The Rittenhouse Review

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

Sunday, January 01, 2006  

How Many Lies Will It Take?
Time for the Constitutional Clock to Start Ticking

From today’s New York Times (“Bush Defends Legality of Domestic Spy Program,” by Eric Lichtblau), arises the question: How many lies will it take before the American people will say they’ve had enough, we no longer will be fooled, we won’t play along any longer, and that this is the line in the sand:

As President Bush continued to defend the program at his appearance in San Antonio, he was asked about a remark he made in Buffalo in 2004 at an appearance in support of the Patriot Act, in which he discussed government wiretaps.

“Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap,” Mr. Bush said at the appearance, “a wiretap requires a court order.” He added: “Nothing has changed, by the way. When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so.”

This isn’t “leadership,” this isn’t “strength,” nor is it “determination” in the face of adversity. This isn’t “courage,” nor is it “boldness.” This is desperation.

Worse, these are lies, pure and simple, and simple-minded dishonesty of the lowest form whatsoever displayed by any occupant of the Oval Office since Richard Nixon, and bald-faced lies at that, repeated over and over again, with no hesitation, regret, nor apology, lies that fly in the face of -- that mock with no shame at all -- the Constitution of these, the United States of America.

Enough, already. It’s time to start working toward this man’s impeachment.

It’s as simple, and as sad, as that.

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Thursday, December 29, 2005  

And the Bets are On

Today’s papers report -- “Placing Their Bets,” by Suzette Parmley in the Philadelphia Inquirer and “Five Investor Groups Apply for City Casino Licenses,” by Chris Brennan in the Philadelphia Daily News -- that at least five companies will vie for the two available permits for slots parlor operations in Philadelphia, a group that includes some of the usual suspects -- separately, Donald Trump and Foxwoods -- and a few surprises, including an entity calling itself Sugar House Gaming.

Just one question: Any, um, bets how many years the two eventual “winners” in Philadelphia, along with their companions running similar enterprises of state-sponsored theft around this state, will “endure,” under what they no doubt will call “great hardship,” before they start complaining -- and lobbying to the effect that -- they aren’t making, and that they won’t and they just can’t make enough money from slot machines alone, and therefore that they have to, they just must, be allowed to install the full gamut of casino table games in order to earn a decent profit, this ill-defined number cast as a “reasonable return” to “stakeholders,” and a figure I’m sure they will aver is needed to “remain competitive with other ‘gaming’ alternatives in the region,” the region in question extending from Atlantic City, N.J., all the way to Connecticut, north, and Mississippi, south, if not to Nevada, west, and beyond?

I’m giving it two years, tops.

Mark my words now: This has been, is, will be, and will have been a huge mistake from the get-go, one we will regret for decades to come.

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Sunday, December 18, 2005  

That Time of Year

It’s difficult at any time of year to supply this blog with fresh and frequent commentary, and all the more so in late December. And so, in order to take a little of the pressure off, I’ll say now that posting likely will be infrequent, even erratic, until the new year. Enjoy the best of the season.

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Some of the Good Guys Gone

Obituaries from the New York Times:

Jack Anderson.

William Proxmire.

John Spencer.

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Saturday, December 17, 2005  

Dubious Ethics, Worse Teeth

Sadly, you cannot see the image online, and so instead pick up a copy of the December 26 issue of The Nation in order not to miss “The Torture Administration,” by Anthony Lewis -- Still going strong at, what, eighty-something? -- and particularly the accompanying graphic by Eric Baker, a mélange of images of President Disregard the Constitution and All Sorts of Laws and Vice President Not-So-Great Teeth and a Quivering, Misformed Lower Lip Besides.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005  

One From the Good Old Guard

Eugene McCarthy, Washington, D.C.: former Minnesota congressman and senator, presidential aspirant, and author, 1916-2005:

A sampling of obituaries honoring McCarthy:

New York Times.

Washington Post.

Los Angeles Times.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

St. Paul Pioneer Press.

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Monday, December 12, 2005  

The Most Looked-Up Word of 2005

I won’t tell you what word Merriam-Webster reports was looked up at its web site more often than any other in 2005, I’ll just give you that dictionary’s definition:

1 : firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility

2 : an unimpaired condition : soundness

3 : the quality or state of being complete or undivided : completeness

synonym see honesty

Adam Gorlick, writing for the Associated Press, explores the significance of the popularity of this word in this particular year.

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Sunday, December 11, 2005  

Getting Older

A New York Times business reporter I respected greatly, Constance L. Hays, recently passed away, as noted here yesterday.

I saw her obituary in the back pages of the Philadelphia Inquirer, before I saw the same piece in the Times. I was shocked and saddened to read the news.

I always think almost everyone is older than I am. I am particularly prone to thinking so when it comes to talented writers, a group writ large the membership in which Hays so deservedly earned her highest position. Hays, though, was roughly my age, and I didn’t know that until she expired, a too-early decease stemming from what is called cancer.

I don’t know why I’m writing this right now, except to say that for years I knew and appreciated Hays to be, and for being, an exceptional reporter, smart and fair and all that, and with I being a tough audience, I was all the more impressed by her work, particularly when Hays was assigned to cover the trials of Martha Stewart, a woman greatly respected around these parts, and had that endeavor been assigned to a lesser talent, well, you would have heard an awful lot from me.

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Saturday, December 10, 2005  

Two New Yorkers

Constance L. Hays: the excellent New York Times business reporter and author (The Real Thing: Truth and Power at the Coca-Cola Company), 1961[!]-2005.

Kalman Ruttenstein: fashion director of Bloomingdale’s and former president of Bonwit Teller, 1936-2005.

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Our Next Secretary of Defense? Or Just Another Republican Back-Bencher?

It’s not just me, a fact that doesn’t surprise. There are plenty of Democrats disappointed with Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) and his unremitting support for the White House and its failed war on Iraq, and it’s all over today’s papers.

