November 19, 2004

We Get Letters!

Today's Musical Selection: "Don't Ask Me Why" by Billy Joel

Hi there, everybody! Today we'll do a round-up of the week's comments, since I got a pretty fair number of them. This is a trend I applaud and encourage. Keep up the good work, friends!

Let's work backward, starting with yesterday's post on my 20-year plan to save the country by becoming president. My man Frinklin has bought into the plan, and has decided on the role he wants in my administration:

Okay, I totally want to be Chief Of Staff. Just think of it, a moderate Republican as your right hand man. This would always tick off the far left, and Democrats who tick of the far left do much better in general election than those who don't.

This was a pretty persuasive case, and I was already leaning toward installing him, but he clinched it with his follow-up:

As an added bonus I would run all Cabinet meetings WWE-Style. Just think of it: President Mediocre is considering a tariff against imported wheat. The Secretary of Agriculture supports it. The Commerce Secretary doesn’t. Instead of some boring speeches and meetings, we have a Steel Cage Match. The first Cabinet member who escapes Hell in the Cell wins!

Not that much different than Powell and Rummy, is it?

I'm sold! Frinklin, you had me at hello. Welcome to the team! WWF-style Cabinet rumbles are just the kind of forward-thinking policies that my administration needs!

Remember, friends, good Cabinet positions are still available. Drop me a line and state your case.

My post from the day before on the GOP's crooked dealings to cover Tom DeLay's back drew a fair bit of commentary. From the left, loyal reader Ensie was overcome by disgust:

I think I may have to restrict myself from your blog. Everytime I hear about some new unbelieveably stupid thing the Republicans in power are doing it makes my eyes bulge out in a really unattractive way. I've been trying to wean myself off of politics for a couple of weeks. I overdosed just a bit during the pre-election coverage. It made my brain hurt sick to my stomach most evenings. I just posted something the other day (Nov. 5th) about the current administration (and really that includes all Republicans,or, rather, most Republicans currently running our country--I'll try to be more generous) believing that it's more important to grant favors and have power than to do the right thing. Your post today confirms that thought. Aaah! Brain already hurting.

Sorry about that, Ensie. Didn't mean to upset you like that. Well, sort of... I wanted to upset you enough to take action, but not so much as to bring on migraines. Hopefully, if this story spreads enough and provokes enough outrage, the Republicans mightbe forced to change course. Unfortunately, though, I think they might be beyond embarrassment on this one.

From the right, Frinklin is succinct:

Yeah, I can't even bother to pretend this one isn't crooked.

Thank you for chiming in, Frinklin. And he's not alone: the right-leaning Tainted Bill over at Leaning Toward the Dark Side is similarly appalled. I'm gratified and reassured to know that there are conservatives of conscience and intelligence who know dirty politics when they see it. Thank you for standing up and condemning what you know is wrong. If there were more people like you on both sides of the aisle, our political system would be in a lot better shape. We might not even need me as president.

Loyal reader Tripp stepped up to reassure me when I was feeling down about "blogging into the void":

I've been reading you off and on, but this was an awful week at work, and I am still bummed about the election. I try to say away from "bummed," because I can get pretty despondent.

I guess all I'm saying is that you are not simply speaking into the void - at least some of us are listening. I'm just having a problem getting my thoughts in presentable order lately, and I don't want to decend into a whinefest.

Good to hear from you again, Tripp. I'm glad that some folks are paying attention out there. Keep working on getting your thoughts in order, because I'm planning to host some serious discussion on our political system in the near future, and I want you to be part of it.

I'm sure that there are other loyal readers out there too, but sometimes, if you go a long stretch without garnering comments, you start wondering if anyone's still out there. Based on the influx of comments this week, it looks like I've still got an audience, which is nice. Keep the comments coming; I like talking to you guys. You're a bright and thoughtful bunch with a lot to add to the conversation. The blog is a lot better when it's a conversation, not just me talking. I get tired of listening to me too.

Tripp also had some comments for Uncle Millie on this week's column:


I'm not sure I like the new you. You used to be more crusty.

My advice to Ron in Grosse Pointe is to go for "Julie." His best friend "Davey" would. Heck - he already did. If Davey tries to get even by saying something about Ron getting something "used" just tell him it is no problem once you got passed the "used" part.

