November 30, 2004

Hack, Wheeze...

Hi, everybody. I'm feeling rather poorly today (feels like the onset of a cold, actually), so I'm going to do a little quickie column today. (Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice will be around tomorrow, which is just as well because Uncle Millie is due to leave Betty Ford today.) If anyone has some spare chicken soup to send along, I'd be grateful.

The run of good comments continues, with loyal reader Ensie leading the charge:

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.

For the unaware, the "Orange Curtain" has nothing to do with your grandmother's kitchen. It's a slang term for Orange County, that Republican enclave in suburban LA that once gave us the legendary congressman "B-1 Bob" Dornan, who may have been the craziest man ever to run for president (which is saying something considering that Ross Perot is one of the contenders). I have no idea why Ensie considers Richard to be so lovable, especially since she never says she loves me. Sigh.

About the Jones Soda... I'm not sure I've ever had it, but The Smart Lady has (they sell it at Panera, which is a place we frequented with some frequency). I will admit that, while I have had mashed potatoes with soda and turkey with soda, I've never thought of combining the two into one. Possibly because it's a really dumb idea. The Web site poses the rhetorical question, "Have a better idea for a new Soda flavor?" At least I assume it's rhetorical, because just about anything I could come up is a better idea for a new Soda flavor than this bunch. They should be challenging people to come up with a worse idea for a Soda flavor.

That said... if they're going to go down the vile-flavor route, I think it's a crime against humanity that they haven't introduced a fish flavor, and pasted on a label featuring Dan Aykroyd hawking the Bass-O-Matic 76 ("Wow, that's terrific bass!") I'm just saying.

Loyal reader Tripp continues on the soda theme:

Regarding soft drink flavors: "I can't, for instance, think of a good idea for a soft-drink flavor that's [not] 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.

Tripp makes an excellent point. In theory, the number of viable soft drink flavors should be, if not practically infinite, then at least large enough to allow room for growth. If we're rolling out flavors like turkey, however, I think it's a safe sign that we're reaching the bottom of the barrel.

Is there another field that seems similarly limited? I submit candy bars as a possibility. When was the last time you saw a candy bar that was really and truly new? They roll out "new" bars with or without peanut butter, or with a different kind of nougat, or with a different chocolate, but the degree of innovation seems remarkably narrow given the number of things that go well with chocolate.

Tripp followed up with a candy question, though not about candy bars:

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

That drew a withering response from Ensie:

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

As it happens, I'm sort of on the fence here. I don't hate circus peanuts as Ensie does, but I've never actually purchased them or felt any particular jones for them. To me, though, they always tasted like the antibiotic amoxicillin, so eating circus peanuts always reminds me of childhood illness. (Although I actually liked amoxicillin pretty well; it was my second favorite medicine behind Dimetapp.) The leading manufacturer, Spangler, claims that they taste like banana, which I don't actually believe. But I'd love to know what your impression is, Tripp.

Loyal reader Frinklin pounces on my admission that I like the Ohio Express:

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

There is indeed more to the Ohio Express than "Yummy Yummy Yummy." Other hits they produced include "Mercy," "Chewy," and "Down at Lulu's." And yes, I'm demented enough in my love of bad bubblegum to be able to distinguish the Ohio Express from the Lemonpipers (who did "Green Tamborine"), the Archies ("Sugar Sugar" and "Bang Shang A Lang"), the 1910 Fruitgum Company ("Simon Says," "Indian Giver," "1-2-3 Red Light" and others), the Cufflinks ("Tracy" and "When Julie Comes Around"), the Edison Lighthouse ("Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes"), Tommy Roe ("Dizzy"), and the Kasenetz Katz Singing Orchestral Circus (which I swear I am not making up). I have all of the above songs on CD, and I knew all the groups and titles without having to consult my collection. That's how far gone I am. I even know that the Ohio Express and the K.K.O.S.C. have the same lead singer (Joey Levine), as do the Archies and the Cufflinks (Ron Dante, who also did the novelty hit "Leader of the Laundromat"). I do not need to be told what appalling taste I have, believe me.

This does not, however, excuse Frinklin from liking Holiday Spice Pepsi. My grandmother, who apparently watches the same commercials I do, bought some for the family Thanksgiving celebration. My grandmother, my mother, my father, my aunt and two uncles tried it. None of them liked it. Only my grandmother managed to get through her whole glass without chucking it down the sink. Such phrases as "This sucks," "Who approved this for public sale?" and "Where did you get this crap?" were uttered. If you like it, Frinklin, more power to you. Because I have a feeling there's going to be a lot of it available on markdown later in the season.

Back to Tripp, who takes a crack at solving the VH1 riddle:

"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?"

This is the comment of the week, Tripp. Congratulations! I'm still laughing. Your prize for winning is a personally recorded birthday greeting from Uncle Millie. (Note: timeliness, non-obscenity and clarity not guaranteed.)

In other news... Round One of the Washington stadium wars is over, and the victory goes to the baseball fans of DC! The City Council voted 6-4, with three abstentions, to approve stadium funding on a preliminary basis. Now the Council has until the middle of December to tinker with the legislation before taking a final vote. For the curious:

Jack Evans
Vincent Orange
Sandy Allen
Sharon Ambrose
Harold Brazil
Kevin Chavous

Adrian Fenty
David Catania
Jim Graham
Carol Schwartz

Linda Cropp
Phil Mendelson
Kathy Patterson

Stadium backers aren't out of the woods yet. If all three abstainers vote "no" on the final bill, it would lose. (If they all abstain again, the measure would pass.) Cropp is milking this moment for maximum political leverage, proposing last-minute schemes and amendments left and right. No one's quite sure what Patterson is up to; most everyone had her down as a hard "no." Mendelson, by abstaining, voted his conscience; more on him in a minute.

None of the supporters came as any great surprise. Among the opponents, only Graham is a late switch, and he's just ticked off because Cropp took his library funding out of the bill. All in all, this was a good day for stadium backers. Not as good a day as it could have been, though, if we had a mayor with a better understanding of retail politics.

I have a great deal of respect for Anthony Williams. He's raised the level of competence in city government a good deal, and he's dared to take on projects that many other mayors wouldn't or haven't. He's done a great deal to rehabilitate the District's reputation from the Barry years. He deserves a standing ovation for everything, not just the stadium.

However, his political tin ear keeps him from being as effective as he could be. If he devises a plan that he believes to be good for the city, he assumes that everyone else will see it too, and that's that. It's as if he can't comprehend that there are people out there who will oppose his plans for reasons that have nothing to do with the merits. In interviews and conversations, he seems downright annoyed when people fail to grasp how brilliant his plans are. He's a technocrat to the core.

And his political shortcomings have put the ballpark in jeopardy. When we staged the big announcement party at Mount Vernon Square, Williams seemed to think the battle was already won. Baseball fever would carry the day. And even if it didn't, everyone would realize what the ballpark could do for Near Southeast, and would back it for that reason. He did almost nothing to sell the park to the public after the announcement. Instead, he kept leaving town. You'd think that a mayor who'd just proposed a plan that would be the signal achievement of his term in office would want to spend some time making sure, you know, it actually happened. But he didn't. Nor did he seem to understand that Council members have their own agendas, and would need wooing to support the mayor. Hasn't he ever seen politics in action? Isn't he in his second term already? Isn't it awfully late in the game not to have figured this out? Criminy.

Incidentally, based on the proceedings in Council to date, I have the most respect for Evans, Fenty and Mendelson. Evans did a masterful job managing the bill, beating back the unfriendly amendments and being unyielding in his support from the start. The ballpark would never have made it through Council were it not for Evans' bulldog support.

And even though we're on opposite sides of the issue, I admire Fenty in his opposition. Although he's clearly doing some grandstanding and preparing for his forthcoming mayoral run, I do believe he's sincere in his belief that this is a bad deal for the city, and he makes an eloquent and intelligent case. At it became increasingly apparent that his was a lost cause, his crusade took on a bit of a "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" air, but he continued to acquit himself respectably. (Contrast him with Catania, who was hell-bent on obstructionism and came off as a real prick.)

Phil Mendelson has always been one of my favorite Councilmen. I read a profile of him in the City Paper last year; it noted his willingness to wade through the minutiae of obscure bills that everyone else on the Council barely bothers to read. He's the most earnest and diligent Councilmember by far. He's not flashy in the least, and he's usually pretty quiet in public hearings, but he really considers himself a servant of the public, and not of his own ambition. And his abstention was another example of this. He's actually and genuinely concerned about whether the public is getting ripped off by the deal. You know, actually considering the bill on its merits. He abstained today because he's not yet sure if this is a good deal. If, upon review, he decides that this is good for the city, he'll vote for it. He's a conscientious and reasonable man. Obviously, he has no future in politics.

Oh, and by the way, Tyrone Willingham got hosed. More on that later this week.

That's all for me today. See you tomorrow!

Posted by Fred at 10:24 PM | Comments (3)

November 29, 2004

Still Recovering From the Turkey Hangover...

So I'm taking the day off. Talk amongst yourselves, and I'll be back tomorrow.

Posted by Fred at 07:39 PM | Comments (0)

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 09:44 PM | Comments (4)

November 23, 2004

More Stupid Republican Tricks

Today's Musical Selection: "Bad Reputation" by Joan Jett

Hey there, everybody! My post on the Republicans' dirty DeLay dealings has stirred up some excitement (and even, for one loyal reader, a fleeting moment of fame). Tomorrow I'll take another comment tour and look at some of the thoughtful things you guys have been saying. Today, though, I want to check back in on our GOP friends in Congress.

Some of you, having read of the DeLay debacle, have undoubtedly wondered, "What could they possibly do for an encore?" What level of chutzpah would be required to surpass the DeLay business? If you thought they couldn't top themselves, however, you underestimate the resourcefulness of the Republican Party. Where a lesser party might be content to sit back and rest on its laurels after crookedly protecting one of its own, the Republicans work overtime to think of new and different ways to make a mockery of good government.

Item #1: (hat tip to Bill McCabe at Leaning Toward the Dark Side for catching this one):

A $388 billion government-wide spending bill, passed by Congress on Saturday, was stranded on Capitol Hill yesterday, its trip to the White House on hold as embarrassed Republicans prepared to repeal a provision that could give the Appropriations committees the right to examine the tax returns of Americans.

Top GOP lawmakers disavowed the provision, expressed surprise that it was in the bill, and blamed both the Internal Revenue Service and congressional staffs for incorporating it into the omnibus spending package funding domestic departments in 2005.

(The full and ugly details here.)

Got that? A major government spending bill, already passed by Congress and everything, and the Republicans have to hold it up because someone inserted a provision that would allow Congress members to read everyone's tax returns. And no one has the slightest idea how this Orwellian provision got in there anyhow.

Now, a brief disclaimer: Congressional bills, especially spending bills, are unbelievably long and ponderous and no sane human being can finish them without the benefit of enough stimulants to keep the population of New Jersey awake for a week. It's easy to imagine a Congressman voting on this bill without realizing this was in there. However, this stunt highlights the rather ugly nature of this particular spending bill.

See, House and Senate Republicans were unable to draw up a budget blueprint because of a disagreement on domestic spending. (Senate Republicans want it, House Republicans don't.) Because of this, they were unable to produce spending agreements on large chunks of the budget. Since the current session is fast running out and we need to have a budget before everyone goes home, they crammed all the remaining spending bills into one big omnibus bill, subject to a straight up-or-down vote, with no amendments allowed.

News of this bill caused several Congressional ears to perk up. These Congressmen (Republicans, since the majority party controls the writing of the bill) said to themselves, Hey, as long as we're rushing this giant bill to the floor that can't be amended, why don't I throw in a little something for me? The results speak for themselves:

Along with those [spending] measures, lawmakers and staffs added thousands of local projects benefiting home states and districts. Also included in the final bill was a major provision barring states from enforcing laws that require health care providers, hospitals, HMOs or insurers to pay for, provide or give referrals for abortion...

GOP leaders also deleted provisions on overtime regulations and the outsourcing of government jobs despite support in both houses.

By burying these unrelated measures in the test of a gargantuan bill that needs to be passed in a hurry, these measures stood a much better chance of passing than if, say, members of Congress were aware that those provisions were in there. (The bill came to the floor so fast that the esteemed Senators and Representatives barely had time to figure out what the bill was about, much less what was actually in it.)

Apparently, the provision about reading the tax returns was slipped in on this philosophy by... someone. Republican Congressional leaders swear up and down they don't know how it got in there.

An awful lot of fingers, however, are starting to point at Rep. Ernest Istook of Oklahoma. This should come as no surprise to loyal readers of this blog. You may remember that last year, I vented my spleen over a stunt by Istook. That time, he tried to cut Congressional funding for Washington's Metro system because the system carried an ad by a pro-marijuana group, which offended Istook's delicate sensibilities. Now, Istook claims the tax-return provision was inserted without his knowledge, but based on the Metro episode the Congressman has already established himself as not the world's biggest fan of the Constitution. Suffice to say, the tax thing sure sounds like him. People of Oklahoma: What are you thinking? I mean, I know that sending Istook to Washington means you don't have to deal with him, but really, you should have the common decency to keep your mental patients in your own state, rather than putting them in positions where they can screw up the entire country.

Item #2: Let me ask you something, friends. Is there any good ending to an article this begins like this?

Republican budget writers say they may have found a way to cut the federal deficit even if they borrow hundreds of billions more to overhaul the Social Security system: Don't count all that new borrowing.

I'll pause a minute so that you can all go throw up. Particularly those of you who are trying desperately to believe that the Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility.

Here's the deal: As you may have heard, the Republicans want to save Social Security by at least partially privatizing it. This is a debatable idea, but that's not the point here. The point is that achieving the conversion will require a fairly significant amount of spending, and you may have notice that the budget deficit is already running at record levels. Faced with reconciling these inconvenient facts, and in lieu of committing actual bold acts of leadership, the Republicans instead plan to wave their magic wand and make the spending go away by declaring it "off-budget." Poof! This takes the concept of "voodoo economics" to a whole new plane.

Attempting to defend the indefensible, incoming Senate budget chairman Judd Gregg took this tack:

"You cannot look at Social Security in the context of a five-year budget," the window that current White House and congressional spending plans cover, Gregg said. "To do so is naive and foolish. . . . If this is simply scored as a five-year exercise, we're never going to solve the problem."

The sentiment is almost admirable... Social Security is a problem requiring long-term thinking, rather than being buffeted by the political winds of the yearly budget process. This part I agree with. Jumping to the conclusion that ignoring the spending is the way to go, however, requires a Grand-Canyon-sized leap of logic.

See, here's the problem for Republicans: If the cost of Social Security reform is factored into the budget deficit, the deficit will swell to the point that even the average voter will notice. This might force Congress to take drastic measures like -- ssshhhhhh! -- raising taxes. And this the Republicans simply cannot consider, because for over a decade they've made much hay selling the idea that taxes are the devil.

Now, let's imagine for a moment that I decided to balance my own budget by declaring my rent to be an "off-budget item." Suddenly, I'll be running a significant surplus, one that I might decide to spend on, say, beer. If I do this, I will soon myself with a refrigerator full of Sam Adams and no apartment to store it in. Unless the Republicans have a date with BallWonk's Magic Money Elves, they're still going to have to find a way to get the money they'll be spending. Declaring it "off-budget" doesn't mean we'll never have to pay it back.

Please tell me that this is all a big joke by the Republicans. Tell me this is all some kind of post-victory humor that I don't quite understand, and that once they get this out of their systems they'll get back to actual responsible governing. I'm trying, trying, trying to get down with this whole "bipartisan cooperation" idea, but damned if the Republicans aren't making it hard.

Congratulations are in order for BallWonk and the Grays, who prevailed in the Great Name Debate of 2004 by a 53-47 margin. Of course, the debate became essentially moot once MLB gave us the Nationals name, but BallWonk deserves credit for making a strong and convincing case. Thanks to everyone who voted. Now is the time for all of us to come together behind our new name. We're all Nationals now. God save our team.

