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Trump’s License to Skirt the Law

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Sunday Mailbag
      •  Today's Presidential Polls
      •  Today's Senate Polls

Sunday Mailbag

A lot of responses to the request for advice about how to talk to Catholic parents about Donald Trump.

2020 Election

B.B. in Panama City Beach, FL, writes: You wrote: "We are in agreement that Trump is in serious trouble. (Z) probably has it a bit more dire than (V) does, but we both think the President's a clear underdog at this point."

Looking forward, I believe several things are likely:

  • We are on track for 30+ million infected with coronavirus by Election Day
  • It could even get worse, if Republicans have their way...
  • ...that will severely disrupt the economy...
  • ..causing the stock market to crash.
  • As a result of this, Donald Trump will become even more crazy/erratic.

N.M. in West Chester, PA, writes: I think I have figured out the Trump team's strategy for winning the election, since they more than likely will not be able to win by conventional means:

  • Start sowing doubts about the validity of mail in ballots.
  • Continue the weakening of the USPS that was started years ago by putting a Trump toady in charge.
  • When election results are not immediately available election night, do your damnedest to stop the vote counting, and scream fraud and anything else that will stick.

Conspiratorial? Perhaps. Plausible? The Republicans are trying to convince people to sacrifice Granny and Pop-pop to "reopen" the economy and the schools. They are hiding the pandemic data from the general public by bypassing the CDC and removing the data from their website (it began this morning). No bar is too low.

B.H. in Luton, UK, writes: You wrote:

One wonders how much of this Donald Trump is actually aware of. Presumably the folks around him had to tell him about the Republican convention, but if they had clued him in on all of this on the same day? He would have blown a gasket. Maybe Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, et al., do tell him all the bad stuff at once, kind of like ripping a band-aid off. Or maybe they ration it; no more than one adverse bit of news per day. Either way, we don't envy them.

Maybe it's just the schadenfreude in me, but personally I imagine it would be a pleasure to be the one to point out to the Donald all the current bad news for him and his campaign (obviously not from the point of view of those actually suffering of course) and see his frustrations and flailing, caused by his own incompetence and self-centeredness. But maybe that's just me.

V & Z respond: Maybe so, if you're not someone who has to worry about getting screamed at and/or fired.

A.C. in Williamsburg, VA, writes: When the news hit that Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) had issued an executive order this afternoon banning localities from enacting mask mandates, my first reaction was to ask why he would do that given the COVID-19 situation in Georgia. I puzzled over it for a while, but it didn't hit me until later that night. On Wednesday morning, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D-Atlanta) had been on MSNBC and pointed out that the president was unmasked at the Atlanta airport in violation of her mandatory masking order. She pledged to take it up with the White House. Mere hours later, Kemp signed that executive order. He literally put the president's fragile ego (or possibly raw partisan politics, which is no better) over the life and health of Georgians! I've seldom been more grateful to live in a state where the governor is a doctor who comprehends public health. Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) isn't perfect, but at least his decisions are based on science and compassion before partisanship!

V & Z respond: It's remarkable that someone could be president, and yet also be so thin-skinned. However, on that same basic subject this weekend is the news that the White House staff has effectively hidden the White House portraits of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush so Trump doesn't have to see them on his way to the Oval Office. Just in case you have forgotten, George W. Bush is a Republican.

R.M.S. in Lebanon, CT, writes: I read that a recent poll reveals the majority of the U.S. disagrees with how President Trump is handling race relations.

This presents an excellent opportunity for the Biden campaign to put the Republicans on the defensive on racial issues. Biden ought to propose and call for a congressional vote on a constitutional amendment defining the United States as a multicultural society. This would compel the country to become more tolerant of different ethnic groups because multiculturalism asserts that: (1) all cultures that exist in this country are essential to its DNA and, (2) we will value participation from all individuals of any origin in all aspects of society.

If Biden did this, I think it would be devastating for the GOP. It would box in the Trump campaign as an opponent of ethnic tolerance, and it would badly split Republicans in Congress. Republicans who are more tolerant of social differences might support it, and those who are more nativist would vote against it. It would be sure to infuriate white nationalists and other ethnic extremists, but it would make them more marginalized than they are today.

Multiculturalism is also a worldview that more accurately reflects the reality of American history. Europeans, African-Americans, Hispanics, and hundreds of different Indigenous cultures have existed on what is now American soil since the colonial era. In other words, the country has been multicultural since its very beginning.

This would be nothing too radical, as Canada has had a constitutional provision defining the country as multicultural since the 1980s.

D.R. in Omaha, NE, writes: In last Sunday's mailbag, M.M. from Sheffield, Yorkshire, UK, wondered: "So where is this big spend from [Michael] Bloomberg?"

My hunch is that currently, Bloomberg does not think it's necessary. Not to appear overconfident, but Biden appears to be holding his own, both fiscally and politically.

I am very certain that if Donald Trump's campaign would suddenly gain an unexpected amount of traction, or an October surprise should emerge, Bloomberg would be right there, prancing up to the valve on his white stallion, and opening the spigot.

A.F. in Boston, MA, writes: I'm among those who may not have been fully convinced that Texas could send in its electoral votes for Biden, at least not until Tuesday this week. I went to college with a fellow who was traditionally conservative and ran the Republican club at school. When he graduated and returned to Texas, he became involved in the state Republican party. Over the years since, I've seen him pop up in my news feed, moving through the ranks and various subcommittees in the state apparatus as well as posting articles from various conservative sources.

On Tuesday of this week, he posted a Biden ad, a link to the Lincoln Project, and a post that said "Vote him out" (with a poop emoji). Granted, he's the archetype of a Mitt Romney kind of conservative, yet he's publically gone full apostate. If leaders like him are abandoning the Party, it lends some on-the-ground evidence to the idea that Texas may really be leaning towards Biden for this election.

A.A. in Austin, TX, writes: Thought I'd give you a little anecdotal insight on something that has been going on recently here. Texas, of course, has been in primary runoff mode for the last month. Almost every morning, early (say, 7-8 a.m.), for the last month or so, there have been Trump campaign commercials on. They weren't GOTV or GOP endorsement commercials, they were Joe Biden attack ads. These ads have been on a network (NBC), and aren't cheap cable ads, because I don't have cable (cord-cutter here). Further, I live in the original blueberry in the tomato soup of Texas (Austin/Travis County). Hillary Clinton got over 66% of the vote here in 2016.

It's 4 months before Donald Trump's name is on the ballot—a millennium in politics. Perhaps his campaign is trying for donations, but Travis County (even the surrounding area) is not exactly fertile ground for donations to the GOP. And there weren't that many GOP runoffs on the ballot, so it can't be downballot politicking. Maybe the campaign bought an ad bundle, but that's a pretty lousy bundle. I'm thinking that the Trump campaign's internal polling says Texas is in play—and Biden's ad buy here backs that up.

B.S. in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, writes: Just wanted to add another possible motive for Joe Biden wanting to campaign in Texas: Coattails. There are about 10 Texas congressional districts that range anywhere from "likely Republican" to "Toss-up" that would benefit from Biden showing his face in the Lone Star State. There are also state legislative elections where the Democrats have a chance of gaining the state legislature and having a huge input in redistricting.

