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      •  Sunday Mailbag

Apologies for the late posting; we had some technical issues.

Sunday Mailbag

We got over 40,000 words' worth of responses about NPR. So, if you're wondering why that section is as long as it is, it's because 10% of 40,000 is still a lot.

Voting Right

R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: Regarding the boycotts of Georgia businesses, it's worth noting that Stacey Abrams and the New Georgia Project are not asking for them. They have pointed out that boycotts can hurt the very people who are at risk of losing their franchise. Consider all the stadium vendors, parking lot attendants and ticket takers who won't be working on the day of the MLB All-Star Game. These people are more likely to be Black and will feel the economic pain of a missed day of work way more than the owner of the Atlanta Braves will.

Progressives have pointed out that we should all wait for cues from people on the ground in Georgia before we rush to boycott everything. (As you wrote, Republicans in the Georgia legislature probably don't give a hoot about boycotts anyway and will dig in the heels on what they feel is an existential threat). Besides, do we really want corporate America to be the unofficial fourth branch of government? Let's all take a deep breath and stay out of the way while Democratic lawyers (and hopefully Congress!) do their work.

V & Z respond: See the letter from A.B. in Wendell, below, for more on this subject.

S.K. in Chappaqua, NY, writes: What I want is an ad on Fox News and in all other major conservative media like this one:

We, Republicans who lead America's largest companies, have a message for all Republican state senators and representatives. If you want to be re-elected, and to have our contributions to your campaigns, you must work to pass laws that benefit all of the people who live in your states. If you choose, instead, to pass laws that make it more difficult for Democrats to vote, then you will be proving that you are enemies of all of your states' and America's voters.

[Signed by CEOs, presidents, and board chairs of Coca Cola, Delta Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Home Depot, Amazon, Intel, Dell Corporation, Texas Instruments, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the Professional Golfers Association, etc.]

J.M. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: This morning, my wife was ruminating over two issues, voter suppression and COVID-19. Both of these topics are well covered by this website, of which we have been devoted readers since near its inception. A quote attributed to the great Danish physicist Niels Bohr states: "Some subjects are so serious that one can only joke about them." Channeling Bohr, she suggested that an appropriate Voter ID Card should be the COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card. Yes, vaccinations should not be politicized, but...

F.L. in Denton, TX, writes: A popular topic of late has been offering food and drink for those waiting in line to vote.

What would be far more valuable, in my opinion, is to provide portable toilet facilities and maybe a volunteer to hold a place in the line.

G.W. in Oxnard, CA, writes: I suspect the restriction on providing food and water to people waiting in line to vote in the Georgia law and to be duplicated in several other states soon is a misdirection. It is drawing most of the attention of the news coverage, while the other measures intended to reduce voting access that are more difficult to explain and to understand are getting little coverage. I suspect that later, they intend to repeal the restriction on food and water and low-information and medium-information voters will likely be fooled into believing that the voting restriction problem has been fixed, and they need not be concerned about the state of our democracy.

C.L.C. in Petaluma, CA, writes: Some minority voters fear that getting rid of "bad" gerrymandering could reduce "good" gerrymandering. Unfortunately, this is true, but "bad" gerrymandering is so bad that it is worth throwing out all gerrymandering: It is a bad idea to give our enemies weapons to use against us.

We could use algorithmic redistricting, but increase the number of districts so that a district is more likely to have a majority of minorities. If we set the number of districts to the cube root of the population, we have would have 690 districts. Each could elect one male and one female representative.

J.E. in Akron, OH, writes: As you note in your discussion of H.R. 1, the Constitution empowers Congress to "make or alter" state election procedures "except as to the Places of chusing Senators." Would a results-oriented Supreme Court majority be bold enough to read this last clause in a ridiculously literal fashion? Since senators were originally elected by state legislatures, the obvious purpose of the clause is to prevent Congress from harassing state legislatures by forcing them to move (an abuse specifically cited in the Declaration of Independence). But if the conservative justices value political expediency over originalism, they could become extreme textualists and find that requiring an adequate number of polling locations is an invalid attempt to make a regulation "as to the Places of chusing Senators."

C.L. in Boulder, CO, writes: Regarding fraud prevention measures in H.R. 1 and S. 1, Division A, Title III is entitled "Election Security." But some election administrators are concerned that the various requirements in the bill will be impossible to meet. What would be the end result? Maybe a situation ripe for the challenging of election results and/or invalidating elections. See this item, headlined "How This Voting Rights Bill Could Turn the Next Election Into a Clusterf*ck."

M.F. in Minneapolis, MN, writes: You wrote: "In McDowell County, WV, only 6,000 votes were cast in the 2020 election. Is early voting for 150 hours really needed there? Forcing rural counties like this to be open for days is probably going to cause counties to reduce the number of polling places to save money, making people drive farther to vote. It might even be counterproductive."

I strongly disagree. Voters in McDowell County have the same right to convenient access to voting as their fellow citizens in Atlanta. This requires polling places be open, even if utilization is low. Note that in smaller communities this is not a full-time job during early voting. For example, as a college student, I voted early in Illinois at a suburban Township center where the administrative staffer served voters' needs for the 1-2 voters per hour. While I voted the staffer was fully occupied with her normal work. Where governments do not have full time staff, schools, nursing facilities, social clubs, and even religious organizations could step in for the public good - just as they do on election day itself.

Still, you are correct that there are added costs to this level of availability and Congress would be wise to address those. Similarly, you are correct that anti-voting election administrators will likely seek to close polling places as an alternative means of discouraging voting by making it inconvenient. Congress should address this as well.

Or, of course, we could follow the lead of several states and simplify the whole thing with all mail-in voting.

Primary Concerns

D.T.F.B. in Powell, OH, writes: I read your item about the DNC Rules Committee struggling with who gets to go first in the primaries for 2024. It sparked an idea that I think would be more balanced than every state pushing for an earlier date.

What if each state were granted extra delegates based on their order? Any state that went first would get no extra delegates. Each primary date after the first would have a pool of [X] number of delegates, shared equally by the states that held their primaries on that date. The value of X would increase as the calendar continued. This would have the effect of discouraging "Super Tuesday" and would spread out the calendar, giving the candidates more time to focus on each state. It would also give greater value to the later states.

I probably haven't considered all the implications, but this seems to me to be an approach that could make all the state delegations happier.

V & Z respond: Intriguing, but the Party would never go for this. They prefer the horse race to be over as early as is possible.

S.C. in Mountain View, CA, writes: As long as the DNC and your readers, such as D.B. of Glendale, are discussing potential changes to the Presidential primary system, I'd like to put my plug in for the Graduated Random Presidential Primary System.

It puts small states up front (and could be tweaked to make sure they are always diverse), so retail campaigning in the front end is still possible. Since it gradually increases the number delegates up for grabs as the season progresses, candidates who catch fire early have a chance to increase their support, while candidates who don't gain traction will naturally consider dropping out.

J.S. in Tucson, AZ, writes: This seems like an easy solution to me: have all of the first four primaries on the same day. This may be costly for smaller candidates, but maybe it also reveals much more up-front about some serious candidates that can speak to diverse populations all at once.

G.T.M. in Vancouver, BC, Canada, writes: Why not have every state "go first" (read as "hold their delegate selection day on the same date")?

Yes, I know, the very concept is so totally foreign to the American political process that there is no chance of it happening, but the concept does seem to work in other countries' political parties.

