The Rittenhouse Review

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

Wednesday, June 30, 2004  

Items in the News
June 30, 2004

Saturn’s “Ears”
Today’s the day: The Cassini spacecraft will pass through the rings of Saturn and begin sending back photographs of what the great Italian scientist Galileo once called the planet’s “ears.”

London’s Growing
London is growing . . . skyward. That’s the latest plan, anyway, and while architects are predictably ecstatic, as are, one would assume, developers and investment bankers, many Londoners are concerned (“London: Next City of the Sky?” by Alan Riding, the New York Times):

[W]ith a panache rarely seen here, London has concluded that it is time to repair its battered skyline.

In doing so, it is looking quite literally for a new profile, one with shapely skyscrapers designed by big-name architects proclaiming London’s determination to be known as an innovative 21st-century metropolis. By 2010, not just the majestic dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral but also a new forest of glass and steel will symbolize the ancient heart of London. After centuries of sprawling growth, the city is finally reaching for the sky.

A number of Londoners are worried. They already fear that the city is losing its historic identity. For them, the ideal solution would be to tear down the concrete office towers thrown up in the 1960’s and 70’s. Instead, the strategy is to surround the eyesores with stylish new high-rises in the hope of hiding bad architecture behind good architecture. But even this approach is perilous: skyscrapers that look daring today have a way of looking dated tomorrow.

Philadelphians went through a similar existential self-examination in the late 1980s, years before I got here, and the skyscrapers won -- and are still winning. I for one, think it’s been a very good thing.

Anorexia or Addition?
“Page Six” of the New York Post has picked up a Star magazine story alleging teen phenom Mary-Kate Olsen is in rehab, as in rehab rehab, undergoing treatment not for anorexia or eating disorders, but cocaine addiction.

Yes, But Hell Releases No Prisoners
Have you ever had the feeling, upon learning a convicted criminal has been released from prison, that you’ll be hearing about him again? I have, and I do today: Joel Steinberg is a free man again, having served 16 years of a 25-year sentence in the 1987 beating death of his then six-year-old daughter Lisa Steinberg. (Link via TalkLeft.)

Healthcare Contest
Here’s an idea for an offbeat contest. After a freak accident here at home recently, I paid a visit to the emergency room. Readers may submit their wild guesses as to the amount of the bill, which I received today. The reader whose guess is closest wins. The prize? You get to pay the bill.

[Note: Additional items may be posted to “PP&T” after initial publication but only on the day of publication, excluding post-publication addenda. Such items, when posted, are designated by an asterisk.]

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Together With Media Miscellany

Sole-Source Cartooning [*]
Don’t miss Mark Fiore’s new cartoon in the Village Voice: “Halliburton: America’s Favorite Contractor.” (Warning: sound.)

Rumor Has It
Singer-songwriters and former spouses (of each other) Carly Simon and James Taylor reportedly are getting back together. No, they’re not remarrying, they’re said to be planning to perform at a fundraiser for Sen. John F. Kerry.

The Party’s Over
The Federal Open Market Committee today instituted the first of what is expected to be a lengthy series of hikes in short-term interest rates. The New York Times reports:

Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and his Federal Open Market Committee colleagues -- the group that sets interest rate policy in the United States -- increased the federal funds rate to 1.25 percent. The funds rate, the Fed’s primary tool for influencing economic activity, had been at 1 percent, a 46-year low, for a year.

Watch for higher rates to trickle down to an account near you.

Fat or Ugly?
Lately we’ve been informed, or reminded, ad nauseum, that filmmaker Michael Moore is a scale-tipper. Also making the rounds recently is the parrot-like repetition calling Sen. John F. Kerry ugly.

[* Note: Additional items may be posted to “Political Notes” after initial publication but only on the day of publication, excluding post-publication addenda. Such items, when posted, are designated by an asterisk.]

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Rowling Reveals Title

Author J.K. Rowling today revealed the title of the next and penultimate book in the famed “Harry Potter” series, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reports:

The sixth book in the Harry Potter series about the boy wizard will be called Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, author J.K. Rowling has announced.

Rowling revealed the title on her Web site, and Judy Corman, a spokeswoman for Scholastic Corp., the U.S. publisher of the books. No word yet on when the book will be published.

Rowling said on her Web site that she decided to reveal the title after a hoax title (The Pillar of Storgé) was posted in the site’s “Gossip” section.

According to the Sun-Sentinel Rowling denied changing the title because the original had been “found out.”

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Tuesday, June 29, 2004  

Rodin vs. Santorum? I Can Hardly Wait.

Each week Philadelphia Weekly, the local paper that’s home to my friend and doppelganger Jessica Pressler (actually, we’ve never met, but she’ll get that remark anyway, I think), publishes a front-of-the-book feature they call “Heroes & Goats.”

The “Heroes & Goats” column from the Weekly’s June 23-29 issue features seven items (four heroes and three goats), two of which Rittenhouse readers should appreciate.

Under “Heroes” we find:

Judith Rodin: Buzz has it that the former Penn prez may enter politics and run against [Sen. Rick] Santorum [(R-Pa.)]. Heroes and Goats may be forced to drop the acerbic quips and volunteer to help unseat Senator Pinhead.

If I were Sen. Santorum, and I’m happily not, I’d be worried. Very worried. Not about the incipient political activism of Heroes and Goats, but about a challenge from Rodin.

And under the heading of “Goats” we read:

Ralph Nader: Picks no-name Green Party investment adviser from California to be his running mate. Boy, a move like that might just blow him past [Rep. Dennis] Kucinich [(D-Ohio)] in the polls.

The week’s “Heroes & Goats” is almost enough to make up for the Weekly’s cranky review of “Fahrenheit 9/11” by Sean “You mean there are people out there more intelligent, funny, talented, and accomplished than I?” Burns, also in the June 23-29 issue.

(Note: Apologies for the lack of direct links, but the Weekly’s search function appears to be in complete disrepair. I’ll try to fill them in later.)

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Kool-Aid Can Help

It’s summertime. The hazy, crazy, lazy -- sometimes wired -- days of summer. Not a bad time to ask, are your kids getting enough sugar?

Sure, it’s summer and they’re probably ingesting quite a bit of it, what with ice cream, candy, sodas, lemonade, and, more likely than not, Kool-Aid.

You probably feel a little guilty giving your kids Kool-Aid instead of a more nutritious alternative. You shouldn’t really. Come on, ease up, they’re just kids. Besides, by putting ice cubes in their Kool-Aid, you can significantly reduce their sugar intake with the tykes none the wiser.

Now, if the idea of secretly diluting Kool-Aid is a revelation to you, or one that has you worried your kids won’t get enough sugar or, worse, get less than the neighbors’ kids, thus putting your offspring at the end of the Ivy League line, the people at Kraft Foods are there to help.

How? With “Super Fruity Kool Kubes,” currently featured in a nationwide advertising campaign.

There’s actually a recipe for Super Fruity Kool Kubes. You can travel over to the Kool-Aid web site for explicit instructions, but the gist of the concept is this: combine Kool-Aid drink mix and water, pour the solution into ice cube trays, and use the resulting flavored cubes as, well, ice cubes. In Kool-Aid.

For more fun, or what Kool-Aid’s maker calls “your own extreme flavor combo,” you might try mixing and matching different flavors of Kool-Aid and Super Fruity Kool Kubes, combining, say, “New Ice Cool Lemon Ice” Kool-Aid with cherry-flavored Super Fruity Kool Cubes, or one of four other concoctions Kraft Food suggests.

Hey, what do they care? You’re the one who will be pulling the kids off the ceiling.

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Items in the News
June 29, 2004

Louisville and Phoenix are Really Jumping
I noticed this brief item from the Associated Press in the morning paper:

The ACLU is objecting to a ban on sports jerseys, sleeveless shirts, and backward baseball caps in Louisville’s new nightclub district, saying the dress code is biased against blacks and poor people.

The city has given the developer of the month-old Fourth Street Live the power to enforce its dress code three nights a week during special events along the block-long stretch of restaurants, bars and shops. During those nights, the city street is blocked off, and bouncers decide who meets the dress code.

Now, aside from the dubious intent and premises of Fourth Street Live’s “dress code,” the item struck me for a less obvious reason: Louisville’s “new nightclub district” is a “block long”? One block? Oh, how I wish the neighborhood known here as South Street were confined to a single block. Ditto the nightclub-heavy section of Old City.

