

“Knitting is like sleeping.”

“It’s so quiet. I’m usually very jittery, but when I knit, I calm down.”

“You make a lot of friends when you knit, people you wouldn’t think you’d meet.”

“When I’m bored, I knit.”

“I like knitting better than reading. I like reading, too, but instead of reading, since it’s close to Christmas, I can knit someone a gift instead of wasting money.”

“With knitting, you don’t have a care in the world.”

“I can’t stop knitting.”

“I lay in my bed and start knitting. I think it’s very peaceful.”

And my personal favorite:

“It keeps me from getting in trouble. Like if I’m mad, instead of taking it out on someone, I take it out on the knitting.”

What instructional aide Judith Symonds launched as a mid-winter recess activity has grown into a sprawling year-round program in which half the students of Seth Boyden Elementary School, Maplewood, N.J., participate. Along with a few others: “The principal, Kristopher Harrison, has learned to knit along with the children,” Newman reports. “And sometimes, the school’s head custodian, Malik Muhammad, also sits and knits.”

Symonds, administrators, and parents tout the intellectual, academic, social, and life-skills benefits of knitting in a series of remarks to Newman that are entirely convincing.

The program has been so well received and is so highly regarded it has been expanded to incorporate parents and community members, and picked up by other schools and communities.

Whether the Maplewood program, launched in a town that isn’t exactly a community in crisis, can be replicated elsewhere, and in a manner that addresses the problems faced by and arising from today’s youth, remains to be seen.

But wouldn’t it be interesting if something so seemingly simple as the organized participation of kids in a knitting group -- or in other craft activities -- were just the thing to make a difference at the margins? (Anything to get them away from the TV. Or fussing over miniature balsa sleds or celline-wrapped gift packages.)

Of course, the potential creation of a new generation peopled by countless Mme. Defarges is a concern we may leave to others in years hence.

[See also Ronnie Polaneczky’s column in Monday’s Philadelphia Daily News for a hope-inspiring story about a group of this city’s horticultural students.]

[Full disclosure: I don’t knit. And I kill plants and trees.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |



My nephew John, not yet known by the royalist appellation “John the Lesser,” performed his good deed on the night before Christmas.

His father reports:

On Christmas Eve John filled up a box with toys he no longer plays with, and left a note to Santa indicating that if Santa knew any boys or girls who might like the toys he should take them and give them away.

Where does that come from?

It comes from exceptional parenting.

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

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Wednesday, December 24, 2003  

From The Rittenhouse Review

Christmas Light Show
John Wanamaker & Co.

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And So Worthy a Target has some fun at the expense of moronic Fox News “personality,” Long Islander, and all-around loser Sean Hannity.

(Link via Atrios.)

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Tuesday, December 23, 2003  

Alive and Well & Living in Philadelphia

How sad to see that anti-Asian and anti-Asian-American racism are alive and well and living in Philadelphia.

Or, at the very least, being given a platform for the widespread distribution of invective from the pages of the Philadelphia Daily News.

In today’s edition, the PDN saw fit to publish so despicable a letter from a reader as this one, under the headline “Asian Storekeepers,” from one Diane Madison of Philadelphia:

If Asian store owners are so frightened of their customers that they need bulletproof glass, why don’t they go somewhere else?

I don’t patronize them, and I’m glad there are groups organizing to keep them out of our neighborhoods. It seems like some Asian store owners are hiding behind their language and culture. They say they don’t understand English or American culture, and that causes problems with customers. That’s just an excuse to be rude. Stay out of their stores, and they’ll understand when they have to shut down.

Fine, Diane. And when, given the paucity of grocery stores, let alone supermarkets, in many parts of Philadelphia, your neighbors no longer have a choice between even “Chinese” food and “seafood,” don’t come crying to the rest of us.

[Post-publication addendum (December 30): Apparently I’m not to only person in Philadelphia who saw racism in Madison’s letter. PDN readers respond. (Please ignore the equally racist letter from one Donna Sambrick.)]

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Philadelphia Inquirer & Philadelphia Daily News

An imaginary but all too real dialogue:

Oh my God! Did you read that? Jane Doe is leaving Channel 18’s 4 o’clock news broadcast. She’s heading to Cincinnati!


And look at this! Joe Schmo from Channel 29 in Providence, R.I., is coming to Philadelphia to do weekend sports reports on Channel 43. But only on Saturdays. And Sunday mornings. And sometimes Tuesday evenings.


Who cares?


I like living in a two-newspaper town, even if those two newspapers share not only the same building, the same printing presses, and the same owner, Knight-Ridder Co.

The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News are clearly separate organisms. And that’s good for both papers. And for readers. (Even I, an intellectual snob, know plenty of people who read the Daily News religiously who would never pick up the Inquirer if Knight-Ridder were to shut the tabloid.)

Nonetheless, there are times when coverage of the same stories by two papers is too much. It’s partly my fault for not picking one paper over the other, but the over-coverage of inside media baseball in Philadelphia by the Inquirer and the PDN makes me want to scream.

Our second-rated weatherman is leaving Philly for Milwaukee! You’re kidding. The guy with the hair? No, no, not him. The 5 o’clock guy. . . . One of Philadelphia’s only 18 minority newscasters is off to Cleveland! But a half-Mexican woman is headed here from Houston. And she’s gorgeous! . . . D’jou hear that blond guy from that radio station way up on the AM dial? The one who dated that lifestyles reporter from Channel 2? He’s moving to New Orleans! No way! Way!

Look, people, the goings here and goings there of local media “news personalities” is of no interest whatsoever to me nor to anyone I know.

To make matters worse, such inane commentary isn’t limited to, say, Gail Shister’s regular Inquirer column. No, you force-feed us these insipid and tedious reports not only through Shister, but also through Michael Klein’s “INQlings” column in the Inquirer and Stu Bykovsky and Howard Gensler’s columns in the PDN.

Enough, already. Your readers know everything they want or need to know about Big Local Media Jane and Joe, if that were anything at all.

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

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Is This a Quiz?
They Said There Would Be No Math Colors!

The Department of Homeland Security on Sunday raised the national “terror alert” from ELEVATED to HIGH, based on, according to Heimatlandsminister Tom Ridge, the following:

Credible sources suggest the possibility of attacks against the homeland [sic] around the holiday season and beyond. The information we have indicates that extremists abroad are anticipating near-term attacks that they believe will either rival or exceed the attacks that occurred [in 2001].

For those of you playing with the color-coded home game, that was a shift from YELLOW to ORANGE.

For those of you playing with the special-edition Sesame Street® version of the home game, that was an upgrade from BERT to ERNIE.

For those of you playing with all of your marbles, just go about your business.