In “Lieberman’s Iraq Stance Brings Widening Split With His Party,” New York Times reporters Raymond Hernandez and William Yardley write:

Five years after running as the vice-presidential nominee on the Democratic ticket and a year after his own presidential bid, . . . Lieberman . . . has become an increasingly unwelcome figure within his party, with some Democrats seeing him more as a wayward son than a favorite son.

They report Sen. Lieberman is held in low regard by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and note a possible challenge from former governor and senator Lowell P. Weicker Jr., discussed earlier this week. And there’s more:

Mr. Lieberman faces trouble in other quarters in his home state. Although few elected Democrats would criticize him publicly, several Democratic activists promised retaliation at the polls.

James H. Dean, brother of Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, lives in Connecticut and heads Democracy for America, a group that is gathering signatures on the Internet for a letter that criticizes the senator.

An aide to James Dean said he and others from the group would deliver the letter to Mr. Lieberman’s office in Hartford on Tuesday. The aide said the letter had 30,000 signatures.

Other Democratic activists warned that they might try to organize a primary challenge against Mr. Lieberman, specifically because of his position on the war.

Tom Matzzie, the Washington director for, a liberal advocacy group with 10,000 members in Connecticut, said it would consider a challenge if the right candidate came along.

Meanwhile, in today’s Washington Post, Shailagh Murray makes the same points in “Lieberman Wins Republican Friends, Democratic Enemies With Support for War,” and adds:

The administration, on the other hand, can’t stop gushing over Lieberman. Vice President [Dick] Cheney called him “a fine U.S. senator,” and Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman contrasted him with his “retreat and defeat” Democratic colleagues. White House spokesman Scott McClellan cited Lieberman, the Democrats’ 2000 vice presidential nominee, as an exception in a party otherwise “trying to score political points off the situation.”

There have even been rumors that Lieberman is being considered as a replacement for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, if the embattled Pentagon boss retires. Lieberman dismisses the speculation as a “Washington fantasy.” But he caused tongues to wag when he had breakfast with Rumsfeld at the Pentagon on Thursday.

The question seems to be turning toward motives: Is Sen. Lieberman pursuing what’s best for the country, the party, or himself?

I’d be pleased to see Sen. Lieberman go to the Pentagon. It’s a better place for him -- a better place for us to have him -- than the U.S. Senate.

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Teri Garr

Teri Garr, actress, frequent crossword puzzle answer, and author, most recently of Speedbumps: Flooring It Through Hollywood, on her book and living with multiple sclerosis, speaking on the weekend edition of Fresh Air with Terry Gross:

I was going to call this book, Does This Wheelchair Make Me Look Fat?

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Friday, December 09, 2005  

Usually on Thursday, This Week on Friday

A little bit more about my bulldog.

Below are the Top-Ten Nicknames for Mildred, in ascending order of daily usage in and around this household:

10. Madame Massive Snoozer.

9. The Drool Machine.

8. Miss No Tail.

7. You Crazy Greenie Hog.

6. You Big Girl.

5. Mildie.

4. Mildud.

3. Pookey Pot.

2. Pookey.

And, Number One, my most favored, most often used, most often relied upon nickname:

1. Bunny.

By way of background, and to prevent some really uncomfortable interchanges should we ever meet on the street, anywhere: Under no circumstances whatsoever shall Mildred be referred to as “Millie,” the name the parents of the current occupant -- and I mean that -- of the White House gave to one of their ugly mutts.

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If Not, Listen to Radio Times Tonight

This morning I caught Marty Moss-Coane’s excellent program Radio Times on WHYY Radio (Philadelphia, 90.9 FM), the second hour of which was devoted to discussing and, what the heck, let’s just say so, promoting, Double Down, this season’s holiday offering from Philadelphia’s 1812 Productions, featuring Scott Greer and Tony Braithwaite.

I haven’t seen Double Down, but Green and Braithwaite were hilarious on Moss-Coane’s program. And Marty did quite well herself playing a nurse in a skit the three performed on air.

I hear from WHYY promos this evening that the station will rebroadcast this segment at 11:00 p.m. tonight.

You should make a point of catching the program, and if you can, seeing the show at the Adrienne Theatre, and maybe buying me a ticket.

(I was just kidding about that ticket part.)

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Thursday, December 08, 2005  

The Greenest of Grassroots Activity

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) this week launched “an internet event” he’s calling “Pick a Progressive Patriot,” an online vote that will determine to whom the senator will next offer financial support though his political action committee, the Progressive Patriots Fund.

Based upon a list of nominees suggested from web readers, Sen. Feingold has selected 11 challengers to incumbent lawmakers, and the candidate who receives the most votes by midnight December 14 will receive a $5,000 contribution from the PPF.

The competitors include: Francine Busby (Calif., 50th District), Chris Carney (Pa., 10th), John Courage (Texas, 21st), Brad Ellsworth (Indiana, 8th), Nick Lampson (Texas, 22nd), Patricia Madrid (N.M., 1st), Lois Murphy (Pa., 6th), Coleen Rowley (Minn., 2nd), Heath Shuler (N.C., 11th), Tim Walz (Minn., First), and Peter Welch (Vt., At-large).

Don’t just sit here, go over to the PPF home page and cast your vote to “Pick [Your] Progressive Patriot.”

And don’t let the fact that I voted for Lois Murphy to sway you in any way.

I’m sure they’re all worthy.

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Saturday, December 03, 2005  

Their Parents’ Drugs and Their Own

Two more disturbing reports in the news today and about kids -- including really young kids -- and drugs, more often than not drugs not their own:

Daycare workers yesterday found 11 packets of crack cocaine in the pockets of a two-year-old Philadelphia boy, and, separately and later in the day, two more boys, ages seven and eight, were found with what was suspected to be cocaine at the city’s Elkins Elementary School.

In case you’re not keeping track at home, these latest incidents come just a month after eight bags of heroin were found in a kindergartner’s pockets at Philadelphia’s Richmond Elementary School. Parents, guardians, or nearby adults are presumed to be to blame in each incident.

For more, see “Show and Tell: Children Lead Police to Drugs,” by Barbara Boyer and Stephanie L. Arnold in the Philadelphia Inquirer and “2-year-old Brings Crack to Day Care,” by Simone Weichselbaum in the Philadelphia Daily News.