But when one lives in a large city, a real city, one takes the good with the bad, which is while I’ll take Philadelphia, the fifth-largest city in America, over Phoenix, the nation’s sixth-largest though gaining ground fast.

Arguing the relative merits of Philadelphia and Phoenix has become something of a pastime here of late, a debate into which Philadelphia Daily News columnist Carla Anderson stepped today with “On Charm Meter, Phoenix Lags a Lot.”


Among Anderson’s observations:

At almost 500 square miles, Phoenix is about four times the geographic size of Philadelphia. Yet roughly the same number of people live there, sprawled out over all that asphalt distance. No wonder the city seems to be built out of shopping malls. The crosswalks on Philly’s Vine Street expressway have more charm than just about any sidewalk in Phoenix. […]

Phoenix plain doesn’t rate as an actual city -- no matter what the bean counters say. I say it’s more like a place where lots of people happen to live.


Before you fire off an e-mail either to me or to the Daily News, read Anderson’s article from start to finish. It’s more than fair, as the author ladles several compliments upon Phoenix, and Philadelphia takes it on the chin more than once.

(For local coverage of the Fourth Street controversy, see the Louisville Courier-Journal: “ACLU Joins Protest on Dress Code for Fourth Street Live Patrons,” by Jennifer C. Smith, June 29; “Activists Call 4th Street Live Dress Code Discriminatory,” by Joseph Gerth, June 26; and “Dressing Down?” by Jessie Halladay and Sheldon S. Shafer, June 24.)

Getting Around Rome
Authorities in Rome are reversing a longstanding practice of allowing teenagers as young as 14 to drive motor scooters and mini cars without a permit or any kind of test. (“Teens With Need for Speed Now Will Need a License,” by Tom Rachman, the Associated Press, in the Philadelphia Inquirer). But this being Italy, “the change is causing havoc,” the A.P. reports. “Although Thursday’s deadline was announced a year ago, bad planning means hundreds of thousands of youths will suffer a sudden driving ban -- a grim prospect for young Italians who are raised to love motors and tend to disdain the extended use of their feet.”

Teenagers complain the government’s promised free driving classes failed to materialize in other than a spotty fashion and that examinations were booked long in advance. The transportation ministry cites procrastination and estimates less than a third of those wanting the required license now have one. The new rules take effect Thursday.

Also from Rome, or from within Rome, there’s word the Vatican is getting something right: the mail. That puts the church in competition with the state, though “competition” is a relative term considering the rival is the Italian postal service. “The legends tell of how in a postal strike some years ago, overstuffed post offices put their parcels on trains that simply wandered, full, up and down Italy,” the New York Times reports. “Instances of mail arriving a quarter-century late abound.” (“Hail Marys Not Needed: Vatican Mail Will Deliver,” by Al Baker, June 27):

The 109-acre Vatican, walled in against an Italy of labor strife, strikes, long lines, late trains and a maddeningly unreliable postal system, has developed a mail service that is the envy of Italians. It is both fast and safe, [Dimitri] Auerilio said, describing it as a beacon of bureaucratic success in a landscape of ineffective infrastructures. […]

Tourists are in on this secret, as well as the Romans, because they flock to this orderly, sovereign religious state enclosed in roiling Rome to send their postcards with papal stamps from the seat of Catholicism.

As a result, more mail is sent each year, per inhabitant, from the Vatican’s 00120 postcode than from anywhere else in the world -- 7,200, compared with about 660 in the United States or 109 in Italy -- said Juliana Nel, a spokeswoman for the Universal Postal Union. . . . She called the Vatican’s service “probably one of the best postal systems in the world.”

But the sorry state of the Italian postal system is legendary, so much so that some Italians can still be seen crossing themselves before tossing their mail into an Italian box.

It’s different in the United States.

Here it’s the postal workers who cross themselves . . . on their way to work.

[Note: Additional items may be posted to “PP&T” after initial publication but only on the day of publication, excluding post-publication addenda. Such items, when posted, are designated by an asterisk.]

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Too Clever by A Quarter

This letter to the editors of the New York Times, published today, requires no comment. It begs only for wider distribution:

I’m tired of hearing how David Brooks is, or was, the liberals’ favorite conservative. Too often, instead of using logic to make his case, Mr. Brooks resorts to rhetorical devices and sophistry.

In “All Hail Moore,” Mr. Brooks declares that liberals have turned from John Dewey, Reinhold Niebuhr and Martin Luther King Jr. to Michael Moore for intellectual and moral leadership. This is analogous to saying that Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter have replaced Edmund Burke and Milton Friedman as the conservatives’ guiding lights. Or have they?

Richard Greene, Hopewell, N.J.

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Together With Media Miscellany

“Let Freedom Reign”
Military Occupation = Sovereignty. Single-Bidder Contracts = Free Enterprise. Theft = Reconstruction. Martial Law = Freedom. On that last point, Los Angeles Time columnist Robert Scheer writes (“Born Under a Cloud of Irony”): “[I]t is perhaps not strange then that [Iyad] Allawi, who built his exile organization with defecting Iraqi military officers, is already proclaiming the need to delay elections scheduled for January and impose martial law. On Monday Bush said coalition forces would support such a call for martial law, presumably enforced by U.S. troops.”

Say It Twice, Star
If you repeat something often enough, people just might believe it. Of course, that aphorism generally refers to repeating a misleading or false statement over a period of time, not over and over in one brief essay. No matter to Star Parker, president of the Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education, who wonders why black voters aren’t flocking to the Republican Party since, as she remarks in a column posted today at, “There is increasing evidence that blacks are becoming disillusioned with traditional big-government politics of the Democratic Party,” an observation enhanced seven paragraphs later with this allegation: “Blacks are beginning to question the big-government approach that they’ve gotten from their Democratic leadership for the last 50 years.”

We’ll Hardly Miss Ye
Michael K. Powell, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and big media’s best friend in Washington, is rumored to be considering leaving the agency this winter. The Los Angeles Times reports (“FCC’s Powell Won’t Stay, Some Speculate,” by Jube Shiver Jr.):

Washington has been whispering about Powell leaving the FCC since February 2003, when the soft-spoken but strong-willed bureaucrat suffered an embarrassing defeat over telephone competition rules. He lost a 3-2 vote on the rules, which were thrown out by a federal appeals court in March. And last week a federal appeals court sent the FCC's media ownership rules back for revisions. […]

The less-than-adamant denials from his chief of staff and agency spokesman, observers say, is an indication that Powell has had enough of the FCC. But Powell’s advisors insist that he has made no firm plans to leave.

Some political observers say Powell doesn't want to be viewed as a lame duck or have talk of his departure damage his chances of being appointed to another post in the Bush administration.

Meanwhile, no surprise here: “Another Washington lawyer, who represents television station owners and who asked not to be identified, said he had begun advising clients to wrap up any deals that might require FCC approval.”

[Note: Additional items may be posted to “PP&T” after initial publication but only on the day of publication, excluding post-publication addenda. Such items, when posted, are designated by an asterisk.]

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Monday, June 28, 2004  

Bush Drops and Buckley Exits

A couple of things before signing off for the day:

Bush Sags in Poll
The latest New York Times/CBS News poll offers mixed news for both Sen. John F. Kerry and President Tinker Toys, the Times reports (“Bush’s Rating Falls to Its Lowest Point, New Survey Finds,” by Adam Nagourney and Janet Elder):

President Bush’s job approval rating has fallen to the lowest level of his presidency, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. The poll found Americans stiffening their opposition to the Iraq war, worried that the invasion could invite domestic terrorist attacks and skeptical about whether the White House has been fully truthful about the war or about abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison. […]

The survey, which showed Mr. Bush’s approval rating at 42 percent, also found that nearly 40 percent of Americans say they do not have an opinion about Senator John Kerry, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, despite what have been both parties’ earliest and most expensive television advertising campaigns.

Among those who do have an opinion, Mr. Kerry is disliked more than he is liked. More than 50 percent of respondents said that Mr. Kerry says what he thinks voters want to hear, suggesting that Mr. Bush has had success in portraying his opponent as a flip-flopper. […]

45 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion of Mr. Bush himself, again the most negative measure the Times/CBS Poll has found since he took office. And 57 percent say the country is going in the wrong direction, another measure used by pollsters as a barometer of discontent with an incumbent.