Welcome, once again, to the Age of Unseriousness.*

(* Your saw it here first.)

[Ed.: I’m not sure to whom the original credit for this graphic goes. If you know, please drop me a line.]

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He’s Two, But He’s Not Through

Congratulations, slightly belated, to Adam Felber on the second anniversary of his widely -- and justifiably so -- respected weblog, Fanatical Apathy.

While you’re over there poking around, take a look at the Fanatical Apathy Campaign `04 Slime-o-Meter. (How deep is the sludge, how deep is the sludge, how deep is the sludge?)

Good stuff. Available only in the blogosphere.*

(* You saw it here first.)

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Ignorant as I am of popular culture and the people who populate and patronize it, I was a bit out of my element when I read “Norristown’s Bello Plays it ‘Cooler’ Than Usual” in Monday’s Philadelphia Daily News.

I don’t know who Maria Bello is, and frankly, I don’t care. What I do know from reading reporter Laura Randall’s article is that Bello, at least as expressed through the interview with the PDN, is nothing more than a walking pile of clichés.

Discussing her latest role, that of a “down-and-out casino cocktail waitress” -- Is there any other kind? -- in a movie called “The Cooler,” Bello tells Randall, “As soon as I read the script I knew I had to play Natalie. You rarely read a woman’s role that has that sort of full character to it,” repeating one of Hollywood’s favorite myths.

The heretofore unknown, at least around this operation, Bello is angry that all the world will not see “a glimpse” of her pubic hair, that 1.5-second element deleted from the final cut in order for the film to secure an “R” rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

Bello dribbles:

It doesn't make me angry at the MPAA. They have certain guidelines they adhere to. The problem is with the American public and what they deem as irresponsible for kids to see. We’re so puritanical in this country the way that we view sexuality, while violence is just a matter of fact.

Gosh, Maria, thanks. Never heard that before.

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

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This is You, Tina Brown
Meanwhile, George Will Gets All Tough and Stuff

It seems Tina Brown’s pal Conrad Black is even more generous and indiscriminate in doling out gratuities to would-be journalists than is the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of America.

Friendship and Business Blur in the World of a Media Baron,” by Jacques Steinberg and Geraldine Fabrikant, in Monday’s New York Times, makes clear that Black and his company, Hollinger International, which just might turn out to have been as much of a personal fiefdom as was Tyco International Co. under the helm of Dennis Kozlowski, thought nothing of placing former government leaders and policymakers, and current slothful conservative “opinion-makers” on its own private dole.

It’s a scathing piece; an example, at last, of real journalism that is all the more impressive because real journalists wrote it in a real outlet for real journalism.

Of course, that previous sentence means nothing to the likes of Andrew Sullivan. The PofP is having a minor meltdown over all this -- gee whiz, I don’t know, something about Enron, I think.

In his nonsensical take on the Times article Sullivan failed to include the “money quote,” this from former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski about former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, both of whom were feeding greedily at the Hollinger trough: “For quite a while, Mrs. Thatcher would participate. I was one of those people who suggested to Conrad that it wasn’t productive to hear her speak at such length.”

And speaking of money quotes, let’s take a look at a couple of American journalists pundits who were taking Hollinger’s “money calls”: George F. Will and William F. Buckley Jr.

About Will, Steinberg and Fabrikant write:

In a column syndicated by [t]he Washington Post Writers Group in March, Mr. Will recounted observations Mr. Black had made in a London speech defending the Bush administration’s stance on Iraq.

In a rebuttal to Mr. Bush’s critics, Mr. Will wrote, “Into this welter of foolishness has waded Conrad Black, a British citizen and member of the House of Lords who is a proprietor of many newspapers.”

Far be it for me to express surprise that Will would think his readership so ignorant as to be impressed that someone is a “member of the House of Lords.” Anglophilia: The last refuge of the truly pathetic.

Steinberg and Fabrikant continue:

Asked in the interview if he should have told his readers of the payments he had received from Hollinger, Mr. Will said he saw no reason to do so.

“My business is my business,” he said. “Got it?”

Oh, yes sir. Hey, no problem. Trust me, I don’t want to take this outside!

There’s still more:

Alan Shearer, editorial director and general manager of [t]he Washington Post Writers Group, said he was unaware of Mr. Will’s affiliation with Hollinger or the money he received. “I think I would have liked to have known,” Mr. Shearer said.

Michael Getler? Your phone is ringing again. Only this time it’s not Andrew Sullivan. It’s Alan Shearer.

About Buckley, Steinberg and Fabrikant wrote:

Similarly, in a column published in The [sic] National Review in 2002, Mr. Buckley, the magazine’s editor at large, wrote of attending a dinner at Lord Black’s home in London.

In an effort “to divulge all my personal conflicts in talking about the subject,” Mr. Buckley wrote in the column that Lord Black and his wife, Barbara Amiel, were among his “five closest friends in the entire world.”

Excuse me, Bill, that’s Lady Amiel to you. (I wonder how many “Friends of Bill” were counting their fingers after reading that. “‘My friend’ this, ‘my friend’ that” is a nauseatingly recurrent construction in Buckley’s writing.)

Steinberg and Fabrikant, again:

Asked later why he had not mentioned his payments from Hollinger, Mr. Buckley said, “I didn’t think that had any bearing whatsoever.”

To underscore that he did not feel beholden to Lord Black -- “Giscard d’Estaing and I don’t bribe very easily,” he said -- Mr. Buckley mentioned a “withering review” of the Roosevelt book that The [sic] National Review published on Nov. 24.

And yet, Mr. Buckley dashed off a letter to the editor of [t]he New York Observer after the newspaper published a front-page profile of Lord Black last week that interspersed criticism of his business with criticism of his book.

“Your editorial on Conrad Black was febrile with hate which [sic] one has to assume is personal,” he wrote.

“You are entitled to ask how I presume to write with ostensible authority,” Mr. Buckley added. “I write because I have known Conrad Black for 15 years.”

He concluded: “Since your mind inclines in that direction, hear this: he has never donated a nickel to any of my enterprises.”

No, Bill, just your checkbook. And remind me to send you my memo explaining the difference in usage between “that” and “which.” Many a cub reporter has cut his teeth on that missive.

And then there’s Richard N. Perle, a man whose complete and utter sleaziness can no longer be denied among reasonable people:

Mr. Perle, the former head of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board who served on the Hollinger board, also served as chairman or co-chairman of Hollinger Digital, a unit of the parent company, since its inception in 1996. In that capacity, he was paid more than $300,000 a year and $2 million in bonuses over part of that period, said someone with knowledge of the company, figures that have not previously been disclosed.

Reached for comment, Mr. Perle referred all questions on these payments to the company.

