The Rittenhouse Review

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

Friday, May 28, 2004  

Swimming and Horses and Stuff

My apologies for not blogging today. And tomorrow and the next day and the next day.

I’m out of here until Tuesday.

Mildred and I have been invited to spend the Memorial Day weekend at a friend’s home in Chester County, a house complete with pool and horses. (I hope I’m not expected to ride; it’s been more than 10 years.)

If you’re in the area, look for me at the Devon Horse Show on Sunday. No autographs, please.

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Thursday, May 27, 2004  

“Winning” the Lottery

A brief conversation between two 40-ish women overheard in a check-cashing storefront in Center City Philadelphia (Don’t ask!), after one woman spent some $15 on scratch-off lottery cards:

Woman #1: Hold on, lemme’ check my scratchies.

Woman #2: Alright.

Woman #1: Nothing. . . . Nothing. . . . Nothing. . . . Nothing. . . . Oooo! Five dollars! I won five dollars! [Woman #1 cashes in her $5 winnings.] Ain’t that somethin’!

Woman #2: Hey, that’s five dollars you didn’t have before.

Woman #1: That’s right!

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This Woman Still Has a Job?

David Rees, the genius behind Get Your War On, today takes on Judith Miller, the disgraced-everywhere-but-229-West-43rd-Street reporter who, having bought, parroted, and pedaled the lies, distortions, and braggadocio of fraudster and suspected Iranian spy Ahmed Chalabi, did so much, well, to get this war on.

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In the News: May 27, 2004

Caught on Tape
The tapes and transcriptions of former White House national security advisor and Secretary of State Henry M. Kissinger, are finally being made public. In one notable conversation Kissinger, apparently looking in a mirror at the time, said to the Soviet ambassador, Anatoly Dobrynin, “Oh-h-h-h, you’re a dirty old man.”

At Auction
Now’s your chance to buy, or at least view, a slice of the life of the late Doris Duke. Christie’s will auction Miss Duke’s jewelry, furniture, wine, and miscellanea in New York beginning June 2 and ending June 5. Proceeds from the sales, estimated conservatively at $15 million to $20 million, will go to the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Impending Poverty
Princess Michael of Kent, faced with the impending prospect of homelessness and poverty, along with a seemingly innate inability to launch any kind of career whatsoever, hung out the flag of the late and unlamented British empire yesterday and watched it sag.

In Exile
The new weekly poll of Rittenhouse readers has been posted in the sidebar at right. This week’s question is, “If forced into exile, which of these countries would you choose as your haven?” Your choices are Albania, Madagascar, Moldova, Panama, Paraguay, and Uzbekistan.

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Carbohydrates and Cholesterol Head for the Courts

Tell me you didn’t see this coming (“Dieter Sues Atkins Estate and Company,” by Marian Burros, the New York Times):

A 53-year-old man sued the estate of Dr. Robert C. Atkins and the company that promotes his diet yesterday. The suit says following the Atkins diet for two years raised the man’s cholesterol so much that his arteries became clogged and required a medical procedure to open them.

The suit is apparently the first to involve the diet, the most prominent and controversial low-carbohydrate regimen and the one most associated with assertions that followers could eat all the red meat and saturated fat they wanted and still lose weight.

The plaintiff, Jody Gorran, who is being assisted by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, an advocacy group that supports a vegan diet, is seeking $28,000 in damages. Mr. Gorran said he was using the suit to tell other people about the dangers of the diet and to have its promoters include warnings in books, other products and Web sites.

Gorran gained -- get this -- eight (that’s 8) pounds on the diet, weighing in at a staggering 148 pounds (that’s one hundred forty-eight), up from 140. He started the Atkins diet after gaining 8 pounds? Why?

His cholesterol level rose from 146 to 230. That’s a lot of clogging.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2004  

Results from the Latest Poll

It’s Tuesday night, and that means the polls have closed and the results of the latest survey of Rittenhouse readers are in.

Asked to select which of eight broadcasters and cable networks they rely on most for news, readers by a wide margin chose NPR, garnering 45 percent of the vote, followed by the BBC, a distant second with a 25 percent share, and CNN, the top choice of 15 percent of readers responding to the poll.

The other options were left in the dust as shown in the table below.

1. NPR, 141 votes, or 45%
2. BBC, 78 votes, 25%
3. CNN, 46 votes, 15%
4. FOX, 13 votes, 4%
5. CBS, 12 votes, 4%
6. CBC, 9 votes, 3%
(tie) NBC, 9 votes, 3%
8. ABC, 7 votes, 2%

It looks like I’m a little out of touch with my readers, who I suppose really are a bunch of America-hating, old-Europe leftists. You see, I rarely listen to NPR (my regular radio news station is Philadelphia’s KYW, 1060 AM, an all-news outlet), and I only catch the BBC on the web. I can take or leave CNN; it’s handy when needed, but it doesn’t knock me over.

So, I opted for NBC. It’s not that I’m a big fan of the operation or of Tom Brokaw (let alone Brian Williams). It’s just that if I watch the local news it’s almost sure to be Philadelphia’s NBC affiliate, WCAU-TV, and I guess I’m too lazy to change the channel.

What I can’t believe is that I left out of the poll the best possible source of news: “The Daily Show,” with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central.

Anyway, thanks for participating in the poll.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


In the News: May 25, 2004

Ahmed Chalabi
Robert Scheer writes about swindler-spy Ahmed Chalabi in today’s Los Angeles Times (“Chalabi’s Long, Costly Charade”): “We might start investigating which Bush official arranged for this hustler -- already on the lam for a decade from major banking fraud convictions in Jordan -- to sit behind First Lady Laura Bush during this year’s State of the Union speech. Was the Secret Service watching her purse?”

Judith Miller
Now is as good a time as any to tap the archives of “Get Your War On.” Catch this strip from June 5, 2003, jabbing Chalabi’s New York Times mouthpiece, Judith Miller. It was funny then. It’s pathetic now.

After an eight-month cleaning (tab: $500,000), Michelangelo’s “David” was unveiled in Florence, Italy, yesterday in preparation for the sculpture’s 500th “anniversary” in September. Says restorer Cinzia Parnigoni in today’s New York Times, “I would call the result ‘less gray.’ But I hope it is not too white.”

Todd Oldham
It’s good to see designer Todd Oldham is working again. No, not Escada. Not Target. La-Z-Boy. It’s cool stuff.

Martina Navratilova
Veteran tennis star and veritable icon Martina Navratilova, 47, today lost her first-round match in the women’s singles tournament at the French Open to Gisela Dulko. Dulko, a 19-year-old Argentine, was born a year after Navratilova won her first French Open title.

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Grasping at Jetsam & Flotsam

President George W. Bush last night gave his hyped “major speech” on U.S. strategy in Iraq, addressing the American people, and the world, not from the Oval Office, as I had assumed he would, but from the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., where he basked in the repeated bouts of applause from a carefully selected audience of nearly 500 military officers.

Why am I not surprised? Scripting and backdrops are crucial elements of all theater, and this administration is nothing if not the theater of the absurd. Why am I also not surprised that no one in the White House gave thought to the notion that traveling to the War College, despite the favorable reception, probably wasn’t a great idea? Although the institution itself isn’t cloaked in massive secrecy, the instruction there isn’t open to the scrutiny of the general public. This is the stuff around which thousands of conspiracies can be woven by disaffected Arabs: “President Bush addresses conclave of hundreds of top U.S. military officers at secret Army training school.”

Despite the president’s attempt to convey confidence and his cloying reassurances to the American public, there lingered under the cool surface an element of desperation. The Bush administration clearly is beyond adrift in Iraq, left merely grasping at the all too familiar jetsam and flotsam its own strategy has scattered in the region. Vague timetables, an obscured agenda, and premature promises of multilateral assistance dominated the speech. It’s really too late for this, isn’t it?

The president’s plan to raze the Abu Ghraib prison, the only new item discussed in the speech, is a purely symbolic gesture. It’s a plan that, in the absence of a systematic transformation of detention and interrogation procedures, along with critical changes in personnel rising up through the Pentagon and including the White House -- encompassing Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and President Bush himself -- and the adoption of applicable international law including the Geneva Conventions, will do nothing to stem the opportunity for humiliation, abuse, and torture of prisoners.

The most deceitful aspect of the speech was the conflagration of terrorism with what would more accurately be described as an insurgency or guerrilla warfare. President Bush used, or misused, the words “terror,” “terrorism,” and “terrorists” 19 times in last night’s speech.

