November 24, 2004

Pass the Giblet Gravy, Please

Today's Musical Selection: "Turkey in the Straw" (and absolutely NOT that damn Adam Sandler song)

Hello, all! As promised, today I'm going to review some of the comments I've received the last few days. Not only because these comments are so thoughtful and interesting, but also because I don't feel like doing any actual writing. It's the day before Thanksgiving, after all.

Let's start with a little brush with fame, sort of. Loyal reader Tripp enjoyed my take on the DeLay situation so much that he wanted to spread the word:

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!

Shortly thereafter, Tripp had a greater success to report:

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?

Way to get the word out on the street, Tripp! I admit I was tickled to hear that the paper copied the information you copied from me... it's a commentary on the modern media, I think. It's the present-day equivalent of the grapevine, or the gossip fence. (For the record, I don't mind if readers take my information and run with it. All I ask is that when my information leads you to fame and fortune, be sure and give me a shout-out, okay?)

Reader Richard of Pearly Gates (I'd call him loyal, except I think he hates my guts) took exception to my criticism of the Republicans for their DeLay shenanigans:

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...)

I'd like to thank Richard for his honest criticism, and for posting his real e-mail address and Web site (most of my rippers are anonymous). A couple of loyal readers leapt to my defense, starting with Tripp:

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.

Nest came a more thorough defense from PG:

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.

I don't have much to add to these stirring defenses, but I would like to make one thing clear, to Richard and anyone else who agrees with his line of argument: You missed my point completely. Particularly the part where I said that "They started it" is not a reasonable defense. If we can't let go of the gotcha game, where every appalling action is justified by some terrible thing the other side did, our government will go nowhere. Politics is not (or should not be) the kindergarten playground. (Apologies to any kindergartners in the audience.) And this applies, as I've said repeatedly, to both sides. It applies equally to the Republicans who are playing ring-around-the-rosey to protect DeLay and the Democrats who are still trying to get even for the "stolen" 2000 election. If you need an outlet for your revenge fantasies, go play paintball. Leave government to those serious about governing, please.

And Richard, I have repeatedly condemned gerrymandering by both parties. I have been preaching for longer than anyone's cared to listen that district lines should be drawn by an impartial bipartisan or nonpartisan panel. Redistricting is supposed to be a function of changing realities reflected by the census, not one of the spoils of victory. And if you seriously believe that finding an impartial panel is impossible, seek professional help. You would not believe the degree to which most people's lives do not revolve around partisan politics.

Richard also weighed in on my Pepsi Holiday Spice review:

I agree with everything that you said, except the part about hating Mountain Dew. That is when I realized that you are completely insane and that I don't like you at all.

Boy, tough crowd.

Loyal reader Frinklin also disagreed with me, but more gently:

I really liked the Holiday Spice Pepsi, but I have bad taste in such things. I loved Crystal Pepsi, remember?

We all have our blind spots, Frinklin. I have an inexplicable fondness for the music of Ohio Express. (You know, the "Yummy Yummy Yummy I Got Love In My Tummy" guys.) So we're even.

Tripp also had some musings on the soft-drink industry:

Isn't it suprising how stable the soft drink flavor market is? For the most part, the successful "new" flavors merely recycle old ones.

For example, the Mountain Dew Orange is pretty much a good orange soda. The red is good punch.

Pepsi Blue, on the other hand, was VERY vile. Uggh. A watered down generic berry flavor.

Even Pepsi Twist was done before as Pepsi Lite. I've always liked a little citrus (lime more than lemon) with my cola.

The new "vanilla" stuff tastes like Creme Soda to me. I think they've exhausted all the good tasting soft drinks, which is suprising when you think of it.

Surprising, perhaps, but not entirely. I can't, for instance, think of a good idea for a soft-drink flavor that's already been tried. But I think the real culprit is that the soft-drink industry is deathly afraid of creativity. They try to make you think they're coming up with new flavors, but ever since the New Coke fiasco they're all frightened that if they really go out on a limb and come up with something new, it will bomb.

Instead, they come up with tweaks of existing flavors, or new packaging for old flavors. And the minute either Coke or Pepsi comes up with an idea, the other one instantly produces a copycat, even before the market can react to the original product. Pepsi Vanilla was on the market before we had the slightest idea whether anyone actually liked Vanilla Coke.