I think it makes sense for Biden to campaign for the downballot tickets, even if he loses the EVs. That would be a huge win and in the end, with a Democratic State legislature, there would be a huge impact on future elections in Texas.

R.T. in Arlington, TX, writes: Regarding the Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)/MJ Hegar (D) race: What I find off about the polling is there are many more undecideds in the Senate race than in the presidential race. Having lived in Texas for my adult life, I think the undecideds are mostly people that would like a Democrat to win but don't believe in their heart it can happen and don't want to get their hopes up. After all, if Beto O'Rourke couldn't beat Satan (a.k.a. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX), why should Democrats hope for a win this time against the low-key Cornyn?

T.J. in Edinburgh, Scotland, writes: I was discussing Sen. Doug Jones' (D-AL) reelection bid with a friend of mine originally from Huntsville, AL, who didn't have high hopes in his first election as she didn't believe that the people of Alabama would be willing to vote for a Democrat over a man credibly accused of sexual assault against underage girls, but was pleasantly surprised when they did (by a margin of 1.7%).

She has since remarked that as the choice is now between a Democrat and a Floridian, Jones has a greater likelihood of winning than in his first election.

P.B. in Spring, Lake, NJ, writes: Don't count Doug Jones out yet. There are many Boilermakers, like me, who would never vote for former Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight-mare for anything. Yet, the Indiana GOP has floated his name for various offices. I'd bet that there are many members of the 'Bama nation who will find that the investment scandal confirms their dislike for the former Auburn coach and they will leave the Senate line on their ballot blank.

V & Z respond: It's good thing that we don't reveal letter-writers' identities, or else Knight might find you and throw a chair at you.

M.B. in Cleveland, OH, writes: It is a sad irony that the two senators who lost/will lose their jobs because of their votes on Brett Kavanaugh are both women: Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) in 2018 and Susan Collins (R-ME) in 2020.

Bridge Over Troubled Water

J.L. in Mountain View, CA, writes: Last week, J.C from Dallas, TX, wrote that their parents would never vote for Joe Biden because of the abortion issue. Presumably the parents are against abortion. I have long found the branding around this issue to be problematic. The Republicans claim to be against abortion, based largely on their attempts to repeal Roe v. Wade. But repealing Roe would prevent few abortions. Sure, abortions would likely become illegal in red states, but the majority of people don't live in those states, and among those who do, all but the poorest would simply travel to a blue state for the procedure. To effectively prevent abortions, one needs to reduce the number of pregnancies that women want to abort. How? Better sex education, improved access to birth control, and subsidized childcare and preschool. The fact is that women only have abortions when they feel like they have no choice. Republicans have been trying to take those choices away, pushing women into having abortions since well before Roe.

A.S. in Renton, WA, writes: I was raised Evangelical, bordering on Fundamentalist. I matriculated at a conservative Bible college. I volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center. I marched in a pro-life parade. I voted Republican. But though I still believe in Jesus, and I remain unequivocally pro-life, now I vote for Democrats. My vote was not changed by any kind of "gotcha" moment. It was changed by respect and patience and compassion from people who believed differently from me. So, the first scripture I have for you, J.C., is, "Honor your father and mother," and don't seek the schadenfreude. They are not idiots, or they could not have produced an intelligent child. They are not morally bankrupt, or they might have disowned any offspring who makes holidays uncomfortable. And even if they weren't smart and ethical, respect and love is still the only approach that works long term.

It might help your conversation with them if you start with the assumption that their position is not unreasoned. I myself still believe that abortion ends a human life, based on the following: First, the fertilized egg is clearly alive. If we found a single-celled organism on Mars that was ingesting nutrients and growing, it would be the headline of the millennium: "Life found on Mars!" Second, the fertilized egg is clearly human. Stage of development does not alter species-designation. Consider the caterpillar and the moth. Third, even when a human is completely dependent on another human for their very life—I'm thinking of closely conjoined twins—that human still has an equal right to live. Fourth, we talk about a woman's right to say what happens to her body, which I support 100%. My body is none of the government's business. But what if the embryo is female? Doesn't she also have rights over her body? And my final reason is personal. Two of my four pregnancies ended spontaneously. No one gets to tell me, or anyone else in my miscarriage support group, that our children didn't die, or that our grief is not legitimate.

So how is it that I vote for Democrats? Because I also believe—and convincing your parents of this might be an achievable goal—that Democratic policies on the whole are more likely to reduce abortion. Consider why women choose abortion. My research, and my experiences with friends who've had abortions, have shown me that most women choose abortion because they can't imagine a good life for the human growing inside them. They truly believe that person would be better off dead. Therefore, I think we will see fewer abortions in a world without war, in a world with a healthy climate, in a world where there is universal day care and universal health care, in a world where the stigma of single- or alternative-parenthood has been removed, in a world with free and easily accessible birth control, in a world with a healthy economy, in a world where women make enough money to support a family, in a world where pandemics are met with science and not science-fiction. We will see less abortion when pregnant women see the world as a safe and wonderful place to raise a child. I think that Democratic policies in general are more in tune with the teachings of Jesus, and are therefore more likely to bring about such a world.

(I know that my point about birth control to reduce abortion may be a bridge too far for your Catholic parents, J.C., and in that case I would reference scripture, but compassionately. If God was not stopped from allowing pregnancy by the old age of Abraham's wife Sarai, and the infertility of John the Baptist's mother Elizabeth, and the virginity of Mary, God will not be stopped by birth control if God doesn't want to be. We have all heard about post-vasectomy babies, and I myself know someone who became pregnant while using two forms of birth control just to be safe! How powerful is your parents' God?)

P.R. in Saco, ME, writes: Perhaps this bit of cognitive dissonance will jar your parents enough to leave the line blank on the ballot. I paraphrase (you can do this with Dr. Seuss as well, and it's a hoot):

Luke 19: 1-10 (NIV): Donald Trump, the Tax Collector

19:1 Jesus entered Mar-A-Lago and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Donald Trump; he was a Chief Tax Collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short and had small hands, he could not see over the crowd. 4. So he ran ahead and climbed a palm tree to see him, getting a boost from the Secret Service, since Jesus was coming that way. 5. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Donald, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." 6 So Donald came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7 All the people saw this, and began to mutter, "Jesus has gone to be the guest of a sinner." 8 But Donald stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." 9 Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a Son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."

If J.C.'s parents believe this scenario could happen, I have some real estate down in Florida I'd like to sell them. Failing that, I recommend reading Mark, because it's the shortest in the canon, and there's a lot in there that J.C. could use for persuasion.

M.Y. in Windcrest, TX, writes: To try to keep this short, I'll appeal to three passages. One from Jesus himself, and two from Paul the Apostle, whose writings we consider inspired Scripture.

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others." (Matthew 23:23 ESV)

One could go on at length about the Trump administration's subverting of justice. He never shows any mercy (or, really, any positive human traits at all). His only faithfulness is to himself, probably not what Jesus had in mind.