As for Helen, Blue in a Red state, how could NO one even mention witholding sex? I mean, c'mon. It works wonders. If a jerk has to jerk he won't be a jerk for long.

Since Uncle Millie is still in Betty Ford, I couldn't get his reaction to these comments. I asked Aunt Beatrice if she had anything to say, and she submitted the following:

"Hi, Tripp. I'll be sure to pass on your thoughts to Uncle Millie when I next see him. His time at the Betty Ford Center has definitely changed him. I'm not sure whether or not it will stick once he gets back on the outside. The good news is that he can't seriously injure himself or other people while he's in there. He'll be out in time for our next column, though, so we'll see what happens.

"I agree with you that Ron should have a relationship with Julie, but I would advise talking to Davey first and at least giving him a heads-up on what's going on. If Davey's really a friend, he won't have a problem about it. I'm not sure I entirely understand your 'used' comment, and I'm pretty sure I don't want to.

"As for your advice to Helen... I don't see any reason why she should be in a relationship at all with someone who's so insensitive to her feelings. So in a way I'm advocating withholding sex, just on a more permanent basis. After we wrapped up the column, Uncle Millie did mention something about withholding sex, but he said he didn't advise it because he felt it was just too horrible to consider. 'It's like nuclear warfare,' he said. 'It's only useful as a deterrent. Actually applying it in battle... no humane person should consider it.' I asked him how he was doing in Betty Ford without the benefit of conjugal visits, and he coughed heavily and changed the subject.

"Thanks for writing in, Tripp. Talk to you again soon."

Reader F.D. Burris noted my support of "Senators" as the proper name for Washington's baseball team, and registered a dissent:

Why the Senators, a name long associated with losing? How about something whimsical like the Mighty Corndogs Baseball Club (this was an amateur team in Austin Texas).

I'm not quite sure what to make of this suggestion. The Mighty Corndogs is a name with a certain appeal, when applied to an amateur team. In Washington, though, we don't really do "whimsical." We want a respectable blue-wool suit of a name, a name that won't cause other teams to laugh at us at parties. If I ever find myself in charge of an amateur team, though, I promise to name it the Mighty Corndogs, or something equally whimsical.

Oh, and since official sources are confirming that we'll be the Nationals now, I should weigh in briefly. I'm not thrilled about the name, but I'm okay with it. The more I think about it, the more I'm okay with it. It's got historical roots (it was our official name from 1901 to 1955), it's got a good mouthfeel, and it looks respectable on a uniform. Plus, it's nondescript enough that a new owner can install a name of his choosing a couple seasons down the road.

BallWonk, who wasn't initially jazzed about the Nationals name, e-mailed me with a pretty cool concept built around the name:

Now, of the serious contenders, Nationals is my least favorite. I mean, honestly, "Nats"? In a division with the Mets, Phillies, and Braves, it would take so little to have a stand-out name. (And even less to have a stand-out uniform, like the Grays would offer.) Even so, assuming the team embraces the meaning of the Nats name, it's beginning to grow on me.

Imagine if they flew every state and territory flag from polls atop the stadium. The various sections could be named for the states and territories, in alphabetical order. "Two tickets in upper-deck Colorado, please." "Is this heaven? No, it's Iowa." And the concessions could embrace national identity too. A tiki bar with a view of the outfield. Ice cream stands selling Balboa bars from California. Cheesesteaks and soft pretzels. Tacos. Maybe get a Maid-Rite stand or two. Fried chicken behind home plate. Buffalo Wings. Chili and ribs.
Micro- or small brews from around the country. They've gotta have a bulletproofed luxury box for the President, but how about prime seats, say near the visitor's dugout, four each maybe, designated for the visiting team's two senators and governor? Replace Youpi with a cartoonish patriot guy or a pioneer or some other American folk hero. Or a bison. And somewhere in the concessions there ought to be bison burgers and Sioux fry bread. This is all for when they move into the new stadium, but assuming the team really runs with the name, I could see it being a lot of fun. (And drawing a lot of interest from visiting tourists.)