In keeping with the new regime, I managed to get my hands on some of the first shipment of new Nationals gear. I am now the proud over of a navy relaxed-fit cap and a navy Nationals T-shirt. For once in my life, I'm grateful to have worked at a sporting-goods store; last night, I went over to Modell's and enlisted an old friend who still works there to save me a cap and a couple shirts (one for me and one for Papa Shaft) on the incoming shipment. And given the reports that our merchandise is already commanding huge markups around town, I'm doubly grateful for my connection: I was assured both of a guaranteed supply of merchandise and a reasonable price for it. Major props to my main man Nick for setting me up. He deserves a salary several times what he's making now.

The merchandise looks excellent, and I'm definitely proud to be sporting my new team's apparel. I wore it a bit around town tonight, and it garnered some appreciative glances and comments. It's all starting to come together, fans!

That's all for today. Comment tour tomorrow!

Posted by Fred at 11:05 PM | Comments (1)

November 22, 2004

A Little Randomness

Today's Musical Selection: "Kid Charlemagne" by Steely Dan

Hi, everybody. I don't really have it today, for whatever reason. But a couple quick thoughts I wanted to share with the world.

- On Saturday, I succumbed to Pepsi's advertising bltz and tried their new Holiday Spice cola, available for a limited time.

Ordinarily, I'm only marginally susceptible to soda flavor-tweaking trickery. Yes, I bit on Vanilla Coke (though not the Pepsi counterpart), and I used to drink Cherry 7-Up by the gallon when I was a kid. But I've yet to try any of the 7500 varieties of Mountain Dew that have come out in the last couple years, mostly on the grounds that they probably taste like Mountain Dew, which I despise with a startling passion.

However, when I saw the ads for the Holiday Spice cola, I was intrigued. For one thing, I like holiday spices, whatever those might be. For another, I like the idea of spiced cola (it made me think of home-brewed root beer, which is one of my great pleasures in life). And, well, some commercials just catch your eye. That's what they're supposed to do, after all. And I'm just as suggestible as the next guy. So when I spotted the Holiday Spice display at my local grocery store, I snagged a couple bottles.

I invited Papa Shaft over to share the tasting experience with me. We uncapped our bottles and sniffed to get a sense of the bouquet. It was slightly fruity, insouciant with a hint of apple-cinnamon candle. We both took a slow, contemplative swallow. It tasted like... regular Pepsi, with a slight cinnamony edge on the finish. Decent first impression.

The problem arrived on subsequent swallows. As I got about a quarter of the way through the bottle, the soda developed an unpleasant celery aftertaste. I had to keep stopping and putting the bottle down. Pepsi says that the "holiday spices" are cinnamon and ginger, so I'm guessing that the accumulated ginger got to me. Whatever it is... bleargh.

I asked Papa what he thought of the Holiday Spice experience. He said, "It was... interesting." Which I presume to mean he hated it. Personally, I won't be buying any more of it the rest of the year. What a rip-off. It's like regular Pepsi, only bad. I deserve it for being suckered in by those commercials. Something about elves driving a truck gets me every time.

- Pretty much everything has already been said about the Friday Night Fights in Detroit, but a couple points are worth emphasizing. First of all, it would be nice to have an open and honest dialogue about the role of alcohol in idiot fan behavior. It's the 800-pound elephant in the middle of the room that no one wants to talk about. Fans will defend to the death their right to get as plastered as they want, and as long as they're willing to pay $10 a cup for it, the owners are willing to supply them. But are we going to wait until someone gets killed before we start talking about cutting the beer sales off at halftime, as Michael Wilbon proposed today, or outlawing beer sales altogether? We've got a serious issue here that no one's willing to do anything about.

A few people have been willing to talk, very gingerly, about basketball's relationship with the hip-hop culture and its glorification of violence. But what really strikes me is the number of current and former players who have been making remarks on the order of, "It's about time someone went after the fans." We're reaching a distrubing pass here... a number of players really seem to hate the people who pay their salaries. And it's hard to blame them, given the fact that fans seem to think it's okay to hurl beer and bottles and scream the vilest things imaginable at the players. In what other line of work would this be tolerated? And how much longer can a league survive with such mutual hatred between fans and players? Factor in the fact that some of these fans routinely fans the flames of their vitriol on sports-talk radio and think drinking themselves stupid is a fine idea, and some of these players routinely travel with firearms and rap-star-like entourages, and a meltdown like the scene in Detroit is almost inevitable.

Wilbon had some good thoughts on this in his online chat today:

Raleigh, N.C.: I agree that the year suspension that the NBA gave Ron Artest is appropriate given the damage that Artest's attack will have on the relationship between the NBA players and fans. I suspect the NBA will come up with some kind of campaign to repair the relationship and hopefully it will be more substantive than the lame "I (still) love this game" slogan they tried after the strike. Question: what kind of steps need to be taken to address the damaged relationship? And if there is to be a rebuilding, what role does the Players Association need to play?

Michael Wilbon: Great question...And I wish I had the answer. I'm still trying to figure out how the relationship went to hell so quickly. There have been signs, probably as far back as Latrell choking P.J. Carlesimo, then his coach. There have been other signs, like the resentment directed at the U.S. Olympic men's basketball team this summer in Athens. I think the league, as Antonio Davis of the Chicago Bulls stated very eloquently, is lacking in professionalism because there are too few professionals. The league is overrun with young punks who know neither know how to play nor how to relate to the fans that pay their salaries.

Wilbon hit the nail on the head... too many NBA players are simply not fit to conduct themselves as professionals on a public stage. When these "young punks" collide with fans who are not fit to conduct themselves as human beings... well, we saw what happened.

- Our baseball team here in Washington now has a logo. Presenting... your 2005 Nationals!


Personally, I like it. It's a modern freshening of a classic old name. It's crisp and classy without being too boring. It's appropriate for the city. And it's red, white and blue, which is the most important thing. (Sorry, Grays backers.)

Someone came up with the idea of adding the Capitol dome to the logo:


I really like this. It makes the logo look grander and adds balance. Obviously, we'd want a stylized Capitol, rather than sticking an actual picture of the dome on top as was done here, but I like the concept.

That's all for today. I'll try to do better tomorrow. See you then!

Posted by Fred at 10:01 PM | Comments (3)

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 10:30 PM | Comments (5)

November 18, 2004

This Is My United States of Whatever!

Today's Musical Selection: "Hail to the Chief"

Hi, everybody! As promised, today I offer you the solution to America's political crisis. Right now, the Democrats are in a world of hurt, as the young people like to say. A lot of people invested a lot of time and energy in trying to elect a candidate they might not have been crazy about, but nonetheless viewed as essential to the survival of our country. He lost, decisively by modern presidential standards. Now all these people, who worked and hoped so hard, are reeling, despondent, devastated.

And the presidential results weren't the only bad news for the Democrats. Republicans widened their majorities in the House and Senate. They control a majority of the governors' mansions and state legislatures, too. All over the country, gleeful Republicans are lighting victory cigars, drinking 20-year-old scotch and getting ready to roll up their sleeves and get about the serious work of reorganizing the country in accordance with the vision of His Holiness Ronald Reagan and His Disciples who continue to preach the conservative gospel today. They're making lists of state congresional districts to gerrymander, countries to invade, backs to scratch, Biblical passages to write into our laws. They're re-arranging the Congressional parking lot so they get all the good spaces. They're trading high-fives and doing victory dances, or at least the closest thing to victory dances that a bunch of Protestant white guys can manage. Oh, yes, it's a fine time to be a Republican.

And what are the Democrats doing? They're sitting alone, drinking coffee and cheap whiskey, shaking their heads and wondering where it all went wrong. They're desperately crafting far-fetched vote-fixing conspiracy theories, anything to deny the truth, which is that a majority of the voting public went for the other guy. They're studying Canada's immigration laws. They're muttering about the shortcomings of their candidate, as though Kerry was somehow forced on the party, or became the nominee by accident. They're beating the bushes all over the South, looking for some obscure city councilman or agriculture commissioner with camera-ready looks and an ability to speak convincingly to the average voter who might be willing to ride the donkey. They're looking longingly at Barack Obama the way that, when they were seven, they looked at the biggest and coolest toy in the Sears Wishbook, hoping desperately to get it but not really believing they would. They drink more bad whiskey, pick fights with burly truckers, get thrown out of the bar, go home and stumble around and break good china in a muddled rage. They cry, suddenly, for no apparent reason. I assure you, friends, it is one hell of a lousy time to be a Democrat.

More than anything, Democrats are desperate for a savior. They want someone like Reagan, a bright and charismatic and compelling voice, to step forward and galvanize them and lead them out of the wilderness. They want someone who can articulate a philosophy that will invigorate and inspire the country, someone who can define a generation of politics and beyond, someone who will have monuments and elementary schools named in his honor someday. They want someone to give them a reason to believe in the future of the party and the country. They want, in this dark and desperate hour, someone to give them hope again.

In short, they want me.

Okay, I know what you're thinking. Okay, that too, but I really don't want to use language like that in this blog, where kids might see it. But you're also thinking, "Hey, aren't you too young to be constitutionally eligible to run for president? And you don't have any political experience, do you? And what have you ever done for this country besides write a bunch of cranky broadsides about how screwed up the world is?"

All of these are valid concerns. Fortunately, I have a plan, and it doesn't even involve amending the Constitution (setting me apart from the backers of a certain politician from Collyvornia). The downside is that it takes a while. But I think I'm worth the wait.

So what's my plan? Well, regular readers of this blog will be aware that my district is represented in Congress by the always pugnacious Jim Moran. This fact makes a good many members of our district sick at heart, as Moran tends to do embarrassing and/or ethically questionable things almost on a weekly basis. However, since our district is heavily Democratic and gerrymandered to remain so by the thoughtful Virginia legislature, we refuse to consider a Republican alternative and keep sending the Battlin' Bostonian back to Congress. (As my dad put it after this year's 25-point Moran victory: "Well, once again, we in the Eighth District have shown we'd rather fight than switch." Or as my mother puts it, "Well, at least if he's in Congress, it keeps him off the streets, where he might hurt somebody.") It's become increasingly clear that Moran will remain in office until he retires, dies or is thrown in jail.

So, my plan involves Moran dying. I'm not advocating offing him, mind you; that would be morally wrong, and anyway could result in my getting a stern talking-to from the authorities. But if we put the Honorable Representative on a slow boat to China, and made sure the ship had an open bar and someone to pick a fight with him that ended in him falling overboard... well, these things happen, right? And if things happen to work out that way... well, perhaps it's for the best, that's all I'm saying. (If someone has a good idea on how we can get him thrown in jail instead, I'm all ears.)

Anyway, once Moran is off the stage, there will be a void. The Eighth District is ready for new blood. And, with my decade-plus of experience as the self-appointed mayor of Dot-Com Canyon, I'm as good a candidate as anyone. Once the voters recognize my obviously bright future and potential for greater things, I'll be a shoo-in.

Once I'm in the safe Eighth District seat, I figure I'll hold it for about five terms, being sure to combine faithful service to my district and my state with some high-profile work on bills of national importance. During my later terms, I'll focus on jobs bills and funding for struggling families in rural and troubled industrial areas. I'll spearhead an initiative to help tobacco farmers switch to another crop, or another line of work, without going broke. I'll become identified with rural technology bills. At the same time, I'll champion smart-growth initiatives and responsible transportation development, while finding ways to encourage the New Economy of Northern Virginia, spreading its success to other parts of the state. The graying heads of the Hill will begin to whisper about my having grander ambitions. One of those think-tank Web sites will tab me as a "Democrat to Watch." I'll modestly deny any aspirations beyond my desire to serve my district and state as best I can. No one will believe me, but I'll insist.

Come 2014, if John Warner hasn't retired yet, Virginia Democrats will be boosting me for the Senate. I'll take a few weeks to mull the issue with my political advisors, then I'll pass up the opportunity. Everyone will wonder why I passed on the race despite being one of the state's brightest Democratic stars. There will be some speculation as to the reason, and it will be right. No, not the speculation about my having a clandestine affair with a call girl that I don't want exposed by the blinding glare of a high-profile race. That speculation will be wrong. (Unfortunately.) The other speculation, about my wanting a crack at the governor's mansion, will be right.

In 2017, Virginia will hold an election for governor. With a solid Democratic base in Northern Virginia and Richmond to work from, I'll start touring the rural areas of the state, touting my technology and job-creation accomplishments, and speaking compellingly to them about the plight of rural communities in modern America. I'll really listen to them, convince them that I understand their concerns and their desire to save their communities and culture, and promise to work with them to help make their towns vibrant again. With the backing of rural voters, I ought to win pretty convincingly, by at least 10 points, more if the Republicans don't bother to field a strong nominee, in the face of the electoral juggernaut that they know is coming.

By that time, Virginia should have succeeded in repealing the ridiculous one-term limit on governors, so I'll just be wrapping up my second term in 2024. As a moderate Democrat with a track record of appeal in a Southern state, I should have an inside track on the nomination. My primary competition will probably be the vice-president of the outgoing President Obama, and I should be able to knock him off pretty easily. I'll run on a platform of spreading my rural-renewal programs on a national scale, along with a responsible but strong foreign policy. I'll speak of economic justice as our highest moral duty. I'll speak of progressive social values in comforting human terms. I'll probably garner slightly more than 300 electoral votes.

That's the plan in a nutshell. As you can see, it's pretty airtight. Most of you are probably already looking for an address to send the checks. Some skeptics out there, however, may be wondering: "So, what exactly would you plan to do in office?" Even though my better instincts suggest that I should keep it a secret, I will share with you a few plans that I've cooked up with my political advisers. Give me a second to find the cocktail napkin we wrote them on.

1. Invade Thailand. By the time I take office, the Bush Doctrine of invading Third World countries without provocation will be pretty well entrenched, and voters will demand to see a list of planned invasions before they even consider someone for our nation's highest office. My administration will be no exception.

However, I believe in putting my own signature on my policies, so I have my own twist. I will only invade defenseless Third World countries that have really good food. Call it the Fred Doctrine. My advisors have recommended Thailand as a likely target, and I agree with them. Here's my plan: we'll invade Thailand and liberate about 100 or so chefs. Then we'll dispatch those chefs on emergency relief missions to the Midwest, where they will be asked to impart some flavor and taste to the native cuisine, by force if necessary.

2. Lower gas prices. This seems to be popular, and I'm nothing if not accomodating to popular demand. However, unlike other politicians who are struggling to find some sound economic or scientific method to create lower gas prices, I have a much simpler and therefore better idea. I'll just go to the oil companies, shake my fist in a presidential manner and say, "Stop charging so much for gas!" If necessary, I'll pound my shoe on the table.

I base this plan on my current governing methods as mayor of Dot-Com Canyon, which pretty much consist of going around to construction sites, shaking my fist in a mayoral manner and saying, "Stop knocking down all those trees!" The shoe thing is a new flourish I just dreamed up. (Okay, so I stole it from Krushchev. But given the state of our school system, no one will remember that by the time I'm president.)

3. A 100% tax on members of the New York Yankees. I think this is self-explanatory.

By now, I'm sure I've convinced you of the wisdom -- nay, the imperative -- of electing me as president in 20 years. Fortunately for all of you, there's still time to "get in on the ground floor," as they say. I'm currently auctioning off positions in my administration. So far, the only positions that are filled are Secretary of Defense (belonging to my cousin, the Gentleman's Gentleman), Secretary of State (held by my friend the Gamer Girl), and Secretary of the Treasury (belonging to Papa Shaft, who has announced his intention to rename his position "Chief of da Bling"). All other positions are still available, so get your applications in now!

I should point out, however, that Vice President is also filled. My political operatives and I spent many whiskey-soaked minutes considering a wide range of possible candidates, and I think we've found our man. Considering the pivotal role of Ohio in this year's election, we're going to need someone who can pull in the Buckeye State. Unfortunately, the Ohio Democratic bench is a little thin (as I covered in excruciating detail a couple months back), and Jerry Springer figures to be to be too old by then. Fortunately, we figured out the ideal alternative: LeBron James. Is he interested in politics? Who knows? Who cares? In case you haven't noticed, the vice president doesn't really do much of anything anyhow (unless he's the president's puppetmaster, but that's another story).

I'm also going to need to find a wife who's independently wealthy, so that she can bankroll my political campaigns, at least until I'm so awash in contributions from grateful voters that I can dump her for the call girl I mentioned a few paragraphs north. My political advisers have been hard at work on this too. And we've decided that I should marry one of the Olsen twins. Preferably the one that doesn't have the coke habit, since she's probably going to blow her fortune on, well, blow. My advisers are currently researching which Olsen twin that is. They plan to get back to me shortly. (Assuming my plans to marry a wealthy woman fail, we plan to get Mark Cuban to bankroll our campaign because, well, it seems like the kind of thing he would do, doesn't it?)