By now it’s almost a maxim that if the president and his cohorts in the administration and the media repeat something often enough, it becomes not only believed but absolutely real to them and to millions of gullible and misinformed Americans. Iraq wasn’t the center of the long struggle against terrorism before the war. If it is now, and I doubt even that, it’s only because the president and his frighteningly misguided cohorts made it so.

[Post-publication addendum: Have you signed the petition?]

[Post-publication addendum: By the way, today’s coverage of the speech in the Philadelphia Inquirer includes a photograph, not reproduced on the paper’s web site, of soon-to-be former Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) almost snuggling with President Bush. There’s something creepy about living in a “battleground state.”]

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Monday, May 24, 2004  

Dean Backs Hoeffel Campaign

Former Vermont governor and presidential candidate Dr. Howard Dean was in Philadelphia yesterday to campaign and raise funds for U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Joe Hoeffel. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports, in “A Spirited Pitch for Hoeffel’s Campaign,” by Patrick Kerkstra, that Dean and Hoeffel appeared at a labor-union rally, and later at a fund raiser in Bryn Mawr that pulled in $100,000.

According to Kerkstra, “Dean’s support, along with a scheduled June appearance with U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, signals that the national Democratic party believes Hoeffel has a legitimate chance to defeat [Sen. Arlen] Specter in November -- and that should translate to increased financial support for Hoeffel.”

Glad to hear that, as it confirms the view from the ground here that Sen. Specter is vulnerable. And hats off to Rep. Pat Toomey for eroding the incumbent’s huge hoard of cash during the Republican primary. (Sen. Specter reportedly spent $14 million to eke out a victory over a little-known and rather fringey candidate.)

The Inquirer reports Sen. Specter had $2 million on hand as of the latest round of filings with the Federal Election Commission, while Rep. Hoeffel had $800,000. To that we can add the proceeds from last night’s event and other funds raised since the report. A source inside the Hoeffel campaign tells me they are above $2 million.

In another article in today’s Inquirer, “Specter Girds for Another Fight,” by Steve Goldstein, Sen. Specter says he plans to make the war in Iraq a focal point of his campaign:

Specter voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq but tried - and failed - to attach an amendment requiring President Bush to seek U.N. support before going to war. Although he still believes that U.N. involvement both prewar and postwar would have been beneficial, he refused to break with the administration.

“It is true that postwar planning has not been good, but who could have anticipated it?” he said.

Truth be told, a lot of very smart people within and outside of the Defense and State Departments anticipated the chaos, violence, and continued fighting American and allied troops -- to say nothing of civilians -- are facing each day.

So too did many opponents, skeptics, and critics who raised serious questions about the Bush administration’s war plans and the costs associated with the conflict and subsequent occupation.

Ah, but speaking of critics, Sen. Specter had this to say: “I’m not going to agree with McCain and Hagel over the Department of Defense and Bush. It’s very easy to be a critic. The military necessity there is not something on which I’m going to second-guess the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” (Emphasis added.) (To this, by way of background, Kerkstra adds: “Sens. John McCain (R., Ariz.) and Chuck Hagel (R., Neb.) have been outspoken in their criticism of White House policy on Iraq and have accused the administration of grossly underestimating military requirements after Saddam Hussein’s ouster.”)

Sorry, Senator Specter, you’re wrong again. It’s not easy to be a critic. Ask anyone who opposed the war on Iraq before it began. Those were nasty days of mean-spirited mud-slinging, name-calling, and patriotism-questioning, the stridency of which has not abated.

The Hoeffel campaign source would seem to confirm my view that Pennsylvanians are suffering -- and I mean that -- from Specter Fatigue. Independent polls show Sen. Specter is viewed favorably by only 35 percent of those questioned, while 55 percent disapprove.

Sen. Specter’s cozying up to President George W. Bush and the lap-dog dancing with Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) during the primary have undermined his standing with the general electorate, the campaign believes. And with Sen. John F. Kerry leading President Bush in polls conducted statewide, Rep. Hoeffel’s campaign should benefit.

As in the past, the most important battleground in both races will be the Philadelphia suburbs in Montgomery, Delaware, and Bucks Counties. Rep. Hoeffel should do well here, I think, and the campaign source confirms a strong Democratic trend in the suburbs.

Meanwhile, there’s still talk of a third-party candidate from the right wing, a challenge that could only benefit Rep. Hoeffel.

All this is to say, to affirm in your minds, that Sen. Specter is vulnerable despite his incumbency and his fund-raising ability. More important, Rep. Hoeffel is the right candidate at the right time, focusing on Pennsylvania’s stagnant economy, job losses, and the war in Iraq, a war that has hit the people of this state quite hard in recent weeks.

The Rittenhouse Review is helping to raise funds for the Hoeffel campaign. If you can contribute, please do so by clicking here; the link will take you directly to Rep. Hoeffel’s campaign web site.

[Post-publication addendum (May 24): For Rep. Hoeffel’s view on the situation in Iraq, see the rather grandly entitled op-ed, “The Hoeffel Doctrine for Iraq,” Philadelphia Daily News.]

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Homer Simpsons and the Bloggers

During last night’s episode of “The Simpsons,” the plot of which was thoroughly outlined by Robert Levine in Sunday’s New York Times (“The Season Finale That Isn’t a Season Finale”), you missed a great send-up on the issue of media consolidation.

By the end of the episode, everyone in Springfield is publishing his own newspaper, including Homer Simpson, who wisecracks: “Instead of one big-shot controlling all the media, now there’s a thousand freaks Xeroxing their worthless opinions.”

I’m trying not to take it personally.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Sunday, May 23, 2004  

Think You’re Poor?
Think Again.

We all know New York is a big town. What’s interesting to note is that New York is large enough for newspaper readers to see two articles, published within days of each other, as dramatically and apparently unselfconsciously different as “When Real Food Isn’t an Option,” by Donald G. McNeil Jr., in today’s New York Times, and “Yikes! You’re In Überclass City,” by Choire Sicha, in Wednesday’s New York Observer.

McNeil’s article is about hunger, the unimaginable hunger and privation that emerges from time to time in the world’s poorest countries:

In Haiti’s slums, round swirls of dough can be found baking in the sun. They look almost appetizing until you learn the ingredients: butter, salt, water and dirt. […]

In Malawi, children stand on the roadsides selling skewers of roasted mice.

In Mozambique, when grasshoppers eat the crops, people turn the tables and eat them, calling the fishy-tasting bugs “flying shrimp.”

In Liberia during the 1989 civil war, every animal in the national zoo was devoured but a one-eyed lion. Dogs and cats disappeared from the streets of the capital. […]

Eritrean women strap flat stones to their stomachs to lessen the pangs. […]

Africans dig up anthills and termite mounds to sieve out the tiny grains the insects have gathered. […]

[I]n battered Zimbabwe, once the [Marula] fruit is gone people may be reduced to eating the tough seeds by cracking them with rocks and fishing out tiny kernels with a pin. […]

The skins and bones of dead animals that even vultures are finished with may be boiled for soup. […]

In Zambia, balls of edible clay are sold in street markets. In Angola, a dark dirt called “black salt” is sprinkled on cold food, but cannot be cooked because it loses its tang.

What a contrast the New York Observer article provides:

A “grande latte” at Starbucks: $3.86.

A beer at Bryant Park Grill: $8.00.

A martini at Whiskey Bar: $12.00.

A pedicure at Avon Salon & Spa: $58.00.

A simple lunch for two at the Four Seasons: $100.00.

Designer jeans at Bloomingdale’s: up to $200.00. (Designer jeans at Jeffrey: up to $750.00.)

One hour with a private closet organizer: $450.00.

Prix-fixe dinner for two at Masa: $600.00 (drinks and tip not included).

A lobster and caviar omelet at Le Parker Meridien: $1,000.00.

I’ve always presumed there were at least a few people, other than me, who read both the Times and the Observer, but sometimes I wonder.

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Barbara Bush Sr. Speaks

In “Michael Moore’s Candid Camera” (New York Times, May 23), Frank Rich begins an examination of the issues presented by Michael Moore’s new film, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” with a quote from Barbara Bush Sr., culled from her March 18, 2003, appearance on “Good Morning America.”

How I missed this one I’ll never know:

But why should we hear about body bags, and deaths, and how many, what day it’s gonna happen, and how many this or what do you suppose? Or, I mean, it’s, it’s not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that? And watch him suffer.