As far as superdelegates are concerned, what is actually wrong, in principle, with having sitting officeholders be ex officio delegates (after all, they have to work with whomever is selected)? The problem appears to be the number of superdelegates, and not the fact that they exist. If only sitting Representatives and sitting Senators become super-delegates due to their office, that would mean that—currently—around 5.73% (272 our of 4,749) of the delegates would be superdelegates. If you toss in governors and the top 10 positions with the DNC, that would raise that percentage to around 6.36%, which hardly appears to be a "massive overweighting."

However, if that 6.36% still feels like it's too much, simply disqualify the superdelegates from voting for the first [X] rounds of voting. After all, if "the people" can't make up their minds in [X] rounds of voting, maybe it's time for the leadership to show some.

P.S.: Congratulations, America! As of today the average number of vaccinations per day is 310% of the rate that it was on January 20.

J.L. in Chicago, IL, writes: I still am mystified how, in 2016, the Democrats looked at Donald Trump basically hijacking the Republican Party and said to themselves, "Yeah, give us some of that someday." That sort of scenario is exactly why there should be superdelegates, to act as a brake against the primaries going completely off the rails and resulting in the nomination of someone dangerous and completely unsuited to the presidency. And, for those of us who tend Democratic, let's not have the hubris to assume a Trump-like person could never win the Democratic nomination. It likely would not be someone with Trump's characteristics, in particular, but could be someone just as bad in different ways.

Democratic Politics

D.R. in Yellow Springs, OH, writes: Thanks for the item on the study of progressive vs. moderate Democrats challenging Republican congressional incumbents in 2020 and comparing their share of the vote to Joe Biden's in the district. I was disappointed, though, that you failed to note the flaws in the study:

  • It only looked at incumbent Republicans being challenged by Democrats, not at any open seats. Incumbents vary quite a bit when it comes to constituent service and how often they appear in their districts to speak at Rotary Club meetings and such. All other things being equal, incumbents who deliver good constituent service and who are visible in their districts are harder for challengers to defeat, regardless of ideology.

  • It only looked at the Democratic challengers' ideologies, not at the Republican incumbents'. If candidate ideology is the most important thing (and I'm not convinced it is), a good study would look at Republican ideology as well. Granted, moderate Republicans scarcely exist these days, but there is certainly a divide among Republicans in Congress who eagerly embrace Trump and those who distance themselves from him.

  • It had a small sample size of 11 progressive Democrats and 29 moderate Democrats. A larger sample size would be useful in lessening factors other than the Democratic candidate's ideology, such as campaigning skills. (Including open seats would have yielded a larger sample size.)

  • The study only compared congressional candidates' performance to the 2020 presidential election. We don't normally have a presidential election in which one of the major candidates is demonstrably incompetent. Adding in the 2012 election, when both major presidential candidates were highly competent and the contest was mostly about ideology, would be far more useful.

Frankly, I'd say that the success of progressive Democrats like Rep. Katie Porter (who serves the former Republican stronghold of Orange County, CA) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (who serves Ohio, which Trump won twice) is proof that the right progressive can win swing areas. I think many of the persuadable citizens are persuadable not because they are moderate but because they lack a political ideology at all, so what wins them over is campaigning skills.

B.P. in Chicago, IL, writes: For the most part, your website is extremely informative and well written. But when it dives into political ideology and what works and doesn't work, specifically for the Democratic Party, I have to double check to make sure I'm not reading an article from CNN or MSNBC.

Your recent neoliberal take on progressives winning (or as you claim losing) is astounding, tone deaf, and lazy at best.

On numerous occasions, Democrats have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by running progressively in their primary, winning, then running straight to the middle, ultimately to lose to their right-wing counterpart. Look at the last Florida gubernatorial election in 2018, where Andrew Gillum was dominating Ron DeSantis right after his primary victory in the pulls, then he made a right turn to the center and ultimately lost.

Look at Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). She used to be very progressive during her days in the Arizona State legislature, and now she is hemorrhaging support.

I really wish more commentators like you would get out of your own echo chamber and realize the world is changing. Older generations are dying and the newer generations are shifting leftward.

D.G. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: The study discussed in "Another Autopsy Looks at Why Democrats Lost House Seats," like other studies I have seen reported anywhere, ignores one component that is quite central to my, and I believe many other peoples', vote.

While I certainly consider the political leaning and views of my representative (or senator), I pay serious attention to their personality. Regardless of their political leanings, I would never vote for Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), or Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), or Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) as they seem to me to be evil, nasty, or stupid, respectively. I would equally be very hesitant to vote for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who seems half-baked, or Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, due to the lack of good judgment she exhibited in the Franken affair.

In my view, the statistics of this type poll obscures to some extent the likeability of the candidate. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) would never be elected in any other district, regardless of how red it was.

V & Z respond: Dunno, Nunes could probably get elected in Rep. Matt Gaetz' (R-FL) district (which is FL-01).

R.M. in Williamstown, WV, writes: A lot has been said and written lately, both on your site and elsewhere, about our senior senator, Joe Manchin (D-WV). So I wanted to offer a West Virginian's perspective on the dilemma that moderates and progressives face here (and perhaps that Senator Manchin faces as well). Let me say at the outset that I do not know Manchin personally, so I can only offer conjecture as to his inner thoughts and motivations. But I am familiar with his political history in West Virginia. He was previously a member of the state legislature, the West Virginia Secretary of State, and for two terms, a popular governor. In 2010, he ran to replace the legendary Robert Byrd in the U.S. Senate, and won. He was reelected in 2012 and 2018. He will be up for reelection again in 2024.

And therein lies the dilemma. There is no doubt that Joe Manchin is a source of frustration to Democrats in the Senate in their efforts to enact their agenda. I share that frustration. However, those of us in West Virginia who would like to see a more cooperative Joe Manchin find ourselves with limited options—none of which are very good. We could get behind and try to choose a candidate more aligned with issues we support, of course. The problem with that is that even in the unlikely event that we were successful in the primaries, that candidate would almost certainly lose to virtually any Republican who ran against him or her. Maybe if Chuck Yeager were still alive (even if he was creeping toward 100) he would stand a chance. But that option doesn't exist, and I can't think of another person who would have even a 50-50 chance of winning as a Democrat in the general election. And, of course, at least for right now, if we lose the Democratic Senate seat for West Virginia, the Democrats also lose their majority in the Senate.

So, we are left with Joe Manchin, or almost certain loss of the seat (and with no guarantee that even Manchin's reelection is completely safe). Of course, if things change, and the Democrats manage to pick up a few seats in the 2022 election, then Manchin, with all his frustrating moves would be much less essential (and get much less attention). But until then, our choices boil down to: (1) Vote for the Republican candidate, (2) Back a Democrat alternative to Manchin, and suffer an almost certain loss of the seat in the general election, or (3) Back Joe Manchin with all his faults. I'll be holding my nose and choosing option (3).

D.N. in Upper St. Clair, PA, writes: You may be mistaken in writing that Joe Manchin "isn't likely to be affected" by legislation in West Virginia that restricts voting. S.B 265, recently passed by the state Senate and now pending in the House, repeals automatic voter registration by the DMV, repeals in-person early voting on the weekend before the election, moves forward the deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot, and relaxes the criteria for purging voters from the registration list. Manchin's margin of victory in 2018 was only about 19,000 votes, and all of these changes are likely to reduce the number of votes cast for Manchin when he runs for re-election in 2024. He may therefore conclude that it is in his own political interest to support S.1.

Republican Politics

B.B. in Panama City Beach, FL, writes: Obstructionism and/or refusing to compromise has been the basis of the Republican playbook since Newt Gingrich. Add in conservative media, which has demonized liberals, a tendency that ramped up during the Obama years, and Republican primary voters won't stand for anything less. Furthermore, Republicans have gerrymandered so many districts that primary voters are given outsized influence. It's not just the preferred or known card, it's the only card!