Just remember, folks: you can't spell "victory" without "U." Oh, wait, yes you can. But you can't spell "cash contribution" without "U." I'm sure you catch my drift. If you're convinced that I'm the right person to lift our country out of its present doldrums, get those check-writing muscles in shape! And if you're not convinced... well, do you really have our country's best interests at heart?

(And in case you're reading this and thinking, "He promised us real solutions to our country's ills, and the best he could do is this pile of self-aggrandizing crap?"... I'm working on real solutions. I promise. Consider this my attempt at blowing off steam.)

A number of good comments on the last couple days' posts, and I'll get to those tomorrow. See you then!

Posted by Fred at 10:08 PM | Comments (3)

November 17, 2004

No End Save Victory

Today's Musical Selection: "Civil War" by Guns 'n' Roses

Hi, everybody. Well, it's the height of the gloating season in GOP-land. I was hoping that taking a week off for the Great Debate would give the storm clouds time to pass, and that everything would be okay now.

But, of course, it isn't. We've got Condi Rice stepping in for Powell at State, the turf war between the CIA and Porter Goss, and now we have the latest revolting development from the fun-loving House GOP.

In the spirit of healing and bipartisanship, I've been trying really, really hard to find things to like about the Republican Party. I've been the soul of graciousness and conciliation to my conservative friends. I pointedly refused to fan the flames of vote-fixing in Florida and Ohio that some bitter lefty bloggers have been howling about. I even held my tongue when the right wing started smacking Arlen Specter around for even daring to suggest that maybe judicial nominations would go more smoothly if the Republicans didn't insist on cramming anti-abortion judges down the Democrats' throats. Oh, I have been a calm and peaceful man, despite my disappointment at the outcome of the election.

But see, ever since '94, Republicans have had this special knack for finding ways to be ungracious in victory. They say it's payback for the way the Democrats treated them while they (the Democrats) were in power, the political equivalent of chickens coming home to roost. I say it's their way of making sure we (the Democrats) know who's boss, the political equivalent of the end-zone dance. Either way, it can never be said that Republicans make a quiet entrance into the halls of power.

So, what did the Republicans do to get me hopped up this time? Well, it seem that the House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay of Texas, is in a bit of an ethics quandary. (Specifically, he's suspected of funny dealings in connection with a PAC that helped to ram through that Texas redistricting plan that evicted almost every white Democratic Congressman with seniority in the state.) Some of his henchmen have already been indicted by a grand jury in Texas, and some GOP leaders are worried that DeLay might be next.

Now, the GOP owes a great debt to DeLay, inasmuch as he did so much to pad the Republican House majority with that crooked gerrymander he designed in the Lone Star State. So they wouldn't want to let a pesky little thing like a grand-jury indictment slow him down. So, as a token of their gratitude, they've fixed the problem:

House Republicans voted to change their rules today to allow members indicted for a felony to remain in a leadership post.

The rule change, which party leaders said could benefit Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) in case he is charged by a Texas grand jury that has indicted three of his political associates, was approved by a voice vote in a closed meeting of Republican House members.

Under the revised rule, members of the Republican Steering Committee would have 30 days to decide whether to take any action against an indicted party's leader. That changes an 11-year-old party rule that required any indicted member to step down from a leadership post. The full caucus also could vote to override the steering committee, which is made up of the party's leaders in the House.

The rule adopted today would apply to state and federal indictments -- a change from language proposed yesterday that would have allowed a leader indicted by a state grand jury to keep his job but required a leader indicted for a federal crime to step down.

It could benefit DeLay, they say. Yeah, possibly. Presumably, they amended it to include federal and state indictments because having it apply only to state indictments was too embarrassingly obvious, assuming that Republican leadership is still capable of feeling embarrassment.

But, you might argue, isn't this rule change, partisan in nature though it may be, a good thing? An indictment is not the same thing as an actual guilty verdict, and in the land of "innocent until proven guilty," isn't it proper to let indicted Congressional leaders keep their posts until they're actually convicted of something?

It's a reasonable argument. And it's one that the Republicans might bother to make, were it not for the fact that the Republicans made the rule in the first place. That's right, 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. Just as it's complete coincidence that the rule is being written now that DeLay faces indictment himself.

Perhaps the most appalling thing is that the Republicans barely feel the need to justify this at all. They're hardly even trying to conceal the crass partisan nature of this "reform." Either they're imagining no one will notice, or they're so smug and arrogant in power that they no longer have to even pretend they're serving anyone but themselves.

Ever wonder why people hate politics? Here's a great example. The Republican Party, supposedly the party of the people, supposedly the recipient of a great electoral mandate, is prostituting any notion of "good government" in service of their own power and ambition. This is exactly the sort of action that makes people think that our political system is hopelessly venal, corrupt, and self-serving. Because sometimes, you know, it is.

To the degree that the Republicans have bothered to defend themselves at all, they're claiming that the Texas grand jury is a Democratic witch hunt, and they're not going to let their great and good friend be driven from power by a bunch of partisan hacks. ("Hello, Kettle? I have a Mr. Pot on Line 1. He says you're black.") This is the all-purpose Republican excuse for all the awful things they do: "They started it." Any of the GOP's crassly partisan moves are invariably designed to get even with some injustice the Democrats have committed, are committing, will commit, or are thinking about committing.

Even now, there are some diehard Republicans who are reading this and thinking, "The Democrats would do the exact same thing in our shoes." And if you think that's the point of this little diatribe, you're mistaken. I'm not trying to claim that the Democrats are political angels. Far from it.

My point is that the game of gotcha has to stop somewhere. I know a lot of Republicans whom I like as respect. It's people like you that give me hope for the future of political discourse in this country. So, it's to you that I direct this appeal. Please, tell me that you're you embarrassed by this. Please tell me that this crass political gamesmanship bothers you. Please tell me that you want your party to stand for something more than partisan victory any price. If you do, I promise I'll go back to optimism and thinking good things about you. If you don't, well, I guess I'll have to start studying up on the Resistance. All's fair in love and politics, right?

And lest you think I'm all complaints and no solutions, rest assured that I have been thinking about what I can do to make this country better. If you want my plan to save America... well, for that you'll have to tune in tomorrow. (It's called a teaser, kids!)

You know, blogging into the void can get depressing sometimes. You tell your story, day after day, and if people don't respond, it's easy to grow despondent and wonder if there's a point. After all, I could be spending my blogging time working to save the world, or watering my petunias, or something.

But then you get a comment like this one from reader Kathy Sparrow, and it all seems worthwhile:

Back in the '80's I produced all those radio spots that Bob Haft did as an account executive for Earle Palmer Brown, which handled the Dart-Trak-Crown-Total business. He was a fun if not difficult man to try to direct. He felt he knew what all the spots should say better than anyone else and while I for one got bored with "Books cost too much . . . " in a slightly over the top, high pitch read -- they did work. And he was always a gentleman to deal with.

On a lark today, I was searching for info on what happened to Dart as I too feel that the Target logo was a spin off of the Dart logo. So when I was on their site shopping, I checked to see who really owns the company. It was not Dart. But that made me check further.

Thanks for a great article. I enjoyed working with both Mr. Hafts (I believe I met Herb 1-2 times at big meetings where I was but a fly on the wall). Shame they let their greed and egos cloud their business judgement and destroy their families.

Thanks so much for writing in, Kathy. I'm glad you enjoyed my article. And I'm glad to hear from someone who had first-hand experience with the Hafts. At its best, a blog is a conversation between writer and readers, where I suggest topics and start the discussion and you, The Reader, chime in with your own views and experiences.

As for the substance of your remarks... your impressions of the younger Haft are in line with what I would have expected. And yeah, I can easily imagine that you got tired of the "Books cost too much!" line. Those of us in the viewing public sure did. But hey, it did stick in the mind. And my family and I still use that line as a watchword from time to time. So I guess he knew what he was talking about. The Hafts had their finger on the pulse of the consumer in a way that few people have. As you said, it's too bad that greed and ego destroyed what had been a thriving empire. (And given the fight currently underway between the Haft children and the woman Herb married just before his death, it seems the squabbling will never stop.)

That's all for today. Tomorrow, my plan to save America! See you then.

Posted by Fred at 10:39 PM | Comments (4)

November 16, 2004

They're Baaaaaaaaack!

Today's Musical Selection: "Chick-A-Boom" by Daddy Dewdrop

Hi, everybody! I hope all of you enjoyed The Great Debate. It was a well-argued match and a hell of a lot of fun. If you didn't enjoy it... well, sorry. But at least it's over now, right?

And now we turn our column back over to one of our regular features that's been on a brief hiatus, Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice and their romantic advice column. Uncle Millie had a bit of an unfortunate DWI incident a couple weeks ago, and he entered a court-ordered detox program. He's been granted a temporary release to produce this week's column. Therefore, he and Aunt Beatrice come to you today from the campus of the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California.

Since Uncle Millie is only allowed out of the center for a limited time, I'll skip the preamble and turn things over to our favorite couple. Take it away, you crazy kids!

- - - - -

Love Is Like Oxygen, and So Is Whiskey, by Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice

UM: Hello, lads! And greetings from the beautiful Betty Boop Clinic.

AB: Ford, dear. The Betty Ford Clinic. I've told you that four times already.

UM: Whatever. I've been banished here for 30 days, in involuntary service of the state, after my sham of a trial, the greatest miscarriage of justice since Dreyfus.

AB: Oh, please. They had you dead to rights on the drunk-driving charge.

UM: They were stopping everyone driving on that sidewalk. That's profiling!

AB: On the bright-side, you're now a record-holder. The police department says no one's ever recorded a higher score on their Breathalyzer.

UM: But it's no matter. Rancho Mirage is a lovely town. The skies are clear, blue and beautiful, and the temperatures are hovering in the 70s even in November. My friends back East aren't so lucky... I understand there was some snow late last week in the Northeast. So in some senses, life isn't so bad. And I believe I have benefitted from my time here. Of course, life on the inside deprives me of my truest companion, the light of my life, indeed that which makes me want to go on living-

AB: Oh, Millie, that's so swe-

UM: Whiskey!

AB: I should have seen that one coming.

UM: To drop me in the middle of paradise and then take away the nectar of the gods... well, 'tis a cruel, cruel joke indeed.

AB: I don't really think it's a joke. I think it's the point.

UM: I'm afraid I'm not following.

AB: There's a shock. Millie, you're an alcoholic. You have a problem with alcohol.

UM: That's a falsehood. I have no problem with alcohol. It's the police that have the problem with it.

AB: You're really a piece of work.

UM: Why, thank you, love.

AB: Let's just read our first letter.

Dear Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice,

I'm 29, and I've had my share of relationships, mostly unserious, and I'm about ready to settle down and find someone I can make a long-term commitment to. Problem is, I can't seem to meet anyone who's worth that kind of commitment. Most of the women I meet are just looking for a good time and don't want anything beyond fun, and the ones who seem interesting and whom I'd like to go farther with are married, engaged or in serious relationships. I'm starting to wonder if the Man Upstairs is having a joke at my expense.

Tell me, please: How do I break out of this rut I'm in?

Brandon in Atlanta

AB: Hi, Brandon. You seem like a nice guy, and I'm sure you'll find the woman you're looking for eventually, but my best advice to you is to be patient. Serious relationships don't happen overnight, and you need to endure a little waiting before you find the right person. If you're looking for a one-night stand, you can find one almost instantly -- as my dear husband never tires of demonstrating. Good, quality relationships take longer to arrange. The wait is worth it, though. Or so I'm told.

One piece of advice: If you're still going to the same clubs and hangouts you did when you were looking for a "good time," you might want to consider finding some new spots to frequent. Certain places have certain environments, and you're not likely to find long-term love in the same place you went to find hang-ups.

UM: Hook-ups, dear.

AB: Oh, you're right. Sorry about that.

UM: You're not very attuned to the slang of the young, my dear.

AB: Since I'm not trying to get them in bed, I don't have to be.

UM: I sense a certain bitterness.

AB: I'm still annoyed that you value whiskey over me. Although I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.

UM: Oh, come, my love, I was just joshing you. Of course I miss you terribly. I think of you always, and count the days until you come to visit.

AB: Really?

UM: Really.

AB: Well, I- Thank you, Millie, that's very nice. So what's the punch line?

UM: There is no punch line, my dear. I am as serious as a heart attack. Though hopefully less fatal.

AB: How, uh, sweet.

UM: At any rate, lad, my beloved makes good suggestions. Ordinarily, I know this is the part where I'd ask you to get your head examined for wanting a committed relationship, perhaps quoting Shakespeare's dictum: "Why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free?" But I won't.

My time here in rehabilitation has given me a new appreciation for the things that really matter in life. I've realized that the support and companionship of the people you love can carry you through the darkest times, and I no longer mock those who seek it for themselves.

AB: Why, Millie, that was beautiful.

UM: Thank you. Now, lad, my dear wife is right to prescribe patience. A lot of the women in your age bracket who are interested in long-term commitment have, as you've noticed, already found someone to settle down with. For that reason, you might want to think of dating younger women. Not flirting with illegality, mind you, but 24- or 25-year old women are old enough to be looking for serious long-term relationships yet young enough not to have settled down with someone in particular yet.

AB: That's... actually good advice. Wow.

UM: alternatively, you could wait a couple years until your contemporaries' first marriages begin to dissolve, and suddenly the field becomes much more open.

AB: And there's the Millie I know. For a second, I was starting to wonder if they'd secretly replaced you with someone else. Still, that's remarkably... clear-headed advice coming from you. I'm impressed.

UM: I really have had the chance to think about the direction of my life in here.

AB: Okay, what is it?

UM: What is what, love?

AB: The punch line. What's the joke?

UM: There is no joke. I'm not kidding.

AB: All right.

Dear Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice,

I have a question of relationship etiquette. About two weeks ago, my best friend "Davey" broke up with his girlfriend "Julie." They'd been going out for a couple years. Over time, Julie sort of went looking to me to act as a go-between when things got difficult between her and Davey. She told me a lot of secrets about what went on between her and Davey. Real private things, if you catch my drift. I learned some less-than-appealing things about my pal.

At any rate, I took Julie out to dinner after the breakup to console her (I did the same for Davey separately), and she confessed that she had feelings for me. I told her that I had feelings for her, too, and we promised to talk about this more in the future.

So here's my question: Would it be right for us to start going out? Should we observe a "waiting period" out of respect for Davey? Should we tell him about the fact that we're going out? I really want to explore things with Julie, but Davey's my best friend, and I don't want to do anything that would hurt him or make him mad.

Ron in Grosse Pointe

UM: Ah, me lad, you're wading in dangerous waters. The best friend's ex-girlfriend is always a delicate subject, one of the leading causes of tension between gentleman friends. Many a good friendship has been torn asunder by it. So tread lightly, that's my first recommendation.

As for how you proceed, that depends on the circumstances and the temperament of your best friend. In general, though, it's always wise to observe a cooling-off period, lest your friend get the idea that you stole his lady away from him. That never ends well. And I'd also consider who dumped whom. If your friend broke it off with the lady, he'd probably be a lot more comfortable with the idea of your dating her than if she left him.

AB: That's surprisingly nuanced advice. Well done.

UM: Thank you, my love.

AB: I don't have that much to add. However, I would emphasize that Davey must be told at some point, preferably at the point when you make it official with Julie. If I were him, I'd want to know. Even if I didn't really like the idea, I'd rather hear about it from my best friend than picking it up weeks later through the grapevine.

UM: Yes, I agree. Although when you tell him, you might wish to select a venue with plenty of witness and ample avenues for escape, just in case he doesn't take it well.

AB: Although you keep slipping in those little Millie-isms that remind me of your typical personality, I have to say you're behaving yourself much better than usual. This rehab must actually be doing you some good.

UM: Why, thank you.

AB: So, when do you let me in on the joke?

UM: As I explained before, it isn't a joke.

AB: Okay...

Dear Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice,

Please help! My boyfriend is a conservative Republican, and I'm a moderate-to-liberal Democrat. Normally, this isn't a problem; we usually don't talk about politics and when we do, we know how to keep the discussions civil and calm.