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." (Colossians 3:12, and you could continue reading through verse 14)

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)

Which of these qualities does Trump possess in even trace amounts?

B.A. in Powder Springs, GA, writes: In my experience, an argument based on the comparison between Trump and Jesus is somewhat of a non sequitur. Any Jesus follower will readily admit that the two share, well, nothing in common, but that is okay. Jesus' objective is to save us from the penalty of our sins, and Trump's objective is to advance a political agenda, which includes such things as appointing conservative judges, expanding religious freedom, and protecting the righteous from the relentless onslaught of radical secularism. And in the media-reinforced reality in which many evangelicals live, Trump is, for the most part, accomplishing these objectives. So, in this paradigm, there is no reason not to vote for him. Furthermore, as offensive as his conduct may be, the other side is always worse, so, you know, lesser of two evils.

The two arguments which seem to have gained the most traction among my peers are as follows:

  1. Religious people are squandering their influence by allowing themselves to be boxed into a "lesser of two evils" strategy. If religious people were to draw a line in the sand and say, "No, we refuse to vote for someone who personifies the opposite of our values and beliefs," I suppose the party pooh-bahs would change the status quo rather quickly.

  2. Religious people are being embarrassingly hypocritical by supporting Trump, and nowhere is this more evident than from those who harped on the importance of character during the 90's. Compared to Bill Clinton, Trump's character is certainly not better, and arguably substantially worse. Evangelical support of Trump therefore betrays that.

So how does this all translate into practical advice for J.C.? It may seem strange at first, but encourage a revival of your parents' faith. Get them to talk about the idealism they once had, and remember that sometimes, taking a stand on character and integrity is important. Secondly, look for opportunities to reshape the media-reinforced reality in which they (probably) live. As Joseph Romm wrote in his book, Language Intelligence, metaphors are only replaced or corrected by new metaphors. In any event, I wish J.C. many fruitful conversations!

M.S. in Allentown, PA, writes: I'm Catholic and pro-life. I voted third-party in 2016 and plan to do so again in 2020. Here are a few arguments that might resonate with your parents:

"Save your soul": Both major parties are explicitly at odds with about half of Catholic teaching, so if you vote for either major party candidate, then you are complicit in the sins committed by that candidate. It's not just abortion, but also perpetuating an economic system that exploits the poor and working classes, policies that persecute (mostly Catholic) asylum seekers from Latin America, discrimination against women, never-ending wars, COVID-19 deaths directly attributable to Trump's lies, etc. Voting third party (or a write in candidate) does the least harm to your soul.

"Earn a reward in heaven": Catholics know the beatitudes well. Remind them that "Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you because of me," (Matthew 5:11). Voting third party invokes these insults from people on both sides of the political spectrum, because it means voting based on what God wants, not what man wants. Double the persecution, double the virtue!

"Have faith the size of a mustard seed": Catholics believe that the Holy Spirit is active in the world, and works in "mysterious ways." If each of the 51 million Catholic adults in the U.S. prayed to the Holy Spirit, perhaps the Holy Spirit would tell us all to vote for the same third party or write-in candidate. Then we'd siphon 25.5 million votes from the Republicans, 25.5 million votes from the Democrats, and our candidate could win a three-way election that landed in the (Catholic-majority) Supreme Court. The only thing standing between us and a president with the values we want is that we Catholics don't have enough faith in the Holy Spirit.

Also, if your parents are looking for a candidate, they might like Brian Carroll of the American Solidarity Party. It's hard for a Catholic to find fault with his platform.

D.R in Anaktuvuk Pass, AK, writes: While I am a white evangelical against Trump, I must confess that I haven't had a lot of luck in conversations with others of my ilk, white evangelicals or white Catholic. However, here are a few pointers:

  • Always be polite and show respect. Name calling and ridiculing the other person's faith or intelligence will automatically end the conversation.
  • Ask questions. Ask them to be specific about how they regard Trump as a champion of their faith.
  • Mention that all of us have sinned, and that our salvation is found through our faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Ask if our faith depends on our confession of sins and our honest repentance.
  • Ask if they have seen or heard Trump admit any sins and offer any honest repentance.
  • Ask how he is an honest representative of their faith.
  • Point out that Jesus was a champion for the poor, the neglected, and the victims of society.
  • Ask how Trump is a champion for the poor, the neglected, and the victims of society.
  • Don't dwell on points of disagreement. Simply assert, "We disagree on that point" and move on.
  • Ask if they believe that Christians are more respected in society today with Trump as their supposed champion, than they were four years ago?
  • Ask them if this is a good representative of a Christian leader?

J.B. and J.B. in Hutto, TX, writes: We do not encounter many pro-Trump people at our church or among the other evangelical Christians in our social circles. And please don't forget that Christianity Today, the largest evangelical magazine in the nation, publicly called for Trump to be removed by either impeachment or defeat at the polls in the upcoming election.

As devout Christians, we never considered supporting Trump. Even if we agreed with his policies, which we don't, how could we be true to our Christian faith if we supported a man who has cheated on his wife with porn stars, who brags about sexually assaulting women, who mocks war heroes, disabled people, and Gold Star families, and who exudes racism, sexism, and xenophobia every day? His narcissistic self-glorification is entirely antithetical to Christian humility. How could Christians support the policy of separating children from their parents on the southern border? How could Christians fail to be appalled by Trump's kowtowing to Kim Jong-Un, who deports Christians to prison camps solely on account of their faith, and his abandonment of our Kurdish allies in northern Syria, which left persecuted Christian communities defenseless in a region full of enemies determined to exterminate them.

It is difficult for us to support Democrats on account of their pro-choice position on abortion and the subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle anti-Christian attitudes among many rank-and-file members of the party. However, we would probably be considered left-of-center on LGBTQ rights, racial justice, the environment, immigration, and many other issues. In 2016, we both cast write-in votes for Evan McMullin. Frankly, we think that if the Democrats stopped trying to purge anti-abortion office-holders from the party and were willing to run pro-life candidates in socially conservative districts, they would pick up significant evangelical support and become much more competitive in the Deep South and the Mountain West.

J.C. in Lexington, KY, writes: I wonder if this book might not help: The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump: 30 Evangelical Christians on Justice, Truth, and Moral Integrity is a collection of essays by evangelicals from a variety of traditions who answer the questions, "What should Christians think about Donald Trump? His policies, his style, his personal life?" I suspect there are some ideas, principles and language choices in this book that might help J.C.'s Catholic parents. J.C. should also know that there are many evangelicals who do not support Donald Trump or his policies, and are wondering if maybe they should just call themselves Christian, given how the label "evangelical" is now so tainted.

J.C. in Binan, Laguna, Philippines, writes: I would point J.C. to Sojourners Magazine, a progressive "evangelical" magazine that's been around for nearly half a century and has numerous articles about Trump. And a few about Jesus.