I think you'll agree that BallWonk is a genius. Personally, I think our team should work more on developing a local identity than a national one, but if the team decides to make the Nationals name permanent, they could do a lot worse than to adopt BallWonk's idea.

Finally, not everyone's happen. A reader who calls himself "Balanced View" (who left the e-mail address "," which is surely legit) wrote to take exception to something I wrote several weeks ago, and had in fact forgotten I'd written, about the giant metal "W" that adorned Clark Brothers gun shop during the election season:

If you feel Virginia is somehow unusual in its split between red/blue, perhaps you should take a better look at the election results.

The only states "in play" are the ones that are split, including Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, etc.

By saying the state you "live and work in" you make it obvious you are not from Virginia, which would indicate why you ridicule Clark Brothers. They are a local institution and have been around for years. I am sure you prefer to do your "Outdoors" shopping at Galyans or LLBean where you feel more comfortable.

You probably also like to go to Alexandria and Leesburg for their "quaintness". You can't have it both ways.

Perhaps you should take a better look at what I actually wrote. You might also try relaxing and developing a sense of humor.

Your comment makes it obvious you're one of those redneck nuts who rides around in a rusted-out Chevy pickup with an "I'd Rather Be Shooting Yankees" bumper sticker and a window decal featuring Calvin peeing on the Ford logo. I am sure you live in a house with the Stars and Bars flying in the front window. You probably have also lost at least one tooth opening a beer bottle during your life.

So, how did you like that? Did my ignorant, ill-informed stereotyping irritate you? Did I make a bunch of dumb generalizations with no basis in fact? Well, you did the same in your comment.

As it happens, I was born and raised and have in fact lived my entire life in Virginia. I've always done my outdoor shopping at a place called Appalachian Trail Outfitters. It went out of business not too long ago and I'm still looking for a new shop, but I wouldn't go to Galyan's for all the tea in China. Leesburg and Alexandria are pleasant places that I like spending time in, just like Charlottesville, Martinsville, Front Royal, Catlett, Galax and a bunch of other towns all over this state that I've spent time in and been charmed by.

Now that we're done with the inaccurate stereotypes, let's address the meet of your remarks. I'm well aware that other states have urban/rural splits. What's striking about Virginia is (1) the speed and suddenness with which you pass from the blue areas to the red ones, (2) the fact that one part of the state (Northern Virginia) idenitfies culturally more with a city that's across the border than with most of its own state, and (3) the fact that Northern Virginia doesn't have political power in the state commensurate with its population and wealth. Do you ever hear Cleveland talk about seceding from Ohio, or Philadelphia seceding from Pennsylvania? No, because those cities have a lot more influence over the politics of their state than Northern Virginia does over ours. Our current governor comes from Northern Virginia, but all anyone ever talks about is his appeal to rural voters. Our members in the General Assembly are regularly ignored and bulldozed by the good ol' boys from Richmond. Other states are divided, yes, but the divide is particularly stark and frustrating here.

And if you thought I was ridiculing Clark Brothers, you need to lighten up, friend. I respect that Clark Brothers is a local institution, and I'm in fact glad it's there, even though I don't shop there. But don't you agree that it's a little... striking to see that giant bear on the roof? I was simply making an observation, not a criticism. You wouldn't see a shop like Clark Brothers here in Dot-Com Canyon. The diversity of culture in this state is fascinating. Try not to be so sensitive. Not every observation is a taunt. If you're ever in my neck of the woods, I'll even buy you a beer so we can sit down and talk about all this.

All right, I'm done for the week. See you Monday!

Posted by Fred at November 19, 2004 10:30 PM

Fred- Your criticism of Tom DeLay and House Republicans is misguided. The rule that was changed was not a rule that applies to all members of the House. It was a Republican caucus rule, so it only applied to Republicans. The Democrats never had such a rule, so they can hardly claim some kind of moral high ground on the issue.

Also, I'm confused as to why the gerrymandering of Texas is so repugnant to you while you seem to ignore the fact that every state in the union is gerrymandered out the yin-yang, with both parties to blame. I mean, the state of Texas was gerrymandered in favor of the Democrats up until DeLay and his boys got it switched the other way around (pay back is a bitch, as they say...)