Beautiful mind?

The “him” to which Mrs. Bush Sr. refers in the final sentence is President Idiot Mittens.

Rich also teases the film with this:

In Mr. Moore’s candid-camera portraits, a particularly unappetizing spectacle is provided by Paul Wolfowitz, the architect of both the administration’s Iraqi fixation and its doctrine of “preventive” war. We watch him stick his comb in his mouth until it is wet with spit, after which he runs it through his hair. This is not the image we usually see of the deputy defense secretary, who has been ritualistically presented in the press as the most refined of intellectuals -- a guy with, as Barbara Bush would have it, a beautiful mind.

So far at least, “Fahrenheit 9/11” sounds more than a little promising.

[Post-publication addendum (May 27): Reader L.M. writes in with a correction: “If it hasn’t been mentioned already by a few hundred if your faithful readers, the ‘him’ that Barbara Bush refers to is actually her husband, not her retarded son.” L.M. provided the transcript from the program and, well, gosh darn it, she’s right!]

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Saturday, May 22, 2004  

Having Fun With the Times Pundits

What is to be done with Thomas L. Friedman, the most uninteresting commentator on foreign affairs at since Flora Lewis?

And with Nicholas D. Kristof, the most risible pundit since Peggy Noonan?

Mock them, but offer critiques with intelligence, class, and wit.

For a few hints see “Write Your Own Thomas Friedman Column!” by Michael Kubin in the New York Observer and “The New O.J.,” by David Ehrenstein at David E.’s Fablog.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


“Fahrenheit 9/11” Wins at Cannes

The Associated Press reports “Fahrenheit 9/11,” directed by Michael Moore today was awarded the prestigious Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

Happy now, Walt Disney (Co.)?

[Post-publication addendum (May 23): On the subject of “Fahrenheit 9/11” don’t miss Frank Rich in today’s New York Times: “Michael Moore’s Candid Camera.”]

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Whizzing About the Internet

Here’s one of my occasional “Making the Rounds” items, something being sent around the world through the good offices of the internet, the origin of which I can’t readily determine, though I see there’s already a bumper sticker carrying the message:

America’s No-CARB Diet: No Cheney, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Bush

(Thanks to reader J.K.)

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Thursday, May 20, 2004  

Time to Give it Up

Scared you, didn’t I? The quitting, giving it up thing, I mean.

Don’t worry: I’m talking about smoking, not blogging.

I’ve really got to quit smoking. Not only is this despicable habit insane from a health perspective, what the hell is a man in my financial situation doing smoking? (Though, if I might brag, at half the rate of just three months ago.)

I’m on my way, though: I’ve switched from my regular brand, Benson & Hedges (“gold,” i.e., full flavor, with maximum “tar” and nicotine), to Pall Mall Lights.

For years friends have mocked me for smoking Bensons. “Old lady cigarette,” they call it. I disagree on several grounds, but more important, to me at least, I’ve tried dozens of brands and this is the one I like best and by a long shot. Deal with it.

Pall Mall Lights are another story. Pall Mall is an old name in the tobacco business. My parents, both of whom quit years ago, smoked Pall Mall “Reds.” No surprise: My first cigarette was a Pall Mall Red. Unfiltered. Unrestrained. They’re actually quite good.

More recently, however, Lorillard Tobacco Co., the maker of Pall Mall cigarettes, repositioned and extended the brand to include various light and menthol options, including my new companion, widely referred to as “Pall Mall Blues.”

One of Lorillard’s marketing schemes for the new Pall Mall varieties is that the tobacco burns more slowly. And do you know what? For once, a tobacco company is telling the truth. Pall Mall Blues really do burn more slowly than other cigarettes.

That’s all really interesting and everything, but more important to me, if I shop around I can find Pall Mall Blues retailing for about $2.25 a pack (three-for-twos, etc.), compared with $4.75 to $5.25 for a pack of Benson & Hedges, which are never discounted.

Even “better,” I really don’t care for the taste of Pall Mall Blues. In fact I actively dislike the taste. But that’s a good thing. If I hate the cigarettes I’m smoking I figure I’m more likely to quit sooner rather than later.

I’ll keep you posted.

[Post-publication addendum (May 22): While we’re on the subject, don’t miss Charles Eichner’s recent essay at Disinfotainment on smoking in Japan, “The Smokatorium.”]

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Or Maybe It’s Just News

First the bad news: As you already may have noticed, I haven’t posted today. I’m feeling a little under the weather as they say, or used to say. It’s nothing serious, no cause for concern. I even managed to make it to Mass for Ascension Thursday. (Did you catch that, Mom?)

I know, I know, a day without a Rittenhouse post is like a day without . . . well, it’s a just a day.

Now the good news: I have raised enough money to fund a trip to Portland, Maine, to participate in the last-minute activities and campaigning of Mary Beth Williams, a blogger running in the Democratic Party primary for a seat in the Maine House of Representatives. (As a result, that fund-raising appeal has been closed, though, as always, the tip box is open 24/7.)

Thanks to everyone who helped to make this trip possible. It wasn’t easy: Just my luck, Mr. Big Shot from up the street is running a pledge week, leaving Rittenhouse to pick up the crumbs, but we managed to pull it off. (“Success!” -- A message to a specific donor; he’ll get it.)

I’m looking forward to the campaign, the trip itself (I haven’t been to Maine in 19 years), and getting away from Mildred for a while. Actually, that’s not true, it’s been 18 years I’ll miss her, the little slug.

Right now I’m at the PC and watching the Philadelphia Flyers at the same time. If some brilliant insight into the game or, more likely, some unrelated issue, comes to me there might be another post or two, but I promise nothing.

By the way, haven’t the recent terror-alert status photographs been both informative and interesting? They are part of what I’m calling the “Confectionery Series.”

[Post-publication addendum: It’s not too late to contribute to the Williams campaign. In fact, now is probably the best time to step up to the plate. The primary remains competitive, and Williams needs your support before voters head to the polls on June 8. This is a historic opportunity. Think of it: putting a blogger in public office! A first, as far as I know. And the election offers a terrific opening for “our side”: Maine, with its unusually conservative Democratic governor, John Baldacci, needs more progressive voices, and more women, in the legislature. I know readers are being bombarded with appeals for funds for numerous causes, charities, and bloggers (including this one), but if you have a few bucks to give a last-minute lift to the Williams campaign, please send them up to the Pine Tree State as soon as possible.]

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Wednesday, May 19, 2004  

Your Top Choice for News

A new reader poll has been posted in the sidebar at right. This week The Rittenhouse Review asks: “Which of these networks do you rely on most for news?”

Your choices are ABC, BBC, CBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC, and NPR.

The poll runs through the evening of Tuesday, May 18.


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I Lost My Wallet

Notes From Atlanta today posted a brief, uh, note about Powerball, Wal-Mart, and McDonald’s.

Go ahead. Go read it. I’ll wait.

Okay, now that you’re back I’ll just mention that NFA’s post reminded me of the time I lost my wallet.

Before I even realized the wallet was missing the bank called me about suspicious activity on my debit card, a card that is accepted as a credit card even though, behind the scene at least, it doesn’t really work that way.

Anyway, the woman from the bank asked me to identify the last purchase I made, which I did, and then she rattled off several other purchases made with the card on the other side of town.

Can you guess the first place the knucklehead went with my card?


Now tell me, if you were the dishonest type, and I know you’re not, but if you were and you came across a debit/credit card in a handsome wallet would you have made the Golden Arches your first stop?

I didn’t think so. You’re smarter than that. And that’s why you’re reading this blog.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


A Little Help from Friends and Strangers

The Talent Show blogs on a required accessory for the Ultimate Game of Twister.

John Emerson of Seeing the Forest blogs on Rumsfeld and toast.

Jack of Ruminate This blogs on the seemingly contagious lunacy spreading among America’s Catholic bishops.

Fred Clark of Slacktivist blogs on Left Behind, the “novel.” (Apparently he’s reading it!)

Danny Loss of No Loss for Words blogs on what I hope to God really is the last Confederate widow.

Molly of MollyBlog blogs on IQs and voting patterns.

Madeleine Kane of Mad Kane’s Notables blogs on the mis-education president.

Steve of No More Mr. Nice Blog blogs on William Bennett’s lies.

Abu Aardvark blogs on media censorship in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Egypt.