But this election changed all that. I sincerely believe that President Bush is a danger to the country and the world, and I worked hard to defeat him. This caused some tension between my boyfriend and I, since he was working just as hard to re-elect Bush, but it wasn't too bad.

Since the election, though, he won't stop gloating! He wrote the word "MANDATE" in soap across the bathroom mirror. In bed, he says, "Who's your president? Who's your president?" After the election, he bought a pet hamster and calls it "Condoleezza."

I can't take it any more! What should I do?

Helen, In a Red State and Feeling Blue

AB: Hi, Helen. I have to admit, I share your disappointment about this election. I voted for Kerry myself. I respect and admire him, and I think he would have been a good president. It's too bad the majority of voters didn't agree with us, huh?

UM: I myself am no longer allowed to vote, thanks to that draconian law that convicted felons are denied the franchise, but if I could have voted, I'd have voted for the president. I think he's done a fine and admirable job in office. He cannot, however, hold a candle to my favorite president of all.

AB: Lincoln? Roosevelt? Washington?

UM: Bill Clinton. He was an inspiration to every man in America!

AB: Why didn't I guess?

UM: At any rate, your boyfriend's partisanship is irrelevant here. He's a jerk, plain and simple.

AB: Uncle Millie's right. This isn't about the election. It's about the fact that he can't respect your beliefs. There's only one thing to do with a guy like that.

UM: That's right: get even.

AB: Uh-

UM: Pay James Carville fifty bucks to call your boyfriend and threaten to come beat him. Spray-paint "DEMS 4-EVER" on the side of his car. While he's sleeping, tattoo a picture of Ted Kennedy on his chest. Make him sorry he ever crossed you.

AB: I think that's enough. She gets the point.

UM: I believe she does.

AB: Are your behavioral medications wearing off?

UM: I'm not on medication. I'm on a natural high.

AB: Well, I have to say, despite that little outburst at the end, you do seem much more fit for civilized society. You really do seem like a new man.

UM: I told you, this place has worked wonders. It's really affected me.

AB: I can see that. I'm impressed.

UM: And I've done it all thanks to my little secret.

AB: What's that?

UM: These.

AB: Those are... miniature airline liquor bottles?

UM: You bet. I have a friend on the outside who smuggles them in. You think I'd be able to take 30 days without my dear friends Jamison and Bushmill?

AB: Do you understand that that's the point?

UM: Point? Don't be ridiculous! Who would try to deny me my liquor? It's downright un-American.

AB: You really are beyond human help. Give me those.

UM: Get your own.

AB: I'm taking you back inside.

UM: Well, my work here is done. We'll see you again in a fortnight!

AB: Possibly fromt he inside of a jail cell, if this is Uncle Millie's idea of "detox."

UM: Happy hunting!

- - - - -

Thank you, Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice.

I think I'll be taking my leave now too. See you tomorrow!

Quote of the Day:
"In the NFL, it used to be the object of the game was to get into the end zone. Now, the object of the game is to get into the end zone and act like a fool."
- Norman Chad

Posted by Fred at 06:45 PM | Comments (1)

November 15, 2004

The Great Debate: The End


Denny McLain, Moderator

Oh, glory be, the funk's on me. This atomic dog's going to give up the funk... Gosh, I love Parliament.

Oh, are we back on? Thank you, Mr. Wonk, for taking me back to the glory days of my career, such as they were. Playing most of my career in Detroit, I was more of a Motown man, but I was exposed to P-Funk when I was traded to the Senators, and George Clinton's beats really got me shaking my Irish backside. Those were the days, my friends.

I'd like to thank both of you for a spirited but mostly clean debate. You've both made your cases well, as I'm sure our audience will agree.

It is now time for closing statements. BallWonk, representing the Grays, will go first. Please be reminded, fans and friends and odds and ends, that voting will continue for a week after the closing statements. Pretend you're a dead person in Chicago and vote early and often! My friend Fat Tony hails from Chicago, so I'm sure he has some experience with... Why are you shaking your head like that? Did I say something -- Oh. Um, never mind.

Mr. BallWonk, the floor is yours.

BallWonk, Speaking for the Grays

Folks who support the Senators often say to me, "BallWonk, I understand the desire to remember the Negro Leagues, but Senators is part of Washington's baseball heritage."

Sure, in about the same way that Waterloo is part of France's military heritage, or that Mondale/Ferraro is part of the Democratic Party's political heritage.

The Senators are not the beginning and end of our baseball heritage. The Grays, too, are part of that heritage. So let's see what kind of legacy each name offers us.

I give you every pennant and championship trophy the Senators won in seven decades of trying:

Three pennants, one championship, none since 1933

And here is every pennant and championship trophy the Grays won in only
10 years of Washington baseball:

Seven pennants, three championships, all since 1940

Case closed.

Counting league titles, the Grays win 7-3. Counting championships, the Grays win 3-1. Counting World Series success, the Grays win with a .600 record (3-2) versus .333 (1-2) for the Senators. All this despite the Senators having 60 extra years to pad their numbers.

The Senators took 70 whole years to rack up their whopping one championship. Heck, even the Soviet Union able to defeat Nazi Germany, conquer Eastern Europe, and put the first man in orbit in its 70 years. The only group that has ever had as little to show for 70 years of effort was Mexico's old ruling PRI party. Try that on for a motto: "Washington Senators: Less Competent Than Communism, Slightly Better Than Mexico."

Yeah, that's inspiring. What a legacy. What a heritage.

Look at those pennants and trophies again. The Grays moved to Washington and won year in, year out, for a decade. The Senators spent seven decades locked in the cellar, with only three pennants to show for it, and none since 1933.

Look at those pennants and trophies and tell me which name represents success and which represents failure. Tell me which heritage you want to honor. If you prefer losing to winning, that's your right, and if so then Senators is your name.

But if you want a name that connects with a heritage of championship baseball in Washington, then this isn't even close. Grays is not the better choice. It is not the superior choice. Grays is the only choice.

Denny McLain

Thank you, Mr. Wonk. Mr. Fred, your closing argument?

Mediocre Fred, Speaking for the Senators

Thank you, Denny. And thank you, BallWonk, for agreeing to participate in this debate. And thank you to all of you who have come to the Armory to see us live and all those who tuned in at home. I'd like to thank the Academy and my parents and -

Denny McLain

Mr. Fred, if you don't mind...

Mediocre Fred

Sorry, got a little carried away there.

On September 29, the day when it was announced that our long 33-year odyssey without baseball was over, the day when our long-deferred dream came true at last, I attended a celebration with some friends. They were friends to me even though I'd never met most of them, because we shared the common bond of baseball. We repaired to a local bar and knocked back a few (perhaps more than a few) in honor of our team.

We were a diverse group. We were old enough to remember the original Senators, and young enough to have grown up without a home team at all. We were lawters and office workers and delivery drivers. We were from Maryland, Virginia and Washington. We were natives and transplants. We were of a rainbow of races and ethnicities. And we had one thing in common -- we all loved baseball, and we all wanted the name Senators for our team.

Throughout this debate, my opponent has tried to insuinuate that the name Senators is a relic, a name whose appeal is limited to old white guys who are fixated on the failures of the past. Unfortunately, his argument fails the reality test. The reality is that, now as ever, the people want the name we've always known and loved.

No Senators fans left? Tell that to my father, who grew up watching the home team on TV with his grandfather. Tell that to my mother, who went to Griffith Stadium and later DC Stadium/RFK with her father and was a member of the Knothole Gang. Tell that to the fans on the Ballpark Guys message board, the true believers who will form the hard core of support in our town, who overwhelmingly favor Senators for the team's name. Tell that to the Washingtonians, black and white and Hispanic and Asian and everything else, who routinely deliver wide margins of support to Senators in the team-naming polls.

No great Senators other than Walter Johnson? Surely you didn't mean to so denigrate Goose Goslin, Sam Rice, Bucky Harris, Joe Judge, Joe Cronin, Heinie Manush, Early Wynn, Rick Ferrell, Harmon Killebrew, Cecil Travis, Chuck Hinton, Roy Sievers, Frank Howard, and other great and beloved Senators. If you need help with the names, take a look around the Ring of Honor at RFK on Opening Day. There you'll find all those names and more.

And, just in case you might be swayed by more pictures of pretty female senators, I offer you Alaska's Lisa Murkowski:


Really, this is a simple question. We want a name that represents our city, a name that is truly Washington's. And on this score, there is no contest. Grays is the name of a team that played some of its games here for a decade. Senators is the name of a team that played all of its games here for 70 years. Which name is truly Washington's? Whose team is this, Washington's or Pittsburgh's?

Our city, our team

Not our city

Do the Grays have more of a legacy of success than our Senators? Certanly. But if we're going to start throwing away our storied history to honor a short-timer who happened to win a lot, that would make us something akin to -- forgive the rough language, but it must be said -- Yankee fans.

I don't doubt that my opponent, and other Grays supporters, mean well in their suggestion. I laud their call for inclusion. I believe the new team needs to be a team for all Washington.

But I also believe that Washington is a city that is grounded in history. You need look no further than the monuments and national icons that surround us for proof. We respect and honor tradition here. And Senators is our tradition, our heritage. Are we going to let a bunch of guilty white people import a name from out of town and saddle us with a dull, lifeless moniker to ease their embarrassment over the sins of the past?

No, we will not. Instead, we will adopt the name that is -- and has always been -- the people's choice. We will unite around the name that we love, the name that represents Washington, the name that represents our past and will take us forward into the future: Senators.

Let me close with an anecdote. One of our less-famous ballplayers here in Washington was a first baseman by the name of Zeke Bonura. Zeke was a good-hit, no-field sort who played here for a couple seasons before being dealt to the Giants in 1939. The Giants were a presumed contender that year, while the Senators were projected to struggle, and yet Zeke seemed unhappy about the trade. He didn't want to leave. So a puzzled reporter asked him why he didn't seem happy about going to New York. And Zeke, in a turn of phrase that Shakespeare himself might envy, replied: "Now I won't be able to sign my letters 'Senator Henry J. Bonura, Democrat, Louisiana.'"

I ask you, friends: Who are we to argue with the wisdom of Zeke Bonura?

Thank you, God bless you and good night.

Denny McLain

Thank you. That concludes the Senators-Grays Name Debate of 2004. Please remember to cast your ballots between now and next Tuesday on either the Mediocre Fred or BallWonk site.

And, finally, if I could speak to the youth of America for a moment. Kids, here's a message from your Uncle Denny. Don't do drugs. Stay in school. Don't gamble. Don't hang around mobsters. In short, if I've done it, you probably shouldn't try it.

Drive safely, everyone. Good night.

Posted by Fred at 02:06 AM | Comments (0)

November 14, 2004

The Great Debate: Day 7


Denny McLain, Moderator

Hmmm hmmmm hmm hmmm hmmm, 'cause at least I know I'm free, and I'll grandly stand tough, and fight for -

Oh, we're back? Sorry. I guess I got swept up in the moment there, what with Mr. Fred showing the flag and all. Gosh I love the flag. These colors don't run, baby.

Right. Welcome to the final day of arguments in the great Grays vs. Senators debate. Mr. BallWonk will now make his final rebuttal, and tomorrow both he and Mr. Fred will make their closing statements. Remember, this debate is being simulcast live at BallWonk's blog, as is the balloting. Polls will remain open here and at the other blog for a week following Monday's closing statements. Please vote now, and come back and vote often, up to once per day.

Warden Norton is getting impatient, so I'm going to have to ask you to be quick, here, Mr. BallWonk.

BallWonk, Speaking for the Grays

I'll do my best, Denny.

I applaud my opponent, Mr. Fred, for reminding us of the few great Senators of the past. (And I note that only one of them actually played baseball, which tells you everything you need to know about Senators history.) As a pragmatist, I do not want my baseball team to be sullied by association with the Senate, which contains after all the 100 least popular people in America. Polls regularly show that U.S. Senators, as a group, are less trusted and popular than a frat house full of used-car dealers, personal-injury lawyers, and New Jersey strippers.

But they do not deserve this public scorn, at least not all of them. Why, BallWonk himself once worked in a Senate office, and he found his employer and most other Senators to be among the most admirable people he has ever met. Still, the public clearly does not agree, and no matter how much we wish otherwise, no matter how many photos we show of John McCain or Ben Nighthorse Campbell or Olymia Snowe, the people will continue to associate Senators with cynicism, dishonesty, and opportunism.

Why, that sounds like the New York Mets.

Is that how we want people to think of our team, too? I hope not.

And what of the question of representation? Washington itself is not represented in the Senate. It makes no more sense to call a team in DC
the Senators than to call it the King George IIIs. The lack of democracy - and, to be honest, looking at Marion Barry, sometimes the presence of democracy - in DC is bad enough. Why rub salt in the wound by imposing recreation without representation?


They don't call Washington "Chocolate City" for nothing, and it's not on account of a sweet tooth. Washington has been a center of black culture in America for generations. Today it is home to perhaps the largest and most vibrant black middle class of any American city, and the local black community has never rallied behind any of our local sports teams.

When we name our team the Grays, we will be able to speed up that day when all of Washington's residents, black fans and white fans, Virginians and Marylanders, Republicans and Democrats, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old baseball spiritual, "Take me out to the ball game! Take me out with the crowd! Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack, I don't care if I never get back!"

If we want to return to the days of the Senators, when Washington baseball struggled to outdraw a double-A team, and in fact drew fewer fans than the 2004 Expos - which pretty much puts the lie to any claim that there even are true Senators fans - then by all means, keep the Senators name. Our team can do just fine with the small-market revenue that comes from playing before an empty ballpark, right? After all, who needs a popular, winning team when we can have our very own facsimile of the Devil Rays.

See, as Parliament's George Clinton would say, Senators just doesn't represent. It doesn't represent a city with no Senators of its own. The nearly all-white Senate doesn't represent the most thriving black metropolis in the nation. The slow-to-integrate and always black-unfriendly Senators teams of old don't represent our tolerant and inclusive town. And the monumental incompetence of the Senators, whose last pennant came 70 years ago next season, doesn't represent the kind of popular, winning franchise we all hope to have.

This really is about representation. The Senators name represents division, segregation, bigotry, failure, disappointment, betrayal, and disenfranchisement. It represents an 80-year championship drought and 70 years since the last pennant. Even the lowly Chicago Cubs have won the pennant since the last time the Senators hoisted the flag. Senators represents exactly what our team must not be.

Grays, however, represents a team that moved to Washington to become
champions. Grays represents popularity, victory, pennants, and championships. Grays represents triumph over racial divisions and divisional rivals. The Grays were everything we want our team to be.

Posted by Fred at 08:43 PM | Comments (0)

November 13, 2004

The Great Debate, Day 6


Denny McLain

Thank you, Mr. Wonk, for those remarks. We now move on to Mediocre Fred's final day of argument. He will be followed by BallWonk's rebuttal tomorrow, and closing arguments on Monday.

A quick reminder to our audience: Please register your vote in the poll either here or at BallWonk's blog. Voting will continue throughout the debate and for 10 days thereafter. I know there has been some controversy about electronic voting, and I want to assure you that our system is completely secure, and that all results will be reviewed and certified by the presitigious Boston firm Dewey, Cheatham and Howe. I would also like to assure you that the so-called quote from our poll designer that he would "do everything he could to deliver Ohio for the Grays" is entirely false.

I would like to remind both debaters to keep things concise, as I am required to remain awake throughout this debate and the warden wants me back ASAP. I would also like to encourage both candidates to submit more pictures of attractive women. Mr. Fred, your picture of Mary Landrieu was quite an eye-opener. She's much easier to look at than Orrin Hatch of, for that matter, either of you. Mr. Wonk, your picture of Linda Gray brought back many warm, sweet memories. And I'd never heard of Macy Gray before you brought her up, but my my my... she does things to me I didn't imagine were still possible at my age.

So, by all means, produce any and all possible pictures of attractive women in service of your respective arguments. And please feel free to leave a copy of said pictures over here at my desk. It gets lonely in prison, you know, and I-

Eric, Production Flunky

Uh, Mr. McLain - the debate - we're on the air -

Denny McLain

Ah, yes, yes, forgive me. Mr. Fred, you have the floor. Proceed.