D.O. in Denver, CO, writes: I don't usually share these, but...

A tweet reads: 'The cargo ship 
stuck in the Suez Canal is blocking so much important and useful stuff that they have decided to rename it Mitch McConnell'

A.H-S. in Lynnwood, WA, writes: John Boehner may have provided an answer to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) rudderless performance as minority leader. There's no reason to believe that he has any more autonomy from Fox News than Boehner did. And now that he has lost the power of being Majority Leader, I'm guessing that Fox is no longer answering his phone calls and he's left to figure stuff out on his own.

J.F. in Houston, TX, writes: It occurred to me that a simple way to reduce immigration from Mexico significantly would be to abrogate the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and return Texas to Mexico. This would have the added advantage of giving Ted Cruz back to Cancun, with the further benefit of freeing up money from the Biden infrastructure bill that might have been spent integrating Texas's energy grid with the wrong nation.

The ghost of Alfalfa Bill Murray would defend the border of Oklahoma from immigration by Gov. Greg "I govern only when it's easy" Abbott (R-TX) and his ilk.

B.R. in Portland, OR, writes: While I deplore the laws being passed, in multiple states, especially those that restrict access to health care for the marginalized, I did want to mention that the AMA does specifically address the rights of providers to refrain from certain procedures, and under what circumstances. Additionally there are guidelines for terminating a doctor-patient relationship.

As a physician and bioethicist, I wanted to make sure you were aware of the AMA policy. It makes state laws truly unnecessary, and you are correct that these are politically motivated at best, and harmful and disingenuous at worst.

Trump Dump

D.B. in Mountain View, CA, writes: In response to M.O. of Arlington, you wrote that there would be no enduring Trump policies or political legacies. As appealing a picture as this is, I don't think it's quite true. The Space Force will stick around.

V & Z respond: Fair enough, but will people actually associate it with Trump? Put it this way: Who was the president when the United States Air Force was established? We'll put the answer at the bottom of the page.

P.S. in Arlington, TN, writes: An Easter gift from the mother-in-law. I'll let this picture speak for itself:

A model train adorned with
Trump pictures and slogans

V & Z respond: Why didn't you frame the photo so we could see the cliff it is about to go over?

J.L. in Paterson, NJ, writes: About the possibility that Trump might refuse to appear for a deposition in Summer Zervos's lawsuit, you wrote: "Failing that, conceivably an aggressive judge could hold Trump in contempt of court and levy a fine for it. Then he could attempt to seize some of Trump's New York State property to auction off to pay the fine."

In 40 years of practice in New York, I've never heard of such a sequence of events happening in a civil case like this one. The usual sanctions for failure to make required disclosure are, instead, aimed at putting the wronged parties in a position at least as good as they would have been in without the noncompliance. The normal range of options, depending on how the withheld disclosure relates to the entire case, would be: (1) Trump is precluded from testifying at trial, (2) Trump is precluded from offering any evidence (not just his own testimony) on certain issues, (3) certain issues are deemed resolved against him (e.g., the jury might be told, "It has been established that defendant Trump did do X, Y, and Z to plaintiff Zervos, so you should take that to be true in your deliberations"), or (4) the entire case can be resolved on this basis (a plaintiff's suit can be dismissed, or summary judgment can be entered against a defendant).

In this instance, Trump's testimony is so important that he might well be hit with summary judgment on liability. Then the only question for the jury would be the proper amount of damages to award Zervos.

Trump's testimony is probably unimportant to the computation of compensatory damages. He personally knows little or nothing that's relevant to figuring out how much Zervos was hurt by his statements. Therefore, she wouldn't be prejudiced by her inability to depose him. The judge would not simply rubber-stamp whatever figure she asked for, just to punish Trump. She would still have to prove that aspect of her case.

Trump obviously does not want to be deposed. Still, if the case is going to come down to a he-said-she-said about what happened in a hotel room where only the two of them were present, he's tactically better off giving his version of events, as opposed to being precluded.

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: This may be getting into the weeds a bit, but in New York (and the federal system, and I believe elsewhere), you don't need a subpoena to compel attendance by a party. You only need to serve a Notice of Deposition upon the party's lawyer. If the party doesn't show up, the noticing party can move to compel the deposition (this is the same procedure as moving to compel answers to deposition questions the party declines to answer, or to produce documents, or to comply with any other discovery method).

If the court enters an order compelling the deposition (or response to other discovery requests), and the party still refuses, then the party may be held in contempt and sanctioned. Although sanctions could take the form of a fine or imposition of costs, the court could also strike the party's pleading. For a plaintiff, that could mean the case is dismissed, or for a defendant like Trump, that judgment by default is entered against him.

Subpoenas are usually used only to obtain discovery from non-parties, and this is where the out-of-state issues apply, though there is a national inter-state subpoena act that has been extensively adopted. One could use a subpoena to compel the presence of a party for testimony at trial, but if a party doesn't show up, the opponent may let it slide and then ask for a "missing witness instruction" to the jury that it may assume that any truthful testimony the party might give would be damaging to that party's case. It's close to creating a walk-over.

V & Z respond: Thanks to lawyers J.L. and R.E.M. for sharing their expertise!


G.B. in Manchester, UK, writes: In your reply to B.B. from St. Louis, Missouri, discussing why some weapons are outlawed but others are not, you should have referenced Michael Nesmith's work on this subject:

In 1981, he was clearly thinking years ahead of Antonin Scalia.

V & Z respond: A tactical nuclear warhead that attaches to your garden hose with ordinary hand tools, hm?

S.B. in Hood River, OR, writes: I disagree with the statement that "switchblades...are not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens and/or are not typically used for lawful purposes." The Switchblade Knife Act of 1958 (and the accompanying state laws) were a product of the teenage gang hysteria of the fifties, were not based on solid data, and often had an association with racism. The federal law primarily applies to inter-state transport, and most states recognize the legitimate use of these tools in some or all instances. Switchblades are, for example, especially prized by law enforcement and first responders, where rapid one hand deployment is of benefit in emergencies.

J.K. in Silverdale, WA, writes: Regarding guns and messaging, Ibram X. Kendi's framework of "freedom to" and "freedom from" applies. Gun advocates want the freedom to carry guns. I want freedom from crossfire.

I don't foresee true change on this issue until there is a dramatic cultural shift similar to what happened with smoking (again, freedom to smoke vs. freedom from second hand smoke). How could this be accomplished? How about giant billboards across red states with photos of babies and kids killed by guns. The caption would read: "If you're pro-gun, you're not pro-life."

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: Regarding the Heller decision, I would like to remind the Federalist Society members who fancy themselves "originalists" that when James Madison drafted the Second Amendment, he never intended to arm the village idiot, the town drunk, or anyone's unloved, antisocial adolescent.

S.M. in New York City, NY, writes: Your reader L.B. in Boise wrote such a sensible letter that I felt compelled to write a strong note of support for their proposal:

I propose a simple, well-regulated market based solution: $100k of insurance required per bullet of capacity in a firearm, and certified safety training along with current militia membership. Let the market decide what the risks are, and just like automobiles, require people to be licensed and insure their possessions/hobbies that can be dangerous to the public.

That makes such good sense! L.B. is also absolutely right that if the Democrats would frame the argument differently and propose reforms that don't necessarily involve outright prohibition, they might receive a different measure of support.

C.S. in Chicago, IL, writes: L.B. in Boise wrote:

I have always been amazed at how terrible the left is at messaging. They need to say things like "Republicans are doing everything possible to make sure that schizophrenic Muslims, angry Black people, persistent women and [insert minority here] can get guns to come and kill your family, while Democrats just want background checks and common sense restrictions to protect you from these people." Maybe then we could find out which is stronger, the right's fear of minorities or their love of guns. I am guessing the latter, although both do go well together for them.