Which company? Hollinger? Or one of the many other companies with which Perle’s outstretched hands and greedy fingers are associated?

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Monday, December 22, 2003  

Still No Peak in Steroid Abuse

Speaking of testosterone, and we were, I just saw a photograph of a man I haven’t seen for a couple of years, a 30-something New Yorker who lately has been commended for his “discipline,” “dedication,” and, most laughably of all, his “athleticism,” that as a result of his having “really bulked up” through a regular exercise regimen.

“It’s not steroids,” I was told. “It’s just a lot of hard work.”

The hell it is. I know steroids when I seem them.

The telltale giveaway: the suddenly rounded face.

This, the man in the photograph, is a man who, when I knew him, had dramatically sharp and angular facial features overlying impeccable bone structure from his Italian and German ancestors. That’s gone now, along with, from I understand from reading various warnings about steroid use, much else.

I see this every day.

I see it in my neighborhood. The guys in the bar: steroids. The guys leaving the gym: steroids.

I see it in my building. The guys above me: steroids. My next-door neighbor -- that laid-back gay guy, so laid-back he can’t summon a mere “hello” in the hallway, just a grunt similar to those issued by your typical 15-year-old skateboarder -- steroids.

Michelangelo Signorile tackled this issue years ago in Life Outside. Sadly, this trend -- this pathology -- among gay men, hasn’t improved one bit since then. Care to give it another go, Mike?

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


It’s Not a Job For Just Anyone

Below is an excerpt, just an excerpt, mind you, from a help-wanted advertisement in yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer:

BAKER Doughnut . . . Mix & bake ingredients acc. to recipes to produce breads, pastries and other bakery products. Measure flour, sugar, shortening & other ing. to prepare batters, doughs, fillings & icings, using scale & graduated containers. Dumping. Into mixing-machine bowl or steam kettle to mix or cook ingredients acc. to specifications. Roll, cut & shape dough to form sweet rolls, piecrust, tarts, cookies & related products prepatory [sic] to baking. Place dough in pans, molds or on sheets & bake in oven or on grill. Operate automatic machinery, e.e. [sic] rounding, curling, icing, slicing & wrapping machines. Observe color of products being baked and turn thermostat or other controls to adjust oven temperature. Apply glaze, icing or other tipping [sic] to baked goods, using spatula or brush. Attend to sudden unexpected rush business.

Yeah, yeah, we get it. You want somebody to make doughnuts and stuff. Gee whiz.

That “dumping” is a nice touch, huh?

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


A Few Not Entirely Random Seasonal Bits
Miniature Sleds Made of Balsa & Other Things That Make You Crazy

According to it is currently 47 degrees in Philadelphia. It’s 47 degrees in Philadelphia today? That must be wrong. Oh . . . outside. If you’re in the neighborhood, drop in at my place and cool off.

I recently found I can raise the ambient temperature in my apartment by running the dryer with the closet door open. (I tried doing it with the dryer door open, but that was kind of a disaster.) Upon hearing of my discovery, a friend suggested baking something, noting it would have the same effect given the kitchen’s proximity to the living room.

Ha, bright idea. Thanks a lot. Like that would work. And I told her so. Well, apparently zapping a three-day-old slice of pizza in the microwave doesn’t constitute baking in her little universe. She wants me to use that other thing, the um . . . stove. I suppose I could, but then I would have take all my files out of there and find a new place for years of old tax returns, bills, receipts, and such. Too much trouble.

I don’t know why everyone thinks the Christmas season is such a hectic, crazy, busy time of year. You might be surprised by how relaxing December can be if you just ignore or sit out the worst of the holiday’s demands.

Parties? Didn’t give one, didn’t go to any.

Shopping? Passing this year.

Baking? See stove, supra.

Eating? Well, there was P.’s excellent gift package from Harry & David. And, hopefully soon, butter cookies from B.

Decorating? Yeah, right.

Endless Christmas music? Allowed within reason. In fact, the headline on this post is a reference, one I pulled from my unconscious subconscious, to “Christmas Wrapping,” performed years ago by The Waitresses, which is around here somewhere. Where doesn’t really matter, though, because it’s on vinyl, making the recording pretty much useless.

Wrapping gifts? No, not this year, and that’s really a shame because nobody wraps gifts like I do.

It may take me several hours to wrap a single gift, even a small, sturdy, nicely proportioned box, but when it’s done, it’s perfect. The patterns of the paper, purchased from the most obscure source imaginable, are perfectly aligned on all sides and affixed so there’s no tape showing. Then I add fabric ribbons and hand-tied bows. Finally, I top the whole obsessive project with an added festive element, something different each year, possibly fresh mistletoe cuttings, sprigs of boxwood, holly berries, or miniature sleds made of balsa.

This is the only area of my life where I will have a Martha Stewart Moment, including one year when I actually used an idea of hers. First wrap the gift box in a brightly colored tissue paper. Then wrap the gift again, over the tissue paper, using celline (available at most craft stores). And then take it from there with your choice of ribbons, bows, or other trimmings. But please, not miniature sleds made of balsa because I’m thinking of trademarking that idea.

By the way, when using celline, hiding the tape can be a neurotic’s nightmare. I suggest using double-sided adhesive tape and hoping for the best. I don’t suggest going to three different stores on or around December 23 trying to find a different, more or less opaque, brand of celline expecting to secure a perfectly concealing match. Not that I know anyone who did that.

Should you decide to take a stab at making miniature sleds from balsa, the runners will prove to be the most challenging part. Soak thin strips of balsa in water for as long as needed until they hold the shape into which you bend them. And trust me, nobody will notice if the surface of the sled is created from a single piece of balsa. Slatting is superfluous. With an exacto knife you can score the single slab of balsa to create the same impression. Even the truly obsessive have to draw the line somewhere.

Christmas cards? Aw, gee whiz, Christmas cards. Better get on that. I’m having a little trouble with my annual letter to friends and family: “Wrote a whole bunch of radio scripts for a big famous guy. Blogged. Lost my job. Started another screenplay. Learned the difference between microwave and conventional ovens.” It’s going to be a thin one this year. If I ever get back to it. And if past is prologue, I probably won’t.

I guess that’s all for now. I’m going outside. My feet are freezing.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Sullivan Slyly Chastises Krauthammer

It looks like another outbreak of the “maidenly vapors” hit Provinceton, Mass., this morning.

Pot-bellied testosterone abuser Andrew Sullivan is angry with -- who else? -- the New York Times, accusing the paper of misrepresenting the president’s position on a constitutional amendment to “protect” heterosexual marriage from, well, such as are vulnerable to the “maidenly vapors.”