Buckley Divests NR Stake
William F. Buckley is stepping back if not down from National Review, the right-wing magazine he founded 40 years ago. According to the New York Times (“National Review Founder Says It’s Time to Leave Stage,” by David D. Kirkpatrick), “In explaining his decision, Mr. Buckley said he had taken some satisfaction in the triumph of conservatism since then, though he expressed some complaints about President Bush’s unconservative [sic] spending and some retrospective doubts about the wisdom of invading Iraq. But his decision, Mr. Buckley said, had more to do with his own mortality.”

And here’s Buckley himself on the war on Iraq: “With the benefit of minute hindsight, Saddam Hussein wasn’t the kind of extra-territorial menace that was assumed by the administration one year ago. If I knew then what I know now about what kind of situation we would be in, I would have opposed the war.”

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Don’t Worry, It’s Not Iran or Syria

Just posted today: a new “Get Your War On.”

Go read it for a unique take on the rebirth of “Iraqi sovereignty.”

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Together With Media Miscellany

Good Line
Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Trudy Rubin is just back from Baghdad, and while she doesn’t explicitly state she spent time elsewhere than her hotel lobby, she strongly implies she did, and she clearly thinks little of the recent aspersions to the effect cast upon the media by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz: “When the secretary leaves his security bubble and visits the mosques and markets of Baghdad and beyond -- as journalists do daily -- he might finally learn something. But that won’t relieve him of responsibility for the needless deaths of Iraqis and Americans.” (“Iraq Chaos a Result of Blinkered Arrogance,” June 27.)

Playing with Marbles
It looks like Ralph Nader’s going to take all his marbles and go home. Oh, wait, sorry, the Green Party didn’t even ask him to play.

Your Money Matters
If you’re hesitating to make that $10 or $25 donation to the Kerry campaign (or the Hoeffel for Senate campaign) because you think your modest contribution won’t make a difference, think again. “In Politics, the Rise of Small Donors,” by Linda Feldmann, The Christian Science Monitor, makes clear how important your money really is: “The Bush campaign has more than a million donors, compared with 345,000 in 2000. In the last election, Democratic nominee Al Gore had 155,000 donors. Last month, the Kerry campaign marked its millionth online donor.”

Lawnmower Man, Carpool Woman
The Bush-Cheney reelection campaign sees its salvation in suburban sprawl (“Bush Sees Fertile Soil in ‘Exurbia’,” by Peter Wallsten, the Los Angeles Times):

Bush has visited many of these new boomtowns -- he was in Lebanon on May 4 -- and campaign officials say he will likely see more of them before November’s election.

Each visit is designed to spur more for the campaign than a one-day burst of publicity. Playing off the excitement of a presidential appearance, strategists use it to recruit volunteers for phone banks, canvassing and voter registration efforts -- building what they hope will be an enduring GOP machine.

Karl Rove is so taken with the potential in the exurbs that he can quickly rattle off the names of otherwise obscure counties in swing states across the nation, along with the percentages of people who have not registered to vote in each one.

[Note: Additional items may be posted to “PP&T” after initial publication but only on the day of publication, excluding post-publication addenda.]

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Items in the News
June 28, 2004

Holy Cow!
Did you know that a few years ago McDonald’s Corp. lost the secret recipe for the “special sauce” used on Big Macs? I didn’t either. For the details see: “McDonald’s Finds Missing Ingredient,” by David Greising and Jim Kirk, the Chicago Tribune.

Miss Manners Rules
Judith Martin, also known as Miss Manners, usually responds to one question from a reader in her Sunday Washington Post column. This week a reader asks:

I recently attended a black-tie scholarship awards dinner. I noticed that many women attending the event placed their purses on the table. Is this correct? Did I commit a faux pas by placing my purse at my feet?

For the answer, click here.

Lance It!
It’s that time of year again. Or almost, anyway. The Tour de France. Beginning Saturday, American cyclist Lance Armstrong will be going for his sixth victory in the legendary race.

A Place for Everything
Since there’s a museum for everything, it figures there has to be a web site for everything.

[Note: Additional items may be posted to “PP&T” after initial publication but only on the day of publication, excluding post-publication addenda.]

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Sunday, June 27, 2004  

Get This: He’s a Big Guy

I’d yell out “Alert the media!” except it appears wide swaths of the media already have been alerted or sent a memo or something, so I’ll just share the big scoop with you in the unlikely event you’ve missed it: Michael Moore is fat.

Here’s Richard Johnson, writing for “Page Six” in the right-wing New York Post today:

The portly provocateur appeared after a screening of “Fahrenheit 9/11” Thursday night set up by like-minded lefties at the American Civil Liberties Union at Chelsea’s Clearview Cinemas.

Reports our witness: “Preacher met choir as Moore roly-polyed his way down the aisle to brag about how well his film will do and to answer questions for 45 minutes as some hairy leftists lobbed adoring questions and others trickled out of the theater.”

Here’s a tip for Mr. Johnson, Mr. Bykofsky (see second addendum), and the rest, and Ralph Nader for that matter: We have TV sets too. We read newspapers and magazines. We know what Moore looks like. Give it a rest.

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What Kind of a Senator?

What kind of a senator is Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.)?

Is he a “moderate” Republican? An independent voice speaking out for the interests of all Pennsylvanians, standing up to the extremists in the Bush White House?

Or is Sen. Specter an administration-toadying clone of the state’s junior senator, Sen. Rick Santorum (R)?

If you can’t see through the smoke and mirrors distributed and assembled by Sen. Specter over the past two decades, or through the haze emitted by the gullible media and the efforts of a handful of single-issue interest groups, including those who donated to his primary campaign, why not let Sen. Specter’s votes on the Senate floor help you decide?

On “coffin secrecy”: The Senate, on a 54 to 39 vote, refused to lift the Pentagon’s ban on news photos of coffins of troops killed in Iraq. A “yes” vote was to lift the photo ban; a “no” vote supported continuing the Bush administration’s suppression of a free press.

Voting no: Sen. Specter and Sen. Santorum.

On “missile defense”: The Senate refused, 56-44, to shift $515 million of Defense Department spending from so-called missile defense to critical antiterrorism programs. A “yes” vote backed the funding shift; a “no” vote favored spending scarce Pentagon funds on missile defense over antiterrorism programs.

Voting no: Sen. Specter and Sen. Santorum.

On “interrogation files”: The Senate rejected, 50-46, a proposal that would require the Justice Department to release relevant files on administration policy governing the interrogation of prisoners of war and enemy combatants. A “yes” vote indicates support for disclosing the documents; a “no” vote represents opposition to releasing the files.

Voting no: Sen. Specter and Sen. Santorum.

(Source: “Area Votes in Congress,” the Philadelphia Inquirer, June 27.)

Thankfully, there’s an alternative to six more years of Sen. Specter: Rep. Joe Hoeffel.

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Together With Media Miscellany

MoveOn with Hoeffel
The campaign of Rep. Joe Hoeffel, the Pennsylvania congressman running against incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter (R), continues to gain momentum. This week Hoeffel won one of the first four endorsements from MoveOn.

The Philadelphia Inquirer explains the significance of the endorsements (“Hoeffel, Murphy Get Backing of,” by Nancy Petersen and Carrie Budoff):

Last week, in an e-mail sent to all its members, MoveOn asked for nominations for House and Senate candidates to support in the fall elections. According to its Web site, the organization received 16,000 responses and 400 nominations.

Hoeffel and Murphy were two of the first four candidates whose campaigns were singled out as needing financial support from MoveOn members before they file fund-raising reports with the Federal Election Commission at the end of this month.

“Demonstrating that they’ve raised significant early money -- especially from small donors -- will make a big difference in how they’re viewed nationally,” Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn’s PAC, wrote in an e-mail to members.

MoveOn also endorsed the candidacy of Lois Murphy of Lower Merion, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb. Murphy is challenging freshman incumbent Rep. Jim Gerlach (R) in Pennsylvania’s sixth congressional district. According to the Inquirer, “The Sixth Congressional District covers parts of Montgomery, Chester and Berks Counties, stretching from Lower Merion to Reading. Pundits said the district was drawn to favor Gerlach, but his Democratic challenger in 2002, Dan Wofford, nearly defeated him in a race that was a lot closer than expected.”

Also getting the nod from MoveOn were Arizona’s Paul Babbitt and Patty Wetterling of Minnesota.

This is excellent and exciting news for Hoeffel. Please consider aiding MoveOn’s effort on Hoeffel’s behalf by donating to the Hoeffel campaign today.