I'm not sure why L.B. thinks buying into right wing rhetoric by demonizing "not us" is in any way a path forward in this country. I'm grateful the Democrats don't engage in the above, and would seriously reconsider my support of anyone who did.

K.M. in Moore, OK, writes: This is a response to L.B. in Boise. I'm a lefty, have guns and used to hunt. I agree that the left is horrible at messaging on gun restrictions. May I contribute a personal tale about gun messaging?

My dad lives in a south St. Louis suburb, is a Trump supporter, owns a couple of revolvers and a shotgun, is hard of hearing, near-sighted and is a yuuuuuuuge Second Amendment supporter. My Dad is also a scaredy cat. Pre-COVID, I went for a visit with my dog. I stay in the basement, which is fixed up and has a 3/4 bath. The dog woke me up to pee and, half asleep, I opened the back door without disarming the alarm.

Crap! Shut the door, alarm is screaming, dog is crossing her legs and whining. I enter the code and run upstairs. I peep around to the corner in the kitchen, ready to duck a bullet. My stepmom is in the hall and tells me that dad didn't hear the alarm.

All good. Dog pees and I confess to dad that I was afraid he'd shoot at me.


H.F. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: Well, of course President Biden will never persuade Congressional Republicans to vote for his American Jobs Plan. Republicans hold it as an article of faith that if something needs to be built, the private sector will do it, and if the private sector hasn't built it, that's proof there's no real need for the project. This circular reasoning has persisted since the GOP opposed New Deal construction under Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Furthermore, Republicans are obsessed with the possibility that infrastructure spending will bring about their nightmare of public funds paying union workers lavish wages to lean on shovels. This GOP fixation is also longstanding.

Finally, you will recall Mitch McConnell stating that his party's fundamental goal was to make Barack Obama a one-term president. The president has changed but the goal remains the same. Sadly, Republicans in Congress would prefer to let crumbling bridges collapse and have people perish than to see a Democratic president succeed.

A.T. in Culpeper, VA, writes: Joe Biden reveals his tiny package to the world...infrastructure package, that is.

A measly $650 Billion for actual infrastructure (the other trillion is for other programs, which while important, are not actual infrastructure), when the recent infrastructure report card indicates we need $2.59 trillion to close the gap in infrastructure underfunding.

M.O. in Arlington, VA, writes: It is wise to keep in mind that tax increases can be, and usually are, counter-inflationary. I have not seen this fact of fiscal policy being referenced in the many press discussions related to the inflationary impact of one or another of Joe Biden's spending initiatives.

Also, I read a recent paper from...I think it was McKinsey and Co., in which they opined that Biden's big spending initiatives and their target areas might be enough to kick start productivity increases in the United States. This would also be counter-inflationary. This would result from more R&R activities and the more rapid installation and use of efficiency- and productivity-increasing technologies that will initiate a strong period of economic and social development of a positive kind. Though not specifically noted by the McKinsey types, this general concept is used by some scholars to explain the rapid growth of the U.S. economy roughly from the 1880's to the 1970's and the trailing off some since. It would seem as though this type of thinking would mesh well with the arguments made in books like The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History by David Hackett Fisher and The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living since the Civil War by Robert J. Gordon. To my reading of these authors, they both speak to broad periods of economic expansion and decline borne of long-term changes to underlying economic and social conditions. Both of these authors I think use great data/statistics to make their respective points.

P.M. in Washington, DC, writes: You addressed the Democrats' concerns with the SALT cap of the 2017 Republican tax act. The SALT cap was the Republicans' best misdirection play in the entire act, because it wasn't the SALT cap which caused income taxes to go up for most in the Democratic states. It was the elimination of the personal exemption.

The 2017 Republican tax act eliminated the personal exemption (over $12,000 for a family of 3) and then added $12,000 to the standard deduction; this protected only those who didn't itemize; those who itemize had their taxable income rise by that $12,000. "Coincidentally" most itemizers live in Democratic states. By focusing on SALT, the Republicans caused the Congressional Democrats to think it was a $10,000 cap on SALT deductions which caused federal income taxes to go up in Democratic states. And now, rather than propose a re-institution of the personal exemption, which would benefit the middle class, the Democrats are proposing to eliminate the SALT cap, which primarily benefits the wealthy. This makes the Democrats look like out and out plutocrats; game, set and match for the Republicans.

S.M. in Toronto, ON, Canada, writes: The problem of not taxing electric vehicles (EVs) is not some Republican bugbear, but, rather, a fairly reasonable concern. If gas taxes are viewed as a usage tax (albeit an imperfect one), then EVs are using the road infrastructure without paying for its maintenance, or for the maintenance of public transportation, which is a frequent source of gas tax revenue. So, not only is this benefiting the people who can afford private usage EVs, but it's hurting poorer people who rely on public transportation to get around.

This article has all of the Canadian numbers (so, presumably, more intelligent and worldly numbers than their American equivalents, but we stoop to conquer) and lays out several of the ideas to make up the difference. Since all of the more equitable ones like road pricing are political non-starters, the only thing that seems feasible is to tax EVs more up front to close the budget hole.


D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: I've been trying so hard of late to not rebut letters by P.M. of Currituck, mainly because I welcome their viewpoint and don't wish to seem like I am constantly attacking them. But P.M.'s latest comment was like drawing the soft kid gloves from their belt and snapping them across my face. In my best Southern drawl I reply, "Why Sir, you have besmirched my honor and I accept your challenge. Choose your second!"

First off, let me start by agreeing with P.M. about Morgan Freeman's vision of living in an America where people aren't described by physical factors such as race. That is a lofty goal that I will gladly join P.M. in trying to obtain, but it is still a goal with many, many steps yet to be taken to reach it. It's the equivalent of getting on a local Currituck bus and then sighing in dismay that you can't reach California on it. Yes I get it, for us white folk having to talk about racial issues all the time is mentally and emotionally exhausting. But I would like to ask P.M. to just try to imagine what it must be like to live a life where that racism and hatred can raise their ugly heads at any moment in their day and often do. We white people can take breaks from dealing with these issues, minorities can't. How would you feel if you had to worry that the wait person at a restaurant might wipe your eating utensils in their butt crack (which I have seen happen); how you would feel if at any moment you might run across a bigot who will deny you the home you worked for or the job you are super qualified for in lieu of a white person; how would you feel if you saw the people in your neighborhood dying in greater numbers from COVID-19 due to massive inequalities in health care and government infrastructure? These are just a few real things that minorities experience in our country everyday. Making pretend there is no problem never ever makes the problems go away. Just try to take a couple of steps in their shoes before you get smug and grand about end goals.

P.M. gets off on the wrong foot almost right out of the gate with their questioning of why the NPR reporter had to bring up that of the fact that of the 417 economic advisors in the Fed, only 2 were Black. Really? This is coming from the same person who has spent so many pixels advocating for rural Americans and their challenges and concerns. Really! P.M., if it was revealed that all of those 415 other Fed advisors were from urban locations and focused their expertise on Wall Street, how confident would you feel that the challenges that rural Americans face would be understood? Diversity is not only about racial matters but extends to personal experience, specialization and education. The problem with today's GOP is that so many of its members are straight WASP good looking adult males who were successful in sports and through family connections were given opportunities to succeed in business, or are their ex-cheerleader wives. Now please understand, I am not saying this group of people have no right to be heard in government—I support all voices being given a fair hearing—but what I absolutely disagree with is that they should be the only voices heard. It's easy to believe in American Exceptionalism when it's handed to you on a silver platter. Additionally, P.M., if you believe that racism and climate change are completely divorced from economic considerations then you are woefully naive!