Mediocre Fred, Speaking for the Senators

Thank you, Mr. McLain. I have some pictures of Senator Landrieu that I think you'll really appreciate. I'll leave them with you after the debate is over.

I noticed my opponent took a stab at mind-reading in his remarks when he decided that I was "steamed" based on my expression. He was as wrong about this as he is about most other things. The only thing steamed about me is the shrimp I'm going to have with my beer after the debate. Instead, I was amused at my opponent's apparent inability to give a straight answer about anything.

We're embracing 19th-century baseball teams now, sir? The Providence Grays? The Civil War? And my opponent accuses me of being a senile old man wedded to the past! It's quite telling that my opponent has to reach back into the 19th century to find support for his choice. If we're going to be reviving 19th-century team names now, how about the Quicksteps? Or the Stogies? Or the Dark Blues? Or the Cream Citys? All these are examples of actual team names from the 19th century. As you can see, team naming was an ill-defined art back then. Not a mistake we need to repeat.

And is it any wonder that, namewise, Grays is a relic of an era long dead? Let us look at the dictionary definition of "gray," and it will be immediately clear why there's been no clamor for the name up until now:


1. Of or relating to an achromatic color of any lightness between the extremes of black and white.
2. a. Dull or dark: a gray, rainy afternoon.
b. Lacking in cheer; gloomy: a gray mood.

Is that the sort of association we want? Dull and dark? Gloomy? There's a reason that the seminal novel about faceless corporation men was titled The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. There's a reason ELO's upbeat hit wasn't called "Mr. Gray Sky." There's a reason that everyone's favorite depressive storybook character, Eeyore, is gray.

Good day for a ballgame? Looks like rain to me...

My opponent produced an impressive array of pictures of military planes and ships, all painted gray, as well as a picture of a gray wolf, suggesting that they prove that gray is a color of strength and victory. Oh, please. Why do you think that our ships and planes, and for that matter the wolves, are gray? Is it because gray is such a powerful and strong color that instantly strikes fear into the hearts of the enemy? Of course not. They're gray because it blends in better and is harder to see when it's coming at you through the air, through the sea or through a snow-covered forest.

You know what else is gray? Squirrels. Haven't we seen enough of those in Washington already?

Don't mess with me, or I'll... attack your bird feeder and run away!

Is that what we want? Do we want a team that tries to hide itself until the last possible moment? Do we want a team that blends in with our surroundings? No! We want a team that announces itself with confidence. We want a team that comes in, with colors blazing. We want the old red-white-and-blue!

How can a team based in our nation's capital seriously consider any other colors? If we really want to be America's Team, as my opponent suggests, how can we have any other than America's colors? Why would we consider tossing aside what Gregg Easterbrook calls "the most successful color scheme in world history"? Blue and gray? Did we suddenly become the capital of CPA-land while I wasn't paying attention?

See any gray in there? Me either.

I can't believe there's any serious debate about this.

Of course, in addition to being America's Team, we want to be Washington's Team. We want a name that will inspire instant identification and pride among our citizens. And on that score, Senators is unparalleled. It's a name with deep roots both in our city and with this sport.

Some critics of the Senators name have argued that D.C. has no Senators. I'd beg to differ. We certainly do. 100 of them, in fact. And we keep them in one of our city's most distinctive and memorable buildings (and one that will be quite visible from the new park):

Just up the left-field line...

And besides, if we want a platform to make Washington's lack of voting rights clear, what better way to dramatize our plight? If we name the team "Senators," perhaps some day, in the midst of a 30-minute rambling digression about the way Hank Aaron wore his socks, Tim McCarver will stop and say, "Hey, you know, DC actually doesn't have any Senators." He's not going to say, "Hey you know, they didn't name this team 'Senators' because DC doesn't have any." Something for Mark Plotkin and Mayor Williams to think about.

But a team name isn't primarily a platform for airing grievances. We want a name we can be proud of. And "Senators" is a name to be proud of. Perhaps you've read the book Profiles in Courage. The book tells the story of eight Senators who risked their careers, their well-being, even their lives to stand up for the best interests of the country. That book showed us all just what an honorable and noble enterprise being a Senator can be.

For that matter, that book's author is a pretty famous face, and one with which our team could proudly identify:

Ask not what your ballclub can do for you; ask what you can do for your ballclub

Or how about Harry Truman, the plain-spoken people's champion? He was a Senator.

The Commissioner's Trophy stops here

So is the man many consider to by Truman's modern-day double, a man never afraid to speak his mind, John McCain.

Riding the Straight Talk Express to the top of the NL East

And let's not forget the greatest Senator of them all, a gentleman's gentleman, a giant among men, Walter Johnson:

So great they named a high school after him

This is our history, Washington. These are some of our brightest lights. And for those fence-sitters out there (and for the benefit of our moderator), I offer you this picture Arkansas Senator Blanche Lambert Lincoln:

As pretty as a Brad Wilkerson double to left

Are we to seriously consider tossing aside these examples of strength, heroism, and greatness -- these American icons -- in favor of a carpetbagging name that's so dull, so nondescript, so... gray?

I think not. I believe the people of Washington want our heroes, our heritage. They want the name they've always wanted. They want Senators.

Posted by Fred at 12:53 PM | Comments (0)

November 12, 2004


We interrupt this debate to bring you this helpful news alert: The world has a new reigning jackass.

This jackass, perhaps unsurprisingly, is a professional football player. The NFL seems to breed a bigger crop of jerks and street thugs with every passing year. And just when you thought it couldn't get any more outrageous than Keyshawn Johnson saying that a female reporter needed to be spanked, along comes Gerard Warren to snatch Johnson's crown away.

Warren is a defensive end for the Cleveland Browns, whose season is disintregrating before our very eyes, as you may have noticed. It doesn't figure to get any better this weekend, when they receive a visit from old rival and current giant-killer Pittsburgh. Evidently, Warren decided his team needed some firing up, which in itself wasn't a bad idea.

So what did Warren do to get his teammates going? Did he purchase them motivational tapes from Tony Robbins? No, he decided that he would attempt a flagrant hit on Pittsburgh's sensational rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Not only that, he announced his intentions to the media in advance. Always a good idea when you're planning to do something against the rules, no?

And Warren, bless him, didn't just issue a vague threat like, "We're going to try to get to the kid." No, that would leave far too much to the imagination. Instead, Warren helpfully supplied details, saying that he wanted to "go across [Roethlisberger's] head a time or two" and plant his elbow in the rookie's throat. He capped it all off with the kind of quote that sticks in the head:

"One rule they used to tell me: Kill the head and the body's dead."

This is a quote pulled directly from the Carlos the Jackal Motivational Handbook. (Actually, I seem to recall hearing that G. Gordon Liddy said something similar in front of one of the Kennedy kids, but that's another story.) And Warren knows illegal hits: he was fined earlier in his career for a crushing blindside hit on Mark Brunell, back when Brunell was a frisky 50-something down in Jacksonville.

A quote like that is plenty enough to qualify Warren for Idiot of the Year honors. But now comes the interesting part: What will Warren do in the actual game?

If Warren so much as breathes on Roethlisberger, he might as well send a telegram to the league office: "DEAR TAGS STOP PLEASE FINE ME STOP FINE ME REAL REAL BIG STOP A SUSPENSION WOULD BE GOOD TOO STOP YOURS CORDIALLY GERALD". When a repeat offender announces he's going to try to cripple one of the league's rising stars and then does, even the NFL has to look up long enough to notice, assuming they're not too busy cracking down on players displaying unauthorized tributes to dead friends on their uniforms.

And if Warren doesn't lay a hand on the kid, you can bet that the Steelers will have a few remarks of their own in the post-game. Something about an alligator mouth and a hummingbird ass. Warren almost has to try to kill Roethlisberger to save face around the league. I can't wait.

The NFL, as usual, is right on top of this. Reports have it that the league has issued a sterm warning to Warren for his remarks. Reportedly, discussions are ongoing on whether to send Warren to bed without supper.

If it were me, I'd say forget the warning. If Warren is so excited about killing people, I say let's give him a gun and send him to Iraq. Our guys could use a hand, and Warren seems like the kind of can-do soldier who'd love nothing more than toting an M-16 and wiping out insurgents.

It's a violent world, friends. Bill Veeck once said of the '70s, "The sports that fit the time were football, hockey and mugging." Veeck was a wise man, and his words ring true again today. Death? Mayhem? Blood and guts? Pass the popcorn.

Posted by Fred at 07:44 PM | Comments (0)

The Great Debate, Day 5


Denny McLain
Thank you, Mr. Fred, for those remarks.

We now turn to the second of three statements from BallWonk, representing the Grays.

Let me take a moment to remind everyone to vote early and often (but not more than once a day) in the name poll on the sidebar both here and at BallWonk's blog. Voting will continue for another 10 days before a winner is certified.

Mr. BallWonk, you have the floor.

BallWonk, Speaking for the Grays

I would like to apologize to my esteemed - or, to judge by the way he's looking at me, thoroughly steamed - colleague, Mr. Fred, for implying that his Senatorial delusions stem from any temporary source, such as a superabundance of Natty Boh. Clearly, his disconnection with reality is of a more permanent nature, more senility than stupor.

What has the failure of the Kansas City Royals' 1955 marketing campaign got to do with anything? Nothing. Nothing at all. Yes, honoring the Negro Leagues is a part of the drive to name our new team the Grays. But it is not the only part, and to BallWonk not even the most important part.

The most important thing about the Grays name is that it's a winner. The Grays were the single most talented and successful professional team to play in Washington. In any sport. Ever.

That's what the Grays name is all about.

The fact that Grays would also give Major League Baseball a Negro League homage in both the American and National Leagues, well, that's gravy; delicious gravy, but even without that gravy we've got thick, juicy slices of pennant-winning pot roast, consecutive-championship potatoes, and steamed Hall of Fame carrots on our plate. At least if we go for the Grays.

Senators, on the other hand, is serving up a thin broth of last-place soup with a side order of stale talent.

Compared to the Senators, a can of Natty Boh starts to sound positively appetizing.

This debate isn't only about the Homestead Grays.

Why, the Brooklyn Dodgers - the team that shattered the color barrier with Jackie Roosevelt Robinson in 1947 - were known as the Grays from 1885-87, before Washington even had a team called the Senators. Our home opener will take place on the anniversary of Jackie Robinson's big-league debut, and Robinson played for Brooklyn's farm club in Montreal before joining the majors. If the Robinson-Montreal-Grays-Washington connection is not a sign from the baseball gods, I don't know what is.

The early National League also featured the Louisville Grays, from 1876 to 1877, the Milwaukee Grays in 1878, and the Providence Grays, from 1878 to 1885.

Let me tell you a little about the Providence Grays. In their eight seasons, the Grays featured three future Hall of Famers: John Montgomery Ward, Charley Radbourn, and Jim O'Rourke. In 1882, Grays righty Ward set a record that still stands by throwing an 18-inning complete-game shutout. The Grays won two pennants and the first World Series. In that inaugural interleague championship, the Grays swept the New York Mets behind Radbourn, who pitched three consecutive complete-game wins.

Gosh, should we pick Grays, a team name associated with sweeping the Mets in the playoffs, or Senators, a team name associated with finishing in last place and relocating to other cities? Yeah, that's a tough one. Not.

And in his pictoral exhibit of less-than-thrilling grayness, my opponent hides behind distortions and ignores the more glamorous and exciting connotations of Grays. With Senators, you get Strom Thurmond and Ted Kennedy. But Grays looks more like this:

Linda Gray, aka Sue Ellen Ewing on Dallas

David Gray, lighting up the charts in Britain and America

Macy Gray, thrilling chanteuse

Zane Grey practically invented the Western

Confederate gray, for our fans in Virginia

Say, speaking of the Civil War, the Grays colors would be blue and gray, healing at long last the historical scars of the War of the Rebellion. Our team could bring together rebel Virginians and loyal Marylanders, the Sons of the Confederacy, the great-grandchildren of slaves, and the descendants of Union soldiers, to root for one team. America's team. Isn't it time to finish Lincoln's work and bind up at long last the nation's wounds?

Ferocious, all-American gray wolves

Battleships, so exciting they named a shade of gray after them

Say, speaking of battleships, you know what else is gray? Fighter jets. You know, the sleek, lethal aircraft with which America rules the world's skies and wages the war against terror. Mr. Fred seems to believe that the heroes who defend the high frontier and their jets are too boring. BallWonk begs to differ.

F-15 Eagle, the powerful S. Brad Wilkerson of the sky

F-16 Falcon, swift and nimble, the Jose Vidro of the air

F-18 Hornet, fierce and adaptable like Livan Hernandez

F-22 Raptor, like Mike Hinckley a future star

Now that's what I'm talking about. Gray boring? Tell that to the millions of fans of Linda Gray on Dallas, or Macy Gray on the radio, or to anyone who has thrilled to the sight of a gray wolf on the prowl, or a warship cruising in to port, or the thundering roar of a fighter jet on patrol.

Boring? Nay. Gray is a color of victory. Victory on the field, at sea, and in the sky. Gray is the winning hue, whether it's beating the Mets for the pennant, Kansas City for the championship, or the terrorists and tyrants of Asia.

If we want our team to stand on a tradition of winning, to start with a legacy of success, to play with the values that make America great, then we have only one choice in this debate: the Washington Grays.

Posted by Fred at 12:41 AM | Comments (0)

November 11, 2004

The Great Debate, Day 4


Denny McLain, Moderator

Thank you, Mr. BallWonk. We will now turn to Mediocre Fred's second statement. A quick reminder to everyone: Be sure to vote early and often (but not more than once a day) in the name poll on the sidebar both here and at BallWonk's blog.

In case you were wondering, that organ music you heard during the intermission was played by yours truly. I have been a virtuoso with the organ since childhood, and in fact I considered becoming a profesisonal organist before I chose baseball. Had I gone that route, I might not have met the "friends" I met while playing baseball, and I might be a free man today. On the other hand, I would not have gotten to know my friend Fat Tony. And I've gotten to know him very well. Very well indeed. But enough about me.

Since the tensions in our contest are beginning to run high, I'd like to remind both of our debaters that express physical threats are prohibited. Also, any weapons can and will be confiscated by the security staff. Bear that in mind as you continue.

Mr. Fred, the floor is yours. Please proceed.

Mediocre Fred, Speaking for the Senators

Thank you, Mr. McLain. Before we proceed, as today is Veteran's Day I'd like to observe a moment of silence in honor of all those who have served our country. Thank you.

Well, I must say I'm not quite sure what to make of my opponent's statements. "All sound and fury, signifying nothing" might be a fair summation. But what really disturbs me is that my opponent is once again showing a laissez-faire attitude toward the facts.

"When I choose a word," Humpty Dumpty once said, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less." That seems to be my opponent's attitude toward the words and numbers he uses. He seems to have a private standard of "truth" and "facthood" in which all his logically precarious arguments somehow hang together. I've been trying for several days now to understand how he justifies his carelessness with the facts, and I've come to the conclusion that the strain of defending an obviously inferior challenger has caused him to revert to a world of fantasy, where black is white, down is up and "Grays" is a more exciting name than "Senators." Yes, my opponent has drifted into Superman's Bizarro World.

I'm sure my opponent is shaking his head. He thinks I'm being too harsh. Am I? I'd like to say so, but I can't find any other explanation that makes sense. Perhaps my opponent can explain some of the more... curious apects of his argument.

For instance, what part of "Washington born and bred" does my opponent fail to understand? He cites some Google-search statistics, as if they were at all meaningful. "Born and bred," our more astute readers will recognize, refers to a place of origin, not the number of hits a name receives in an online search. (I realize this is an elementary fact to many of you, but I'm explaining it slowly so my opponent will understand.) To use an example of my opponent's, he is from Minnesota, but no longer lives there. He is still Minnesota born and bred, no matter how many ears he's lived elsewhere.

As for those other teams that use the Senators moniker currently... they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, no? If the name were as boring as my opponent suggests, it would be shunned. But rather, it has been adopted multiple times. Meanwhile, since the Homestead club packed up shop, the "Grays" name has been used by... no one. Must be because it's so exciting, right? But we'll return to that point in a minute.