J.P.R. in Westminster, CO, writes: I offer the following: This is from public theologian Benjamin L. Corey, who has formal academic training from two different reputable theological institutions (both evangelical by tradition, but generally known to be moderate in their orientation, and maybe even left-leaning, depending on who you ask). His discourse here relies more on the method of eisegesis (imposing one's interpretation onto the text, i.e., bad scholarship, which most in our society are familiar with) than exegesis (drawing meaning out of the text, which is the preference within academic theological disciplines). I have to imagine that Corey is well aware of this and fully understands that he's more likely to capture the attention of the conspiracy theory-prone with this approach.

To J.C., I would also say: You are not alone. If I think of more resources, I'll send them along. However, this should give him links to a few rabbit holes to go down.

S.D. in Madison, WI, writes: I am an atheist and generally only read religious "news" to keep up on what the other side is up to. I find it rather painful. However, the Pastor/blogger John Pavlovitz is a very decent person whom I respect and enjoy reading.

A.R. in Arlington, VA, writes: John Fugelsang is a great comedian and commentator who has some hilarious and insightful material about the hypocrisy of the religious right, and of the Republican party in general. I found out about him from listening to the Stephanie Miller Show, where he is a regular guest, and I have seen him do live standup a couple of times. He's very funny and smart. He also has a call-in show on XM Radio, entitled "Tell me Everything with John Fugelsang."

V & Z respond: We thank everyone for sharing their insight, and we swear it's just a coincidence that several of the respondents have the initials "J.C."

COVID-19, Life And Times

Anonymous in Tallahassee, FL, writes: I've read your items several times over the past few weeks about Florida and COVID-19 and thought I'd add a little bit of behind the scenes information about how politicized this has become.

I work at the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) and have been neck deep in COVID data for months now. You know, and have mentioned, that Florida's data transparency has been mixed at best. Behind the scenes, the goal is clear: make the numbers look good. Sadly, we have proven to be willing to mislead the public in order to meet that goal. It was widely reported last week that we finally released our hospitalization numbers. I think P.D. mentioned a while back about how us not releasing that information made it hard to gauge the outbreak. You can see the numbers here.

You need to pay close attention to the top: Hospitalizations with Primary Diagnosis of COVID-19. We aren't really releasing our hospitalization numbers. We are having each hospital report how many COVID-19 positive patients are in the hospital, but not primarily there for COVID-19. Some examples we provide are "Say a person is in the hospital because they broke their leg, but just happens to have COVID-19," or "Say a woman is in the hospital to have a baby, but just happens to have COVID-19." We then subtract the number of "non-primary" COVID-19 patients from the overall number of COVID positive patients. This is the number we release to the public. For example, today we had a little over 9,400 COVID positive patients in the hospital. We publicly reported a little over 8,200 because we subtracted the 1,200-ish "non-primary" COVID positive patients.

It gets worse when you dig into that 1,200 "non-primary" number. If you break it down by hospital, you see that about 75% of the hospitals either don't answer or answer 0 for that question. However, about 20 hospitals are reporting 100% of their COVID positive patients as "non-primary." My guess is this is just data entry errors, probably from untrained hospital staff who are trying to answer a confusing question. In fact, one hospital today reported 10 more "non-primary" positives than positive patients resulting in -10 hospitalizations. Think of how good our numbers would be if everyone followed their lead!

Normally, when I find glaring errors like this, I point them out to the relevant people for correction. However, with this, I'm afraid to point it out because fixing it means making our numbers worse. I privately reached out to a co-worker I trust and have worked with for years. He isn't in the administration but is high enough up to have a good gauge of the politics. He told me it would be OK to point it out to some QA folks, but then forget about it. He said, "that's the only way I've been able to keep my job and my sanity."

V & Z respond: Thank you for sharing your experience, and we wish you good luck as you navigate through this mess.

M.B.T. in Bay Village, OH, writes: Forget what I (and others) said back in May about the bold steps Gov. Mike DeWine (R-OH) took to combat COVID-19. He caved like the Republican hack that he is, squandering a fortune in political capital, and now we're bearing the consequences.

A.R. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: A recent Los Angeles Times article discussed the growing studies that show that masks protect the wearer as well as those around them. The key points are that because the viral load is highest before symptoms appear (which sets COVID-19 apart from the flu), if symptoms appear at all, wearing a mask reduces the amount of virus that is both transmitted and ingested. Reducing the viral load results in less severe cases and fewer deaths in addition to fewer cases overall. The author also posited that universal mask-wearing could see dramatic results in 4-6 weeks. If Donald Trump wants to get reelected, he could institute a federal mask mandate and see a dramatic reduction in case and death numbers just in time for voting to begin in key swing states in mid-September.

Because voting begins so early in key states and many more people are going to vote by mail or early, an October surprise could very well be too late. But if Trump showed even a small amount of leadership with a mask mandate, he could claim all the credit for getting COVID-19 under control by September and alter his electoral prospects.

S.K. in Chappaqua, NY, writes: From Donald Trump's point of view (and self-interest is the only one he has), the pandemic's only effect on him is how it influences his future. The disease either kills or does not kill each of its victims. Those who die have far more impact on his world than those who survive.

The dead are disproportionately either Black or Latino, or are altruists, or health care workers, or, in the future, teachers. Most of them and the people most concerned about their deaths oppose Trump either because he despises them (as non-Caucasians) or because he does not share their view that, in the words of the title of a book that Hillary Clinton wrote, "It Takes a Village." Even if Trump is too ignorant and/or lacks the intelligence to understand all that, the sycophants to whom he listens surely understand that, and even he can see the impacts.

So, the disease's cure, the things that reduce the virus's spread, the lockdowns that hobble the economy, are indeed worse (for him, the only person he cares about) than the disease itself, which is reducing the proportion of the electorate that will support his opponent in the election.

(Too) Hot for Teacher?

M.L.M. in San Jose, CA, writes: I read with interest your item on the forced reopening of schools.

As a credentialed teacher who has 5 years of full-time teaching experience, I can tell you that any model that involves teachers "stepping up" and working harder (like 6-day-a-week school) will fail. Teaching is already a 24/7 job (because of lesson preparation and grading) and that is all the time there is. Anything added to a teacher's duties (e.g., sanitizing the classroom) will detract from the education the teacher can provide. I do not plan to teach this fall.

As a long-time substitute, I can tell you that online substitute teaching doesn't work well. Every classroom has different equipment and different software. That makes it more difficult to write down a lesson plan. It is unreasonable to expect a substitute to immediately grasp the online lesson. For example, nearly all teachers now take attendance online (even pre-pandemic), but substitute teachers use paper forms so they won't make errors in the online attendance. Substitutes might be needed if the teacher gets sick (say, from exposure to COVID-19). I am officially on the list of available substitutes, but again, I don't anticipate working this fall.

As the father of a high school student, I can confirm a general distaste for online classes. Forget standards; the teacher presents what is easy to present.

J.P.R. in Westminster, CO, writes: I'm a school psychologist in the Denver metro area. About six weeks ago, our principals (I work at multiple schools) were e-mailing us, pressing us to fill out the district survey to take our temperature (if you will) on circumstances under which we would feel comfortable returning to work in the fall. To my memory (I can't find the survey now), the four options were a variation of either one, two, or four days brick-and-mortar alternating with one, two, or four days online, or simply to continue completely online as we did upon return from spring break this last academic year. (Let me take this opportunity to be clear that the latter is absolutely not ideal for most children and adolescents, but even less ideal is getting sick and dying.)