Meanwhile, across the river in upscale Moorestown, N.J., a high-school student was charged with trying to build a methamphetamine lab in her parents’ home. Her mother called authorities after noticing a strange odor in the house, the Inquirer reports.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005  

In Fishtown, Philadelphia

Whenever I think I can no longer be shocked, especially by young children, it happens again.

And so, again, I’m shocked.

As you know, I live in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia, a traditionally Irish and Polish working-class area just northeast of Center City that is currently making the transition -- so they tell me -- to the next hot, hip, and trendy spot in the nation’s fifth-largest city.

Perhaps. I remain to be convinced, especially when I walk about nearby streets and am forced to interact with what can be called, charitably at best, the local color, and what I’m more inclined to characterize more simply as the neighborhood’s white trash.

Case in point, with an eye toward the aforementioned kids: There’s a little boy who scampers about who I take to be around eight years old. He’s a cute kid; reasonably well dressed and groomed, by which I mean, and if you lived around here you would catch my drift quickly, he looks clean, and that’s pretty good, all things considered.

I last saw him Sunday evening when I took my dog Mildred out for a post-dinner walk, during which the following conversation ensued:

Local Boy: Hey, mister, you know what I’m doing?

Grouchy Old Man [That’s me.]: Looks like you’re stupidly skateboarding in the middle of the street.

Local Boy: No, I’m waiting for a girl. And when she comes by I’m going to get a piece of her.

Grouchy Old Man: That’s not nice! You know boys don’t hit girls.

Local Boy: I’m not going to hit her. I’m going to [expletive deleted] her!

Grouchy Old Man: Whoa! Well, that’s not nice either. Don’t even think of it! And don’t ever say anything like that again!

Eight years old!

Well, he was having none of my remonstrations, about which I cannot call myself surprised.

But then, get this, he, said “local boy,” threw a ball at me, a ball that hit Mildred!

It wasn’t much of a ball, just a soft rubber ball, but he did it on purpose, and maliciously, and I know this because it’s the second time in a month this little urchin threw something at me. The last time it was a portion of a smashed pumpkin he and a few other pieces of crap broke in front of a neighbor’s house on the night before Halloween.

The incident -- the ball throwing, not the pumpkin-piece tossing -- set me off. Not insanely, I assure you. I was just disgusted. I turned around and marched toward him and glared at him and scowled and shouted, “If you ever throw anything at my dog again, if you as much look at her the wrong way, you’ll be in more trouble than you’ve ever heard of in your life!”

Scared him?

Oh yeah.

Scared me?

That too.

Knowing this crazy neighborhood, this mannerless and misbegotten child is probably being raised by an unemployed nut who’s been on a bender since the Eagles lost. To Denver. Not exactly the type of dad, or mom, who will thank me for keeping the stupid kid in line.

I’ve got to watch my back.

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Not Just Because . . . But Because of Lieberman

It goes without saying that I admire and respect, greatly, former Sen. Al Gore, the Tennessee lawmaker who five years ago carried the Democratic Party’s torch toward its rightful position in the White House.

The man was pilloried and crucified by the media, and later cheated by what’s called “the judiciary,” reaching even as high as the Supreme [sic] Court, and yet maintained incredible, almost unbearable, dignity despite such unwarranted humiliation and unfairness.

And yet, with increasing frequency, I hate Al Gore, or at least resent him, or perhaps regret his misguidedness, that for having elevated an obscure and constantly vacillating little lawmaker from a small and generally insignificant state, the untrustworthy cretin otherwise known as Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) , pet and pal of the widely discredited faction known as the “Democratic” “Leadership” Council, toady of the insurance and medical industries, and all-around friend and slavish patron of the in loco Republicantis backstage directors of American foreign policy, typified most crazedly by the likes of the New Republic’s Martin Peretz, an ardent and unapologetic Liebermanite.

Enough with this guy -- Lieberman -- and his Gigot-edited and Gigot-approved op-eds on the fringista pages of The Wall Street Journal. Sadly, it was Sen. Gore, with the help of the likes of Peretz, who transformed Sen. Lieberman from a nobody into the supposed statesman and ersatz Senator Fulbright all too many today imagine him to be.

But is anyone really listening? Anyone, that is, except those of us concerned that this F.O.D. -- Friend of Don [Rumsfeld] -- might, assuming an equal party distribution in the Senate, opportunistically jump ship to the War Party?

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Calling Beth Gillin

Imaginary -- perhaps -- overheard remark:

Impatient Inquirer Assignment Editor:“Has she got ‘man hands’? . . . Yeah? . . . She does? . . . Okay. Let’s see if Beth Gillin has some time. . . . She usually handles that kind of thing for us.”

The evidence:

July 10, 2002: Ann Coulter.

March 27, 2004: Brini Maxwell.

November 29, 2005: Tammy Bruce.

It’s all in fun, and we’re going to miss you, Beth.

[Post-publication addendum (December 3): Gillin, freshly retired from the Inquirer, has launched a blog, Exteme Senior, to be written with her tiny, delicate hands, they directed by a very talented, insightful, and, um, experienced mind.]

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005  

College Application Fees

A friend writes that her son has submitted his applications to three campuses of the University of California system.

The application fees totaled $180, or $60 per campus.

Sixty bucks? That’s not so bad, I thought.

That’s not much more than what I paid, each, to apply to Hamilton and Rochester.

Then again, that was twenty-something years ago.

Of course, at the time, the fee to apply to Albany and Binghamton was, like, six dollars: each, or for both, or for as many as you wanted, or something like that.

And I think they accepted coins.

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What is to be Done?

It’s official now: There are to be no gay priests, or no more gay priests, or no new gay priests, or no new honest gay priests, or something, who knows exactly what right now.

What is to be done for, or within, the Church?

I’m not sure I really care at this moment.

And what for, or within, me?

Selfishly or egotistically, that is, at this moment, for me, the larger question.