Sullivan today writes:

But this degree of shoddy journalism is inexcusable. It’s a good test for the new ombudsman. Email Dan Okrent . . . and demand a correction[,] but more importantly [sic] an explanation for the doctored quote. [Ed.: Emphasis added.] Someone somewhere at the Times looked at the original statement and consciously truncated it to alter its meaning [-]- in the lead story on the front page of the Sunday New York Times. Then they spun and distorted the rest of the piece to fit. Who will be held accountable?

Give Sullivan some credit here. Amid his characteristic and unbearably tiresome display of `roid rage, the former Times columnist cleverly included what I think can only be interpreted as a not-too-subtle jab -- “doctored quote” -- at fellow right winger Charles Krauthammer. (What’s that about? Play nice, boys!)

Yes, the same Krauthammer who not even three weeks ago doctored a quote from former Vermont governor and Democratic presidential candidate Dr. Howard Dean, a doctoring about which Sullivan as yet has written absolutely nothing, and a doctoring for which no one, least of all Dr. Krauthammer, has been held accountable.

Could someone get Michael Getler on the phone? Tell him Andrew Sullivan is calling.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Actually, It’s From Her House to Yours

You may be pleased to learn that Mom came through with the recipe for butter cookies that I mentioned here last Tuesday. In fact, she sent two different recipes, the use of each variation depending upon whether the baker will use a cookie press or cookie cutters to form the shapes. (Who knew?)

Now, I want you to understand this is kind of a big deal, because I asked Mom for the recipe less than a week ago.

So what? Well, the patron saint of the Capozzola family is an obscure early church figure, either Roman or possibly merely legendary, known as St. Expeditus, traditionally invoked by diplomats, attorneys, and others seeking a resolution to stalled and troublesome negotiations, but better known to us as the saint whose assistance is sought against procrastination.

So from my her house to yours, enjoy.


Makes four dozen cookies.

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Red and green sugar, or candied cherries, for decoration

Refrigerate several large ungreased cookie sheets until ready for use. [Ed.: Where in her refrigerator Mom fits these I do not know, and that’s the last comment I’m going to make.]
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Sift flour with salt and set aside.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer at medium speed or a wooden spoon, beat soft butter, sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla (or almond) extract until smooth and fluffy.
Using a wooden spoon, add one-third of the flour mixture at a time, beating until smooth and well combined.
Fill cookie press with dough, then make shapes.
(N.B.: If the dough becomes warm, place it in the refrigerator for cooling, but keep it pliable. The dough becomes crumbly if over-cooled.)
Decorate cookies before baking.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly golden.
Transfer to a wire rack for cooling.


Makes three dozen cookies.

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine butter, sugar, and egg in large mixing bowl.
Beat at medium speed until creamy.
Reduce speed to low, and add flour, orange juice, vanilla extract, and baking powder.
Beat until well mixed.
Divide dough into thirds and seal in plastic food wrap.
Refrigerate until firm (about two to three hours).
On lightly floured surface (or wax paper), roll out dough, in one-third batches, keeping the remaining dough refrigerated, to 1/8- to 1/4-inch thickness.
Cut with 3-inch cookie cutters.
Decorate with sprinkles before baking.
Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake for 6 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.
Transfer to a wire rack for cooling.

And have a merry Christmas.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Saturday, December 20, 2003  

Blogging, Bloggers, Blogs, and Blumenthal

It’s official: Blogging has taken over my life. Not just in terms of how I spend many days, and not only with respect to what I think about over the course of a given day, or how I react to news events, newspaper and magazine articles, and the everyday incidents in my life.

Now blogging and bloggers have taken over my social life, such as it is, or at least they did so last weekend.

I had lunch Sunday with the “Archbishop Katerina,” who used to write a weblog called Goblin Queen. Brilliant, insightful, charismatic. Everything I would have imagined, and more. (And yeah, enough with you Dan Savage.)

Later that same day I met Atrios and the far more charming and personable Mrs. Atrios, along with the gregarious and talkative Susan Madrak of Suburban Guerrilla, for drinks and then dinner.

For those who were following us on a hunt for Sidney Blumenthal, I think we pulled away from you halfway between the bar (Bump) and the restaurant (Little Fish). Sorry about that mishap. I told the cabbie to make a left without signaling. “My bad,” as they say. Hope you’re okay!

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Things Are More Subtle Here

It’s that time of year. Christmas. The “holiday season.”

Hands are outstretched. Hands you haven’t seen all year -- and yes, I’m talking to you, Mr. or Ms. Newspaper Delivery Person, you who cannot be relied upon to arrive here every day -- are asking for a year-end “gratuity” or a “gesture of appreciation.”

In other words, a tip. In cash, which as Yogi Berra once said, is as good as real money.

This is not a bad thing. It’s not evil, nor is it nefarious or unjustified. But here and there at least, it’s just a little out of control.

In my first building in New York we were practically extorted for a Christmas tip by a motley collection of “doormen” and “porters,” men who only arose from their seats when their legs became cramped.

An almost-threatening note was distributed in early December detailing the required customary gratuity, based on numerous factors including the number of residents in each unit and certain imaginary “special services” that may have been provided during the year. And they took names. If one were to decline to contribute, they would know about it. No big deal considering these guys never once opened the door, but a matter of consequence when it came to a backed-up sink.

At my second building in New York, where the doormen would do anything for you -- including hauling boxes of books your ex practically dumped on the sidewalk, holding his hand out the whole time for still more cash -- a similar notice was posted near the elevators. At that building, famed for its out-front topiary, I gladly distributed monies at Christmas. When you own two bulldogs, which I did at the time, and said doormen, on request, will take your bulldogs for a walk (my maid did it too), you do things like that.

Now I see that at my present residence, in which there are, I’m guessing, roughly 100 apartments, a “tip box” has been placed at the front desk, where the door-people/security guards sit.

That’s new this year.

I’m not sure what I will or can do for them. But I appreciate the gesture.

It’s subtle. Suggestive, even, rather than demanding. So different from New York. So very Philadelphia.

And that’s a good thing.

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

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |



I’ve been to Savannah. Savannah, Georgia.

No, not recently, so, no, I haven’t seen Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck cruising town inconspicuously in their lime green SUV. (Nude, shirtless. That’s me trolling for hits, not they seeking even more attention.)

But I’ve been there.

And based on just that one visit I can say with confidence that the women in Savannah are, or at least there are women in Savannah who are, better looking than this one. And less dangerous, too.

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

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Laughing Through the Laughter

Did you hear that?

I swear I heard laughing.

No, no. I know I heard laughter.

The sound of millions of women laughing.

Mostly lesbians at the beginning, since they got the joke first, but eventually a chorus of mirth joined by millions of straight women and men of all sorts. A veritable cacophony of ha-has, hee-haws, tee-hees, guffaws, chortles, chuckles, and twitters.