Why are They Always Picking on Me?
President Let Me Finish and his handlers didn’t much care for a couple of really-not-all-that-tough questions from Carole Coleman of RTÉ. If you haven’t seen or heard the interview, you can catch it here. (See also “Angry White House Pulls RTÉ Interview,” by Miriam Lord, the Irish Independent.)

Theresa’s Money; John’s Money
Who cares how much money Theresa Heinz Kerry has, whether it’s $500 million or $1 billion? Democratic presidential aspirant Sen. John F. Kerry has been raising money hand over fist (“Kerry's Campaign Has Soared From Poorhouse to Penthouse,” by Glen Justice, the New York Times):

Late last year, Mr. Kerry’s campaign was so broke that the senator had to mortgage his own home to keep the presidential effort in motion. Now its finances are soaring, the result of a surge of more than $100 million in contributions after the Super Tuesday primaries in March. That has given Mr. Kerry the distinction of being the best-financed challenger in presidential campaign history.

Keep it up, folks. Donate here.

Who’s Number Two?
Among those jockeying for the number-two spot on the Democratic ticket are Gov. Tom Vilsack (Iowa) and Sen. John Edwards (N.C.).

Even the Liberal Green Party
Cool. Even the liberal Green Party has rejected Ralph Nader, opting instead to nominate longtime activist David Cobb. (See also “Harvest Time,” by Hanna Rosin, the Washington Post.)

Michael Moore Called Fat
Calling a political adversary fat is pretty low. It’s hard, I think, to believe Ralph Nader would stoop so low.

Dean on Nader
Former Vermont governor Howard Dean takes a dim view of Ralph Nader’s campaign for the presidency: “I think Nader’s the biggest problem in the race right now,” Dean told the Boston Globe. (“Dean Sees Nader Support as Biggest Threat to Kerry,” by Glen Johnson.)

Practicing Without a License
My driver’s license lapsed several months ago. I haven’t driven since. (Actually, I haven’t driven a car since October 2002.) What am I so worried about? As noted here previously, President Call My Father has nominated Thomas Griffith for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit who has practiced law in the District and in Utah without license. The editors of the New York Times, among other observers, disapprove:

The unlicensed practice of law is no small matter, and certainly should disqualify anyone from sitting on what is often called the nation’s second-most-important court. Licensing puts a considerable burden on lawyers, who must study for bar exams and pay dues, but it is critical to policing the legal profession. Mr. Griffith has shown a striking disregard for the rules, and his profession.

Take a Chance on Your Health
Tell me there’s more to this story than appears:

Medicare is planning a lottery later this year for people with cancer, multiple sclerosis and several other diseases. For the 50,000 winners, the government will start helping pay for their medicine, but more than 450,000 others must wait until 2006.

[T]he law limits the new program to 50,000 people and $500 million, at least $200 million of which must be spent on cancer drugs. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson estimated 500,000 to 600,000 Medicare recipients without prescription drug coverage are eligible.

“There’ll be a lottery to be chosen as one of 50,000 lucky individuals,” Thompson said.

(Link via Digby’s Hullabaloo.)

Good Question
Purported humorist P.J. O’Rourke, writing in The Atlantic (“I Agree With Me,” July/August), asks a good question: “When was the last time a conservative talk show changed a mind?” Here’s a better question: When was the last time P.J. O’Rourke made you laugh?

[Note: Additional items may be posted to “PP&T” after initial publication but only on the day of publication, excluding post-publication addenda.]

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Saturday, June 26, 2004  

Not “A Mindful Human Being”

Deborah Solomon interviews Ron Reagan in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine (“The Son Also Rises,” June 27):

Solomon: How did your mother feel about being ushered to her seat by President Bush?

Reagan: Well, he did a better job than Dick Cheney did when he came to the rotunda. I felt so bad. Cheney brought my mother up to the casket, so she could pay her respects. She is in her 80’s, and she has glaucoma and has trouble seeing. There were steps, and he left her there. He just stood there, letting her flounder. I don’t think he's a mindful human being. That’s probably the nicest way I can put it.

And on the subject of the glowing and massive coverage of the funeral of his father, former President Ronald Reagan, there’s this:

Solomon: How do you account for all the glowing obituaries of him?

Reagan: I think it was a relief for Americans to look at pictures of something besides men on leashes. If you are going to call yourself a Christian -- and I don’t -- then you have to ask yourself a fundamental question, and that is: Whom would Jesus torture? Whom would Jesus drag around on a dog’s leash? How can Christians tolerate it? It is unconscionable. It has put our young men and women who are over there, fighting a war that they should not have been asked to fight -- it has put them in greater danger.

Keep talking, Ron. It’s nice having you on our side.

[Post-publication addendum (June 27): Also of interest: “The Other Reagan Legacy: Outspoken Son Ron,” by Rene Sanchez, the Washington Post, June 25.]

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Items in the News
June 26, 2004

Off the Deep End
I honestly don’t know how much longer I’ll be watching this controversy unfold from the inside, but it’s fascinating to see some members of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, men who long ago squandered heaps of moral capital protecting their own, sowing the seeds of yet another major rift among the faithful. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports (“Burke: Voting for Abortion Rights Candidate is a Sin,” by Jo Mannies and Tim Townsend):

Archbishop Raymond L. Burke said Friday that Catholics in St. Louis who vote for political candidates supportive of abortion rights have committed a grave sin in the eyes of the church, and should confess and do penance before receiving Communion. […]

On Friday, Burke made clear in the interview that a candidate’s position on abortion trumped their stands on other issues. Regardless of a Catholic’s reasons for voting for a candidate, “If the voter is aware of that politician’s pro-abortion position, they would still be supporting someone who is cooperating in the promotion of abortion.”

This is moral -- and political -- lunacy. It’s difficult to determine what the outcome will be: an emptying of abortion clinics or an emptying of the pews, but I have a strong feeling it’s more likely to be the latter.

Bishop Hubbard Cleared
The bishop who confirmed me more than 20 years ago, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y., has been cleared of accusations of sexual misconduct by a panel of outside investigators headed by former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White (“Report Clears Albany Bishop in Sexual Misconduct Inquiry,” by Daniel J. Wakin, the New York Times).

For those not aware, Bishop Hubbard, whom the Times correctly identifies as “one of the nation’s most liberal,” long has been a righteous thorn in the side of right-wing Catholics, including Roman Catholic Faithful, a group that has been peddling false charges and outlandish rumors about Bishop Hubbard for many years. (Other RCF targets include Bishop Matthew H. Clark of the Diocese of Rochester, N.Y., and Joseph L. Imesch, of the Diocese of Joliet, Ill.) [Full disclosure: Bishop Hubbard is a close family friend of my brother’s in-laws.]

Stewart Sentencing Delayed
The sentencing of publisher Martha Stewart, convicted in March of lying to federal prosecutors, has been delayed from July 8 to July 16. According to the Associated Press, “Martha Stewart’s sentencing was delayed yesterday for an additional week after her lawyers said they wanted the judge to have enough time to consider their requests for leniency and a new trial.” The delay came one day after prosecutors filed a motion opposing Stewart’s request for a new trial, a request arising from accusations of perjury against a key government witness. (See “Stewart Should Be Denied New Trial, Prosecutors Say” by Constance L. Hays, the New York Times, June 25.)

What Year is This?
The starting salary for flight attendants at Southwest Airlines is $14,000 annually. That figure is somewhat familiar to me. At my first job after graduate school I started at $14,500. In 1986.

Joining the Ranks
Among the “lay-offs” announced this week: MCI Inc.: 2,000; J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.: 600; and Campbell Soup Co.: 400. (I remember when the term “lay-off” meant the workers affected would return to their jobs at some point in the future. When did that change?)

Read Your Own Paper
The editors of the Philadelphia Inquirer write, in “Victory on Chestnut Street”:

At a grand reopening of the Victory Building on Wednesday night, a red carpet ran up the granite staircase to the original wood doors of the jewel of Chestnut Street.

Talk about extreme makeovers. Vagrants once squatted at the top of its stairs. Rats once scurried in the shadows amid debris. Scrub trees grew from balconies. . . . This Victory, indeed, is one worth celebrating.