Vaara of Silt blogs on going Dutch.

Burce Garrett of The Story So Far blogs about cicadas in Baltimore.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden of Making Light blogs on how not to get your novel published.

Ginger Mayerson of The Hackenblog blogs about voter registration and getting the vote out. And she means it!

Avedon Carol of The Sideshow blogs about (Note: Link sends readers to The Sideshow, not

Uggabugga blogs on William Safire. (Note: Link sends readers to Uggabugga, not Safire. Who says I’m not a nice guy?)

World O’ Crap blogs on Ipecac-sponsored (Note: See note at the end of the previous paragraph. Mutatis mutandis, of course.)

Margaret Cho of Margaret’s Blog blogs on the creepy and lecherous has-been known as Hugh Heffner. (Adult language.)

Roger Ailes of Roger Ailes blogs on Howie Carr’s hang-ups.

Sadly, No! blogs on shorter stupidity.

Jesse Taylor of Pandagon blogs on Hitchens.

SullyWatch blogs on the unintended self-parody of you know who.

Tim Dunlop of the Road to Surfdom blogs on the contradictions of Iraq, or getting out of Iraq, or maybe not, depending upon what the new government says, or maybe they just hope nobody’s listening.

Reveries of the Solitary Blogger blogs on conservatives with their knickers in knots.

Julia of Sisyphus Shrugged blogs on Rudolph Giuliani and 7 World Trade Center.

Gary Sauer-Thompson of Public Opinion blogs on Gaza.

Anne Zook of Peevish blogs on a whole bunch of interesting subjects in one easy-to-use post.

The Poor Man blogs on coloring a blog.

Skimble blogs on Enron -- remember them? -- and 401(k) plans.

The Squire of Running From the Thought Police blogs on turning two.

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Somewhere, Someplace, Sometime

Juvenile. Appalling. Almost unbelievable.

The Associated Press is reporting:

U.S. forces beat three Iraqis working for Reuters and subjected them to sexual and religious taunts and humiliation during their detention last January in a military camp near Falluja, the three said Tuesday.

The three first told Reuters of the ordeal after their release but only decided to make it public when the U.S. military said there was no evidence they had been abused, and following the exposure of similar mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. [...]

Two of the three Reuters staff said they had been forced to insert a finger into their anus and then lick it, and were forced to put shoes in their mouths, particularly humiliating in Arab culture. (Emphasis added.) [...]

The abuse happened at Forward Operating Base Volturno, near Falluja, the Reuters staff said. [...]

The three -- Baghdad-based cameraman Salem Ureibi, Falluja-based freelance television journalist Ahmad Mohammad Hussein al-Badrani and driver Sattar Jabar al-Badrani -- were released without charge on Jan. 5.

(Thanks to reader J.C.)

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


May 19, 2004

Just Off the Wire!
The Associated Press is just now reporting that a U.S. helicopter fired on a wedding party in western Iraq, killing more than 40 people. “The U.S. military said it could not confirm the report and was investigating,” according to the A.P. [Post-publication insertion: Russ Barnes of Apostropher reminds us this isn’t the first wedding we’ve caused to go horribly wrong.]

Watch Out!
Be careful out there, people, especially those of you in Massachusetts: Gov. Mitt Romney (R) is having himself a nice little temper tantrum.

Separate This!
Strange, isn’t it, how few senators understand such concepts as the separation of powers and congressional oversight?

Juxtapose This!
Don’t compound your problems at the gas pump by using your cell phone while filling your tank. It’s not only rude and tacky, it’s dangerous.

Give it Back!
The Los Angeles Philharmonic got back a prized 300-year-old cello that had been stolen three weeks ago.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, May 18, 2004  

And Small Stuff and Odd Stuff
May 18, 2004

Still Living
President George W. Bush today nominated Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan to another term “not to exceed four years.” Greenspan is still living?

No Longer Living
Actor Tony Randall has passed away. The New York Times has posted one of its characteristically informative and interesting obituaries. They generally get obits right up there.

No Longer Taking
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Pentagon has decided to cut off funding to the Iraqi National Congress, the front group for discredited exile and greedy warmonger Ahmad Chalabi. This just happened? As in, today?

Scoring Above 700
According to “Want a Job? Hand Over Your SAT Results,” by Rebecca L. Weber, the Christian Science Monitor, some employers are asking recent college graduates for their SAT scores, apparently to confirm quantitative skills and to make the recruiting process more efficient. The rampant grade inflation at American colleges and universities isn’t mentioned, but I wonder whether it’s at least one factor.

We’re Number Six!
A local professor, from either Temple University or the University of Pennsylvania, or one from both, estimates that Philadelphia today or maybe yesterday (the article isn’t clear on several points) lost its place as the fifth-largest city in the U.S., having been overtaken by Phoenix. (That’s in Arizona. I think.) People are used to it here: The population of Philadelphia has been declining for 50 years. Hot on our heels is San Diego. Give it another few months.

Philly Boy, Philly Girl
A friend, his voice dripping with affectionate sarcasm, has given a new nickname to my bulldog Mildred: Smarty Jones.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Most Admired Republican Senator

The polls closed at 6:00 p.m. and the results are in. Asked which Republican senator you admire most or find least objectionable, Rittenhouse readers chose Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) by a wide margin.

The Arizona senator garnered 45 percent of readers’ votes. Sen. McCain was followed by Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine), with 23 percent, and Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R.I.), with 16 percent of the vote.

Readers probably aren’t surprised by the results. It would be difficult to demonize any of the ten senators listed below. All are decent people, have displayed admirable qualities, and taken the right positions on at least some issues. (For example, I respect and admire Sen. Pete Domenici (N.M.) for his advocacy on mental-health issues and medical coverage.) As such, I don’t think a low standing in this poll reflects badly on any of these lawmakers. And there was stiff competition: Frankly, I was surprised to find so many Republicans warranting inclusion.

But there’s always need for improvement, particularly in the Senate, and this is an election year, one offering an opportunity for Democrats to take it back. (And here comes my plug -- like you didn’t see it coming: The Rittenhouse Review is helping Rep. Joe Hoeffel [D-Pa.] raise funds for his campaign against all-too-incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter [R-Pa.]. If you would like to donate to the Hoeffel effort click here.)

By the way, I voted for Sen. Chafee. He’s arguably in the wrong party anyway.

The final tally is as follows:

1. Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), 156 votes, or 45%
2. Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine), 78 votes, 23%
3. Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R.I.), 54 votes, 16%
4. Sen. Chuck Hagel (Neb.), 22 votes, 6%
5. Sen. Richard Lugar (Ind.), 16 votes, 5%
6. Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), 11 votes, 3%
7. Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), 3 votes, 1%
(tie) Sen. Charles Grassley (Iowa), 3 votes, 1%
9. Sen. Pete Domenici (N.M.), 2 votes, 1%
10. Sen. Elizabeth Dole (N.C.), 1 vote, negligible

Thanks for your participation. A new poll will be posted tomorrow.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


May 18, 2004

Big stuff going on all over the place:

Amazing. Although many Americans were probably stunned, the sun rose this morning, as it does every day, and the world didn’t end.

Washington, D.C.
This is unlikely to be the last word on the subject, but the A.P. is reporting the Institute of Medicine today released a study denying a link between thimerosal, a preservative once widely used in vaccines, and autism and related disorders.

Sonia Gandhi steps down before stepping up. Or in. Or whatever.

Israel and Gaza
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell criticized Israel for destroying homes along the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

The Blogosphere
Blogger Salam Pax is headed for Hollywood. Not really, but he’s signed with Intermedia to have his story, The Baghdad Blog, made into a movie (see sixth item).

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Monday, May 17, 2004  

“I Live in Philadelphia”

We all by now are familiar, too familiar, with the last words of Nicholas Berg, the American executed by Iraqi terrorists in retaliation for the abuses committed at Abu Ghraib prison: “My name is Nick Berg, my father’s name is Michael, my mother’s name is Susan. I have a brother and sister, David and Sarah. I live in . . . Philadelphia.”

After the words truly sink in, the very last four resonant in a surprising way.

“I live in . . . Philadelphia.”

Seems simple enough -- innocuous, even -- but according to local media accounts Berg actually lived in West Whiteland Township, Pa., and his business, Prometheus Methods Tower Service Inc., was located in West Chester, Pa. Both towns are some 35 miles west of Philadelphia.

So why would Berg say he lived in Philadelphia if he didn’t?