It all began earlier this week when a certain Amber Pawlik, a soi disant libertarian, anti-government, anti-feminist, Ann Coulter wannabe, though one who really likes guys, or least certain kinds of guys, a whole, whole lot, wrote on her state-subsidized personal web site, maintained under the auspices of the Pennsylvania State University -- Hey, wait a second! I live here. I’m paying for this crap! -- the following:

If you have ever noticed, many women who have been with mounds [sic!] of men tend to turn their backs on men. The only thing going from guy to guy does is damage them. If they were really promiscuous, they often become lesbians. On the other hand, it is modest girls with few sexual experiences who still remain unabashed romantics and are completely starry-eyed over men. [Emphasis added.]

Cue laugh track. Huh? We don’t need no friggin’ laugh track for that.

As a self-proclaimed “objectivist” -- Will she grow out of it? Most of them do, thank God. -- Amber has consigned herself forever to the ranks of the fringiest of the fringistas, the “libertarians,” limiting her appeal, in the end, to West Coast techhies and East Coast “band guys” who are tired of the bother entailed in scoring “really great weed.”

Amber’s future career, assuming she wants one -- and she just might, judging by such you-really-should-stay-at-home, homo-hating, careerist conservatives as Phyllis Schlafly (A gay son!), Laura Ingraham (A gay brother!), Laura Schlesinger (Pornographic photos!), and Beverly LaHaye (Um . . . give me a second . . . hold on . . . ), among so many others -- could very well depend upon the international trade in illicit drugs. Well, as long as she’s happy.

Now, of course Amber, who desperately needs, at the very least, a copy editor -- a service that, last I knew, she couldn’t obtain free of charge from her government-supported institution of, uh, higher education, at which she pays below-market tuition and fees -- could not, through her post alone, spark millions of women to fits of hysterical amusement.

No, it’s the blogosphere and its countless readers worldwide, their attention to Amber drawn by such leading lights as TBogg, Roger Ailes, and World O’Crap, that has ignited the unceasing wave of abuse that is being heaped upon this public-trough-feeding student, one who, mysteriously, has declined to reject all of the advantages the “welfare state” she so despises offers her, including her little outlet to the world beyond the coddled, taxpayer-sustained confines of State College, Pa.

I’m pleased to report, however, that much to Amber’s dismay, the millions of gay women who launched this wave of glee, and the millions of others who have since joined in, aren’t laughing through their tears -- Amber’s “commentary” is much too comical for that -- they’re laughing through their laughter.

[Post-publication addendum (December 24): Sadly, No also has been tracking Amber’s inanity.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


She Gets A Lot More Done, Too

I’ll bet you thought this post was going to include a bunch of Martha Stewart bashing. Sorry, no. We don’t do that around here.

Sure, my apartment may look worse than your son’s dorm room and only slightly better than a crack house. I may know how to prepare only one mildly impressive main course. And I’ve admitted to killing no fewer than 12 bonsai. Despite that, or maybe because of all that, Stewart is revered in this household.

Each copy of Martha Stewart Living is eagerly anticipated and warmly welcomed, if not read immediately. Despite all the whining about Stewart inflicting unattainable standards of perfection upon the already beleaguered American woman, much of which criticism strikes me as entirely affected and uninformed, the magazine is a top-notch work. Always has been; still is.

If you doubt this, try approaching an issue of MSL with an open mind. There really is something for everyone in each issue. Not that I actually do any of it. Still, I can appreciate the ideas in each issue for their cleverness, beauty, and efficiency, and I sometimes pass things along to people I know.

Unable to sleep last night, I settled down with a large stack of magazines, including half a dozen as yet unread MSLs, when an idea came to me. A blogging idea, of course.

You see, unless a bolt of reality lightning strikes Karen Seymour, the misguided and possibly delusional lead prosecutor, Stewart’s trial on securities fraud and other ridiculous charges is scheduled to begin January 12. That’s a day Stewart might otherwise be updating her scrapbooks, pruning fruit trees, or moving “winter-hardy bulbs from cold frame to greenhouse for forcing,” activities listed on her January 2003 calendar. (Don’t you just hate it when allegations of fraud and conspiracy mess with your gardening?)

Why not, I thought, track Stewart’s upcoming trial working with the monthly calendar she provides in the front of each issue of the magazine?

An entry might read something like this (but funnier):

Thursday, January 15: Stewart’s attorneys today are expected to call former Merrill Lynch & Co. broker Peter Bacanovic to the stand. The stunningly handsome Bacanovic, rumored to be involved with an equally attractive but still unidentified Philadelphia writer, is expected to back Stewart’s account of the questioned trades in shares of ImClone Systems Inc. (He’d better or he’s not invited back here. Uh, whoops.)

Meanwhile, Stewart, having reviewed the previous session’s court transcript taken directly from the stenographer, and having sent 10 single-spaced pages of notes to her attorney, Robert Morvillo, along with wardrobe suggestions for each day next week, will spend the morning at her Bedford, N.Y., home. There Stewart will review her accountants’ work on her 2003 tax filings, take an inventory of seeds for her gardens, and make a terrific beet salad (beets are in season according to the January 2004 number).

In the afternoon, Stewart will travel to Skylands, her home in Maine, where she will make notes on the oyster harvest; clean, filet, poach, roast, broil, bake, barbeque, freeze, package, and deliver to friends her latest catch of salmon; and sweep clear at least six acres of pine forest.

After returning to New York, where she will meet with editors planning the March issue of MSL and catch a late supper with friends Barbara Walters and Maria Bartiromo, Stewart heads to Turkey Hill, her home in Westport, Conn., where the refrigerator really, really needs a good cleaning.

Unfortunately, it can’t be done.

It can’t because there’s no calendar in the January 2004 issue of MSL. The feature was replaced in the September issue with “Gentle Reminders,” a front-of-the-book feature that dispenses similar wisdom, albeit in a less rigid format.

Perhaps the change was just part of a magazine’s normal course of updating features from time to time. Maybe it’s an element of a larger plan intended to reveal a kinder, gentler Stewart. Or could it be that Stewart, anticipating that the trial, combined with so natural a counterpart as the calendar, offered too tempting a target for the nastier elements of the media (and even the kinder realms of blogosphere), enacted a wise and strategic preemptive change?

I don’t doubt it one bit, because Martha Stewart is smarter than you are. She’s smarter than I am. And I hope Stewart and Morvillo -- and the jury -- are smarter than a handful of federal prosecutors run amok.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


His New Roommate Spills It

I recently learned my next-door neighbor refers to me as “that uptight straight guy next door.”