About three weeks ago, my superintendent sent out an e-mail informing us that we would be returning in the, five days a week. No staggering. Online option made available to families with special circumstances (but that would be done through the district, not their neighborhood school). The body of the message acknowledged that the standard precautions (i.e., masks, distancing) would have to be implemented, and there has even been a subsequent message that the school board is moving forward with the installment of new air filtration systems. Otherwise, there has been no plan shared for how to manage the inherently conflicting logistics of social distancing and relative cleanliness on the one hand, and young humans aged 4 to 18 behaving like kids on the other.

Most maddening to me, as a professional who tries to make decisions based on empirically-supported evidence, is the citing of "emerging data" from only two studies (neither of which done in the U.S., as far as I can tell) on child-to-adult transmission. The conclusion from these is that children are "not the primary drivers of infection," which does not in the least address their capacity as "equal opportunity" spreaders of SARS CoV-2, regardless of how likely they are to develop and survive COVID-19 (about which I believe you wisely speculate "What will we know in months to come that we don't yet know?"). For my superintendent, herself a seasoned educator, somehow not to believe that if there's a germ to be found in a student's home that it won't somehow find its way into the respiratory system of their teacher(s)/school mental health provider? To believe somehow that substitute teachers will suddenly be plentiful and clamoring to report for duty when there's a general shortage in non-pandemic times? I've not been able to properly express my bewilderment, frustration, and apprehension.

I'm a person usually willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the wisdom of upper management—not that I've always agreed with every decision, but every decision made by every superior in my past seems incredibly inconsequential and low-stakes by comparison now. At first, I wondered if I was of the minority opinion. Certainly, I know some educators who are happy to go back (e.g., libertarians, extroverts). However, the groundswell of like-minded sentiment from my colleagues on social media, from my district and others, would indicate otherwise. Further, you're correct—my union has already sent out surveys attempting to gauge our concerns.

Anonymous in Shelby County, AL, writes: I teach in Shelby County, Alabama. You've heard of it because we sued to end Voting Rights Act requirements and, unfortunately, won. I read with interest your comments about schools reopening, in which you assumed that students would wear masks and that teachers wouldn't be expected to teach in-person and virtually at the same time, among other things.

Our district website has a "plan" and a FAQ. While students can opt for full-time remote learning, which I as a teacher won't be responsible for, it is expected that I will provide the remote learning for every student in my classes who has to spend time at home because they (or a household member) have COVID-19. We expect very few students to choose full-time remote learning, so I will have about 125 students in my 5 academic class periods. It's hard to imagine that I won't be providing eLearning materials to some number of students, all the time. Creating remote learning for one student, or ten, or fifty, takes about the same amount of work.

You will also notice, if you follow the link, that our students will not be required to wear masks. My school was the "Black" school during the segregation era, which tells you what you need to know about its age, condition, and quality of ventilation.

Our "curves" for the virus in my state and in my community are bad. One-fourth of Shelby county's total cases have come in the last seven days. We aren't Miami or Houston, but we are probably just earlier in that same path. We can't afford the extra fuel that school reopening will pour on that fire, but we're going to do it anyway, and we are doing it badly.

B.K. in Dallas, TX, writes: Some very good questions:

  • If a teacher tests positive for COVID-19 are they required to quarantine for 2-3 weeks? Is their sick leave covered, paid?

  • If that teacher has 5 classes a day with 30 students each, do all 150 of those students need to then stay home and quarantine for 14 days?

  • Do all 150 of those students now have to get tested? Who pays for those tests? Are they happening at school? How are the parents being notified? Does everyone in each of those kids' families need to get tested? Who pays for that?

  • What if someone who lives in the same house as a teacher tests positive? Does that teacher now need to take 14 days off of work to quarantine? Is that time off covered? Paid?

  • Where is the district going to find a substitute teacher who will work in a classroom full of exposed, possibly infected students for substitute pay?

  • Substitutes teach in multiple schools. What if they are diagnosed with COVID-19? Do all the kids in each school now have to quarantine and get tested? Who is going to pay for that?

  • What if a student in your kid's class tests positive? What if your kid tests positive? Does every other student and teacher they have been around quarantine? Do we all get notified who is infected and when? Or because of HIPAA regulations, are parents and teachers just going to get mysterious "may have been in contact" e-mails all year long?

  • What is this stress going to do to our teachers? How does it affect their health and well-being? How does it affect their ability to teach? How does it affect the quality of education they are able to provide? What is it going to do to our kids? What are the long-term effects of consistently being stressed out?

  • How will it affect students and faculty when the first teacher in their school dies from this? The first parent of a student who brought it home? The first kid?

  • How many more people are going to die, that otherwise would not have if we had stayed home longer?

30% of the teachers in the US are over 50. About 16% of the total deaths in the US are people between the ages of 45-65. We are choosing to put our teachers in danger. We aren't spending anywhere near the right amount to protect them. And in turn, we are putting ourselves and our kids in danger.

M.H. in Atlanta, GA, writes: You said: "And then we're back to the problem above, that one faculty member can't plausibly create two versions of their course at the same time."

This happens all the time at colleges that offer online classes. Just from my personal experience at USG institutions here in Georgia, I can point to many instances of an instructor simultaneously teaching in-person and online sections of the same course during the same semester. Why is it implausible that this could also be done by teachers in primary/secondary education?

V & Z respond: It might be possible to teach both at the same time. But to prep both at the same time demands more hours than exist in the day.

Mad Men

L.E. in Santa Barbara, CA, writes: Your item contrasting the targeted audience of the Lincoln Project and the Republican Voters Against Trump (RVAT), coupled with Saturday's questions from A.L. in Osaka, Japan, and N.B. in Phoenix, AZ, prompted me to write.

I have told many of my friends that, in my opinion, the Lincoln Project's ads really are for an audience of one—namely the man residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. With the exception of a very few spots, they are some of the most sophisticated trolls of the current resident (I mean, just look at their new "Storytime" series). From what I have read, they make sure to run the ads on TV stations he frequents and actually do ad buys in out-of-area markets wherever he is golfing or rallying. When they get the tone just right, it elicits the perfect, out-of-control reaction by him. This, in turn, helps to turn more and more of the electorate against the President, since it becomes more and more visible for all to see his pathologies.

RVAT, on the other hand, is really targeting the base and the base's disappointments.

All this said, the money the Lincoln Project is raking in is, in my opinion, obscene. I will never, ever give to that group. The founders and leaders of this organization are responsible for the Republican Party of today. These tactics were used against the Democrats for decades—led by these exact people. I strongly believe that they should be footing the bill for this out of the ill-gotten pieces of silver that they were paid. It is their responsibility, if they truly believe in our democracy, to right the wrongs they have fostered, fomented, and pushed. It is also my belief that, as soon as Trump is out of office (whether this fall or in 2024), they will take this money and use it, once again, against the Democratic Party.