I don't really listen to NPR (although I have in the past), so I can't speak to their content of late. Sorry, but the low, soft-spoken voices put me to sleep. That being said, a lot of what you put forth sounded a lot like both siderism. You raise the example of the coverage of the murder of Jazmine Barnes, where those awful rotten bastards at NPR used that woman and her family to drive their un-American agenda home then left them in the lurch without a thought or care. First off, you do realize that NPR is in the business of attracting viewers, the same as Fox, CNN or PBS?

What makes P.M.'s comment so insufferable is that they have the nerve to compare this to anything that Sean Hannity does on Fox, which is really rich. In fact, let's ask the family of Seth Rich what they think of the kind and compassionate soul that is Sean Hannity and other Fox commentators. For those who might not remember, Seth Rich was a young man who worked at the DNC who was shot in the back by unknown assailant(s) a block from his apartment after leaving a local sports bar. While no suspects have been charged, police suspect a burglary attempt. But Fox and other right-wing media didn't report that because it didn't fit the story they wanted to tell. They wanted to cast suspicion on certain individuals by concocting out of whole cloth a story where Rich was smuggling the stolen DNC e-mails and that the crafty Hillary Clinton, Ping Pong Pizzeria and child sex trafficking were all involved. Their proof for these accusations: absolutely nothing. Say it again! Absolutely nothing! The Rich family successfully sued The Washington Times and received a retraction and an apology for their baseless reporting. They also sued Fox News for the emotional torture of hearing about lies about their son day after day by the channel's prominent talking heads. As Fox is apt to do, they paid a reported 7-figure compensation to the Rich family. As part of their reaching a settlement, Fox staved off Hannity and Dobbs from having to testify. And so, for the false equivalency to even come within reach of NPR's coverage of Jazmine Barnes, P.M., you will have to provide examples of how after the true murderers came to light, NPR kept its narrative up of their being white assailants, NPR accusing distinct individuals of her murder despite having zero proof, and then repeatedly dredging up the story despite pleas from the Barnes family to please stop.

As much as the last bit incensed me, it does not compare to the next bit. P.M. stated that a NPR reporter said on the day of the Insurrection: "(E)very Republican voter needs to look in the mirror and realize they have a part in what happened here," and P.M.'s response was: "I said out loud "Bull****. That is your opinion, which you are presenting as factual." This statement by the unnamed reporter seems like opinion to me and, given the stress of reporting on the Insurrectionists in real time, some leeway should be given. But to the more important broader point, this reporter was absolutely correct! P.M., as a moral and ethical human being, you have the imperative obligation to examine your role in the Insurrection and what you want to do going forward. No one is saying that you are wholly to blame, but because you vote Republican, then you personally supported a party that seems to be hunky dory with trying to overturn a lawful election and to assassinate the politicians who did not agree with their view. No one is advocating that you abandon the GOP. If you want to stay in the party and try to change it to a more moderate view, then more power to you. The NPR reporter, and the readers of this site, have never advocated any course of action for you except having a period of inward reflection. Is that so bleeping hard?

In previous P.M. posts, there was verbiage that lead me to believe that P.M. was as disgusted with the actions of the Insurrectionists as most everybody else. But now, with this weaselly and cowardly attempt to avoid any ounce of responsibility, I'm not so sure. This is the equivalent of the GOP's favorite excuse: "I'm sorry that anyone was offended by my (insensitive) comment." It's not just everyday bulls**t, it's all the bull manure produced throughout history dumped in one place. I don't know P.M.'s voting record, and don't need to, but even if they have never cast a vote for a Trumpy candidate, they still should have some moments of reflection of how they could change the GOP, unless P.M. is just fine with trying to overthrow the government—and hint, prosecutors aren't starting to throw around the word sedition because they think it sounds cool.

Let me also say that I have been pretty much a Democrat since 1984, but there were plenty of times I disagreed strongly with the Party, most notably during the Clinton era, when the homophobia coming from some Democratic voices was pretty ugly. Because of that, the 90's are a period in my life where I voted for third-party candidates. I wasn't the only one who felt the same. Today, if enough voting Republicans voice their displeasure at the fascist tilt their party has taken, then hopefully the party will change course. It's what every American should do in constantly evaluating their party or their vote. This theater of division by the GOP needs to stop. No American should have to stand up in a city council and show their battle scars to prove their patriotism. Hopefully, with some honest, reflection you will just say "no" to the casual racism and unlawfulness that is the main part and parcel of the GOP, and stop excusing bad behavior.

E.W. in Skaneateles, NY, writes: I'd like to thank P.M. in Currituck for their comments and perspective in general, as well as their answer to my challenge to find biased stories on NPR. I listened to the entirety of Steve Inskeep's interview with Jerome Powell about the economy. The racial justice segment, in my opinion, doesn't seem especially shoehorned in because Inskeep is commenting on a recent news story. I will grant to P.M. that I do on occasion have what I call an "eye-roll moment" when listening to NPR when some racial or political angle does feel crammed in, but this instance does not rise to that for me. In fact, throughout the initial part of that same interview, Inskeep does his best impression of an inflation-and-deficit hawk by pressing Powell on the ramifications of printing a large amount of money to support the economy, running deficits, and increasing long-term debts. Powell, to his credit, gave interesting and thoughtful responses to those pointed questions.

As for the tragedy of the murder of Jasmine Barnes, a quick web search easily turns up two follow-up stories on NPR making clear that her killers were Black men who mistook her family's car for someone else's that they had a disagreement with the night before. The latter Codeswitch story explicitly addresses the racial angle and the fact that Black-on-Black crimes are widely underreported. I agree wholeheartedly with the Morgan Freeman comment that race shouldn't be mentioned unless it is relevant, but I think that in this case it is relevant.

The Rachel Martin interview with a Brett Kavanaugh defender does not seem particularly aggressive to me because the point is to determine why this friend believes Kavanaugh's assertions whole cloth. Martin is pressing her interviewee, but there is a difference between pointed questioning and pushing one's own opinion. From my perspective, I believe it is closer to the former than the latter (plus see the Inskeep story above for some more pointed questioning). In addition, Martin lets the interviewee go on at length to defend her point of view. I found the interviewee's equivocating on whether or not a sexual assault would be disqualifying to be quite disturbing, yet also revealing.

I do think that the "all Republicans are to blame" comment on Jan. 6 is overly broad and unfair, but I didn't hear that comment and cannot find a source. Although the events of that day were extremely shocking, I agree that the comment is inappropriate, but it is "out of character" for NPR, again in my opinion.

Overall, even despite some infrequent "eye-roll moments," I plan to stick with NPR given its financial independence from Big Corporations, which I don't trust at all to have our best interests at heart. I like how NPR explicitly tells the listener that they are supported financially by a particular company (e.g., Amazon or Facebook) but that it will not affect their reporting on that company. I trust news sources that are transparent about their funding streams, issue corrections or follow-ups when necessary, and pointedly question everyone they interview.

I don't think NPR is anywhere close to the "Hannity of the Left", and I question whether anything like that actually exists with anything close to Hannity's reach and audience. In my view, the Left tends to be far more interested in nuance and hearing from other perspectives than most of the Right, who tend to be looking for simpler, clearer-cut, black-and-white answers. A ton of social science research backs me up on this assertion, which I can gladly include at a later date if need be.

O.Z.H. in Dubai, UAE, writes: P.M. in Currituck wrote: "How are either of these two cited examples any different from what Hannity does, in trying to make his audience feel and react in a certain manner? I can't see one, other than a differing political perspective."

