The Fish
for 16 November 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.
[Suck Staff]

[Tim Cavanaugh]
Tim Cavanaugh
Special Guest Editor


[Terry Colon]
Terry Colon
Art Director


[Heather Havrilesky]
Heather Havrilesky
Senior Editor


[Joey Anuff]
Joey Anuff

[Go to the Suck Alumni page]
Hit & Run 11.9.00

In today's column, you said:

"Whatever the outcome of the recount, it's heartening to see that the electoral college system — initially created to give more voting power to slave-owning states — is still doing its good work"

Where did you find that the electoral college system was created to give more power to slave states? Do you have any documentation to back up these claims, or are they speculation?


Crooked (aka Mike Lovell)

As explained on page 130 of A History of the United States, by R. Wade, H. Wilder and L. Wade:

The Southern States thought that slaves should be counted in deciding the number of representatives per state but should not be counted when direct taxes were to be levied. Northerners protested, however, that this would give Southerners an unfair advantage. The compromise committee suggested that five slaves be counted as three persons for purposes of representation as well as taxation. The solution was accepted by the delegates.

And later on the same page:

The electoral system proved to be one of the clumsiest parts of the Constitution. It was designed to make the President independent of the legislative branch without putting his election directly into the hands of the people. The delegates believed that if the people were to elect the President directly, they might vote only for local candidates because of lack of knowledge about leaders of other states.

That book is a high school textbook, so we know it's telling the truth. We're not so sure Akhil Reed Amar is telling the truth, but we know that he's employed at Yale University and is writing for The New York Times, and that therefore we have no choice but to believe the OpEd column he wrote recently. An excerpt:

In 1787, as the Constitution was being drafted in Philadelphia, James Wilson of Pennsylvania proposed direct election of the president. But James Madison of Virginia worried that such a system would hurt the South, which would have been outnumbered by the North in a direct election system. The creation of the Electoral College got around that: it was part of the deal that Southern states, in computing their share of electoral votes, could count slaves (albeit with a two-fifths discount), who of course were given none of the privileges of citizenship. Virginia emerged as the big winner, with more than a quarter of the electors needed to elect a president. A free state like Pennsylvania got fewer electoral votes even though it had approximately the same free population.

The Constitution's pro-Southern bias quickly became obvious. For 32 of the Constitution's first 36 years, a white slaveholding Virginian occupied the presidency. Thomas Jefferson, for example, won the election of 1800 against John Adams from Massachusetts in a race where the slavery skew of the Electoral College was the decisive margin of victory.

The system's gender bias was also obvious. In a direct presidential election, any state that chose to enfranchise its women would have automatically doubled its clout. Under the Electoral College, however, a state had no special incentive to expand suffrage — each got a fixed number of electoral votes, regardless of how many citizens were allowed to vote.

Prof. Amar has been making the grand tour of brainy media these days. The Sucksters remain unconvinced by his claim that there is some equivalence between the early southern lock on the presidency and the (disputable) fact that Bush won the South by appealing largely to white Southern males. While we give no quarter to the states' rights crowd in general, we also think his scoffing dismissal of the notion of state interests ("what are those, anyway?"), is intemperate. Nor do we agree with him that increased Federal oversight of the electoral process would necessarily be a good thing. But as long as we all must continue to pretend that the United States is a meaningful entity, we believe American voters should be counted as a national bloc, and we welcome as an ally anybody who demystifies the supposedly hallowed tradition of the electoral college.

Powdering our wigs, we remain,


[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]


I've used that same ballot machine with the same ballot layout. Anyone "confused" by it is confused by life itself and has no business in a voting booth.

Democrats said the Osceola County return was obviously bad because the Libertarian candidate, listed under Gore, got 309 votes in a county with about 12 registered Libertarian voters. The rest of the story: a libertarian radio talk show host (Neal Boortz from Georgia) did a 2-hour special broadcast there Saturday. He said a vote for Bush was wasted and encouraged the audience to vote for Harry Browne and for freedom. Apparently about 300 did. Yet the Gore campaign wants to claim those votes as well.

The likely real reason for the squalling about the ballot layout is simple. Democrat activists took voters to the polls and told them to vote for the second candidate (even Democrats are often able to count to two). The activists didn't expect their passengers to look down the ballot on *both sides* of the page.

And does ANYONE believe Rep. Wexler's claim to have seen *hundreds* of crying and wailing post-traumatic-stress-syndrome voters in the parking lots around the polls??


"There is one safeguard known generally to the wise, which is an advantage and security to all, but especially to democracies as against despots. What is it? DISTRUST." -- Demosthenes

"The Founders did not want efficient government; they wanted safe government. And to that end they built a government full of blocking mechanisms, secure in the faith -- vindicated by the subsequent 200 and more years of history -- that anything the American people wanted protractedly, intensely and reflectively, they would get in the fullness of time." -- George Will

If you don't vote to support the policies you want, you deserve the politicians you get. Go to, take the World's Shortest Political Quiz, and see who deserves your vote.



Mark (Wyoming Libertarian voter)

We're with you on the Gore camp's effort to claim those 309 votes based on census anomalies. We are in fact, opposed to any effort to investigate or otherwise influence the Florida elections that originates from the Gore camp.

However, we wouldn't want to live in a country where Palm Beach yentas did not have the inalienable right to sue everybody in sight. We recall no language in the constitution that makes intelligence a requirement for voting. And we think that the dismissal of 19,000 ballots is, under any circumstances, grounds for a legal action by the voters in that area. Particularly when the voters are actually alive, which as you know is not always the case with Democratic voters. The fact that this sort of thing has apparently happened several times before does not appear to be sufficient legal reason to block such a legal challenge now.

Thus, the court of Suck opinion sees no reason why Palm Beach voters (or for that matter any voters in any place where voting irregularities can be credibly alleged) should not be allowed to seek redress in civil court, even if such an attempt inconveniences either or both presidential candidates.

But what we really want to talk about is your sig file collection, and in particular your pitch for the World's Shortest Political Quiz. First of all, it's false advertising (The world's actual shortest political quiz is "Which side are you on?"). Second, it's phony as a three-dollar ballot: If you vote for anything less stringent than martial law, you get designated as a Libertarian. No American worthy of the name could take the quiz and not recognize it as pure hokum. Somehow, the principles of libertarianism, which should have such resonance among rank and file Americans, keep getting lost among crackerbarrel appeals like this one and not-ready-for-prime-time candidacies like the presidential bids of Harry "Invest in gold and save yourself from the coming fiscal apocalypse" Browne. The one true path for the Libertarian party is clear, should anybody be bold enough to take it: More Russell Means, less anti-FDR conspiracy theorizing. More Starchild, less vituperation about how Democrats are dumb and the person you're debating with has obviously not read the Constitution. And get some better candidates on the slate. Can't T.J. Rodgers be persuaded to take a crack at the White House?


[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

Having covered both John Ashcroft (as the hymn singing Governor and Senator of Missouri) for UPI and Carnahan for the St. Joseph News-Press, he should have stuck with his plans to run for President. It sure beats dying to win. And I'd bet he probably expects to be resurrected.

Of course his sense of entitlement pervades him family. He lost popularity when his wife forced the Missouri State Librarian to come in on Sunday, her day off, to open up the State Library in Jefferson City so the little Ashcrofts could do their homework, because they had a Monday deadline.

Funny the things we remember about people...

Eric Welch

You must be mistaken, Mr. Welch. We've heard dozens of glowing testimonials to Mr. Ashcroft's selfless and devoted service on behalf of Missouri and Missourians, and his tender kindness to widows of all political stripes. And they wouldn't be allowed to say things like that if they weren't true! You must be making these stories up.


[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

Did Bush really say that to Queen Elizabeth? That's the best reason for voting for him I've heard yet. Good thing you covered that up until after the election.

Now if he'd just insult Adrienne Clarkson and toss off a few rude remarks at Lionel Jospin, I could really get behind his presidency!

Michael Straight

Agreed. Maybe the way out of this whole electoral mess is for the Federal Election Commission to proclaim that if Bush ever said anything even remotely insulting to Queen Elizabeth he should be appointed President without further ado. Unfortunately, the real story of the Bush/Royalty insult appears to be that Laura Bush failed to realize that Al Gore goes by the title Dauphin down in the Voluteer State, and didn't curtsy properly during Gore's abortive concession call.


[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

Filler 11.8.00

Dear Polly,

Part of the fascination of reading your weekly Filler is not knowing whether you will go on a monumental rant about something mundane or, instead, choose to observe the mundane in the monumental.

I take my vote seriously, and I voted for that cranky genius, the tragic sock poet. But, like the dinkus voter in today's Filler, I have more than once cast my vote for a candidate with an appealing name. We had a Representative Pickle in these parts for many years. How can you not vote for someone named J. J. "Jake" Pickle? Really.

My letter to you is the compulsive, procrastinatory "housecleaning" that I am using to keep from facing up to the "artist friendly" record reviews I must write. Tis the season, you know.

I love Christmas music, but I have come to hate it, too. I must listen to it too early and too long. I long ago ran out of things to say about it. Maybe this will be the final season for It really just began as a way to get people to send me unique Christmas music. You wouldn't believe how many people you can find who want to send you unique Christmas music, Polly.

I appreciated how you answered me last week in the Fish. I don't really "know" what you meant by your answer, any more than you "know" what I mean by my letters. I mean, the written word can be so flat and subject to interpretation. But, based on my own image of myself, you were right on target with your response.

I liked what you had to say in the Fish today. To all three of your correspondents. One thing I thought after I read your Dr. Laura reference was this: you can listen to Dr. Laura, and know she is knowledgeable and right, and that she often gives good advice, but you can still hate her. Was that how you felt when you wrote "Hey Ladies, I hate to sound like Dr. Laura..."?

On the other hand, you give good advice, and I don't hate you.

Your Weekly Reader

Richard Banks

I give good advice, and you don't hate me? Wow. Isn't that proof enough that I should have my own advice column? Or TV show? Where I keep repeating the same bad advice, over and over again, to different people, and then I make fun of their ugly shoes? I could be bigger than Dr. Drew! Then again, who couldn't be?

I think it's funny how people chide Dr. Laura for all her past mistakes. Why the fuck do you think she gives out harsh advice? What would motivate a person to give advice 24-hours a day, besides fucking up a million times over, and hating themselves for it? I know that's the fuel in my bad-advice engine.

But, no, what I actually meant when I said, "Hey Ladies, I hate to sound like Dr. Laura or Dr. Drew..." was that I hate to sound like Dr. Laura or Dr. Drew. One suspects that those two have never really had fully functioning sex drives, so when they say things like "Keep it in your pants, mister." or "Don't be such a slut, Sally." or "Get some self-respect and stop blowing complete strangers, Lulu." you have to agree, at some level, but you're also sort of rolling your eyes in that "Yeah, Dad, what-ever!" kind of a way, like "Maybe if you'd had an orgasm in the past few months you'd understand its supreme importance in my otherwise incredibly bleak life."

I also like it when oh-so-discreet Dr. Drew reminds us, just as an aside, that only a really dysfunctional girl with a history of incest wants to do all her boyfriend's buddies, while it's perfectly natural and healthy for a boy to want to do all his girlfriend's pals. Meanwhile some poor girl is on hold, trying to keep the radio from feeding back into the phone. Dr. Drew takes her off hold and says, in a way he fancies as off-hand, "So. Sally. Ever, uh, sleep with your dad? Ever screw Daddy? Sally? Tell the truth, Sally." Sally is rightfully appalled, but the good doctor persists, "Are you sure? How about an uncle? A family friend? The mailman?"

The sick thing is that 9 out of 10 times, Sally did actually get screwed by a family member, and for some reason it makes her want to fuck even more. If I fucked a family member when I was younger, I think I might be a little grossed out by fucking and I might move on to other hobbies out unsolicited bad advice to unsuspecting readers! Oh my god!

I guess the point is: Dr. Drew is hateful, but he's almost always right. Wait, that's what you said my point was, isn't it? Maybe you're the one who should have the advice column!

Ah, well. More proof that popularity is wasted on the popular. Anyway, in parting, I just want to say, you know, stop blowing complete strangers.

Flat and subject to interpretation,


[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]


I've had this ex whose been quite politely but rather reluctantly e-mailing for 18 months. I just moved back to his area, and despite talk of hanging out, I realized that polite reluctance in cyberspace was all he was up for. No thanks. But what to do? Nobody wants to be the first to say fuck off. It was a polite-people impasse for 5 more tedious weeks. Finally, on 1/11, I participated in the Filler Truth Experiment...


Whatever your reasons, if its not a good or plausible idea for us to be real-life friends or acquaintances, then for gods sake either disappear quietly likethe rest of my ex boyfriends or bite the bullet, send me a 'have a nice life' e-mail and be done with it already. You don't have to explain anything and I will still remember you fondly.


and the terse response...

"Point well taken. Given the options, I think I'll dissappear quietly."

Ouch. But a result nonetheless.

A toast to Polly,


Nicely done. But ah, isn't it sad to think of the sheer numbers of flinchy exboyfriends (and current boyfriends, for that matter) who would gladly disappear quietly if given the option?

The only change I'd make to your letter is at the very end:

"You don't have to explain anything — I've got my own interpretation of your pathetic behavior perfectly settled in my mind. I still won't remember you fondly."

See, Mmimika, I do want to be the first to say fuck off.

A toast to me,


[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

 The Shit
Physical Strength and How to Obtain It, by Eugen Sandow
Bamboozled, A Spectacular New Film by Mr. Spike Lee
G. Beato's all-new Soundbitten
William Demarest, Sultan of Snarl, in The Lady Eve (1941), The Palm Beach Story (1942), and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944)
George Wallace: Settin' The Woods On Fire, directed by Daniel McCabe and Paul Stekler
Bobby Darin, Darin at the Copa (Atlantic)
Shinji-San in the floating world of indeterminate duration, by Peter Richardson
American Pharaoh: Mayor Richard J. Daley: His Battle for Chicago and the Nation, by Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor
Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1996, Merge)
45, by Bill Drummond
Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards, Singing in the Rain (ASV)
Do you know of stuff that doesn't actively suck? Things so good they deserve to make the Shitlist?Send your suggestions to us.

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