No, my spouse's and my money is going directly to many Democratic Senate candidates via ActBlue. The Lincoln Project folks should be ashamed of the chaos and disaster they have wrought and should pay reparations out of their own pockets.

J.T. in Greensboro, NC, writes: Perhaps because A.L. in Osaka is living in Japan, they haven't seen the latest round of Trump ads airing in swing states, which pretty much match the tone of the Lincoln Project ads beat-for-beat. The ones I keep seeing here in North Carolina feature a phone in a darkened police office going unanswered because Joe Biden's pals have defunded the police, and finish with a semi-translucent picture of Biden overlaid on videos of burning buildings. Every bit as over-the-top as the Lincoln Project. Somebody thinks this strategy works.

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: When considering the efficacy of Lincoln Project ads, keep in mind that the psychological purpose of all negative campaign ads is not to persuade anyone to vote for the opponent, but to discourage the candidate's supporters from voting at all. Negative ads are intended as a psychological form of voter suppression.

L.V.A. in Idaho Falls, ID, writes: I have long believed that the topics of political scandals, tell all books, conspiracy theories, et al. are irrelevant. What matters is the volume. The Lincoln Project seems to get this. Advertisers certainly get this. After a sufficient number of scandals, people just remember the impression of corruption. You can then accuse someone of being a Martian and that'll just make them seem more corrupt (See Clinton, Hillary). Trump has tried this on Joe Biden. I expect to hear about Biden's love child with Bigfoot this election cycle.

V & Z respond: Come to think of it, we've never actually seen Hillary Clinton's birth certificate.

R.H. in Macungie, PA, writes: D.E. from Lancaster, PA wrote in to complain about ads from the Trump Campaign. I recently received a number of mailings from the Trump Campaign and was happy to get them. I opened and read them for entertainment value. My initial reaction, the first time I received one, was to find some way to get myself off their mailing list, but then I had second thoughts. I'm happy to have them waste as much money on me as possible. As an added bonus, it helps the Postal Service. I've considered signing up for more of their mailings, but I'm not quite ready to make that leap. I have wondered if I donated two cents to multiple Republican organizations and candidates, would that generate lots of return mail to suck money from them? I haven't done so—yet.

D.W. in Hillsdale, MI, writes: You wrote: "There isn't a lot you can do, unless you want to buy and install an ad blocker like Adblock Plus." Your visitors don't need to buy anything to block ads. I've never seen a Trump ad, and I've never paid for an ad-blocker. uBlock Origin is the preferred ad block add-in now-a-days. Adblock Plus has been purchased by a marketing group and by default allows "certain non-obtrusive ads." uBlock Origin was created by the original creator of ABP, is free, and is free from interference from marketing companies.

P.A. in Redwood City, CA, writes: D.E. of Lancaster, PA, wrote about receiving inappropriate online political ads. They might want to investigate installing some cookie management software. The one I use on macOS is called simply Cookie, and I expect that there are equally good options available for Windows. I have it set to delete all of my cookies every night at 3 a.m., except for those from a few trusted web sites and domains. While I do have to log in to sites more often, avoiding targeted ads that creeplily follow me everywhere is worth it.

The Pen Is Mightier

G.B. in Manchester, UK, writes: K.C. in Levittown, NY, and R.L. in Los Angeles, CA, asked what the effect of tell-all books might be, or whether they serve any purpose at all. You discussed how such political books might potentially influence people's opinions and votes, and you used Uncle Tom's Cabin as an example from the pre-Civil War era. However, I would also point out that such books, if written effectively, can also serve to inform future generations of historical people and events. I would point to All the President's Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as an excellent example of this.

I was born after Richard Nixon's resignation, so while I was growing up, I only vaguely understood what had happened during his administration. When I was in school learning history, Watergate was an event that had taken place too recently to be covered in any of my classes (probably because of the various reasons discussed by James Loewen in Lies My Teacher Taught Me). Reading All the President's Men and watching the movie introduced me to what happened during Watergate. In the same way that Woodward and Bernstein and Hoffman and Redford informed me about Nixon, it's possible that some of the tell-all books being published about Donald Trump now will serve to inform a broad number of people in the next generation about the various issues during the Trump administration and will provide historical insights into the president.

J.A. in New York, NY, writes: I was talking to a friend of mine who lives in Texas, and who just finished reading Bolton's book. My friend voted for Trump in 2016, is a strong Republican (of the Bush sort), and opined that there is no way that they can vote for Trump in 2020 (though they will, of course, vote for John Cornyn and others in the GOP on the downballot races).

I don't know if my friend is an outlier or not. However, this thinking, this intention could be why there is such a large split on the polling between the Senate and Presidential races.

A.B. in Chesapeake, VA, writes: I just finished Mary Trump's book, and came away with a profound sense of sadness for Donald, Mary and their whole family. Let's be clear, if Hillary Clinton had won the election, the Republicans would have probably kept the House in 2018 and they would have blocked her for 4 years, as they blocked everything Obama did for 6. I despise Donald Trump, but this book gave me insight into this flawed, vengeful man. I hope for nothing but continued failure for him and prosecution when he is no longer in office. The giant step backwards our country has taken under Trump may have been the only way we can finally take two steps forward. As Mary says, he is possibly the most dangerous man on earth and, hopefully, he will be replaced by Joe Biden. Don't forget to vote!

G.W. in Oxnard, CA, writes: C.J., Honolulu, HI, asked about a possible hidden meaning to the title of the new book from Donald Trump Jr. It occurred to me that it is possible that the errors in the cover might be intentional to get the nitpicking response. That would feed into the anti-intellectual paradigm that appeals to the book buyers who are motivated by "this is the book the liberal elites don't want you to read." So, perhaps there was no intentional errors, but the cover still works for the book buyer to scoff at the nitpicking. I did find a review that said the writing is wretched, even by the standards of political vanity projects, which probably works for sales, as many of the book buyers probably read at a 7th grade level.

I.D. in Richmond, VA, writes: I'm sure Douglas Adams would've been as amused, as I was, by your decision to parenthetically note that The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is indeed a fictional account. Striving for accuracy in all things is an admirable trait, particularly in a response to a question about grammatical errors, but I don't think you need to rush to assure your readers there's no literal backdoor to Europe if another famous (non-fictional) travel guide happens to come up.

V & Z respond: We should have just answered every question yesterday with "42" and left it at that.


J.L. in Evanston, IL, writes: You criticized Ben Garrison for being a bigot (probably true) and described Thomas Nast as the greatest political cartoonist of all time. Just a reminder that Thomas Nast was a virulent anti-Catholic bigot.

V & Z respond: Fair enough, but we were speaking solely of artistic quality. Garrison's a lousy artist and a bigot; he's not a lousy artist because he's a bigot.

S.P. in Wheaton, IL, writes: That caricature looks much more like Moscow Mitch McConnell than it does Dr. Anthony Fauci. Or is it just me?

E.W. in Skaneateles, NY, writes: I enjoyed your discussion about political cartoons earlier this week. I wanted to share The Week's political cartoons page, which contains a huge number of cartoons from all over the political spectrum. I find the site to be a quick and easy way to get exposure to a wide variety of viewpoints, including some I disagree with passionately. I think your readers will, too.