Posted by: Richard at November 23, 2004 03:09 AM


Maybe this will cheer you up. I took part of your post about the Delay rule change and put it into a letter to the editor of our local paper, along with some other local Republican shenanigans. Well, guess what?

No, they didn't print my letter, but in their weekly recap editorial they included most of the DeLay stuff! It was nearly plagerism, but since I copied off you, and I wanted it to get out . . .

Maybe I should do this weekly, sort of like my own press release to the paper to use as they see fit. So keep digging the dirt, man!

Posted by: Tripp at November 23, 2004 02:31 PM


Ahhh, the old "all politicians are corrupt" rule, combined with the "they did it first" excuse.

I thought Bush was going to bring honor and integrity back to the white house? I thought Bush got elected because of character and moral issues?

So he's has "high character" to get elected, and then once in power he reverts to a sleazeball like all politicians. Thanks for clearing that up.

Posted by: Tripp at November 23, 2004 02:34 PM

Richard, as Fred noted in his original post, "Republicans made the rule in the first place... in 1993 the Republicans wrote this rule, requiring House leaders to give up their positions if indicted, in the spirit of clean and ethical government. It was, I'm sure, a complete coincidence that at the time, the powerful Democratic chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Dan Rostenkowski, was under indictment for mail fraud."

Of course, it was no coincidence -- it was a way for Republicans to make themselves look like the party of good government while the House Democrats were being embarrassed by a Chicago machine hack. And hey, I'm as snotty as the next person and happy to make myself look good when other people look bad. But I'm consistent about it.

The Republicans, in contrast, are in the position of that girl in high school who referred to every other girl as a "'ho" and then got knocked up herself. The moral high ground is not easy to hold, and it's clear that now that the Republicans have real power, they no longer need to console themselves with superior ethics.

As for the gerrymandering of Texas, if you bother to look at the map and know about the state, you'll realize that

- the 2000 map was made not by local Democrats, but by federal judges who ensured that it met Constitutional requirements. Yes, these were Clinton appointees, but if we no longer think that federal judges are the most impartial members of the government, we might as well dump that "lifetime appointment" foolishness that was supposed to ensure it.

- the 2000 map kept areas with similar interests in the same area. East Texas (my stomping grounds), which is a rural area, had its own Congressional representative to keep an eye out on threats to forestry and cattle ranching. Now our district is cut up and we're shoved in with suburbanites, who outnumber us in each district and thus can vote in someone who ignores our interests. The city of Austin -- the only liberal area of Texas -- despite being in the exact middle of the state, was chopped into multiple districts that stretch into West and South Texas.

If this doesn't bother you, then you should be advocating at-large members, because once Congressional representatives no longer represent a particular area, they might as well represent the whole state.

There are three important factors in drawing these maps.

1) racial representation. As this is a Constitutional necessity that, if ignored, will draw the Supreme Court on your butt, the Rs obediently left majority-minority districts intact. So now the Texas Democratic delegation is composed almost entirely of people of color. I don't know how many Congressional Republicans are non-white, but I'm guessing not many. Yay racial + partisan polarization.

2) "compact and contiguous." Required by the 1842 Reapportionment Act.

3) keeping people with similar interests together. This isn't required by law and isn't something SCOTUS worries about so much, so the Rs didn't worry about it a'tall. I've already ranted about this.

People who casually say, "Well, the Dems did it too" show that they either don't know or don't care about the real effects of DeLay's map. Payback among politicians is one thing, but payback that screws over the people is another.

Posted by: PG at November 23, 2004 03:24 PM

Okay, now I'm being a comment HOG, but my (our) letter was in tonight's paper!

If anyone calls to complain I'll simply redirect them to, where they can get their aggresions out shooting real game animals over the internet. In Texas. Of course.

There will be none of that liberal eco-sportsman namby pamby commuting with nature, no sirree. Nothing but the kill! I wonder if they'll tie the critters down first for an extra fee?

Oh, and as an added bonus, up in Wisconsin we've got hunters shooting hunters. Yup, a whacko killed seven or eight others. For some reason their rifles didn't protect them when they needed them.

Posted by: Tripp at November 23, 2004 07:23 PM
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