Proximity matters, of course, and Philadelphia is much larger and better known than West Whiteland Township and West Chester. Perhaps he was speaking in the casual shorthand we all know and use ourselves.

But maybe Nick Berg was sending a message: to his murderers and to us.

If you’ve watched or heard the video, or seen certain transcripts of Berg’s final words, you’ll notice he pauses slightly before saying “Philadelphia,” as if he thought first of saying West Whiteland or West Chester, only to change his mind at the last moment: “I live in . . . Philadelphia.”

As every schoolchild knows, the city’s name comes from two Greek roots -- phileo, love, and adelpho, brother -- hence the affectionate nickname, the City of Brotherly Love.

Perhaps, just as Berg’s killers prepared to perform their brutal, barbaric, and medieval act, the young man who always carried a copy of the Torah was relaying, in a spiritual sense, where he aspired for all of us to live someday.

[Post-publication addendum (May 20): Sometimes an ellipsis is just an ellipsis. Two readers have sent e-mails informing me that the videotape of the beheading of Nicholas Berg reveals he actually did mention his West Chester domicile before his execution. Although before writing this post I watched the video one time -- something I do not recommend to others -- my memory apparently failed me on this particular point as I read multitudes of media accounts about the tragedy. I presume they are correct; I do not wish to view the video again. Regardless, I apologize for the error, but I hope the general sentiment prompting the post remains valid.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Together With Miscellany
May 17, 2004

“Rumsfeld Must Go”
The Philadelphia Daily News today joined the ranks of American newspapers calling for the resignation or termination of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.

In “Rumsfeld Must Go,” the editors write:

[N]ow it really is time for Rumsfeld to go, with the weekend revelations that Rumsfeld approved of the interrogation techniques that have so horrified civilized countries and deeply stained our country’s honor.

On Saturday, Pultizer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh uncovered a secret plan, approved by Rumsfeld, to use mental and physical torture techniques not only against high-ranking members of the al Qaeda terrorist network, but on Iraqi civilians as well.

Rumsfeld’s decision to export the torture techniques, used on suspected terrorists held in Guantanamo Bay, has “embittered the America intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of elite combat units, and hurt America’s prospects in the war on terror,” Hersh writes in the New Yorker, which is on newsstands today.

What is particularly scandalous about this latest revelation is that the Secretary of Defense was willing to court-martial several foot soldiers -- the ones who took the pictures and abused the prisoners -- for essentially following a plan he approved.

Does this man have any honor at all?

To ask the question is to answer it.

Misdirected E-mail
If she has any integrity, or decency, at all Dorothy Rabinowitz of The Wall Street Journal editorial page will be issuing an apology to Kristen Breitweiser, a prominent Sept. 11 widow, for this misdirected e-mail outburst, picked up by Editor & Publisher: “[T]his is just an opportunity for these absurd products of the zeitgeist -- women clearly in the grip of the delusion that they know something, have some policy, and wisdom not given to the rest of us to know -- to grab the spotlight. Again.”

And Rabinowitz is one of the saner people working for that page.

(Thanks for reader M.P.)

Neo-conservative Nonsense, Part I
The editors at the New York Post criticize Hersh’s latest piece in the New Yorker by trying shift blame for the Abu Ghraib prison scandal from Secretary Rumsfeld to the C.I.A.

In “More Hash from Hersh,” the editors claim against massive evidence to the contrary, that, among other things, the C.I.A. “failed to convince [President] Bill Clinton that al Qaeda presented a mortal danger” and “guaranteed [sic] President [George W.] Bush that it a had ‘slam-dunk’ case on Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction.”

Neo-conservative Nonsense, Part II
No, Brown Isn’t a Bust,” by Abigail Thernstrom, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, in today’s Los Angeles Times. There’s plenty of pleasant pabulum, but here’s the rub:

When we misleadingly label schools in California with few whites “segregated,” the implication is that learning is likely to be compromised. Of course it’s desirable -- where demographically possible -- for children to grow up in a multiracial, multiethnic setting. But surely we don’t want to suggest that the racial mix in a school inevitably determines the quality of the children’s education -- that children in schools without “enough” whites are doomed to academic failure. The doomsayers today who moan about Brown’s failure would have people believe that the problem with urban schools is that they aren’t white enough -- that whites are needed if children are to learn.

Were that the case, American public schools would be in deep and permanent trouble.

Someone needs a reality check.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Friday, May 14, 2004  

But This is What I Meant

I know, I know, I just published a post saying I was taking some time off, but something more important has intervened.

As most regular readers by now have noticed, The Rittenhouse Review has endorsed the candidacy of Mary Beth Williams in the Democratic Party primary for the 116th District seat in the Maine House of Representatives.

It’s a rather rare event when I personally know a candidate running for public office. Rarer still is a candidate I know as well as Williams. Rarest of all is a candidate for whom I would throw heart, mind, body, and soul into her campaign.

Mary Beth Williams is just such a candidate, and, as I might note for the uninitiated, is, among so many other things, an accomplished blogger at Wampum.

For the Williams campaign, the primary election, slated for June 8, is far more important than the general election in November. Although nothing in this world, particularly in politics, is guaranteed, if Williams wins the primary, she will be in an excellent position to win the contested seat in the fall.

I recently offered my services -- anything ranging from writing, editing, talking, making phone calls, going door-to-door, attending polling places, or whatever -- to Williams, and she has accepted my offer.

It is, however, an offer that requires your help to finance this trip.

Rest assured, I am solely a volunteer and working with a very modest budget. I found a $29 fare from U.S. Airways from Philadelphia to Manchester, N.H. (one-way based on round-trip purchase, some restrictions apply, etc., etc.).

From there I plan to travel by Rent-a-Wreck to Portland, Maine, where I would spend five or six nights at the local Motel 6, or the regional equivalent thereof. (I love cheap motels. I really do.)

Aside from that, I would need funds only for meals, telephone calls, and possibly computer time.

In the great and noble, and, it goes without saying, fully in character, tradition of Joshua Marshall of Talking Points Memo, and taking the example of his appeal for funds to report from the scene on the New Hampshire presidential primary, I assure you I will be traveling like the proverbial hostelier and that I will end this specific appeal when I have assembled sufficient funds to cover my budget.

The best way to contribute to this endeavor is to hit my “tip box” at -- see sidebar at right under “Donations Appreciated” -- adding “Williams Campaign” in the memo line.

In the event I fail to raise sufficient funds, the trip will be cancelled, and anything sent to me with the notation “Williams Campaign” will be refunded.

Thank you in advance for considering support for this most worthwhile venture.

[Post-publication addendum (May 20): As noted in an item posted today, The Rittenhouse Review has raised sufficient funds to finance the trip to Portland mentioned above. Thanks to everyone who sent expressions of support!]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Thursday, May 13, 2004  

Stuff to Do, Stuff to Read

I’m sorry there’s nothing new here today, other than the new terror-alert status (“yellow”) photograph featuring embattled Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, who continues to face pressure to resign from the general public, political commentators and editorialists, and lawmakers.

I’ve decided to take a long weekend. I have certain personal matters requiring attention and I badly need to spend some time plotting new strategies for finding a job, to say nothing of a growing sense of worldweariness and a bout of blogweariness.

As a send-off, let me direct your attention to the latest weekly poll in the sidebar at right: “Which Republican senator do you admire most or find least objectionable?” (Don’t peek at the results before voting. I’ve already voted; I do so early to make sure that in a close race my vote has no chance of tipping the scale.)

In addition, there is a new link facilitating donations to the U.S. Senate campaign of Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D-Pa.) who, as you know, is taking on the reprehensible incumbent, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).

I admit I have a personal interest in this new link. The Hoeffel campaign created a special link that will allow the campaign to track contributions from readers of The Rittenhouse Review. If Rittenhouse readers contribute $200.00, the campaign will provide me with a ticket to a private fund-raising event featuring Rep. Hoeffel and former Vermont governor Dr. Howard Dean on May 23.

Notably, the Hoeffel senate campaign is the first to which Dr. Dean has given time and active support. Better, I recently learned Dr. Dean’s impending visit to the Philadelphia area is just the first of many visits expected from prominent Democrats, all aimed at adding still more momentum to the rising Hoeffel campaign. So if I miss Dr. Dean’s appearance, there’s sure to be another one.

Finally, I’d like to share some books with you. I recently completed reading all five of them, and since I’ve never quite mastered the art of the book review, I’ll just say I found each book absorbing, fascinating, and well worth your time, money, and effort.