V & Z respond: Thanks for the recommendation!

Ranked-Choice or Rank Choice?

B.S. in La Mesa, CA, writes: You wrote that ranked-choice voting "gives voters 'permission' to register a protest vote without helping a candidate they despise."

It's vitally important to clarify that this could not be further from the truth in presidential races due to our Electoral College system. If Massachusetts (or any blue state) enacts RCV, and progressives are led to believe that they can safely vote for the Green Party candidate without fear of throwing away their vote, a popular Green Party candidate might win those few states while losing by wide margins in all other states without RCV. There is no greater gift the Republican Party could receive than reliably blue states adopting RCV and splitting the progressive vote, while conservative states retain their current first-past-the-post systems. I expect the Republican Party to aggressively (and covertly) campaign for RCV in Massachusetts.

While I fully support RCV in a one-person, one-vote system, the distortion of the democratic process created by the Electoral College would only be amplified by enacting RCV on a state-by-state basis.

H.F. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: Although ranked-choice voting sounds like a good idea, I wonder if it's too new and complicated to work smoothly in real life. I remember the problems voters had with the ballots in Florida 20 years ago, and it brings to mind one of Murphy's laws: "No system is foolproof, because fools are so ingenious."

Don't Hold Your Breath Waiting for a National Anthem that Talks About Lynching and Abortion

L.G. in Lafayette, CO, writes: I'd like to second the suggestion of J.P. in Horsham, PA, that we make Phil Ochs' Power and Glory the new National Anthem. The first two verses enumerate the natural beauties of the U.S. landscape. J.P. shared the chorus, but I most love the third verse:

Yet she's only as rich as the poorest of the poor
Only as free as the padlocked prison door
Only as strong as our love for this land
Only as tall as we stand

However, like "This Land Is Your Land," the last verse will take it out of the running, despite its resonance with almost all times in our history:

But our land is still troubled by men who have to hate
They twist away our freedom and they twist away our fate
Fear is their weapon and treason is their cry
We can stop them if we try

H.R. in Jamaica Plain, MA, writes: If it isn't too late to comment on the subject of the National Anthem, I recommend to you and your readers "Arise! Arise! A National Anthem" by Jean Rohe. In my opinion, it really captures our history and our positive aspirations for the future. Here's a sample of the words:

Second verse:
We reached these shores from many lands
We came with hungry hearts and hands
Some came by force and some by will
At the auction block or the darkened mill

Arise! Arise!
I see the future in your eyes
To a more perfect union we aspire
And lift our voices from the fire.

Third verse:
We died in your fields and your factories
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees
With an old coat hanger in a room some where
A trail of tears, an electric chair

Fourth verse:
And our great responsibility
To be guardians of our liberty
Till tyrants bow to the people's dream
And justice flows like a mighty stream

P.S. The director of the chorus I sing in had no idea what "Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees" referred to. It's lynching, of course, and refers to the song "Strange Fruit," made famous by Billie Holiday and written by Abel Meerepol, who adopted Ethel and Julius Rosenberg's two sons.

D.B. in Waltham, MA, writes: Amid all the criticism of the Star Spangled Banner I'd like to point out that it does have some good qualities, which were nicely expressed a long time ago by Laurie Anderson.

V & Z respond: That video vaguely reminds us of "Check It Out! With Dr. Steve Brule".


M.A. in Palo Alto, CA, writes: I really like the new Mt. Rushmore question and it got me thinking of who to put on. I agree the list you have, while certainly fair, is problematic for having four men (three of whom are white) and three presidents. I thought of the following:

  • Crispus Attucks—an escaped slave whose death at the Boston Massacre was a critical trigger for the Revolution. He worked on a New England whaling ship too, so he's got an incredible "American" story. He may also have had Native American ancestry.
  • Any number of great Native American leaders like Sitting Bull, Chief Joseph, Geronimo, Red Cloud, Sacagawea, and, of course, Crazy Horse. As a non-Native, I wouldn't presume to know who would be appropriate, but I think the government could consult with organizations like the National Congress of American Indians to survey the Tribes and find out if there's a consensus choice. There's also the issue of the Black Hills belonging to the Lakota and the monument itself being a desecration of their holy sites. Ideally, we'd remove the monument and restore it to the extent possible before turning it back over to the Lakota. Then, we could find an appropriate site.

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: I think a case can be made to include Ben Franklin.

T.A.L.G. in Birdsboro, PA, writes: How could you overlook Harriet Tubman? No offense to Martin Luther King Jr., but she risked far more than he did. She was a key figure in the abolitionist movement in the North, helped slaves escape (risking her own life multiple times), supported the Union cause during the Civil War, and was an early supporter of women's suffrage. You might knock her for supporting a violent abolitionist (John Brown) but could you blame her? There's a good reason she should be on the $20 bill. Replacing Jackson is an excellent teaching moment, given today's situation.

V & Z respond: We did not overlook her, we were simply operating under a different standard for what the monument represents (having specifically been asked about the "top four Americans, all-time"). Also, given that King was beaten several times, arrested and imprisoned, constantly subjected to death threats, and ultimately assassinated, we would caution against downplaying the amount of risk he assumed.

T.G. in Mount Vernon, NY, writes: No names are necessary:

Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein,
Jeffrey Epstein, and Donald Trump

P.R. in Saco, ME, writes: Mt. Rushmore is an affront and abomination to both nature and the local Indians (and yes, Indian is the preferred term). If anyone feels the need to carve up rock in its beautiful natural state on stolen land, perhaps they could honor an Indian? But that's an oxymoron. Graffiti on steroids. Sheesh.

The Bird Is the Word, and Word Is for the Birds

R.M. in Aberdeen, WA, writes: I was attacked by readers of your site with downright ad-hominem (and other) fallacious arguments for my suggestion that you use Microsoft products to improve your site.

You all are dead, dead, dead wrong in saying it's OK to have grammar errors here and there. Yes, that's OK. But not in the way you suggest. If I can use a product that has 4 decades of thousands of experts' work rolled into it, and eliminate the vast majority of my errors in minutes, then wasting the time of others is wrong. And producing documents with some errors here and there is wrong, when most of those could be eliminated in minutes. And it is disrespectful to your audience to produce less professional work when you can improve with such ease.

I urge all of you who have knee-jerk hatred for Microsoft to stop being that way. I hated them at first because of the way they eliminated companies like WordPerfect. But to their credit, for the most part, they have not bankrupted end users when they got the lion's share of the market, their products have continued to improve, and they still have hundreds of experts in their employ, constantly improving their grammar checkers, etc. I urge you to try their stuff. I urge you to eliminate most of your easily corrected grammatical errors in minutes with their products. I urge you to remove your knee-jerk prejudices and become way more productive, and way more professional, in your presentations. If I copy a page from this website into Microsoft Word, virtually every error we all see, and that is later corrected, gets underlined. It takes mere minutes to correct them all.