The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Friday, December 19, 2003  

Take Heed, My Friends

If you’re using Blogger’s software to write your blog, or as your host, I highly recommend you save the HTML coding for your blog’s template on a regular basis.

I’m not sure who’s to blame -- and I’m sure it’s not me -- but I lost the bottom quarter of my sidebar yesterday and I’m sure you wouldn’t want something like that to happen to you.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |



I’m starting something new today, something I plan to run every Friday: a survey of Rittenhouse readers.

I tried to find polling software that would suit my needs, but was unsuccessful.

As a result, I’m asking readers instead to send me an e-mail in response to this question:

Should The Rittenhouse Review add a forum for comments after each post to the site?

In order to facilitate tallying, please enter the following in the subject line of your e-mail: Friday Survey #1: Yes, No, or No Opinion, as you see fit.

Please do not add, ahem, comments to these messages, as I would prefer to gather the results from a scan of the subject lines only.

Thanks for your help!

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Please -- And Thank You -- Not Here

A quick check of the referral log reveals a recent visitor to Rittenhouse arrived here after performing the following Google search:

peggy noonan nude

Oh, the humanity!

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Take That, Neal Pollack

Last night, in need of cigarettes, I made my way out of my otherwise comfortable abode, sometime around 11:00 p.m. Approaching the intersection of 13th and Spruce Streets I noticed a black woman trying to hail a cab. While she was within my sight I saw two cabs, both with their in-service lights on, pass her by.

After entering the nearest convenience store, taking some cash out of my account and then buying a pack of Benson & Hedges, I returned to the same corner, finding the same woman still trying to find a taxi.

“How long have you been out here?” I asked.

“About half an hour,” she responded.

“Looking for a cab the whole time?” I asked.

“Yeah. They’re just not stopping. I think it’s `cause they think I’m a man. I was thinking of taking my hat off so they know I’m a woman,” she said.

“Maybe, but I doubt it’s because they think you’re a man. I suspect it’s because you’re black,” I answered. [Ed.: The woman was all of 4 feet, 11 inches.]

“You think so? I’ve heard about that in New York and stuff,” she said.

“Watch this. You want a cab? I’ll get you a cab,” I said. “Stand back. Don’t move until I open the cab door, and then you step forward and slide in, okay?”

Within 30 seconds, and that’s an exaggeration, if anything, on the generous side, I had a cab at my beck and call, and she got a ride home.

Sure, Neal Pollack, the satirist who formerly made his home in Philadelphia, can say he’s friends with “a working class black woman,” but I can say, at the very least, that I got a cab for a black woman.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Thursday, December 18, 2003  

Get That Ombudsman on the Phone!
They Go To Bed Early in the Midwest

So I’m a little irritated by the recent and blatant hypocrisy (See addendum.) displayed by syndicated columnist and second-rate blogger James Lileks, and I decide I might want to drop a line to Lileks’s base, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis-St. Paul, home of the world’s proudest Target shopper’s column, “Backfence.”

Hmm . . . Where to send my thoughts?

I know! How about the newspaper’s ombudman? That sounds right.

Experienced web user that I am, I trekked over to the Star Tribune’s web site, which can be found here.

I scanned the sidebar on the left-hand side of the home page and found no listing for “ombudsman.” That’s no surprise, really. I suspected a little hunting would be in order. And so I clicked “contact us.”

Huh. No listing for the Star Tribune’s ombudsman.

Okay, how about trying “Newsroom Staff Directory”?

Nope. Gotta’ have a real last name to work with that. Or at least as much as you know.

Oh, wait, there’s an option for “a complete staff listing.” Let’s try that.

Cool. Everybody’s here. Let’s search the listings for “ombudsman.”

“The text entered was not found.”

Well then, how about “feedback form”?

Wow, lots of stuff. Lots and lots of options here.

Let’s try “other content comments and feedback,” maybe that will get us an actual name. The real name of a real living ombudsman.

Alas, no. Just a routine form to fill out.

I got it! Site map!

Uh, no.

Hmm . . . What to do?

Of course, the consistently reliable Google.

And a Google search of “Star Tribune Minneapolis ombudsman” leads me to none other than one Lou Gelfand.

Hey, Lou, nice to meet you!

Now, wait a second. Where have I heard that name before?

I remember. It was when I searched the Star Tribune’s site for the term “ombudsman,” a search that brought me first to a piece headlined “Too Bad Times Didn’t Have an Ombudsman,” a few random thoughts published back after the oh-way-big-huge-isn’t-this-the-worst controversy surrounding former New York Times executive editor Howell Raines.

In that piece, Gelfand wrote:

I used to call the New York Times switchboard to point out errors of fact, suggesting a correction was in order. There was no listed number to call for corrections.

The operator would send me to the “national desk,” where the response was courteous but unavailing.

Eventually, I gave up.

Now that’s saying something, because at 9:30 p.m., Eastern Time, this very evening, I tried to find a “listed number for corrections” at the Star Tribune and found there was none to be had.

Failing that, I tried to reach someone, anyone, at the Star Tribune, and after going through innumerable hoops to register at the paper’s web site -- entirely too taxing an experience for someone who wants access to what is little more than a second-tier regional -- I got nowhere.

I didn’t give up, though. I persisted. I called every number I could find for the paper and eventually went through the security desk, for crying out loud, twice, trying to reach a real human being, preferably one in the upper ranks of the Star Tribune’s editorial offices, only to be told, twice: “I’m sorry. There’s nobody up there. I know they’ve all gone home for the day.”

At 8:30 p.m. local time? Gee whiz, I know Midwesterners go to bed early and all, but really, a newspaper shuts down at 8:30?

Anyway, Gelfand’s little piece, fascinating and au courant as it might have been at the time, made no mention of his position at the paper, which, I should add, I can’t confirm independently right now since, as I just mentioned, “they’ve all gone home for the day.”

Thus I’m only presuming, based on my Google search, that the Star Tribune actually has an ombudsman on staff and that the ombudsman takes the form of a person known as Lou Gelfand. “So much for personal accountability,” as the altogether unjustifiably sneering Gelfand himself once said.

Gelfand’s job is one I would like. It’s obviously not too demanding. The Star Tribune’s web site indicates its ombudsman’s last article was published in September. No newspaper in the world is that good.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


They’re Here -- And You’re One of Them

The New York Review of Books may have the most erudite readers, the New York Times may have the most pretentious readers, the New York Daily News may have the dumbest readers, the Philadelphia Daily News may have the meanest readers, and Tikkun may have the most made-up readers, but The Rittenhouse Review has the best readers, a group that includes L.H., a wonderful woman who not only hit the tip box but sent me -- and Mildred -- four (4!) items from my wish list.