You have to go down to the independent bottlers to get anything even vaguely original. I had this thought as I was swirling the last of my Holiday Spice around in the bottle and I noticed its resemblance, color-wise, to Cheerwine. Non-Southern readers probably don't have the slightest idea what I'm talking about; you can get an education here. If you haven't had Cheerwine, rest assured that there's nothing else like it, for better or for worse. (The same is true of Moxie up in the Northeast and Vernor's Ginger Ale in Michigan.) There's still craft in the soft-drink industry; you just have to hunt around a bit to find it. (And some of us know that RC Cola beats the pants off Coke or Pepsi.)

Finally, Tripp took a stab at understanding Republican budgetary math:

I'm thinking that the Republic party members that think about the budget must figure there is no magic money machine, but there is the next best thing, the Chinese government.

If you had a bank (or say, a parent) that would always loan you money would you ever need to balance your budget?

Nope. And for quite awhile now the Chinese have been willing to loan us all we need. Probably to keep their trade surplus to us going. Can this last forever?

I hope that when it ends we can pull an Iraq and get most of our debt forgiven. Otherwise we will be hurting.

Tripp's put his finger on the big problem (and to be fair, neither party has been willing to deal with it honestly). We're not going to be able to support ever-expanding deficits forever and ever. Eventually, we're going to have to pay back the money we owe. (And, as Tripp points out, a lot of our debt financing is done through foreign banking interests rather than T-bills, so the day of reckoning may be out of our hands.) If we're lucky, this will just mean both tax hikes and sharp sending cuts. If we're not so lucky, it will involve hyperinflation and other nasty economic unpleasantness usually associated with Latin American banana republics.

A great week for comments. Plenty of food for thought to chew on in between turkey sandwiches and narcoleptic fits.

Here's a conundrum for you. I'm watching "I Love the '90s" on VH1 (it goes without saying that there is Nothing Else On, and I am Bored Out Of My Skull), and they're doing a segment on the Monica Lewinsky scandal. (Remember that one, old geezers?) This particular segment features a young woman (some actress or singer I don't know) reading a passage from the Starr Report, about the cigar. Here's the conundrum: How is it, exactly, that VH1 sees fit to bleep the word "vagina," and yet has no problem displaying the word in six-inch-high letters right behind the head of the woman they're bleeping? Is VH1 assuming illiteracy on the part of their audience? Think about it. But don't think about it too long, or blood will start shooting out of your ears.

Also, I think the world should know that VH1 chose to bleep the word "hard." (This was in the Viagra context.) I mean... "hard?" Come on, how repressive can we get? I'd have more to say about this, but I have to go the the [bleep]ware store to buy some scr- oh, wait, I probably can't say that either. At least not on VH1.

At any rate, time for me to jump on the Interstate-cum-parking-lot and start not heading toward my destination. I'm off to the Keystone State for the weekend, a welcome prospect to be sure, assuming I can make it there before the weekend's over. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! See you Monday!

Posted by Fred at November 24, 2004 09:44 PM

So many things to say...first, you can't listen to Richard! His mind is a little altered from living behind the Orange Curtain--just kidding Richard. You know I love you. And I love to argue with you. No one argues like you. :)

And on the new flavors of soft drinks...there are original flavors out there--check out Jones Soda's Holiday Pack (come to think of it, I really need to blog about this). Mashed potatoes and butter? Turkey and gravy?!? It makes me gag just thinking about it.

Posted by: ensie at November 24, 2004 11:38 PM

The music of the Ohio Express? There is more to them "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy"? Or do you lump all horrid bubblegum stuff together. I'd go with "Green Tamborine" myself.

Posted by: frinklin at November 25, 2004 01:39 AM


"How is it, exactly, that VH1 sees fit to bleep the word "vagina," and yet has no problem displaying the word in six-inch-high letters right behind the head of the woman they're bleeping? "

Do you think they figure their audience can't spell and thinks the word is "Virginia?"

Regarding soft drink flavors: "I can't, for instance, think of a good idea for a soft-drink flavor that's already been tried."

This statement is true, but I still find it odd. For example, try making the same statement about regular cooking, or deserts, or painting, or music, or, well, okay, music has all been used up. For some reason, soft drinks seems to be a limited subset of approved flavors.

Out of the blue, do you like Circus Peanuts candy? Can you name the flavor? I do, and think I can.

Posted by: Tripp at November 26, 2004 06:30 PM

Tripp--Is it cough syrup? 'Cause that's what those orange chunks of hell taste like.

Posted by: ensie at November 26, 2004 11:12 PM
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