My opponent rather amusingly discussed the "souls" of ballclubs, and I was so charmed by this I nearly failed to notice that his argument contains the seeds of its own destruction. For if the Dodgers, Giants et al. did not become "defunct" teams when they moved, then how did the Senators become defunct? As my opponent himself said in his opening statement, the original Senators now reside in Minnesota. How can my opponent have it both ways? Either the Senators are no more defunct than the Dodgers etc., or they are just as gone and therefore belong on the list with those other teams. Which is it, sir?

My opponent then goes on to suggest that "no American League team was truly 'big league' in 1901." Really? That's quite interesting, since Major League baseball regards the league as a valid major league in that year, and every year since. It strikes me as odd that my opponent would choose to argue against MLB's interpretation of its own history. But then, perhaps this is to be expected from a man who still does not realize that the Milwaukee Brewers existed as a minor-league team before the major-league squad arrived, despite my having brought it up in my last post. (To be fair, the minor-league Brewers only existed for 50 years, so they were easy to miss.)

My opponent then goes on to attempt to defend "Grays," perhaps the most boring name ever devised by man, as somehow more exciting than "Senators." It's an old debater's trick to go on the offensive on your weakest point, before your opponent has a chance to pound you to smithereens with it. And my opponent is a skilled debater who's learned his lessons well. So it's perhaps no surprise that he chose to mention this point first.

It is something of a surprise, however, that he made such a hash of it. Perhaps you didn't notice, having been dazzled by all his pretty pictures. So let me take you through some of the, ahem, "high points" of his argument. And I do mean "high" in the wacky-weed sense. (I will not stoop to accusing my opponent of being a Natty Boh drinker, as he did in his post. I have too much class to accuse him of drinking swill.)

He contends that "like all truly bad team names, [Senators] has three syllables." The latter part is indisputably true. Senators does indeed have three syllables. Just like Cardinals, Orioles, Indians, and Athletics, all of which are well-liked and historically-grounded names. Perhaps my opponent is afraid of multisyllabic words, but there's no good historical reason for the rest of us to be.

Then he proceeds to show us a bunch of pictures of wrinkly white men in conservative suits and uses this to conclude that Senators is less interesting than Grays.

Well, I've assembled a little photo gallery of my own, to show you how exciting gray really is. Ready? Here we go!

Ooooohhh... ahhhh....

Boy, isn't this exciting?

Wait, it gets better...

No, it doesn't.

Bored yet?

How about now?


And not every Senator is as dull as my opponent's little slide show would suggest. Ladies and gentlemen, I offer you... Mary Landrieu!

Definitely not boring!

I'd like to see the Gray that can match her for excitement.

Oh, by the way, while there are many famous, illustrious and exciting Senators, the only famous Gray I can think of is.... Gray Davis.

Hi, remember me?

If there is a more boring person in politics today, I have not met this person. And since my opponent made such a big deal about the electoral defeats of Senators, I would like to point out that the last time that the above-mentioned Gray was involved in an election, he was the first governor to be recalled from office in over 80 years. Senators may lose, but Grays lose historically.

I've really just scratched the surface of my opponent's deceptions and contradictions, but as with the last post, discussing them all in detail would take too long. So let me address one of the most popular arguments in favor of the Grays: acknowledging the Negro Leagues.

My opponent can spin it any way he likes, but he knows as well as I do that were it not for the existence of the Homestead teams, no one would give even a moment's consideration to a snoozer of a name like Grays. People like my opponent support Grays because they believe that the league and the sport don't do enough to honor the Negro Leagues' heritage. And they have a point. MLB doesn't do enough to honor the Negro Leagues. And people like my opponent, men and women of conscience that they are, think that naming our team after the Grays will rectify this historical oversight.

I applaud the sentiment but not the execution. A team name is just a token. White people with guilty consciences approve tokens like these because they can feel better without exerting much effort. Future generations may well believe that Martin Luther King's primary accomplishment was getting us a day off work in January.

Do you think DC's sizable African American community is going to be grateful to the powers that be for this show of tokenism? Let's look at some history. Specifically, let's look at my opponent's beloved example, the Kansas City Royals. The team was named to honor the legendary Monarchs, as my opponent pointed out in his opening statement. Now, if you believe the argument of Grays supporters, black fans would be flocking to the Royals, right? Well, according to this article, it ain't so, Joe:

More than 50 million fans have attended Royals games inside Kauffman Stadium since the Truman Sports Complex opened in 1973. Last season almost 1.8 million pushed through the turnstiles at the K. Some of these fans were baseball junkies, some merely curious tourists. One trait that nearly all these fans shared was that they were white.

Mike Levy, the Royals' vice president of marketing, acknowledges the franchise's problem in attracting African-American fans. "The statistics are real," says Levy. "We know from our focus groups that there are a lot of African-American fans watching the Royals on television and listening on the radio every night. It's difficult to understand why they don't come out to the stadium."

Buck O'Neil, the Negro Baseball League legend, thinks he knows why Kansas City's black residents have turned away from the Royals, and the problem dates back to the Athletics' arrival on the turf of the Monarchs, the city's Negro League team. "The A's came to Kansas City [in 1955] and didn't sell baseball to the black baseball fans," recalls O'Neil. "They sold it to Johnson County. They sold it to the white fans. They had a built-in fanbase with the Monarchs' fans, but they didn't think they needed them."

There is an underlying animosity in the black community toward the Royals that the organization seems unaware of. Glen Graham's father pitched for the Belmont Baby Blue Birds in the Negro Leagues. Graham hawked programs inside the old Municipal Stadium at 22nd and Brooklyn, right in Kansas City's most historic black neighborhood. He believes the Royals stole baseball. "They built [Kauffman] Stadium and designed it for people other than us," Graham says while attending the Cardinals series. "The basic black family can't afford to pay $15 for a seat like I did here tonight."...

Dell Wells owns D's Barber Shop on 34th and Prospect. "We have that conversation here at the shop all the time," says Wells, when asked why more blacks don't go to the K. "I used to be an avid fan of the Royals, but I don't follow them much anymore. There just aren't a lot of black players on the team, and the Royals don't want to spend the money to sign any quality black players."...

"The Royals need to do more than give away 30,000 Monarch caps once a year," says [Negro Leagues Museum director Don] Motley, referring to Monarch Cap Night, which takes place Saturday, June 23. "It's embarrassing that Kansas City is the home of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and they don't do more to attract black fans."

A team name is an empty gesture. If we want to be serious about attracting African American fans to the sport (and we should), let's do something meaningful. Let's market aggressively east of the river. Let's make sure there are affordable tickets in the new park, so that the residents of the surrounding neighborhoods can afford to go to the games. Let's put a Negro Leagues museum inside the new park, so that fans of all races can learn more about an oft-neglected chapter of baseball's history. Let's sign more African-American players. Let's hire more minorities on the coaching staff and in the front office. Let's do outreach, working with programs like Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities to spread the sport in the African American community. In short, let's be a model franchise for minority participation in the sport.

If we want to be serious about bringing the game back in the African American community, we need to take serious measures. This house is rotten at the foundation, and my opponent wants to apply a fresh coat of paint. We can do better. We should do better. And the Senators will do better.

Posted by Fred at 01:07 AM | Comments (0)

November 10, 2004

The Great Debate, Day 3


Denny McLain, Moderator

Now we turn to BallWonk's first statement. At the conclusion of his remarks, each side will have two daily statements remaining before we hear closing statements on Monday. I would like to remind the audience that they can vote as often as they like, up to once per day, in the ongoing poll between the Senators and the Grays.

In addition, viewers should feel free to comment on this debate, either in the comments section here or at BallWonk's blog. Speak up and be heard! Or anyway, that's what my lawyer told me before my first trial.

And I would like to remind Messrs. Wonk and Fred that my close, personal friend and former cellmate Fat Tony takes most unkindly to disparaging references to my own record as a pitcher for the Washington Senators. While I rise above petty obsessions with the past, Fat Tony wonders just how many games you think you could win if you had to rely on the 1971 Senators for run support.

Now we turn the floor over to BallWonk and the Grays.

BallWonk, Speaking for the Grays

Senators is "Washington born and bred"? Au contraire, the good people of Canada would say, pointing to the fact that a Google search for "Washington Senators" yields a paltry 147,000 hits while Googling "Ottawa Senators" generates more than 400,000. Type "" in your browser and do you find a page devoted to Washington's obsolete teams? No, you get the home page of the Harrisburg Senators - Washington's own farm club.

Mr. Fred, you've been hitting the Natty Boh a little too hard if you think anyone is fooled by your manipulations of baseball history. For one thing, the Oakland A's, Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants, and Los Angeles Dodgers were not named after previous big-league teams. They were those big-league teams. BallWonk isn't named after some guy who used to live in Minnesota; he is that guy.

The implication of Mr. Fred's specious argument is that teams die and are reborn when they move. And when the Repture comes, will some teams bodily ascend to heaven? Can the Devil Rays receive communion? Do you really expect us to believe that the Yankees have a soul?

And neither were the Milwaukee Brewers and Baltimore Orioles named after previous big-league teams in those cities. For one thing, no American League team was truly "big league" in 1901. But more importantly, the people who named the Brewers and the Orioles did not adopt those names to honor two-bit fly-by-night teams from the McKinley administration. No, the Brewers were named in honor of Milwaukee's proud status as America's beer capital. And the Orioles were named in honor of perhaps the greatest minor-league team in history, which played for 50 years after the original O's moved to the Bronx. Those fabulous minor league Orioles gave Babe Ruth his start and Buzz Arlett
a record-smashing cap to his career.

No, if we stick to the facts, here is the scorecard for clubs named in honor of past minor and negro versus major league teams:



Senators -- 0 (0)

Total -- 0 (0)


Angels -- 1 (1)

Marlins -- 2 (2)

Orioles -- 3 (6)

Padres -- 0 (2)

Royals -- 1 (2)

Total -- 7 (13)

The truth looks quite different when you take the beer goggles off, no?

You know what else looks different when you wake up the next morning? The Senators name.

Senators backers talk trash about the Grays for being too dull, too, well, gray. "It's not exciting enough," they say.

Which makes BallWonk think to himself, "What is that blue powder they're adding to their Mai Tais, and can I have some too?"

Because, in point of fact, Senators is a terrible name. The baseball gods stopped trying to make dull names after they hit the humdrum jackpot with Senators. It is the acme of boring.

For one thing, like all truly bad team names, it has three syllables. Count 'em. Sen. A. Tors. That's one syllable too many, just like the Devil Rays and Diamond Backs. Is that the company we want to keep? I say no.

And speaking of the company we'll keep, how about this:


Because, you know, what we really need is a baseball team named after Ted Kennedy and Jesse Helms. Nothing says baseball like Hillary Clinton and Strom Thurmond. The plain fact is that America hates its Senators. In the 11 presidential elections since 1964, seven times Americans have faced a choice between a current or former U.S. Senator and Some Other Guy. They've chosen Some Other Guy all seven times.

In fact, the baseball Senators and real Senators have this in common: In the 20th Century, each has won the big prize just once.

Americans just don't like Senators. And Washington, without Senators of our own, resents them even more. Twice since moving to Washington, BallWank has nearly been run down by SUV-driving U.S. Senators from his own party. Who hasn't been waiting at a restaurant for tables said to be an hour away only to watch a Senator and his party breeze right by? Heck, when George Lucas needed new bad guys for his Star Wars prequels, he made them Senators.

But the fact that by naming our team the Senators, we would be associating with the hundred least popular people in America is beside the point. The point is that Senators is a boring name.

The U.S. Senate has its very own TV channel, broadcast to every home in America with cable. Have you ever watched C-SPAN 2? Live coverage of the Senate makes watching dead grass wilt feel as exciting as a Jackie Chan movie. Pranksters and satirists have tried broadcasting fish tanks and fireplaces on TV, but as yet no one has found a way to make television more boring than live coverage of the U.S. Senate.

Want to see just how exciting Senators really are? Take a look, and try not to fall asleep:

It's like hypnosis, but painful

80-year-old men sitting in chairs. Feel the excitement!

This is what we should name our team after?

Still awake out there?

You know what's really exciting? Committee meetings

Sometimes, C-SPAN 2 shows nothing happening at all

Senators more exciting than Grays? Puh-leeeze. Who, given a choice between watching the U.S. Senate all day and watching gray paint dry on the side of a battleship, wouldn't choose the paint?

And what do you call the Senators for short? Sens doesn't work. S's is unpronounceable. Tors is the protagonist of a bad fantasy novel. For generations, Washingtonians called their Senators the Nats, short for Nationals, proving that Senators is so boring that even Washington fans reject it.

So while I admit that Grays lacks the drama of Rangers or Pirates, the plain truth is Senators is worse.

And what's so special about the Senators anyway? The last time the Senators played in Washington, only 655,156 people showed up. That's more than 1,000 fewer people per game than the 2004 Expos drew in Montreal. If we assume that the average fan attended three games in the 1971 season, that means that there were only about 220,000 real Senators fans in Washington when the team left.

The Census Bureau tells us that the average American moves once every five years and dies once every 70 years. Factoring in relocation and mortality, there should be only 2,844 real Senators fans left in the Washington area. Here's how the numbers work out:

1971 -- 218,385
1976 -- 109,193
1981 -- 54,597
1986 -- 27,299
1991 -- 13,650
1996 -- 6, 825
2001 -- 3,413
2004 (est) -- 2,844

That's about as many people as attend an average Potomac Cannons game. In fact, with annual attendance above 170,000, the Cannons probably have about 57,000 fans in the Washington area, or 20 for every remaining Senators fan. Just days ago, 59.5 million Americans voted against a Senator for president. For every remaining Senators fan in Washington, 21,000 Americans voted against the Senator on Election Day.

That makes Senators even less popular than Devil Rays.

The choice in this debate remains as simple as ever: Do we want to name our team after the least popular and most boring institution in America? Do we want to associate our ballclub with the likes of Trent Lott and Fritz Hollings? With losers like Barry Goldwater, George McGovern, Walter Mondale, Bob Dole, and John Kerry? When America thinks of our team, do we want them to think of boring losers that nobody likes?

BallWonk hopes not. BallWonk believes Washington can do - should do - better.

Posted by Fred at 02:50 PM | Comments (0)

November 09, 2004

The Great Debate, Day 2



Thank you both for those eloquent opening statements, gentlemen. We will now begin the back-and-fourth portion of the debate. Each of you will be given three days in which to lay out your cases in greater detail. These days will alternate, so that one person will speak today, the other will have the opportunity for rebuttal the next day, and so forth. By mutual agreement, Mediocre Fred will have the first opportunity to speak.

Incidentally, I noticed that during your opening statements, both of you made fun of my record in Washington. I assure you and the viewing audience that I can take a joke just as well as the next man, but I would like both of you to direct your attention to my close friend and associate Fat Tony, who is seated in the front row. You will notice that he has brought his brass knuckles with him to the debate. Fat Tony is a close personal friend of mine, and he tends to take criticism of me personally. Very personally. I would suggest you take this under advisement as you craft your further arguments.

Mr. Fred, please proceed.

Mediocre Fred, Speaking for the Senators

Thank you, Mr. McLain. And I would like to assure both you and Fat Tony that when I referred to your tenure with Senators, I meant it with nothing but respect.

I'd like to commend my opponent for his clever and well-crafted opening statement. I particularly enjoyed this passage:

Since baseball started moving teams and expanding, clubs have adopted numerous new names. Most of the time, teams have chosen original names based on local associations or wildlife. But six squads have chosen new names based on previous club names. One, the Kansas City Royals, honored a Negro League team. Four, the Orioles, Padres, Angels, and Marlins, paid tribute to old minor-league teams. All of these teams have gone to the World Series, and all but the Padres have won the Series.

Only one team, the Washington Senators, was named after a big-league team. The expansion Senators never won a pennant, sent no players to the Hall of Fame, posted only one winning record in 11 years, and couldn't even draw a million fans that year.

History shows that when we name teams in honor of old Negro League or minor league squads, the new teams become popular winners. When we name teams after defunct major league squads, the new teams become unpopular losers. The baseball gods are clear and just in their judgment of new team names.

Pretty impressive marshaling of statistics, no? He almost had me convinced for a second there.