Watch your mailbox, L.H. There’s something coming, something that includes a rare and cherished photo of the most beautiful bulldog in the world.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


No, Nothing So Noble As That
But a Potential Blockbuster Thriller

“I had this awesome dream last night. Let me tell me about it.”

No two sentences, combined, are more certain to lead me to roll my eyes in boredom than those quoted above.

Don’t tell me your dreams. I’m not listening if you do.

Snarky as that is, I’ll ask you to read this.

The other day, while napping in the afternoon, at which time I found myself in that really scarily deep, napping dream-space that borders on a coma, I had a truly amazing dream, a great story, presenting itself in clear terms as a veritable pre-outlined, pre-treatmented screenplay for a blockbuster thriller.

Okay, so a good friend of mine was killed in the dream, possibly by her future husband. Who cares? It’s a potential blockbuster thriller!

I woke up shaking, the dream was so disturbing.

And after I was done shaking, I scribbled down as much as I could remember about the dream. I mean, it’s a potential blockbuster, after all.

Then I called my mother, who’s read about every thriller ever written, and a friend who has seen about every thriller ever shown, the calls an effort to confirm the story hasn’t been told already.

Their appreciation for the plot and its intertwining conflicts duly noted, I set down to work.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |



What is Mildred, anyway?

Sure, she’s a bulldog, an English bulldog to be more specific, but what is she exactly? What is she like in, uh, person?

I’ve long described Mildred, based on her appearance, personality, and behavior, as being part dog, part cat, part rabbit, part monkey, part pig, part seal, part hippo, part bear (especially polar bear), part tick, and part human.

Today I received a card from a friend featuring a photograph of a penguin.

The resemblance is, in a word, eerie.

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

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


More Mash Notes

Oh, gee whiz, this I really don’t need right now.

I’m not yet sure whether it’s genuine, and, as a result, I don’t know whether or not I will publish it, but yesterday I received a mash note from none other than Ben Shapiro, the very, very angry conservative wannabe pundit, would-be Daniel Pipes, and ersatz Ann Coulter coming out of Los Angeles.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Who’d’a Thunk It?

Hard to believe given his usual perspicacity, but Tom of TBogg is late to a certain party.

About Mickey Kaus -- little smidge, Napoleon complex, balding, friend of Andrew, that guy -- Tom writes, among much else, “Mickey Kaus has finally become unreadable. . . . [I]t’s not because his ‘iconoclast schtick [sic]’ has gotten old. . . . Kausfiles is a mess.”

“Finally”? Where you been, buddy?

[Post-publication addendum: Regardless, don’t miss Tom on the despicable, fraudulent, and absurdly hypocritical James Lileks. This guy still has a job? Lileks, I mean. Not Tom.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Falling Under the Category of Miscellany

I need a job.


As in, today.

As in, two months ago.

And thanks, PECO Energy (a/k/a Philadelphia Electric), for being so understanding. I only hope J.P. Morgan is half as compassionate.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


This Is You, Andy

No new insights here, just astonishment.

At Andrew Sullivan’s web site today you will find fawning, obsequious, and toadying commentary in praise of such contemptible poseurs and assorted fringistas* as Mike Kelly, Mark Steyn, Howard Kurtz, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), and the Jewish World Review, along with an all-too-courteous critique of David Frum.


By the way, when did Sullivan decide it was in his interest to link to other mere bloggers? Was it, perhaps, when his standing in the various measures of bloggers’ popularity started dipping?

Hate to get super-cynical, but is Sullivan no longer a Catholic because the media, with an assist from a Catholic blogger or two, or more, is now aware that he doesn’t know half as much about Catholicism as they thought he did?

Forgive me if I don’t know who “Galloway” is.

And is there any more awful a Sullivanism than “let’s unpack this”?

(* You saw it here first.)

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Philadelphia Will Lose Another 1,000 Jobs

Hmm . . . Nurses strike. Hospital obstinate in talks. Strike goes in to fifth week. The nurses’ union is scheduled to vote today on a new contract. Owner announces hospital will close March 1.

A thousand jobs down the toilet.

Conspiracy or par for the course?

Who says workers -- even professionals -- don’t need unions anymore?

Only those dimwits who will buy the company line, courtesy in this case of Tenet Healthcare Corp., that it’s the nurses’ fault.


Mary Jones of Sound & Fury, Signifying Nothing writes:

Nothing makes me angrier than the way companies like Tenet screw over nurses.

There is a tremendous shortage of both nurses and doctors in this country (and in this state), and for Tenet to simply close the hospital because it would supposedly be more cost-effective for them to do so -- Cost effective? Not in the long run, not for Philadelphia as a whole. But who are we to stand in the way of a CEO’s yearly bonus? -- is horrible enough, but the way they did it is absolutely appalling.

They baited the nurses into a strike, and now everyone will blame one of the most overworked, underappreciated groups of people in society.

Conspiracy? You bet it’s a conspiracy, in the sense that business, the current administration, and the media have toxic views towards unions, and they’re exploiting it for their own gains. In the end, it won’t matter to some CEO out in California, but for the rest of us? I shudder to think.

Sorry. I don’t mean to ramble, but I’m so outraged by this situation, and its relationship to the rest of the healthcare situation both in Philadelphia and the country. Also, my mom and cousin are both nurses, so it hits home a little.


Ed.: I don’t think she’s rambling, do you? I think she makes perfect sense.

[Post-publication addendum: Ah, the memories. If you’re interested in one of Rittenhouse’s angrier moments, take a look at “When the Going Gets Tough,” which, by coincidence, also deals with labor unions, and where I say, among other things, “Wake up, people. You’re being screwed big time from every which way including up. And not just working-class Americans, but the middle class as well.”]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Essential Reading

Michelangelo Signorile, Rosie O’Donnell, a $100 million-dollar lawsuit, and gay marriage.

Here’s Rosie:

Any and every thing I wrote to [my partner] Kelli, you know, which they were using against me, some of my essays -- you know, when you get into a deep, dark place and you say, “You know what honey, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” Well, if the honey is the same sex as you, that is evidence in a trial, and that’s hard to believe in America. . . . And if they didn’t have access to some of those letters I wrote to Kelli, I don’t think they would have sued me. Because, innately [sic], what they were thinking was that I would rather give them money than show the truth of my darkest part to America.

(* You saw it here first. It’s a combination, of sorts, of “Jeopardy”’s longstanding category, “Potent Potables,” and the now colloquial “Notable Quotable.”)

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Out to Dinner

Wondering how the Democrats are doing? Check in with someone who knows, someone with enough free time to give the party’s presidential prospects ample thought and a thorough analysis, someone with a deep understanding of the American political system, someone with a finger on the pulse of the American people.

Someone like Tina Brown.