Well, the answer to that question is fairly simple. The examples cited by P.M. are expressions of opinion (agreed) but they do not contain outright lies. Hannity expresses an opinion and backs that up with false or misleading statements (such as the many falsehoods he uttered in support of his opinion that the election had been stolen). So how are they different? Well, while NPR is expressing an opinion based on the facts at hand, Hannity is expressing an opinion and manufacturing facts to support that opinion. That's a pretty obvious distinction. As (V) and (Z) have written, you are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.

S.T. in Knoxville, TN, writes: Regarding P.M. in Currituck's statement regarding the snippet heard on NPR: "every Republican voter needs to look in the mirror and realize they have a part in what happened here," that's a factual statement, not an opinion. President Trump was elected to the presidency by a Republican minority of voters, and then spent 4 years gaslighting a nation while his voters didn't lift one finger to stop or question anything he was doing. To find him in front of a crowd on Jan. 6 encouraging his supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol, after no action was taken by Republicans to rebuke him in the aftermath of Charlottesville or many other incidents, makes clear what is obvious to almost everyone: Every Republican voter is responsible for what happened at the Capitol.

R.S. in Tonawanda, NY, writes: Note to P.M. in Currituck: Though I couldn't stand Trump and voted against him twice, I had friends, family and neighbors who voted for him in 2016. They remained, and still remain, my friends, relatives and neighbors (though if they voted for Trump last time, I have to wonder where their heads are at). When I read your bit about the NPR reporter saying on January 6 that every Republican voter needed to look in the mirror, I was aghast. My neighbor across the street, my niece, my oldest friend from high school? I concur: bull**it.

Enjoy your trip North and do tune in to CBC Radio. I've listened for years, having lived much of my life along the border, eh?

R.M.S in Lebanon, CT, writes: I had the opportunity to listen to NPR extensively a few years ago while taking time off from work to do an arduous home improvement project. I listened to it for about 8 hours a day 6 days in a row to see what it was like. The programming on there is roughly divided in half: half of the programming discusses news and current events, and the other half is cultural programming that discusses certain fields like art, music, business, books, and cars. I found the news programming to be quite good and informative. I did not notice them injecting racial controversies into every discussion, but I did notice that they tried to discuss how laws or executive actions would impact different ethnic groups. This is something that is sorely lacking in news coverage in the United States. I did find some of the reporters on air to be a bit long-winded for my tastes and they tend to speak in a monotone voice.

The cultural programming, on the other hand, is some of the worst I've ever heard. The cultural reporters on NPR are like professional brownnosers to the people in various fields they interview. I listened to NPR around the time the musical "Hamilton" became famous, and Fresh Air did a 90-minute interview with Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of "Hamilton." The interviewer, Terry Gross, could not have been more clueless about musical trends and acted like hip-hop music being used in his play was something amazing and revolutionary. Hip-hop music is nothing new or unusual and it has been very popular in the United States since the late 1980s in a wide variety of arenas and among all racial groups. Gross was "oohing and aahing" over everything Miranda described or quoted from his play. I believe cultural reporting is much more informative and interesting when reporters play the devil's advocate, challenging the artistic choices and seeing how well they defend them so the audience can understand the thought process that went into their decisions. Instead, it feels like NPR is more interested in giving 90-minute advertisements to creators and businesspeople rather than trying to engage in intelligent debate with them. I think NPR is afraid to challenge artists on their creations because they are afraid people won't return. But a good artist should be able to explain the reasoning behind their choices.

Chris Matthews and Tim Russert are no longer in the media for different reasons, but they are my gold standard for reporting. They always asked tough questions to the people they interviewed, regardless of whether or not they agreed with them. That is how the media should act rather than letting people come onto their programs for self-promotion.

Lost in Trans-lation

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: I have to say, nice rewrite of the history of the North Carolina "bathroom bill." But you are not really to blame, since most everyone outside of North Carolina rewrote the history the same way you did.

Now, let me put out there what really happened. The state did not in any way "back down."

To begin with, eleven Democrats voted for HB-2 (counting state Rep. Billy Richardson who, a month later, eviscerated himself in an op-ed in The Charlotte Observer about how badly he screwed the pooch voting for it). This also led, indirectly, to my run for the North Carolina state Senate in 2020. Call it the straw that broke the camel's back—I had been talking for years about running for something.

Many artists and sports teams did boycott North Carolina, and several companies refused to move here. Now, speaking from the trans perspective, this was not actually helpful because the companies that refused to move here...were the very companies least likely to discriminate. The artists who were most effective were those like Cyndi Lauper and Laura Jane Grace (of the punk band "Against Me!"), who actually came to NC to support us, and donated all proceeds from their shows to LGBTQ charities.

We actually voted Gov. Pat McCrory (R) out before HB-2 was "repealed," incidentally. And speaking of governors, I was not very amused when Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) banned all non-essential travel to North Carolina, while at the same time refusing to protect his own transgender citizens. It was not till 2019 that transgender New Yorkers enjoyed the same protections LGB New Yorkers had enjoyed since 2003!

Gov. Roy Cooper then engineered a so-called "repeal" of HB-2, which did two things. One, it did eliminate the laws concerning bathrooms (this was later confirmed in a consent ruling in the HB-2/HB-142 ACLU lawsuit). The second thing it did was place our civil rights on hold for 44 months, because municipalities and local governmental units, such as Counties or school boards, were barred from passing any civil rights legislation, and you can bet our GOP-controlled legislature was not about to! Additionally, HB-142 only repealed the bathroom sections of the law, and left the anti-worker parts in place (though later the ability of employees to sue in state courts was restored).

All of that came about because the NCAA put pressure on North Carolina, Cooper basically asked what was the minimum NCAA would accept...and then he went and proposed the minimum! The truth is, we were offered a better deal under McCrory in December 2016, one that had only a six-month "moratorium." Instead, we got our rights placed on ice for four years. This led to an encore performance of The Air Horn Orchestra, of which I was a part.

I had planned to run for office in 2018, but a court-ordered redraw placed me in the districts of two incumbent Democrats, neither of whom I had much lost love for, but there were larger issues, as we were trying to break the GOP supermajority. So, I backed out of running in 2018, because I did not want to throw a monkey wrench into that. I knew the legislature elected in 2018 would be sitting when the sunset of HB-2 came, and if we had not broken the supermajority, they surely would have passed separate legislation to extend the "moratorium" into perpetuity, forever denying us basic civil rights in North Carolina.

Another court-ordered map redraw in 2019 put me back in the state Senate district from which I had been moved two years earlier, but kept me in the same state House district, and so I ran for Senate in 2020. And for the record, I have no use for the NCAA, as they should have demanded far more. What they ultimately did was make matters worse for transgender north Carolinians like myself.

Now that the law is sunsetted, there are municipalities and local government units passing protections, but it is not yet widespread. And the bottom line is that the state did not back off, they doubled down on an HB-2 lite, as it were, and the boycotts were not particularly helpful. And for the record, HB-2 may have been what put over the top the effort to lay Pat McCrory low, but there were other issues, among them the Duke Energy coal-ash dumping and the I-77 tolls. Were it only HB-2, I have little doubt McCrory would have been re-elected.

And that is the real history! So...while everyone outside of North Carolina thought the battle was won, the truth—which was swept under the rug—was that the "repeal" was all about removing the "stigma" from North Carolina, while retaining the "right" to discriminate against transgender citizens, and retaining most of the anti-worker policies that were buried inside of HB-2.