But as I asked a friend not long ago, in response to his inquiry demanding I account for my adherence to Catholicism, the religion in which I, my family, my parents, their parents, and their parents, and beyond -- my family, my people -- were raised and reared, “What am I supposed to do? Become a Methodist?”

No offense intented, and that’s not exactly an apt question, given that sect’s own problems with modernity and its affect on the ministry.

Perhaps I meant, “What am I supposed to do? Become a United Church of Christer?”

Maybe, but it just seems so unsatisfying. Most important, because it seems theologically and intellectually inferior, and, well, because it just doesn’t roll off the tongue so very well.

Or is it time to dust off my not-all-that-dusty copy of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures?

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Sunday, November 27, 2005  

Michael D. Brown L.L.C.

Redefining the term shameless for now and all eternity, former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown is launching a disaster-preparedness consulting firm in his own name.

This is too easy a target and everyone already has had at it, so I’ll just direct you to the cutest of the self-serving and delusional quotes the Associated Press pulled from Brown:

My wife, children and my grandchild still love me. My parents are still proud of me.

In large measure because they are able to sleep in their own beds at night.

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Parents . . . And Their Kids’ Toys

It isn’t just holiday shoppers who are wound too tightly, it’s the gifts themselves as well, especially toys, reports Jeff Gammage in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer (“Toys’ Packaging can be a Real Pain”):

These days, children’s playthings don’t come nestled inside their containers -- they come grafted to them, immobilized by a torturer’s rack of wire, tape, thread and plastic lashing. […]

Today, dolls and action figures come bound like miniature Gullivers. It can take a parent 15 minutes or more to free them, and 15 minutes for every toy that follows.

Take Mattel’s My Scene Goes Hollywood Chelsea, a redhead dressed for a movie premiere. The doll and her two dozen accessories are held down by 20 pieces of tape, five wires, two lengths of stitching, three drops of glue, a couple of rubber clasps, a waist harness, assorted cardboard spacers and, not least, a plastic cord threaded through the back of Chelsea’s skull. (Which you know has got to hurt). [Hyperlink added.] […]

If a living, breathing child can be safely transported in a five-point restraint car seat, say peeved moms and dads, why does a doll need 20?

Answers: Long-distance shipping, shoplifting, and, naturally, marketing.

Here’s the real kicker from Grammage’s piece, surprising, and yet not:

[T]rying to open a toy is not just maddening but dangerous: More Americans are injured by packaging than are hurt in skateboard accidents -- 220,000 a year, according to government figures. People slice their hands on jagged plastic, pierce their fingers on wires, accidentally run themselves through with knives and screwdrivers.

Careful out there, people!

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Saturday, November 26, 2005  

Pakistan and Juvenile Diabetes

Amid all the frenzied Christmas spending there have to be at least a few people out there looking to drop some money on a worthy charity as year-end approaches, whether to catch up on a slow year of donations, to fix the anticipated tax bill, or just to express some seasonal generosity.

The Rittenhouse Review always stands ready to accept hits on the tip box, a kindly gesture of generosity, and welcomes the “take” from your purchases at through the Rittenhouse link, but I’d rather see readers’ donated funds going to better causes, two of which are on my mind this season.

First, and most immediate: Relief aid to victims of the Pakistani earthquake. You can start here and find your favored conduit, hopefully as soon as possible.

Second, and always continuing: Organizations seeking a cure for juvenile diabetes, a cause so close to my heart. Please think about directing a few extra dollars this month to the Junvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

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Keeping the Machine Safe

Now that I have this snazzy lap-top PC, I’ve been trying to determine the how’s and what’s, to say nothing of the etiquette, of using the machine in public, when today an entirely new set of issues emerged relating the safety and security of the whole endeavor. No, not the security of the insides of my lap top, I know a fair amount about that, but the safety of the machine itself.

Rittenhouse Square, for example, is a known “hot spot” in Philadelphia, with easy and free wireless access, and while it’s the dead-center heart of Center City’s best neighborhood, there’s a seedy element afoot that makes me reluctant to pull out the Presario and start working, surfing, or blogging.

My question, then, is, How often are lap-top computers stolen out of the hands of people using them in public? And how can I protect this investment? Will renter’s insurance cover such a loss?

Which raises another question entirely, one that’s been on my mind for years, namely, Why aren’t more pockets picked in public men’s rooms? We’re standing there, otherwise occupied and very vulnerable, and were our wallets swiped from our back pockets, how quickly could we react, taking all things into consideration?

Just wondering.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005  

Though Still a Little Sad, But Not the Paper’s Fault

The Philadelphia Inquirer got something right this week: introducing, on the comics pages, classic “Calvin and Hobbes” strips.

But it says something, something a little sad, not about the Inquirer but about the comic-strip genre, that Bill Watterson’s what, fifteen-year-old pieces, far outclass every other attempt at humor and satire in the section.

Now, before you send me send me a nasty e-mail, let me tell you that I read and enjoy, among the strips carried by the Inquirer, my main source for such material, in alphabetical order, “The Boondocks” (Aaron McGruder), “Doonesbury” (Garry Trudeau), “Mutts” (Patrick McDonnell), “Non Sequitur” (Wiley Miller), and “Pearls Before Swine” (Stephan Pastis).

And I read, for various reasons, some logical and others not, and I don’t necessarily nor always enjoy, “B.C.” (Johnny Hart), “Peanuts” (Whoever These Days), “Rex Morgan, M.D.” (Woody Wilson and Graham Nolan), and “Sally Forth” (Francesco Marciuliano and Craig Macintosh).

I would have included “Cathy,” by Cathy Guisewite, in that list, but the Inquirer bumped that strip this week to make room for “Calvin and Hobbes.”


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Chileans Are a Too-Kind People

Good news out of Santiago: “Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the former military dictator of Chile, was arrested today . . . on tax fraud and passport forgery charges arising from secret bank accounts, holding millions of dollars, that he maintained under false names in the United States and elsewhere.”

Okay, so the news could be better, improved by a few charges of crimes against humanity or something on that order, but we have to take what we can get, where we can get it, at least for now.