That’s true as far as it goes. The corner of 10th and Chestnut Streets is much improved by the $25 million rehab of the Victory Building, built in 1875 as the local office of the New York Mutual Life Insurance Co. And the editors are technically correct when they observe, “This remarkable renaissance on Chestnut is soiled only by the city-owned, boarded-up former library at 1021 Chestnut.”

The party, unfortunately, is premature, something the editors would know if they read their own newspaper, specifically the columns of Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron. Saffron, with ample justification, for months has been railing against the now all-but-certain eyesore proposed by Thomas Jefferson University Hospital: a seven-story, 700-vehicle parking garage at . . . 10th and Chestnut Streets.

It’s long been clear the Philadelphia City Planning Commission hasn’t been reading Saffron’s tightly reasoned and well-informed columns. What’s surprising is to learn her colleagues also have ignored her hard work and dogged determination when instead they should be celebrating and promoting it.

[Note: Additional items may be posted to “PP&T” after initial publication but only on the day of publication, excluding post-publication addenda.]

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New Hampshire’s Not-So-Faithful Five

Let’s hope recent reports of support for the presidential campaign of would-be two-time spoiler Ralph Nader, bemoaned here two days ago, are exaggerated. The Washington Post today reports from Concord, N.H. (“An Outsider Tries to Shake the ‘Spoiler’ Label,” by Shankar Vedantam):

Ralph Nader was flanked by five supporters and two campaign aides at the Siam Orchid restaurant on Main Street. . . . . He looked at the menu and asked, “What’s the most innocuous combination of nutrients?”

“Mr. Nader, I’m Aaron Rizzio, and I’m your campaign coordinator in New Hampshire,” one man said from across the table. Nader smiled. Rizzio asked whether the candidate was ready to address a meeting of his supporters.

“Where is it?” Nader asked.

“This is it,” Rizzio replied.

That must have been quite a blow to Nader’s ego, and it gets better:

In private, four of Nader’s five supporters around the table said they will vote for Democrat John F. Kerry if polls in late October show Nader tipping the state to President Bush.

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Together With Media Miscellany

Walk on the Dark Side [*]
According to various media reports, including a brief item in today’s New York Times, Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) has been lined up to speak at the Republican National Convention later this summer. A spokesman for Sen. Miller declined to comment to the Times. But Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) observed: “This is the same Zell Miller who said 40 years ago that President Lyndon Johnson had sold his soul when he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. . . . I do not understand what he is so angry about, but apparently he has lost his way.”

The Grownups are in Charge
Oh, yeah? Well he had it coming! The Washington Post reports (“Cheney Defends Use of Four-Letter Word,” by Dana Milbank and Helen Dewar):

Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday vigorously defended his vulgarity directed at a prominent Democratic senator earlier this week in the Senate chamber.

Cheney said he “probably” used an obscenity in an argument Tuesday on the Senate floor with Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and added that he had no regrets. “I expressed myself rather forcefully, felt better after I had done it,” Cheney told Neil Cavuto of Fox News. The vice president said those who heard the putdown agreed with him. “I think that a lot of my colleagues felt that what I had said badly needed to be said, that it was long overdue.” […]

Cheney said yesterday he was in no mood to exchange pleasantries with Leahy because Leahy had “challenged my integrity” by making charges of cronyism between Cheney and his former firm, Halliburton Co. Leahy on Monday had a conference call to kick off the Democratic National Committee’s “Halliburton Week” focusing on Cheney, the company, “and the millions of dollars they’ve cost taxpayers,” the party said.

“I didn’t like the fact that after he had done so, then he wanted to act like, you know, everything’s peaches and cream,” Cheney said. “And I informed him of my view of his conduct in no uncertain terms. And as I say, I felt better afterwards.”

Sure, maybe he was just having a bad day, but I wonder whether something larger than the vice president’s notorious petulance is at work here. Something like: The Republicans are getting scared.

This Bush Need Not Apply
You know you’re in trouble when even the Irish are disinclined to extend rudimentary hospitality during your visit. From the Washington Post: “The protest plans -- contrasting so starkly with the festive receptions for presidents John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton -- prompted such massive security that the morning newspapers called the 6,000-officer deployment the largest in the history of the island. Naval gunships patrolled an estuary, armored cars searched bogs and article after article reported complaints that the civil rights of protesters were being trampled.”

Just Managing at the Times
In the American Prospect Todd Gitlin offers a disturbing and depressing review of the New York Times in the year since the departure of the much-reviled (at least among those he fired) Howell Raines (“It Was a Very Bad Year,” July 1). Among those Gitlin calls to account: Bill Keller, Judith Miller, Richard W. Stevenson, Jodi Wilgoren, and Elisabeth Bumiller.

Dogs Bite Man
In the face of massive opposition, would-be animal killer Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggar (R) has abandoned a plan to put down animals in California shelters after just three days holding. Schwarzeneggar’s proposal would have saved $14 million annually, roughly 41 cents per resident (based on 2000 census figures).

[* Note: Additional items may be posted to “PP&T” after initial publication but only on the day of publication, excluding post-publication addenda.]

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On Saturday

Worthy Book I
In this week’s New York Times Book Review, Peter Godwin writes an outstanding review of American Taboo: A Murder in the Peace Corps by Philip Weiss. Excerpts:

Tonga has long since turned away from its blood-drenched past to become the Friendly Isles. There hadn’t been a murder there for seven years when, on Oct. 14, 1976, screams pierced the warm, inky Tongan night. Deborah Gardner, a strikingly pretty 23-year-old Peace Corps volunteer from Washington State, was being stabbed to death by a fellow volunteer, Dennis Priven. American Taboo is the story of how he got away with murder and walks free in New York to this day. To tell it, Philip Weiss has conducted a remarkably tenacious investigation, and has tracked down most of Deb Gardner’s colleagues, mining their letters home, their diaries, their unpublished novels and poems. […]

Originally intended to be “missionaries for democracy,” Peace Corps volunteers are still expected to live with the people they have come to help. This search for empathy extends to a denial of the legal wand of diplomatic immunity. So Priven found himself before the local law. When presented with a conflict of interest between their duty to a dead volunteer (and her parents) and their obligation to help a living perpetrator, the Peace Corps -- from the country director for Tonga, Mary George, on up -- favored the killer. It is this betrayal of trust that provides the main motor for Weiss’s crusade. Mary George, a born-again Christian who not long after the killing said she had a vision of someone else, a Tongan, conveniently, stabbing Gardner, asked the police to drop murder charges against Priven. In her cables back home about the incident she carefully avoided the “M” word.

Worthy Book II
In the same issue of the Book Review, Anthony Walton offers a compelling case for The State Boys Rebellion by Michael D’Antonio. Excerpt:

Conditions at schools like Fernald [Walter E. Fernald School for the Feebleminded, Waltham, Mass.] were appalling for those with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other true physical or mental conditions. Given little treatment or training, they were often straitjacketed or tied to chairs and left soaked in urine and feces. Their circumstances gradually improved as advocacy groups for the disabled and mentally ill were formed; but there was no one to advocate for Freddie [Boyce] and his friends, whose borderline intelligence scores were often simply a reflection of emotional problems stemming from years of neglect.

At Fernald, the attendants reigned supreme, and physical abuse was commonplace: one lawyer described school records discovered years later as a “ledger of broken arms.” Sexual abuse of boys by attendants and older youths was also frequent. In an incident emblematic of the regime of terror, the boys were lined up one morning before taking their turns in the bathrooms. A boy called Howie refused to stand quietly; the female attendant ordered all the boys to pull down their trousers for “red cherries” (beatings with a coat hanger). Terrified, Howie wet his pants. The attendant then ordered a group including Freddie to urinate into a bowl, and hurled the contents into Howie’s face.

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Friday, June 25, 2004  

“Fahrenheit 9/11” a Major Hit

I won’t be seeing “Fahrenheit 9/11” today after all.

We headed out to catch the 2:00 p.m. matinee at the Ritz East.

While we were waiting to buy tickets an employee of the theatre came outside to inform everyone that the 2:00 p.m. showing had sold out.

As had the 3:00 p.m. showing.

And the 4:45 p.m. showing.

And the 5:45 p.m. showing.

And the 7:30 p.m. showing.

And the 8:30 p.m. showing.

And the 10:15 p.m. showing.

And the 11:15 p.m. showing.

And the 8:30 p.m. showing tomorrow night.