J.E.L. in Henderson, NV, writes: You listed three reasons why some people prefer the word "transmisic" over "transphobic." You forgot the fourth, and most important, reason: When many people hear the word "transphobic," they believe that "phobic" means "fear." But, very often, people who bully or insult transgender individuals do not actually "fear" them—a better description of their state of mind would be "hate" or "dislike". Hence, the "misic" suffix is usually more precise.

It's almost a cliché now that when someone is accused of homophobia or transphobia, they respond: "But I'm not afraid of them." That response is often technically accurate, but unfortunately it also tends to derail the conversation. Even on your site, I have seen several comments from readers who were confused (or knew someone who was confused) because they had interpreted "phobia" as meaning "fear" in the words "homophobia" and "transphobia." Such an interpretation is perfectly logical, but it's often not what the speaker means. The resulting miscommunication tends to make a fraught subject even more difficult to discuss.

You listed three problems with the "phobic" suffix: the conflation with mental illness, the shaming of mental illness, and the excusing of bigotry. That's all fine, but I've never actually encountered any of those particular problems before. In contrast, I have encountered the miscommunication problem with "phobic" quite a few times, so I suspect that it's far more common than any of the other three problems.

R.T. in Arlington, TX, writes: I have noticed that in the last couple of years there seems to be a sharp turning point in language as it applies to inclusion, across multiple dimensions. It has shown up here regularly, as recently as yesterday in drawing a distinction between phobic/misic.

I believe that all this energy applied to updating our language is a big distraction from the actual underlying problems and goals. We need to be focused on having safe public bathroom spaces for everyone, accommodating special needs, and alleviating poverty more than we need to spend time getting our words just right. This language thing also bothers me because it allows people to think they have done something good by using the latest "wokest" terminology when they haven't done anything to improve real life.

The shift in the language is also creating a generational divide among activists. The very terms that are being jettisoned were in many instances created by a previous generation of activists, not the opposition. Rather than appreciate the work of the elders, the language shift sends a message that the previous activists weren't good enough, or sold out, or failed. So I remind my fellow readers to remember that talk is cheap and to put their beliefs into action if they really want a better world.

J.G. in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, writes: Following up on your TERF Wars section, I would like to introduce a new term. Along with many others, I am not so much a Trans Excluding Radical Feminist, but more a Trans Uncomfortable Moderate Feminist (TUMF).

The feminism in which I was raised and do my best to practice teaches that gender has little role in our behavior toward, and expectations of, others. We have equal expectations of our male and female colleagues at work, we include both men and women on a friendly basis in our close social circles, and we do not assign gender roles in domestic life. There are no masculine and feminine virtues; both men and women should strive to be strong as well as caring, confident as well as sensitive, etc. What makes this feminism moderate is that it does not posit a need for a women's rebellion against patriarchal domination, but believes in a gradual abolishment of the social constraints and expectations that formerly held women back, but also pigeonholed men into more narrowly defined lives.

The problem with trans identity, from this perspective, is that it so often relies on and promotes the very socially defined gender roles that moderate feminism opposes. Indeed, identification with a socially defined gender is seen by the trans rights movement as the true definition of gender, with biological sex having little relevance. Are we really to believe that strong and confident girls are in fact boys, and that caring and sensitive boys are in fact girls? And that those who seek to obtain both the feminine and masculine virtues will find that they are "non-binary"? And while I certainly seek to respect the choices of people that do identify with the other gender, and do not believe they should be subject to discrimination or social ostracism, the broader implications of the movement make me highly uncomfortable, hence a TUMF.

L.E. in Putnam County, NY, writes: It may just be a particular issue where I tack right and you tack left, but I don't think anything makes the perception that your site skews left stronger than your apparent cultivation of a pro-trans echo chamber among posted comments, with the glib equation of those who oppose acceptance of the claims made by the "trans" with "bigots."

There are plenty of feminists, even socialist lesbians, who are alarmed at the erasure of womanhood as a concrete thing constituted by the treatment of "trans women" as actual women.

Don't virtue-signal with flashy pro-trans blinkers.

COVID Diaries

L.R. in Walpole, MA, writes: I have a lot of respect for Dr. Paul Dorsey and was very glad to see his dispatches return to the site. But as a lover of data-driven conclusions, I have to take exception to this passage in his latest entry: "There were still fully vaccinated people who got very sick or died, both during the vaccine trials and after. A more prudent conclusion would be that being vaccinated significantly reduces your risk of serious illness or death. However, we do not have enough data to conclude that you have "almost zero" risk of a serious impact from COVID post-vaccination."

If you follow Dr. Dorsey's link, you see the data right in the headline: Of 1.2 million fully vaccinated people in Washington state, 100 have gotten COVID-19. 100/1.2 million is 0.008%. If that's not "almost zero," I don't know what is. So if this is the best piece of data he could get his hands on to make his point, then his point isn't very strong.

To be clear, I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Dorsey that we must keep our guard up and continue to follow protocols, and also that R0 is the key metric that not enough people are talking about. But as a social psychologist by training, I would also argue that people need to feel like their actions will result in a positive outcome eventually. Telling people there's no light at the end of the tunnel has just as much chance of making them say "well, screw it, I'm gonna go visit granny then, protocols be damned" as making them double up on their masks.

It's Just That Kind of Joint

P.D. in Windsor, ON, Canada, writes: In your item on New York's decision to legalize pot, you wrote that "In practice, however, going after people for using grass is not a high priority for the feds, particularly when the AG is someone other than Jeff Sessions, so if the states don't do it, not many people are going to be arrested for it."

While this is true, there is one branch of the government that goes after anyone with a record for marijuana with zeal. That is the Department of Homeland Security, also known as U.S. Customs and Border Protection. I am a U.S. Citizen living in (infiltrating?) Canada, and my husband is a Canadian citizen. Back in his wild days 45 years ago, he was caught in Canada with less than an ounce of marijuana oil. He did no jail time since the Mounties "lost" the evidence. But it remained on his record until he got a pardon here. Fast forward 20 years later, after many years crossing the border as a truck driver with no other items on his record, he was pulled over at the border and denied entry into the United States. Canadian pardons are not recognized in the U.S., and this automatically brings a lifetime ban from entering the country.

There are thousands of people who have been denied entry to the U.S. because of a single pot conviction—not trafficking, just possession. The only way to get entry is to apply for a waiver, the cost of which sky rocketed under Donald Trump from $600 to over $1000. This does not include the cost of fingerprints, the cost of a records check from the RCMP. We also have to send references, a letter affirming no other crimes committed, a letter begging forgiveness, and an application with every detail of his life. All for a crime that was pardoned and never repeated. The only hope we have is if the Feds would follow the lead of the states and legalize pot. The border protection is so zealous that they ban those who work in the Canadian-authorized pot-growing industry and those who own retail outlets to the point of having to lie to get across the border. We had hoped that the election of Joe Biden would hasten legalization but perhaps not.

M.B.F. in Oakton, VA, writes: Well, at least in your piece on New York legalizing marijuana, you didn't resort to puns, such as a spliff in public opinion over the action. Doobie careful to avoid things like that, please.

V & Z respond: It's high time someone gave us this sort of blunt advice. We wouldn't want the site to go to pot, after all.

R.C. in Des Moines, IA, writes: My favorite euphemism for marijuana is hippy lettuce.

What's in a Name...Continues

L.O-R. in San Francisco, CA, writes: I've always been amused that the head of and primary spokesperson for the Oakland Zoo for 37 years was Joel Parrott.

T.H. in LaQuinta, CA, writes: I cut this clipping out of The Phoenix Gazette in 1978 and have kept it buried in a dresser drawer through 8 or 9 moves over 43 years. It's from a brief story about an auto accident involving a Dr. James Toothaker, an aptly named dentist from Phoenix. I thought no one would believe me if I didn't have the clipping. Finally I'll be able to throw it away, now that it's realized its purpose.