Meanwhile, and mysteriously, F.O.A. (“Friend of Augusto”) and former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger remains a free man, though it’s been reported his much-vaunted and highly compensated globe-trotting now entails the avoidance of certain countries for fear of imminent arrest.

Media reports say Pinochet will be held under house arrest and will not be transported, under cover of darkness, into the capital city’s national stadium.

Pity, that.

Pinochet’s bail has been set at $23,000, an amount attorneys for the “psychopath and murderer” say he cannot pay.

I heard a rumor former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has expressed a willingness to tap her pension so her Chilean mate can meet bail. And I understand Elliott Abrams is also making calls.

[Actually, I made up that part about Thatcher and Abrams, but it has a ring of plausibility to it, no?]

[Post-publication addendum: For local coverage, see: “Pinochet es Procesado y Queda con Arresto Domiciliario,” El Mercurio; “Procesan a Pinochet por Oscuro Origen de Su Fortuna,” La Nacion; and “Pinochet, Arrestado en Su Casa por Caso Riggs,” La Segunda.]

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Mark Your Calendars

Chuck Pennacchio, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat currently occupied by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), is hosting “An Evening With Chuck” on Thursday, December 8, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., at the Warwick Hotel, 17th and Locust Streets, Philadelphia.

The campaign invites you to meet Pennacchio over wine and hors d’oeuvres and talk up the campaign with fellow supporters.

The suggested donation is $50. Tickets can be purchased at the Chuck 2006 web site or by calling (215) 546-8860.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005  

And Showing and Reading About Dogs, and Stuff

John Grogan, dog owner, bad-dog lover, and twice-weekly columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer, has an excellent essay in today’s paper, “In the Next Ring, a Stepford Terrier,” about his weekend visit to the Kennel Club of Philadelphia’s latest show in Fort Washington, Pa.

More important, a review copy of Grogan’s new book, Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog, arrived in the mail this very same day!

And so, with that, I’m signing off now to curl up with what I suspect promises to be a good book, simultaneously snuggling with 60 pounds of the most beautiful -- and well-behaved -- bulldog anyone ever has known.

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Sunday, November 20, 2005  

He’s Not a Church-Going Man

The usually reliable Ron Hutcheson and Tim Johnson are off their game in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer. Their piece, “Praying at a Beijing Church, Bush Sends a Message,” begins:

President Bush was in church as usual today, but his routine act of worship carries special significance this week.

“As usual”? Sounds like this pair of reporters are badly misinformed about the president’s church-going habits, widely and well documented as being something far less than habitual.

The reporters write later on:

After services yesterday morning, several Christian faithful said they had had no idea Bush would attend services there. […]

Another worshiper, who identified herself only as Mrs. Cheng, was curious about the President’s religious beliefs. “Is Bush a Christian?” she asked.

Good question, Mrs. Cheng.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005  

Whither -- Or Wither -- Philadelphia’s Top Papers?

The brain -- and talent -- drain continues at Philadelphia Newspapers Inc., the Knight-Ridder Inc. subsidiary that publishes both the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News.

I haven’t been keeping as close track as I should, but based on material made available in the Inquirer, the casualties, or better, maybe, the beneficiaries, of the company’s ridiculously misguided downsizing of the editorial staffs at both papers, include Jane Eisner, a columnist whose departure will disappoint a handful of readers here and there (not that I know any), and as we learned today, Lucia Herndon, whom I will miss considerably.

There are more to come, to be sure, and if anyone wants to share with me prepublication rumors of impending departures, click here.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005  

Dusting Off Book Value

I was reminded yesterday, apropos of nothing whatsoever related to the subject at hand, that the analysis of a corporation’s financial position or value, in times past and quainter than these, regularly involved calculating its book value (or equity value), a somewhat out-of-favor measure that is equal to the firm’s assets minus its liabilities. Sort of daydreaming at the time, I thought that were one to measure the Bush administration’s “book value,” from day one way back when to the present, one would find, by nearly any reasonable standard, “prudent man” or otherwise, rapidly declining equity at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, particularly given the heavyweight who has been pressing down so adamantly on the regime’s liabilities side, namely Vice President Dick Cheney.

It was fitting, then, that the stand-out article in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, by one of the paper’s Washington correspondents, Ron Hutcheson, “Cheney’s Image Takes a Beating,” so clearly delineated how poorly served the administration, and the country, are by Cheney’s hardheadedness, even his strangeness. Hutcheson writes:

Most politicians in Cheney's situation would scramble to change course, but he isn’t like most politicians. Days after [I. Lewis] Libby resigned, Cheney replaced him with David Addington [Google link added.], another longtime adviser, who helped draft a 2002 memo defending the use of torture in some circumstances.

Cheney courted more controversy by taking the lead role in trying to exempt the CIA from a ban on cruel and inhumane interrogation techniques. …

When Bush first came to Washington, Cheney was widely viewed as the experienced, steady hand in an untested White House. Now he is more likely to be pilloried as the hawk who helped push Bush into a messy war that could drag on for years.

Better, though, are the bad-mouthing quotes Hutcheson gathered from former friends and allies of the vice president, to wit:

Says Brent Scowcroft, “I consider Cheney a good friend; I’ve known him for 30 years. But Dick Cheney I don’t know anymore.”

Meanwhile, according to Hutcheson, Larry Wilkerson, once an aide to former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, “accused Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld of leading a secretive ‘cabal’ that hijacked foreign policy.”

And here’s a nice one from an independent observer, Joel Goldstein, a law professor at St. Louis University:

When was the last time he went on the Sunday talk shows? He increasingly seems limited to Rush Limbaugh or campaign appearances. Any time a vice president's prestige goes down, it has some impact on his influence in the West Wing.

Clearly, Cheney is a major liability, and one tied to a variable interest rate -- Appropriate, given how small a down payment the Republicans asked Americans to make when betting on their various policy schemes, and how recklessly the Bush administration has financed its follies. -- that is skyrocketing just when the Federal Open Market Committee is raising short-term rates to put the brakes on a supposedly inflating economy.