V & Z respond: If you take yesterday's posting and copy it into Word, you will discover that approximately 80% of the things it marks as "wrong" are not. It cannot handle unfamiliar names (Slotkin, Hegar, etc.). It does not recognize that a colon might legitimately appear in the middle of a sentence. It thinks the "master's" in "master's degree" is incorrect. Plowing through dozens of false positives in hopes of finding a few correct warnings is not an efficient use of our already-stretched-thin time. Similarly, one of us (V), just wrote a 1,000-page book and used Grammarly to try to catch errors. It did, but >95% of what it flagged was incorrectly flagged (false positives). It was worse than useless because the time spent using it and going through the false positives could better have been spent doing more proofreading. Some day AI will make this easy, but that day will not be in 2020 and probably not in 2021, 2022, or 2023.

A.N. in Tempe, AZ, writes: Let me tell you how to eliminate typos and grammatical errors. First, though, some background.

I worked for a large corporation in a dedicated product group that prided itself on having top quality products that dominated our market. We had a few dozen products that each had a useful life of decades. For each product, there were typically one or two software engineers, one or two hardware engineers, a systems engineer, and a product manager. Each of our 100 engineers on this team may be working on a half-dozen or so products at a time. Each product had hundreds of pages of documentation such as user manuals and engineering support guides. For every single revision (new feature, problem fix, etc.), after all associated documentation was updated to reflect any product change, every page of every changed document was reviewed by a review team consisting of all assigned engineers and quality assurance specialists, plus tech-pub professionals who were not part of our department. That is, every time any product was updated, 6-12 professional people reviewed every change to every associated document for completeness and correctness, and also reviewed the entire document for previously missed errors. It was expected that every single review, including the tenth revision of a very old product, would identify additional typos and grammatical errors that had survived from the very first release of the documentation.

So, the way to eliminate typos and grammatical errors can't.

M.B. in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, writes: In response to P.R. in Saco, ME, although I don't have a Ph.D. in linguistics either, I have studied the subject at some length and I can affirm that linguists are not grammar Nazis at all. They study language as it is, not as a self-styled grammarian thinks it ought to be.


J.A. in Virginia, Australia, writes: As a wealthy liberal I take umbrage at the assertion that I like to drink Grande Vanilla Bean Creme Frappuccinos.

What's the point of being wealthy, if I can't stump for a Venti?

S.R in Wyomissing, PA, writes: I don't understand why D.E. would move to Lancaster from Lititz. Now he'll need to find somewhere else to get his Wilbur buds...

S.S.L. in Norman, OK, writes: I'm a Michigan native. You said that Michigan State and Oakland, MI, have Alabama in between. We prefer Mich-issippi, thank you very much! We are the South of the North, after all.

J.E.T. in New York, NY, writes: I was interested to see the letter from B.B. in St. Louis, MO, who mentioned the "lawful" and "chaotic" alignments in Dungeons & Dragons. It reminds me of a long argument I had in the RolePlaying Games Forum of CompuServe, when I objected to the fact that not only did characters have alignments, entire races did. And these alignments were not merely "lawful" and "chaotic," they included "good," "evil" and "neutral," so an entire race in D&D could be characterized as "Chaotic Evil," for instance.

It seemed to me that exposing adolescents to a worldview in which entire races were considered "evil" was a bad thing, and could lead to entire human "races"—like Asians, for instance—being considered evil, and the invidious idea that a whole race's morality can be predicted or identified. (Remember the "Yellow Menace"?) The responses tended to be: (1) that "races" in D&D and human "races" were not the same, (though that seemed a subtlety that might escape the average 11 or 12-year-old), or (2) that it made it easier for players to interact with characters of different "races" because they would know what to expect from them, which seems to me to be the textbook definition of prejudicial stereotyping. I still believe that the model is a dangerous one to introduce children to, and I think that it may actually have done some damage over time.

V & Z respond: A thoughtful analysis, though we fear you may be dating yourself a wee bit by recounting the D&D debates you had on CompuServe.

Today's Presidential Polls

The last poll of Michigan in our database that had Donald Trump even so much as within the margin of error was four months and 14 polls ago. (Z)

State Biden Trump Start End Pollster
Michigan 51% 44% Jul 09 Jul 10 PPP

Today's Senate Polls

Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) is not the kind of candidate who wins in landslides. However, he's also not the type to lose a safe seat. Mitch McConnell may be the turtle, but Peters is the tortoise: "Slow and steady wins the race." We would not be surprised if, come Election Day, this poll is right on the mark. (Z)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Michigan Gary Peters* 49% John James 42% Jul 09 Jul 10 PPP

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jul18 John Lewis Has Died
Jul18 Saturday Q&A
Jul18 Today's Presidential Polls
Jul18 Today's Senate Polls
Jul17 Trump's COVID-19 Fantasy Clashes with COVID-19 Reality
Jul17 Brian Kemp Channels His Inner Trump
Jul17 Republicans Won't Let Go of Burisma
Jul17 Your Interview Begins When the Clock Strikes Thirteen
Jul17 Florida Felons Can't Vote, After All
Jul17 Republicans Press Trump to Change His Tune on Mail-in Voting
Jul17 Voter Fraud Is Real
Jul17 Democrats Are Raking It In
Jul17 Mary Trump Book Selling Like Gangbusters
Jul17 All the Way with Kanye?
Jul17 Today's Presidential Polls
Jul16 Biden Now Has a 15-Point Lead Nationally
Jul16 Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball Shifts Map Toward Biden
Jul16 Republicans Worry about What Happens If Trump Can't Hold Rallies
Jul16 Shake It Up...Shake It Up
Jul16 Don't Mess with Texas
Jul16 Democratic Spending Is Focusing on the Rust Belt
Jul16 New Cases of COVID-19 Are Mostly in Republican-Led States
Jul16 GoFundMe Campaign Wants to Poll More States
Jul16 Democrats are Meddling in Kansas Senate Race
Jul16 Payments to Farmers Have Surged to Historic Levels
Jul16 Ruth Bader Ginsburg Is Resting at Home
Jul16 Massachusetts Will Vote on Ranked-Choice Voting in November
Jul16 Today's Presidential Polls
Jul15 Maine, Texas, and Alabama Vote
Jul15 RBG Hospitalized Again
Jul15 Trump Administration Resumes Federal Executions
Jul15 Is There Any Rhyme or Reason Here at All?
Jul15 Can You Believe What the Trumps Did?
Jul15 Biden Says He's Open to Killing the Filibuster
Jul15 Biden Airs First Ad in Texas
Jul15 Today's Presidential Polls
Jul15 Today's Senate Polls
Jul14 It's Officially the White House vs. Anthony Fauci
Jul14 About Those Forced School Reopenings
Jul14 About that Economy Rebounding
Jul14 Desperation Sets in for Trump Campaign
Jul14 Biden Campaign Gets Serious about Latino Outreach
Jul14 Mary Trump Is Ungagged
Jul14 COVID-19 Diaries, The Return
Jul14 Today's Presidential Polls
Jul14 Today's Senate Polls
Jul13 Trump Is Being Stoned
Jul13 Florida Sets a New Record for COVID-19 Cases
Jul13 The Economic Recovery May Be Fizzling
Jul13 The Lincoln Project Raised $17 Million in Q2