Then, of course, I took a closer look at that statement, and I realized those numbers were more twisted than a Jack Ryan sex party. As you'll see throughout the course of this debate, my opponent's grasp of statistics is weaker than Marion Barry's grasp of quantum physics. I know that we're supposed to be making our own cases here and not questioning our opponent's, but I simply must ask: Why can't you just be straight with the people of Washington? Are you that careless about the facts, or just so desperate to make your case that you'll twist the numbers until they sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame?"

For instance, my opponent would have you believe that our Senators are the only team ever to adopt the name of a defunct major-league squad. And that simply isn't true.

Perhaps you've heard of the Milwaukee Brewers. Many people think they simply adopted the name of the local minor-league team (although oddly, my opponent didn't even recall this), but in fact, the Milwaukee Brewers were a charter franchise in the American League. They existed in Milwaukee for one season before becoming the St. Louis Browns. And the Brewers have indeed been to a World Series -- the much-beloved club known as Harvey's Wallbangers made the Series in 1982. Did my opponent not know this? Or was he trying to hide it?

That Browns franchise that relocated from Milwaukee relocated famously in 1954 to Baltimore, where they became the Orioles. And the Orioles are the linchpin of my opponent's argument, since they're by far the most successful of the teams who adopted minor-league monikers. But somehow he omitted the fact that the Orioles, too, were a charter American League member, playing two seasons in Baltimore before becoming the New York Highlanders (today's Yankees). Prior to that, the Orioles were in the National League from 1892 to 1899. That Orioles team, piloted by Ned Hanlon and featuring Wee Willie Keeler as its star, was a legend in its time, leading the league in wins three years running, from 1894 to 1896. Talk about a proud pedigree. It's hard to imagine that this could have slipped my opponent's mind. Did it? Or does he have something to hide?

And what about the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves? What about the Kansas City/Oakland Athletics? What about the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants? These team all adopted names of major-league clubs that, by definition, became defunct when they left their original towns. Could my opponent have forgotten these teams, too? As the Church Lady would say, "How conveeeeenient."

Now that we have the facts, let's have an honest chart comparing teams that adopt major-league monikers and those that adopt minor-league or Negro League names. (The statistically-minded are free to check my math at Baseball Reference.)

(The chart format is as follows: Team name -- WS appearances (WS wins)

Dodgers -- 9 (5)
Athletics -- 6 (4)
Orioles -- 6 (3)
Braves -- 7 (2)
Giants -- 3 (0)
Brewers -- 1 (0)
Senators -- 0 (0)
Total -- 32 (14)

Marlins -- 2 (2)
Royals -- 2 (1)
Angels -- 1 (1)
Padres -- 2 (0)
Total -- 7 (4)

The picture looks quite different when the facts are viewed honestly, doesn't it? Turns out that the baseball gods are indeed clear and just; they respect tradition, and big-league tradition beats bush-league tradition every time. These are facts, not exaggerations. It's easier to traffic in facts when the facts are on your side, isn't it?

Now, I can't help but wonder why my opponent would go to such lengths to hide the truth. It's true that the weaker your position, the more you have to stretch the truth to defend it. But still, I wouldn't have imagined that his position was so desperate that he'd have to go to these lengths to conceal the facts.

But if I try to point out all the exaggerations and inaccuracies in my opponent's argument, I'll be here all month. (Never mind going after the fact that he admits an infatuation with Lisa Lisa & the Cult Jam and doesn't acknowledge the '80s girl-pop superiority of the Bangles.) Instead, I'd like to move on to the next point in my argument: the import problem.

No, I'm not talking about those low-priced Chinese electronics that are putting our workers out of good factory jobs. I'm talking about the name my opponent is arguing for. When Kansas City chose "Royals" for its team name, they were honoring the legendary Monarchs, a famous and successful team and, most importantly, a team that was local to KC. That's not the case with "Grays."

Did you know that the legendary franchise whose praises my opponent sings so loudly was not called the Washington Grays? No. It was called the Homestead Grays. Ever wonder where that "Homestead" comes from? Perhaps you assumed it was just a splash of color. After all, the Cuban Giants didn't actually play in Cuba, did they?

But no, Homestead is an actual town. It was a steel-mill town right outside of... Pittsburgh. And during the glorious run of championships that my opponent cited, the Grays split time between Griffith Stadium here and Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. And all that time, they retained the "Homestead" name. Here's a pop quiz that should be easy for true Washingtonians to answer: If an politician from Pennsylvania comes to serve in D.C., rents a house in Georgetown, lives there on weekdays when Congress is in session but keeps his Pennsylvania plates, does that makes him a D.C. resident? Of course not. The name for which my opponent argued so eloquently is an out-of-town interloper. Or to use a term familiar to my southern friends, a carpetbagger.

It's not enough that we had to fight for home rule. It's not enough that we had to fight to vote for president. It's not bad enough that we still don't have voting representatives in Congress. Now we have outsiders -- well-meaning outsiders, but outsiders nonetheless -- attempting to foist someone else's name on us. We've had enough of meddling control boards and corn-belt Congressmen calling our shots. Are we going to stand back and let another interloper invade our city?

The Washington I know rejects that. The Washington I know is sick and tired of outsiders seizing all the power. The Washington I know stands four-square behind its own history, loud and proud. The Washington I know doesn't need to import Pittsburgh's name.

Senators is the only candidate in this race that is Washington-born and Washington-bred. Senators is the name that is uniquely identified with Washington in major-league baseball's history. And Senators is the name that the people of Washington have overwhelmingly, and repeatedly, preferred for their baseball team.

So will we stand up and fight for the name that we've always loved, the name that's truly ours, the name that is the people's choice? Or will we stand by and let a bunch of out-of-towners give us Pittsburgh's second-hand name? I know and trust that my fellow baseball citizens will make the right choice.

Thank you.

Posted by Fred at 12:34 AM | Comments (0)

November 08, 2004

Let the Great Debate Begin!


Opening Statements


Good evening, I'm Denny McLain, formerly of the Washington Senators and currently of the Michigan state penal system, and welcome to the D.C. Armory, site of this week's Great Name Debate 2004. Seated to my left in the Josh Gibson jersey is the estimable BallWonk, who will be debating on behalf of the name "Grays," winner of the name-the-team poll on his site. On my right, in the navy cap with the block red "W", is the equally estimable Mediocre Fred, who will be debating on behalf of the incumbent name, "Senators."

Our moderator

In a format agreed upon by both parties, each candidate will make a brief opening statement, followed by alternating posts once a day for the next six days, and concluding with closing statements on the final day. After that, we all plan to go down to Fado's and drink beers until we go numb.

Both candidates are free to use any supporting materials which they feel may aid them in making their cases. Name-calling, rumors, hearsay, innuendo, half-truths, untruths, groundless speculation and outright lies are both allowed and encouraged. OK, not so much lies. But this is Washington, and who can ever know what the truth is? Profanity, obscenity and racial epithets are outlawed, unless they're really funny.

This debate is being simulcast here and at BallWonk's site. Readers can vote for a winner during the debate and for the week following, by which time Emperor Selig and his dark minions will probably have chosen a completely different name anyway. Vote as often as you like, but no more than once per day.

By virute of a coin toss prior to the debate, Mediocre Fred has won the right to go first. Mr. Fred, please proceed.

Mediocre Fred, Speaking for the Senators
Thank you, Mr. BallWonk, for joining me here this evening in this noble attempt to inform and entertain the baseball public. Thank you also to the Armory for agreeing to host us, to Movable Type for making this broadcast possible, to the audience for tuning us in, and to Mr. McLain for agreeing to moderate. (And I must say, Denny, that orange jumpsuit looks quite slimming on you.)

Baseball is America's game. At its best, baseball embodies those qualities that are best about our country: its pastoral roots, its ethic of ordered striving toward a common goal, and its balance of democracy and meritocracy in its 8-team playoff field. (Those who would argue that the Yankees have subverted this particular virtue in recent years will find a sympathetic ear at this podium, but all the Yankees have done is try to buy success at any price. What could be more American than that?)

Fathers playing catch with sons, mothers playing catch with daughters, families going to minor-leagues parks on Saturday nights... baseball is timeless, woven into the fabric of our culture. And baseball does best when it evokes its past. Baseball has a rich, layered history, written and oral, unmatched by any other sport and rivaled by few institutions in our society. To evoke that history is to strum deeply-embedded chords in the human soul. And in no city in America is that truer than in Washington D.C. As Mayor Williams said at the press conference announcing baseball's return to this fair city, Washington's 33-year
hiatus from the game was merely the interruption of a conversation, a conversation that begins anew in 2005, at long last.

In the spirit of restarting the city's discourse with the game and the sport after these fallow decades, the team could do no better than to pick up where it left off. Not in the sense of a fan riot, a last-place team, or Denny McLain on the mound (no offense intended to our esteemed moderator), but by regaining the name by which our team was popularly known throughout its history in our town. I come before you tonight to ask that you re-elect the Senators as the name of Washington's new baseball team.

"Senators" is, of course, a two-term incumbent with decades of distinguished service in Washington, but it is far from the sort of incumbent that heads off to the legislature, gets drunk on power and privilege, forgets its roots, leaves its wife for a twenty-something intern and is eventually apprehended in a car with a stripper next to the Tidal Basin. No, if there's one phrase that can sum up Senators' term in office, it is "the people's choice."

It was the people's choice from the beginning. Washington's American League entry was born in 1901 carrying the official nickname of "Nationals," a bland and inoffensive name, the Joe Lieberman of monikers. Despite Major League Baseball's heavy-handed attempt to enforce the recognition of the team's offical name, the people and press opted for "Senators" practically from the beginning. And why not? It's uniquely Washington in a way that other names are not (no other American city houses the U.S. Senate, you may have noticed), it has a distinctive and pleasing sound (much better mouthfeel than "Nationals" or our current opponent, "Grays") and it provides headline writers with many more catchy possibilities ("Senators Censure Phils," "Senators Vote Down Braves," &c. ad nauseam).

Though MLB did not officially yield to the will of the people until the '50s, there was never any doubt what the fans, our team's constituents, wanted. They voted, time and again, every way they knew how, for Senators.

And it remains the people's choice today. Public-opinion polls routinely favor Senators for the new team's name by wide margins. This is a fact, much like the law of gravity only more interesting. And yet, when my estimable opponent assembled his name-the-team primary, the incumbent, the people's choice, was mysteriously excluded. How could this be? Was it an attack of amnesia? Did the bitch set us up? My opponent constructed a clever rationale, allegedly based on the Constitution, on which he based his decision to exclude Senators. If this wasn't an example of legislating from the bench, I don't know what is. But nevertheless, I think the good gentleman may have conveniently bypassed the true rationale. Did he not conclude that any name-the-team primary including Senators would be so one-sided as to make the whole concept of a primary seem derisory?

But what's done is done, and now his alleged "people's choice," Grays, will stand on the merits against the name that fans then and now clearly prefer. Now, Grays is a choice with a history of its own, and the Negro Leagues certainly deserve more recognition than they receive currently. In other circumstances, in other markets, Grays might be a perfectly worthy choice. But who would be fool enough, in a case where the will of the people is so emphatically expressed, to fly in the face of it and impose a name that smacks of political correctness?

Imagine with me, if you will, a young man who grew up on the Senators. He was born with the first-generation club, suffered the loss of a rising contender but picked up the second-generation club without a beat, then saw his club depart for the badlands of Texas without so much as a "thank you." He was, let's say, 18 when his Senators became the Rangers. He shed some tears, but he figured that baseball would never leave the nation's capital unrepresented by the nation's pastime for very long. So our young man waited. He was 21 when the Padres almost moved to D.C. He was 23 when President Ford tried and failed to persuade MLB to bring an expansion team here. He was 34 when Washington became the leader in an expansion drive that never happened. He was 38 when the capital lost out to Denver and Miami, and 42 when we lost to Phoenix and Tampa Bay (America's two largest and most vibrant retirement communities). When this year's happy news came, he'd just turned 51. He'd started to wonder if he'd die without seeing another major-league game in Washington. This is a man who's paid his dues. What name do you think he wants for his new team? Of course, he wants the only name he's ever known: Senators.

Major League Baseball needs to do more to acknowledge the Negro Leagues' legacy. But don't balance your historical deficits on Washington's back, MLB. Rather, yield to the will of the people. Bring back the historic choice. Bring back the people's choice. Bring back the right choice: Senators.

Thank you.

BallWonk, Speaking for the Grays

Good day, and thank you, Mr. Fred, for proposing this debate, and Mr. McLean, for hosting it.

With all due respect to Mr. McLean, he is the personification of why Senators is the wrong name for our team. Here is a pitcher who won 31 games for Detroit in 1968, a win total unmatched in the 36 seasons since. In his career, he won 131 games and lost only 91. Yet the one season he spent in a Washington Senators uniform, just three years after going 31-6, he won 10 and lost 22. Even Michael Dukakis had a better record than that.

For a brief, shining moment in the 1920s and 1930s, the Senators were a good ballclub. But since then, since Franklin Roosevelt's first administration, the Senators have always been Washington's lovable losers.

The thing about lovable loser is that they're, well, losers. Has any baseball fan ever watched his club finish in last place and say to himself, "Self, thank goodness we didn't make the playoffs; my October schedule is just too booked to watch more baseball." Or, "Self, as long as our team is named the Senators, who really wants to win games? Not me!"

No. No baseball fan has ever thought either of those things.

So why embrace a legacy of losing?

Look, BallWonk respects the memories of today's older fans, who were adolescents and young men and women back when the Senators played losing baseball in Washington. Why, I sometimes listen to the music of my own teenage years. But even though I might enjoy a nostalgic listen every now and then, I did grow up. Part of growing up is recognizing that no matter how much fun I had dancing to "Head to Toe" or "Lost in Emotion" at the junior high spring fling, Lisa Lisa & the Cult Jam were a terrible band.

As much as I cherish my memories of Lisa Lisa & the Cult Jam's two hits in 1987, I don't really want every song on the radio to sound like that today. Nor should anyone allow the fond memories of their youths to fool them into thinking that the Senators were any good. They were not. They were an embarrassment to baseball, a monumentally bad team, the very opposite of what we want our new franchise to be.

And anyway, the Constitution forbids us from using the Senators name. Despite Mr. Fred's valiant efforts to spin the issue, this new team is not a two-term incumbent. Washington has already had two Senators, and both are alive and well and still serving. The first now plays in the Minnesota Territories. BallWonk has met many of the Senators who moved to Minnesota, including Harmon "Killer" Killebrew, who is just about the nicest and most gracious famous person in the world. He brews a good root beer, too.

And likewise with Washington's second Senators, who now play in South Fork, Texas. Both teams still exist, and so this new team is not a continuation of the old ones. It would be a third Senators, something the Constitution expressly forbids in Article I, Section 3:

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State.

What could be more clear? It would take years to amend the Constitution to allow for a third Senators, but our team needs new uniforms by February.

Senators also fails the important question of trust. For 58 years, the team was named the Nats but called the Senators. Then for 14 years, the team was named the Senators but called the Nats. That's flip-flopping. We'll never know where our team stands - other than last in the division - if we adopt the Senators name.

So Senators brings a record of failure and betrayal, it would violate the Constitution, and it's an untrustworthy flip-flopper. What about the Grays?

There are almost too many good reasons to choose the Grays to count.

While they played in Washington, the Grays won 10 pennants, nine championships, and sent eight players to the Hall of Fame.

The Senators played in Washington for seven times as long but won only three pennants and one championship.

The Grays featured a veritable Who's Who of Negro League players and dominated the Negro Leagues more absolutely than any team has ever dominated its league. Not even Michael Jordan's Bulls were as supreme as the Grays were in Washington.

Since baseball started moving teams and expanding, clubs have adopted numerous new names. Most of the time, teams have chosen original names based on local associations or wildlife. But six squads have chosen new names based on previous club names. One, the Kansas City Royals, honored a Negro League team. Four, the Orioles, Padres, Angels, and Marlins, paid tribute to old minor-league teams. All of these teams have gone to the World Series, and all but the Padres have won the Series.

Only one team, the Washington Senators, was named after a big-league team. The expansion Senators never won a pennant, sent no players to the Hall of Fame, posted only one winning record in 11 years, and couldn't even draw a million fans that year.

History shows that when we name teams in honor of old Negro League or minor league squads, the new teams become popular winners. When we name teams after defunct major league squads, the new teams become unpopular losers. The baseball gods are clear and just in their judgment of new team names.