We can’t count on President You’re the Enemy to refinance his number-two man, and so applying Graham & Dodd balance-sheet analysis to the present political situation tells us this team’s book value is rapidly headed toward negative -- irreparably negative -- territory, if it’s not there already.

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Monday, November 14, 2005  

The President Speaks

Here are the lead paragraph from a Reuters story moved about an hour ago, headlined “Bush Quotes Democrats to Counter Iraq War Critics”:

President George W. Bush on Monday sought to counter Democratic critics of the Iraq war by turning their own past words of warning about Saddam Hussein against them.

“Reasonable people can disagree about the conduct of the war -- but it is irresponsible for Democrats to now claim that we misled them and the American people,” Bush said in a campaign-style speech accusing Democrats of playing politics with the issue and trying to rewrite the past.

Haven’t we heard this before? Like, three days ago? And wasn’t the same speech broadly considered a misguided failure at the time?

Try, try again, as they say.

Why can’t I get the words “Nixonian” and “Agnewian” out of my head?

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Sunday, November 13, 2005  

Another Philadelphia Outlet Hating Bloggers

We all know by now that Philadelphia magazine hates bloggers, but who would have thought the Philadelphia Inquirer, home to such quality practitioners of the craft as Daniel Rubin and Inga Saffron, despises them as well?

Or is it just Karen Heller, the paper’s breezy, Sunday “Image”-section columnist, who is published under the all-too-appropriate heading, “Intuition,” and not too long ago was bumped back to page two or three, space depending, and who in today’s installment, on page three, “Newscasters Primp for Date with Destiny,” a “think piece,” I think, about TV news, disparages blogging thusly:

Trying to be the progressive network, NBC is blogging away, [Brian] Williams along with his staff. Correspondent Martin Savidge recently posted, “This is quickly turning into another day of sad and uplifting stories from the Katrina zone,” while colleague Carl Quintanilla added, “I get nervous around alligators. Call me crazy.”

Imagine Peter Jennings filing such trenchant reports. Every visit to the blogosphere, the teenage diary jottings unnaturally mixed with overriding snarky humor, is a reminder that it’s still in diapers. It needs to grow up, a lot. [Emphasis added.]

My, my, my. “Diapers”?!

I suppose we can’t expect Heller, who traffics regularly in the tired and abysmally uninteresting genre surrounding the immortal question, “What’s a working mother to do when her husband is such a lazy loser and there’s so much laundry to be done?”, to have spent much time in the blogosphere beyond a quick perusal of the juvenile regurgitations of her friends’ children’s nastygrams about this or that clique that’s fallen out of favor, but can’t we expect more from a woman who gets paid, salary and benefits, to write a mere 600 words once a week?

And, by the way, the next time someone (see, for example, Maureen Dowd) claims that “nobody” ever comments on the physical appearance of male journalists, CEOs, politicians -- name your poison -- keep these observations of Heller in mind:

[Tom] Brokaw was distinct and memorable, which can’t be said of Williams and sometime CBS dauphin John Roberts, who resemble a pair of smart Ken dolls. They’re like Ralph Bellamy or Andy Garcia, satisfactory while we wait for Cary Grant or George Clooney to appear.

Well, that’s Heller for you. Keeping our collective public discourse at an elevated, call it a Heller-vated, level.

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Thank You Very Much

For the last two weeks or so I’ve been carrying a blog post around in my head, one in which I thank the readers who generously and thoughtfully contributed to the fund to replace my old PC, an almost six-year-old machine that passed away either from old age, excessive wear and tear, or third-party malfeasance, I’m not sure which at this point.

I believe I’ve sent a personal note to each contributor, but if I somehow overlooked your kindness, please forgive me and accept my most heartfelt appreciation.

The new machine is a beauty and is humming along quite nicely, thank you very much.

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That Kind of Democrat

Richard Penn Kemble, Washington, D.C.: socialist, political activist, democrat, and Democrat: 1941-2005.

I wish I had been in a position last month to more quickly and appropriately note Kemble’s passing, an event that occurred sadly prematurely on October 16, at age 64, and not only because some of the best obituaries have been shunted behind the green (i.e., paying) doors of their publishers, including the New York Times (though you can get the gist of the piece at the Indianapolis Star), but because the man -- who, among much greater and more interesting accomplishments, made a few appearances in my master’s thesis, none related to our one and not entirely successful (from my perspective) telephone conversation some 15 years ago -- was just so fascinating, and to smaller minds among us, “so contradictory.”

At the very least, I can direct you to items in the San Jose Mercury News, and in the Washington Times by Ben Wattenberg, as well as White House reaction and a statement from Freedom House.

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A Roundabout Way of Not Getting to Nocera

There is a certain irony, or at least inconvenience, associated with the latest piece from New York Times business columnist Joseph Nocera, “Trying to Wean Internet Users from Free,” which the paper’s web site teases with the following excerpt: “The New York Times is trying to make up for declines in its traditional revenue by charging for portions of its Web site.”

“Charging for portions.” Well, yes, the Times is charging readers for access to certain articles, “TimesSelect,” they call it -- including the self-same article about self-same by Nocera the self-same!

Maybe I’ll catch Nocera’s musings at the public library one day. No rush.

(I can’t help but wonder how many, or how few, readers of the Times on the web, those who haven’t upgraded to “TimesSelect,” are banging their keyboards in frustration at their inability to access John Tierney’s scribblings. Two? Five? Fewer still?)

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And I Agree

Tom of TBogg on Thursday asked, “Why doesn’t the Democratic Party just say ‘No to Joes’?” the inquiry in response to continued chatter -- and I can only hope it’s just that, chatter, and chatter of the idle sort -- that Sen. Joseph R. Biden (D-Del.) plans to run for president in 2008. “Biden will never be the President,” Tom avers.

I have to agree, even if my accord is based solely on a fervent hope that Americans are smarter, much wiser, than that, though they’ve disappointed me before.

Some day, maybe if enough people ask, and ask nicely, I’ll write a blog post I’ve pondered generating in the past, “My Hour with Joe Biden (and Sons),” datelined Charlottesville, Va., circa 1986.

It won’t be pretty.