[Post-publication addendum: Having been shut out of “Fahrenheit 9/11,” we ate lunch and then rented Michael Moore’s last documentary, “Bowling for Columbine,” which none of us had seen. If Moore was just warming up with that film, made in 2002, I can only imagine how good “Fahrenheit 9/11” must be. I’m thinking of catching “Fahrenheit 9/11” on Monday, most likely one of the earlier showings. Reader D.B., from Jenkintown, Pa., kindly suggested I see the film up there, though the invitation unfortunately did not include an offer of lunch or dinner. (Suburban Guerrilla’s Susie Madrak was luckier than I; she was able to see the film today, and observes: “The audience cheered and clapped at the end for at least five minutes; I'd never seen anything like it at a movie before.”)]

[Post-publication addendum: The otherwise excellent Philadelphia Daily News today offers readers exceptionally lame coverage of “Fahrenheit 9/11,” with Gary Thompson whining, “The movie is not a documentary.” In addition to that unoriginal, and poorly argued, “insight,” readers are treated to the gossip columnist everyone thought had retired, Stu Bykofsky, calling Moore fat not once, but twice. (Bykofsky’s snarking reminds me that the entertainment reporters at the Daily News long have had a problem with overweight people. [See final sentence.])]

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How Do You Get to Rittenhouse?
Search, Search, Search

It’s Friday and I posted quite a bit yesterday, so it’s time to ease up. Besides, in a short while I’ll be heading out to catch a matinee of “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Until later, then, enjoy the following searches, just of few of many that recently brought readers to The Rittenhouse Review:

sean hannity separated at birth
Separated from what? Is there another one out there?

university of georgia cheerleading uniforms

gentlemen’s club dancers photo gallery
Uh, no.

die family von gisela dulko
I believe this visitor intended to enter “familie.”

republican senator midge mcconnell of kentucky

will the real hussian please stand up
Hussein, perhaps?

florida anchorwoman on-air suicide
Wow. Worse than the great Jessica Savitch meltdown.

through the lies i learned the truth. through the insults and putdowns i learned appreciation and respect.
Is someone trying to tell me something?

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Republicans Turn to Former Cosmetics Executive

Bill Pascoe, spokesman for U.S. Senate candidate Jack Ryan, Republican of Illinois, says his boss “is in the race to stay,” but anyone with half a brain knows that’s not the case.

The bitter truth is laid out meticulously in today’s Chicago Tribune by reporters Rick Pearson and Rudolph Bush (“With Successor in Mind, GOP Plots Ryan’s Exit”):

Anticipating a quick end to Jack Ryan’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate, state Republican leaders on Thursday began looking ahead to replace him on the November ballot, with former State Board of Education Chairman Ron Gidwitz emerging as the leading contender, several GOP sources said.

Ryan is not without his backers, including retiring U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.), but it appears the Republican Party’s search for a new candidate has Ryan’s consent. The Tribune reports:

Meanwhile, GOP sources in Washington said Ryan’s campaign had been seeking advice on a strategy for exiting the race as the Republican members of Illinois’ House delegation, led by Speaker Dennis Hastert of Yorkville, [Ill.,] met behind closed doors and agreed unanimously that Ryan should drop out.

Ryan has little support among party regulars in Washington. According to the Tribune, the Illinois Republican delegation in the House of Representatives, at a meeting convened by Rep. Hastert, agreed Ryan should drop out of the race.

Meanwhile, the natives, or at least the locals, are getting restless:

On Thursday, GOP county chairmen across the state added their complaints about Ryan.

“It’s repulsive and alien for people in southern Illinois,” Richard Stubblefield of Mount Vernon, the Jefferson County GOP chairman. . . . “It’s time to move on. It’s time to have another candidate.”

Even more outspoken was state Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale), who also is GOP chairman in DuPage County, long regarded as the state’s most Republican county.

“Only in the Land of Oz would people think that Jack Ryan can beat Barack Obama after this week’s activity,” Dillard said, referring to the Democratic contender for the Senate post.

Ultimately, the matter lies in Ryan’s hands. According to the Tribune, Ryan, who won the Republican Party nomination in March, cannot be forced off the ballot. “But party leaders said privately that Ryan, should he continue to run, would have to spend heavily from his own substantial bank account because fundraising would dry up,” the paper reports.

If Ryan withdraws, the Illinois Republican State Central Committee will fill the vacancy. But with whom? The Tribune reports former governors Jim Edgar and James R. Thompson and current state Supreme Court Justice Bob Thomas have taken their names out of consideration, and Illinois Republican Party Chairman Judy Baar Topinka “has thus far shown no interest.”

Gidwitz, the leading contender to replace Ryan, is a member of the State Board of Education and previously ran Helene Curtis Industries, a family business. “Gidwitz is wealthy and could use his own money to try to mount a late-starting Senate contest,” the Tribune reporters observe.

Finally, the Tribune reports “State GOP leaders stressed that any replacement candidate would have to be thoroughly vetted to avoid any new embarrassments to the GOP.”

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Thursday, June 24, 2004  

Give Us a Break, Ralph

This is great. Just great. The latest presidential election poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University and released today, shows a dead heat in Pennsylvania.

According to the Associated Press, the Quinnipiac Pennsylvania poll shows Sen. John F. Kerry with the support of 44 percent of registered voters and President George W. Bush garnering a 43-percent share. (Margin of error: plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.)

Neck and neck, as they say.

What’s that? Oh, you did the math? Yeah, 44 percent plus 43 percent equals 87 percent. Does that mean 13 percent of registered voters in Pennsylvania are undecided?

Not quite. Ralph Nader was named by 7 percent of those polled, leaving just 6 percent of Pennsylvanians undecided (or backing other so-called third-party candidates).


Pennsylvania is the nation’s sixth-largest state. Democrat Al Gore carried the state in 2000 by a margin of just over 4 percent, securing Pennsylvania’s coveted 21 electoral votes. Kerry needs those votes badly this year. Even in the best of circumstances Pennsylvania would be a tough fight. And now there’s Nader and his supporters, self-righteously proclaiming their ideological purity and condescendingly lecturing Kerry supporters that Nader represents a viable third-party alternative, insisting the secretive egotist “is in it to win.”

Everybody talks about Nader’s potential role as a spoiler -- one he strangely enjoys -- in Florida. Maybe it’s time for too many of us to look for the rot closer to home.

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Or a Soap Opera or a Stanley Kubrick Film?

Is it over for U.S. Senate candidate Jack Ryan, Republican of Illinois?

The Chicago Tribune reported at mid-day today (“Sources: Ryan Campaign Explores Exit Strategy,” by Rick Pearson and Rudolph Bush):

Officials in the Jack Ryan campaign have spoken to some members of the congressional delegation, asking for advice about a possible strategy for ending his candidacy in the U.S. Senate race, sources said today.

But as recently as this morning, a Ryan spokeswoman was denying rumors the candidate was reassessing whether to continue his campaign.

“We are not reassessing. Jack Ryan is in the race to stay. Jack Ryan will be in the race on Nov. 2,” Kelli Phiel told the Associated Press.

The conversations between Ryan’s campaign and Republicans in Washington came after the candidate dropped a scheduled trip to the nation’s capital to participate in a fundraising event with Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia), head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The cancellation of that fundraiser fueled speculation in the GOP that Ryan had lost crucial support from the national Republican group.

Republican sources told The Tribune said they expected the White House to weigh in on the viability of Ryan’s candidacy.

The Ryan campaign this morning acknowledged it had cancelled the trip to Washington, but that it was due to “other” reasons, unrelated to the fate of candidacy.

Meanwhile, Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass writes in today’s edition (“Ryan Should Quit Senate Race”):

Handsome Jack Ryan looks like a U.S. senator -- rich, tall, with nice teeth and an Ivy League education. But he’s much too delusional for the Senate. Some of us have seen this in him for a long time. Others became aroused only recently.

I figured Ryan was delusional last March, when the Democratic political consultants began whispering about Blair Hull’s divorce files and Hull’s files became public, killing off Hull’s campaign. The politics were a natural extension, from Hull to Ryan. Yet Ryan persisted in thinking that his own divorce files would remain sealed. He chirped and flashed those teeth, a mannequin of a political candidate animated only by his own narcissism. […]

The U.S. Senate is not a place for people like this.

I agree. The delusional do not belong in the Senate. The Bush White House, maybe, the Rumsfeld Pentagon definitely, but not the U.S. Senate.

This story is creepier than a Stanley Kubrick film.

[Post-publication addendum: Also in today’s Chicago Tribune: “Ex-Wife Stands by Allegations” and “Obama Lets Opponent Do Talking,” by David Mendell.]

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Torture? You Call That Torture?

In today’s “Reliable Source,” a Washington Post column mercifully no longer in the hands of Lloyd Grove (he’s since moved on to richly deserved obscurity in New York), Richard Leiby writes:

In a just-revealed notation on a 2002 memo about interrogation tactics, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld indicated that making terrorism detainees stand for up to four hours was no biggie in the physical stress department. “I stand for 8-10 hours a day,” Rummy scrawled. “Why is standing limited to four hours?”

Adjusting the time span proportionately, what say we make Mr. Big-Shot “He Wrestled in College You Know” Secretary stand for 16 to 25 hours without relief?

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Editor and Man About Town Can’t Find His Way

Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter is a lazy man. I’m not talking about his steadfast unwillingness to make time for a decent haircut, but instead of his apparent inability to write a simple expository paragraph.

So reveals Tom Scocca in his latest “Off the Record” column in the New York Observer (June 28, 2004, p. 8).

Carter, you see, has written a book (What We’ve Lost) . . . sort of.

Scocca reports:

Despite reports of a platoon of researchers at Mr. Carter’s disposal, Farrar, Straus & Giroux has received a manuscript in which the writer’s argument frequently outruns his available facts. The result reads like a Mother Jones edition of Mad Libs: Vice President Dick Cheney is “currently under investigation by WHO for WHAT REGARDING BRIBING FOREIGN OFFICIALS DURING HIS TENURE AS HEAD OF THE COMPANY”; the White House has snubbed the “Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants Treaty, signed by TK nations WHEN.” [Ed.: For the uninitiated, “tk” is publishing shorthand for “to come” and is used as a placeholder when a writer expects, or expects others, to fill in the missing information at a later time.]

Off the Record was able to solve some of Mr. Carter’s troubles with Google. Using a dial-up Internet connection, it took 13 seconds to establish the curb weight of “the TK-lb Hummer” at 6,400 pounds (assuming it’s an H2). Slow-loading federal Web sites meant it took a full 30 seconds to learn that “the Forest Service -- created WHEN TO DO WHAT” was founded in 1905 to manage publicly owned forest reserves.

Geographic obscurities beyond Carter’s grasp include the states in which the Mall of America and Yellowstone National Park are located, the state capital of Texas, and the distance from his own residence to the former location of the World Trade Center.

Geesh. Will someone at least buy that man a map of Manhattan?

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Best ADA on “Law & Order”

Gail Shister reports in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer that Elisabeth Rohm’s turn on the hit series “Law & Order” may come to an end after the show’s next season.

Shister notes, “Rohm is the fifth (and weakest, in our book) actor to play the ADA.”

For this week’s reader poll, let’s turn that statement around and ask which of the five actors you think was best in the role of assistant district attorney.

Your choices, in alphabetical order, are: Richard Brooks (as Paul Robinette), Jill Hennessy (as Claire Kincaid), Angie Harmon (as Abigail Carmichael), Carey Lowell (as Jamie Ross), and Elisabeth Rohm (as Serena Southerlyn).

The poll, posted in the sidebar at right, will take your votes until the evening of Wednesday, June 30.

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Crooks, Cowboys, and Cretins

Rex Reed reviews Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” in this week’s New York Observer, and while the headline, “Moore’s Magic: 9/11 Electrifies,” about says it all, Reed’s essay is worth reading if only to get you salivating over what is sure to be the cinematic experience of the year:

[U]nless you’ve lost your sense of humor completely, you’ve just gotta laugh when Mr. Moore intercuts Mr. Bush’s tough talk from cowboy movies with actual footage of the corny cowboys in those movies saying exactly the same things.

I can’t wait for tomorrow.

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Together With Media Miscellany

Iacocca’s On Board [*]
Former Chrysler Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Lee Iacocca this afternoon publicly endorsed the presidential candidacy of Sen. John F. Kerry. Iacocca was a prominent backer of President George W. Bush during the still widely disputed 2000 election.

Sitting President Questioned by U.S. Attorney [*]
Bringing still more shame upon the integrity of the Oval Office, President George W. Bush today was questioned for more than an hour by U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald and his associates in the ongoing Justice Department investigation into the White House leak, through right-wing columnist Robert Novak, of the name of a CIA operative, Valerie Plame, a flagrant violation of federal law apparently motivated by nothing other than a dirty attempt at revenge against the Plame’s husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

As the Associated Press observes: “The investigation has been an embarrassment for a president who promised to bring integrity and leadership to the White House after years of Republican criticism of the Clinton administration.”

Patients’ Bill of Rights [*]
Do HMO customers need and deserve a “patients’ bill of rights”? The Democratic Party does. Most Republicans don’t. You’re not going to get your rights by sitting there doing nothing. Do something!

It’s Not Over Until the Fat Man Sings
Secretive and wilting Vice President Dick Cheney and the gang “won” the latest round in Cheney v. U.S. District Court when the Supreme Court today refused to order the Bush administration to reveal secret details of Vice President Cheney’s mysterious and donor-heavy energy task force. But it’s not over yet. According to the Associated Press, the Justices in a 7-2 decision (Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David H. Souter dissenting) said a lower court should consider whether the Federal Advisory Committee Act could be used to make the task force documents public.

Larry Didn’t Get the Memo
It looks like Larry McMurtry, a novelist not on the regular payroll of the New York Times, didn’t get the memo. In a lengthy review of former President Bill Clinton’s memoirs in today’s paper, McMurtry writes: “William Jefferson Clinton’s My Life is, by a generous measure, the richest American presidential autobiography -- no other book tells us as vividly or fully what it is like to be president of the United States for eight years.”

It’s a good thing Michiko Kakutani called in sick today.

Florida is a Blue State
The Republicans are worried about Florida. How can you tell? They’re playing kooky Cuba politics with educational programs that send American students to the island. The Associated Press reports:

[T]rips [to Cuba] are expected to drop dramatically after new U.S. measures aimed at pushing out Cuban leader Fidel Castro and squeezing the island’s economy take effect on June 30.

Despite a restrictive U.S. travel ban, American universities with a U.S. government license can bring undergraduate and graduate students for study programs generally lasting from a week to a month. But under the new rules, such trips must be at least 10 weeks long -- a requirement critics say will make it impossible for many students to study here.

The Bush administration, relying on recommendations from the U.S. Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, is concerned students and professors are abusing current travel regulations and engaging in “disguised tourism.”

The A.P. reports one example of spring-break madness in Castro’s tourist paradise:

A group of 19 graduate students from Tulane University spent two weeks here in June studying Cuba’s public health system. They spent time with children with Down’s Syndrome at a mental health center, visited a maternity home for pregnant women with high risks, and traveled to a rural clinic in central Cuba. They learned about alternative medicine, biotechnology development and the country’s battle with HIV and AIDS.

Sounds like a blast. Can’t have that kind of thing happening, can we?

Still Watching After All These Years
I can’t decide whether Human Rights Watch has the most interesting or the most depressing web site in the world.

[* Note: Additional items may be posted to “Political Notes” after initial publication but only on the day of publication, excluding post-publication addenda.]

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Items in the News
June 24, 2004

There’s Always Next Year [*]
Martina Navratilova today lost her second-round Ladies’ Singles match at Wimbledon, falling 6-3, 3-6, 3-6 to Gisela Dulko of Argentina.

Distracted [*]
If I seem a bit distracted through the weekend there can only be one explanation: the U.S. Olympic Gymastics Team Trials are underway in Anaheim, Calif. According to the schedule, the all-around preliminaries begin at 10:00 p.m. (EDT) tonight and the all-around finals start at 6:00 p.m. (EDT) Saturday. Oh, and I think the women’s team is being assembled in Anaheim this weekend also.

Fair Trade?
Jason Smathers, 24, an engineer at America Online, was arrested at his home in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., yesterday and charged with stealing 92 million e-mail addresses of AOL customers and selling them to spammers (“AOL Worker Is Accused of Selling 93 Million E-Mail Names,” by Saul Hansell, the New York Times).

What’s that? One e-mail address for every three “Try AOL Free!” CDs the company sends through the post each month?

Bad Headline, Good Article
In today’s New York Times reporters Sara Rimer and Karen W. Arenson ask, “Top Colleges Take More Blacks, but Which Ones?

Hmm . . . Which blacks or which colleges? That question aside (the authors mean “which black students”), here’s a lengthy pull quote from an otherwise interesting article:

While about 8 percent, or about 530, of Harvard’s undergraduates were [Ed.: are?] black, Lani Guinier, a Harvard law professor, and Henry Louis Gates Jr., the chairman of Harvard’s African and African-American studies department, pointed out that the majority of them -- perhaps as many as two-thirds -- were West Indian and African immigrants or their children, or to a lesser extent, children of biracial couples.

They said that only about a third of the students were from families in which all four grandparents were born in this country, descendants of slaves. Many argue that it was students like these, disadvantaged by the legacy of Jim Crow laws, segregation and decades of racism, poverty and inferior schools, who were intended as principal beneficiaries of affirmative action in university admissions.

What concerned the two professors, they said, was that in the high-stakes world of admissions to the most selective colleges -- and with it, entry into the country's inner circles of power, wealth and influence -- African-American students whose families have been in America for generations were being left behind.

“I just want people to be honest enough to talk about it,” Professor Gates, the Yale-educated son of a West Virginia paper-mill worker, said recently, reiterating the questions he has been raising since the black alumni weekend last fall. “What are the implications of this?”

Someday in Paradise
Hey, Vaara, did you see this? “What’s Doing: In Helsinki,” by Lizette Alvarez:

Summers in Helsinki are the perfect salve for the country’s somber winters. The sun hovers in the sky most of the night. Temperatures linger at the pleasant mark -- not too hot, not too cold. And restaurants turn themselves inside out, their tables spilling across city sidewalks.

On sunny days, it seems as if all of Helsinki is biking, boating, walking, picnicking or just lolling about in parks and cafes. The city, a hodgepodge of Art Nouveau, Modernist and Russian architecture, provides free bicycles at stands around the city in the summer while the harborfront is chockablock with boats. Festivals are a summer mainstay, ranging from the traditional (opera) to the cutting edge (electronic music). And into the wee hours, crowds drop in on the flourishing and funky bar scene.”

One day; not any time soon, but someday.

[* Note: Additional items may be posted to “PP&T” after initial publication but only on the day of publication, excluding post-publication addenda.]

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Wednesday, June 23, 2004  

Book Reviewers Throughout the SCLM Fall Ill

In Monday’s “Persons, Places, and Things” (second item, “Clinton’s Memoirs: Is My Life the Last Word?”), I wondered whether My Life, truly would be former President Bill Clinton’s last word on his presidency.

In today’s New York Post, Cindy Adams reports President Clinton is in talks with an unnamed publisher, I presume Alfred A. Knopf, for two more books.

Watch for Michiko Kakutani to call in sick tomorrow.

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Together With Miscellany

Spoon-feeding Hilton Kramer
In the opening pages of the June issue of the New Criterion, edited by Hilton Kramer and funded by the Olin, Bradley, and Scaife Foundations, readers are treated to a startling display of the willingness of conservative intellectuals to be spoon-fed by the Bush administration (while they’re not spoon-feeding their own bizarre schemes to the Pentagon, that is). The editors write:

Of course, they don’t say that it was only a handful of low-lifes perpetrating the outrages. . . . If we are Seymour Hersh, we write a story for The New Yorker attempting to implicate the Secretary of Defense in the episode. . . . The New Yorker published Hersh’s essay under the rubric “Fact.” But is it factual? According to a Pentagon spokesman, Hersh’s claims are “outlandish, conspiratorial, and filled with error and anonymous conjecture.” . . . Hersh’s piece was published about a week before U.S. forces rolled into Baghdad in one of the swiftest, least bloody, and most brilliantly coordinated military assaults in history. [Emphasis added.]

A strangely uncritical assessment from a journal that not only cribbed its name from T.S. Eliot but in the same “Notes & Comments” section in the very same issue refers to itself as “the best cultural review in English.”

For everything you ever wanted to know about 527s, but were afraid to ask (Ray Bradbury, please call Norah Vincent, Norah Vincent, please call Hilton Kramer), see “Shadow Warriors,” by Michael Crowley in New York magazine.

Put Up or Shut Up
Act for Change has launched a campaign calling on Vice President Dick Cheney to “Prove It or Resign.” According to the activist group: “Vice President Dick Cheney is at it again. From the earliest moments after the tragedy of 9/11, Mr. Cheney has sought to convince the American public that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was linked to Al Qaida. So far, all the evidence demonstrates otherwise, yet Mr. Cheney keeps pushing his tall tale. And now he indicates that he has evidence not previously revealed to the 9/11 Commission. If he does, he should reveal it immediately and let the experts and the public judge it. Frankly, in other times, withholding such evidence would be grounds for impeachment. If he does not have such evidence, he should stop making it up and resign.”

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Items in the News
June 23, 2004

Oh, that memo!
“We didn’t mean it” seems to be the Bush administration’s preferred defense against accusations it condoned, even encouraged, the torture, abuse, and humiliation of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay. The Washington Post reports (“Memo on Interrogation Tactics Is Disavowed,” by Mike Allen and Susan Schmidt) officials from the White House, the Justice Department, and the Pentagon “disavowed an internal Justice Department opinion that torturing terrorism suspects might be legally defensible, saying it had created the false impression that the government was claiming authority to use interrogation techniques barred by international law.” And: “Responding to pressure from Congress and outrage around the world, officials at the White House and the Justice Department derided the August 2002 legal memo on aggressive interrogation tactics, calling parts of it overbroad and irrelevant and saying it would be rewritten.”

Oh, that kind of sovereignty!
Iraq is a week away from some sort of “sovereignty.” Not the kind of sovereignty recognizable to any student of international law, but what the heck? Writing in the Los Angeles Times (“A ‘Sovereign’ Iraq? Don’t You Believe It”), sociologist Amatai Etzioni raises questions: “The United States is about to fall prey to its own propaganda. President Bush has repeatedly said we will grant ‘full and complete sovereignty’ to Iraq on June 30. We’ve said we’ll turn over Saddam Hussein for trial and punishment and that the occupation will finally be replaced by Iraqi self-rule. But these grand promises are as unbelievable as they are unattainable.”

Oh, that Lollapalooza!
“Plagued with lousy ticket sales, this year's Lollapalooza tour was canceled yesterday, unplugging the best-known alternative rock festival in the country.” And thousands of Morrissey fans do their friends a favor by slitting their wrists.

[Note: Additional items may be posted to PP&T after initial publication.]

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Oh, that Rev. Moon!

This is just making its way to the “mainstream media”?

The Washington Post today reports on some strange goings-on at the Capitol in late March (“The Rev. Moon Honored at Hill Reception,” by Charles Babington and Alan Cooperman):

More than a dozen lawmakers attended a congressional reception this year honoring the Rev. Sun Myung Moon in which Moon declared himself the Messiah and said his teachings have helped Hitler and Stalin be “reborn as new persons.”

At the March 23 ceremony in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) wore white gloves and carried a pillow holding an ornate crown that was placed on Moon’s head. The Korean-born businessman and religious leader then delivered a long speech saying he was “sent to Earth . . . to save the world’s six billion people. . . . Emperors, kings, and presidents . . . have declared to all Heaven and Earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity’s Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord, and True Parent.”

Details of the ceremony -- first reported by writer John Gorenfeld [“Hail to the Moon King”] -- have prompted several lawmakers to say they were misled or duped by organizers. Their complaints prompted a Moon-affiliated Web site to remove a video of the “Crown of Peace” ceremony two days ago, but other Web sites have preserved details and photos.

White gloves?

Carried a pillow?

(By the way, for “other Web sites,” read weblogs.)

More from the Post:

Some Republicans who attended the event, including Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (Md.), said they did so mainly to salute the Washington Times, a conservative-leaning newspaper owned by Moon’s organization. “I had no idea what would happen” regarding Moon’s coronation and speech, Bartlett said yesterday.


And, holy cow, Roscoe Bartlett is still in Congress?

Lovely town, Frederick, Maryland. Strange voters.

[Bonus from the Gorenfeld article: Pennsylvania Republican’s dishonesty exposed: “Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., whose office maintained he did not attend the event until I provided photographs of him there[,] spoke beside a photograph of himself pinning an American flag on Libyan leader Moammar Khadafy, back when President Bush was praising him for abandoning WMD programs and before he was suspected of trying to kill the leader of Saudi Arabia.”]

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