Against All Enemies, by Richard A. Clarke;

House of Bush, House of Saud, by Craig Unger;

The Working Poor, by David K. Shipler;

Vows of Silence, by Jason Berry and Gerald Renner; and

Worse Than Watergate, by John Dean.

(Note: I would like to thank a generous reader, L.H., for the gift of House of Bush, House of Saud, The Working Poor, and Vows of Silence, and my friend S.A., who reads even faster than I do, for the loan of Against All Enemies and Worse Than Watergate.)

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, May 12, 2004  

Now is the Time for Better Republicans to
Come to the Aid of Their Party

Last week I asked Rittenhouse readers to choose, given 10 options, “the most offensive, odious, or objectionable U.S. Republican senator.”

As previously reported, Rittenhouse readers by a large margin chose Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

And so, to be fair, because, well, I’m just a really fair-minded guy, this week I’m asking Rittenhouse readers to choose, again from among 10 options, the Republic senator they admire most, or perhaps better stated, “find least objectionable.”

As indicated in the polling sidebar at right, your choices are as follows (in alphabetical order): Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Lincoln Chafee (R.I.), Susan Collins (Maine), Elizabeth Dole (N.C.), Pete Domenici (N.M.), Charles Grassley (Iowa), Chuck Hagel (Neb.), Richard Lugar (Ind.), John McCain (Ariz.), and Olympia Snowe (Maine).

The polls are open until the evening of May 19.

Have fun!

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Local Media Coverage

The war in Iraq came home to the Philadelphia area with the brutal, tragic, practically prehistoric murder of Nicholas Berg, 26, West Chester, Pa., by an organization calling itself “Muntada al-Ansar.”

Local coverage has been heavy, of course:

Philadelphia Inquirer: “Tape Shows West Chester Man Beheaded by Captors in Iraq,” by Robert Moran, “Parents recall a son who only 'wanted to help,’,” by Sandy Bauers, “A man who shared love of science,” by Nancy Petersen, “What the Islamic Militants Said,” and “Berg Time Line.”

Philadelphia Daily News: “Fiendish Spectacle,” by William Bunch, “Berg Was in Iraq to Help,” by Barbara Laker and Nicole Weisensee Egan, and “Time to Get the Hell Out,” by John M. Baer.

WCAU-TV (NBC 10): “Family Insists U.S. Military Detained Berg.”

WCAU also reported that Drexel University announced the establishment of a scholarship in honor of Berg, to be awarded annually to a graduate of West Chester’s Henderson High School. Donations may be sent to Drexel University, Nick Berg Endowed Scholarship Fund, 3141 Chestnut St., Suite 310, Philadelphia, Pa., 19104.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Worst Republican Senator

Rittenhouse readers last week were asked to choose “the most offensive, odious, or objectionable U.S. Republican senator” from a pre-selected list of 10 names.

Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), while not gaining a majority of votes, won in a landslide, garnering a healthy 42 percent share. Coming in a distant second was Sen. William Frist (Tenn.) with 17 percent, and in third place was Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.).

I was surprised Sen. Santorum finished so far in front given the heavy competition for the title. A reader suggested his strong position arose from the fact that The Rittenhouse Review is published from Philadelphia, in Sen. Santorum’s home state. That’s possible, but I doubt it, as my mail doesn’t reflect a preponderance of Pennsylvania readers. Maybe it’s just that Sen. Santorum is as offensive, odious, and objectionable as so many of you thought before casting your votes.

I voted for the other Pennsylvanian, Sen. Arlen Specter, if only because with Sen. Santorum you know what you’re getting, but with Sen. Specter, what you get depends solely on which way he thinks the wind is blowing.

The final tally is as follows:

Rick Santorum (Pa.), 177 votes, or 42%
William Frist (Tenn.), 72 votes, 17%
James Inhofe (Okla.), 49 votes, 12%
Trent Lott (Miss.), 36 votes, 9%
Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), 29 votes, 7%,
Orrin Hatch (Utah), 28 votes, 7%
Arlen Specter (Pa.), 13 votes, 3%
Don Nickles (Okla.), 8 votes, 2%
Lindsey Graham (S.C.), 4 votes, 1%
Richard Shelby (Ala.), 2 votes, negligible

Thanks for your participation. A new poll will be posted later today.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Monday, May 10, 2004  

Ignorance Backing Ignorance

Rep. Joseph Hoeffel (D-Pa.), the Democratic Party’s candidate against incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter (R/C-Pa.), has called for the dismissal of both Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and CIA Director George H. Tenet, accusing them of errors that “have undermined America's standing in the world and done serious damage to our mission in Iraq and the battle against terror across the globe.”

Nice job, Rep. Hoeffel. I wish I could say your brave and honest statement is “par for the course,” but sadly, it is not. You, Rep. Hoeffel, are speaking out more strongly and with more conviction than most of your colleagues. For that alone, you deserve a seat in the U.S. Senate.

And so what does Sen. Specter have to say? If you can believe it, this: “I do agree with the president’s judgment because I have a lot of confidence in the president and he knows a lot more about this than anybody else does.”

First, so much for the “moderate” and “independent” reputation of Sen. Specter.

Second, when push comes to shove it’s clear Sen. Specter is a hardcore, hard-line Republican all the way.

Third, how different is Sen. Specter’s defense from that of the Archie Bunker-and-Pentagon-type supporters of the Vietnam War who tried to tell us we didn’t know everything the White House knew and so we should just shut up?

Fourth, may I ask, Sen. Specter, what is it, exactly, that President George W. Bush knows, or knew, about the abuse of prisoners in Iraq? What he knew before the appalling spot on CBS’s “60 Minutes II” and the article by Seymour Hersch in the New Yorker? Anything? Anything at all? If anything, media reports portray President Bush as decidedly “out of the loop” on this matter.

Arlen Specter: “moderate Republican”?

I don’t think so.

Vote Hoeffel.

Contribute to Hoeffel.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


It’s Up to You

Have you signed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s petition Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld to resign?

I relay. You decide.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Guess What I Think?

Should bloggers be granted media credentials to cover the Democratic National Convention in Boston?

It’s under consideration, and Joanna Weiss examines the issue in today’s Boston Globe (“Blogs Colliding with Traditional Media”).

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Washington’s Cicadas and the Delaware Bay’s Red Knots

I haven’t heard directly from anyone I know in the Washington, D.C., area, but from what I gather from media coverage, the cicadas are back, that after a 17-year hiatus. I lived in Washington during the bugs’ last emergence from their underground havens, and I’ll tell you, it’s one of the most bizarre, and annoying, phenomena one could ever experience. I’ll miss it this year, but I won’t miss it, miss it.

Meanwhile, New Jersey and Chilean ornithologists and conservationists are working on the mysterious decline in the population of red knots, featured in a fascinating article, “To Ends of Earth for Vanishing Bird,,” by Sandy Bauers, the Philadelphia Inquirer, May 9.

Red knots are small shorebirds that each year spend the (our) winter months in Tierra del Fuego, Chile, then fly thousands of miles north in early spring (at one stretch flying 4,000 miles without stopping), heading for the Delaware Bay where they feast on horseshoe crab eggs -- sometimes as quickly as one egg a second, or 18,000 eggs a day -- regaining energy and stores of fat in preparation for the final leg of their northward migration, from the Delaware Bay to Hudson Bay, Canada.

The population of red knots is declining and some estimates believe the species could be extinct by 2010. Scientists aren’t sure why: over-harvesting of horseshoe crabs in the Delaware Bay could be the problem, but other hypotheses include the impact of offshore oil rigs in the Southern Cone and the fall-out from pesticide use.

Whatever the reason or the outcome, the dedication of those studying the red knots is remarkable. Read the article and you’ll find yourself cheering them on.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


100 Percent Determination

Congratulations to Joanne Alane Holmes, B.A., Class of ’04, freshly graduated from La Salle University.

If it were mathematically possible to alter the equation in the headline above, Holmes would deserve the dispensation. After all, it took Holmes, 41, Willingboro, N.J., 16 years to earn her bachelor’s degree in social work. Let’s call it 100 percent determination.