Okay, Brown might not have been your first choice, but she’s what’s being offered up today by the Washington Post, what a wag once called the most self-important newspaper in the most self-important city in the world. So she must know something.

In “Tough Time for Democrats,” Brown shares her assessment of those considered to be the six leading contenders in the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, and her insights into their prospects, insights gained, or at least confirmed, by Brown’s recent attendance at -- what else? -- a dinner party, or more specifically and impressively, “a media-heavy Manhattan dinner party.” (You didn’t think she went out noshing in Queens or anything, did you?)

That’s our intrepid columnist, going right to the source!

Here’s what the readers of the paper of record in the nation’s capital are reading this morning. Sen. Joseph M. Lieberman: “censorious smile,” “jungle-book voice.” Sen. John F. Kerry: “the talking tree with the `70s hair.” Sen. John Edwards: “hopelessly puppyish.” Ret. Gen. Wesley Clark: “cyborg hero of places no one can spell.” Howard Dean: “a pisher with no past and no neck.” Rep. Richard Gephardt: “retain[s] a certain Great Plains steadfastness,” albeit a little light in the loafers.

Drawing upon an analogy with -- what else? -- a TV program, and a cable TV program at that, Brown all but calls them a bunch of queers.

In contrast, there’s Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), speaking to that most effete of institutions, the Council on Foreign Relations, and just oozing masculinity: “[S]ure of her leonine power, she morphed her pinstripe pantsuit before our eyes into battle fatigues and flak jacket. Planted solidly behind the lectern with only intermittent reference to her notes she exuded the sense of a well-filled mind and life. Maybe not yet a credible commander-in-chief but at least a Democratic Major Barbara.”

Unfortunately, Brown tells us, we’ll have to wait four years for the Democrats to get in touch with their inner straight man, their inner he-man; four more years until the Democrats can even think about tapping a much needed wellspring of misplaced testosterone.

Brown’s offensive commentary would be an awful joke if it weren’t such typical fare, not only in the media writ large, but in the Post itself. You would think having one Howie Kurtz on staff would be enough, wouldn’t you? No, take two.

[Post-publication addendum: On “Major Barbara,” see not only, of course, Major Barbara’s blog, linked above (Arms & The Man), but also Sisyphus Shrugged. Apparently Julia thinks Tina makes no sense. Perish the thought!]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, December 16, 2003  

There’s No Recipe I Want More

Let’s take a walk down memory lane, shall we?

It was 1970. I was in the third grade. This was back in the day when kids made Christmas presents for their parents on the school’s dime, something I doubt is done any longer, though I could be wrong.

That year, for our mothers, we assembled a cookbook, or a collection of recipes, each student having solicited his mother for a favorite Christmas-season recipe. (Trust me when I say that no individual student, nor his family, was disturbed by this request. There were no Jews, Moslems, Unitarians, or atheists in our little village.)

In preparation for the project, my mother sent me to school with her recipe for butter cookies.

I loved those cookies. And yet, when the cookbook was completed it struck me, even then at eight years of age, that my mother’s recipe was far less interesting or exotic than those contributed by the other mothers.

I wasn’t ashamed, but I did feel funny somehow.

Time passes. Things change. Perceptions are altered.

And now, writing this today, there’s no recipe I want more than my mother’s formula -- along with her talent -- for baking the perfect butter cookie. And I wonder: Might this be the only recipe all of those mothers saved?

There’s one thing I would enjoy more of course, and that’s the butter cookies themselves. Preferably butter cookies simply adorned with green or red sugar sprinkles, nothing more complicated or elaborate than that.

But don’t worry. I think B. is taking care of it.

If she doesn’t, I’ll get back to you.

Or to Mom.

[Post-publication addendum (December 18): B. is taking care of it. Even before reading this B. had purchased red and green sugar sprinkles in preparation for the project. And -- finally! -- it’s confirmed: B. and A. are heading to Nepal next month to fetch my next, my incipient, my impending, my newest niece. Hope and pray for peace there: in the meantime, until then, and always.]

[Post-publication addendum (December 19): Whoa. New York blogger Diana found the recipe to end all recipes. As in, STOP writing recipes! (If links are whacked, search for “repulsive.”)]

[Post-publication addendum (December 19): I asked her. Mom, I mean. For the recipe. I’m waiting to hear.]

[Post-publication addendum (December 22): Mom came through with the recipe. See above.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Take It From L’Auteur

Although blogs and blogging are about more than making lists, even we in this avant-garde medium are known to succumb to the lures of that perennial fallback of magazine publishing known as “The Lists.”

As an admittedly disinterested fan of lists, I tend to pay close attention to those assembled by bloggers, particularly when the lists are derived from a field in which he or she has a certain expertise.

The Worst Movies of All Time, by Brian Linse of AintNoBadDude, which I found by way of Roger Ailes, is among such lists.

Like Ailes I’m pleased to say that I haven’t seen any of the films Linse selected as the 10 worst ever made. And while I’ve only seen five of the films on Linse’s best top-10 list, I can’t say I would agree with his assessment. Then again, I don’t go to the movies very often, so what do I know?

Linse thoughtfully included his eight “guilty pleasures,” though the persistent appeal of “Barbarella” remains mystifying, particularly from one as gifted as he is.

Excuse me, Brian? Have you never seen “What’s Up, Doc?”

That’s a guilty pleasure I’m only too happy to broadcast.

Hell, I know the screenplay by heart. (“Sylvia-Louise. You know, with a hyphen.” “I’m coming in there!” “That’s . . . unbelievable.” “You know, the nut with the rocks.”)

And you do too, C&C.

[Post-publication addendum (December 18): Reader A.D.M. writes in: “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” (Ed.: A line from the film uttered by Howard Bannister [Ryan O’Neal], in response to “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” from Judy Maxwell [Barbra Streisand]. Hilarious. Don’t get it? It’s a period piece.)]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Is Rep. Dennis Kucinich My Man?

Wondering which candidate deserves your support? Or the candidate with whom you share the greatest affinity, at least according to a quick questionnaire?

Well, I wasn’t, but I still trekked over to’s American Presidential Candidate’s Selector and answered all of the questions. It’s uncanny how accurately the poll assessed my political proclivities.

The results of my experience with SelectSmart are posted below:

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (75%)

Rev. Al Sharpton (68%)

Sen. John Kerry (62%)

Gov. Howard Dean (59%)

Ret. Gen. Wesley K. Clark (57%)

Sen. John Edwards (57%)

Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun (52%)

Rep. Dick Gephardt (50%)

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (36%)

President George W. Bush (23%)

More than anything else I’m shocked President Bush, miserable failure he, scored as high as 23 percent. Must be the whole cloning thing.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |