Why Pickles Are Forced on Us

PicklesFor a few years of my life, I worked in a deli. And that meant that pretty much the whole time, my hands smelled of pickles. I did not like that. Before that time, I had always hated pickles. And nothing has changed since then. Why would it? Pickles are still awful. I’ve never gotten my head around the fact that people take cucumbers — which are very tasty — and turn them into pickles — which are not. So let us consider the pickle from my extremely objective point of view.

The modern pickle is actually a pickled cucumber. Pickling is a process whereby edible foods are transformed into inedible foods. The economics of this process is unclear to me. I think it has to do with the supply side of the chain and not the demand side. In general, people who came in the deli wouldn’t have been unhappy if there had been no pickles. But as a deli, you want to give the customer something on the side of her sandwich. Sure, you could give her some potato salad, but that’s costly. You could give a slice of cucumber, but that has a problem: you have to slice it, more or less at the time. That’s where pickles come in: they are pre-sliced and they last many months.

As with many culinary delights and monstrosities, we Americans can thank and blame the Jewish culture. (For the record, kugel and latkes are two of the most delicious food in all the world and proof that Dr Atkins was evil.) I learned all about it in a Mental Floss article, Why Does Your Sandwich Come With a Pickle? According to it, eastern European Jewish immigrants brought the pickle with them to New York. So pickles became a thing at Jewish delis, and soon it spread out to other delis and then across the nation so that now the most repeated phrase in the English language is, “No pickles!”

According to the article, there is a reason for eating pickles with your sandwich: they work as a “palate cleanser.” That may be the case. I know that whenever I go wine tasting, they provide pickles to eat between each variety. Just kidding! They don’t do that because it is a totally ridiculous idea! Indeed, the article references another article regarding this “fact.” So I read that article: it didn’t say a word about it. Again: because it isn’t true! And think about it: it doesn’t make sense. Why would you need a “palate cleanser”? The thing about a sandwich is that all parts of it taste the same. What’s more, if pickles are a “palate cleanser,” then why are they so often put on sandwiches? But whatever; if people want to justify their love for an awful food, who am I to complain?

That other article is, Deli and Pickles — a Love Affair. And it provides some information that goes along with my supply side theory of the pickle market, “It is only reasonable that when those food traditions began to expand to the masses through deli restaurants, they included the pickles that were also commonly manufactured by Jewish immigrants.” And that’s what it comes down to. Pickles are cheap and easily available.

You may like pickles. It’s all right to admit it: we value diversity around here! But if you do, it is probably nice, crisp, and fresh pickle slices. You don’t actually like the kind of pickle chips that are an American staple. You don’t think pickles on a sandwich really improve the flavor of said sandwich. If you eat sandwiches with pickles on them, it is out of habit. But I will admit this much: pickles go along with beef a lot better than turkey. Yet at the deli, most people still got pickles on their turkey sandwiches. And every time I had to put pickles on a turkey sandwich, I felt like I was defiling it. But if a customer liked corned beef, well, it couldn’t get any worse.

Poor GOP Presence in Selma Was Fitting

Harold PollackThe contrast yesterday in Selma between the president’s largeness of spirit and Republicans’ small response was fairly astonishing. Two presidents Bush attended, to their credit. Some senior Republican lawmakers scrambled to attend once their pending absence became embarrassing news. But where was John Boehner? Where was Mitch McConnell? Where was Paul Ryan? Where were the main Republican 2016 presidential candidates? Where was Mitt Romney, whose father did so much to advance civil rights?

This was horrid optics bordering on the politically incompetent. A party trying to reassure moderates that it’s more than a party of cranky old conservative white people might have used this occasion to mark its own civil rights heroes who helped pass landmark civil rights legislation. The Republican Party of 1960 actively competed for black votes…

That was a long time ago…

Republicans’ awkward handling of an event sacred to African-Americans sent an unavoidable message: these are not our people. It strains credulity to imagine Republicans would have offered up the same bumbling and belated response if African-American voters were key constituents in Republican primaries or in Republican fundraising. More Republican candidates participated in Sheldon Adelson’s various personal primaries than chose to make their appearance yesterday in Selma.

Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and others damaged the soul of the Republican Party to court race-conservative whites. There’s no denying that the southern strategy and its successors helped win big elections. Such discomfort with a widening circle of “others” still works for many in the congressional GOP, especially in non-presidential years. On a national level, it is increasingly out of step with a changing society.

—Harold Pollack
The GOP’s Political Incompetence in Selma

Scandals Due to GOP Not Hillary and Bill

Paul WaldmanPaul Waldman is wrong. On Monday, he wrote, An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton. Basically, he’s asking that Clinton prove to liberals that she isn’t going to squander what looks like a pretty clean run at the presidency. I don’t disagree with this. But the way he thinks she ought to earn that trust is all screwed up. I want Clinton to show me that she isn’t going to be just another New Democrat. And frankly, I don’t think she will ever convince me of that, because she has every intention of being just another new Democrat. Waldman wants her to prove that she won’t be a magnet for scandals.

I don’t think that the Clintons were scandal magnets. I think they were simply on the leading edge of the Republican lunacy that sees any Democrat as fundamentally invalid. Thus, any Democratic president — or potential president — must be involved in something nefarious to destroy America itself. If there was any doubt about this, it should have been clear in 2004 with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. That’s where Republicans showed that there is no level that they wouldn’t sink to for political gain. They smeared a military hero for no other reason than to gain a slight advantage in a political campaign. It was shameful.

Hillary Clinton LaughingBut what have we been living through for the last six years? Has this not been one scandal after another? And really, who on the planet is more squeaky clean than Barack Obama? Waldman claims that with the Clintons there was always a “kernel of truth.” But that’s only true in the most ridiculous sense. The “kernel of truth” that ended in Bill Clinton’s impeachment was that Hillary Clinton actually did lose money on the Whitewater investment? This is what we are supposed to think the Clintons should have managed better? I don’t think so.

Waldman also wants Clinton to be more open with information. But wasn’t that also what led to Bill Clinton’s impeachment? Isn’t it always the case that if a determined critic digs deep enough for long enough, something will turn up? Ken Starr started with Whitewater and ended at a blowjob. He could have started anywhere and ended at that. The Clintons were probably lucky Starr didn’t come up with treason or at least sedition. I just don’t see this as being the Clintons’ fault. And the fact that they are worried about this stuff is not surprising.

The biggest problem with Waldman’s letter is how “inside the beltway” it is. When liberal voters think of the Clintons, they do not think of the scandals. Certainly, they remember them. But mostly, they remember that the Clintons survived them. The takeaway, however, is that the last time the economy was good was when Bill Clinton was president. Also, I think liberal voters are still disappointed that they couldn’t vote for both the African American man and the white woman in 2008. So for the last six years, they’ve been itching to have their second cake.

Like I said before, there are things that I want Clinton to show me. And I also hope that she can run a decent campaign. But scandal is going to follower her just like it is going to follow any Democratic presidential candidate. The GOP and Fox News will make sure of that. And if that reminds reporters of the 1990s, well, there’s a reason for that. And it has nothing to do with Hillary and Bill Clinton.

Hubris and the 47 Republicans

47 RepublicansThere is one thing that really amazes me about the open letter (pdf) from the 47 Republicans (who I hope will all commit seppuku at the end of this term because of the shame they have brought on the nation). It is the level of hubris that it is based on. What they all want to convey is that America is simply right and all other countries should fall in line. Their message to the Iranians is that the United States could back out of this agreement at any time. But that’s true regardless. And more to the point, it is also true of the Iranians.

What do the 47 Republicans think these negotiations are all about? Do they think this is just an exercise where the P5+1 countries are trying to figure out the best way to give Iran everything it wants? This is a deal that will be good for everyone involved. The only people this deal is not good for are those people who want Iran to get a nuclear weapon and those people who want to go to war with Iran. Obama was right to compare the 47 Republicans (and their leader, Benjamin Netanyahu) to the Iranian “hard-liners.” And what they want is not inconsistent: we could go to war with Iran and they could also get a nuclear weapon. All the right wing freaks could get what they want!

Brian Beutler made a compelling case on Monday, Republicans’ Attempt to Sabotage Obama’s Iran Negotiations Will Backfire. But I doubt that this letter is really intended to make any difference to the negotiations. This is what the 47 Republicans think is governing. This is the Senate equivalent of yet another vote to repeal Obamacare. You know the old saying: if you can’t do something constructive, do something that makes a lot of noise and embarrasses you. The Republicans are incapable for doing something constructive.

Another aspect of this embarrassment is the condescending tone of the letter. It reminds me of a recent episode of The Simpsons, “The Princess Guide.” In it, the Nigerian king[1] comes to Springfield to sell Uranium to Mr Burns. During the negotiations, Mr Burns keeps offering goats in exchange for the Uranium, which the king takes offense at. It’s funny when Mr Burns does that. When the 47 Republicans make roughly the same mistake — assuming that the Iranians are ignorant of our political system — it is just embarrassing.

But this just highlights the fact that the letter was not intended for the Iranians. And it was not intended for the president or any of the P5+1 countries. The 47 Republicans — like the Iranian leaders — are sophisticated people. They don’t actually believe that the Iranian leaders are primitive people who deal in goats. But they don’t mind the world thinking they do. And that’s because their base most definitely thinks that. And their base most definitely thinks that every country should just bow and fall in line behind America. And the base is who this letter was intended for: people filled with so much hubris that they think they are humble. And I doubt the 47 Republicans care that Brian Beutler is right: hurting their supposed cause doesn’t matter to them. The only thing that matters is that they win their next primary. Isn’t it time to vote to repeal Obamacare again?

[1] For the record, Nigeria has a political system modeled on ours; it has no king. But it was necessary for the plot so they could make jokes about the Nigerian prince who keeps ripping people off.

Morning Music: Father John Misty

I Love You, Honeybear - Father John MistyI asked my sister if she could recommend a song for today’s morning music and she told me there was this song that her husband was really into these days. This caused me to (silently) freak out, “No! Not a new song! New music baaad!” But I shouldn’t have thought that, because her husband, Lee, is a musician, professional sound engineer (I think he has a Emmy — or something else of equal impressiveness), and obviously is a very sophisticated listener. The song was “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)” by Father John Misty. That is the new moniker of singer-songwriter Joshua Tillman. And he is really great. He sounds a lot like Loudon Wainwright.

The song itself is part of a sub-genre of long songs that older people write: the “I love my wife” song. And lyrically, it is largely pretty standard. But it has some unusual lyrics, especially at the beginning. These appear to be in connection with the fear of hipsters and idiosyncratics everywhere: will I lose my authenticity by accepting the traditional expression of my love and commitment? The answer is that it doesn’t matter because when it comes to love, we are all bourgeois. But check out what he tries to do here, “I wanna take you in the kitchen; lift up your wedding dress someone was probably murdered in.” The second line is very edgy, but the first line gives the game away. “Take you”? Unintentionally patriarchal. It’s a good thing his wife is a photographer and not a postmodern feminist scholar! But like I said, we’re all bourgeois. And it is a lovely song.

King Charles Dissolves Parliament Again

King Charles IOn this day in 1629, King Charles I threw one of his many hissy fits and dissolved Parliament. This was the beginning of the “Personal Rule” but what is probably better described as “Eleven Years’ Tyranny.” But the whole of Chuck’s rule should be seen as a tyranny. He was a man who absolutely believed that God himself had determined that he should be absolute ruler. And that would have worked great in earlier times. But Chuck lived in different times. Parliament had gained a lot of power. In fact, it would only be a few decades before England officially had a constitutional monarchy.

But Chuck didn’t like the way that Parliament criticized him. So he dissolved Parliament. But this wasn’t the first time he had done it. He had done it three times during the first couple of years of his reign. And then, at the end of his eleven years of absolute monarchy, he called the “Short Parliament.” But he didn’t like it, so he dissolved it. Then he called the “Long Parliament.” He figured he could get his people in the Parliament, but he failed miserably. And the Long Parliament really didn’t like him, causing Chuck to leave London and put together an army and start the English Civil War.

This all ended badly for King Chuck. Seven years later, he would be tried for treason and beheaded. Sadly, this is not a happy ending. England wasn’t really prepared for not having a monarchy. And let’s face it: the English Civil War was an intra-class conflict — it didn’t have much to do with the working man. So just eleven years after lopping off Chuck’s head, they tracked down Chuck Junior and put him on the throne. And they executed a whole bunch of people who were involved in the civil war. But shortly after Chuck Junior’s death, major changes took place in England. Maybe we’ll talk about them later.

King Chuck is a great favorite of the Tories. They like him because he represents someone who was willing to tell the inferior people that they didn’t matter. Here in America, we have traditionally had a name for this: tyrant. But today, on the right, they have a new name for it: patriot. They don’t like the title “king,” however; they prefer “führer.”

Death to tyrants!