Natalie Pompilio reports in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, “She Got Educated by Degrees”:

For Holmes and her mother, Josephine Wade, it was a day of celebration and triumph. Together, they had scrimped and struggled and, ultimately, survived. […]

A high school dropout, she took nine years to earn her associate’s degree from Community College of Philadelphia. She enrolled at La Salle in 1997, juggling classes while raising four children on her own and working multiple jobs. […]

Money was always a problem: Holmes would go to school, then drop out because of the cost. She moved in with her mother. She took out loans, was awarded grants, and it still wasn’t enough. This year, Wade sold some treasured artwork at local flea markets so the family could get by.

And there were personal struggles. Three failed marriages. The 1999 death of her stepfather, a loss that so devastated Holmes she dropped out of school, taking failing grades in all her classes. […]

She wasn’t ready to go back to school until 2002. Her mother was behind her. “We made a commitment to each other,” said Wade, 70. “No matter what, she was going to finish. No matter what.”

Holmes’ grade-point average was 1.67 when she returned. As of yesterday, it was 3.06, and she was a member of the Phi Alpha National Social Work Honor Society. […]

Through [the graduation exercises], Wade was quiet. […] She hadn’t been to a graduation before, not counting the small ceremony held when a grandson moved from middle school to high school.

Then finally, it happened. “Joanne Alane Holmes,” a voice announced.

The group went wild, cheering, screaming, jumping up and down. Except for Wade. She didn’t scream. She barely moved. She just laughed, her eyes growing wet with tears. […]

“Words can’t describe” is all she said.

Congratulations again, and a belated happy Mother’s Day to both women.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


May 10, 2004

Kerry Campaign Coverage
With all the coverage of the Abu Graib scandal it would be hard to fault anyone for forgetting there’s a presidential campaign under way. The latest theme in the media is troubling: Sen. John F. Kerry is performing poorly on the stump. Just one of many I’ve seen lately: “Kerry on the Stump: Where’s the Fire?” by John M. Baer, Philadelphia Daily News. Dan Payne, writing for, brings back memories of the 1998 campaign in “Dukakis-Bush Déjà Vu.”

Big Surprise: I
New York Times columnist William Safire thinks Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld should keep his job.

Big Surprise: II
Neoconservative critic Midge Decter agrees with Safire (“If Rumsfeld Is Driven Out, We All Lose,” Los Angeles Times, May 7). Of course, if had I had written a poor-selling, adoring, hagiographic tome about the controversial Pentagon chief, I’d be leaping to his defense as well. I’d like to think, however, I could do so with greater lucidity, reason, and conviction than Decter:

[T]hese days an outcry is being staged -- and “staged” is the word -- over casualties amounting to a few hundred. Now comes the latest scandal, over the behavior of a few prison guards in Iraq. This new scandal is no more than an election-season opportunity seized by certain serious opponents of the war, along with many more unserious opponents of the Bush administration. [Emphasis added.]

[Rumsfeld] is in the administration doghouse for failing to show the president the pictures of what was done to the prisoners, not to mention for having caused an irreparably bad odor among senators by failing to share with them the contents of interrogations that had not been completed yet. Out of such kindergarten stuff is fabricated the latest, and most joyful, assault on one of the most capable public servants in living memory. [Emphasis added.]

Aside from the part this ersatz scandal no doubt will be made to play in the Democratic presidential campaign, this tempest in a teapot about the brutal behavior of a small group of young thugs in wartime says something disturbing about us as a people. [Emphasis added.]

Bring a Gun to School
Wow, they really like guns in Utah: “In Utah, Birkenstocks, Backpacks, and Guns?” by Mark Sappenfield, The Christian Science Monitor): “Utah has never been shy about its guns. Here, a small town called Virgin once passed a law requiring that all households have a firearm. Here, an American with a concealed-weapons permit from any state can carry a handgun into a day-care center or an elementary school, and residents once protested a speech by Vice President Dick Cheney because they weren’t allowed to bring their weapons. Not surprisingly, Utah again took a strong Second Amendment stand this spring, overthrowing a 30-year University of Utah policy that banned concealed weapons on campus. But in a twist, ‘the U’ is fighting back.”

Real World Fighting
There’s already been a fight at the “Real World” house in Philadelphia, but it wasn’t the kids, it was a trio of cops. See “Cops brawl at ‘Real World’ House,” Catherine Lucey, Philadelphia Daily News.

Slice of Life: New York Streets
Irving Street, Sedgwick Street, Red Hook Lane . . . The streets are gone, but the signs remain.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


“Celebrity” Washington Style

The popular TV game show “Jeopardy” tonight begins a “celebrity” tournament, the definition of celebrity being that which prevails in the nation’s capital and underscores coverage in the Washington Post, which today offers some interesting hints about the tournament (“Wonk Heaven: What Is Beltway ‘Jeopardy!’?” by Jennifer Frey):

Al Franken should not be allowed to climb inanimate objects.

Maria Bartiromo has trouble differentiating between a golf club and a golf tee under pressure (but okay, okay, she did know that Tiger Woods makes the most money on the PGA Tour).

Tucker Carlson is disturbingly well versed in things related to “homemaking,” like dust bunnies and Brillo pads.

Bob Woodward needs faster thumbs.

And this:

We really, really, really wish we could tell you some of the truly stupid answers (or, if you want to get technical about it, questions) these folks came up with. But, alas, we are not allowed. That violates all rules of “Jeopardy!” Can’t reveal the outcome. That would make us very, very bad. Can’t, say, tell you which prominent journalist finished with a big fat $0, to the great amusement of his or her colleagues. Or who stank so badly -- finishing “Double Jeopardy” in the red -- that he or she had to get special “Celebrity Jeopardy!” dispensation just to participate in the final round. Or what entire panel of celebrity guests was disturbingly uninformed about Senate history.

Here’s the week’s line-up:

Monday: Tucker Carlson, Peggy Noonan, and Bob Woodward.

Tuesday: Anderson Cooper, Maria Bartiromo, and Kweisi Mfume

Wednesday: Ari Fleischer, Ashleigh Banfield, andAaron Brown

Thursday: Al Franken, Gretchen Carlson, and Keith Olbermann

Friday: Tavis Smiley, Christine Todd Whitman, and Tim Russert.

Check local listings, as they way.

[Clarification: According to the official “Jeopardy” web site, this week’s series is being promoted as a tournament of “Power Players” and not “Celebities,” as the Post’s coerage implies.]

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Wolfowitz and Feith Also Under Fire

The Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday joined the growing chorus of newspapers calling for the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.

In “After Abu Ghraib,” May 9, the editors wrote:

Donald Rumsfeld should resign as U.S. secretary of defense.

If he lacks the decency and courage to do so, President Bush should fire him.

A river of shame washes over America because of the deaths, torture and humiliation of prisoners held by the American military in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad.

Prosecuting a few grunts who used torture tactics (and were depraved enough to grin while doing it) will not expiate this shame.

An outraged world will see such “handling” of the problem for what it is: an attempt to contain a scandal by blaming it on a few low-level scapegoats.

That is unacceptable.

The damage these crimes have wrought on America’s standing in the world, particularly the Muslim world, is incalculable. It will linger. No one gesture can erase it.

America has no choice but to begin showing by deeds that it grasps just how despicable and damaging these prison abuses were. It must hold accountable the powerful men whose policies, decisions and omissions led to these outrages and let them fester.

Foremost, that means Donald Rumsfeld, who has run the Defense Department with a freewheeling, confident hand for three years.

Accountability also means the departure of Rumsfeld’s top lieutenants, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, the architects of the dubious invasion rationales and the disastrously incompetent occupation. All must go.

Meanwhile, President George W. Bush issued a strong endorsement of Rumsfeld: “You are courageously leading our nation in the war against terror. You’re doing a superb job. You are a strong secretary of defense and our nation owes you a debt of gratitude.”

Talking about downplaying the controversy: The New York Times reports President Bush traveled to the Pentagon to meet with Secretary Rumsfeld rather than calling his subordinate in to the Oval Office.

More evidence of the Age of Unseriousness.

[Post-publication addendum: Sen. John Edwards late yesterday called for Rumsfeld’s resignation.]

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Saturday, May 08, 2004  

On Samuel P. Huntington’s Hispanic Problem

Nearly two weeks ago I mentioned in passing one of the most astonishing articles I recently had encountered in the otherwise respectable magazine, Foreign Policy, “The Hispanic Challenge,” by Samuel P. Huntington, chairman of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies and a co-founder of the magazine.

At the time I mentioned that I was surprised Huntington’s polemic received little attention in the blogosphere. I was technically correct about that -- “little” being the key word -- but a reader subsequently alerted me to a three-part dissection of the demented professor’s tripe by the voice behind Pedantry.