The choice in this debate could not be starker: Do we want to celebrate failure or success? Do we want to trust a flip-flopping loser or a consistent winner? Do we want to invoke the curse of the baseball gods or their blessing?

Do we want our new team to embarrass us with their losing ways or inspire us with their winning manner? Do we want to be the laughingstocks of the NL East or its masters?

In short, do we want to be the sad, sorry Senators or the great and glorious Grays?

BallWonk knows not what others may choose, but as for me, give me glory. Give me the Grays.

Thank you.

Posted by Fred at 08:29 AM | Comments (0)

November 04, 2004

Oh, Something I Forgot...

I wanted to post the astute comment of loyal reader arrScott, who's evidently in much better shape than I am.

Point of order: Bush is not a conservative. If you have friends who are happy about Bush's reelection, then neither are they conservatives.

The correct term for a candidate or a party that acts without principle to transfer wealth and power from the middle class to the very rich while cloaking themselves with the language of values and the personas of down-home folks is "Whig."

When you look at what Dubya stands for now and what the Whigs stood for in 1840, the similarities are amazing. Protect unearned property at all costs? Check. Tax wages but not wealth? Check. Increase government spending and debt? Check. Run an East-Coast educated aristocrat with a dubious military career who pretends to be a Western simpleton? Check. Engage in loose-money policies that encourage speculation and luxury spending but not sound investment or savings? Check. Refuse to talk about real policy intentions, instead talk about commitment to moral issues? Check. Give massive government contracts to politically connected corporations that engage in bribery and fraud? Check. Favor monopolies and no-bid contracts over competition? Check. Allow corporations to write the laws that govern their behavior? Check. Use churches as political machines? Check. Rely on activist judges to stifle democratic reforms in the states? Check.

It is time we stopped accepting the right-wing radicals' self-description as "conservatives." There is nothing conservative about their record in office or their agenda. They are Whigs reborn, and we ought to refer to them as such.

Excellent, excellent comment. If you don't understand the reference, I recommend "The Rise and Fall of the Whig Party" by Michael Holt, who was my history professor in college, who annually staged a dramatic re-enactment of the Sumner-Brooks caning that must be seen to be believed.

Anyhow. Just wanted to make sure everyone saw that. I'm going back into my hole. Until tomorrow.

Posted by Fred at 10:11 PM | Comments (0)

What I Feel Up To

Today's Musical Selection: "Train in Vain" by the Clash

Hello, all. Well, I'm still pretty down, but I wanted to take a moment to alert the world that just when you thought Alan Keyes couldn't embarrass himself any further, he's found a whole new level:

Alan Keyes blamed the media and fellow Republicans on Thursday for his lopsided loss to Democrat Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate race in Illinois.

Keyes also said he did not congratulate Obama after the race was called, a tradition among politicians, because doing so would have been a "false gesture" because he believes Obama's views on issues like abortion are wicked.

"I'm supposed to make a call that represents the congratulations toward the triumph of that which I believe ultimately stands for and will stand for a culture evil enough to destroy the very soul and heart of my country," Keyes said. "I can't do this, and I will not make a false gesture."...

He also said he was disappointed in what he called the number of "Republicans in name only" in Illinois. An Associated Press exit poll showed that four in 10 Republicans voted for Obama, a liberal state senator from Chicago.

"I had counted on the fact that Republicans would come back home on Election Day rather than vote a socialist into office who stands against everything they profess to believe as Republicans," Keyes said.

Keyes noted that 1.3 million people voted for him.

But Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs pointed out that 70 percent of the vote went to Obama, more than 3.4 million votes.

"The people of Illinois rendered a very clear decision on Tuesday by handing Alan Keyes the greatest election defeat in Illinois Senate history. Barack Obama's attention is focused on the important work he now must do for all the people of Illinois."

Keyes said a major difficulty in his campaign was overcoming the "stranglehold" the media had on trying to define the issues of importance in political campaigns.

"I refused to accept their authority, and I still do," Keyes said.

Alan Keyes, Mr. Classy.

I'm not sure what bothers me more about this: the fact that Keyes will look anywhere except in the mirror when looking for the reasons behind his defeat, or the fact that he refused to congratulate Obama. Keyes doesn't get it. There are plenty of politicians who have called to congratulate opponents they despised. You do it because it's the polite human thing to do. Keyes clearly equates civility and courtesy with insincerity, which is his right. But a civilization that builds itself on that principle, as ours is starting too, is a sad place indeed. A civilization where obnoxiousness and being rude to people you don't like is considered a badge of honor... well, that's a place I don't want to live.

Also, I think the world needs to know why my dad watches public television. Is it because of the superior quality of programming? No. Is it because of the fact that public TV has fewer commercials? No. So what is it? Well, you know how at the beginning of each PBS show they list off all the show's sponsors? And how at the end they credit the support of "viewers like you"? That's what Dad likes. "It's my daily affirmation. 'Viewers Like You.' Viewers like me! They really like me!" Who says television can't bring joy into our lives?

Sorry this is so short. I'll try to do better tomorrow. Ciao.

Posted by Fred at 09:23 PM | Comments (4)

November 03, 2004

Feeling an Electoral Hangover

Today's Musical Selection: "How Blue Can You Get" by B.B. King

So, how did you like that Election Night?

How is everyone? I've been better. Suffice it to say the electoral results didn't make me very happy. I think "crushed" would not be an inappropriate term. "Dumbfounded" might be more appropriate. I thought we had this one. I thought it'd be close, but in 2000 the momentum was clearly breaking to Bush, and I sensed he'd win. This year, though... the indicators were swinging our way. At least I thought so. Obviously, I was wrong.

So instead, I put up with Slate's maddeningly inaccurate exit polls (hey, Jack Shafer, thanks for nothing) and over 6 hours of CNN's hugely disappointing coverage. I'm not sure what bothered me more about CNN's shebang: the fact that they stopped every 15 minutes to pat themselves on the back for refusing to call any states that might be even remotely controversial, the fact that the guy operating the video screen was 30 seconds behind the anchors, the shifting-with-the-wind tone of the coverage (most notably Bob Novak, who is hereby dubbed "Weathervane" for his tendency to tailor his remarks to the trend of the electoral results), the fact that no one on CNN's political staff appears to know which senators represent which states, or the general presence of Larry King. (When King put his hand on Carlos Watson's shoulder and left it there, I cringed.) Considering the result, and the fact that I'm never going to get those hours of my life back... well, you'd be down, too.

But just because I'm down, that doesn't mean I have to be graceless. It wsa a great night to be a Republican, and my conservative friends deserve a chance to rejoice and be happy. So have your celebration. You've absolutely earned it. I'm not sure what you did, but you notched an impressive victory, not only on the presidential level but in the House and Senate races as well. Take a bow, Republicans.

That goes for you too, President Bush. I've ridiculed and derided you plenty over the last four years, but you not only won, but notched a solid, no-doubt-about-win, for which I commend you. I wish you the best of luck in your second term, and I pray that you have the wisdom and foresight needed to guide us through a very difficult chapter in our history. You've defied the skeptics and made yourself a legitimate president. I probably still won't agree with a lot of your actions, but I respect you and pledge to keep the "loyal" in the loyal opposition.

John Kerry did a good and classy thing by conceding this morning. For any Republicans who might be tempted to sneer, "What choice did he have?", I'd point out that he could have picked a legal fight in Ohio, one he might not have won, but one which other candidates in his shoes might have chosen to fight. And had he done so, he would have solidified the dangerous precedent of having all close elections decided by lawyers and courts. Al Gore opened Pandora's Box in 2000 during the Florida fight, and if Kerry had done the same, we might never have seen the end of it. But Kerry knew he was beaten, and he handled the end gracefully, for which we should all be thankful.

He also did a grand thing in calling for unity in his concession speech, in asking his party to support the country and recognize the legitimacy of the president. This was something I don't believe either Gore or Bush could do. In 2000, you got the impression that the two of them really disliked each other. I don't think Bush and Kerry necessarily like each other a whole lot better, but Kerry showed a lot of class in his defeat, much as George H.W. Bush did back in 1992. By behaving so well in the spotlight, Kerry has set the stage for better partisan relations in the coming years, and he deserves to be commended for it.

Again, I can't picture Gore doing the same in this position. He's too willing to put personal ambition ahead of the national interest. As the recount wore on, I got the impression that he would rather be president than have an outcome that the nation could feel comfortable with. (I felt the same about Bush, for what it's worth.) Whether he wanted to be that president that badly or was just that appalled by Bush, I'm not sure. But his bulldog insistence on victory was evident, and I think his stature in the party has been damaged as a result. By all rights, Gore should be a Democratic elder statesman and power broker, but I don't think he ever will be. Kerry, on the other hand, has an excellent shot.

That's the other reason I'm happy he went down with class. As I've said before, I really like and admire Kerry. He ran the risk of going down in history next to McGovern, Mondale and Dukakis, admirable men who tarnished their reputations with crushing presidential defeats. Or he might have taken a seat next to Gore, remembered primarily as being angry and bitter at his loss. Instead, he's positioned himself to be remembered along with men like Hubert Humphrey, men whose virtues shine brighter and flaws grow dimmer as the years pass. In time, I think Kerry will receive the favorable judgment of history, in a way he might not have even if he'd won. I hope this is true, because he does deserve it. He may not be the ideal candidate, but he's a fine statesman.

Jeff Jarvis was circulating a pledge for partisans before the election that went like this:

After the election results are in, I promise to:
: Support the President, even if I didn't vote for him.
: Criticize the President, even if I did vote for him.
: Uphold standards of civilized discourse in blogs and in media while pushing both to be better.
: Unite as a nation, putting country over party, even as we work together to make America better.

That's a pledge I'll gladly take. I have one of my own:

For Democrats: I won't get bitter. I won't pout. I won't scream. I will let go of this idea of President Bush as a sub-literate mouth-breathing frat boy who became president by accident. I will learn what "majority" means. I won't go down the Michael Moore road. And I won't give up on politics or on America.

For Republicans: I won't gloat. I won't try to rub the Democrats' noses in the dirt. I will learn that Democrats love this country too, and are just as interested as I am in maintaining America's greatness in the future. I will learn the difference between a victory and a mandate. I will learn the difference between a mandate and doing whatever the hell I want. And I won't treat opposition as unpatriotic.

For everyone: I will stop the gotcha game. I will stop keeping track of every little perceived slight committed by the other side and use it as an excuse to abandon civility. I will remember that open and reasoned political discourse is what makes our nation great, and what makes us a shining example to the rest of the world. I will keep that thought foremost in my mind as we determine the future course of our country at a crucial time in our history. And I will remember that if I want change in our country and our political system, the change starts with me. If I can't be bothered to fight for what I believe in, who will be?

And on that subject... we Democrats have a lot of thinking to do after this one. I intend to do my share. I'm not sure exactly what this will entail, but I intend to keep all of you informed about it. Suffice to say that I think the Democrats need a new direction, and I want to have a say in it. Watch this space for further developments.

Programming note: I know Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice were supposed to have a column yesterday. But they've been keeping tabs on this election pretty closely, and Uncle Millie's been a little... less sober than usual. (If you can imagine.) Tense situations will do that to him. He needs a little time to dry out, so we're going to see our favorite couple next Tuesday.

As for me, I'll probably be back tomorrow, if I'm feeling better. If I'm not, I hope you'll understand. I am taking this a bit hard. See you soon.

Posted by Fred at 09:11 PM | Comments (1)

November 02, 2004

Watching the Election Results Tonight...

... instead of blogging. Sorry about that, but I'm wired. Talk to you tomorrow.

Posted by Fred at 08:41 PM | Comments (0)

November 01, 2004

Bonus Political Update

If you have a moment, I urge to read this article in Salon about Scranton, Pa. and the election. My mother was born there, I've got a lot of family up there, and though I've never lived there, I consider myself an honorary son of Scranton. And like the article's author, Geraldine Sealey, I'm pretty well sick of all the jokes. It's fitting that the city's a presidential battleground; Scranton's been sliding downhill for awhile, although it's better than it was. It's a city that could badly use an infusion of hope. Just read the article. And next time you feel like making fun of Scranton, maybe you could do me a favor and lay off, okay? Thanks.

Posted by Fred at 10:05 PM | Comments (1)

Mediocre Fred's Pre-Electoral Grab Bag!

Today's Musical Selection: "Election" by Alice Cooper

Hi, everybody! As promised, today I offer you a variety of political thoughts. Before I offer a variety of endorsements, I'd like to encourage everyone who's eligible to get out and vote. I often like to share a laugh with my fellow elitists at the uninformed voters, but I do firmly believe that our democracy is stronger when more people participate. So please, get out there and cast your ballot, okay?

Now, to the endorsements: If you don't know who I support for president by now, you haven't been paying attention. So I'll be brief: I'm voting for John Kerry because I want to bring intelligence and class back to the White House, plus I can't think of anything President Bush has done that I agree with. It's an easy decision for me. Having taken a look over the minor-party candidates out there, I must say that the far left and far right would benefit from consolidation. There are about 5 different socialist candidates out there, plus the Greens, who are socialists who live in gated communities, and Ralph Nader, who is a socialist in a really bad suit. The far right is no less fragmented, what with the Constitution party and the Independence party and the Prohibition party and the Concerns of the People party and so on. (The Libertarians are not included in this bunch, since they're not as moralistic as the above groups.) Consolidate and get that 3%, guys! What say you?

My dad reports he too will be voting for Kerry, although he's in more of an anybody-but-Bush mindset. My mother, after months of making "Can't we do better than these two clowns?" speeches, is threatening to write in Laura Bush, which is not an entirely bad idea.

Here's a counterfactual for us all to ponder in quiet moments: How would this election have been different if Howard Dean had won the Democratic nomination? You remember Howard. Little guy. Used to be governor of Vermont. Liked to shout a lot. Suppose his bubble hadn't burst when it did.
How would the election be different? On one hand, Dean is a tad temperamental, and it might have been easy for Bush to portray him as unpresidential and dangerous. (Also, I don't think Dean would have thumped Bush as soundly in the debates.) On the other hand, Dean has no problem inspiring passion. He might have been viewed by many as a more inspiring alternative. It's hard to say how it would have played out, but I bet it wouldn't have been nearly as close as this election. Either Bush would have decisively defeated Dean, or vice versa. Would have been interesting.

Oh, and the electoral action should be quite enough for any of you, but in case you find the excitement a tad lagging, allow me to offer you an idea that The Smart Lady and I devised one time: Strip Electoral College. You and your special significant someone suggest a party to represent. Whenever your party captures a state, the other person removes an article of clothing. You might wish to restrict the game to the eastern U.S., in order to keep the game manageable. This is the kind of thing that can really liven up Election Night, no?

A couple more important endorsements I wanted to cover while I have you all here:

- Attention, Virginia 8th District Democratic voters! Are you sick of Jim Moran? Do you wish you could run him out of office before he has a chance to embarrass us all again? But does the thought of voting for a conservative Republican named Cheney make your skin crawl?

There is an alternative. There's an independent in the race, fellow by the name of Jim Hurysz. He's an Arlington businessman, reliably liberal on the issues, a bit of a gadfly. All of which I support. Especially because it means I don't have to vote for Moran. I did that two years ago, and I felt like taking a shower afterward. I won't have to do that this year. I encourage you all to vote for Mr. Hurysz tomorrow.

- This next endorsement repays a debt of long standing. Last year, a buddy of mine and I were tooling around Georgetown, looking for a place to get a snack. We discovered we were heading the wrong way down Connecticut Avenue (easy enough mistake to make, I guess) and we pulled down a residential street to bang a U-turn. We succeeded in banging the U, but my friend didn't watch behind him, and he found himself nose-to-nose with a Chrysler convertible driven by an older gentleman with an aggrieved expression. We didn't collide, but it was close. As we pulled away, I looked back and noticed that he was driving a convertible with New York tags with a "U.S. CONGRESS" designation stamped on them.

When I got home, I looked up New York's congressional delegation, and I discovered that the gentleman we nearly crashed into was Maurice Hinchey (D-22nd). Once I found it out, I swore I'd find a way to make it up to him. Therefore:

Re-elect Maurice Hinchey!

That's enough for today. Please vote! See you tomorrow!

Posted by Fred at 09:16 PM | Comments (0)