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Friday, November 11, 2005  

In Case You Didn’t Know or Haven’t Noticed

The incomparable and inestimable Joe Conason will be in Philadelphia on Wednesday, November 16, at 7:00 p.m., at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore on Rittenhouse Square, 1805 Walnut St., speaking about and signing his latest book, The Raw Deal: How the Bush Republicans Plan to Destroy Social Security and the Legacy of the New Deal.

Be there.

Meet Joe and buy his book!

For more information or directions, call Barnes & Noble at (215) 665-0716.

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Still Welcome in the Republican Party?

Wait, was someone, perhaps even I, just two days ago, echoing the sentiments of those who suggested Kansas this week had become the laughingstock of the nation, that for its new policy on science education?

I take it back, at least in part.

The new, the real, laughingstock is G.O.P. stalwart and sometime preacher Pat “Don’t Ask for God’s Help” Robertson.

Just wondering . . . Will the reverend get a prime-time slot at the next Republican National Convention? Some of us, more than a few, are awaiting the required disavowals of this nutcase.

[Post-publication addendum: For the most local of local coverage of this issue, see “‘You Voted God Out,’” by Charlotte Tucker and Teresa McMinn in today’s York (Pa.) Daily Record.]

[Post-publication addendum (November 13): See also, “God Don’t Play That,” by Julia of Sisyphus Shrugged.]

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Thursday, November 10, 2005  

No Guffaws, Please

Disgraced, and now retired, essentially fired, New York Times reporter Judith Miller:

I have done nothing wrong here. I’ve never misled anybody.

Memoirs, without the requisite mea culpa, coming soon to a remaindered table at a bookstore near you.

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A Tip: Wait for Democracy in Action Before You Rant

David Bookstaber of Berwyn, Pa., got a letter to the editor [Note: Second piece.] published in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer. Congratulations to him and all that, but his correspondence is laughable for being poorly informed or badly timed, or both.

Bookstaber, writing about the curriculum controversy in Dover, Pa., about which I briefly blogged yesterday, offers this:

So I guess liberals such as [t]he Inquirer Editorial Board just love civil strife (“Intelligent Design: Flunking science,” Nov. 7). Why else would you encourage a judge to rule against the curriculum established by Dover’s democratically elected school board?

Policy disputes that don’t clearly violate laws belong in the democratic forum, where they can be debated and changed by the citizenry. Activist judges following the lead of the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade only weaken our society by seizing power to which they are not entitled, and by taking controversial matters out of the hands of the electorate, which is the only place where compromises can be made on socially polarizing issues.

This is by now a worn and obvious tactic: Appeal to activist courts to win the fights you can’t win democratically.

Gee, David, sorry about the election and all, and the constitutional issues the court was asked to address, that directly in line with the reason the judiciary was established, but I’m sure it felt good to get whatever that was off your chest.

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Straight Eye for the Queer Food

Instead of heading directly home this evening I decided, my thin wallet notwithstanding, to stop for something to eat at a modest little, and very straight, restaurant and pub at the edge of the Northern Liberties neighborhood here in Philadelphia.

One of the pair of gentlemen to my left ordered the chili, a dish that, upon being served, caused one of the pair of men to my right to observe, “That looks good!”

And, indeed it did. The chili, you see, was served not in a ceramic dish of any sort but rather in what is known as a bread bowl, with a small cup of cheese to the side, surrounded by four thick and smartly toasted slices of buttered bread.

“How is it?” the man to my right asked. “Good,” the gentleman answered curtly, clearly intent upon cutting off a pointless conversation.

“Looks almost too good,” the man to my right offered. “Looks like faggot chili to me.”

Awkward silence all around.

“You know how faggots are. They gotta dress everything up. All fancy and [expletive deleted]. [Expletive deleted], in the ’hood they just slop the chili on a plate and throw a coupla slices of white bread on top. I take my chili that way. You eatin’ faggot chili, man!”

Season me speechless.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005  

In Pennsylvania and in Kansas

There is remarkable news out of Dover, Pa., where voters yesterday threw out eight school board members who had advocated the introduction of elements of “intelligent design” to the local high-school biology curriculum -- an ill-advised and transparently religiously motivated decision now under review by a federal judge in Harrisburg. I’m surprised this election didn’t get much attention before Tuesday, unless it did and I missed it.

Meanwhile, in (What’s the Matter With) Kansas, the state Board of Education voted 6-4 to adopt standards for teaching science can only be described as bizarre. Jodi Wilgoren of the New York Times quotes Janet Waugh, a dissenting board member: “This is a sad day, not just for Kansas kids, but for Kansas. We’re becoming a laughingstock not only of the nation but of the world.”

Becoming, she said. Her word.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005  

Now, Wake Me When It’s Really Morning in America

You’ve probably heard the news already, but it still feels good to crow blog about it: The Democrats running for the country’s two open governorships, in New Jersey and Virginia -- Jon Corzine and Tim Kaine, respectively -- have been declared the winners by the Associated Press.

And it’s not even 10 o’clock!

Could it be our long national nightmare is nearly over?

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Further Development on the Waterfront

Can there, will there, ever be enough new housing development in Center City Philadelphia? Every week seems to bring another new project, or at the very least, a new idea or proposal, many of which, even if significantly flawed in their conception, to say nothing of their execution, past, present, or future, cannot but help strike wonder in the hearts and minds of those who know, or think they knew, this city.

The latest project, just made known, at least to me, today, strikes me as big, and surprising, news: 734 Schuylkill Ave., on the western edge of Center City, just below the South Street Bridge, in its latest incarnation a vocational education center, will be rehabbed into more than 200 condominium units by developer Sam Switzenbaum, working in conjunction with architect Robert Venturi of Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates, that according to an article by Henry J. Holcomb in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, “Heavyweight to Go Condo.”

The Switzenbaum/Venturi project sounds clever and exciting, but, as always on such matters, I defer to a greater authority: Inquirer architecture critic, Inga Saffron, who, by the way, is now writing an excellent blog, Skyline Online. Take it away, Inga.