It's a very yellow bit of newsprint 
that does indeed confirm the name

H.R. in Jamaica Plain, MA, writes: Back in 1970, I was hit by a car while riding a bicycle. After several hours during which I was hysterical, I finally came to my senses as my injuries were being listed for me. Four broken bones in my face around my left eye, two breaks in my right collar bone and a break in my right femur. Because the driver slammed on the brakes after imparting the impact, my injuries were on both sides of my body, from first hitting the car and then being bounced into the street. After taking in my list of broken bones, I heard over the intercom (this was before pagers and way before cell phones): "Dr. Bonebreak, paging Dr. Bonebreak." Dr. Bonebreak was internist and not an orthopedist, but his name gave me a good chuckle at a particularly trying time.

S.S. in Kennewick, WA, writes: I couldn't pass up this opportunity to share this one. My wife and I would giggle every time we drove past this very prominently-signed office in Northwood, OH:

An OB-GYN named Peter Johnson

V & Z respond: Seems like he really should have become a urologist.

A.H in Hawkins, IN, writes: You wrote: "... at UCLA ...the main library was dedicated in honor of Professor Hugh G. Dick."

Lawrence Berkeley National Lab has Shyh Wang Hall, dedicated in 2015.

M.F. in Leamington, Cambridge, New Zealand, writes: My uncle runs the community crematorium in my home town. He took over from a fellow whose surname was "Crisp."

In the Anglican Church of Canada, there were two brothers, both priests, the Fathers Christmas.

In the Royal Canadian Navy, the first Deck Officer of the frigate HMCS Regina was Lieutenant (Navy) Matt Low. (The French word for "sailor" is "matelot.")

J.B. in Boise, ID, writes: When I was in law school, I became friends with an undergraduate woman whose last name was Hough, which they pronounced "hoe." Her father was named Ivan, and her two sisters were named Ida and Tally. Apparently her parents tired of the game when she was born and they named her Calli and she was spared the jokes.

V & Z respond: When (Z) was in grad school, among his fellow students were a pair of brothers named Chris Cross and Double Cross.

A.R.S. in West Chester, PA, writes: As a young man, Phil Lipshitz was unmercifully teased by his friends (?) about his name. It finally became so unbearable that he decided to change it. Now he is Bob Lipshitz.

V & Z respond: We are reminded of the old joke about the agent who told a potential new client that he simply had to change his name. Deeply offended, the new client stormed out and found another agent. But many years later the agent received a letter from that would-be client that read: "You were right; 'Penis Van Lesbian' was not a great name for an aspiring actor, so I eventually did change it. Thanks for the advice, and best wishes, Dick Van Dyke.'"

R.R. in Aberdeen, SD, writes: I nominate Dr. Reformat, Professor of Computer Engineering at the University of Alberta, as the most aptly named academic I've ever been lucky enough to know.

L.C. in Amherst, MA, writes: My grandfather, whose name was Hurt, was a school principal with an Ed.D. On staff at the school when my mother was a student were my grandmother, a teacher named Aiken, and a teacher named Paine. It was recommended that Dr. Hurt, Mrs. Hurt, Miss Aiken, and Miss Paine open a dental practice.

P.R. in Saco, ME, writes: You wrote: "We are reminded of a 'Saturday Night Live' sketch that is apparently risqué enough that NBC has decided not to put the video online."

Actually, that video is very much online.

V & Z respond: Thanks! (Z) had looked for that multiple times without finding it.


J.P.C. in Cleveland, OH, writes: Cleveland has had a major league team since 1903, which was in the playoffs in 2020 and has had the most wins in baseball over the past 5 years.

They say that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Well, picking on Cleveland is the last refuge of a...

V & Z respond: Comic genius?

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: Now, you didn't deliberately provoke me like that, did you? I am an in-person veteran of the largest opening day crowd in the history of baseball (about 83,000), the infamous Beer Night Riot, and Dick Bosman's no-hitter against the Oakland A's. Nor can I forget Frank Robinson's debut as the first Black player-manager in MLB. I also witnessed George Hendrick's throw from the center field warning track to home plate (435 ft) for the out. Cleveland knows how to play baseball when it wants to.

M.B. in Menlo Park, CA, writes: (Z) analogized Gov. Gavin Newsom's (D-CA) feelings about his recall chances to the UCLA men's basketball team's victory over Michigan. For the sake of Gov. Newsom, I hope the recall won't be like the agonizing last minute of that game, and dependent upon so many missed shots by the opposition.

V & Z respond: And he certainly won't be happy if he keeps it close until the end, and then loses when the opposition pulls a freaking miracle out of their hats.

Answer to the question about the Air Force: It was created as a division of the U.S. Army under Theodore Roosevelt (in 1907), and was spun off as an independent branch of the service under Harry S. Truman (in 1947). We have never, ever seen "created the Air Force" listed as one of these presidents' accomplishments.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr03 The First Shoe Drops...But What Will Follow?
Apr03 Saturday Q&A
Apr02 Let the Games Begin
Apr02 Gaetz' Troubles Mount
Apr02 Democrats Hope Johnson Breaks His Word
Apr02 Past as Prologue, Part II: Midterm Elections and the House
Apr02 Guess It Kinda Worked Out, After All
Apr02 COVID Diaries: No Light at the End of the Tunnel
Apr01 Biden Unveils His Big Plan
Apr01 Biden Won't Ask for a Wealth Tax
Apr01 No Gas Tax or Mileage Tax, Either
Apr01 Democrats Are Arguing about H.R. 1
Apr01 EPA Starts the DeTrumpification of Its Scientific Panels
Apr01 The 2020 Election Is Over
Apr01 Rick Scott Heads to Iowa
Apr01 House Freedom Caucus Is Split
Apr01 Summer Zervos' Case Can Resume
Apr01 New York Legalizes Pot
Mar31 Biden Branches Out
Mar31 Biden Will Announce Infrastructure Plan Today
Mar31 Just Assume the Russians Are Reading Everything
Mar31 Matt Gaetz In Hot Water
Mar31 While You Weren't Looking...
Mar31 Another Poll, More Good News for Newsom
Mar31 DNC Gets Ready to Tinker With the Rules
Mar30 What Is Going on in Georgia?
Mar30 Get Ready to Hear a Lot about Section 304
Mar30 This Is Going to Take a While
Mar30 World Leaders Propose Pandemic Alliance
Mar30 Past as Prologue: Presidential Retirements
Mar30 Van Drew Draws Potential Nightmare Opponent
Mar29 The Voting Wars Have Now Officially Begun
Mar29 Taxes Are Going to Go Up for Corporations and the Wealthy
Mar29 Dominion Sues Fox News for $1.6 Billion
Mar29 Another Autopsy Looks at Why Democrats Lost House Seats
Mar29 Bannon Could Face State Charges
Mar29 Raffensperger Is in Trouble
Mar29 Biden's Approval on COVID-19 Hits 75%
Mar29 Biden Has Frozen the 2024 Field
Mar28 Sunday Mailbag
Mar27 Saturday Q&A
Mar26 Biden Faces the Music
Mar26 Republicans Are Losing the Filibuster Debate
Mar26 Cheney 1, Trump Jr. 0
Mar26 Old Presidents Never Die--They Just Fade Away
Mar26 Pelosi Flexes Her California Muscle
Mar26 COVID Diaries: The Return
Mar26 Bye-Bye, Bibi?
Mar25 Harris Gets a Job
Mar25 So Does Rachel Levine