I missed it, but you shouldn’t. You can find the series here (“The Myth of the Melting Pot Chalks Up Another Victim”), here (“Mexican Immigration: Not New, Not Unique, Not Unprecedented”), and here (“It’s Not the Mexicans, It’s Tim Berners-Lee’s Fault”).

This is top-notch work.

In the meantime, Huntington got a pass from the New York Times Magazine, which on May 2 published an unconscionably ignorant interview -- excuse me, “Q&A” -- between the strange doctor and Deborah Solomon.

And today I ran across an article in the latest issue of the New York Press: “Hispanic Panic: Samuel P. Huntington and the Return of the Know-Nothings,” by John Dolan, a review of Huntington’s latest book, Who Are We? The Challenge to America's National Identity, from which “The Hispanic Challenge” was excerpted.

Talk about getting raked over the coals. These are just the first two paragraphs:

Samuel P. Huntington is a bigot, convinced that immigrant hordes are poisoning our Anglo-Protestant America. This in itself is not surprising; there have always been plenty of his kind on the American scene. Nor is it surprising that this bigot is a professor at Harvard. Nativism, in its 19th-century surge, was very much the darling cause of the New England elites.

What is surprising is that now, a century and a half after the Know-Nothings vanished in disgrace, Huntington feels free to promote his nativist hatred in print, and can be celebrated for doing so. Post-9/11 America, as John le Carre has said, has lost its mind. Huntington’s screeching is a worthy contribution to the bedlam.

I guess I can forget about entering Harvard’s doctoral program in political science.

[Post-publication addendum: See also “Strom Thurmond Was an Old-Fashioned Democrat, Too!” by Danny Loss at No Loss for Words.]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


From Boston to Los Angeles

Capitol Hill Sees the Flip Side of a Powerful Warrior,” by David Von Drehle, the Washington Post.

Democrats Calling for Rumsfeld’s Ouster,” by Sonya Ross, Associated Press, via the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Female Soldier Charged in Iraq Abuse Case” by Margaret Lillard, Associated Press, via the Washington Post.

For Six Hours Onstage,” by Katharine Q. Seelye, the New York Times

He Apologizes, Rebuffs Calls to Step Down,” by Edward Epstein, the San Francisco Chronicle.

Iraqi Clerics Use Prison as Rally Cry,” by Vivienne Walt, the Boston Globe.

Pressure Rises on Bush Team,” by Linda Feldmann and Faye Bowers, The Christian Science Monitor.

Prison-Abuse Panel Is Third in Bush's War on Terrorism,” by Philip Shenon, the New York Times.

Red Cross Blew Whistle on Abuses,” by Bob Drogin, the Los Angeles Times.

Rights Groups Say Mistreatment was Reported Last Year,” by Farah Stockman, the Boston Globe.

Rumsfeld Accepts Blame and Offers Apology in Abuse,” by Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt, the New York Times.

Rumsfeld Apologizes for Abuse,” by Mike Dorning, the Chicago Tribune.

Rumsfeld Apologizes, Warns of More Graphic Abuse Images,” by John Hendren, the Los Angeles Times.

Rumsfeld Apology Fails to Quell Arab Anger,” from Reuters via the Washington Post.

Rumsfeld: It Gets Worse,” by Alan Freeman, the Toronto Globe & Mail.

Rumsfeld Offers Apology at Hearing,” by Daryl Strickland and Zeke Minaya, the Los Angeles Times.

Rumsfeld Offers Apology, Warns of Worse Pictures,” by James Kuhnhenn, Sumana Chatterjee, and Drew Brown, the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Rumsfeld Takes Responsibility for Abuse,” by Bradley Graham, the Washington Post.

Secretary Feels Heat, Buys Time,” by Doyle McManus and Paul Richter, the Los Angeles Times.

Senator Cites Rape, Murder,” by Bryan Bender and Wayne Washington, the Boston Globe.

Transcript of testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee (Washington Post).

Transcript of testimony before the House Armed Services Committee (Washington Post).

Photos of prisoner abuse (Washington Post).

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Philadelphia Stuff

Weather Blogging: If you’re not in Philadelphia you’re missing one beautiful day.

Real World Philadelphia: The Real Worlders are in town. And creepily close to my place.

Reading the Reader: I received my first copy of the Utne Reader today, that the result of the generosity of reader and blogger Jane Finch of Classless Warfare. Thanks, Jane! You rock!

Stamp Out Hunger: It’s most likely too late, but today is “Stamp Out Hunger” day in more than 10,000 communities nationwide, including Philadelphia. Leave a package of non-perishable foods at your door or mailbox and your letter carrier will take it to your local food bank.

Tragedy of the Day: It seems there’s one in the papers every day. Today it’s this: “Mother of Five is Shot, Dumped.”

Speaking Italian: I recently learned my next-door neighbor speaks Italian. Actually, he also speaks English, but with a very thick accent. I understand him better when he speaks Italian. Good practice for me.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


The Times Reviews Plan of Attack
Douglas Feith: “Stupidest Guy on the Face of the Earth”

In tomorrow’s New York Times there will appear a review of Bob Woodward’s new book, Plan of Attack, a book haven’t read the book yet (I’m waiting to borrow it from a friend), and one about which I’ve been skeptical. I’ll reserve judgment, but I like the following portions of Ted Widmer’s review:

The more zealous advocates of the war are handled more harshly. Paul Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby, Vice President [Richard B.] Cheney’s chief of staff, persistently dredge up dubious intelligence to overstate Iraq’s threat to the United States, and Douglas Feith, an under secretary of defense, earns the distinction of being called the “stupidest guy on the face of the earth” by General [Tommy] Franks. Even more disturbing is the portrayal of Cheney, who, described as almost deranged (“beyond hellbent”) in his desire to go to war, initiates far more policy than is normal for a vice president and exerts a heavy influence on the president’s thinking. […]

The same calm passivity that allows Woodward to glean so much information also limits his book in important ways. . . . Woodward rarely calls Bush to account. Throughout, in fact, Bush controls his part of the story, and Woodward dutifully repeats what he has been told. To cite just one example, Woodward blithely repeats the claim that Bush is the first president to support the spread of democracy in the Middle East; it is difficult to think of an administration in the last 70 years that did not.

The result is an odd split screen, on which convincing accounts of White House failures are presented alongside genial encounters with the president. At one point, Bush actually asks why the search for weapons of mass destruction has to be in the book: “What’s this got to do about it?” You get the feeling that Woodward is too stunned to answer. It’s not as if he does not know that he is being massaged -- an interesting passage records Woodward’s guilt that he did not do more to expose shaky intelligence claims about Iraqi weapons through [t]he Washington Post. But the president’s presence is disarming, and Woodward mutes his criticism whenever Bush walks into the room. One suspects that a younger Woodward would have been less willing to accord this shock and awe to Richard Nixon. In a sense, Woodward has turned into Deep Throat -- he gives us the information we need to make our personal judgments about the White House, but he stops short of doing it himself.

No wonder the White House likes it.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


And Here’s Another

The American Gulf War Veterans Association, from October 2, 2002.

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Here’s Another

This one from September 6, 2003: the Madison (Wisc.) Capital Times.

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Here’s Another One

The Economist.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Schools, Siblings, and Spiders

I’m beginning to wonder whether I really am as “sensitive” as people say I am.

I remember reading, surreptitiously, and some 30 years ago, a report to my parents from my elementary school: “Jim is very sensitive.”

And I know more than one sibling has conveyed that notion -- “Jim is very sensitive” -- to my parents.

The reason I recall this now is because of a spider.

At our house here in Philadelphia we put out our trash and our recyclables on Thursday nights. Most Friday mornings the first person out of the house tosses the blue recyclables bin over the wall into our garden.

This morning I went to fetch the bin and saw that a spider had spun a beautiful web across the top of the receptacle.

I froze.

Not out of fear, but from sensitivity.

The spider was still there, basking in the glory of his great creation, or maybe just waiting for food.

Either way, I couldn’t figure out exactly what to do.

I wasn’t about to destroy the web, nor send the spider scurrying to who knows where to start again, but I knew the web eventually would be destroyed, that once the first soda cans were dumped in the bin.

And so I carefully carted the container from one side of the garden to the other, hoping for the best for him, the spider I mean, at least for a while.

Okay, so call me sensitive.

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