[Note: This post was published earlier this evening in somewhat different form at TRR: The Lighter Side of Rittenhouse.]

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(A Continuing Series)
Misplaced Review

I wonder whether anyone at the Philadelphia Inquirer can explain why David Patrick Stearns’s glowing review of the Opera Company of Philadelphia’s production of The Barber of Seville (Il Barbiere di Siviglia, 1816; music by Gioacchino Rossini, libretto by Cesare Sterbini), “From the Opera Company, a ‘Barber’ to Bravo,” appears on the eighth and last page of the paper’s Magazine section today?

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To Torture or Not to Torture?

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on the issue of torturing prisoners held by American forces and authorities:

Subjecting prisoners to abuse leads to bad intelligence because under torture a detainee will tell his interrogator anything to make the pain stop. Second, mistreatment of our prisoners endangers U.S. troops who might be captured by the enemy. . . . And third, prisoner abuses exact on us a terrible toll in the war of ideas because inevitably these abuses become public.

On the same issue, President AWOL said:

There's an enemy that lurks and plots and plans and wants to hurt America again. And so, you bet, we’ll aggressively pursue them, but we will do so under the law.

N.B.: “[Y]ou bet[.]”

Which man do you think speaks with greater authority?

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Monday, November 07, 2005  

Items From the Publishing World

A couple of items of interest from today’s New York Times. First, Katrina vanden Heuvel today takes over as publisher and general partner of The Nation from Victor Navasky. Vanden Heuvel retains the editor’s slot. (See “The Nation, Now Profitable, Has a New Commander,” by Katharine Q. Seelye). No comment from Seelye or any sources about the wisdom of one person sitting in both the editor’s and publisher’s chairs at a single publication.

Second, Julie Bosman reports, in “At Some Magazines, Men Appear to Rule the Word,” that Ruth Davis Konigsberg, a deputy editor at Glamour has been counting bylines at various popular magazines and has found glaring disparities between the numbers of men and women penning pieces in some of the nation’s leading titles, including some published by her own house, Condé Nasty.

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Where’s the Outrage?

I haven’t been keeping up with the scandals centering on and emanating from Republican lobbyist ordinaire Jack Abramoff as closely as I should, but can we together imagine what the late Robert Bartley and the still-frothing Paul Gigot would make of this situation? (Pull quote from “GOP's Best Friend Could Be Its Nightmare,” by Jeff Shields, Philadelphia Inquirer):

When Abramoff’s gambling business venture in Florida went sour, a business rival was slain. Abramoff was not implicated, but two men hired by Abramoff’s business partner are charged with the killing.

This may be a deadlier bunch of Republicans than we previously thought.

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Sunday, November 06, 2005  

Democrat Favored in Critical Election

The editors of the Philadelphia Inquirer today repeated their endorsement of the candidacy of Sen. Jon Corzine for the New Jersey governorship in Tuesday’s election against Republican Doug Forrester and others. The editors write:

Corzine, 58, has been buffeted by desperate Forrester ads that exploit the breakup of his marriage two years ago. The senator has proven his worth in Congress, where he led efforts for greater corporate ethics after the Enron scandal, helped block ill-advised Social Security plans, and advocated chemical-plant security post-9/11. His career with the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs positions Corzine well to deal with economic challenges and solutions.

The Rittenhouse Review agrees and wishes Corzine, who is leading in the latest polls, the best, including a solid victory.

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Saturday, November 05, 2005  

Republicans Stoop Well Below the Gutter

If forced to name a place, just someplace, anyplace, in the U.S., where politics run uglier than they generally do in Philadelphia, I'd have to point to the fair Garden State to our near east, to New Jersey, where this year voters are to elect a new governor.

The latest evidence of the poisonous atmosphere in New Jersey: Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Forrester, a right-wing Bushie of the most heinous sort, lagging in the latest polls, has stooped to publicizing the demise of the long, but ultimately unsuccessful, marriage of his Democratic opponent, Sen. Jon Corzine, and the lingering domestic, or household, bitterness associated therewith (Is it not almost always that way?), in a pathetic attempt to garner a few last-minute, undecided -- and uninformed -- votes in the No-Bid Millionaire's failing campaign for the top job in Trenton.

For the latest on Forrester's lowest-gutter tactics, see "Ex-wife of Corzine Jolts Race," by Kaitlin Gurney in Friday's Philadelphia Inquirer.

Reading the article, an intelligent person can only conclude that Forrester is failing, scared, and desperate. Gurney writes:

To many voters, Joanne Corzine may sound simply like a vengeful spouse, Democratic lobbyist Tom O'Neil said.

"People know there's a lot of raw emotion in divorce, and that while this is something totally new to politics in New Jersey, that may be what we're seeing," O'Neil said.

The Forrester camp has been careful to remind voters that their candidate met his wife in grade school and has been a dependable husband and father for nearly 30 years.

The decision to use Joanne Corzine's comments in an ad -- a day after a Forrester spokeswoman said the campaign would not attack Corzine's personal life -- could backfire, consultants from both parties warned. Most GOP advisers concluded yesterday that Forrester's move was a wise one, as he has trailed in every poll.

"The comments are compelling and relevant. I would have used them, too," said David Murray, a Republican consultant unaffiliated with the Forrester campaign. "But it does betray some campaign distress, because they're willing to risk the backlash."

Good for you, Mr. Murray. How admirable of you, having missed out on Forrester's lavish and indiscriminate doling out of thousands and thousands of dollars of high-margin consulting fees, to maintain the nerve to tell voters how eager you would have been to roll around in the spectacularly stinky pigsty New Jersey Republicans have created and fostered as Election Day approaches.

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You Don't Already Have It

If you were looking for White-House "brain," political advisor Karl Rove's, home address, they tell me it's to be found here.

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005  

Keeping the Faith

Roy Hallums, the 57-year-old American civilian held hostage in Iraq since November 1, 2004, was freed by coalition forces today.

This is terrific news and my heart goes out to the Hallums family for demonstrating such steadfast resolve and determination in the face of so much doubt and apparent lack of concern within the administration and among the mainstream media.

Welcome home, Roy.

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